Monday, January 12, 2009

Brett Hull's Free Pass

The current Jan 12 issue of Sports Illustrated has an article by frequent hockey writer Michael Farber titled "The Trouble with Sean Avery" and the thing I keep wondering isn't how Avery created such problems in Dallas, but who's responsible.

I suppose the easy answer with be that it's Avery, but as the Farber piece illustrates, trouble has gone along with Avery to each stop of his career. Now, after getting the big payday with the Dallas Stars, he seemed to decide to really cut loose.

So, this begs the question of who in the Star brain-trust was the driving force behind the Avery signing. The answer to this is pretty unanimously co-GM Brett Hull. Les Jackson is the other half of this two-headed tandem (with the arrangement the only of it's kind in pro sports), but Hull was the guy brought in to bring "pizazz" and the guy who pushed for the Avery deal.

The result is that now Avery burned out his welcome with the Stars, was suspended for a few games by the league and most importantly... told by team management (wonder if it was Hull or Jackson who told him?) that he's done playing for them. Interestingly, the team has stated that they will not pursue any sort of breach of conduct clause in the contract to recoup some of the money that Avery is still owed on the deal.

This stance by Dallas is interesting in that it seems to indicate that either there wasn't much language of the sort in the contract (which would be silly given Avery's past) or the Stars hope the whole thing (including Avery himself) just goes away quietly. The translation of this would likely be him getting paid full salary to not play hockey the rest of the year and then having the remaining three years of his deal bought out in the coming off-season.

Now, to the question of accountability. Hull appear to be the guy, but a separate SI piece titled "No Remorse over Avery Deal" shows his stance. Incredibly, he states that he "doesn't have remorse because he was trying to make the team better." If that's all it takes to absolve his poor decision, then apparently Hull plays by different rules than the rest of us in the working world. This doesn't mean Hull is a bad guy or should be blacklisted by the NHL for this move, but should at least call into question whether he's fully qualified to be an NHL General Manager... or co-GM as the arrangement in Dallas has it.

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