Everybody makes mistakes. Some are just more prominent, embarrassing, and harmful than other. Looking back on the year in the NHL, there's no doubt certain individuals would like to have a do-over on few of their decisions. On many decisions, it's far too early to tell just how bad (or perhaps good) a move will ultimately be. Inevitably, years from now, we'll look back in disbelief over how many teams passed on a Jordan Schroeder in the first round of the draft, or how the Redwings found some wiz on a street corner in Prague with their 9th pick. However, we only have the benefit of hindsight up to this point to sit in judgment over these horrible decision of 2009, so here are the 10 worst:
10. Sorry, Wayne
There were many bad decisions that came out of the Phoenix fiasco last summer. The way Balsillie approached the league (for the 3rd time). Judge Baum's continued decisions not to decide anything. Bettman's decision to insist on keeping a team where it's not wanted and prevent a team from going to where it would be worshipped… But perhaps the worst decision in all of this was the decision by the NHL not to pay Gretzky the money he was owned in their bid for ownership. Too many words have already been written on this whole mess, so we'll just drop it in at #10 and move on...
9. Mortgaging Philly for Pronger
On paper, adding Chris Pronger to team already favored by some to win the Cup in 2010 sounded like an OK idea. That was, until you read what the Flyers had to give up in that deal. Future star Luca Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul, 2 first round draft picks and more. Not to mention that a team already struggling to stay Cap legal added $2 million to the problem. The only way this deal could ever be justified in the end was if the team went on to win the Cup in the next year or two. Halfway into year 1 of the Pronger era featured a fired coach and team sitting out of a playoff spot. That first round pick is looking pretty good for the Ducks, who made out like champs on this trade.
8. Ovechkin takes out Backstrom
In yet another reckless, moronic, in-the-moment, trying to kill everyone around me play, Ovechkin made yet another attempt to injure a Penguin superstar when he left his feet to charge Malkin. The Caps were already down 5-0 in game 7, and Ovie had already been embarrassed by Fleury's breakaway save, so all he had left in his bag of tricks to was take a run at his rival. Fortunately, Malkin knew to watch for him, jumped out of the way, and Ovechkin took his cheap shot at his own teammate. Admire the beauty here:
7. Burke trading picks for Kessel
Anxious to make his mark on the Toronto rebuilding project, Brian Burke took a major risk in September by shipping his first two picks in 2010 and the first rounder in 2011 to the Bruins for injured star Phil Kessel. Bruins fans may miss the goals Kessel brought to the team when he was healthy, but they'll probably like drafting Taylor Hall even better next spring. It's just silly for a team that has pretty good odds of finishing in the basement to give up their early picks. Perhaps Burke has lost the magic.
6. Carcillo agrees to fight Talbot
When you're up 3-0 in a playoff game, the player handbook says it doesn't make much sense to fight. Unfortunately for Flyer fans, Daniel Carcillo doesn't seem to be literate. Penguin fans love to point to the Carcillo-Talbot fight as the turning point in the series that allowed them to go own to with the Cup. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. But there's no debating that despite "winning" the fight, Carcillo did nothing to help his team. He obviously has a role to play, but he also obviously needs some guidance on timing.
5. Intent to blow
And that's exactly what the officials did here.
In case you missed it, in late November, Brad May scored a goal against the Stars. Seconds after the goal was scored, referee Dennis LaRue waived it off, claiming he intended to blow the whistle to stop the play, and therefore, no goal. The play ultimately cost the Redwings the game, and fans were dumbfounded. Perhaps even worse, was the decision by the NHL the next day. Instead of apologizing for a silly mistake, they actually backed LaRue and tried to justify the decision. Watch in disbelief here:
4. Patrick Kanes a cabby
Early this summer, everything was right in Chicago. The Blackhawks had just finished up a season to remember, and Patrick Kane was back in his hometown for a feel-good ceremony. Then a cab driver informs Kane he doesn't have the 20 cents change rightfully due the young millionaire, and things get ugly. Allegedly, Kane goes on to beat and rob the cabby. Poor judgment, Mr. Kane. You're on the list.
3.Keith Ballard Goes Goalie Golfing
This was more a combination of bad luck and frustration. After all, Ballard isn't the first player in history to (attempt to) slam his stick off the goal after his team is scored upon. It just so happens that Thomas Vokoun's face entered his path this time. One of the dumbest all time plays you'll see. Good time to celebrate the 50th year of the goalie mask. Enjoy/cringe:
2. Dany Heatley's Demands (or whoever went public with Dany's request)
Again, the whole situation was a disaster, and blame could be spread out on this one, but there's no arguing Heatley's decisions and behavior were poor this summer. The hockey world was sympathetic after the tragedy in Atlanta and understood why he wanted to be traded from the Thrashers. However, after securing a long-term deal with a no-trade clause, it's just idiotic to demand a trade and dictate the terms. Great player. Poor judgment.
1. The Year of Bob Gainey
Bob Gainey could have filled up half the list himself, but I tried to spread the love around. Making Gainey #1 on this list was easy, narrowing down which one of his moves was the worst decision is above my pay grade. Here are the runners up to the worst decision of the worst decisions:
# 3 - Allowing Komisarek to walk without a fight
# 2 - Firing Guy Carboneau and proving that it had nothing to do with the coach
# 1 - Signing a remarkably average forward Brian Gionta to an outrageous $25 million contract.
But, the dumbest decision of the year for Bob Gainey was the trade for Scott Gomez and his 5 year, $33.5 million cap hit. Granted, Gomez is a very good player, and he's starting to play well for Montreal; however, the Rangers were desperate to dump the Gomez contract in order to sign Gaborik. They would have ultimately paid some team (had it been legal) to take him off their hands. Instead, the Canadiens gave up a decent forward in Higgins, a decent prospect in Valentenko, and a potential future star in Ryan McDonagh. Way too much to give, when he could have overpaid Gomez for free.
Note: It's somewhat amazing that Glen Sather, Mike Milbury and the Tampa Bay management all managed to stay off the list in 2009. Something to celebrate as we enter the new year.