Quotes of Note

Last week I attended a Q & A with Columbus Blue Jackets president Mike Priest, general manager Scott Howson and head coach Scott Arniel. I churned out a couple stories, one at InsideHockey.com and another for FireTheCannon.com, but there was a lot of great stuff that I wasn’t able to include. I’m sorry I’m just now getting some of these up but it was a busy week and weekend.

GM Scott Howson on the club resigning RW Jared Boll:

“Those arbitrations are a bit of a distasteful process anyways. It does allow you to get a contract with the player, but you do end up going in and fighting about things. And, particularly with a player like Jared, I wanted to avoid that scene.”

“He won’t take any punches at me but he fights for his teammates all the time and he lays his heart out here on the ice and sacrifices his body and I just didn’t think it was going to be a positive process to go through that with him.”

“Usually with these things you wait until the 11th hour but for some reason with this one we just got down to business pretty early and avoided even the exchange of written briefs.”

Howson on signing restricted free agents to offer sheets:

“With offer sheets, it’s a dangerous game. You have be sure that your offer sheet has a chance to succeed. Otherwise, you’re just driving up costs and we all end up paying for that in the end.”

“I think the San Jose offer sheet to [Blackhawks defenseman Niklas] Hjalmarsson was a good offer sheet because it was a team that was vulnerable to that type of offer because of the salary cap jail that they’re in.”

“We have talked about an offer sheet with another player, but we haven’t gone for it.”

Howson on UFA market and a potential deal for a defender

“We’re not going to be active in the free agent market. We weren’t on July 1 and we’re not going to be as we move forward here. Free agency is a dangerous thing, and I just don’t think our franchise is positioned at the right time.”

“Our prime goal is to try to maybe mix up the defense a little bit. There are a couple defensemen that are available for trade. We’re not close on anything. In my estimation there’s going to be five or six teams going for those two defenseman – or three defenseman, however many that are out there.”

“I can’t guarantee there’s going be a lot of changes. I believe in the younger players getting better.”

Howson on possible free agent tampering and early July 1 contracts:

“It is suspicious when Sergei Gonchar agrees to a deal at 12:02, but it’s really difficult to enforce tampering. The agents aren’t shy about letting you know who’s going to be a free agent and whether you’re interested in them or not.”

“We walk a very dangerous line and we try to make sure that we don’t do anything that would put us in jeopardy but, I don’t know if other teams tamper. I think it’s a real gray area.”

“I’m glad we’re in the NHL when you see in the NBA, you see these players three months before — while they’re still with their teams — talking about who they’re going to play with and how ‘we’re all going to get together and decide where we’re going to play.’ That’s pretty distasteful to me.”

“It’s one of the things that I admire about our players, that there is some integrity in a guy like Rick [Nash], who’s a really sincere person and committed to Columbus.”

Howson on the return of Russian winger Nikita Filatov:

“He’s training phenomenally hard. [Blue Jackets development coach] Tyler [Wright] is not easily impressed with people’s training habits and he went out and did all the things Nikita’s doing [like] running in the sand. They have a fairly primitive way sometimes training over there. They go into forests, they lift rocks, they run with rocks, they do squats with dumbbells and rocks, and Nikita’s working extremely hard.”

“He’s having some visa issues. We’re working on that.”

“He’s 187 pounds unless he fixed the scales.”

“We forget he was here as an 18-year-old, he’s only 20 now. He’s really just coming out of junior hockey.He’s got a lot of maturing to do and we’re trying to help him get there.”

Head coach Scott Arniel on player fitness:

“I actually apologized to [new strength and conditioning coach] Kevin Collins”

“What (players) can control is their conditioning and their work ethic, and those are two things I’m going to demand from them.”

“The last part of my conversation [with players over the phone], it’s what I’ve said, ‘come in September in the best possible shape,’ and you know what? It’s been a real good response.”

“To me that’s an area where if you want to play a tempo game, an up-paced game, you’ve got to be in great shape and it’s something that I want to have my thumb print on all the time.”

Arniel on D Mike Commodore’s offseason training:

“I had a great conversation with Mike and for the first five minutes I didn’t do very much talking.”

“Mike apologized to me and I hadn’t even coached him yet. He said he was very disappointed in himself, disappointed in his training and he wants to live up to the expectations.”

“We (the Buffalo Sabres) played against him in the Stanley Cup semifinals and he was a horse to play against. He’s got a Stanley Cup ring and I told him that I expect leadership from him. He has to recognize that he’s a guy that has to, first of all, come in great shape. He’s got to come in here with the attitude that he’s going to be a leader.”

“He swore to me he was going to be in the best shape of his life

On that note, here is an exchange I had with Commodre via Twitter:

bart_logan: @commie22 Last night Howson said the best thing for your offseason training was getting you out of LA ;) Thoughts?

commie22: @bart_logan he’s right. But not for the reasons ur thinking. I worked way harder and put way too much time in the gym doing the wrong things

commie22: @bart_logan I did way too much training last year and burnt myself out and got too heavy. Tried something new, didn’t work.

commie22: @bart_logan but because it was LA everyone assumed I did no training and partied all summer. Which couldn’t be farther from the truth

bart_logan: @commie22 I know just a little ribbing haha. What are you focusing on up in Kelowna? Getting any lines in the water on the days off?

commie22: @bart_logan I can take ribbing! Just focusing on staying like [sic] and explosive. If by lines in the water u mean fishing…no, not me, hate it

Cavs get royally screwed

LeBron James made his "decision" to join the Heat, shocking a franchise, city and entire state. (Getty Images)

I told myself I would stay away from the LeBron subject. I was so close. Oh well.

In case you’ve been hiding out in a nuclear fallout shelter in anticipation of “The Decision,” LeBron James, the “King of Akron,” has elected to join fellow NBA All-Stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.

To do so he left $30 million on the table in Cleveland, and left a franchise, city and state stunned and broken-hearted — in the case of the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise (forgive me): royally screwed.

James announced his “decision” in a one-hour TV special on ESPN Thursday evening, declaring that he was “taking (his) talents to South Beach.” It was the culmination of unprecedented media coverage of the free agent process, which saw teams fly into Cleveland to make presentations for James, pitching their franchises and cities. All the while, hundreds of Cavaliers loyalists waited outs in the streets with signs pleading with their superstar to remain in Northeast Ohio.

After a week of pandering, and after virtually every other significant free agent had already committed to a team, James made his announcement on National TV. I told myself I would not watch “The Decision” because there could not be a good outcome.

If James left, “The Decision” would surpass the likes of “The Drive,” the Browns leaving and the Game Seven of the 1997 World Series as the most painful and trauma-inducing event in Cleveland sports history.

If he stayed, he was just an arrogant egomaniac, but at least he would be our arrogant egomaniac.

Either way, James would win, and I did not want to give him that satisfaction. But, as is the case so often with car wrecks, I found myself drawn to it nonetheless.

Perhaps it was because I felt there was no way that James would agree to play second fiddle to Wade in Miami, as was being reported throughout the day. Chicago, New York, even New Jersey I could possibly see, but Miami?

I found it hard to believe that LeBron’s “camp” would leak his destination in advance of “The Decision” after being so tight-lipped throughout this entire fiasco. Surely this was just a ploy for a reality TV-style twist. You don’t learn who wins the Bachelor before the season finale!

Finally, I felt there was no way that James, Ohio’s favorite son, the “Chosen One,” would give the world’s biggest “f*** you” to his hometown, his franchise, his fans and his city ON NATIONAL FREAKING TELEVISION!

Wrong, wrong and wrong.

Shortly after “The Decision,” Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert released a statement to fans, chastising James. Well, “chastising” might not do the letter justice.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert is under fire for a harsh letter criticizing James. (Getty Images)

Gilbert tore into James for his “narcissistic, self-promotional build-up” of “The Decision.” He accused James of “cowardly betrayal” and personally guaranteed the Cavs would “win an NBA Championship before the self-titled former ‘king’ wins one.” He finished the statement claiming that the dreaded Cleveland “curse” would follow James to Miami.

Ballsy, ballsy move, Gilbert. I never thought I’d be defending one of the men most responsible for bringing casinos to Ohio but, my hat is off to you.

I see absolutely nothing wrong with his statement, well aside from some of his font decisions. Obviously he may have a hard time following through with the NBA Championship guarantee, but it showed some guts. He told Cleveland what they wanted and needed to hear.

But, the national, and even some local media, have taken this as an opportunity to criticize the owner, calling him childish for being so peeved. They claim that his statement will be a deterrent for other free agents who might consider Cleveland this summer and in the coming years.

Uh what free agents? David Lee? Raymond Felton? Of course those are the pieces the Cavaliers were missing! But, now there’s no way they would want to come to the powerhouse franchise that is a LeBron-less Cavaliers because of the owner said mean things.

I’m sure Carmelo Anthony is having second thoughts about signing that max contract in Cleveland next summer all because Gilbert called a duck a duck.

Free agents weren’t coming to Cleveland with LeBron on board. Now that he’s jumped ship? I don’t want to think about it.

Now Cleveland has to find a way to reshape a roster that was catered for James. Former general manager Danny Ferry added numerous pieces over the years (see Ben Wallace, Shaquille O’Neal, Antwan Jamison), sacrificing the future of the franchise to try to win with James. Then Ferry and former head coach Mike Brown were forced to fall on their swords after the season in hopes that a management makeover would help woo the megalomaniac.

But, in the end none of the pampering was enough to bring a title to Cleveland or keep “the king” in Northeast Ohio. James left the Cavaliers with a roster that now rivals that of the pre-Amare New York Knicks — well not quite — and a fan base that has been fiercely loyal to their superstar with a nice kick to the teeth.

Somewhere I can picture Art Modell skipping around — singing show tunes with John Elway perhaps — now that he’s been dethroned as the most hated man in Northeast Ohio.

Elsewhere, a father as consoling his young son, trying to explain to him why his hero from just down Interstate 77 is spurning the team and town made him their monarch.

And throughout the state, a generation of youngsters, who had the potential to change the mentality of an entire fan base,  will now adopt the traditional, fatalist and cynical approach Cleveland sports.

Like we needed anymore of that.