The Game Within the Game
| With the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away, the main complaint from general managers around the league is the same as it has been all season long; it’s impossible to make a trade!
With the level of parity in the NHL right now, most teams are still in the playoff hunt meaning there are a lot more clubs looking to add proven talent rather than subtract it. That high demand coupled with the low supply of players available results in prices that are too high for most GMs to stomach. And that’s no good for fans that want to see some swappin’ as the post-season approaches.
So how do we stimulate this stagnant market? The North American way: TV game shows. In fact, the institution of a few quality principles from select competitions on the ol’ boob tube could really spark fan interest at various points of the year.
Find two GMs that are interested in shaking up their respective teams and let them play simultaneous games of Deal or No Deal. Here’s how it works: the jerseys of all 22 players on the one team’s roster are placed in briefcases. Ditto for the other team. GM 1 chooses his brief case containing a jersey from the other team and GM 2 does the same from the other lot. GM 1 then eliminates five briefcases, which are then opened to show him five players he won’t be receiving. GM 2 does the same and then both look at lists of the players that remain. (The audience can see all of this and will make comments to one another like, “Well I guess we aren’t getting Mats Sundin, but at least we won’t get stuck with Andrew Raycroft!”)
Based on what he sees remaining, GM 1 can make an offer for whichever player remains in the briefcase. GM 2 can accept, decline or counter. The process continues until a deal is reached or the brief cases get opened. The tension would be thicker than Roseanne’s waistband as players were dropped off the board. Sure, somebody might end up trading Scott Gomez for George Parros based on the luck of the draw, but at least we’d have some guaranteed activity.
ENTRY DRAFT: LET’S MAKE A DEAL
The draft isn’t really that broken, but after the first round a lot of fans lose interest. That wouldn’t happen as often if Gary Bettman employed the Let’s Make a Deal philosophy.
Check out this scenario: your team has just used the 94th pick in the entry draft to choose Jaroslav Mikostarn, a Slovakian centre who had a decent year in the Swiss league. You don’t know much about him, and your favorite club might be in the same situation. But all of a sudden, here comes James Duthie (who gets to be Monty Hall for the day) with this proposition:
“[insert GM name here], you can leave the stage right now with the rights to Jaroslav Mikostarn, or you can take your chances with what’s behind one of those three doors. The Penguins have come to the table and are interested in dealing for Mikostarn, and they’ve offered up a third round pick next year or the possibility of getting one of their top prospects, Jonathan Filewich.”
Your GM turns to the crowd, which is imploring him to make a deal.
“Ok James. Let’s make a deal. I’ll give the Penguins Mikostarn for what’s behind door #2.”
James: “You heard the man, let’s see what’s behind door #2!”
There is the gentle rumble of murmuring in the crowd as the withdrawn curtain has revealed the Penguins’ 2009 3rd round pick.
James: “I’m going to give you one last chance to make a deal You can keep that pick, or you can try to get Filewich,, who is behind either door #1 or door #3.”
A 50/50 shot at one of the Pens’ top prospects? The crowd is now going nuts for the GM to cash in his chips one more time.
“You know what James? I’m feeling lucky. Show me what’s behind door #1.”
Is it Filewich? Is it a donkey and a bale of hay like the ones that were often behind the second door chosen? No one’s leaving his couch at that point…
FREE AGENCY: THE PRICE IS RIGHT
I believe Bob Barker and the boys have the solution for signing free agents: the Showcase Showdown.
Here’s how it would work: For each free agent that has a household name, any GM that wanted to sign him would get to spin the wheel. Just like on the Price is Right, the closest to $1.00 on the wheel make it into the Showcase Showdown. Just to make it more interesting, I’d allow three GMs to bid on the UFA in question. But here’s the kicker; since everyone’s sick of seeing teams overpay just to get somebody in the summer, I’d employ an arbitrator to place a secret value on the free agent. The arbitrator would determine a reasonable three-year contract for the player up for grabs and then the GMs would bid.
Host: “Get ready to cash this Czech and gain interest immediately. This smooth-skating winger comes complete with soft hands that he’s not afraid to get dirty at his own end of the rink. He’ll not only create a goal a game, he’ll prevent one as well. This one time Sen is ready to use his pen to sign on the dotted line. Yes, gentlemen, Marian Hossa can be yours, if the Price is Right.”
Just like on the game show, the contestant closest to the arbitrator’s value without going over will be awarded the UFA. Players will hate it, but it would give small market teams a chance to land a highly coveted free agent, and we wouldn’t see anyone paying $5 million per year for Martin Lapointe like we did a few years ago.