[When we last left our guys, training camp was soon to begin. But training camp is boring so we are jumping ahead. It’s now September 30th, and the preseason has closed with a 4-3 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators. (Uh... spoilers? -Ed.) The team brain trust is mulling the final roster. The regular season will start on October 2nd with a home game with the crosstown Rangers.]
“Hey Doug, can you talk a minute?”
Doug Weight detoured into Mike McBea’s office.
“So what’s the word?”
McBea shook his head. “It’s a cuss word, Doug. X-rays on Jaro came back positive. Ankle’s fractured. We won’t have him for six weeks.”
Weight did, indeed, cuss. “For a damned preseason game.”
“On the bright side, nice rally to force OT,” McBea said. “But the question is who you want to back up Greisser to start.”
“Kristers,” Weight said. “He’s ahead of Gibby right now and he can handle an occasional start.”
McBea nodded. “You planning on doing anything different in front of him?”
“No,” said Weight. “I don’t want to confuse everyone by changing the systems based on the goalie. We’ll just run matchups based on opponents. I can cycle in more offense or defense from the wings.”
“Sounds like a plan. We’ll talk it over again in a couple weeks and reassess. Thanks Doug.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Weight said. “Greg will help me. Greg has always helped me.” And he left the room. McBea went back to shuffling through his preseason notes and various depth charts. Five minutes later, he got a knock on the door.
“I heard you wanted to see me?”
“Yes, I did. Thanks, John. Come in.”
John Tavares slipped into McBea’s office and sat on the long sofa, and McBea came around and sat on the edge of the chaise. The team’s personnel had gotten used to seeing McBea stretched out on the lounger behind a laptop or thumbing through charts. McBea kept these on a series of color-coded plastic clipboards on hooks in the wall behind the desk, and a collection of in-jokes had already started developing among the players about it.
McBea had one such clipboard in his hands, and he took a sheet off of it and handed it to his captain. “I just wanted you to know that you’ll probably get a call about this from your agency, so you ought to have an idea what it’s about.”
Tavares took the paper with a quizzical look. “If it’s a contract... Mike, you know I haven’t changed my mind on it. I don’t want to discuss an extension during the year.”
McBea nodded. “Oh, I know. That’s why I wanted to sneak this in before October started.”
Tavares stared at his boss for a moment, and then both of them broke into a laugh. “All right, fair point,” said Tavares, “but I’m still not gonna talk about it right now.”
“I don’t want to force it. You’ve certainly earned the right to play it out, and I’m too new to have the benefit of the doubt. I just have one or two things to say before I drop the subject.” McBea was still smiling but his tone changed subtly, and it caught Tavares’ attention. Another thing the players were developing was a good sense of when the new guy switched from banter to brass tacks.
“If I’ve noticed anything since I’ve gotten here, it’s that your reputation is well-earned,” McBea said. “I don’t doubt that you’ll give us everything you’ve got all season, no matter what happens during that, or after that. If you told me right now that you were absolutely out the door July 1st, I still believe that you’d go out and give us your best game every night until then. That’s exactly the kind of man and the kind of player who ought to be the cornerstone of a franchise.” McBea leaned forward a bit. “And that’s why I called Pat Brisson. That’s why I’m giving you an idea of where I stand. You’ve earned your right to choose, so you also deserve to know what those choices are.”
Tavares didn’t reply, and he didn’t read the paper McBea handed him. But he did fold it very carefully into perfect quarters and slip it into the pocket of his pullover. Then he sighed and said, “You know - I thought you were going to give me the Tradition and History speech.”
McBea laughed. “Wrong clipboard, John. But I’ll run off some copies for you to hand out to the guys.”
Tavares shook his head with a smile. McBea didn’t need to do that - Cal Clutterbuck had a killer impression of McBea making it, culled from his introductory press conference. “I’m gonna grab some lunch.”
“Thanks for hearing me out, John.” The two shook hands. “We won’t discuss it - but at least promise me you’ll think about it.”
Tavares paused at the door and folded his arms. “I’ve thought about it for months now, Mike. Now I’m going to think about hockey.” Then he left.
McBea walked back and sat on the chaise and thought, You just had to go for the line, didn’t you, dummy.