The Sweedish dazzler William Nylander does not seem to be dazzling the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ fateful as he once did. A long contract dispute, a some would call “shaky” playoffs and a seemingly “me first attitude” has got some people questioning if Nylander is really all that he is billed to be.
Some pundits think “the blondie” is destined for great things in the game(s) to come. However, some hockey people have thrown in the towel on the $6.9 million dollar man. A small percentage even question if he should be a part of “the plan” moving forward.
In any case, in life or in sports, there is always two sides to a tale or in this case, an argument. If society deems itself to be fair and just, cases are to be heard and judged by the people, for the people. Judgment is not passed solely on one’s moral principles or prejudices but on fact and evidence. In the case of Nylander v. his critics, no statement other than the latter should be held true.
Examining The Criticisms of William Nylander
The critics of William Nylander have a lot of things to say and many, let’s just say “bright ways”, of saying them.
To many in the hockeyverse, when William Nylander decided to sit out in hopes of a better contract, that was his undoing. To these said people, holding out was something they could not understand because Nylander was such a big part of the team. Why would he do such a thing and why would he put his team’s chances of winning in the regular season and beyond at risk?
“For the money,” these people thought. How ridiculous of him! He’s not even worth it! Silly Willy will be the death of this team!
A long and never-ending dialogue built itself up on social media. The fans could not fathom potentially losing some games just because a player wanted to use the little leverage he had to keep himself from getting lowballed.
Fair enough, as the supporters of the Leafs, who are demanded by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment to feed the sports giants their last dollar to see a game in the flesh, the fans deserve to take that stance. These said fans deserve to blame Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas for the wait or criticize Nylander for the holdout. It’s technically their team just as much as its MLSE’s. As much as it may dismay the higher-ups, the fans pay the bills.
The other side of the contract dispute
William Nylander’s contract saga was like watching The Young and The Restless play out in real life. Most knew he was going to sign, it was a matter of when, for how much and how long. From early reports, the Leafs wanted a long-term deal with a $5.5 million dollar cap hit per year. Nylander also wanted a long-term deal, but he wanted upwards to $8 million per year, some so-called “insiders” said the price was more. The two sides ended settling to a five year, $41.77 million dollar deal.
Looking at the situation from Nylander’s perspective, as a restricted free agent, his options were limited. He either signs a deal or holds out. In theory, the deal that he was being offered at the start did not match his value, at least to him. Any smart player with an even smarter agent will realize that they are stuck in a corner. They have to use every little bit of leverage to their advantage. That is what Nylander did and in the end, he ended up getting a deal that he could live with, which he thought met his value to a certain extent.
Another thing to ponder, in his mind, it is not fair to him that RFAs Auston Matthews (former-RFA) and Mitch Marner are going to be getting paid while he could be forced into settling for something less than stellar.
Did it meet his value?
Arguments can be made for either side. That said, in today’s NHL, elite-ish players like Nylander want to consume a certain amount of the cap. In other words, they are not looking for a number, more so they are looking to get their fair share percentage of the pie. As the salary cap continues to go up, the going price for a player like Nylander begins to inflate and so on, meaning that dollar figure just gets bigger, enraging the fans that know every cent counts in the NHL salary cap era.
That said, one cannot simply criticize Nylander for sitting out to get his money without criticizing themselves for wanting to get a pay raise after they did their employer a solid by growing their business or furthering their means of production. Every aspect of society is the same in this way. Some just rather fret about the ones that triumph in their mission of trumping the hierarchy rather than fondling in their own perils of being a so-called “slave” to the establishment, not conceptualizing that his victory is their victory.
Nylander’s play as of late
With any contractual victory, the next hurdle for a player is to prove they are worth their money. Coming into the 2018-19 season, Nylander was coming off back-to-back 61 point campaigns. Fans thought that number would only get bigger as he continued to grow and mature as a player.
Fans were disappointed when William Nylander originally came back. They were expecting the absolute best of the Swede coming right out of the gate and instead they got what some would say “very little”.
Nylander struggled to make his presence known and was in a rut. In 54 games in the 2018-19 season, Nylander recorded seven goals and 20 assists, disappointing a whole lot of people. Most saying that he was lackluster and trash.
The other side of the story
That being said, if one truly followed Nylander, one could see that he was doing everything but score. Nylander’s Corsi For Percentage at Even Strength for 2018-19 was 56.8. His Offensive Start Percentage at Even Strength was 58.5. In other words, he was having an impact on the game offensively and more or less, doing his job.
With a new salary like his, the expectations are way higher than when he was making north of $900k a year. When an employer pays a premium price, they want premium service. Depending on who someone asks, Nylander’s service is lackluster based on his production for his given service time this season. Not everyone goes by the analytics and after the soap opera that led to this commotion, people have a reason to doubt Nylander. That is not to say that they are right or wrong, they are just as much entitled to an opinion like everyone else.
And one is further inclined to have those sort of opinions when watching Nylander’s play in the playoffs. To most, it is not like he is not there. He has three points, he contributes when he can and he plays an alright 200 ft game. However, there are times when one’s stomach turns when he touches the puck and it leads to trouble.
Nylander has made some costly plays that have hindered his team’s chances of winning said playoff games. For a $6.9 million dollar player, that is not good. Each and everyone has the right to criticize that. Big time players should be the ones showing up in big-time moments. When they are not, they deserve to get called out. That is the only way to hold players accountable for their play.
On the hand, with the suspension of Nazem Kadri, Nylander’s move down to centre the third line has not helped him much. Nylander, in most eyes, is not the type of player that can carry a line. He is more of a complimenting piece. Leafs coach Mike Babcock is not putting Nylander in a great position to succeed. Therefore, it is fair to say that not all of the blame should fall on the player. Some of that has to go to the coach.
Is it fair to call William Nylander selfish? Maybe. Is it fair for one to say they do not want him on their team? Not really, but it is an opinion like everything else. At the very least, something has to be said. It is the analyst’s job to analyze the situation. And most times, where there is smoke there is fire (or a greasy cheeseburger party). Nylander may not be a bonafide superstar and it shows. That said, he is extremely good at what he does. The thing is the higher the per year salary gets for a player, the more that is expected of him. Do people expect too much of Nylander? No, not really and most of the criticism is fair and just. Some, on the other unrighteous hand, is not. One must find that line and judge for themselves, for it is their truth, no one else’s.
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