Salary Caps and Super Stars

For those of you who don’t know and still care, I am a hugely ardent fan of the Los Angeles Kings. I’ve followed the team since I was in my very early teens (like, way earlier than 12) and grew up with some of the best players in the game: Gretzky, Yari Kuri, Dave Taylor, and, of course, Marty McSorley. It was a sad day indeed for me when Luc Robitaille retired, almost like the end of an era. Oddly enough, I don’t think I’ll have the same reaction when Rob Blake, the last bastion of that team from my youth, retires most likely in the next two years. I can’t even say why exactly.

But perhaps you can now understand my dismay when I was reading a hockey blog by one of my favorite writers, John Buccigross, and, in a hypothetical trade between the Kings and Penguins, he recommended that Pittsburg give up Sidney Crosby, arguably the best young player in the game, for both Anze Kopitar and Jack Johnson, along with a 6th round pick. What?! How dare he! Yes, I understand the whole thing is a hypothetical based on a rumor that Pittsburg was considering trading some of its star players to make room under the salary cap for a “rounder” team, but come the fuck on! Kopi and Jack? Two of the youngest, hottest players the Kings have drafted in the past 10 years? Yes, these are dark times for the Kings, holding down last place in the ENTIRE LEAGUE. And yes, desperate times call for desperate measures. But, I mean, these guys are the Robitaille and Taylor of the next generation! These are the players that kids who are now 10, 11, 12 are going to look up to, stick with, and get all depressed about when they retire 15 years from now still wearing a black and purple jersey.

It got me thinking about the whole notion of a franchise nowadays, a conversation I’ve had concerning various sports with several of my friends. With the rising cost of talent, the lowering of salary caps, general economic inflation, etc, it’s harder to keep backbone players – much less entire lines or rosters – that a city can really grow with and rally behind. It gets harder and harder to invest in a player, and by extension a team, when you’re constantly worried that any day they may get shipped off to Dallas, or Minnesota, or, worst of all, DETROIT. Egads. Where’s the sense of permanence? Where’s the reward for investment? It’s perhaps no wonder that fantasy sports are becoming more and more popular, because you end up following the individual player as opposed to one particular team. I suppose I could make a larger statement about how this isn’t totally surprising given the increased focus on the individual vs. the benefit of the group in America over the past 20-some-odd years. I suppose I could argue how the attainment of short term, ridiculous wealth has generally eclipsed the idea of physical achievement and long-term investment. I suppose I could bemoan the desire for the long-ball hitters at the expense of a solid, well-balanced and organically whole club. I suppose I could do all that. But I’m just talking sports here, right?

So general philosophy/wistful thinking aside, the Kings could definitely use someone like Crosby. As they stand, the Kings are a team of role players without one central figure spearheading the club. Rob Blake as captain has always been an anchor but never much of a leader. Cammalleri is a solid goal scorer but lacks the creativity and panache of a firm central player. And Kopitar, while perhaps the most incredibly skilled forward the team currently has (I once saw him score in a shootout without ever actually shooting the puck – he just deeked the goalie so bad that the puck slipped past him inside the far post), is better as a play maker and finesse player than he is a driving force the team can rally behind. Right now, the only up-and-comer I can see potentially filling that role who’s already on the roster is Jack Johnson. The kid has the promise of power and skill that, once he gets a good balance between his defensive and offensive games, might propel him into the arena (but not epicenter) of strong defensive players like Niedermayer, Pronger, and Lidstrom.

But we’ll see. Either way, I’m not getting invested, since chances are he’s gonna get traded in the off season anyway. At least he’ll always be on my fantasy team.

Published in: on March 25, 2008 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

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