Friday, March 16, 2012

The power of a single word

[NOTE: Before anyone flies off the handle, keep in mind that nothing in this post changes any of my feelings toward Blue Jackets management.  As I said, a pox on both their houses.  But this post is about Rick Nash.]

Let's get it straight: I don't hate Rick Nash.

At the same time, no matter how I look at the Nash situation, I keep coming back to this - his very own words:



(Transcript here)

And then there are his comments from this week in Edmonton that suggest that he - and the locker room that he still leads - aren't necessarily marching to the same drummer as management (emphasis added):
"We’re going to try and get as many points as we can by the end of the season,” Nash added. “Finishing last is something we (players) don’t want to do. Perhaps management and other levels of the organization have different obligations, but for us, there’s no chance that we want to finish in the basement."
After considering what Nash himself has said, I believe that, for all of his many contributions to the Columbus Blue Jackets and the greater Columbus community, he has turned into a mutinous captain.

What a powerful word that is: Mutinous.  Yet this isn't an expression of enmity - it's just an interpretation of that which he pushed in front of my eyes.

One doesn't have to lead an armed rebellion like Fletcher Christian
to be mutinous.  And seeing that Rick Nash hasn't been a rabble-
rousing leader since becoming CBJ captain, why would he start now? 
Mutinous is defined by Merriam-Webster as "being in the state of mutiny," or "rebellious." Mutiny is defined as "forcible or passive resistance to a lawful authority." Nash is under contract to the Blue Jackets, which (for the purposes of this discussion) makes the Blue Jackets the authority figure.

The evidence from the press conference that I use to suggest that Nash is mutinous is his public comments in his post-trade deadline press conference, where he says, "I think the biggest thing is when management said they were going to make a rebuild and a reshape, I thought the best thing for the team and for the organization would be to get assets for me, and I thought it would be best for my career."

Strip away the veneer.  Nash is saying that he understands that the team is rebuilding, and he doesn't want to be a part of it. Had he not referred to his career, I'd say he was being selfless (if not a little crazy). He did refer to his career, however, injecting an element of selfishness into the dialogue...suggesting that he doesn't want to be here. And if you go look at the transcript, this wasn't a one-time slip of the tongue. He said it three times by my count. This was deliberate. For a man who's under contract for six more years, that's mutinous in my book. (Now, if anyone can find a better word to convey the same meaning, I'll gladly consider using it.)

The Edmonton comments are self-explanatory, indicative of a captain who is trying to lead his team in a different direction than management wants.  I'm not saying that I blame the guy for wanting to win, but he implied that he's not walking in concert with the team.  So how does one reconcile that with his altruistic "I just want to help the team get assets to help them rebuild" statement?  I suggest you can't...which places what he said at his presser under greater scrutiny and skepticism.

Nash wants to advance his career elsewhere.
The CBJ want to maximize the value that they
can receive before letting him do that.
Let's be crystal clear: By his own heavily veiled words in the press conference, Nash doesn't want to be in Columbus any more.  He wants to play hockey somewhere else.  And his comments in Edmonton tell us that he's not helping team management along the way.  

Using the definitions cited above, how is that not mutinous?

I'd also suggest that Craig Patrick's recent comments to ESPN's Craig Custance suggest that tension between Nash and the team is reciprocal.  To summarize, Patrick said that the team isn't interested in rewarding this insurrection with a quick, painless bus ticket out of town.  This statement was backed up by nothing happening at the trade deadline.  Now, Patrick says that the CBJ are going to hold firm on their asking price and won't bend - implicitly threatening Nash with the possibility of a really uncomfortable season ahead if nothing happens.  (Might this be a way to get Nash to widen his No Trade Clause-empowered circle of acceptable trading partners?  Perhaps.)  This is hardball negotiating going on, right under our noses, between two parties that appear to not be playing well in the sandbox together.


So, how do we reconcile this very public position of Nash's with the need for the Blue Jackets to derive benefit from playing out of the string?

My answer has been to remove him from the franchise.  (And I strongly suggest you read that link as I'm not going to rehash all of it.)  Doing so prevents injury to the Blue Jackets' most valuable piece of trade bait while facilitating the other benefits of wisely playing out the string - development of leadership, auditioning of talent, determining new roles for existing talent, etc.  And as I was repeatedly reminded during the lead-up to the trade deadline, teams don't need to scout Rick Nash; they know what they're getting.  If that's the case, then there's no trade benefit in showcasing him any longer.

As I said when I first proposed this, this quick transition should be done with all due honors given to Nash.  Give him the send-off ceremony for the ages.  Raise his number to the rafters if you want.  He's worked very hard in some very dark days for this franchise.  He helped steer the team to its only playoff appearance.  Rick Nash deserves a proper thank you.  However, he now doesn't want to be here, and that can only get more and more awkward as time goes on.

So that's my view: Play out the string in a way that best prepares the team for 2012-13.  Protect the trade bait from injury.  And MOVE ON.

Thus, I'll use the 5 Thoughts game recaps - when I write them...the team hasn't exactly inspired me to write a lot recently - as a tool to remind the Blue Jackets and their fans that the team is both squandering an incredible opportunity and playing with fire by continuing to play Nash.  And yes, I plan to do so for the duration.  I only hope that it doesn't stretch into next season (presuming that there is a next season).

If Nash wants to recant and publicly recommit to the Blue Jackets going forward, I'm more than willing to put my little awareness campaign aside and welcome him back unconditionally.  I'd love for Rick Nash to want to be part of the Columbus Blue Jackets again.  He's still a pretty darned good hockey player.  But his public comments don't fill me with hope.

Circumstances have forced my hand on this post.  My disagreement with playing Nash is not rooted in hate or anger - it's about supporting the team that he wants to leave behind as they have to make wise competitive decisions to solidify their now-precarious position with their fanbase.

Barring a miracle, our mutinous captain soon will leave Columbus to play elsewhere.  We fans will be left behind.  (Well, this fan will...I'm not planning to move out of town any time soon.)

The sun will keep rising every day in Central Ohio, and the Columbus Blue Jackets will put a "new look" hockey team on the ice for 82 regular season games (again, presuming that there is a next season).  I want to see that team, the one for whom I renewed my ticket package yesterday knowing full well that Rick Nash likely will not be around, be successful as quickly as possible.  I want competitive, winning, playoff-competitive hockey in Columbus, Ohio.

Don't you?

7 comments:

  1. What happens when you bench him to protect the asset and he plays for Canada in the Worlds (May 2012) -- and risks injury there?

    Does the organization draw a line in the sand and say "NO" to Hockey Canada?

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    1. Hadn't considered that, Anon. Could be an interesting negotiating tactic.

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  2. I respect your views, but I feel that we are listening to & observing very different things. There is no way that Rick Nash gets scratched from this team this season. They won't scratch an 8 million dollar man, and it's tough to believe that legitimate experience/chemistry can be gained without the return from a Nash Trade. But that can be easily argued either way.

    On a larger scale, I believe that you read into Nash's statements in a completely different way than at least me and your take on the type of "mutinous" just doesn't stick. I have heard the same releases, listened to the same press conferences and considered Nash's words a plea for help, a cry for something to fix the franchise. Certainly there is a degree of personal interest here, but he didn't sign on for 8 more years on a whim. Rick Nash has been a quiet, thoughtful player in the media for his entire career and his speaking out even at this quiet, thoughtful level speaks volumes as to the mess the franchise is in. There's no way Nash would leave even under "typical" sub-par conditions.

    By your own assessment and the particular excerpts you analyze, I would conclude that any "mutiny" is against those in charge of the team rather than the franchise or the city. Rick Nash wants out from under management or wants action from ownership. If that somehow makes him contrary to the entirety of the Columbus Blue Jackets, then I've missed that connection and don't see how we got there. By his own carefully considered words, Rick Nash has noted that he absolutely wants to play hockey and live in Columbus. He has simply been pushed to the edge and must reconcile his desire to stay with the continued vocal support of the GM from ownership.

    And unfortunately, his reaction is probably quite similar to that of more than a few casual Blue Jackets fans. All the goodwill of the expansion team is long gone. All the excitement of the playoff year has completely vanished. Consider this: the team has never been good (a lucky year of rookie Mason doesn't count) and has only managed to regress since their fluke playoff year. It's mind-boggling and tough to wrap my head around.

    Being fairly to the Columbus area, I found it as a mild surprise that most of my new Ohio-native friends treat the Jackets as a punchline rather than an asset. Nash, much like the casual fans, would like to be around the Jackets but sees absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. Only Nash's choice is more damning to the franchise than theirs. They just won't buy tickets, won't get merchandise. Nash reveals that superstar players don't want anything to do with the ownership/GM under their current direction, one that wasn't set like this when he signed extension. Nash wants the city and franchise, but not under the lost and meandering world of the current leadership.

    Consider Nash's words a mutiny against management or ownership if you want. But I don't see a connection to Nash's desire to be a Columbus Blue Jacket. As many on Twitter have chimed in, it's the "name on the front of the jersey" that matters and I don't think I'm in disagreement here. But I'll take it a step further - it's the concept of the franchise that matters, not the owner, not the GM. I hear from his words that Nash still wants to be in this city with that concept. But when the people ruining the franchise are indefinitely employed, it becomes exceedingly difficult to hold on. Under almost any other circumstances, under ownership/management that was even marginally competent, we wouldn't even be reading this kind of post. That is why, even with the touch of self-interest, I cannot put negative connotations on Rick Nash. He wants to stay, and the people running the franchise have pushed him out.

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    1. This.

      I've pondered before, and will ask again here - I'd like to know the vision and plan that GMSH laid out to Rick to induce him to sign a long-term contract extension on favorable terms. My bet is that it doesn't resemble in any way the situation as it stands now. The phrases "rebuild" and "reshape" almost certainly were not a part of that vision. No wonder he has no faith or trust in the latest vision.

      With that in mind, I propose to substitute the word "Disillusioned" for your "Mutinous". You could also use the words "Duped", "Suckered", "Deceived"....in fact, I feel like those words apply to me as well, after I expanded my 1/4 season tickets to 1/2 season tickets after being sold that we were finally going to ice a competitive team.

      The CBJ have the worst team record of ANY professional sports franchise over the last three years. Let that sink in for a moment. And the people calling the shots (Priest/Mac, Jr) don't see any difference between running an NHL team and any other business. They don't believe it takes any special expertise or experience.

      These are very dark days indeed. And there is no light on the horizon. Now they are talking about trading the #1 pick.

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  3. By your own definition, mutinous is not the correct word - in what way has he defied authority? He hasn't withheld, or even threatened to withhold, services; he clearly is not working against the goal to win, in fact his most recent comment reinforces that commitment; and he's not attempting to overturn or userpt authority, unless you choose to believe he's been told to lose by Richards and refuses!

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  4. Not a CBJ fan (wandered over here from a link), but holy crap, dude. Columbus is in serious trouble and sitting Nash will only make it worse, Nash has meant a lot to Columbus as their only star, and a star willing to stick with the franchise for almost a decade of losing and colossal incompetence. To be frank, that's not something Columbus could have gotten from another player of his quality, and it's a slap in the face to the fans to sit him. Columbus needs the fans going forward way more than they need whatever they can get for Nash in a trade.

    Sitting Nash would truly destroy whatever remains of the relationship and make it impossible to keep him, and trying to keep him is IMO the best option for Columbus. Other players have requested trades, not gotten them, and been able to work it out with the team. Nash still has some kind of commitment to Columbus left, or he'd have given a longer list of teams he was willing to go to. You can't do worse from an organizational standpoint and there were a lot of good teams with bright futures and good management that were not on his list. If Columbus scraps the GM and gets serious about icing a reasonably good team, he might be willing to stay and give it some more time. Nash has been insanely classy throughout this. He deliberately torched his bridges with Howson, yes, but seems unwilling to do the same with the CBJ themselves. If he were truly out the door no matter what, he wouldn't have so carefully spared the franchise while being this frank about the GM. He's not necessarily a lost cause, but sitting him ensures that outcome.

    Which brings me to my last point. There is no way Columbus gets an adequate return on Nash. His trade value is high, but it's not that high. GMs will be cautious this summer with the uncertainty about the new CBA/future cap, and Nash has a horrible contract. Elite player, yes, but not worth 7.8m for a million years. If the cap hit was lower or the term shorter, CBJ could name their price, but as is, no one will offer that much more than the Rangers. It could give you some decent pieces for a rebuild (and remember that his acceptable teams will have significantly lower picks, except for the Maple Leafs. Since CBJ has done squat with more high picks than they will ever see in a Nash trade, there's limited value there), but Dubinsky and some question marks won't do much to fix this franchise. And it definitely won't keep butts in the seats.

    The hockey math changes depending on whether or not the franchise can salvage their relationship with Nash, but the most important element - the fans - does not. Sit Nash and you've insulted the fans three times. 1. Losing. Forever. 2. Driving their only star out of town. 3. Announcing to them that you don't give a crap about the remaining games they're supposed to pay to see (which is how it would be perceived). I agree that winning fixes all ills, but nothing you can get for Nash is going to make up for what you lose, or significantly increase winning. Fixing this team is not a short term process, and the eventual outcome won't matter if there's no one around to see it, or if the team has been moved to Canada because no one was willing to pay to watch the rebuild. Most fans can only take so much pain, and Columbus has already inflicted a lot of it. Sitting Nash has serious consequences that his return in a trade can't fix. Play him, give them something to cheer for, and pray that firing Howson in mid April can change things with Nash.

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  5. Good comments above. This appears to be the sword you wish to die by DBJ, but it's your blog I guess. I had stopped reading this past week, but I admit I decided to look today to see if your outlook on Nash has changed. Seems like you are trying too hard to validate your 'mutinous' label. Here's another term to look up:

    Straw man, as defined in Wikipedia:

    "A straw man is a component of an argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position."

    One of the ways to set up a straw man fallacy is to quote an opponent's words out of context. I believe your interpretation of Nash's comments about the Edmonton game is grossly taking the words out of context. Your thesis is that Nash wants out and is trying to disrupt or overthrow management/coaching (the definition of mutinous). You then use a quote where Nash says he wants to win even though management may know it's better to lose as evidence for this argument.

    This is ridiculous. Quotes like Nash made are made every year by coaches and players on teams playing out the string. I heard Todd Richards say basically the same thing on one of his recent 97.1 show. He said his goal is to win every game (similar to what Nash is saying). He contrasts this with the role of management, which has a duty to sometimes sacrifice current wins for future wins. If this wasn't the case, there'd be no sellers every year. Is Todd Richards mutinous?

    Actually, if Nash had said that he planned to tank every game so that we could get the number 1 draft pick, that would be more mutinous as he'd be openly sabotaging Richard's career.

    I know you are sold on your thesis and no one is going to convince you otherwise, but this latest 'evidence' is disappointing.

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