Pleauing in the Wind
Keith Tkachuk has filed a grievance against the St. Louis Blues for suspending him because he “failed his physical” at training camp.
Far be it from me to defend Keith Tkachuk. I don’t think much of guys who show up in training camp fat and out of shape. It’s an insult to his teammates and to his team. This post is definitely not a defense of Keith Tkachuk.
It is however an indictment of Larry Pleau for badly mishandling the incident. Let’s suppose you ran the St. Louis Blues. A player who is critical to your team’s fortunes comes into training camp fat and out of shape. He makes $7.6 million, a figure that is so ridiculous he can’t be traded. What do you do with your fat star on a ridiculous contract?
Either of the first two choices is fine with me. I’d keep it in house myself and hope nobody notices but I can understand a decision to go public when the player is particularly thickheaded. The last thing I do is take Larry Pleau’s approach. Keith Tkachuk is 100% in the wrong, but that doesn’t make Pleau even a tiny bit right. His job is to make the best of a bad situation. He does not have a mandate to take a bad situation and make it worse.
First, Pleau presents Tkachuk with a winnable grievance. What part of the physical did he fail? Usually a player who fails a physical fails because the medical people don’t think he is capable of playing. Who says he can’t play fat? Apparently the only thing the Blues did was weigh him. They do not have strength or conditioning data. Unless the Blues suspend every player who shows up overweight, they may have problems before an arbitrator. Furthermore, they do not routinely suspend players for failing physicals.
Second, instead of making an example of him in front of his teammates (who might enjoy watching him throw up) his teammates are the ones who are publicly defending him.
Third, Tkachuk is still a player who is critical to the team’s fortunes, he is still a player who is making $7.6 million a year and he still can’t be traded. Instead of Tkachuk feeling ashamed of himself for letting the team down – the emotion I would try to provoke in him – he is angry at the boss and creating an even bigger distraction. If it gets that far, the hearing will be very bitter and Pleau will have to say a lot more than “He failed his physical and he’s been suspended. That’s all I’ll say.”
Peter Drucker once described leadership as a foul weather occupation. It’s easy to pilot the ship when the sailing is smooth. The test is always about the performance in a storm. Keith Tkachuk blew an ill wind at the St. Louis Blues and instead of trying for a safe harbour Larry Pleau steered his ship right into the choppiest waters.
I’m not impressed.