Blog: GMs to blame for heightened player expectations

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Kudos to Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough for his refreshing honesty when it came to buying out Mark Parrish’s contract.

Finally a GM in the NHL takes personal responsibility for signing a bad contract. What a concept.

“I looked at Mark’s salary and at what I thought his contributions would be and they were not totally in line,” Risebrough said after Parrish was put on waivers by the Wild. “It’s not Mark’s fault. I negotiated the contract.”

Not blaming the player, the CBA, the marketplace or the rising costs of doing business, Risebrough’s admission represented a willingness to be accountable for a mistake in judging a player’s worth. NHL teams do it all the time and nobody is immune from it, but so few GMs seem to be willing to admit it.

Now the key for Risebrough and other GMs like him is, can they learn from their mistakes? Given the salaries handed out when free agency opened a month ago, the early returns are not good.

When Risebrough signed Parrish on the first day of unrestricted free agency two summers ago, the right winger was coming off a 29-goal season and at the age of 29, had firmly established himself as a player capable of scoring 20-30 goals a season.

But what Risebrough didn’t take into account was the fact Parrish is what many in the industry call a “good bad-team player.” Prior to Minnesota, he had played his career with the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings and well, somebody has to score the goals on those kinds of teams. With above-average offensive instincts, Parrish was a good fit.

But he was always suspect defensively and where the Wild erred was in thinking he could thrive in a tight defensive system where he’d be held more accountable for his play at both ends of the ice. Not surprisingly, Parrish dropped to 19 goals in 2006-07 and 16 last season.

He’s hardly alone.

The mistakes teams make when they sign players is in creating expectations for them. When Bobby Holik signed a huge contract with the New York Rangers in 2002, he was a great third-line center. The only problem was he was making first-line money with the Rangers. Jason Blake was a 25-goal scorer who had one 40-goal season. Now the Toronto Maple Leafs have a salary cap hit of $4 million for each of the next four seasons for a guy who scored 15 goals for them.

And the list goes on and on…and on.

The lesson to be learned here is that when players sign contracts as free agents, they don’t change, but expectations do. Brian Campbell broke out last season with 62 points, but was essentially a 10-goal, 45-point guy prior to that. People should remember that when they wonder why the Chicago Blackhawks gave him $56.8 million over eight years.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog normally appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

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