Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Cloutier Vs. Los Angeles

There have been documented cases of employee versus employer throughout history that have made headlines. Heck, Sally Field won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Norma Rae in 1979. This isn't something new in terms of labour wars between the two sides. However, the seething hatred for Dan Cloutier coming out of Los Angeles today may have set a new mark. Cloutier is no stranger to controversy in his career, but this war may spell the end of his hockey career in the NHL. And it all comes thanks to a Vancouver Sun interview done by Iain MacIntyre on Monday.

Iain MacIntyre is a reporter for the Vancouver Sun who, apparently, knows Dan Cloutier from his days with the Vancouver Canucks. In his article entitled Cloutier Caught In A Hard Reign, published yesterday in the Vancouver Sun, Cloutier basically spills the beans about all he's had to deal with since signing a contract extension with the Kings.

In airing his grievances about the Kings, he has essentially made himself Public Enemy #1 in La-La Land. I can understand this sentiment towards the Kings' goaltender when Cloutier hasn't endeared himself to fans whatsoever with his below-average play and seemingly poor attitude.

However, his complaints must have some truth to them. Otherwise, why would he go on public record with them? In reviewing these complaints, I'll be rating the complaints out of five possible spades. After all, let's call a spade "a spade" here. In any case, here is what Cloutier had to complain about:

1) The team insisted he shed his birdcage wire mask and helmet, citing insurance issues. Cloutier was never comfortable in a traditional mask, and a few games into last season he was feeling physical discomfort.

Insurance issues? Are you kidding me? Why is it that Chris Osgood hasn't had to shed his traditional mask? Do different teams have different insurance policies on their goaltenders? The team cannot tell him what to wear, so this complaint is weak.

Complaint rating: ♠♠ out of 5.

2) "He was having hip pain. He volunteered to keep playing because the Kings' other goalie, Mathieu Garon, had a broken finger. Cloutier's pain got worse, but the team insisted initially there was little wrong with him.

Knowing his body, Cloutier pushed the issue. Only after a specialist said his career could be in jeopardy, the Kings sent him to Vail for season-ending surgery. In pain, Cloutier flew to Colorado in a middle economy-class seat and was lodged by the Kings at a Super-8 Motel about 50 kilometres from the clinic where he was treated daily."


This is more MacIntyre than Cloutier, in my opinion. Yes, we know his hip was sore. It was a problem in Vancouver, and it kept being a problem in Los Angeles. However, to add "in pain" before the flight description, MacIntyre is simply trying to draw sympathy towards Cloutier. I don't buy it. He volunteered to stay when he could have shut down his season. Yes, he was a good teammate in volunteering to play while Garon was hurt, but you're not a good teammate if the losses keep piling up.

Complaint rating: ♠ out of 5.

3) "They said: 'You're going to go down there and play every game, good or bad, get your game back and see what happens,' " Cloutier said of the demotion. "I actually thought it was going to be a good thing. But I got down there and all of a sudden I'm not playing.

"So I said: 'All right, what are your plans for me?' They give me the old: 'We still believe in you' and all that. I played 14 games and I was down there for four or five months; you're not going to get your game back that way, especially after being out almost three years."


This one seems believable. The team has to show faith in their $3 million per season goalie, but if he's losing games in Manchester, Manchester has every right to keep their fans happy. The Kings may dictate to the AHL Monarchs as to who should play, but the Monarchs want to make the playoffs just as much as anyone else. Playing Cloutier was not helping them, and changes had to be made. However, the Kings do call the shots, and they clearly were not completely honest with Cloutier.

Complaint rating:
♠♠♠♠ out of 5.

4) "Cloutier's wife, Nikki, accompanied her husband to the American League, where they lived in a hotel. They were expecting their first baby in December. As the due date neared, Cloutier asked the Kings to move them into an apartment. The team balked and said the Cloutiers should stay in their hotel.

"I said: 'I can't, we're expecting a baby here. I don't know if it's a big thing to you guys, but to me it's the most important thing,'" Cloutier said. "Finally, I called the [Players' Association] and they said after 28 days you're entitled to get a place."


Simply brutal. Why would the player raise a grievance with the NHLPA when he's being paid $3.1 million per season to play in the AHL? Just go out and rent your own apartment. Granted, it is part of the CBA and he therefore had every right to push the issue, but sometimes common sense should win out over dollars and cents. Especially when it comes to your wife and family. Why fight your employer when you don't have to? Choose your battles wisely.

Complaint rating: ♠ out of 5, only because it's part of the CBA.

5) In January, Cloutier reported to the rink in Manchester for a 12-day road trip and was told to go home, he wouldn't be playing. The Monarchs hadn't used him in eight weeks after Cloutier complained of hip pain. But the goalie said he figured he could have played after a week.

He wanted to play while he was hurt? Didn't we go through this already with the Kings? The Monarchs have an obligation to their fans and their organization. 'Nuff said.

Complaint rating: ♠ out of 5.

Basically, as I see it, the only real complaint that Cloutier could take to the NHLPA is the fact that he wasn't being played. However, the NHLPA has no jurisdiction over these matters, despite the legitimacy of the complaint. If I were Cloutier, I'd be angry over being sent to the AHL with the promise of playing only to sit and watch from the bench. You expect people to stand by their word, yet it seems that a guarantee is only as good as the person making it.

Back to the point: this is not an examination of whether or not Dan Cloutier is correct. It's not a sounding board for Kings' fans to rip Cloutier for his view of the situation either. As they say, every story has three sides. Cloutier's complaints is one side.

Another side is that of Kings' fans. There have been a number of people who have defended the Kings in this situation on a number of blogs and message boards. They have every right to express their anger and frustration about a Kings player taking this dispute public in a rival city's newspaper. However, I would like to focus on one person's thoughts on the matter.

Carla Muller writes for HockeyBuzz.com. You may have heard of that site due to the anonymous blogger known as Eklund (that's an E3 rumour, by the way). Carla is the resident Kings blogger on that site, and she has taken issue with Cloutier like no one else.

Her article entitled Cloutier: Sour Grapes or Hip Gate is filled with venom towards the ten-year NHL veteran. More specifically, it appears that her pure hatred of Dan Cloutier has resulted in most of the Kings misfortune in recent years.

Based on this hatred, she goes on a diatribe about how Cloutier "needs to man up, take responsibility or frankly get out of the way". However, she clearly must enjoy hating Cloutier or she wouldn't have started the paragraph with "I have no knowledge what teams do or do not provide for players". Contradictory? Perhaps.

She goes on to write: "Even if I take Cloutier at his word, and even if the Kings owed him full rent and welched, how much should anyone feel sorry for a guy who has to pay his own rent when making $3.1 million dollars a year and rarely earning it? Does any team owe their players a free pass to finding their game? Or, more appropriately, why does Cloutier take no ownership in this?"

Excuse me, Carla, but he's not asking for your pity. He didn't write the story. He simply answered questions asked by a reporter. The reporter can spin those answers anyway he likes by simply filling in the blanks. Dan Cloutier did exactly what he was supposed to do according to the contract negotiated and signed by both the NHL and NHLPA. If you had ever been part of a union, you would understand this.

Granted, it is expected by the team that a player fulfill the expectations of that contract to the best of his ability. The Kings, on the other hand, want Cloutier to succeed so that the franchise succeeds. By providing some luxuries to him, they are hoping that Cloutier will win them 25-30 games, and allow the Kings a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

Of course, as documented, Cloutier was riddled with injuries during his time with the Kings. Injuries are a part of the game of hockey, and you can't blame Cloutier for being hurt. It's not like he fractured his wrist driving his motorcycle like some baseball guy named Jeff Kent. I'm sure, Carla, that you've heard of him, being that you have some affinity towards the Los Angeles area.

However, is Carla angry because he's earning $3.1 million a year, or because the amount of money the Kings gave him doesn't equate to the results he has delivered? If he was earning $500,000, would she be as angry? Logic says no mainly because he doesn't tie up as much of the Kings' financial resources and salary cap room. Signing players to inflated contracts based upon past seasons of success comes at a gamble. I don't know how long Carla has followed hockey for, but she should know this. It happens in every sport on the planet.

Yet Carla continues to rag on him for being left unprotected in the expansion draft, and then for his poor playoff record. If his playoff record is any showing of how poor a goalie he is, he's gone 10-13 over 25 NHL playoff games for a winning percentage of 43.5% in games where he was the goalie of record. Not great, but certainly not worse than Rick Dipietro (1-4 in 6 games), Kari Lehtonen (0-2 in 2 games), Marc-Andre Fleury (1-4 in 5 games) or Henrik Lundqvist (0-3 in 3 NHL games). The funny thing is that all of those goalies earn more than what Cloutier makes, and all of them have been out with significant injuries in their short careers thus far.

Carla also throws Cloutier under the bus when she completely misquotes Kings' head coach Marc Crawford in which he compared the leadership qualities of Dan Cloutier to those of Patrick Roy. This has absolutely nothing to do with on-ice skill as much as it does with his presence in the locker room. Do you think the Ottawa Senators acquired Martin Lapointe at the trade deadline this season because they wanted his scoring touch? He's a career third-line forward at best. It's the intangible known as leadership he brings to the locker room that Ottawa wanted so badly. It's also the intangible that the Kings lacked so dearly when Crawford took over the coaching duties with the Kings. Crawford made that comment in 2006, not today. That kind of misrepresentation is why you should learn to read before speaking, Carla.

And finally, as we come to the end of Carla's hate-blog, we find her not only throwing Cloutier under the bus, but the entire Manchester Monarchs team as well. She writes, "Earlier this year, I looked at Monarchs’ statistics when Ersberg and Cloutier shared the net there. They both had similar GAA and save percentages, but vastly different wins and losses. I always wondered why players found W’s for Ersberg and losses for Cloutier… until now."

With the way that paragraph is presented, Carla is saying that Cloutier played as well as Ersberg did in Manchester, but the team tanked the games that Cloutier was in. I'm fairly certain that any player caught by Kings' management purposely tanking games would be in serious trouble. And any player, coach, or member of the organization that purposely loses games or instructs players to lose games due to a goaltender being unhappy with the NHL club needs to be fired immediately. And then run out of town.

Carla, what you've suggested is the lowest thing anyone can do to a team, let alone one player. And if you think that, for one minute, that guys like Purcell, Boyle, Moulson, Harrold, and Klemm have no pride or no aspiration to be an NHL player, you keep on believing that they tanked games.

Carla, your seething hatred for Dan Cloutier turned your latest "blog" entry into nothing more than hate mongering. And the fans that read your stuff called you out on it today on the message board. Good for you, Kings fans. You deserve better than what you've gotten, but don't let frustration turn into hate.

Let me be clear: I don't agree with what Dan Cloutier did in going to the Vancouver media to voice his opinions. However, I find it extremely disturbing that he gets a public execution for his honest thoughts in the Vancouver Sun, yet no one noticed him when he alluded to his unhappiness in a Los Angeles Times story on February 15, 2008 by Lisa Dallman.

"I went down to the minors at the start of the year expecting to play a lot of games and that didn't happen for whatever reason and then I was very frustrated," he said to Dallman. "It was very tough mentally when you are told you're going to play every game. Whether it's good or bad, we'll give you the chance to get your game back. I think I played a total of 12 games down there, so I wasn't very happy with that.

Doesn't that sound a lot like Complaint #3 from Iain MacIntyre's story? It sure sounds like the same complaint. In fact, it's almost verbatim. He outlines the same complaints he made to Mr. MacIntyre in Miss Dallman's article nearly word-for-word. How is it that no one noticed that? How is it that no one in Los Angeles noticed that? How is it that Miss Muller missed that?

Here's the deal for everyone involved in this long-winded blog entry. The next time you get a great idea about throwing a player, a team, a blogger, or anyone under the wheels of the bus, think twice. Think long and hard about what you're doing. Everyone involved has feelings, and sometimes their emotions get the better of them. Passion is good, but hurtful comments never help.

All I'm asking for is for common sense to prevail. We all have the ability to think. Some just choose to speak before doing it. And that's where feelings get hurt.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

^The same goalie who you described is trying to get 1 Million USD extra cash and sudenly feels he's injured again
Look here: http://www.insidesocal.com/kings/2008/06/the-cloutier-situation.html

Feel free to apologize to Carla Muller because your DannyBoy is not a victim in the LA story. After that story the "so horrible" Kings organization still gave him another opportunity at the end of the last season. He failed again.

Also just a note. Dan wasn't a below average goaltender for the Kings. He was the worst goaltender in the whole NHL (S% and GAA) and this year he sucked even in the AHL.
He was even outplayed by the goaltending low prospect Daniel Taylor. He failed to stop a pass-shot when an oposite player throw the puck from the blue line to make a line change.
If you think Cloutier was solid in the AHL ask some Manchester Monarchs fans what they think about him.

Before a week Dan made an interview for the LA Times where he for the first time admitted that he sucked in the Kings jersey.

The most fans of the nhl (some vancouver don't) feel that Dan Cloutier is the JOKE of the league.
And at the end you can still s... beachballs d... .

Sincerely,
Kings fan

Teebz said...

"Kings fan", did even read what I wrote? I'm sure you did, being that you noted how Ersberg and Cloutier had virtually the same statistics, yet entirely different win-loss records in Manchester last season.

In fact, since you follow your team so closely, you'd note that Daniel Taylor, a guy you label as a "low prospect", went 13-5-2-4 in the pipes last season in Manchester, the best record of any goaltender in Manchester. He was better than your two NHL goaltenders down there, and some guy named Erberg who was called up to play at the end of the season.

I'm sure you had a lot to write about on Feb. 15 when he posted the exact same opinion in the LA Times. What's that? You didn't read that article? No kidding.

I never said anything about the Kings being "horrible", but seeing as how you read my article, you knew that. His arguments were weak, and I pointed that out. Are you really illiterate, or did you feel compelled to defend Miss Muller's argument?

My entire blog centered around the fact that Miss Muller's frustration has turned into rage. That's fine, but you can't write with rage when you are supposed to be objective.

Re-read my article, I beg you. Or read the one I posted today. You'll enjoy it. However, I will not apologize for what I said, especially when Carla backtracked the next day on her own blog.