If I heard that Ottawa was in line for a Swedish intervention, I would naturally assume it was part and parcel of some Don Cherry led movement chastizing the organization to draft MORE KIDS FROM ONTARIO, EH!
Unfortunately however, reports out of Sweden indicate that WJC head coach Roger Rönnberg is displeased with the Senators’ decision to keep Mika Zibanejad in Binghamton; rather than allow him to suit up for the defending champions.
So displeased is Rönnberg with Ottawa’s choice that he took a break from assembling some cabinetry with an Allen Key to deliver some choice words to reporter Szymon Szemberg
“It is a big disappointment that Ottawa does not want to release Mika to join the team for the World Juniors. I have asked our federation to intervene and I am confident they will. Having said that, I must focus on the players I have and I can’t let that [Ottawa not releasing Zibanejad] steal energy from my work.”
I have no idea what a Swedish intervention consists of, but there’s no way that it can top A&E’s Best Cry Ever Fearfarts Remix.
Here is how I imagine the scene unfolding:
Bryan Murray: Roger Rönnberg? Oh no! Oh, hello. Great to hear from you again, Roger!
Roger Rönnberg: Mr. Murray, I was supposed to be allowed to talk to Mika today about whether he would be interested in representing our country, but your organization won't let me.
Bryan Murray: Roger, Roger, Rog! We've been frew this a dozen times. I don't have any anti-Swedish agenda, OK Rog?
Roger Rönnberg: Then let me talk to Mika, so I can ease Sweden’s collective mind. I'm sorry, but the Swedish Federation must be firm with you. Let me talk to him, or else.
Bryan Murray: Or else what?
Roger Rönnberg: Or else we will be very angry with you... and we will write you a letter, telling you how angry we are.
In all seriousness, there are legitimate arguments to be made for either side regarding whether or not Mika should be permitted to play in the WJC.
On one hand, regardless of Tim Murray’s efforts to portray this as a mutually agreed upon decision, from Mika’s comments on the matter, it looks as though the decision to stay with Binghamton was made unilaterally by the organization. With one goal and six assists in 16 games played, his production has left something to be desired. Would his long-term development truly suffer if he was playing overseas for a two to three week stretch? It seems outlandish to suggest so. Prospects aren't ruined by playing the WJC at 19.
On the other hand, Mika has already played a pivotal role on a gold medal winning team. As it has already been written about elsewhere, with the absence of Brodin and Klefbom, their odds of repeating as champs have already taken a substantial hit. With these diminished odds, is it worth removing Mika from a young and competitive Binghamton club that has just reeled off eight consecutive victories? There is something to be said about the psychology or culture of winning and the collective growth/development of the organization’s top prospects.
Maybe if the tournament was being played in North America (on NA rinks) and Zibanejad would not have to travel as far, things would be different.
But they’re not.
If anything, it looks like the Senators are taking their own approach whenever Mika’s development has been questioned. After exhibiting some self-restraint by returning Mika to Djurgården, their criticism for the way in which he was utilized last year was never veiled. Even listening to the coaching staff or management respond to Mika’s lacklustre production in Bingo, they acknowledge his frustrations but are quick to praise his defensive aptitude and physical tools in an effort to quell whatever concerns there may be. ‘He’s still getting his chances, so we will only worry once those chances stop,’ has become a familiar refrain.
Had he been sent to Ufa and struggled at the WJC, the omnipresent concerns would have been amplified while also exposing Mika to national pressure and cumbersome expectations. The ill effects of a bad tournament could have sullied his confidence further.
By keeping him in North America, the organization is now solely responsible for his development and I certainly do not have a problem with that.