As a fan, this always sucks. Always.
We are not idiots — we understand there are a ton of reasons we don’t want to consider that go into choosing to sign with a different team when a player reaches free agency. Obviously there’s the money. We’d be fat-faced liars if we said we’d turn down, say, $6.5 million over 8 years in favor of $4 million over three years. Yes, rationally, even the lesser amount is more than enough money to live quite comfortably, but the bigger contract is, well, that much more comfy. Again, we’re not dumb. Also, there are considerations about the personnel on teams, the geography, familial pressures, future plans, blah blah blah. But all we see, as fans, is that the player who’s signed with someone else has rejected our team. And rejected us. And it sucks. So with that caveat, we present IPB’s take on the Rafalski and Gomez signings.
As full-fledged members of PaulieMartinNation, we’ve been counting on Raffie signing elsewhere since the end of the season. With two big RFA’s to ink to long-term deals, we felt it was necessary to avoid paying top-dollar to Raffie, a moderately offensive, moderately speedy d-man/PP-quarterback. But then Raffie, through his agent, said he’d be willing to sign for less to stay with the team. Since there’s a precedence for key players to sign for less to stay with the team (Marty Brodeur, Scott Stevens, Jay Pandolfo, and others), we stupidly believed it was true. It wasn’t. If you’d asked before that article was printed how we felt about Rafalski, we would certainly have said we’d wouldn’t be too upset to see him go. But since that article was printed, we’d be lying if we didn’t say we don’t feel slighted. A lot of players say they’ll sign for less, then don’t. But factor in the history of the Devils, and in light of the money and fame sacrificed by some of the organization’s biggest and most important players, and you’ve got a recipe for some bitter, bitter fans.
Raffie’s a great pick-up for Detriot, and an improvement on Schneider. We think the Wings fans will love him, and we think he’ll be a good player to bridge the gap between the classic Lidstrom and the youngish rest of the d-corps. But as far as we are concerned, we say thanks for the Cups, the memories, and thanks for helping youngsters Martin and Greene hone their games. We wish Raffie good luck in Detroit but will most likely never forgive him the slight of saying he’ll sign and then leaving for more money than he’s worth.
When we first heard the rumor this morning that Gomer was going to the Rangers, Boomer said, “Doesn’t he realize he has to stand there in that asinine sweater and salute the stupid fans? God, the money’s got to be good if you’re going to do that.” Now, we never honestly expected for the Devils to re-sign him, but we hoped he’d have learned something from Bobby Holik and at least gone somewhere other than New York. This is so staggeringly repulsive, such a blatant “fuck you” to the Devils organization, that Gomer is now more officially “Dead To Us” than any NHLer has ever been.
We realize that we’re approaching this as fans, and we can’t expect the players to feel the same way about rivalries as we do, but this rivalry is so intense our GM and star player both admitted beating the Rangers in the playoffs in 2006 was worth not winning the Cup. And now Gomer’s going to be wearing the Rangers logo. It’s so intensely dispiriting to know that players Gomez has historically had a ton of respect for (Bobby Holik, Marty, Johnny Mac, Stevens, Pando, etc.) don’t have enough influence over him to convince him winning with honor is more important than pocketing some extra change and getting some face time in the corner pictures of the Post’s sports page. And winning with the Rangers after winning 2 Cups with the Devils is not winning with honor. And we can only hope he enjoys playing in a market where the fans and media will actually get on him for his inconsistency, spotty work ethic and defensive weakness, as opposed to playing in Jersey where we all just shrugged and said, “Yeah, that’s Gomer for you.”
While we’re truly sorry to see two lifetime Devils gave up the chance to retire having only worn one sweater, we’re also thankful that Lou didn’t give into the pressure to sign two players for more than they’re probably worth. We may change our tune depending on what happens with Zach Parise, Paul Martin and, well, the rest of the off-season, but for right now, we’re wallowing in bitter self-pity which is also tinged with a hint of “Well, at least our GM isn’t overspending on second-tier players.”