Forcing the trade

There was interesting news coming out of Columbus after the NHL trade deadline. According to the National Post, Rick Nash, the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the franchise’s hero for the last nine years, had requested a trade.

There was speculation that Nash was on the trading block. After repeated denials and no comments from either Nash or the Blue Jackets’ front office, the assumption was that the lowly Jackets were the ones who had started shopping him in an effort to rebuild the roster.

It wasn’t until after the deadline had passed that General Manager Scott Howson held a press conference telling the media the truth about the situation.

It was an interesting tactical move on his part and one that received both support and bewilderment from the hockey community. Howson stepped up to defend the franchise that he had been running for the past four years, but many openly wondered what this announcement would achieve for the franchise.

By proclaiming that Nash was the one who wanted to be traded, Howson may have negatively impacted his trade leverage and possible return for Nash. He also risks completely altering the fans’ perception of their team’s captain.

It is difficult for all parties when a star player no longer wants to play for his team, but it’s even harder when it’s your team leader who wants out. How are teammates supposed to hold themselves accountable when the person generally responsible for accountability in the locker room — the captain — has no reason to continue to be accountable to a franchise he no longer appears to care about. It is harder still to start the rebuilding process when the captain, and the cornerstone of your franchise for the last decade, wants out.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first — or last — time that something like this will happen in professional sports. In this day and age of athletes constantly wanting to “win now,” reports of trade demands made by star players on struggling teams are going to keep popping up.

It’s happening right now in the NBA with the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard, arguably the premier centre in the league. Howard issued a trade request to his team at the beginning of the season and with the trade deadline looming, a move might be imminent.

Orlando and Columbus appear to be two different teams following two different paths — Orlando is almost certain to be in the playoffs while Columbus is almost certainly destined to finish the season in the basement of the NHL this year — but they share a similar problem.

Both are targets of ridicule within their respective sport’s circles for being capped out beyond belief due to bad trades and contracts. They both have general managers who have gone on the record saying that their player wants out and they both are asking for a lot in return from potential trade partners. We have two teams in two completely different sports essentially struggling with the same problem. If more and more big name players try and induce their own trades — and the trend seems to suggest that they will — it will be interesting to see what effect it will have on teams over time.