November 12, 2008

Harboring No Ill Will Towards Hossa

When the news broke on July 2 that Marian Hossa had signed a one-year deal, worth $7.45 million, less than what the Penguins and the Oilers were reportedly offering him, I was shocked along with the rest of the hockey world. It was a huge risk for a guy who, after a tremendous playoff run, could almost name his price. I also had to shake my head at the genius that is Detroit general manager Ken Holland at making this happen in the salary cap era.

Immediately after Hossa uttered, "When I compared the two teams, I felt like I would have a little better of a chance to win the Cup in Detroit", the shit hit the fan in Pittsburgh and fans went insane. They felt betrayed, used, and incredibly upset. The wounds were still fresh from the Stanley Cup defeat and one of the star players that helped them get within two wins of a title leaves for their opponent.

It's the era of free agency and given that Hossa was a mercenary, brought to put the Penguins over the top, it should not have come as that big of a surprise that he left.

Had Ray Shero been able to convince Hossa to re-sign in Pittsburgh, that would have likely meant the end of Brooks Orpik's time in a Penguin uniform, which could have made the beginning of this season even tougher with the losses of Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar. Other players likely would have been moved in order to fit Hossa's salary under the cap while keep the Penguins competitive.

I may be the only Penguins fan who doesn't curse Hossa whenever I hear his name. In this day and age of free agency in sports, it really doesn't surprise me when an athlete leaves a team for more money or for a better chance to win. What's surprising to me is how Hossa's been killed for taking less money. Granted, he left for the Red Wings, which is a major factor, but he could have easily taken the money that Edmonton was rumored to be offering. Would Hossa signing with the Oilers been easier to take, because of the $9 million on the table?

Let's understand what Hossa was when Pittsburgh acquired him: a mercenary. Mario Lemieux wanted Hossa because he knew the Penguins had a great shot at a Stanley Cup run. He told Shero to get him by any means necessary and they did, dealing away draft picks, prospect Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. It was a risk the organization was willing to take despite the potential repercussions of losing Hossa and the Cup with nothing to show for it.

Call Hossa a liar and a traitor, but there's very little loyalty among athletes these days. With million dollar contracts and short careers, the opportunity to either win a championship or collect a very large paycheck is an opportunity that many athletes do not want to pass up, no matter the repercussions among certain fans. Hossa had spent three months in Pittsburgh and helped team to the Finals, of course he was going to give optimistic quotes in the press about possibly coming back.

To me, it's actually refreshing to see a star player take less money in order to win a championship. And looking back at Hossa's quote about comparing the two teams and feeling the Red Wings had the better opportunity to win again, was he really that wrong at the time? The Penguins roster was raided and Detroit retained practically their entire lineup.

Add Marian Hossa and how can you not say Detroit isn't the favorite?

Ballhype: hype it up!

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