Monday, June 04, 2012

Nicklas Lidstrom's Timing Off?

Much has been made of last week's retirement announcement by Detroit Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom.

(I wrote two pieces for SB Nation regarding Lidstrom's decision. This one talks about Lidstrom's greatness, both on and off the ice. After I took a shower, I wrote this one, which contains lots of speculation about how it could affect the free agent status of Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, who could cash in big-time come early July.)

The announcement came Thursday, one day after the Stanley Cup Final opened up in New Jersey. The fact that there was an extra day off between games may have been part of the timing, but there has been criticism out there of Lidstrom making the announcement after the series started.

Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert wrote Monday about his issues with Lidstrom's timing.

(The) decision to announce that he would call it a career on a day between Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final was a serious misstep for him and his franchise.

Let's say this was any player in the sport today besides Lidstrom, who chose to reveal they were retiring in the middle of the Cup Final. Now, granted, it wouldn't have had nearly as big of an impact because, let's face it, no one in hockey today is Nick Lidstrom. But for another, he would have been excoriated by the media, and rightly so.

(A few years back, Alex Rodriguez announced that he would be opting out of his contract with the Yankees in the middle of the World Series, and got torched for it.)

This is the type of thing that only serves to distract from what is, and should be, the greatest two weeks of the NHL season.

I saw somewhere that Lidstrom apparently arrived at his decision to retire a week ago, which leads one to wonder, "Why wait until now, when Game 1 of as many as seven is in the books?" There's not really a good answer to that. For all the Red Wings organization are famed for having, this strikes as remarkably tonedeaf, especially considering the stink a team like Detroit would kick up if someone did it to them. Remember, this is a franchise that tried to get the entire League re-aligned and playoff system revamped because it didn't like its current travel schedule. If the decision was made a week ago, then hold the presser in the days leading up to Game 1; or, better yet, hold it after. It would have no bearing on the Red Wings' offseason plans, especially if they knew internally how to proceed.

(To be fair here, Lambert is a known hater of the Red Wings, but the thoughts in this piece are incredibly rational and don't seem to be about tweaking the incredibly sensitive sector of Red Wings fans.)

It's not a huge deal in my view, but Lambert is correct. A quick Google search finds that people were pissed off that Rodriguez opted out of his Yankees contract and announced his decision during the World Series. Generally, baseball teams are discouraged from making major announcements during the World Series. The Yankees sought permission to name a new manager during the 2007 World Series.

There is no rule in the NHL on such a thing, nor should there be. But there should be a sort of professional courtesy. No offense to his family, but if a guy like Greg Zanon wants to retire and announce it during the Stanley Cup Final, it's fine. Greg Zanon's retirement has no chance of upstaging the sport's most important event.

Nicklas Lidstrom's does, and everyone involved -- Lidstrom, his agent, and the Red Wings -- should have known that going in. No amount of attention rightfully heaped on Lidstrom last week should have been a surprise to anyone.

That's the most disappointing thing about it. The Red Wings should have seen this coming, and encouraged him to announce it either the weekend before the Final or in the days after it ended.

For perhaps the first time in his storied hockey career, Lidstrom's timing was off. Because he had built up so much positive equity during his time in the sport, no one is going to rip him for it like Rodriguez got ripped in 2007. But Lambert is right to call him and the team on it, and hopefully it's a lesson for everyone in the game to think twice before putting themselves ahead of a major hockey event.

(I'm looking at you, Tim Thomas. Now would be a good time to slump down in the back seat of that lady's cab again. You've done the game wrong. Again.)

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