Sunday, November 21, 2004

Friday was a busy day for Greg Rajan.

I can't really say that I agree with him or Lahnert about Lukowich. Given that this lockout is something of a freak occurence and the number of actual NHLers in the league is two, the impact on other people's jobs is teeny-tiny.

Besides, if that's really the issue, Greg Pankewicz and Ted Crowley and Lonny Bohonos and Chris Nielsen are (or were) taking other players' spots as well. For the most part, we're talking about veteran players; by putting Jonathan DuBois on ice (or rather, not), did Brendan Morrow kill off the guy's career anymore than the CHL ownership's collective attitude towards vets already had?

I mean, I think it would be great if, every time a team pumps up its NHLer, they include a parenthetical:

(Yes, we're just as interested in spectacle as we are development, and yes, we often use the word "developmental" as a synonym for "cheaper").

But at the end of the day, there's a "wow" factor to having these guys around. They also make their teams better. And yet, at the same time, we're also seeing (and this is true of Scott Gomez in the "E" as well) that it isn't child's play to come down to this level.

But the thing that really bothers me is the notion that Lukowich, or, to steer this towards the more prevalent discussion, NHLers now in Europe, are something like a "scab." That's an emotional, out-of-proportion response, one that fails to draw any distinction between a free market and a union's collective bargaining agreement.

Now, if the NHL players were on strike, it would be morally suspect of them to market their skills elsewhere. It may still be as the victims of a lockout (by which I mean, they have been locked out, not that they are blameless for the labor situation). But it's nothing like being a scab or crossing a picket line. Replacement players are replacement players because they aren't good enough to be in the big leagues otherwise.

Let me put this in highly egocentric terms. Most of the publications I write for pay five, 10, even 20 times better than the Austin American-Statesman. I chose to write for them because it was enjoyable. Theoretically, I did so at the expense of younger, rawer writers who needed the experience (and probably, the meager paycheck) a whole lot more than I did. But -- pardon the immodesty -- I was the best guy for the job. So sure, it sucks that Corey Hirsch and Lonny Bohonos lost their spots to NHLers, but what really stings about that is not a moral issue, or a labor issue -- it's that they aren't good enough to play at the highest level in the world. Again.

Which, btw, is the exact reason Brad Lukowich is playing for Fort Worth -- so that he doesn't end up like Lonny Bohonos (who, it should also be noted, made a choice at some point -- to play in Europe for consistent, better money instead of see-sawing between the NHL and AHL for less).

You just can't blame a team for going after the best talent, and unlike the CHL, I believe the European leagues are thinking long-term. If Bettman gets the cap he wants, some of the richer clubs will actually be able to outbid the NHL for certain players (particularly the Swedish teams for Swedes and Russian teams for Russians, but I think North Americans will factor in as well).
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