The power of Prospect Lust is an amazing thing, as the last post clearly indicates people will go well beyond the bounds of reasons to express their affection for prospects. It doesn’t matter If the prospect is average or exceptional, they just have to be what that fan thinks their team needs, or in some cases just belong to their team. This lust can and should be harnessed.

Empty seats are kinda a big deal. Even if the tickets are sold, people who aren’t their don’t buy concessions, sorry its just physics. The NHL and the various North American Junior leagues can do something about that. It’s actually pretty simple.

A seven game prospect tournament with teams picked by the two organizations with the lowest home attendance percentage. Both teams would be made up of recently undrafted players. Training camps in their home arenas, lowered ticket prices for the tournament. Hell, add in special jerseys for the series.

Key points:

  • Winning organizing/host team gets 10 days to draft any two of the players with standard 1st round contract rights.
  • No player drafted from these two teams would count towards the 50 contract limit until their second year in the NHL.
  • Ideally to be held between the NHL entry draft and July 1st or alternatively in late August prior to NHL and AHL camps opening.
  • Locally and nationally televised.
  • Local teams coaches, players and prospects placed where they can be seen frequently.
  • 50 local fans in each city win free NHL Center Ice for the next season.
  • 5 Winners of 2 seats in a 10 game pack in each city during tournament.
  • After the winning and losing team, all other draft ordering would be random

Last season despite all the hoopla, Winnipeg was one of the lowest teams, but others have been Phoenix who have a nice large arena that can be filled with sufficient excitement. Those two to three extra dates in each city by themselves will make an impact on the bottom line, and one or more of those prospects could turn into major names in the sport.

Some  undrafted players you might know:

  • Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers
  • Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild
  • Stephane DeCosta of the Ottawa Senators
  • Ruslan Fedotanko of the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Rich Peverley of the Boston Bruins, Atlanta Thrashers, and Nashville Predators
  • Teddy Purcell of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings
  • Marty McSorley of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, and others
  • Andy McDonald of the St Louis Blues and Anaheim Ducks
  • Josh Gorges of the Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks
  • Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks
  • Curtis Glencross of the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks
  • Geoff Courtnall of the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, Vancouver Canucks, St Louis Blues, and Edmonton Oilers
  • Dan Boyle of the San Jose Sharks
  • Adam Oates, Hall of Famer, Washington Capitals head coach and alumni
  • Martin St Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames

Clearly there is a lot of talent that is overlooked in the draft, and some excitement that can be generated for teams in need. Killing two birds with one stone, and possibly putting the All Star Shinny in its final resting place all in one fell swoop? A game that harnesses prospect lust, tags the love of the underdog, and fills arenas? Sounds like a win.

The newest feature for PuckSage.com is written by other people, and I just take credit for publicizing their brilliance.  Yep They Said It will appear at highly irregular intervals for your education and dissection.

@ I wouldn't trade one Dougie Hamilton for two Ray Bourques.
@ShraderD
Dan Shrader

 

Apparently having five games of NHL experience makes you worth twice as much as someone with a fistful of Norris trophy wins, a Stanley Cup championship and a hall of fame induction.

This is a semi-regular feature that will run until I get bored. This feature will highlight a player on track for a much better season than recent history indicates. 

When the Collective Bargaining Agreement was still a matter of speculation, one of the things that nearly everyone thought was a give was the much ballyhooed “penalty free buyout”, because as we all know the best way to teach responsibility is by having a handy stack of get out of jail free cards free for the taking. Three names topped the list of probable buyouts. Rick “10 Games and Bust” DiPietro, Scott “I Score Yearly” Gomez and Wade “The  Seven Million Dollar AHL Defensemen” Redden. To the bemusement of many, DiPietro is the only one who was not bought out.

After being bought out the speculation in most quarters was that the 35 year old blue liner would head to Europe, retire or possibly get a job in someones farm system. Unless last years 109 point totaling, St Louis Blues count as someones farm team, Wade Redden has done a bit better than just finding another seat on the bus.

With 10 percent of the season gone he’s got as many goals as Pavel Datsyuk or Daniel Sedin. He’s done this on a bit less ice time than either of them, and in a league he hasn’t played in for nearly three years. He’s picked up two goals, and two blocked shots in addition to a pair of goals in the three games of his NHL return.

Having left the NHL for the Connecticut Whale just with just seven games to go to make him a 1000 game man, the 2005-6 NHL +/- Award Winner must have doubted he’d ever make it. All things being equal, February 5th in front of his new home town crowd in St Louis will mark his 1000th game. If Lloydminster Saskatchewan has a happier native sun this week I’m not sure who he is.

The short answer to all questions of player value is: What ever they can get someone to pay for them.  In this case, Subban is what every team needs and wants: a highly talented, mobile, young defender with offensive skill, defensive savvy, and his best years ahead of him.

Q: So where does he rank in terms of both actual skill, and potential:A: In my book, top ten for NHL defensemen.

In whatever order you like, you can put Chara, Keith, Weber, Pietrangelo, Suter, Doughty ahead of him. The next tier of his true comparables is harder to gauge as that group has more and variability in strengths and weaknesses as well as age. That group includes the Capitals John Carlson, the Jets Dustin Byfugelien, Chicago’s Brent Seabrook, Canucks blueliner Kevin Bieksa, and when used properly, Jay Bouwmeester of the Flames.

Of his comparables:

  • John Carlson is the closest in age and accomplishments, Carlson is better defensively, Subban is a little faster and better offensively. Carlson is also 23 and signed a team friendly pretty fair contract with a cap hit of four million a year in a town where he was at the time about the sixth or seventh biggest name.
  • Kevin Bieksa is the oldest of his comparables, is the fifth or so biggest name behind Kesler, the Sedins and whichever goalies the press is hectoring between pillar and post out in Vancouver. No Cup for Bieksa, but one of the NHL’s more dependable blueliners and is not the type to give up even if a game is out of hand. He’s got a talent laden blueline around him and has for years, not a natively gifted offensively, but knows where he fits in on his offensive minded team. Cap hit of $4.6 million.
  • Jay Bouwmeester was when he signed his current contract with the floundering Panthers about the most talented player and arguably the biggest name on the team. He plays huge minutes including more than two minutes a night on each special team. He blocks over 100 shot each year. His cap hit is $6.8m
  • Brent Seabrook is often overlooked in Chicago even if a good look at the numbers doesn’t bear that out. Skilled going in both directions, Seabrook would be the cornerstone of a lot of franchises in the NHL. He has similar offensive numbers, on a more offensively gifted team, to Subban. Was a big part of the Cup run for Chicago a couple years back. 5.8million.
  • Dustin Byfuglien is the Jets most sizeable defeneman, played his part in hoisting the cup for the windy city, and aside from some injury issues has been a dynamic player since landing in Atlanta-now-Winnipeg. Less defensive acuity than Subban, just as good a skater with a lot more size, and possibly the best known player on his team. His cap hit is 5.2million.

A couple of contracts his agent is sure to bring up:

  • Erik Karlsson, who was mysteriously awarded the Norris, has almost negative defensive ability, and a contract for a $6.8 million cap hit, despite never making it out of the first round of the playoffs and playing a very soft game.
  • Dennis Wideman, the wildly inconsistent 29 year old now on his fifth NHL team was an All Star last season, carries a 5.25m cap hit, and no team he’s played for has ever made it out of the second round of the playoffs.
  • Dion Phaneuf who is one of those guys who was billed as the second coming of god in his early years, and is still picked for a Norris yearly buy some pundits has a large cap hit at 6.5million, but hasn’t seen a playoff game since 2009 and has been above average if not elite for the Toronto Maple Leafs since arriving.

If you crunch the numbers on his true comparables and leave out the laughably overpaid Karlsson, the Semin-level-enigma that is Wideman, and Phanuef, you’ve got an average cap hit of 5,280,000. That’s not really an unfair number for a short term contract, but realistically with only modest improvement in the next three years he should be in the running for legitimate Norris win, and a couple 50+ point seasons.

If your considering an offer sheet or trade for Subban, what does a roughly five point three million dollar contract offer sheet cost? That depends on where you expect to draft, and how well you’ve done drafting. For any amount in the price range of his comparables, assuming Montreal doesn’t match it, you’d be giving up selections in each of the first three rounds of the draft.

If you expect to draft in the top 10 this year, it might not be worth it.

If you expect to draft 11-20, you have to consider it very, very strongly.

If you expect to draft 21-30 this season you’re probably derelict in your duty if you don’t.

An immediate impact player, especially at a reasonable price and especially long term (four+ seasons) is better than potential that is years away. If as an organization you think Subban is the player that can put you over the top for a cup win, or even just generate enough buzz to sell 3000 more tickets a game you almost have to go for him via offer sheet or trade. If you’re in the division you can doubly impact the Habs by lowering their level of talent and improving yours. As poorly as the Habs have drafted in the last decade, them muffing on the draft is almost a given.

It’s that time of the season again when we need to take our first hard look at the NHL’s latest crop of wunderkids, studs, and future duds. Forwards, defensemen and goalies will be covered once more and compared to a well known NHL personality. This season the honor goes to the American Captain of last years Stanley Cup champions, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings. The perennial 20 goal man is different breed of player than past selections Eric Staal and Ilya Kovalchuk. Brown is known more for a physical style of play and two way play than either of the rookie watch alumni.

Dustin Brown:

  • Will play his 600th NHL game Monday night against conference rivals and playoff  sparring partners the Vancouver Canucks.
  • Has started off the season 0-1-1 and a -4 as the Kings remind everyone they partied like royalty all summer, and fall long and work through their Stanley Cup hangover 1-2-1.
  • The Kings sit in 12th place.
  • Brown has a team worst -4, trailing grinder Kyle Clifford by 10, and sophomore by 1 game Jordan Nolan by 8.
  • Has 9 hits, 1 blocked shot and just 7 shots on goal through four games.

Goalies:

  • No rookie goalies have played a game yet this season.

Defensemen:

  • Matt Irwin of the Sharks has been putting in work to the tune of 19:07 average TOI, and has picked up 2 points, including an even strength goal, half a minute of short handed time on ice, and an assist. On this his first tour of duty in the NHL, the 6’2 210 blueliner has handed out 6 hits and blocked 9 shots while doing his Hockey East and AHL experience proud. He’s second in rookie defensemen TOI and 3rd in scoring.
  • Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins is showing no signs of the collective malaise that sank Team Canada’s World Junior Championship hopes. The offensive minded blueliner has already earned some penalty kill time under the very conservative Claude Julien. The 11 shots he’s dished out go nicely with the 8 hits and three blocked shots. The 19 year old has averaged just over 18 minutes a night and is currently second in blueliner scoring.
  • Brendan Dillon of the Dallas Stars may not have scored any points yet, but the 16 hits through five games, make it quite certain the squads from Chicago, Detroit, Phoenix, Saint Louis and Minnesota know who he is. Two blocked shots add to the collection of bruises, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising that he leads his team in hits.
  • Justin Schultz of the Oilers was the most talked about college player in the NHL as he wound down his Wisconsin career and spurning the Anaheim Ducks who drafted him. He’s now skating behind the Oilers plethora of young talents at forward and has rolled to the top of the rookie blueliner scoring. The 22 year old is sitting atop the TOI pile with an average of 24:02.
  • Brendan Smith of the Detroit Red Wings is jumping back into the NHL this season. How well his recovery from last years derailing via a concussion. The soon to be 24 year old is not the only rookie on the blueline, and is middle of the pack in ice time on a blueline that has already skated nine defensemen and is one of just three to skate all four games.

Forwards:

  • Cory Conacher is leading the NHL rookie scoring race as a center for Tampa Bay. The highly compact forward has about the best mentor for someone his size in the NHL playing with Martin St Louis. 2 goals 5 assists and a +4 through four games makes the former Canisius College player another undrafted player in the running to leave league GM’s scratching their heads for decades to come.
  • Tye McGinn’s two points through 3 games for the struggling Philadelphia Flyers has got to be more than some expected from the 119th pick in the 2010 draft. The Fergus, Ontario native who spent last year in the AHL potted just 18 points in 63 game. The rookie is tied in team points with Sean Couterier, Ruslan Fedetenko, and Luke Schenn, and doing it in just over 11 minutes a night.
  • Nail “I do a great Theo Impersonation” Yakupov has brought a great deal of larger than life personality to the Edmonton Oilers. He’s also managed to pack in two goals, one a powerplay tally. This years 1st overall selection has spent 3:19 a night on the man advantage for one half of the Battle Of Alberta.
  • Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers much like his former Sea Dogs teammate Hamilton is off to a strong start. With 3 points in five games the former #3 pick is playing almost 16 minutes a night for the surprisingly struggling Sunrise squad.
  • Mikael Granlund of the Minnesota Wild is part of the avalanche of changes in this roster in the last year or two, and he’s popped in two points while earning more and more ice time. He started off at under 15 minutes and in his fourth game topped out at 18:30. The fancy Finn leads all rookies with an eye opening 56.4% faceoff win percentage.
  • Vladimir Taresenko is holding down a top spot with the Saint Louis Blues and is tied with Conacher for points, but has played one more game. The 21 year old Russian has been a big part of the Blues 4-1 start being even or +1 in all five games so far.

Worth watching:

  • Forwards: Mark Scheifele, Stefan Matteau, Sven Baertschi, Jakob Silfverberg.
  • Defensemen: Paul Potsma, Brian Lashoff, Mark Borowiecki, Korbinian Holzer, Patrick Weircioch

This feature will be run roughly every two weeks.

According to Boston Sports Desk the Detroit Red Wings Glenn Merkosky is perched above the ice watching attentively. Since neither of today’s teams will face the Wings this season unless it is in the Stanley Cup Finals, it would seem to indicate there is something more than simply prepping for an upcoming game.

If the Wings are looking to deal, one presumes youth and defense would be at the top of the graying, and defense deficient teams wishlist. Given how poor the Jets were at that last season, one has to wonder if maybe they have some latent interest in Grant Clitsome a former division rival, and or Aaron Johnson a journeyman with the ability to play a solid number of lower pairing minutes.

The end of the lockout brought more uncertainty than we are used to seeing at this time of year in the NHL. What we would get going into games was anyones guess. Sure a little more chaos than expected, but out of the swirl of bodies, we can already begin to extract some very important data.

  • There will be soft tissue tweaks: groin pulls, sprains and similar minor injuries galore.
  • Expect aggression. Expect it all the time. Players are in general healthier, stronger, and fitter than they have been in years. Guys like Doan, Hossa, Keith, Chara and other minute munchers who play big minutes have had three extra months to heal. Doan, St Louis, and Chara not only don’t have the drawn look they’ve shown in recent years they’re missing the circles under the eyes and are moving with a bounce and verve that you haven’t seen from them in four or five years.
  • Streaks will define seasons. With just forty eight games to be played, a six or seven game losing streak is all that it will take to fall behind permanently. A seven or eight game goal scoring streak will be enough to make a player’s season.
  • Save percentages will be lower than in recent league history. With so few of the NHL’s goalies having played at all since last April, or in some cases even before then, the first eight or ten games are really their training camp. Those first few games of practice will be much magnified in their season statistics.
  • Powerplay’s will be worse. Like tracking the puck, the systems teams use to make powerplays work will take time to get into sync. Obviously some teams have better shooters than others, but their teammates still have to recognize when shooters are open and get them the puck in time.
  • Bigger than expected seasons from guys injured late in the year, and in the playoffs should be expected. These guys had to work hard to rehab during the lockout, and most of them probably didn’t wind down even when it looked like we wouldn’t have a season.
  • You will see your team play 25-27 players minimum this season. Any minor injury that could be made worse will get a guy time off if the team thinks its a good idea. This extra evaluation for AHL guys could lead to a more active trade deadline.

Oh what an off season. The surprise firing of Brian Burke, the lack of contract for P.K. Subban which will no doubt fuel the “Subban to Boston” rumor mill, and Chris Bourque son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque coming home to Boston.

Buffalo: This is Ryan Millers last change to prove his Vezina winning season wasn’t an aberration. Twenty five or twenty six wins out of thirty to thirty games would shut up all his critics. The rest of the team still has to help by doing little things like scoring goals and defending each other on a consistent basis, which will be harder without pivot Derek Roy, but Hodgson and Grigorenko are very capable of filling that hole.

Toronto: With Burke out, and Nonis in, every player and member of the coaching staff should consider this an extended audition. Goaltending is still a big question. Playing coherently as a team and not as a collection of individuals is still a complete unknown to this team. Getting it together will be a monumental, but hardly impossible task. They remain, as they have for over a decade, a work in progress.

Montreal: Last season was pretty much the perfect storm of a season. Everything that could go wrong did, sometimes twice. Injuries, coaching chaos, front office shenanigans, a divided locker room, and all under the benevolent eye of the Montreal hockey media. The good news for Habs fans is it would be nearly impossible to be that bad, that injured, that messed up and that chaotic two seasons in a row. American Galchenyuk and Armstrong of Saskatchewan bring new blood and loads of potential help to the team.

Ottawa: The Senators voted themselves into the playoffs last year and someone rewrote the definition of best defenseman so Karlsson could win, but last year they got in with a lot of help from Buffalo and Montreal who both filled their pants more often than they filled the net. The team itself likely isn’t worse than last year, but they will be playing against better competition.

Boston: While some area scribes think the whole season comes down to Rask for the Bruins, its not that simple. The Bruins have three defensemen they can rely on: Chara, Seidenberg, and Ference, and then bunches and bunches of questions. McQuaid has been steady when healthy, Boychuk is up and down, and the rest of the platoon aiming for the 4-7 slots all have big, big question marks. Warsovsky is not a gifted skater and by comparison even David Krejci is a hulking behemoth. Hamilton hasn’t played a single professional game, and was just a part of the Canadian meltdown at World Juniors. Aaron Johnson is now his sixth NHL stop (assuming he plays in the NHL here) at age 29, and has only crossed 50 games twice. Those are the best bets for those slots but anything can happen.

Top Dogs: Boston and Buffalo duke it out until the end, both Khudobin and Rask are capable of playing red hot for weeks, and the guys behind them are itching for them to fail.

Despite a summers worth of debate over who would be signed or traded where, and not much other than the bolstering of the Wild lineup happening, this division isn’t as open and shut as it once was.

 

Avalanche: Does the Sophomore jinx strike last years sensational rookie and new minted team captain Gabriel Landeskog? Probably not, he worked his way to the top and didn’t coast in on skill alone. Still, if Stastny and Duchene don’t play to the level they should, this team sputters and spins its wheels all season. They’ve got a very young defense, and questionable depth up front. This team can be a Cinderella or Honey Boo Boo this season, I’m not sure anyone knows which.

Calgary: Jarome Iginla has always had bad Octobers, which is great since that month will be omitted from the season. If half of Alberta’s hockey fans get their wish the extra away from hockey will be enough to turn the clock back a few years on this aging superstar for the duration of this shortened regular season and the playoffs.

Edmonton: Justin Schultz makes a nice addition to a blueline, it would be nice if there was a mentor there to help him reach full potential. While they are likely to avoid drafting #1 overall, that isn’t saying much. For reasons that elude me they jettisoned another coach and will be forcing several youngsters to learn still another new system. They will frighten opposing defenses and frustrate hometown fans defensively.

Vancouver: I’m still not convinced after the trades at last years deadline, the non trade of Luongo, and the curious addition of Vandermeer and Barker on defense if this team has decided who it wants to be when it grows up. Between lack of identity, the goaltending drama that will plague them, and a corporate lack of mental toughness from ice to corner office, I don’t hold out any real hope this team will do anything in the post season even though they will get there pretty much just for showing up to 25 games this season.

Minnesota: The big, big, big off season spenders, and likely winners. Parise is in the fold, Suter is in the fold. They have all the talent and warm bodies they need for two or even three good lines. Like Lindy Ruff, the question has to be asked of Mike Yeo, can he successfully use a team with this much more talent? When they were healthy last season they led the West, when their roster became a succession of “Who’s he?” they crashed. Healthy this team is the playoffs.

Top Dogs: The Canucks will likely skate to another nearly meaningless division title, but willl be pursued and perhaps, just perhaps passed by the Wild.