Lias Andersson and Rangers situation filled with misinterpretations and inferences

Andersson (Getty Images)
Andersson (Getty Images)

This Lias Andersson saga is starting to reach a boiling point. With each passing tweet and article, it feels like tinder is being added, but to what exactly? That’s the biggest problem with this whole situation and for people expecting the Rangers to come out and speak publicly about it, don’t hold your breath.

The Rangers are often regarded as one of the classiest organizations in the NHL by players past and present. They are simply not going to comment on Swedish to English interpretations, to which Lias Andersson has already had to clarify about mental health. Through his agent, Darren Dreger was able to report that Andersson wanted it cleared up he does not have “mental illness.”

Of course in today’s environment this led to backlash about diagnosing mental illness, and ultimately Lias will have to publicly speak to it. Using his agent as a proxy will not satisfy many out there on social media. However, even through all the Swedish interpretations, I do not recall Lias saying he was battling mental problems. He did speak about healing his mind and that is understandable on many levels.

“Bullying”

Many reporters are covering this situation on both sides of the ocean. The main Swedish reporter is Göteborgs-Posten’s Johan Rylander. In an interview with USA Today, he explained how he’s known Lias since he was a kid and he’s never seen him so down. The most startling quote in that article was what he said about “bullying”.

Rylander asked Andersson directly if he had been bullied, to which Andersson responded, “I don’t know what to say or what to answer. It’s been tough; that’s it. I will tell you when it’s the right time.”… Rylander told the USA TODAY Network. “He was hesitating a long time when the bullying question was asked.”

LOHUD – USA TODAY

I know many will say bullying is bullying, but we are talking about two different cultures and languages. So I wanted to be very clear when I spoke to Johan myself for this interview. I explained that according to the National Centre Against Bullying they define it as “an ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm.”  With this definition, do you feel bullying is the right terminology here?

Johan replied that since he was not in the locker room this is something only Lias can speak to. “But something has really happened,” he explained, “especially since Lias no longer wants to play for one of the biggest organizations in the world.” I pressed if maybe Lias told him about specifics off the record to which Johan responded, “he only told me of a number of incidents, that have gotten him to lose the hunger for hockey. He also said he is going to speak – at the right time.”

Not much of this new from the USA Today interview, but at the same time it’s hard to infer bullying just because Lias took awhile to respond. For all we know that could mean Andersson was simply trying to formulate an appropriate response. I followed up with Johan if this could just be Lias feeling frustration about not being given a fair chance in his mind to which he replied, “No. He is very specific, that this might from the outside looks like a stupid hockey decision, but he’s got to think of his personal health.”

I reached out directly to Lias just to ask him if he wanted to clarify if “bullying” was a proper word to describe his situation. At this time, no response has been received. Until Andersson does address this question it will be the elephant in the room for the whole situation.

More Criticism

Lias Andersson (SVT)

As of late yesterday, Larry Brooks wrote a scathing piece about what’s going on and how the Rangers need to start talking. He even says that John Davidson should get on a plane and out to Sweden to discuss what happened.

So wouldn’t it make sense for Davidson to book a flight to Sweden and spend some time with Andersson? Would the player refuse? This shouldn’t be about appearances, or about taking a strong stance. This should be about fact-finding, with perhaps a dollop of compassion added to the mix. The Rangers have an obligation to themselves to learn as much as possible about what apparently went so wrong with Andersson, a player who was drafted in that prime position more because of his character than his talent. 

NY POST

I spoke with Johan about his feelings on the entire situation and he summed it up for me here. “I’m surprised how down Lias actually is, and how clear his father Niklas is in his statements. First of all, Lias is a down to Earth kid whom I never heard complain or said anything negative regarding the sport of hockey. Second of all; His father is very low key, almost shy, very toughtful and to hear him say, “Of course he is going home! I wouldn’t have gone and picked him up otherwise!” is to me very surprising.” Since he knows the family so well, I asked if he thought Lias would be receptive to a meeting with JD to which he felt he would.

Physical Injury

When it comes to physical injury, Darren Dreger said on the latest Insider Trading that Andersson is scheduled to have a small procedure that will keep him out a few weeks. Johan gave me more specifics about it saying both feet are an issue, but the left was worse around the pinky toe area. “He can’t fit his feet in a pair of skates and is seeing a specialist to have an x-ray and to rule out any broken parts. He also paid Bauer Hockey a visit to mould skates exactly to his feet.”

Moving On

As we wrapped up the interview, I wanted to know if he felt Lias’ immediate hockey future was in the SHL this season. Of course, there’s interest but unless they can come to an agreement on being loaned it’s irrelevant. What’s intriguing to know is that SHL teams are lined up. “They have a bunch of offers,” Johan stated. “If he is supposed to start over in Sweden his former teams Frölunda and HV71 are two alternatives. Or maybe Färjestad, where his younger brother Noah just made SHL debut.”

Through it all Lias has not lost sight of the ultimate goal. “I think he wants to play in the NHL with a team that treats him well.” Johan continued, “and to show that he is actually worth being the number seven pick in the draft.” According to Bob McKenzie the Rangers are getting offers but won’t make a move unless they get the right prospect in return.

As for how this story will end? Lias will tell his side and the Rangers will tell theirs. When it is all said and done it will be up to each individual to decide. For me, all I want is the best for both sides and an ending that works for everyone.

Updated with JD’s Comments today: