August 22nd, 2012 — Uncategorized
The Edmonton Oilers have just inked Taylor Hall to a new contract. Despite the ownership demand in CBA negotiations, that contracts not exceed five years, Taylor Hall got seven. He also got six million a year. At six million, he’ll be making more than Selke Winner Patrice Bergeron, former scoring champ Martin St Louis, four time 30 goal man Phil Kessel, Calder winner Jeff Skinner, more than Ryan Kesler who is another Selke winner, and more than a few other names you might just recognize: Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and Dustin Brown, all of whom have their names on the Stanley Cup.
Aside from being first overall pick, what has Taylor Hall done? Yeah, I can’t think of anything either. Yes, he’s played in two NHL seasons producing forty-nine goals which isn’t anything to sneeze at. However, on a team that isn’t that deep andhas to rely on its forwards producing oodles of goals to have a chance to win he’s also gotten a lot more ice time than other players his age. More importantly, he’s only managed to be on the ice for three quarters of each season. In two seasons he’s missed time for shoulder and ankle injuries and a concussion. That’s Simon Gagne or Martin Havlat level fragility.
What are the Oilers suits thinking? If they’ve signed him that long for that much, what is Jordan Eberle going to command? Eberle is hands down the most game impacting young forward they have, based on the last two seasons the race isn’t even close. Eberle produced more points in less time on ice while playing the penalty kill two seasons ago in a close race, and last year was a walk off winner of the points chase. Based on production and good sense, Eberle who smacked aside the thirty goal mark in his second season should be worth at least another million a year.
Except this is the Edmonton Oilers we are talking about, good sense is not only not required it will likely be used against you. This team has a drafted, developed and retained one defenseman worth naming in the last decade and a quarter; Theo Peckham. That’s it, he’s the best they’ve done since Taylor Hall was 8 years old. They let Matt Greene of the Kings escape, and therein lies the total of their claims to drafting and developing the players you need most in the current NHL. Out of more than thirty tries, they’ve produced two viable NHL defensemen.
If the Oilers compensate Eberle around what Hall has gotten, they will still need to find a way to retain Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins, a viable defense, and of course figure out what to do with Yakupov, Schultz, Paajarvi, and others in the not to distant future. Anyone predicting the Oilers will either have to sacrifice talent to get people under the cap, or spend years icing a very unbalanced team is clearly more qualified to run a hockey team than anyone of the current Edmonton suits.
July 13th, 2012 — Uncategorized
The Krejci for X discussions across the Boston sports scene have never been hotter. Bobby Ryan is the current most lusted for player, but moving him, even for a good return creates issues of who slides into what position.
As we all know by now Chiarelli’s lust for drafting small skilled forwards is as great as making moves for defenseman no ones ever heard of. The problem isn’t so much a question of do we have someone else who can play center but a question of who makes the most sense. If this is “a bridge year” it almost doesn’t matter who is the other pivot. If the team is in “win now” mode or at least wants fans and media to believe it is, then it might matter a touch more. Off ice issues will have to be weighed in as well.P
The case for moving Seguin to center and putting him between Lucic and Horton is one that will likely make the rounds. The problem is all three can be regarded as shoot first players. I don’t claim to be the worlds foremost mathematician, but three shooters (not counting the defensive pair) and one puck doesn’t add up to well. Another consideration is that Seguin has so far shown to be indifferent at faceoffs. Moving Bergeron to between the two big bodies would put the maximum amount of size in the top nine forwards together, and they did look good together for stretches last year.
Moving either is less than desirable for another reason. Together the Selke winning Patrice Bergeron flanked by Brad Marchand and Tyler Sequin were the most consistent line on the team all season. Given the departure of Benoit Pouliot and assuming Krejci is indeed traded they could be the only trio of the top three lines to return.
Chris Kelly played the best hockey of his career last year and did some of it with Milan Lucic to his left. He’s never held a top or second line role for long since arriving with the Bruins. The same can be said for Rich Peverley who’s played up and down the Bruins lineup. Peverley’s offensive upside is a little bit higher, but he’s also had more health and consistency issues over his career. Plugging him into the pivot slot between Lucic and Horton would certainly improve both the speed and defensive quality of the line. Peverley has averaged top line type minutes in his career, but mostly at wing and not center and in Claude Julien’s system the center position is the lynchpin of transition, defense and offense.
There are also the AHL players and Juniors graduates. Ryan Spooner’s hands have been compared to Marc Savard. I’ll leave that comparison alone for a half decade or so, but say that they are pretty damn slick. Size and adjusting to the NHL are questions 1 and 1a, speed, skating, passing aren’t in question. Carter Camper and Max Sauve both earned time in Boston last year, both have played the pro game, both have done well. Sauve’s durability is issue number one, but like Spooner is an excellent passer and has a ready shot. Camper is also on the small side, but led the Providence Bruins in scoring despite the time he spent in Boston.
Also to be considered is new acquisition Christian Hanson who’s half season of NHL games is more than just about all his competition combined. At 6’4 and 222 he’s got size to spare over any of the other claimants. Then there is Alex Khoklachev. The skilled Russian is in the same size range as Spooner, Sauve and Camper. He signed his entry level deal at the recent Boston Bruins development camp, and also signed a deal that would will take him to the KHL. The KHL contract is for one year, to the club his father is the manager of. If however he makes the Boston Bruins out of camp he stays here in North America.
Another possibility is trading for a skilled center who can play about as well in similar ice time as Krejci. A team like the Edmonton Oilers could certainly use some better depth defense, and the looming arbitration date with Sam Gagner lowers the likelihood they will retain him after that date. The Panthers barely used Mike Santorelli last year, and he would come with a low cap hit.
Also to be considered is sliding Greg Campbell up to the third line and sliding in either a rookie, Hanson, or Whitfield into the Merlot line. Campbell has done well in a Bruins uniform managing the heavy grinding role of the fourth line and the smart penalty kill minutes and making it look easy.
July 5th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement
There are quite a few things that separate the good teams from the bad, and the perennial contenders from the serial pretenders. In some cases it is money. In others it is ownership that is either over involved or under-informed. Unrealistic pressure brought on by a fan base who has been whipped into a frenzy by local media owns a place on the list as well. But one of the clearest hallmarks of serial failure to flourish is an inability to draft and develop talent.
The Detroit Red Wings built their system over the years by draft talent they believed in regardless of the round and making those players perform to the best of their abilities within the Detroit system. Henrik Zetterburg 7th round pick, Pavel Datsyuk 6th round pick, Jonathan Ericsson 9th round pick, Joey MacDonald undrafted. All these players were on the Red Wings roster last season. All of them contributed to yet another playoff run.
Then there are the Edmonton Oilers. Once the NHL’s finest team, today a safe bet to be in the lottery. Why? That’s pretty easy. They can non draft and develop talent. In the drafts between 2000 and 2011, they took 36 defensemen. Of those defensemen, the only two to play more than 150 NHL games are Matt Greene (now with the Kings) and Theo Peckham. Pekham hits well, and frequently, blocks tons of shots and averages around 17 minutes an night over his career. Of the other defensemen, 28 have played between zero and fifty NHL games. 2 out of 36 is a pretty damned low success rate. Throwing darts at prospects names would work just as well.
Not all markets will support a team that can’t get out of it’s own way. Edmonton is lucky in that regard. They’ve put up with a pretty putrid product for the last half decade. But this CBA negotiation presents a unique chance to turn a dead letter, the current offer sheet system, into a way to get more talent into the NHL.
The idea is: Any team that misses the playoffs three years in a row, is required to submit at least one offer sheet per year each season after that they miss the playoffs. If a team has a player signed away, they get whatever the current compensation is, an additional 2nd round pick and a contract ceiling waiver for those draft picks. The team losing the prospect would also get protection for that year from any other prospects being signed away. The team losing the prospect could also choose which year they wanted each pick, potentially allowing a team with low talent levels to sign two or three players to offer sheets.
The team submitting the offer sheet gets the talent it can’t find or develop in its own. The team losing a prospect acquires additional draft picks they can trade either as picks or as prospects for mature talent or retain in their own system. Young players have a higher chance of being developed in a useful system, and experienced players will have the chance to play their whole career in one place, and have a chance to win.
It likely doesn’t stop there though. Player movement, particularly of hot young talent, generates merchandise sales, can impact advertising revenue, and obviously the product on the ice. Reasonably speaking teams with more talent are more likely to be entertaining and win. This means that the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and other flourishing teams get to keep more of their money. An expansion market or team that was struggling due to the local economy could find a way back to the top with one or two careful offer sheets.
July 4th, 2012 — Uncategorized
The easy assessment today is that the Wild are a vastly better team today than they were yesterday. Justin Falk will get a Norris worthy mentor, Steve Kampfer will get his second of that caliber. Dany Heatley will get to play without always being the most recognizable offensive threat on the team Backstrom will get a guy in front of him who is healthy, highly skilled and driven. Koivu not only will end up with less responsibility to carry each game, he can sit home and smile for a couple days that he’ll have to playoff experienced veterans of high skill to deepen the talent pool, and help shoulder the burden of success.
A big reason for both Suter and Parise to sign in Minnesota is that both are used to defensive systems that make use of all five players in all three zones. Together with Koivu, Backstrom, and Heatley, they make a compellingly deep team. For all the defensive prowess of the Predators that can’t be said about them. For all the wizardry of Kovalchuk and the promise of Henrique, they aren’t a top team now, with or without Parise.
For the Northwest division, it just got uglier. The Canucks are no longer assured of a playoff spot, division title, and potential Presidents Trophy simply for playing in the leagues worst division. The Calgary Flames should see this as a sign they need to finally set off the explosives while Iginla, Bouwmeester and one or two others will still fetch something. The Oilers are possibly the worst off since a division rival just got better offensively and defensively. Colorado will have to scrap even harder, and get everyone pulling together or just pull the plug but things can’t continue as they have.
Hardest hit is likely one of the teams that never had either, the Detroit Red Wings. With the end of the Lidstrom Era, and the decline and fall of their once dominant forward group, another Dead Wings era may be in the offing, The Predators while losing an enormous talent are likely better off than the Devils. Suter was not the name and face of the franchise. Ideally they will replace him with a quality forward or two who can provide timely offense. For the Devils, some will call this a death knell given their financial troubles, or see it as a betrayal. The truth is the Devils had a great deal of luck getting to the finals last year, and didn’t have the money to upgrade to win.
Next season, the Devils are still likely a playoff team, as are the Predators. What this means for the draft pick the Devils could have forfeited this year is unknown, but this years pick is likely to be higher. Also look for the trade market to spring wide open. This may even include some of the prospects drafted just a couple weeks ago.
June 23rd, 2012 — Uncategorized
The trades in the first round were not hugely surprising, but added to the mystique. i can’t think of any of them even as bad trades. There were however two moves that just made me scratch my head.
The Edmonton Oilers are clearly still using the franchises last successful model. For those scoring at home, the last cup winning team for the Oilers was 1990. The sloppy fast math on that means 21 seasons have passed since the last time they hoisted Lord Stanley. Twenty one failures in a row with one model would indicate to most people that something needs to change. Clearly the Oilers organization is made of stern enough stuff to shrug off such mortal and pedestrian concerns.
In the last decades worth of drafts their scouting methods appear to be about as sound as blindfolding oneself at last call in a particularly seedy nightspot and expecting to leave with a ten. Sure it might happen, but the most successful defenseman they have drafted in that last decade is Matt Greene who played 151 games in an Oilers uniform. He’s won a Stanley Cup just a couple days back with the Los Angeles Kings. Theo Peckham, taken in the second round of 2005 has played 156 games and recorded 17 points. Those are the two most successful defensemen drafted by the Oilers out of their last 33 defensemen drafted.
How is drafting another forward, however talented acceptable? The clearest possible needs were for quality defensemen who can get the puck out of their zone.
The next big surprise was that Rick Nash didn’t move. With all the quality players floating about and all the teams with two plus in the top sixty, it almost seemed like a missed opportunity for the Columbus Blue Jackets to retool.
When the Philadelphia Flyers were called to the podium, their team being booed loudly wasn’t a surprise. It was however a surprise with team with the most injury (and age) riddled defensive corps in the league mysteriously drafted a forward. Scott Laughton is likely to be quite good in the NHL. However for a team that may never get another shift from future hall of famer Chris Pronger, the 35 year old Kubina, the 37 year old Timonen, the soon to be 37 Lilja, certainly aren’t going to replace themselves. So what gives? Matt Finn, Olli Maatta, Jordan Schmaltz, a number of other quality defensive prospects were still on the board. Do they think Laughton will be the best bastion to protect the fragile and flighty Bryzgalov? Are they going to convert him to defense? Maybe in the future they’ll just skate forwards in all five skater positions? Your guess is as good as mine.
May 25th, 2012 — Uncategorized
As we’ve seen more and more over the last several years, to win the Stanley Cup, you need balance. Right now the Edmonton Oilers lack the balance of champions. Right now they lack the balance even to be a playoff team. Given that they play in the worst division in hockey, that’s saying quite a lot. To go where the Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, and Boston Bruins have been recently, they must address this.
The Oilers leadership will probably not be able to resist the urge to draft Yakupov first overall. It’s hard to call this an out and out mistake as he’s talented at a level that doesn’t come along often. He’s been the consensus number one since the last draft. But he is not what they need. What they need is at least one top paring veteran defenseman (3 years or more) who can mold some of they young talent and give the teams defense an anchor. They also need or more talented variety of depth than what they currently possess.
Trading out of the number one spot would likely give them at least one other 1st round pick, or possibly multiple top sixty picks. If they did decide to draft Yakupov and trade one or more of the other young guns, both Nashville and St Louis present interesting options to swap forward for defense. Both the Predators and Blues could use a top six or even top 3 forward to help push them over the hump. Both teams have depth on their NHL bluelines and organizationally. Both teams are, or at least should be in “win now” mode. They have most of the assets, and the tangible will, further bringing in players like a Paajarvi before they stagnate in the AHL could be just the ticket to success.
Some combination of a #1 or #2 defensemen (note an elite/Norris worthy candidate is not needed, a Bieksa or similar player is enough) and a solid, motivated second pairing defensemen would give the talented group of forwards on the team presently the chance to use their energy in the offensive zone. One of the biggest issues I observed in the Edmonton Oilers defense this season was an inability to get the puck out of the defensive zone. That makes all other aspects of the game harder to execute. It’s not rocket science, but it still needs to be done.
May 13th, 2012 — Uncategorized
With the first two rounds of the playoffs gone and done, it’s time to look at the tenure of some people who might be gone and done where they are.
1: Brandon Dubinsky, has not had a good year. Injuries haven’t helped. But thanks to lower production of his own, and the surprising contributions of Hagelin and Kreider, it might be time for the Alaskan to find a good real estate agent and queue up some moving companies. The worst points total of his career is only marginally abated by the best plus/minus. His cap hit is manageable, and a change of scenery could reinvigorate him. The Rangers could use the cap space, and lots of teams could use his two way play.
2: George McPhee, this was to many a make or break season for the Capitals general manager. He’s fired a coach, shuffled players and still not managed to get the team a cup or even a finals appearance. Spotting talent isn’t the problem, stirring the pot appears to be.
3: Alex Semin, as has been rumored forever the pending UFA might just get an offer he can’t refuse from a KHL team. As little success as the Capitals have had in the playoffs, and as much of the blame as he gets it would be a surprise to see him back in a Capitals uniform next season, particularly if McPhee is not in the corner office.
4: Jason Garrison burst onto the scene this year and scored goals seemingly at will for the Panthers. He’s a UFA this summer. While Dale Tallon has shown a willingness to spend to get the guys he wants, if the GM goes big game hunting Garrison might be better served to sign elsewhere early before he gets left out in the cold.
5: Carlo Colaiacovo the Saint Louis Blues rearguard got just his second taste of the NHL playoffs this year picking up three points in seven games. With new ownership coming in it’s hard to imagine they won’t make upgrading the regular season’s 21st ranked offense a priority, which could squeeze out even valuable talent.
6: Dale Hunter, even if McPhee stays, its an open question as to if Hunter wants to come back. He was part of the most successful major junior franchise of our era, and took a job managing some misfits at the NHL level. He did as good a job as you could expect with that cast of characters, but still didn’t take them any place they haven’t been.
7: Keith Aucoin, as a career AHL player who finally got called up to the big dance and played respectably, he should get some calls from a few teams looking to sign him to an NHL deal next season. The Capitals could be that team, any franchise looking for some character depth guys could take a one or two year flyer on him too. Who could blame him if a team calls him and says “two years one way one and a half million”?
8: Dennis Wideman, it is of note that none of the NHL teams he’s played on has ever reached the conference finals, Boston, Washington, St Louis, Florida have all been halted in the second round or sooner with him on the roster. The pending UFA and All Star is part of a very crowded blueline, and looking to split the Caps available money with Mike Green, John Carlson, and others.
9: Sergei Kostitsyn probably managed to avoid any of the muck his brother splashed about, but his contract is up and Nashville will soon be doing whatever it can to retain at least one of it’s stud defensemen, that probably does not include extending large contracts to players who put up 17 goals in the regular season, and then collect just two points in ten post season games.
10: Brad Boyes someone looking for a rehab project should look no further. There are very few players in the NHL with a better wrist shot than Brad Boyes. There are also very few players in the NHL more inconsistent. Yes injuries have been a factor, but at some point it’s time to cowboy up.
11: Nail Yakupov the consensus number one pick is unlikely to end up back in juniors next season. Currently the Edmonton Oilers (again) hold the first overall pick. With their lack of true defensive power, will they decide to move the pick if it will land them one or more solid defenders?
April 30th, 2012 — Uncategorized
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had no business being in the NHL this season.
As everyone with a functioning frontal lobe knew he had the skill to be in the NHL, but not the body. His two separate injuries are ample proof of this. Twenty games missed, and now a shoulder that is likely to become a recurring injury. What good did his being in the NHL do the Oilers this season? They were still a lottery team. The Oilers burnt a year of his entry level contract to no long term gain for the organization. The development of Magnus Paaravi and other prospects was pushed back as well. Instead of rushing Nugent-Hopkins to the NHL, the Oilers “leadership” should have taken the long view and had him on a strong conditioning stint that would have packed some muscle onto his frame. While no hockey player needs to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1980, a lot of winning faceoffs is muscle, and his 37.5% win percentage added to the injuries, and the eyeball test speak volumes.
The on ice #NHLOfficials and Brendan Shanahan’s Department of Player Safety Propaganda have done such a marvelous job over the last seven or eight months that no one knows what a penalty short of the Raffi Torres late-leap-headshot actually is. This is like the courts tossing out every fourth case short of murder and alternating twenty year sentences and community service for all other charges regardless of if they were property damage, manslaughter or jay walking. Most fans, and many players who have played close attention all year long are no closer to a definitive understanding what exactly is a clip, a late hit, or a charge today than in the Campbell era. We have learned however that headshot’s really aren’t a priority. When clipping and boarding calls get harsher suspensions, the handwriting is on the walls and superimposed on the image of every NHL broadcast.
March 15th, 2012 — Uncategorized
1: St Louis Blues
Good News: If the playoffs started today you’d go home with a Division Title and a Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: No underdog status for you!
2: Vancouver Canucks
Good News: It doesn’t look like you’re going to have to worry about the ‘curse’ of the Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: That probably has something to do with being a .500 team over your last ten.
3: Dallas Stars
Good News: It certainly appears the new owners faith in the team was rewarded by solid play.
Bad News: Uh, no one start a pillow fight with Lethonen, you might actually need him healthy in May for a change.
4: Detroit Red Wings
Good News: Despite a 3-6-1 spiral you’re currently clutching the last spot with home ice in the first round.
Bad News: Nashville has two games in hand, can win on the road and at home, and could be your opening round opponent.
5: Nashville Predators
Good News: Still something to play for; namely home ice advantage in the first round.
Bad News: The division title is almost certainly out of reach.
6: Chicago Blackhawks
Good News: Toews is on the mend.
Bad News: Six of your final ten games are on the road where the team has been routinely scalped this season.
7: Phoenix Coyotes
Good News: Playing well on both home ice and the road means all else being equal you’ve got a good shot in the playoffs.
Bad News: The division title is probably out of grasp.
8: Colorado Avalanche
Good News: Landeskog, McGinn, O’Rielly have given the team a late push into a playoff spot.
Bad News: Don’t get used to the view, you’ve played more games with less ROW wins than anyone in range to take the 8 spot.
9: San Jose Sharks
Good News: All the key players are healthy.
Bad News: You’d never know the good news was true by looking at the 2-5-3 record in the last ten.
10: Calgary Flames
Good News: More ROW than anyone else from 8 down means the playoffs are still possible, especially with games in hand.
Bad News: Gotta win the games in hand.
11: Los Angeles Kings
Good News: Jeff Carter has finally warmed up.
Bad News: It will take more than just Carter and Quick to climb into the playoffs.
12: Anahiem Ducks
Good News: The playoff push since the new year were a valiant effort.
Bad News: Next year trying a smart effort from October might work better, and it might keep your prospects from jerking you by the short and curlies over where they sign after their college career is over.
13: Minnesota Wild
Good News: The teams weaknesses are easy to identify for off season attention.
Bad News: I’m not sure anyone trusts the current leadership to address the teams weaknesses.
14: Edmonton Oilers
Good News: Hooray! A better finish than last year!
Bad News: The free agent market probably isn’t going to provide enough to boost this club into the playoffs next year either.
15: Columbus Blue Jackets
Good News: Great draft potential at the top.
Bad News: Holding fan attention would probably be easier of that 1st pick overall and maybe the Kings first could be flipped for immediate help, but leadership probably will ask for six roster players, a prospect and three second round picks for them.