Plenty of hockey players take a beating from the media and fans when they fail to live up to a huge contract. Players such as Scott Gomez, Chris Drury, Wade Redden – and even guys who weren’t signed by Glen Sather – tend to get the lion share of the lampooning.
Yet it seems players like Brad Richards ($7.8 million annual cap hit, more than Nicklas Lidstrom) and Paul Kariya ($6 million per year cap hit) are spared quite a bit of the mockery. After flopping at least to some degree, Richards has (sort of) justified his contract but with Kariya it’s a big news story if he does anything.
While St. Louis Blues-oriented blogs often give Kariya the business, you rarely see his name pop up in worst contract lists. Here are a few of my guesses as to why Kariya might be flying under the radar.
1. He’s a nice guy: Again, the guys at St. Louis Game Time think he’s a jerk but I’ve always gotten the feeling that Kariya gets a free pass for being a nice guy.
2. He’s been injured: Injuries can explain a lot of problems, but also-fragile Daniel Briere (only a half million more per year for much better offensive numbers) is a serious punching bag for satirists. They’re both smallish, soft and decidedly one-way players yet the mockery ratio is out of whack. Briere’s contract is a bit worse because it’s longer, but I get the feeling that’s not the reason he is lambasted.
3. He’s irrelevant: For the last five seasons, Kariya has been in nontraditional market Nashville and the only-made-the-playoffs-without-him Blues. Even some serious hockey fans who don’t follow the Central division may simply forget that Kariya even exists anymore. This theory, to me, is both the most realistic and the most palatable reason why he skates by with limited critiques.
So what do you think? Have I overlooked plenty of mainstream criticism of Kariya? Has he somehow been good according to some hare brained stat? Or did he buy a shelter’s worth of puppies so journalists just cannot bring themselves to point out his struggles? I’d love to know.