(The following is a reaction to the sound and fury heard yesterday (June 26) over the 2010-11 Walling contract.)
I have just become a fan of Niclas Wallin. Call me bull-headed, other people do. He doesn’t have good numbers, but I have been clear about how I feel about numbers: they lie, or at the very least they don’t tell you the whole truth.
What I see in his record is a lot of time with the Hurricanes, who of late have a habit of dumping folks I like. I am biased against them. They fired Lavi, they neglected Leights, and they wear red. They also traded Wallin mid-season for a draft pick. I don’t know what the hell is going on in North Carolina, but I am inclined to put very little stock in their decision-making ability.
The official Sharks policy is to not discuss salary figures. Would confirmation only cause more of a stir? Is the figure a problem because it isn’t exactly what people think it is? As I understand it, there is some peculiarity about contracts for players over the age of 35. Probably there are other ways of making numbers look “better” than they are. The real impact of the contract has yet to be revealed, it is merely fuel for speculation.
Whatever. It seems obvious that something else is going to give shortly. Retaining the rest of the team, losing Nabby alone, doesn’t solve the cap problems, not with this salary increase. On the other hand, I’m not sure what goalie or other d-man the team could have found for $750k, the amount of Wallin’s raise, if indeed it is that. So something bigger than that raise has to give if in fact DW has his eye on a free agent goalie. Even the goalie I had in mind could not be squeezed in to this envelope.
A lot of fans, I think it is safe to say a majority of Sharks fans, are in a veritable uproar over what they have heard about the Wallin contract. Mostly they are angry about the money. They claim, they believe, that he isn’t worth that. In this emotional state, many say he should not have been signed at all, and other unflattering things.
I don’t know what you are supposed to pay for a veteran defenseman with Wallin’s skill set. I don’t think most Sharks fans are able to gauge that skill set. I don’t mean we don’t know what we are looking at, I just think the sample is too small, or marred by mishap (injury + Hurricanes). Since the Hurricanes did such a bang-up job “gauging” two of my faves in the NHL, I defer to the opinion of Sharks management. Their opinion can be deduced from their decision to re-sign him at whatever figure they chose. I wish it didn’t have to be deduced, I wish it were more legible.
I have no idea what went on in post-Laviolette Carolina. I’d guess nothing to boost anyone’s confidence, and Wallin was steeped in the place. He came to the Sharks mid-season, played in the post-season after an injury. Additionally, at least in the playoffs, there seemed to be a chronic scheduling problem on the bench. Evidently Wallin and Demers were sharing their time on the ice.
This posed a problem for both players, and therefore the team. The problem was acknowledged by the players, recorded by an NHL staff writer, and reposted on the Sharks website. Hm. Maybe they should avoid that game plan in the future. It might improve the performance of both players and also make fans happy.
I am not an athlete, but I know it is a lot harder to get going after sitting for a while. It is not far-fetched to assume that if you are going to put someone in the game, if you expect him to play as well as he can, you ought to keep him moving as much as possible. Probably McLellan had a good reason for making this decision. Certainly you don’t want to overwork a player who has just returned from an injury. It still seems like a handicap, justified or not.
It’s the off-season fallout from those decisions and events that has my hackles up. This relative newcomer to the team is being lambasted shamefully by fans, because he did not perform to their satisfaction despite a fairly obvious “scheduling” handicap, aggravated, or maybe caused, by injury. That he agreed to a one-year contract at this point in his career is a detail lost in the frenzy of speculation.
Nichol made the same concession, I recognize that. But he isn’t having his name mauled by the angry citizens of Shark Territory.
If subjective details can get lost, then so can objective ones. Certainly any semblance of civility has gone out the window. I therefore object to… pretty much every fan comment I have read about Wallin.
I do not blame people for their emotional response. My reaction to their reactions is emotional too. It is not their fault or mine. It looks like a PR problem to me. DW is being bashed too, but I don’t mind that so much. The fans’ reaction to this is his problem, it could even be called his fault.
I understand the need to keep contract negotiations quiet, to not show your cards or your plan one second sooner than it is ripped from your hands by the NHL. But at some point, such secrecy from the organization exposes its players (not to mention its management) to some fairly outrageous, unflinching, and vicious verbal attacks from the interested public.
There must be some way to give out enough information so that it doesn’t look like you don’t care what people think. Even without enough information to form a sound opinion, people will continue to think anyway and the less you tell them, the less they think of you.
(P.S. Today, the day after the announcement, the rage is subsiding. I already see some less critical, even positive remarks about Wallin scattered about message boards. I am glad of it.)