Wed Jul 27 01:53pm EDT
One would love to know who told Red Berenson at Michigan that John Gibson was not coming — the player, the adviser or his parents.
At some point, doing business — what's best for the prospects of an 18-year-old with NHL ambitions — does not mean abandoning some basis values and principles. No one's damning Gibson, the first North American goalie taken in the June NHL entry draft, for his late-in-the-game decision to choose the OHL, where his rights are held by the ever-resourceful Kitchener Rangers, after saying all along he was committed to the Michigan Wolverines. The same goes for Phoenix Coyotes first-round choice Connor Murphy, the defenceman whom Ryan Kennedy and Jeff Marek each reports will join the Sarnia Sting after telling the hockey world he would play for Miami of Ohio.
No one's damning and no one's blaming, but it's fair to judge. It is understandable that a player has a short window to get a foothold in pro hockey and that the NHL's CBA means teams are more apt to grab youngish players. Having it go down only a month before classes begin after parents of most first-year university students in Canada and the U.S. have already cut a cheque for tuition, is hardly kosher. It's not clear if something can be done, much less should be done, but it leaves a bitter taste for people on either side of developmental hockey's great divide.
It especially hurts for Michigan, which also lost Dallas Stars first-round choice Jack Campbell to the Windsor Spitfires in 2010. While Campbell and Gibson share an adviser, Kurt Overhardt, the older netminder decommitted almost a year in advance, not barely more than a month. As one Wolverines partisan put it:
This is getting old. Again, I'm trying to keep it in perspective as these kids are making decisions for what they think is in their best interest moving forward. But man, it takes some brass ones to say all along that you're coming, the draft didn't change your status, no, really, I'm coming, Michigan is the place for me, and then bail with a month to go before the start of the season. You knew the OHL was there all along. You told McKeen's in February that you didn't really look into it that much because "Michigan is where I chose to go." You knew Michigan's goaltending situation all along. You knew how many games make up the NCAA schedule all along. It's one thing to back out before you sign your LOI and when the team still has a chance to find a replacement if they want to. It's completely another to bail a month before the season and leave the team hanging. (The Blog That Yost Built)
It's cheerfully acknowledged that it might be too moralistic to furrow one's brow over Gibson, Murphy or J.T. Miller, the New York Rangers first-rounder who seems set to join the Plymouth Whalers, changing horses in midstream.
(Northeastern Huskie-turned-Saginaw Spirit defenceman Jamie Oleksiak is a special case since his college coach, Greg Cronin, went to the NHL.) It could be old-fashioned to maintain that a commitment is a commitment. Each player's story is unique, but it is fair to wonder how in the course of eight weeks, someone can go from being committed to a university to electing for junior hockey. What is for certain is one can admire Toronto Maple Leafs first-rounder Tyler Biggs for sticking with Miami despite the Oshawa Generals' best entreaties, since that puts him in rare company these days. All told, the three Americans top-20 picks in last month's draft and the first North American goalie off the board are each headed to the OHL.
In a strictly hockey sense, one can see the rationale for both moves. Gibson, as aforementioned by the Yosties, would get a lot more game action in Kitchener, which traded away starter Brandon Maxwell recently to help create a competition for the No. 1 job, than he would in Michigan, where many have pointed out it was not a slam dunk he would start over senior Shawn Hunwick. There is, however, a lot to be said for going the college route, given that relatively few goalies go almost directly from the OHL to the NHL anymore, save for the Columbus Blue Jackets' Steve Mason. Campbell's gamble had mixed results. Murphy, who shook off an injury-plagued couple of seasons by starring for Team USA in April's world under-18 championship, stands to join a Sting club that is loaded for bear with likely high NHL picks Alex Galchenyuk and Nail Yakupov leading the offence and another blue-chipper, 16-year-old defenceman Anthony DeAngelo, on the blue line. No one is saying they hope this blows up in their face, but we can still say there is a right way and a wrong way.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports . Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: Getty Images).