Decisions, decisions, decisions...
I don't know what sort of decisions you made today. Personally, I tried to keep track and the biggest one is where I had to decide between Lowe's or Home Depot to purchase a replacement toilet seat today. I wish I was making this up. I ultimately made the decision based on who looked like it had fewer cars in the parking lot (which is likely to be exactly the opposite rationale to use when selecting a store). I will not reveal the winner of this battle so as not to ruin any future sponsorship opportunities for the organization.
Regardless, I believe my decision will impact 0 lives, and those who go on to use my new toilet seat over years to come will not second guess my decision on message boards and sports talk shows.
For this, I am thankful. There are clearly those in leadership positions in all walks of life who really must make decisions which will be evaluated and second-guessed.
And in the next day, Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk is one of them.
I want to be clear: There are actually people making decisions (world leaders) who will likely impact more lives with their decisions, but the decision that faces Nieuwendyk before Monday, February 28th at 2pm Central time, is one that will impact my hockey consciousness quite a bit.
Now, there are mitigating circumstances here. Brad Richards, the subject of this decision has an expiring contract. Richards, in my opinion, is one of the very finest players in the NHL. Richards also holds a no-trade clause. And, last, but certainly not least, Richards has a concussion.
So, what do they do. Many of you have asked me what I would do. And, I wish it was a simple play.
I would extend Brad Richards' contract. I would have done it a long time ago. I believe the Stars have offered him options along those lines. But, if you are Richards, wouldn't you want to know who your bosses are before you pledge allegiance to play the rest of your prime? Wouldn't you want to know that your bosses are committed to helping you win another Stanley Cup? Wouldn't you simply want to know that your new bosses are here to win and are going to be able to sign your checks for years to come?
I believe Brad Richards wants to play here. I also believe that he wants to play here assuming this team has a firm direction in place with ownership. His contract runs through June 30, 2011. Will there be a new owner here by then? It would be foolish to act like anyone knows. If not, you lose one of the best players in hockey for nothing.
That would be very bad. You don't want to lose something for nothing. You don't want to take your team's shiniest resource and lose him in the summer without any parting gifts.
So, do you take one of the best players in your sport and trade him now? A few years ago, the Texas Rangers pretty much received the supplies for their future based largely on the trade for Mark Teixeira. At the time, there was a legion of people who were very unimpressed that one of the best players in the sport was sent away for a collection of kids who had never accomplished anything in the big leagues. Sure, they might be players some day, but Teixeira is a player now! And who has ever heard of Elvis Andrus or Neftali Feliz anyway? Those people who said things like that have changed their tune.
A real difference is that the Rangers were not going to the post season in 2007. They knew their direction and the present tense had nothing to do with it. But, the Stars have a present tense that could include being a playoff team for the first time in 3 seasons. Not a horrendous drought, but the bodies in the seats at the American Airlines Center suggest that some good news for the franchise could encourage people to return back to the arena.
This season, the team has played some very nice hockey for large portions of the year. If adding Brad Richards would change the fortunes in New York or Los Angeles, wouldn't adding Richards also catapult the Stars to new heights? Watching Alex Gogligoski and Richards man the puck on the power play seems like a most delicious scenario that I would sure like to see.
But, to see it, Joe must risk losing Brad for nothing this summer. Ugh.
Your options: Get something for Brad now. But, because of that concussion thing, the offers may be less than if Richards was on a 15-game point streak in full health. Or, keep the band together which may scratch that itch for the next few weeks, but as we know - in sports - there are no guarantees. Richards could return and help you go deep in the playoffs. Or, he could return and you miss the postseason altogether. Either way, teams will break the bank to get him in July. Teams where he will not be the savior- just the final piece of a puzzle.
Door #3 would be that extremely rich man with a never ending thirst for Stanley Cups that wants to make the Stars a Cup contender immediately and wants to keep Brad in town through 2017 buying the team before the summer and we all live happily ever after and use July 1st to finish out the roster and bump our heads on the salary cap again like the good ol' days.
If Joe asked me what to do, the first thing I would ask him is why he would ever ask me what to do. But, the second thing would be to tell him to swing for the fences. If a GM is making him an offer that he cannot refuse, then he knows that he has to do what he has to do. Hit a home run or don't swing.
But, all things being equal, I assume that the offers will not be aggressive because of the health issues. I assume that Joe will arrive at the conclusion that sometimes you have to worry about today because tomorrow has too many unknown components right now. Get #91 back out here and let's see what this team can do for this stretch run.
And if you know any really rich guys, tell them we have about 120 days to get these other issues sorted.
As for Nieuwendyk: No pressure, Joe. But, every GM has a few moves that decide his legacy and his overall approval rating. I would imagine that odds are excellent that this will be one of them. Let's hope he gets it right for the sake of all of us who want this team to do well.
Decisions far more important than toilet seats, no?