Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Arbitration May Be Good to Mason Raymond, Bad for Shane O'Brien

You might have already heard that the Canucks have qualified eight restricted free agents. Maybe you don't know exactly what that means. If so, you're not alone. But, as far as I understand, the qualifying offer is an 105% increase on what players made the previous year which, when tendered, retains their private negotiation rights. From there, the player and the team can bicker over what the actual contract will be.

And bicker they will. Few people care, I would imagine, what Tanner Glass will be paid. A lot more people care what Mason Raymond will make, because the arguments vary from between 2 million and 4 million. That is a massive disparity in dollars, especially considering that it's exactly the amount we just cleared off the books by jettisoning Steve Bernier. Wojtek Wolksi's recent signing, at 3.8 million per season, a possible comparable, does not bode well for the penny-pinchers among us like, say, Mike Gillis. So it's no surprise that this one's likely going to arbitration.

Arbitration is a scary word. Our friends on the radio often like to cite the Brendan Morrison arbitration hearing, in which he was compared to a mouse riding on the back of an elephant. Like a trip to the dentist, sensitive areas get poked all too often, and enemies for life can be made. In more recent history, however, Kyle Wellwood's arbitration hearing went pretty decently last year, so maybe it will be nice. I would imagine somebody will hit up Costco for a fruit platter, and everybody will, at the very least, get to share some fresh pineapple. Raymond will likely be told about his common tendency to overlook his linemates, or that his go-to move of squeaking past the defenseman along the boards, cycling the zone and giving it to the defenseman with nowhere to go is not impressive. But if he can handle those criticisms, he'll probably have a nice time.

It does not sound like a good time for Shane O'Brien, who, reports say, is much more hesitant to go to arbitration. In his own words:

“Hopefully I don’t have to go to arb and, from what I heard, it’s not a pleasant process [...] They’ve probably got a lot of material they can use against me so it probably wouldn’t work too well.”

Yes, they do. Notice here that Shane O'Brien is so scared of the word arbitration that he doesn't even say it. Arb could be anything from arboriculture to Arby's, both of which are intimidating, unpleasant institutions.

He's right to assume it will be unpleasant for him. Probably because he's better known for busting out the guns than toning and trimming fat from them. The case to be made against SOB in arbitration might be too true, too sobering. And sometimes SOB prefers not to be sober. That he's aware of this is a good thing, and he's likely to sign a favorable contract rather than be forced to confront the man in the mirror. If he can improve his play at all, he'll be a stellar sixth defenseman on a nice, low, short contract. I hope he does, because I like Shane O'Brien, and his intensity and emotion during playoff time will be missed if he goes elsewhere.

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