With all these contract talks and mud-slinging between fans, let’s try and take an objective view of what really matters to players and why they’d want to stay with or move on from the team that drafted them. Star players are just fundamentally different. They have needs others just don’t. Not only do they come with expectations right out of the gate, they need care and nurturing in order to help them blossom. They’re sensitive creatures, okay?
This talk has spiraled out of control ever since reports started surfacing about Tavares signing with Toronto on July 1st. Isles fans went from a quiet optimism, (ie; not giving him signing somewhere else a second thought), to flooding social media with claims that he’s overrated. Ok. Sure.
Since the NHL as a league is just fundamentally different than it was before the 2004 lockout, the appropriate place to start than with reigning Stanley Cup Champion and Conn Smythe winner, Alexander Ovechkin.
Alex Ovechkin: Drafted: 2004 to Washington
The Great 8 was picked as the savior for the Washington Capitals. He quickly impressed with 52 goals and 106pts in his rookie season. Simply put, he is one of the premier goal scorers in NHL history, and his resume speaks for itself. Why stay? Not only has Ovechkin himself impressed, but the team around him has been a juggernaut for years. He’s had a world-class centreman in Nik Backstrom, all-star defenseman in Mike Green, and Vezina Trophy winner Brayden Holtby over the years. Ted Leonsis is an owner who has taken care of Ovie (when a lot of people thought he was crazy to sign that 13-year deal), and done everything in his power to surround him with talent and coaching. We all know how it culminated in 2018, so it looks like a great choice all-around. Ovechkin will end his career as a life-long Capital.
Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin: 2005/2004 to Pittsburgh
The most successful duo in recent memory, celebrating 3 Stanley Cups, Conn Smythe’s, Hart’s, Art Ross’, Ted Lindsay, etc. While Sid is the Captain, you’ll often find Geno leading the Pens through season stretches, whether it be because 87’s hurt or he just found himself on a tear. And what can we say about Sid? He’s won everything, everywhere. Granted, Malkin wasn’t a 1st overall pick, but let’s be honest, he hits here. Why would they stay? You never hear rumblings of Sid needing to go play for his boyhood team, the Montreal Canadiens, do you? Why not? Mario Lemieux, who coincidentally enough, also grew up a Habs fan, that’s why. Mario has not only provided a home for Crosby in his early years, but a safe, stable, honest, place for him to grow his game and succeed. Stability and direction, (winning helps, too), are the most important part of keeping stars happy. They’re also buds – see below.
Erik Johnson: 2006 St. Louis – A highly touted all-around defenseman who wouldn’t necessarily blow your socks off with his offensive numbers, but could provide a bit at both ends of the ice. Let’s be brutally honest here – it wasn’t the strongest draft ever. He has already moved from St. Louis to Colorado where he seems to have found a good spot for himself with a young team on the rise. He’s signed there long-term, and there’s a good chance he spends the majority of his good years in Mile-High.
If it wasn’t simple before, it is now:
Patrick Kane: 2007 to Chicago
3 Cups. Toews. His home team? Buffalo Sabres. Enough said.
Steven Stamkos: 2008 to Tampa
He’s had his chance to leave, and decided not to. Why? His team is good, Steve Yzerman has put his club in a brilliant position to succeed, and I’ve heard something about the taxes in Florida being beneficial to players. The time he could have gone to Toronto, well, the team was terrible, so why would he?
John Tavares: 2009 to NYI
Came roaring out from World Junior stardom, and looked to continue his OHL dominance in the NHL for the Islanders. He was the saving grace for the franchise and a much needed breath of fresh air. He led them to 1 playoff appearance in 9 years on the Island winning 1 playoff series, (with Johnny getting the OT winner to clinch it). Equipped with 9 years of knowledge on how the franchise runs, he decided to take his talents home. In what seems to be an exception to the rule, (the one where players can’t return home without facing a lifetime of ‘traitor’ chants from their draft teams), and different than Stamkos’ situation, John was set up perfectly for a return to his home town. Free-agency in his prime, the Islanders front-office turnover, no home rink, and most of all, the Maple Leafs young skill being the talk of the NHL.
Tomorrow we’ll pick it up in 2010, where the Edmonton Oilers kick off a string of terrible finishes resulting in 1st overall picks.
Disagree? I have terrible takes? Let me know it! @HollandGregJ on Twitter!