Ilya Kovalchuk’s retirement is the start of a new era for the weary franchise. It is also another severe blow to a team that lost Parise two years ago, and will likely lose the teams living avatar Martin Brodeur in another year or two.

For this season with a paltry passel of players on the left wing remaining, they may want to look within or to a trade to add some sort of replacement there. Stop gap measures might include two time evil Alexi Ponikarovsky, Danny Cleary, and Vinny Prospal. Each could help offensively but all are good for no more than two season. Kaspars Daugavins might be a solution for a depth winger, and Steve Begin has at times been an excellent penalty killer.

When it comes to acquiring offensively gifted forwards, the Devils are handicapped a bit by being in the same division as three of the NHL’s top six spenders. Of them Columbus probably doesn’t have the NHL ready talent to spare if they are serious about a playoff spot, Philadelphia can only rely on its forwards this season to get fans into the building. Pittsburgh is a wildcard though. The Penguins are very slightly over the cap with 12 forward 7 defenseman and 2 goalies signed. With as much money as the team will be spending on Malkin, Crosby and Letang starting in the 2014-15 season, they might get proactive and move a player for prospects and or picks. Moving Neal would be a blow to the teams offense, but would free up five million in space to add much needed defensive depth.

Out west, the Canucks are slowly edging towards the end of the Sedin era, and with Hovart likely to make the roster this fall, one or two players on that team might see themselves moved for chips. Ryan Kesler is a versatile two way forward who played college hockey, which Lou Lamoriello is known to like. The Dallas stars have shown they are willing to move some of their older players, Erik Cole could probably be had fairly cheap, and possibly Ray Whitney.

In their own system last season’s most productive AHL forward was Joe Whitney.  Whitney is a Reading, Ma native listed at five foot six, 165lbs and is two years removed from a four year stint with Boston College. 26 goals, 25 assists for the Albany Devils last season. After departing the Sarnia Sting, Reid Boucher put up five points in 11 games last year, after putting up 95 points including 62 goals in his OHL campaign. That’s about the extend of their systems depth.

The best forward left on the market who are not left wings include Grabovski, Jagr, Kyle Wellwood, Damien Brunner and Brad Boyes. If they want to roll the dice on success Max Sauve has always had nice hands if poor luck, Anthony Stewart is a first round pick who never managed to get into the right lineup, Chuck Kobasew shows up for every game with his hardhat and work boots, Simon Gagne has skill of poorish health and Nathan Gerbe is one of those Hockey East guys.

The biggest story of the NHL off season isn’t a trade, an offer sheet, an unfortunate death or even an absurd signing. It is the retirement of one of the most talented players in the NHL. Ilya Kovalchuk announced he would be leaving the NHL and returning to Russia through the New Jersey Devils website today. His official reason of wanting to be with his family is certainly a key component, but no one, even if they expect to recoup it walks away from the nearly eighty million he was due as Devil over the next few years easily.

The other contributing factors are a bit murkier, but we can certainly narrow down key components, the first of which is how little success such an enormous talent has had in the NHL. With Atlanta he was surrounded by rosters most of the USHL or CHL teams could have handily defeated in a seven game series, possibly in a sweep. The team continually drafted high despite being in a division that was the NHL’s punching bag for almost a generation. Two years ago when he finally got to the Stanley Cup finals after a season in which he should have won the Hart, the Ted Lindsey and gotten votes for the Selke, his hopes of winning the Cup were exsanguinated, largely by his own teammates and a body that had given more than it should be called upon to. Given the well documented financial troubles of the New Jersey Devils, he had to be convinced he was no going to get back to the Finals any time when he had a claim at being a top ten NHL talent.

Recognition is another element. Kovalchuk is good. He’s more than good, he’s the definition of elite. In his career he’s played with exactly one top ten offensively talented center, and he didn’t have Marc Savard for long. In the early years of his career he played with little in the way of NHL talent of any description. In his most recent four seasons he’s played in a very defensive minded system where he played 24-26 minutes a night with large amounts of it shorthanded. He leaves the NHL with two fifty goal season, three forty goal seasons, and four thirty goal seasons. Only once was he a first team All Star, he never won a single Hart trophy or Ted Lindsay, and much of that can be laid at the feet of the Canadian media and their xenophobia. Russian players get as much negative attention from the Canadian media today as Russia itself did from America during the Cold War. If a Russian player does something questionable or negative it will be talked about for years to come, a Canadian or Swede who did the exact same thing might have to suffer through a week of questions and recriminations. He’ll leave the NHL a point per game player, a solid two way player, and probably never even get mentioned for the hall of fame.

NHL stability is another question that has to have pooped into his head a time or two. During his there were two lockouts, one resulting in a whole season being wiped away. The team who drafted him had ownership more interested in pinching pennies and suing each other than in building a viable franchise. The team he was traded too and eventually signed to a long term deal with was bankrupt. The Coyotes were forever unstable. The Islanders are still a question mark. The Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets had issues that threatened their existence. The Thrashers were moved to Winnipeg. All Star and Winter Classic games, a major source of league revenue, were cancelled. And of course players have had to give back money to the league more than once.

The Devils will go on without him, as will the league, neither will be better off without him.

 

Not long ago the Goldwater Institute released a statement outlining their position on the current Phoenix Coyotes leasing agreement. In their statement the watchdog group has failed to find fault with the agreement for the Renaissance Sports and Entertainment to take over the team, and management of the arena. The self-appointed constitutional guardians had torpedoed several deal in the past with threats of law suits. They are to most observers the single most culpable group in continually extending the decade long saga of the ownership trouble for the beleaguered franchise.

Their objections to buy downs or distributions of the city ownership of the Jobing.com Arena stem from what they state is a violation of the Arizona Constitution’s Gift Clause. The Goldwater Institutes strenuous objections to actual and or perceived violations of this clause likely cost the team the opportunity to build on their run to the Western Conference finals two springs ago. Had stable ownership been in place at the time, it is unlikely the soon to be Arizona Coyotes would have drafted 12th overall.

You can read the Goldwater Institutes entire statement, here.

Whether you believe or not that hackers are responsible for the idiotic things that have come out of Tyler Seguin’s Twitter account are the actions of hackers or not, it is pretty obvious he didn’t actually write them. Once upon a time I worked in the wireless industry, and hacking cell phones is neither new, nor all the difficult depending on what you want it to do.

There are even the “grey area” apps that will let an unscrupulous person install their spy app on a phone, and never show up in the menu or application list. These apps can do a number of things like forward all your messages to a preprogrammed address and then delete them from the sent file. They can copy passwords from various other apps like your bank, social media accounts and email.

News on hacking, virus-ware, and spyware isn’t hard to come across, and isn’t limited to any particular operating system. There are claims that some hacks can be accomplished with as little information as just a cell phone number. The mobile security software boom began about five or six years ago, and includes software for all the major operating systems from iOS, and android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone have security apps.

Let’s not forget what network was most visibly hacked. Twitter is an open source project that pretty much anyone can get the source code to directly from Twitter, and with a a little work likely otherways as well. We all know email hijacking and spoofing has been going on since the mid 90’s, its not even that difficult if you know a little bit about how browsers work, and people are foolish enough to have poor security on their accounts.

This is an occasional feature that will take a look at multiple issues, each in 100 words or less.

Perron for Paarjarvi & a 2nd

Magnus Paarjarvi had trouble cracking the top six in Edmonton as Hall, Gagner, and others emerged. Perron has been a very solid contributor in a heavily defensive system, it’ll be interesting to see which of these men flourishes in their new home. If Paajarvi can live up to his draft year expectations, he should be at or near the top of the St. Louis Blues scoring charts. Where Perron fits will be interesting, unlike most of his new teammates he does have some playoff experience.

Coyotes Add Assistant CoachNewell Brown is the newest desert dog. Brown has been coaching quite some time starting off in the college ranks with time at Michigan State and Michigan Tech since that time he’s worked international tournaments, and spent time in the Red Wings, Ducks and Blue Jackets systems. Adding a veteran NHL coach is an interesting move, I’d thought a team likely to get younger might go with a CHL, USHL or recent college coach. Bruins Buy High On RaskTuukka Rask is now the highest paid goaltender in the NHL. Unlike the goalies he is tied with, he has never been a finalist for an individual award, never won the Stanley Cup, doesn’t routinely start 50 or more games a season, and isn’t the best player on his team. Given the soft tissue injury history, an 8 year contract is a little bit risky. This isn’t quite another Dipietro contract, but certainly suggests incautious behavior by the front office.

As with most development camps day one was getting everyone’s feet wet. While some of these young men haven’t skated in weeks, a few managed to stand out.

Anthony Camara’s puck handling ability is far in excess of his first trip to camp. Since last time we saw him he made the Canadian World Junior Championship team, went a point per game in the playoffs for the Barrie Colts, and in general continued to be a menace on the ice.

Bruins development camp 7/10 Left to Right: #53 Ryan Fitzgerald, #78 Derek Docken, #80 Brian Ferlin, #82 Alex Cord, #64 Anton Bligh.  In net: #60 Zane Gothberg

Bruins development camp 7/10
Left to Right:
#53 Ryan Fitzgerald, #78 Derek Docken, #80 Brian Ferlin, #82 Alex Cord, #64 Anton Bligh.
In net: #60 Zane Gothberg

Anton Blidh is in his first camp for the Bruins and showed off a quick, hard shot on day one.

Brian Ferlin spent the school year at Cornell holding down the second spot in scoring on his team, and playing in more games than his freshman season. Smooth, purposeful movements with a clear confidence on the ice.

Alex Cord an invitee from the Mississauga Steelheads opened the door for physicality throwing the first, and loudest hit of the morning.

Matt Benning, while it is hard to judge defensemen at these camps it is obvious that Benning who outscored five other defensemen on the his Clark Cup USHL championship team came to camp very fit and notably poised. This fall Benning is off to Northeastern, and the man who will be coaching him spoke quite highly of Matt and his season.

Zane Gothberg watching Gotherberg in net is a lot of fun. He’s very precise in his movements. When he moves there’s no flailing to stop, when the puck hits his equipment he doesn’t have to search for the puck he just puts his hand down or takes control of the puck with the stick. Backwards, sideways or forwards he seems to always end up exactly where he needs to be.

Off Ice Notes:

Don Sweeny said the team expects 2012 1st round pick Malcolm Subban to turn pro this year. Organizational history indicates that he’ll likely spend the season getting a lot of reps split between Providence and the ECHL rather than minimal games at the NHL level. The assistant general manager also noted that the small size of the development camp this year will allow the players in camp more reps, and be a bit more draining.

Oldest to youngest the players will be competing to see who can knock the most back in the very near future. The Bruins have planned a bowling expedition in addition to their team building and community service projects.

The rumor mill insists that Peter Chiarelli is trying to move Brad Marchand. The Boston Bruins drafted Marchand 71st in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. Taken ahead of him were Phil Kessel in the first round, Milan Lucic in the second, Yuri Alexandrov who has even sniffed the NHL. Kessel is second in scoring in that draft, Milan Lucic is sixth in scoring, and Marchand is 16th.

When looking at Marchand it is important to note he’s played about 190 less NHL games than Lucic and almost 300 less than Kessel. Kessel has recently been flipped for Eriksson, Smith, Knight, Hamilton. Lucic has turned into a solid two way player who’s skating is so improved over his first year in the NHL he’s almost unrecognizable. Lucic has also been put on the teams top offensive line for the past four seasons. Marchand started on the fourth line, and has worked his way to the teams premier two way line alongside Patrice Bergeron. In the past three years he’s played with the ‘still maturing’ Tyler Seguin, and two grey beards; Jaromir Jagr and Mark Recchi. Neither of whom managed even respectable speed two shifts in a month.

Pure points wise, there is so little reason to move Marchand it is absolutely silly to even discuss it.

Using the past three seasons his points per game start at .532 ppg over 77 games with 21 goals, 2 of them powerplay and five shorthanded. This is the season he spent the first 20 games or so on the fourth line.  Two season ago with regular time on Bergeron’s wing he jumped to .732 points per game, and 5 powerplay goals. In the lockout shortened season he again jumped up the points per game meter even though he spent the tail end of the season with Jagr and a couple games without Bergeron, this tail off left him with a slim and disturbing .8 points per game. This in a year where the compressed schedule brutalized players across the NHL.

Career wise, within the same system, Marchand handily beats Lucic. Lucic is a solid .59 ppg taking all regular season NHL games played into the measure, and Marchand is at .61. When you add in speed, the ability to play both shorthanded and on the powerplay, and a willingness to play physically clearly he has value. At 25, he’s in about the prime of his career, his .8ppg this year were probably among the most efficient in the NHL as he played just under 17 minutes a night.

Price wise he’s making a middling $4.5m. Other players in the range are Ryan Malone, David Legwand, Vincent Lecavalier, Erik Cole and Tomas Fleishmann

  • Marchand produced a point about every 21.19 minutes of ice time including over 57 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Malone produced a point about once every 47.125 minutes of ice time including 19 minutes of short handed time.
  • Lecavalier produced a point about every 21.78 minutes of ice time including over 7 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Cole produced a point about every 36.384 minutes of ice time including over 38 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Legwand produced a point about every 35.36 minutes of ice time including over 51 minutes of short handed ice time.
  • Fleishmann produced a point about every 25.586 minutes of ice time including over 41 minutes of short handed ice time.

Of the players perpetually rumored to be available, some just don’t make sense even if you take theoretical off ice issues into consideration:

  • Evander Kane; very talented but has a cap hit that’s three quarters of a million dollars higher, just is as good defensively. And then there’s the Winnipeg media’s ever expanding repertoire of maneuvers to discredit him or drive him out of town.
  • Bobby Ryan; he was just moved and it highly doubtful the Senators would trade him within the division. He’s also a right wing where as Marchand has played his NHL career at left.
  • Dustin Byfuglien; a unique talent who can impact the game from defense or right wing. He’s got a larger salary than Marchand, and I just don’t see Julien configuring the lineup to play him at both wing and defense.
  • Kris Versteeg; a solid NHL forward who seems to wear out his welcome in short order, his salary is $100k smaller than Marchand’s.
  • Sam Gagner; while still unsigned, and a solid NHL player, I don’t see the Bruins trading for a player who is due a larger raise and hasn’t played in a system with a viable defensive element.
  • Keith Yandle; with ownership and the arena nailed down it is unlikely they start moving central pieces, especially not with the teams heavy reliance on their blueline.
  • Thomas Vanek; if the Sabres are really going to push their rebuild, he’s a logical player to move, but with one season left on a contract worth more than $7million, he’d create almost as many problems as he’d solve with just his contract.
  • Matt Duchene/Paul Stastny: both are solid offensive centers but neither fits the Bruins system, both need new contracts next year and both have question marks.

Is it possible to move Marchand and remain a contender? Yes of course. Is the return on him likely to be better at the same price or less? No, certainly not in terms of immediate NHL impact. If he is to be moved, there are only about five or six reasonable return, but it is unlikely anyone parts with them. Wayne Simmonds plays hockey perfectly to fit in Boston, Ryan Kesler shifted to wing would do well but Kesler’s injury history is long and distinguished, the Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene would be an instant fan favorite, and Marchand would give the Kings some much needed speed.

Is this a stupid rumor? Probably yes. But hey, when the hockey rumor mill gets boring, and you’ve analyzed stats  until your eyes cross there’s always People of Walmart, it is no better or worse than (most of) the NHL rumors but it is different.

The NHL’s compressed schedule has led to a number of weird changes in how things are done. The all in one day marathon draft, free agency being pushed back four days, and of course the Stanley Cup being handed out later than in living memory.

Worst Moves:

Ottawa Senators: I’m not sure what was done to tick Daniel Alfredsson off, but that has to count as one. Adding Joe Corvo who’s stick might as well be sponsored by a cookware line is another.

Minnesota Wild: Allowing Matt Cooke to wear Derek Boogaard’s number. Yes it is the number Cooke has worn for years, but the number could have enjoyed just a bit more time off until a more suitable player came along.

 

Best Moves:

Montreal Canadiens getting Carey Price a new goalie coach. With the regression shown over the last two seasons by the netminder it is obvious something isn’t working right in Montreal. The defense is better now than it was three seasons ago, so it is hard to blame them.

Boston Bruins Introducing Jarome Iginla who is signed for just one season, who is a hall of famer, and who has spent his career dealing with major market media before Loui “Tyler Seguin’s Replacement” Eriksson who’s contract runs for three years and who waived his no trade contract to go to Boston.

Saint Louis Blues adding Derek Roy gives them a center with 1st line offensive upside that should allow them to climb into the top half of the league in scoring.

Buffalo Sabres getting Tallinder back, with whom Tyler Myers played his best hockey. If Tallinder does nothing other than get Myers back to form, his salary is well spent..

Ottawa Senators landing Bobby Ryan for no major components.

Anaheim Ducks getting out of potential cap jail by moving Bobby Ryan and getting potential

 

Despite my frequently disparaging remarks about cerntain other major sports, hockey isn’t the only sport I like. Football (the real stuff, not the hands free nonsense) has major appeal for me. The water polo is actually pretty interestin when the Olympic roll around, and rugby either in seven man or larger teams is always worth putting on. None of those however are really comparable to hockey, and none are set up for comparisons and cross-pollination as much as lacrosse.

One of the things that struck me as I watched some college and professional lacrosse was the difference in stick sizes. Defenders have longer sticks than attackers allowing them to do their job better. Then there is the width of the stickhead, that’s the interesting part. They tend to vary. One of the most frustrating things when watching NHL hockey is how often pucks bounce over the stick of defenseman at the point. During even strenth play this is annoying, during the powerplay it is maddening.

Why not allow NHL defenseman to play with sticks with a taller blade? An two or even three inches higher blade should increase offensive zone time, and reduce the dangerous nuetral zone play.  With bad ice in numerous buildings especially late in the season pucks traveling to or near the blueline as pucks are cycled from hih to low anything that allows teams to keep the action going in the offensive zone is a plus for the team and the league as a whole. Another aspect of containing those bouncing pucks is the difference between where the blueline is now and where it traditionally had been. The extra distance means that players deep in the offensive zone have to apply more force to the the puck to get it all the way out to the defensemen. The extra force makes the puck more likely to bounce or simply travel above the ice the entire distance.

Not only will taller blades help keep pucks in, they will allow defenseman to take better shots on those bouncing pucks. As perhaps the greatest coach in hockey history discovered, some times those shots on a puck that isn’t sitting perfectly flat can have a great impact.