Is it MacTavishâ€™s fault? His intense forensic investigation has discovered that â€¦.
No, this is totally not his fault, according to no less an authority as Craig MacTavish.
When grouped in with Kevin Lowe and Scott Howson as part of the Oilersâ€™ braintrust, MacTavish bristled.
Â â€œIâ€™ve been on the job for 18 months. So you want to lop me in â€¦ I coached the team for a long time, but I have nothing to do with management. So donâ€™t lop me into a situation of power and influence in the management level of this organization,â€ he said.
MacTavish coached the Oilers for eight seasons. The idea that he didnâ€™t have input on player personnel decisions is, frankly, nonsensical. So essentially here heâ€™s passed the buck for the poor construction of this roster over the years to former GM Steve Tambellini and Kevin Lowe, who is MacTavishâ€™s boss and currently being helped from under a bus.
But MacTavish has attempted to position himself not as another example of the franchiseâ€™s addiction to nostalgia and cronyism, but as an â€œoutsiderâ€ that is coming in to fix this mess. And claiming this isnâ€™t his mess â€“ and he lack of restructuring in both the roster and the teamâ€™s maligned scouting department says it is, at least partially â€“ helps establish that persona.
â€œIâ€™m pissed off. No one lives it more than me. And our fans are pissed off,â€ said the Rebel GM.
â€œWeâ€™re going to continue making rational, responsible decisions based on the situation that weâ€™re in.â€
No panic buttons. Stay the course. Patience with the young players.Â
More of the same. Another year in the basement.
What a brutal shot. Â It goes high and then low. Â I feel for Tuukka Rask who will mocked by this team mates for decades for letting this goal in.
I do love this Gerry Cheevers type response. Â He just shrugged his shoulders and didn’t seem to let it bother him. Â If I was him, I may have been tempted to take a chopped Zdeno Chara who broke the rule of never putting your stick down in front of a shot.Â
What the hell happened here? Seven floors above the iced-over Dallas North Tollway, Raghib (Rocket) Ismail is revisiting the question. It’s December, and Ismail is sitting in the boardroom of Chapwood Investments, a wealth management firm, his white Notre Dame snow hat pulled down to his furrowed brow.
In 1991 Ismail, a junior wide receiver for the Fighting Irish, was the presumptive No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Instead he signed with the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts for a guaranteed $18.2 million over four years, then the richest contract in football history. But today, at a private session on financial planning attended by eight other current or onetime pro athletes, Ismail, 39, indulges in a luxury he didn’t enjoy as a young VIP: hindsight.
“I once had a meeting with J.P. Morgan,” he tells the group, “and it was literally like listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher.” The men surrounding Ismail at the conference table include Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, Cowboys wideout Isaiah Stanback and six former pros: NFL cornerback Ray Mickens and fullback Jerald Sowell (both of whom retired in 2006), major league outfielder Ben Grieve and NBA guard Erick Strickland (’05), and linebackers Winfred Tubbs (’00) and Eugene Lockhart (’92). Ismail (’02) cackles ruefully. “I was so busy focusing on football that the first year was suddenly over,” he says. “I’d started with this $4 million base salary, but then I looked at my bank statement, and I just went, What the…?”
Before Ismail can elaborate on his bewildermentâ€”over the complexity of that statement and the amount of money he had already lostâ€”eight heads are nodding, eight faces smiling in sympathy. Hunter chimes in, “Once you get into the financial stuff, and it sounds like Japanese, guys are just like, ‘I ain’t going back.’ They’re lost.”
At the front of the room Ed Butowsky also does a bobblehead nod. Stout, besuited and silver-haired, Butowsky, 47, is a managing partner at Chapwood and a former senior vice president at Morgan Stanley. His bailiwick as a money manager has long been billionaires, hundred-millionaires and CEOsâ€”a club that, the Steinbrenners’ pen be damned, still doesn’t include many athletes. But one afternoon six years ago Butowsky was chatting with Tubbs, his neighbor in the Dallas suburb of Plano, and the onetime Pro Bowl player casually described how money spills through athletes’ fingers. Tubbs explained how and when they begin earning income (often in school, through illicit payments from agents); how their pro salaries are invested (blindly); and when the millions evaporate (before they know it).
“The details were mind-boggling,” recalls Butowsky, who would later hire Tubbs to work in business development at Chapwood. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.”
What happens to many athletes and their money is indeed hard to believe. In this month alone Saints alltime leading rusher Deuce McAllister filed for bankruptcy protection for the Jackson, Miss., car dealership he owns; Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad put his mansion in Charlotte up for sale on eBay a month after news broke that his entertainment company was being sued by Wachovia Bank for overdue credit-card payments; and penniless former NFL running back Travis Henry was jailed for nonpayment of child support.
In a less public way, other athletes from the nation’s three biggest and most profitable leaguesâ€”the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseballâ€”are suffering from a financial pandemic. Although salaries have risen steadily during the last three decades, reports from a host of sources (athletes, players’ associations, agents and financial advisers) indicate that:
â€¢ By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.
â€¢ Within five years of retirement, an estimated 60% of former NBA players are broke.
Which brings us to the city of Markham, which hopes to stake a claim. The city has been wrestling for some time with a proposal to build a $325-million arena that would hopefully house an NHL team. Mayor Frank Scarpitti revealed a modified version of the funding structure on Friday with a murky new $70-million extracted from unnamed developers. The plan is still full of holes, with at least $50-million not covered, and council is expected to vote on a previous version of the funding structure Monday or Tuesday. And between now and then, someone should tell them that they are risking an enormous amount of money for a project that is somewhere between risky and outright insane.
â€œWe have never been encouraging of this project,â€ said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, reached by phone on Saturday. â€œAnd we have repeatedly said that if this building is built, it should be built with the expectation that they will not get a team.â€
Bettman was otherwise loathe to comment on the project, or any other one. Yes, he has always repeated a version of that line to those who hope to join the list, because the NHL does not want cities to bankrupt themselves in the faint hope that they might jump to the front of a queue. Yes, Bettman is widely disbelieved when he says, for instance, that Quebec is not necessarily getting the Nordiques back anytime soon.
But in this case, right now Markham is chasing something that isnâ€™t there. One NHL source with knowledge of the leagueâ€™s thinking called the Markham project â€œdelusional,â€ and pointed to Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, already outdated, as an example. The source added that Markham is not a priority for the league, and that building an arena will not make it one. The NHL loves to insist there isnâ€™t a list, but if there is, Markham isnâ€™t on it.
What’s even more delusional are those that say that Saskatoon is going to get a NHL team.
We had a good discussion today on the Saskatoon Afternoon Roundtable about hockey fights and the Mayor’s lack of leadership on active transportation and cutting congestion on Saskatoon City Streets. Â I may have called him “clueless”. Â If I would have brought my “A” game, I would have called him the “Gary Bettman of Mayors” and bridged the segments. Â Next time (we talk municipal politics and hockey in the same segment).