First off, the fluff news. Brian Burke suspended his life partner Scott Niedermayer for not appearing at training camp because he's still mulling over retirement. It makes sense, obviously, if you decide to not come to work when you're under contract (Niedermayer has two years left on his deal) you need to get punished. A lot of the fun in this story comes from the ever spotlight hungry Burke - take a look:
"Yes, he was suspended today," Ducks GM Brian Burke said during an NHL media
conference call. "I spoke with Scott to tell him he was being suspended, which
You can practically hear the heartbreak in his voice about this - like a teenager who just got dumped and is trying ever-so-desperately to win back their now lost love. It makes you pine for a viewing of American Pie doesn't it?
The initial speculation on this story from the blog and message board worlds is that this is all an elaborate ploy on their parts to cut down on the cost to employ Niedermayer. Obviously, if he shows up and is in camp, the Ducks cap space goes bye-bye. While he's suspended and being fined all while hemming and hawing about retirement, he's not exactly on the books - at least in Anaheim's mind. After all, the organization is being held hostage by the player and they have finances to worry about.
The other side of that is that they would, potentially, like Niedermayer to pull some Peter Forsberg-like type of action and just go away for a while (say... til about February) and then decide that yes, he does want to play hockey again and then the Ducks would get Niedermayer back at a vastly reduced rate for this season. It would be shrewd to say the least and I'd never put anything past Brian Burke, but this would definitely be skirting the rules, perhaps enough to even arouse the attention of Gary Bettman who doesn't seem to care about anything unless you're screwing around with the money.
Life, though, is riddled with caveats, friends, because life and/or karma may force the Ducks and Scott Niedermayer to come to a decision a lot sooner than either may have hoped. With the pre-season underway and pre-season games being what they are (read: a mine field for injuries to important starters) new Ducks defenseman Mathieu Schneider broke a bone in his left ankle in the Ducks first pre-season game against the Kings and will be out for at least a month.
This shakes up a Ducks blueline that during the Cup Finals last year was so formidible and that saw with the addition of Schneider another guy to quarterback their power play. Now, the Ducks have Chris Pronger and his band of unrenowned (Kent Huskins, Shane Hnidy, Sean O'Donnell, Maxim Kondratiev, and Joey DiPenta - yikes). Will the Ducks weather the storm for a month without Schneider or do they suck it up, make some salary-paring deals and get Niedermayer into camp? It should be interesting and add to the drama that's for sure, and it's not exactly the kind that Brian Burke feeds off of.
The other suspension this pre-season is a bit bothersome. Buffalo Sabres defenseman and NHL stalwart Teppo Numminen was suspended by the Sabres because he'll not be on the ice and skating with the rest of the team.
Not because he's holding out in a contract dispute.
Not because he wants to be traded.
Not because he's debating whether to retire and move home to Finland.
He's being suspended because he won't be on the ice thanks to having to get heart surgery.
Let me preface this in saying that thanks to the salary cap times we're in, teams are forced to do things like this (like with Numminen and also with Niedermayer, whether that's by hook or by crook regardless).
This situation just stinks because this is the third surgery that Numminen has to get to fix the valve in his heart. For just anyone this would be a tenuous time and situation, but for a professional athlete where their heart undergoes a bit more stress than us common shmoes it's of the utmost concern and urgency to get this taken care of and fixed.
The reasoning behind the suspension, frankly, just stinks.
The NHL players union confirmed that Numminen had been suspended without pay for failing to report to camp in adequate physical condition. "We are currently
reviewing this matter," NHLPA spokesman Jonathan Weatherdon said, according to the newspaper.
The Players Union should have a field day with this, and rightfully so, its bogus to suspend Numminen without pay because he has to get his heart operated on. What would the NHL rather have: a healthy, veteran doing his best to help lead his team to victory or to have that same player potentially die on the ice in practice because he can't get it fixed without getting punished by his team and the league. The answer is pretty simple here and in matters like this, the league should have a cap exemption.
Major League Baseball has a roster exemption for players who leave the team for bereavement and the NBA has an injury exemptment for their salary cap as well. In fact, the NBA goes above and beyond to allow everyone a chance at spending more money for a host of reasons. Not that that's the solution the NHL should go for here, at the very least allow for a team to not have to worry about their finances when a player is going in for heart surgery. Seems to make the most sense to me.
A lot of folks will want to blame the Sabres in this matter, and that's somewhat fair - the Sabres could look the other way and just tell Teppo to get back and get well when he can. The problem is is that there's a huge risk in doing that and with resources being a bit more scarce the closer you are to the salary cap, the Sabres have no choice whatsoever but to do what they did and have to eat the PR hit that they'll take for it.
Make no fault about it, however, it's not the Sabres who should be getting jeered over this one. I think we all know who should take the hit...