As the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stabilizing summer continues, it seems as though one question mark after another gets washed away on a near daily basis.
From Steve Yzerman’s appointment as general manager, to his magic act of shedding two bad contracts for lofty returns, to yesterday’s underrated depth signing of center Dominic Moore, need areas are being filled, damage control from the mistakes of the previous regime has been effective and, on paper at least, the team looks to be in far better shape than they were at the end of last season.
But for all the good work Yzerman has done and the loose ends that have been tied up throughout the organization, one mystery that stems back to October of last year remains to be solved.
What will become of one Paul Ranger?
This situation has been handled with kid gloves by all since day one and rightfully so. When a player is granted personal leave by his team, there should be no digging into what the individual’s plight might be, nor should there be any speculation, which would be completely unfair. And, save for some message board folks claiming to be “in the know” here and there, few (if any) have crossed that line.
I certainly haven’t, as I’ll be the last person to involve myself in anyone’s personal affairs that have no bearing on my life whatsoever. It’s a simple approach, really, and we’d all be better off if more people, in every walk of life, would adopt such a policy. Accordingly, those that have been clamoring for an explanation for Ranger’s lengthy absence, thinking that they are somehow owed as much, just don’t get it. Period. The guy had a personal issue or issues to deal with (and clearly still does) and, to this point, he hasn’t seen it through.
His business. Not yours.
Speculation is one thing and intrusion quite another, but one and all can remain respectful of Ranger’s personal tribulations and still garner several clues at the same time by relying on simple fact. Article 16.12 of the CBA explains a “non-roster player”, which is exactly how Ranger was classified when the leave was granted. In part, it reads as follows:
Upon approval of the Commissioner, a Player who is unavailable to play
due to reasons other than injury, illness or disability (e.g., birth of a child, attending a
funeral) will be designated a Non-Roster Player…
Essentially, by the definition of a non-roster player alone, you can rule out any and all high drama, so put the conspiracy theories to bed. And there is no reason to snoop any further into Ranger’s thought process unless, one day, he makes himself available for that sort of inquiry (despite having no obligation to the public to do so).
That said, as we recently hit the 10-month mark of Ranger’s leave of absence and with the 2010-11 NHL season inching closer, a decision needs to be made here.
Are you coming back? Or aren’t you? The smart money should be placed heavily on “No,” at this point and, if that is the ultimate answer, fine. Point is, the time has come for the Lightning (and probably Ranger as well, really) to move on this.
The team is safeguarded, of course, having made a qualifying offer to Ranger earlier in the summer, assuring them of retaining his rights. In other words, it isn’t as though he can tell the team he has no desire to return and then, later on, sign on with another club. So, it looks like there is no danger of the Bolts getting the shaft here.
But, with the lingering uncertainty, perhaps there is?
With several improvements already made, the Lightning could be in a position to hit training camp as they are currently constructed (with some details to iron out, that is, such as unsigned RFAs, a la Steve Downie) and be just fine. But it is safe to assume that Yzerman will continue to feel out the free agent market, in search of deals that make sense and, conceivably, that could include another addition to the blueline.
Would not settling the Ranger business once and for all make judging a potential acquisition in that area that much easier?
It sure would be a shame if that type of indecision would stand in the way of further upgrades.
I suppose, with the ball in the player’s court, for the most part, there isn’t any sense of urgency in his camp. If he still isn’t feeling ready to decide, as reported recently, the Lightning can continue to play the polite card and tell him to take his time – that they’ll be there if and when he’s ready to come back – and they’ll be perceived as having handled the situation as best they could. Further, if he wakes up tomorrow and decides he wants to come back, the organization outstretches the welcoming arms, the team – voilà! – adds a puck-moving defenseman and the feel-good stories go to print later that afternoon.
But the longer this goes on, eventually, someone has to force a hand, no?
All things considered, appreciation for the player’s handling of personal affairs should never waver and, if he should never play another game in the National Hockey League, so be it. That will be, at least in part, his choice and one that, while many of us may not possibly be able to understand, all must respect. At the same time, if he comes back and chooses never to discuss the lengthy absence, those wishes must be met with reverence as well.
Still, with this particular line sitting in the water for the better part of a year now, at some point – and hopefully soon – Paul Ranger will have to fish or cut bait.
All due respect, of course…
It is the perfect opportunity for me at the perfect time and I am very appreciative to have found just what I have been looking for, after a lengthy search. Joining forces with KK provides me tremendous growth potential and I can only hope that my addition to their team strengthens the overall product as well.
While my work there will go beyond the Lightning, as I said, they will remain my primary focus. Additionally, I will continue regular contributions here at Hockey Indie that will remain strictly Bolts-related. The Bolts Beat, of course, will continue to call HI home as well.
But I do hope that you will join me at my other new home in the upcoming season also and I thank everyone for their continued support through this whirlwind transitional phase I’ve gone through in the last six weeks.
Officially, I won’t begin over there until September but sporadic guest spots (of the quality you’ve come to expect, naturally!) are planned in the coming weeks.
About the Author: Jon Jordan established himself as one of the web's most reliable resources on the Tampa Bay Lightning for four-plus seasons, covering the Bolts for HockeyBuzz.com and then Kukla's Korner, as well as contributing several guest spots around the web and in print, including Yahoo! Sports, McKeen's Hockey, AOL Fanhouse, NBC/Versus and of course, a stint right here at HI. "JJ" has offered his opinion as a guest on dozens of radio shows across the US and Canada, most notably featured on SiriusXM's NHL Home Ice, and co-founded and co-hosted "The Bolts Beat" podcast (formerly known as "BoltsBuzz Radio") which ultimately became "Hockey Night in Tampa Bay" on the local airwaves at ESPN1040 in Tampa. Outside of hockey, Jon co-founded and served as contributing editor for LockedInMMA.com, focusing on the Florida fight scene and covers college basketball for Sports Direct, Inc. After stepping away from hockey coverage almost completely for the 2011-12 season, Jon will contribute intermittently here again in 2012-13.