A lot of the talk surrounding this summer’s free agent activity has centered on the loyalty, or lack thereof, shown by players to their long-time employers.
Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils renewed their wedding vows with a 2-year contract that will see Brodeur in a Devils’ sweater through his 42nd birthday. Meanwhile, career Phoenix Coyote (dating back to the franchise’s days as the original Winnipeg Jets, before the Atlanta Thrashers became the new Winnipeg Jets and gave everyone a gigantic migraine) Shane Doan seems ready to divorce his club in favor of a team – ANY team – that can guarantee it won’t be pulling up stakes before his new contract expires.
Brodeur’s departure would have been devastating to Devils fans, even though it might have helped the on-ice product in the long run. Doan’s departure, if it happens, will bring more than a little sadness to fans in Phoenix/Winnipeg/Quebec City(?), who treasure the stability of Doan’s presence as much as the quality of his leadership and play. Team management in New Jersey and Phoenix need to take the emotional impact of losing players like these into account when they make personnel decisions; you, however, do not.
Actually, you must not. Humans have a natural tendency to overvalue things they consider ‘theirs’ (scientists call it the Endowment Effect), which helps explain why many Devils fans were borderline suicidal at the potential loss of Brodeur while merely disappointed and angry at the departure of an in-his-prime Zach Parise. It also explains why you continue to draft Vincent Lecavalier way too high based on his star turn for your fantasy team five years ago.
Don’t do it. Don’t look at oldsters like Brodeur, newly-minted Dallas Star Jaromir Jagr (40), Phoenix signee Steve Sullivan (37) or older-than-his-33-years Calgary Flame Olli Jokinen and see the players they were in 2006, or even 2010. Very few earthbound creatures can age as well as Nicklas Lidstrom, and even he realized this summer that the more years go by, the less effective he’d be on the ice.
Sadly, though, not all players are thoughtful enough to hang ’em up before their declining stats doom overly sentimental fantasy owners. Players often stay in the game for selfish reasons like family considerations or love of the game, and teams keep those players around as much for the intangibles they bring as for the goals they can score or saves they can make.
If you’re inclined to do the same, fight the urge. Don’t get me wrong, you should absolutely go ahead and send your one-time star a perfumed fan letter, and maybe stage a private jersey retirement ceremony in which you raise his number majestically to your shower rod – he more than deserves that for helping you win your head-to-head league in consecutive seasons during the Bush administration. Just make sure that, come draft time, you embrace your inner cold-hearted bastard and cut the old guy loose before loyalty lands you at the bottom of the standings.