Sunday, August 4, 2013

Flogging the Prospal horse

I know, I's all but certain that Vinny Prospal isn't coming back for the Columbus Blue Jackets next year.  I've made my opinion clear in suggesting that this is a big mistake on the part of the team's management.

What I can't get over is how, even at the most random of times, I see the reasons for which I want Prospal back reiterated by the strangest of people.

Like Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks when talking about why he will never get rid of his cornerstone, 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki:
When you turn your team upside down and try to figure out what the culture of the team is, you take the greatest risk a team can take.  Dirk sets the tone for our team.  He works as hard, if not harder than anyone.  He helps our younger players understand what he expects and what they need to do to excel. On the court he is selfless.  He would rather not have to score a point if we would win the game any way.  He would rather pass the ball and let anyone else score than be forced to take the shot. Until its the time of the game where we need a point. Then he is ready to step up as often as we need it. But he knows, that his impact on a game is far more important than any averages or what appears in the box score. That mindset. That selflessness. His work ethic is something I want to be in place long after he has retired.
Substitute "Vinny" for "Dirk," and you get my point.

The Blue Jackets that I have known (since roughly 2006) have never had a player like that until Vinny Prospal came to town.   Not only did Vinny play that role for the CBJ, he did it under perhaps the absolute worst of circumstances.  He wasn't leading a championship team, a perennial, he was helping pull an epically terrible team out of the cellar.  And you know what?  With a little help, he did it.  As the 2013 season wore on, the CBJ turned from a bunch of losers into a team that could reasonably be expected to win.  How long has it been since we could say that?

I hope they know what they're doing down on Nationwide Boulevard.


  1. I find the Nowitzki comparison to be a difficult one to swallow. Dirk is widely considered to be one of the greatest power forwards in the history of the NBA and arguably still highly effective (only limited this past year with injury).

    Dirk's value is not just in his "hard work." Every NBA player or NHL player will work hard. They wouldn't be at the highest level without that kind of attitude. It's not in an example set for others. It's that he's a living legend who is still capable of impacting a game. He sets the tone for the Mavs because he is that great.

    Vinny is not a legend. He's not bad, mind you (he's not Jared Boll), but he's not great. Even if his leadership is valuable to a team, his on-ice contributions can be replaced. Gaborik is here, Horton will be in December, Dubinsky/Atkinson/Anisimov (the team's best forwards last year) should be expected to be as injured next season. All those should more than enough replace Vinny's scoring contribution and at least one of them I'd like to see as the new captain. There's some of the leadership void taken care of, too.

    Maybe I'm being too pragmatic about this, but I don't have any strong feelings about Vinny being gone. The real culture change happens when the organization stops making negative personnel decisions (at the draft, in free agency, in trades). I believe that's well underway with the new management, but it's not over yet. One positive-thinking but less-than-necessary player in the room is not enough to drag a full squad of hockey players to victory. Vinny is not Dirk.

    1. The Dallas Mavericks are reasonably consistent at being good at what they do. Can't say that for the Columbus Blue Jackets, not yet at least.

      The Mavs respect Dirk. The CBJ respects (respected?) Vinny. Both guys appear to genuinely lead by example (Dirk as a "living legend", Vinny as a consistent top scorer for the team) and push their compadres to practice harder, to play harder, to win.

      Your comment about "There's some of the leadership void taken care of, too," scares the beejeebus out of me. (Kinda like R.J. Umberger prior to last season, when asked about CBJ scoring in a post-Nash world: "We all need to step up and score more." The CBJ then went out and were 25th in goals scored.) I've got about 4-5 years of pre-Prospal CBJ watching under my belt to suggest that your statement is by no means guaranteed to work. Because it pretty much didn't before Vinny showed up.

      You are correct in that Vinny is not the end-all, be-all. I have said that another indisputable veteran leader (like, say, Jagr, who was on the market at the time) could fill the same role. My point is, that role needs to be filled on this roster at this time. I hope you're right in your assertion that someone/some people on the roster will lead this crew, because IMHO the team appears to have cut loose the only known quantity on that front.

      Cross your fingers!

  2. Keep Vinny. I understand that Horton will be healthy soon enough, however, odds are that another forward will be injured in the first 6 weeks of the season and need a break/replacement. I also understand that Vinny deserves a reasonable pay check, probably more then the CBJ can offer. Will be interesting to see what, if anything, shakes out the next few weeks.

  3. "A cynic is a man who knows the pricing of everything and the value of nothing." - Oscar Wilde. I am very cynical and I find myself to be the "Jefferson" to Tom's "Adams." It has often been my opinion that Vinny wasn't deserving of the "C" because of the nature of his contract - eg, he needed a job when he retired. But make no mistake, the value Vinny played in the dressing room last season was immense. Anyone who doesn't need a press pass to gain access to the team will tell you how priceless his presence was in the lockerroom this past season.

    Hard caps with guaranteed contract always make sure there are casualties like Prospal. He was beloved and revered in the dressing room. More so than his effort, he came with a high amount of credibility. His leadership was natural, not a derivative of cheerleading tweets or saying the right things during interviews to endear him to fans. He was a player that Jack Johnson, Wiesniewski, and Foligno respected. To date, that is something that is missing from the dressing room as I thumb through the current roster. Although as a cynic, I guess the Jackets don't need a 38 year old who was only 82nd in the league in scoring last year.

    But understanding value, I guess the young and relatively inexperienced Blue Jackets will begin their search anew for leadership, something this team only really had for 48 games. Hopefully Coach Richards has learned from his inability to motiviate the last team he coached and won't need a role model like Prospal to bolster the "Whatever it takes" attitude in the lockeroom. We all like to imagine that our heroes work as hard as we imagine they do, almost a projected self image if we were in their shoes, er skates - however that is not always the case. But alas, we will see how well this salary cap team does this season without 38 year old geezer. The fear of getting shown up by an old man is a powerful motivator to a 20 something stud with a million dollar ego. Its hard to gauge it's value until it's missing.