by SENShobo on 02/11/11 at 02:30 PM ET
Alfredsson’s Ottawa address was a foregone conclusion, as much due to his cult status in the city to his current injury woes.
Given that exception, if you were to draw up a list of impossible trades that would never happen, Murray performing a coup de gras on the team’s leadership and community anchors, by shipping out Mike Fisher, would have been at the top of the list. But the man many thought might take up Alfredsson’s captaincy someday, leader enough to let Heatley have the ‘A’ before he departed, is indeed gone. There is much to like about Fisher’s game from Nashville’s perspective, and much to like about a first round pick whose conditional pick has never quite been explained properly (it’s a 2012 2nd round pick if Nashville wins two playoff series this year, but Ottawa hasn’t made it clear if it’s a 2012 3rd round pick if Nashville fails to win any rounds).
While Nashville will be the team talking more about intangibles when speaking of Fisher’s value to the team, you have to look at the intangibles Ottawa has further solidified in the act that sent Mike away.
Everyone in Ottawa knows that their run towards playoff contention is closed, now and for the immediate future. Assets for that future are required, but at a price that’s no easier for Clouston’s line juggling than Ottawa fans’ hearts.
Mike Fisher will remain the most prized asset leaving Ottawa, and yet it was done without any backlash from the man himself. Murray knew Mike had to go, but throughout his discussions he let Nashville work themselves into a tenable trade, and gave Fisher a home like no other team, not even Ottawa, could provide. Fisher could have waited until the end of his contract, or even his career to join his wife in Nashville, but Ottawa gave him his wishes. Is that something that might resonate with players looking at Ottawa in the years upcoming? Even if Murray does not remain, a deal like this would have required Melnyk to buy in.
It may not have resonated before that no guns were put to Redden’s or Chara’s heads to get assets for them before their departures. The most dastardly trade in Ottawa’s history, sending newly-signed Hossa to Atlanta, was still a rescue when you consider Heatley’s point of view at the time. Even as Ottawa could have sat Heatley out years later as they did with Yashin, or shipped him to a less desirable locale on his list of preferred destinations, after flirtations with Edmonton the team conceded to his wishes and sent Heatley to San Jose for what even then should have obviously been seen as an unfavourably lopsided return. But now, with Fisher, it becomes a little more clear.
Players like Nikulin, Zubov, Mattias Karlsson and others were given chances when they wanted ones above what coaching and management thought they were ready for, and were given opportunities to strive for more elsewhere when they felt they needed to. For all the headlines about players and their mischief in the city, the underlying message remained that the team stuck by them longer than many would have, trying to help them salvage rather than scrap their careers. When Heatley left, he mentioned that he felt he could not play a role in Ottawa’s leadership. Now with Alfredsson a couple years older and Fisher gone, players can see that there is space to grow into, roles to fill with heart as much as hands. Subtle to many, yes, but to the eyes of players when it comes time to shop for a new home? One has to wonder.
As well, who’s to say what another $4.2 million in cap space can do for the team? If they could gain more assets by taking on salary, or set themselves up to welcome in new players, or properly reward current ones that experience a development spurt when the new CBA comes into play, isn’t that a good place to be? More space could still be coming perhaps, or at least assets, as moving Fisher marks the first rebuild move for the team, the first deliberate relinquishing of assets of the present for assets of the future. No player can feel as though Ottawa is flirting with a quick rebuild, and all must now ask themselves if they would rather play out their year(s) elsewhere, or truly be a part of an engaged solution.
It’s not an easy goodbye for the team to say, but it’s a needed one. If it’s a sign that the team is moving forward to make itself more attractive, more competitive, then one can only hope Fisher receives an ovation as loud as any when he next lines up in Ottawa. The fans and media are the two creatures both uncontrollable by the team and often derided for some of their reactions, but those same fans can and should make the ice crack with a roar of their true hearts’ dedication revealed.
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