In the new-era NHL, who should be financially responsible for Marian Hossa's delusions?
The 26 year-old Senators forward filed for arbitration on Wednesday after turning down a three-year, $11.9-million (all terms US) deal.
Hossa admitted his displeasure to the Sun's Bruce Garrioch, and expressed a desire to be compensated in the manner of the league's top echelon of players, specifically Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla.
Iginla penned his new contract with the Flames for $21 million over three years, and Thornton agreed to a three-year, $20-million deal on Thursday. Hossa reminded the Sun his statistics are similar to both players.
To be fair, numbers are always compared in situations like these, and Hossa (and his agent Jiri Crha) do make a valid point. But how many GMs would consider a straight-up trade involving Iginla and Hossa? Undoubtedly none, and there's a logical reason for that.
The 2003-04 regular season statistics for Calgary read like a one-man show. It's all Iginla, all the time. The captain had 41 goals and 32 assists during the regular season. Craig Conroy was listed second, at 47 points. That's a margin of 26 points between the top two players.
And if this were arbitration, Crha would point out that Conroy only played 63 games last season. Alternatively, Shean Donovan bagged the No. 3 spot with 42 points, while participating in a full 82-game schedule. Checkmate.
When you have a skilled team that provides assistance, it's going to reflect in your numbers. In 2003-04, the Senators had six players with 45 points or more, including Hossa. There's no question Iginla is the alpha of his team. Hossa is one of many talented betas in Ottawa, where leaders are only identified by title.
And if the Slovak and his agent are searching for a legitimate comparison, they should look at Milan Hejduk's recent contract with the Avalanche. The Czech forward had similar numbers to Hossa's (Hejduk netted 35 goals and 40 assists in 2003-04), but Colorado's situation is similar to the Senators, with a supporting cast that assists in favourable numbers for most players. Hejduk's salary reflects this -- he'll be receiving $3.7 million in 2005-06.
There's another sticking point that Hossa isn't considering, and it was demonstrated in his comments to the Sun on Wednesday:
"I'm not pissed off. You know me, I'm not that type of guy."
Whether on or off the ice, Hossa has rarely displayed emotion. The evidence of heart is one of those intangibles that can pay handsomely, if a player possesses it. Iginla and Thornton are captains of their respective teams, and that decision surely was not based on skill alone. Hossa may be the top scorer for the Senators, but he's not a leader.
When one speculates on future captains in Ottawa, names like Fisher and Spezza come to mind -- rounded players with talent and emotion, which will manifest itself eventually into larger paycheques.
Does Hossa deserve a fair share? There is no doubt. He is an integral part of the Ottawa core. But when there are additional factors to consider, including a total salary that is creeping toward the cap, one needs to make difficult decisions.
Players are expected to fall into line when it comes to cash -- it's the new reality. And if Marian is unhappily forced to settle this year, there's always a team like the Sabres to play for.
POSITIVELY NEGATIVE: The NHL covered a lot of business on Monday, first with Wayne Gretzky announcing that he will be coaching the Coyotes next year, followed by Gary Bettman's reinstatement of Todd Bertuzzi. It was a textbook distraction technique -- the equivalent of an annoying relative pointing out a non-existent stain on your shirt, only to thumb your nose upward after your head has dropped. Unfortunately, the media became more concerned with the Bertuzzi ruling, as it was the latter story of the two, and continued with its roasting of the NHL. Is the concept of beginning with the negative and commencing with the positive a foreign notion to those responsible for the NHL's public relations?
SIDE LINES: The Iowa State Fair is displaying a life-size sculpture of Tiger Woods, carved entirely of butter. You would think this would be more appropriate for players like Jean Van de Velde or Retief Goosen ... Eric Lindros finally signed with the Leafs to a one-year deal on Thursday. This allows the imminent firing of Yankees manager Joe Torre to regain the position of longest ongoing sports story.