Even after the dust has settled I find myself questioning where I stand, or ever stood, on the Oshituation. For those of you unaware of the Oshituation, I’ll paint the picture; it was a cool, gray morning and the ice was freshly zambo…oh come on. Monday, March 28th the Blues had a morning practice and fan favorite T.J. Oshie was nowhere to be found. It appeared that no one on the team had heard hide nor hair of him and his missed practice went down in history as an “unexcused practice”. Thanks to multiple credentialed media members and social media outlets news of Oshie’s absence spread to even the most casual of fans – and every single one of them had an opinion concerning the absence. Many local fans (myself included), jokesters and notable NHL bloggers and news sources played along and kept guesses rolling in nearly every minute for hours on end. The Blues kept a tight lip on the situation from the start; Davis Payne and GM Doug Armstrong were mum, saying the matter would be addressed later.
Cue ‘later’ – Tuesday Oshie met with Armstrong and Head Coach Payne, a situation no one, especially Oshie who is a RFA after this season, would want to be in considering the issue at hand. The outcome of Tuesday’s meeting of the minds came down to dealing Oshie a two game ‘sit’. Don’t get ‘sit’ confused with a suspension, for you see…this wasn’t a suspension. The Blues sat Oshie in order to recall Adam Cracknell from Peoria to cover their bases while Oshie was to sit in the corner and think about what he’d done. Had Oshie been suspended the Blues would not have been able to recall anyone under emergency conditions (Lou Korac does an exceptional job explaining the suspension vs. sit condition). Doug Armstrong and Coach Payne were assertive in pointing out that these actions are inexcusable and will be dealt with accordingly, that they would be unwavering in their decision to punish the wrong-doer while making them aware of their misconduct.
While all the world was aTwitter with rumors and suggestions as to where Oshie was, people began crawling out to put their two cents in – from radio personalities to Red Wings fans, concerned fans of the Note to ex-Blues greats. Maybe one of the biggest names to turn up in the midst of this mess was Brett Hull. St. Louis legendary right winger was of the belief that much of the blame lies on Oshie’s teammates. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post Dispatch relayed Hull’s opinion -
“I don’t know what the reason is, why he missed,” Hull said. “But to me, I put less blame on him and blame his teammates. When we played together … (Kelly Chase), (Adam Oates) and (Brendan Shanahan) … we took care of each other. That never would have happened. Someone would have been at his house getting him up and getting him to practice.
“So to me, I would blame more the teammates than I would him. You’ve got to take care of each other, especially that team. They’re so young. They’ve got such an opportunity to bond together and be a great team. There’s so much talent there. They’ve got to take care of each other in those situations off the ice.”
Enter confusion riddled fan base and sounding boards. After the man never afraid to share his opinion (while being a Blues legend and claims to love this team so much went back to Dallas and is their Executive Vice President), Hull detractors, lovers, crazed fans upset with Oshie, and all fans in between started to form opinions based on whatever news they may be reading, social media rumor or not. I might as well throw my two cents in as well, right? It’s been a few days and I’ve read what many others have to say, seen and heard what his teammates have had to say and am pretty sure I’ve got a solid opinion based on my own internal thoughts, feelings and views as well as what some of the others have thrown in to the ring.
What are you unhappy with regarding the Oshituation as a whole? I’m obviously kind of flustered the kid didn’t show up. Do I have anything riding on the fact that he didn’t? No, of course not; I don’t have any stake in the team other than I’m a homer fan and support the team and the men who play for my team. What I don’t understand is how someone can be so irresponsible, especially because this is his job. If any common man just didn’t show up to their place of employment when expected to be there, jobs would be on the line – none of this “don’t come in for two days, with no pay” stuff. Though the lifestyle of an athlete may seem glamorous and breezy to most rules are still expected to be followed, precedents set and consequences to be had. Oversleeping is a shameful excuse and when it comes to missing practices (or work) there are few acceptable excuses; as a paying fan, supporter and follower excuses are something I rarely ever want to hear.
What could have been done to make the Oshituation any easier to accept? Well, there really was no other choice than to simply accept that it happened and he’d sit two games, which he should have. I do believe, though, that Armstrong could have done more to make this predicament easier to understand or more accessible. People weren’t just using Twitter as a means to poke fun at the situation (though the comic relief sure did help) but to truly find out where was he? Why wasn’t he there? Was this another possible well-documented Oshie problem waiting to happen, something embarrassing to himself/the league/the team? Who knows, we may never know. It’s troubling to me that this isn’t the first time Oshie has done something irresponsible but even more troubling is the fact that Armstrong has been extremely tight lipped and to the point regarding the situation and the consequences. With the internet, social media outreach and more, transparency accounts for a lot. Anything in the entertainment industry, especially sports, live and die by transparency and I don’t think it’s too much to ask that fans know why a favorite, not to mention a predominant play-making athlete, wasn’t at practice. I can refer back to my last point about not wanting to hear excuses, but given that Oshie isn’t a stranger to trouble-making and is an RFA at the end of this volatile season, it’s be nice to have a bit of an explanation and as I heard when I was a child “secrets, secrets are no fun/secrets, secrets hurt someone”. It may be childish, but sometimes the best lessons in life we learn are the ones that rhyme…and the ones learned the hard way.
Was the punishment just or enough of a punishment? I think two games was fair for the Oshituation at hand and agree that suspension would’ve been a bit costly for the team, even while being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. I believe that had the Blues been a contending team the consequences may have been a bit different. Sarah Connors at The Hockey Writers brought up a great point – that the two games Oshie was sat out of should have really lit a fire under him. After competing and holding on against the Wild despite the overtime loss and absolutely trouncing the hated Red Wings, Oshie should be jealous and in a fit of rage that he didn’t get the chance to prove to be the trailblazer he can be during those two games (especially in the shootout during Tuesday’s Wild game).
What about Brett Hull’s point about the blame resting on the shoulders of his teammates? I call horse-hockey on this one. I understand that teammates should have the backs of their fellow friends and players but this is really about personal responsibility. These are grown men we’re talking about here and each of these men is accountable for their own individual responsibilities and, in turn, mistakes. No amount of finger pointing and teammate calling-outage is going to change my mind; plain and simple Oshie should have been mature enough to have been at practice, explain why and move on. He has disappointed everyone including himself. While I think it’s cowardly that the front office hasn’t given the public an explanation as to why he wasn’t at practice I do agree with the extra steps Oshie is taking as a type personal penance. Oshie was paid during his two game sit and on Thursday, March 31st announced that the money he was paid during his missed time would be donated to the Blues’ 14 Fund and to St. Louis’ Dream Factory, a very cordial response to his situation.
Many have brought up the point that this could be fodder for potential trade rumors regarding his RFA status and brought it up that this doesn’t bode well for him if he wants to stay in St. Louis – I’ll stress again, though, that this wasn’t his first offense, only his first “major” offense as a member of the Blues. It doesn’t make it right, but RFA or not, actions on and off the ice speak louder than words. What it boils down to is, regardless of who Hull wants to blame, Oshie should have been mature and responsible enough to be at practice and must make a marked effort to not screw up in such a lousy way ever again, no matter who he’s earning his check from.