Does anybody even like Marner anymore? Like Red Bull tastes bad now because I associate it with this negotiation. I’m probably gonna have to change my insurance provider.
— Todd™ (@Totally_Offside) September 10, 2019
I’m willing to bet there’s a little hyperbole from ol’ Todd in this tweet, but nevertheless, here I am pondering its meaning.
Up until recently Mitch Marner was the happy go lucky, goofy hockey loving kid who has been adopted by Matt Martin then had his custody transferred to Patrick Marleau. He’s got the high energy smile off the ice, and the equally fun playing style on the ice. And he was a local kid to boot. What wasn’t to love about Mitch Marner?
Well…there have always been plenty of tales of highly involved father dating back to a CBC story on hockey parents that cast him in unappealing light.
It’s been speculated that he’s highly involved in the contract/financial goings on of Mitch, and that he might be the driving force behind some of the decisions we don’t agree with.
That doesn’t really change that the situation is one of Mitch Marner’s making and while an unpleasant father and agent share some of the blame, as do the Leafs for that matter, in allowing this to continue, it’s ultimately Mitch who has decided to stick to his line of “his agent handles the contract stuff,” a lie that will carry you through last years in season drama and most of June, but has carried a lot less weight once sides start leaking potential salary demands.
Hockey fans both are and aren’t idiots, but no matter where we all fall today on that range, it’s safe to say that while Mitch Marner is an incredible talent, he’s not the player who should become the highest paid winger in hockey history, and not the a player that should have a contract comparable to Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews. I’m sorry if that offends.
The charade going on this far is obviously reminiscent of what happened last year with William Nylander, a player who’s actions have clearly alienated a large portion of the Leafs fanbase, as demonstrated by what I’m sure will appear in the Facebook comments on this post. Given the even more extreme positions being rumoured by Marner to date you have to wonder, how is this effecting his status with the Leafs, with the league, with sponsors, and with fans.
With the Leafs
All and all, I’m willing to bet that hockey players are pretty forgiving of the guy trying to get paid. It might show the player in a new light to some, and no one is universally loved in every locker room, but the core of the Leafs seem to be pretty supportive of Marner.
As for management, well, the push for a short term with a complete unwillingness to bend on salary demands has to be leaving a bad taste in the mouth of Kyle Dubas, and the absolute absurd nature of the demands are likely tying his hands when it comes to finding a trade opportunity. For Dubas and Shanahan to consider not playing Marner this year would also cast them in an extremely negative light, and even those of us who would understand that situation have to acknowledge the absolute failure on the part of both sides if it comes to that.
As for the coaching staff, well, Mike Babcock talked a fairly tough game on Nylander and I’d imagine that would hold up for Mitch as well. He wants him at camp and if he’s late he’s going to have to play himself back into the situation he was in before. History shows that was a bit of the case for Willie, and his inability to really claim his spot on the Matthews line held him back last year, I’m not sure if it will hold true for Mitch as well. I wouldn’t say there’s a burned bridge with Babcock, but Mike Babcock isn’t one to do any of his players a favour unless you’re Dan Cleary.
I’d also assume the captaincy is out at this point, not that it ever should have been in the conversation for Marner.
Around the League
Well, honestly this one doesn’t matter too much, until it comes time for Marner to hit unrestricted free agency. There may be a buyer beware tag attached to Mitch, and an assumption that he’s going to cost too much for what their team needs. Maybe that’s me trying to be optimistic about this because history shows this league will blindly show up to throw money at anything resemble talent when it comes available (unless you’re Jake Gardiner.)
Again, most players are probably in love with Marner is trying to accomplish, although again you have to at least consider if insane deals are something that encourages owners to dig in their heels deeper on escrow and hockey related revenue.
Now that Mitch has shed his loveable dorky kid persona, how excited are you to see him shilling for Apple, Intact, Red Bull, Gary’s Discount Aluminum Siding, and whatever the else he’s managed to attach his name to?
Marner’s image is tainted, and while someone will always let him shill, I question if being a sellout will be as lucrative as it has been in the past.
Finally, the fans
Like I said, it’s happening now. You can certainly tell at the point where I view him more as expensive mercenary rather than a kid who is living his dream of playing for the Leafs. To be fair, we should probably carry that view of most athletes to start and hope they prove us wrong, but for those who wanted to believe they were witnessing someone wanting to play hockey in Toronto because it was Toronto, this should be an eye opener.
Even his attempts at PR seem to be ill conceived, as I don’t see how donating a suit that helps the police weaponize dogs is a feel good story.
He’s likely having to turn in his “do no wrong” card for some of the criticisms that he’s small, don’t shoot enough, shies away from physical play, benefits from being on Tavares line, etc. are going to pop up more and more. Again all of this is pretty fair, and if he manages to live up to even 75% of his contract, I’d imagine a lot of those criticisms disappear pretty quickly.
The moral of the story here is that Marner has likely taken a pretty big hit to his image over this process, and to some extent so has Kyle Dubas, along with some others. We can be excited when it’s all over and hopefully we are quick to forgive and forget, but there is no denying that it’s been an ugly process once again.