When the news came down that Marek Zidlicky wasn't happy with being scratched for his third straight game, it could not have come as less of a surprise. No player likes to sit out while his team goes off to play. This is only amplified when you are a player making $4 million a year with strong expectations on your shoulders, it becomes a personal insult.
And such is life when you are a $4 million defenseman that isn't doing his job.
Zidlicky broke character and went to Russo to vent, something that is generally not the best move when it comes to addressing an issue with the team in a team game. If there is a problem, handle it in-house. That's the mantra, that's the code, it's just the way things are. We appreciate the candidness, in a twisted sort of way. Without it, there is no story. We live for the story.
After the jump: It's out there, now what?
Marek Zidlicky is Having a Bad Day at Work
Don't you all feel bad for him? No one on the planet has bad days at work, so it is difficult to connect with what he is going through. Especially when you all make $4 million a year, right?
What would you do if you went to work and your boss told you were taking the day off, with pay? Would you march up to the business reporter for the Strib and demand to be transferred to the competition?
That's a whole ton of rhetorical questions. The point is, Zidlicky isn't going to get much sympathy from anyone outside the friendly confines of the NHL ranks. The fact that he went outside the team to complain likely isn't going to endear him to anyone inside the NHL ranks, either. There are ways to handle frustration and anger at your boss. Venting publicly about those feelings generally results in people being fired.
Good thing there are guaranteed contracts involved.
Get Back to Work
Hundreds of NHL players a year sit on the bench. Many of those players feel they are being jobbed when it happens. When they have had a career like Zidlicky has, they have feelings of embarrassment on top of it all. At times like these the solution is to bear down, accept the situation you are in, and get back to work. Work your ass off and get yourself back in the line up.
The wrong way to handle it? Bad mouth the coach, his system, and his expectations.
Go to work, show them just how wrong they are, and be Marek Zidlicky, rather than the perfect almagamation of Filip Kuba and Martin Skoula. The attitude shown by Zidlicky is one "I've been playing hockey since I was three" away from a James Sheppard moment.
The Feelings Involved
Zidlicky has expressed his feelings. The coach and GM will have their conversations semi-privately. Yeo has expressed his thoughts about Zidlicky's game. Not that he had to. Scratching Zidlicky says it all. Chuck Fletcher may or may not express his views. I would guess he won't. He'll do his job, make the phone calls, and trade the player. He has no need to talk about it.
As for the team, you are likely to hear a number of variations of "This is a team matter, we'll handle it as a team." Which, as a fan and a writer, I have to respect. Should have been how Zidlicky handled it, too. "No comment" is tough to take when you have a story to write, but it is the right thing to do by your team.
Fan reaction to this was swift, and harsh. Any of the fans Zidlicky may have had left in Minnesota are sour on him now. Minnesota sports fans don't appreciate players who whine. About anything. Latrell Spreewell had kids to feed. Randy Moss played when he wanted to. Marian Gaborik wanted them to just give him his money.
Any of those guys last long after copping an attitude? Didn't think so.
This comes down to one thing. Marek Zidlicky didn't do his job. His job is to score points. In the absence of points, his job is to prevent the opposition from scoring points. He did neither. The record of the team with and without him speaks volumes. When he is in, they tend to lose. When he's out (save for last night) they tend to win. If there is more to this in anyone's mind, they are fooling themselves.
You want to stay in the lineup? Do your job. Every practice, every game, every shift. Anything less than 100% in the NHL is unacceptable. Perfection is expected, greatness will be tolerated.
Don't like it? Don't expect the $4 million paycheck.
What Happens From Here
There is little doubt Chuck Fletcher is making the rounds. Again. He's been working the phones for weeks, with nothing happening. This time, he has a player who is hot to get out of town, and likely willing to waive the fancy NMC he never should have been given in the first place. If Zidlicky is on the roster in a week, I would be mildly surprised. If he is on the roster on February 28th, it would be shocking and disappointing.
Zidlicky has some ownership he needs to take of this and face his teammates. Some will be understanding. Others will not. He still violated the trust of the team and he needs to take the first step and hold himself accountable for his own actions. Up until this point, he hasn't proven he can do that.
So Trade Him. What's He Worth?
The word is, Fletcher wants players in return for players. He wants the team to see him as trying to help them today, not tomorrow. Which is fine, but if they do not return the favor, he has to do what is right for the team. As Russo points out, Zidlicky's role is a somewhat desired commodity. A power play specialist always has value, and GMs always think they can "fix" a player's game. New surroundings, and such.
I have to think that Fletcher's value of Zidlicky is higher than my own. If Fletcher can swing a deal for a top six forward, make the deal. That doesn't mean an elite scorer. That means a second line guy with first line fill in potential, not a second line guy who might work better on the third line. A solid, serviceable second line player would be a welcome addition to the roster.
If I'm making the trade, I might look for a serviceable second liner and a second round pick to replace the one I traded already. If the player isn't available, go for a pick or two. Maybe a late first, early second rounder. Maybe one of each. If that deal is available, it is good for the organization. If Zidlicky is going to play the way he has or ride the pine the rest of the season, and be a cancer while he is at it, anything is better than that.
A 40+ point d-man is worth a first rounder at the deadline. A 40+ point d-man who only has 11 points, has lost his game, and is addressing his concerns to the media rather than the coach? The value is up in the air, and more dependent on if a GM thinks the problem goes away with the shift in scenery.
Nailed down and told "give me a value," I would go with a late first round pick, or the early second rounder. THe situation has taken some of the leverage away from Fletcher, but at the same time, Zidlicky is under contract for another year, and his NMC expires after the draft. Still plenty of time to deal him after that.
Comes down to... how bad do you want to move him?
What do you do?
What do you do with Marek Zidlicky, Wilderness? You're back in the GM's chair. Make it happen.