Tripped Up Again? The Title Quest of Marian Hossa....

Dave DunseithContributor IJune 12, 2009

DETROIT - MAY 31:  Marian Hossa #81 of the Detroit Red Wings is tripped up between Sergei Gonchar #55 and Maxime Talbot #25 of the Pittsburgh Penguins  during Game Two of the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals at Joe Louis Arena on May 31, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Based on how the 2008-09 NHL season has unfolded, that has become the story of Marian Hossa.  Hossa made a decision this year that has put him in a very unique position seldom if ever seen in the sports world .  A situation that could either pay off large dividends....or leave Hossa with a lingering legacy of losing.

Rewind to last year at the trade deadline, where the Atlanta Thrasher announced that the pending UFA  was available for the right price. A bidding war erupted with GM's frantically trying to acquire the skilled Slovak from the fledgling Thrashers with the Caveat that Hossa could end up being a "Rent a Player" due to his contract being up at years end.  When the dust settled at the end of the day, the Penguins emerged the winner of the Hossa sweepstakes, and paid a kings ransom to the Atlanta Thrashers to land the Slovakian Sniper for a potential run at the title.  Going the other way in the deal were Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Top Rated Prospect Angelo Esposito and the Penguins 1st Round Draft choice in the 2008 entry draft.  There were high hopes in the Igloo that they had acquired the key piece to the championship puzzle.  It seemed a match made in heaven with the Sure Hands Hossa riding shotgun along one of the premier set up men in Sidney Crosby to form a dynamic duo.  It looked like Ray Shero's immense gamble might pay out in spades, when the Penguins emerged as Eastern Conference champs and reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since the 1991-92 season, the tail end of their Back to Back titles.  But it was all for not when the Penguins were dispatched in 6 games by the mighty Detroit Red Wings.  Then later that summer, the unthinkable happened.  Hossa, spurned a long term offer from the Pens along with many other lucrative multi million dollar and multi year contracts to sign with the team he felt had the best shot at winning a title. That team was the same one who he had just a month earlier come up short against, Winged Wheel themselves.  On the one hand, it is admirable that Hossa traded guaranteed money for a shot at championship glory, sacrificing personal gain for a shot at immortality, which is very rare in this age of the "guaranteed, show me the money, we'll sign now and try and earn it later" style of contracts being offered in all professional sports. 

So ultimately, Hossa's decison was to trade long term, guaranteed money with a possibly lesser team for a chance to play with a bona fide contender with a legitamite shot at Lord Stanley's Mug. But in the end, if the Wings should fall to the Penguins tonight, then Hossa will end up being a 2 time loser?!   He has indeed possibly put himself into quite a quagmire going into next year where he will need to negotiate his next contract with a new suitor.  The problem is, that by not winning last year with Pittsburgh, and if he does not win this year with Detroit, (and oddly enough, even when his junior team did capture a Memorial Cup, as he was out with a knee injury), will Hossa be labelled a championship liability? If so, will anyone be willing to shell out large dollars in a new contract for a Regular Season Hero who turns into a Post Season Zero?  Maybe Hossa's gamble was indeed more risky than the Penguins made on him a year ago