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VHL 30 in 30 #25: Barring None

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Barring None

Back in the Season 7 VHL Entry Draft, a winger by the name of Nick Barretta was drafted by the Toronto Legion in the second round. He was a first-generation member who during his brief VHL stay proposed and even enacted some innovations and also seemed to be a fairly promising player. However, the key point here is that his stay was brief and after a few bad seasons to start, Barretta retired, failed to produce quality re-creates and in the eyes of the VHL community fell off the face off the earth by Season 10 and was quickly forgotten soon after. It seems in real life Barretta spent the time off living in Japan, among doing other exciting things, and he suddenly came back just at the end of Season 19 to enter the S21 entry draft with a new winger Evgeni Fyodorov. He was very much an unknown quantity for the league, but would go on to leave a lasting mark on the league's third decade and its future.

Nick was undoubtedly an interesting character here in the VHL, quite passionate to improve the league and his player and perhaps overly passionate in the eyes of some. Nevertheless, there are plenty of positives to take from his what would become four-and-a-bit-season stay as an active in the league and laying this out like a bit of an essay, that's the side of the argument I'll start with.

On the surface, we have Barretta's player, Russian sniper Evgeni Fyodorov, who was drafted fourth overall by the Calgary Wranglers in S21 and after an extra VHLM season with the Ottawa Ice Dogs became a VHL mainstay from S22 to auto-retirement in S28. He was a bit of an off-the-board pick, perhaps, for the Wranglers, and ended up staying just the length of his entry-level contract in Calgary, but in two VHL seasons he was crowned top rookie, then hit the 100-point mark and helped the team to a Continental Cup in S23, as well as being a positive locker room presence. After signing a free agent contract with the Riga Reign, he became their short-lived face of the franchise and GM, but was off to Davos to help them win a second straight cup in S25, before spending his depreciated seasons with Seattle and Riga again (in his first season with the Bears, he co-won the Joe Malone Memorial Trophy as the league's leading scorer). He finished his career with 346 goals and 705 points in 504 games, very impressive totals, 26th in points and 14th in goals (as of S30), and top three among his generation (roughly S19-S24). Nick was always a promoter of his player and his player build, which clearly was effective, and had a quick start, setting still-standing offensive records in his second VHLM season and almost single-handedly leading Ottawa to a Founder's Cup championship.

Evgeni-Malkin-shines-as-Pittsburgh-Pengu
Evgeni Fyodorov: one of the most prolific forwards of his generation

Of course, there was much more to Nick Barretta than just a good player. Though his ideas back in Season 8 or sometime equally as long ago were long forgotten by the time he returned, he did essentially pick up from he left off. In his pre-draft season he helped significantly improve the league's portal at vhlsim.net thanks to which I just looked up Fyodorov's stats. It added a new professional look to the VHL to put it above rival leagues but Nick Barr didn't stop there. He was an advocate of many reforming ideas of the third decade, including the change of the finance system proposed by a man he was on very good terms with, former commissioner Scotty Campbell. And last, but definitely not least, he promoted and created the new league website to which the league moved late in Season 23. It was well timed with some severe problems (since fixed) on the old site and it was just in general a considerable improvement and huge step forward for the VHL. There have been some mishaps every now and then since, but nothing too damaging and looking at the old website every now and then, I for one am definitely glad the move took place.

"He did many great things in his boom years here.  He managed Evgeni Fyodorov, who was one of the brightest up and coming players of that time.  He wrecked the VHLM after being drafted, which was underrated because the people on that Ottawa team had a lot of fun that season, and their successes that season may have played a part in the future successes of the players on that team, and Fyo was a huge part of that success.  Then of course he had an outstanding rookie season, and he played a huge role in Calgary's Continental Cup victory in S23.  And of course, Nick Barr's greatest achievement was building a new home for the VHL, and spearheading the portal project." - Jardy Bunclewirth

"Well in terms of his actual player, his VHLM performance with Fyodorov was certainly something to remember. But when he won the Continental Cup with the Wranglers he was also excellent and Fyodorov was a great player. But overall, I would definitely say his establishment of the forum we're currently on. To think he barely spent a month on this, if he was still with us I can only imagine where the boards would be in terms of development. It's really a shame, I hope one day he can come back. Nick was a great member." - Kyle Dowd

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Nick catalysed the biggest move in VHL history

However, as you may have guessed or likely know if you know about the events of Season 24, not everything is nice and fluffy about Nick Barretta's impact on the VHL. In the first weeks of Season 24, shortly after the move to the new site and the subsequent off-season, which saw Evgeni Fyodorov be a highly sought-after free agent that surprisingly signed with the struggling Riga Reign to become their GM, Barretta unexpectedly disappeared from the VHL and has yet to return. It was abrupt and one of the strangest disappearing acts in league history, adding greatly to the arsenal of his naysayers and severely depleting the ranks of his supporters. Every now and then, notably at times of need with the new site, the league commissioners have been able to contract Nick, but apart from that he left for good, leaving us with large and barely known systems like the portal and the new website.

For some, his departure was a great positive. Nick Barr was known for his outspokenness and numerous arguments and though it undoubtedly added to overall league activity and helped push through many ideas, it turned away other members. He also wasn't the best diplomat for sure and often didn't handle matters in a civilised manner at all, including quickly dropping down to insults or large rants aimed to gain popular support. He often succeeded but often didn't help his image and could also be seen targeting various members, including long-time VHLer Joey Kendrick. Like all arguments, those between the two never really had any winners or losers and neither was really right or wrong for anyone except themselves and their closest supporters. Had Barretta handled his ways of communication better he would have been missed more than just a valuable technician for the league, as otherwise he has again been lost in the VHL's endless history. There were always two sides to Nick and that further secured his position as one of the league's most interesting members, ever.

"Well he talked a lot of trash, not that I really cared but he definitely was a love or hate member. So I suppose I can see why people wouldn't really like him much around the boards. But I definitely have to say him leaving almost like 2 weeks after he accepted the GM role in Riga without giving anyone a heads up was the worst. If he would've told us it wouldn't have been much of a big deal. I just wish that he could've helped Jardy, David, and Sterling a little bit more in terms of how to add to the boards more." - Kyle Dowd

"He was certainly a controversial figure at times, especially when it came to Joey Kendrick (by the way, have you ever typed "kendrick" in between two colons?).  But that wasn't so much a low point, because the VHL will always have its controversial members.  I guess his lowest point is just when he just completely disappeared without notice or reason, leaving us with a brand new website that no one else has much knowledge of.  He was extremely difficult to contact after the fact too, though he did pull through in one or two of the scarier moments.  I flirt with inactivity all the time, but I would never abandon and harm the VHL in the process, and he kind of did a little bit." - Jardy Bunclewirth

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Barr wasn't one to avoid a good fight

Continuing with the string of Barretta's cons, there's of course his tenure as Riga's GM to note as well. For all the hype of this highly active member becoming the first GM since the franchise's relocation to Riga to not be Dustin Funk or one of his proteges, Nick put forth a very underwhelming performance and didn't deliver much to the Reign cause at all. His only transaction was trading a useless third-round pick for the equally useless Cameron Davidson and that was it up until the moment he picked up his things and left without any notice. The struggles of the Reign to make the playoffs before and after Barr (their lone appearance since S21 coming in S27), as well as their revolving door of General Managers and poor drafting will be discussed at much greater length in a soon-to-come episode of 30 in 30, but it will always be up for debate how much Nick's time there affected the team's condition. He definitely didn't help, but did he particularly hinder? It's a strange question and it would really be better for everyone if it didn't have to be asked, but when mentioned, it's always another item on the list of Barretta's low points.

"You could probably make an argument that Barr is largely responsible for the extended failures of Riga since his departure.  He took over the team that was just beginning a rebuild, and needed stability more than anything else.  His sudden departure left the team scrambling to find a new replacement, thus beginning a domino effect of instability related failures.  However, his tenure was so short that you could also perhaps argue that he simply extended the inevitable by just one season.  When I started answering this question, I thought the latter, but now that I've laid it out as it happened, I'd be more inclined to believe the former to be true." - Jardy Bunclewirth

"I really don't think it was too bad, I think it gave Riga more of a bad look than anything. InstantRockstar stepped in after a while and then the rotating door that is Riga happened, it was unfortunate but I don't think it's the reason behind any of the trouble Riga is in today. That's my fault. And for that I'm likely never going to GM again." - Kyle Dowd

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Rare image of Barretta as Riga's GM

Lastly, there's his player Fyodorov. I discussed his achievements among Barretta's positives, but there was potential to do so much more. Fyodorov hit 100+ points in three of his seven seasons and came very close in his other ones, as well as winning two Continental Cups and being a key piece of playoff contenders for all of his career; that with just over 500 TPE. For as much as Nick Barr was involved in arguments related to VHL teams' and players' performances, he did always manage to have his player's performance to back him up and clearly, his player build worked. It's indeed scary to think of what a Fyodorov that would be active for a full career (that would be 1,000+ TPE) would achieve, as my lovely helpers Jardy and Kyle agree on, again.

"Hall of Famer, definitely. People don't realize that Fyodorov finished 200 points OVER a point per game, those are Hall of Fame numbers in itself. It's honestly unbelievable at that stage and parity in our league he still managed to put up those numbers after updating for only 4 seasons. If he would've updated throughout his career I think we'd be discussing one of the best forwards of all-time right now." - Kyle Dowd

"He would have been a top player in the league for sure, probably even a Hall of Famer.  He had a number of successful seasons after Barr was already gone, and that alone may have been the only reason he didn't win any major hardware after S23.  Sort of a like a forward version of Emerson Hrynyk, only maybe not quite as good." - Jardy Bunclewirth

All in all, Nick Barretta was a strange character. I don't think anyone knows why he left except himself and now looking back at his departure five seasons later, it still makes no sense. There was a pretty large good side to Barr and most of his bad points are caused by the fact he so abruptly left. However because he did, his reputation has been tarnished considerably in the eyes of those who still remember him. The VHL has moved on without him as it's moved on without so many prominent members, be it Scotty Campbell and Kevin Brooks, Alex McNeil, Matt Bailey or Detective Zero, or any other, less notable member. Nick Barretta created an interesting story and was a large part of what happened in the league's third decade and we can thank him for having the site that we have now. His player was a good one and the comparison to Emerson Hrynyk is a fairly accurate one that I like (though Slobo, the member behind him, has remained an active part of our community). Now though, with one last reminiscing, it's definitely time to move on though without a doubt, most of the league including myself, would welcome Nick back is he ever decided to join us again.

End of Part 25
Special thanks to Jardy Bunclewirth and Kyle Dowd. Go fuck yourself David Knight.

 

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