Re-posted to fix the formatting issues...
Many around St. Louis are scratching their heads regarding the defection of Vladimir Sobotka to Omsk of the KHL. While I won't claim to have seen this moving coming from a mile away, I can't understand why people are so surprised when they look at the situation from both sides' perspectives.
The Sobotka Perspective: I consistently heard glowing compliments from coach Ken Hitchcock over the last few years. Just a small sampling show Coach Hitchcock calling me a "responsible player", a "smart player", an "important player", claiming that "wherever he goes, he adds to that line" and that he "gives a boost to everybody." My fanfare extended to the fans and the media with Darren Pang saying that I "have the perfect hockey body" and that my "calmness with the puck is unheralded." In looking at the statistics, it's not just words.
Over the last three years, I saw my power play average ice time go from 38 seconds a game to 1 minutes 36 seconds. I was hovering around 8th in total forward ice time per game on the team until last year when I jumped to 5th. I am consistently at or near the top of the team lead in short handed ice time per game. The accolades continued as I was second in the NHL in face-off percentage among players with at least 100 face-offs taken and set back to back career goal records and a career points per game record last year.
So how was all of this progress rewarded? The Blues provided contract offers that were less than Patrick Berglund. What? I received worse offers than a player who averaged less ice time, had fewer points, and had a terrible playoff with zero points and a horrific -7 plus minus level. You offer me 1 million less than him? You barely offer me more money on a two year deal than Jori Lehtera who hasn't done anything in the NHL yet?
Furthermore, some of the additions you made this year and comments made by Doug Armstrong have me very concerned about my power play time this year and the impact that will have on my points and my upcoming UFA contract. Bringing in Paul Stastny and Lehtera pushes me further down the depth chart, taking away valuable ice time. Armstrong comes out and says that Tarasenko and Schwartz are going to take a "deeper and bigger role." I am not wild about my quality ice time going away in my last year before I am a UFA. Why am I not being rewarded for my versatility, productivity and dedication to the team? It seems we are not the right fit anymore and I need a trade or I'll just sign in the KHL for more money and force the issue.
The Team Perspective: Sobi, we love that you bring your heart and soul every game and are a loyal foot soldier to coach. We also greatly appreciate your willingness to serve in a lot of roles and grow with the team. We also value your face-off prowess.
We think we have made a great investment in you. You were a 10 minute a game player who had next to no power play time before we helped develop you into a versatile forward who averages 15 to 16 minutes a game, of which over a minute and a half was on the power play last year. While we appreciate that you just had your career best year, we have to say that your point production and goal totals were disappointing given the prime ice time that we presented to you. When we look at players on the team with similar power play time, they all had at least 50% more goals than you. Even with being one of the top 5 ice time receiving forwards, you still couldn't hit double digits in goals, something you have yet to do in any NHL season. The evidence tells us that you are an excellent fourth line player or a very capable third line player who can fill in other roles on a short term basis. We had to go out and upgrade our first two lines. We wanted you to stay and anchor our lower lines but, unfortunately for you, a player who fills those roles doesn't justify even the money we gave Berglund.
Also, we must admit that we are concerned with your injury history and we haven't even been able to assess you with our team doctors after the dirty hit you absorbed in the World Championships. We know you are one of the strongest guys in the game on a pound for pound basis but your small stature puts you at greater injury risk.
The Takeaway: I realize a lot of this is conjecture but I think it is pretty easy to see how the negotiations might have broken down. I like Sobotka as a player but the Blues won't be truly successful if he is the big difference maker in the lineup. Wether he or Ott is in the lineup won't decide whether or not the Blues win the cup.