Not to keep hammering on the Shea Weber topic, but unless I want to join hands with the fellows over at The Pensblog to whine about the Islanders celebrating the worst regular season contest for the sport of hockey since Mike Milbury beat up a fan with a shoe, the topics are still a bit few and far-between. That said, Mike Brophy of Sportsnet has something to say about the Weber case and about how it brings to light an issue of the NHL where in there are "many, many examples of contractual disasters since the lockout ended."
Brophy's column, titled 'Out of Whack' carries the byline "A look at the list of NHL's highest-paid blueliners makes one realize there's a problem." From there, he goes on to tie the concept that the top-ten earning defensemen in the league aren't the ten best defensemen in the league to the idea that the salary cap has been an absolute failure to protect general managers from themselves and the idea that Brian Campbell's salary is something that doesn't bode well for the next CBA.
What sucks most about this Brophy piece is that he's going to force me to defend Brian Campbell. However, before we get to that, let's take a look at Chicken Little's statement about General Managers being protected from themselves.
Brophy uses the Wade Redden, Jay Bouwmeester and Brian Campbell contracts as examples of what has gone horribly wrong. In doing so, he ignores so much historical context that I'm pretty surprised Michael Bay hasn't already contacted him to start writing a movie about Napoleon Bonaparte conquering Europe with his smart-mouthed ethnic sidekick and a cannon that fires titties.
Wade Redden and Brian Campbell signed their contracts in July of 2008. For those hyper-advanced of you who were born after that and are reading this, that was before the housing bubble burst and the economy took a Joe Thornton-esque dive. The Salary cap had gone up $6.4M from the previous year and, at that point, sat $12.7M higher than it had just two years prior. Teams like New York and Chicago had space to fill under a cap that was directly tied to revenues in a way that made it extremely unlikely they would lose money by filling it. Since then, the cap has gone up only $7.6M total and the largest bulk of that raise came in this offseason, when the league added $4.9M to the number. GMs haven't had the same kind of money to spend for three years and they (wisely) haven't spent it as a result.
Jay Bouwmeester got his salary a year later when Calgary had plenty of room for it and they've still made money since. In fairness to Brophy though, Jay Bouwmeester sucks ass and he looks like DJ Qualls with muscles. The nicest thing I can say about him is that at least he's not as ugly as Olli Jokinen.
Any excuse to use this is a good excuse
I'm not saying Bouwmeester, Redden and Campbell aren't overpaid, but I understand why they got the contracts they did when they did and I don't begrudge those guys their paydays. As far as GMs being protected from themselves, the Rangers went from losing $3.3M in 2004 to bringing in a $41.4M positive operating income in 2010. The Hawks won a Stanley Cup with Campbell and are bringing in more money than they did before the lockout. The concept that these guys need to be saved from themselves is just ridiculous.
Apparently, the GMs need to be saved from having enough cost certainty to waste it on players. Don't get me wrong, the CBA has problems (like the salary floor), but owners are not bankrupting themselves to put together winning teams anymore and that seems to be what Brophy is suggesting.
More specifically on the Brian Campbell thing, here's what Brophy thinks he's worth:
Nothing against Brian, but seriously, the second-highest-paid defenceman in the league? Come on! Nice guy…decent defenceman…worth $2 million a year tops.
Now that's some high-quality sportswriter trolling. I've said some horrible things about Brian Campbell, his hair color, his on-ice awareness, his defensive ability, his vague resemblance to Rocky Dennis, and maybe even his mother, but I've never said the guy is worth no more than $2M. Brian Campbell scored 62 points in the season before teams went nuts on a bidding war for his services. For all intents and purposes, he was the second coming of Brian Rafalski, except younger. According to Brophy, he's worth as much as Adam Pardy.
Perhaps the best part of contextual myopia that comes from this article is simply looking at the general managers who handed out these salaries. If you asked me to put together a list of the five worst GMs to hold a job in the NHL since the lockout, Glen Sather, Darryl Sutter, and Dale Tallon would take up all five of those spots. Only one of those three has yet to have lost the job he was in when he signed the contract that Brophy is using as an example here. Tallon was fired by Chicago and has since moved to Florida while Sutter resigned as Calgary's GM, presumable to laugh at Jay Feaster trying to make sense of the mess he made of that organization.
So, according to Brophy, the NHL is headed for trouble because the three worst GMs came up with the three worst contracts he can think of. Of course, Brophy tells us that there are many, many examples of contractual disasters, but he's a busy man and can't be bothered to give us more examples. (How about Cristobal Huet? Another Tallon contract.) Something is definitely not working for Brophy simply because NHL owners and GMs continue to prove the axiom that you can't ever make anything idiot-proof.