March 12th, 2013 — Uncategorized
There are four teams who have set themselves apart from this season. They play different styles, are split in two different conferences and have accomplished their dominance in different ways. The real question is, can they keep it up, and are they legitimate contenders?
The Chicago BlackHawks:
The Chicago Blackhawks have had the most spectacular season to date, they’ve attacked the league and gotten even non-hockey fans and media to take notice.
- Fifth in goals for.
- Second in goals against.
- Sixth in penalty kill.
- Fourteenth in powerplay.
How they can get better:
- Powerplay is only mediocre.
- Patrick Sharp is injured, when he returns at anything like his normal self the team is instantly deeper and instantly more dangerous.
How they can get worse:
- Emery and Crawford are playing way outside the zone of their normal skill set. Emery’s career save percentages is .908%, and his only season over 910 with more than 30 games played was back in 2005-06. Currently He’s at .917% Crawford in his previous two seasons has had sv%’s of .917% and .903%, for a career number of .912%, this season, with most of his numbers coming prior to the injury he’s at a.925%.
- No injuries to date on their defense.
- They can regress to something like last years road record where they were a .500 team.
Are they contenders:
- Yes, they’ve won with worse goaltending, the west is weaker now than it was then, and the short season means if they stay healthy they’ve got a better than 50% chance of being in the Western Conference Finals.
The Montreal Canadiens:
Many people are surprised the Canadiens are this good and that the Northeast Division is very good this season. On the first one they shouldn’t be, last season was the perfect storm of disasters for Montreal.
- Fourth in goals for.
- Tenth in goals against.
- Ninth in powerplay.
- Fifteenth in penalty kill.
How they can get better:
- Special teams are only average.
- They are quite bad at faceoffs at 23rd.
- Prust, Bourque, Diaz, can come back and contribute.
How they can get worse:
- Essentially a one goalie team with no real depth in the system, as goes Price goes the Habs.
- They are getting solid contributions from rookies, if Galchenyuk and Gallagher hit the wall, particularly i it is at the same time the team could suffer more than some expect.
- The NHL or officials could get serious about diving/embellishment and take a long hard look a the team that has had more than twice as many powerplay opportunities as their nearest rival in the division.
Are they Contenders?
- Maybe, not many of these players have been deep into the playoffs. More importantly, the goalie who last took them deep is no longer on the roster.
The Anaheim Ducks
Anaheim has been mighty this season. They added defense, they pulled a goalie surprise out of their back pocket, and they’ve not been shy about playing hard and fast.
- Third in goals for.
- Ninth in goals against.
- First on the powerplay.
- Twenty-Eighth on the penalty kill.
How they can get better:
- Penalty kill, penalty kill, penalty kill.
- Hiller needs to play better, a sub .900s% isn’t gonna cut it.
- At 25th in faceoffs, they absolutely need to get closer to 50%.
How they can get worse:
- Their scoring depth could vanish, they only have 1 player with 10 goals or more, but have eleven with more than five.
- The league could finally put together a book on Victor Fasth.
- Management/Ownership could panic on the Corey Perry front and drop him for little, no, or the wrong return.
Are they Contenders:
Probably, Selanne is awesome, Perry, Getzlaf, and Ryan together are more to handle than most teams have the blueline talent for. On the other hand, a lot of their team are either rookies or have no NHL playoff experience.
The Boston Bruins
New year but not much has changed in Boston, same coach, same top forward in Patrice Bergeron, same legitimate Norris contender in Zdeno Chara, and same physical, puck control style.
- Tenth in goals for.
- Third in goals against.
- Twenty-third in powerplay.
- First in penalty kill.
How they can get better:
- Milan Lucic and their third line could show up and start scoring.
- Their powerplay could get better.
- They need to get better when trailing.
How they can get worse:
- They’ve been phenomenally lucky on the injury front.
- Rask has not been the healthiest goaltender in team history.
- Scoring could decay.
Are they Contenders:
Yes, the goaltending remains a question but there is very little difference between this team and the one that won the Cup not so long ago.
February 18th, 2013 — Uncategorized
There are some teams that just aren’t going anywhere this season no matter how well they do in the regular season. For some, just getting run out of town in the first round of the playoffs will be a moral victory. But let’s be honest; moral victory is just another way of saying we aren’t good enough for the real kind, and we aren’t going to try. Not all of the teams with players on this list fall into the category of non-contenders, some have to make room under the falling cap.
Victor Fasth: What an amazing start to an NHL career. The Ducks new netminder has won his first 8 (and counting?) starts in the NHL. This would be far less amazing if he were playing behind a team that showed it was a playoff contender. The other two guys to get off to a start like this are Ray Emery who is worthy of every accolade for endurance and determination to stay in the NHL, neither he nor Bob Froese are going to make it into the top 50 list of goaltenders one would build a franchise around.
Joe Pavelski: Fourteen games into the season “Little Joe” has 14 points. Unfortunately he’s is only got two of those in his last six games. If he were Russian the terms from up north would be stronger than the “inconsistent” I’ll use. With 1/3rd of his goals on the powerplay this season, and for his career, maybe a change of scenery could get this player to the next level. With two more years on a reasonable contract he could help a team that will really contend over the top. His career high 31 goal season last year, and his fast start this year might just get a team to bite.
Martin St. Louis: While I don’t see his quality of play crashing anytime soon, he is the best trade piece the team has for a long term improvement. The team is 24th in goals against, familiar territory for the Lightning. With two years left on his deal, if he can be persuaded to waive his NMC, the return could be gigantic. Lecavalier is untradeable at his current production, trading Stamkos is absolutely a laughable idea, but St Louis could return the right picks or players to shore up an awful defense in front of their solid goaltender. For the undrafted Catamount Alumni he might just get to hoist Lord Stanley if he lands in the right place.
David Krejci: As we all know most forwards peak between 26-28 years of age, then begin to decline and often first liners at 24 are 3rd liners not to long after they peak, assuming they are still in the NHL at all. David Krejci turns 27 on the day after the season ends. He’s off to a point per game pace, he’s shooting well with a career high 17.4%, he’s completely healthy, and he’s the highest paid forward on the Boston Bruins this year. As Stanley Cup champion, a decent faceoff man, and a top 10-15% passer, he’s got value. There are teams up and down the league that can use an offensive center. With cost certainty built in for two more years he’s not much of a risk for teams who need to juice their offense.
Andrei Markov: With a quarter of the season gone, Markov has proved, finally, that for the first time since 2008-9 season that he is indeed healthy. Sell, sell now! He played 13 games last season, he played seven the year before. Those are Rick Dipietro numbers. On top of the questions of health he is somehow the teams highest paid skater. Yes he’s produced, he’s gotten hit and delivered hits, he’s blocked shots too. But be smart, make him someone else’s problem the next time he ends up on the shelf for an extended stretch.
Thomas Vanek: As constituted the Buffalo Sabres are about as likely to win the Stanley Cup this season as are the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets or Calgary Flames. While Vanek has never even approached the 12g 13a 25p in 15gp pace. Despite being on a team that has had no playoff success in his tenure, Vanek has produced a point per game pace in the playoffs over a 10 game appearance in the 2006-07 year. People, possibly including Terry Pegula, are coming to the conclusion that the current Sabres mix is not configured to win. Vanek, could net even more than Nash. Vanek has, despite scant little more success and being surrounded by middle draft picks to Nash’s high end picks, it is Vanek and not Nash who has the better (slightly) points per game percentage: 0.83778 to 0.81222. Best of all, Vanek is $600,000 cheaper per year. For the Sabres moving him before the deadline with just one year left on his contract lets them maximize their return and take a long look at more of their prospects and or whoever they get in return.
January 29th, 2013 — Feature: Rockin' My Peers
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.
January 21st, 2013 — Uncategorized
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.
December 3rd, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement
Having been an observer of the National Hockey League for decades I’ve come to acknowledge several truths. The first is that I adore hockey. The second is that the NHL owners don’t give a damn about individual fans. The third is that collectively they are the 30 (ish) worst billionaire businessmen on the planet. Last of the great truths is that being an NHL fan is like being in an abusive relationship; they withhold attention, make arbitrary changes to how things are done, and trample all over your livelihood, friendships and pleasure activities on the smallest whim.
The biggest issue, as Ive said all along in this lockout is an owner versus owner issue. It is soluble. It just isn’t fixable by bludgeoning the fans and players to death. Both the big owners and small owners do have points about he revenue sharing issues in the NHL. Yes the Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and other older and traditional market teams are propping up a lot of the league. On the other hand, without the teams in Florida, California, Ohio, and Texas getting a national television deal in the USA would be impossible. That TV deal, and the advertising revenue that go with it are vital to the league.
Both contraction which the ill informed argue for all the time, and mass relocation are undesirable, and unworkable. Once you take those two options off the table, and factor in reducing the burden on the top revenue earning teams the answer becomes obvious: Expand.
The expansion fees could be used to help get teams like the Islanders out of their current arena mess and into a new arena that will actually generate revenue. Likewise a low interested ten or so year loan to the Devils that got them not just out of financial peril, but gave them a cushion potentially gives you two more viable teams in a major market. The Coyotes may or may not be beyond fixing, but for damn sure owning their own arena would be a giant leap forward. With a wave of expansion, properly conducted little to no money would come out of the NHL’ owners doing the best pockets, and they’d end up with well placed teams long term to help generate revenue reducing their burden eight, twelve and twenty years from now.
Where is the best place for the new teams? If we start with two waves of two teams, say Quebec City and somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area, they like Winnipeg will have four or five years of strong attendance just for showing up, regardless of how bad the teams are. Seattle is another city likely to have a firm fan base as long as it appears the owners have clue one about how to build (and market) a team. Portland Oregon also shows some potential. Then markets like; Salt Lake City which has an NBA team, but no other major sport. Milwaukee, and Indianapolis have marks in their favor, as do Saskatchewan and possibly even a second Chicago area team. Teams in places like the GTA, and Quebec city are likely to end up in the top 10/12 for revenue.
Given that the top ten teams earn roughly $1.5billion a year, If after year four in existence those teams are earning 15% below the average off the current top ten, those 12 teams alone will be generating almost 2 billion a year, that’s almost 65% of the current leagues income. Seattle and wherever the fourth team landed might do roughly 12% below that, which is still another quarter billion. And that doesn’t even factor in higher income from teams like the Islanders getting better arenas or better arena deals.
October 26th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement, Yes really
Today NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced all of Novembers games would be wiped out, here’s why:
10: The regular referees are all working elsewhere now and the only ones available are the ones the NFL had filling in,
9: Games aren’t going to be resumed until the last Rick Nash jersey in Columbus is sold.
8: This isn’t really a lockout, Shanahan put the season on the shelf for a phantom clipping call.
7: With Tuukka Rask injured (again) Jeremy Jacobs won’t allow the season to progress until he has another goalie.
6: Francesco Aquilini finally looked at Roberto Luongo’s contract and said not another game will be played until the dude is gone.
5: Holiday shopping will be a lot easier for Bettman and league ownership if they don’t have to show up for one game a month and be booed.
4: Novembers games were cancelled in retaliation for #ThePlayers offer to appoint Sean Avery their official full time liaison to Mr Bettman.
3: The real reason games were cancelled is NHL broadcasters still can’t tell Jordan and Eric Staal apart and are hoping one goes to pot before the season starts.
2: The owners are waiting for the roofies to kick in on the players.
1: Gary Bettman is still trying to figure out how to explain to his daughter why an industry that has experienced record growth over the last several years in a recession, has a new lucrative tv deal, has had several teams settle their ownership and arena issues, signed overseas content distribution deals, and is drafting players from places professional hockey didn’t exist twenty years ago can justify a lockout even to itself.
October 20th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement
This lockout is a farce. There are two reasons for this. Collectively, you’d be hard pressed to find 30 worse businessmen who somehow remain mega rich is the first. The second is that for these folks the world is not enough. As a whole the league has grown its revenue hand over fist for the last seven years. Some teams are struggling now that were struggling the last time there was a lockout. Mostly these are the teams in non traditional markets who have never been run well enough to win. In the last twenty years the Owners have taken each CBA expiration as a licence to kill the PA.
Was there cause? Yes. Last time the league was loosing money even in markets like Pittsburgh where however ignorant the fans are, they will at least show up if there is a good product on the ice. This time? Please. Just please. In a seven year stretch in which the American economy took such a nose dive that not only did the housing market die, but unemployment hit 20%+ in some major hockey markets. NHL revenues grew anyway. Record setting growth.
The ownership collective seems to have a mentality of get richer, and for everyone else; live and let die. All the businesses in the arena district are suffering because the team owners can only think of how diamonds are forever. Looking at the NHL owners I have to wonder where there Bob Kraft is in this group. Who’s the man who will stand up and say ‘we have too much to lose”, rally both sides and throw a thunderball at the people keeping games from being played?
The last lockout almost killed the league. Even teams like Boston struggled with attendance coming out of it. The faith in the ever returning fan is baseless. Fans walked away forever and it took years for new ones to arrive. Part of this was the revival of original six teams and big market teams like Boston, Chicago, and New York, another part was the emergence of stars like Shea Weber on a team that had to fight their way to relevance in market with strong football, and basketball at all levels. The owners didn’t dodge a bullet, last time, they lost a lot of money. The league died and you only live twice.
One of the other factors that has to be considered this time around that didn’t have nearly the impact seven years ago is the KHL. The league has had nearly a decade to get its feet under it. More and more Russian and European players go to or stay in that league. At the casino royale that is the negotiating table the Owners have traditionally held the “highest level of competition” card. How much longer until that is no longer true and the heart of the hockey world waves to all of us in north america from Russia with love?
At this point fan support is squarely in the players corner. Every time the owners, or Gary Bettman is mentioned all fans see and hear is the man with the golden gun weeping about poverty. Could this change? Sure it is possible, and not much less likely than skyfall, but the owners need to be smarter than that, they need to react before the lack of the game beats the living daylights out of the love of the game.
September 27th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement
It is clear to anyone with even a casual interest in the NHL that there is a clear and marked divide in the ownership ranks. One the one hand their initial salvo at the CBA negotiations said one thing, and their growth and this summers contracts say another.
The demand for five year contracts as the maximum is laughable in light of the eight, thirteen and fourteen year contracts we’ve seen. Players can’t sign a contract that the team didn’t produce. This means their are only two explanations for the long contracts. The first is simply that the owners either have no control over their general managers or possibly that they just don’t pay attention. The second is that they acceptand endorse, even reluctantly, the long contracts.
While explanation number one would clear up much about the operation of some franchises, I sincerely hope it isn’t a widespread reality. The second needn’t be universal, just common enough to occur in many teams. Even if very, very few of the eight year or longer contracts get handed out. To my mind, contract length is as close to a non issue for the league as a whole as it gets.
While the NHLPA and NHL Owners have a large gulf between their positions, obviously, the distance between factions within ownership are just as wide, maybe wider. As the NHL is a collective corporate entity, one has to wonder why the voting structure doesn’t reflect this. The owners, and or their governor proxies are shareholders via revenue in the collective that is the league.
Perhaps a weighted system based on contribution to league revenue needs to be developed. If you set the threshold for full voting rights at not receiving any revenue sharing to keep the team profitable (vs revenue sharing of shared marketing monies) you get 1 vote. If you are below this you could either get 1/2 vote or in a more extreme profile, all the owners receiving revenue to keep them afloat could get 1 collective vote. Owners contributing more than 2/30ths of the total league revenue would get two full votes. Any team contributing more than 3/30ths would get an additional vote.
While certain markets are naturally advantageous, the bottom line is the business men who can make their business work the best should have the larges input, and in this system would, and not be shackled to the ‘thinking’ of owners who don’t get it and can’t produce a viable contribution. The way the NHL is currently doing business, the four year olds are telling Neurosurgeon Mom and Aerospace Engineer Dad how manage their 401k’s and what house to buy.
September 16th, 2012 — Collective Bargaining Agreement
One question I haven’t seen any ask, and certainly no one has an answer for is how badly a lockout will affect not direct revenue, but the secondary information sources, and total fan engagement. The very biggest sites and sources will still be around, mostly. But will they still be in the same form? Will a missed season see experienced, knowledgeable journalists reassigned permanently to other sources?
David Pollock has covered the San Jose Sharks since they came into existence. He’s the voice of the team, even over the teams official mouthpieces. He’s nationally respected, and he knows the players, organization and league. What if he’s assigned elsewhere come January because Mercury News can’t justify someone paid a full time salary to report that league talks are going no where once a week? That’s a team that is tucked in tight with two other NHL teams in a state where hockey comes in after the other big three, and likely surfing, extreme sports, and MMA.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have retooled their team, giving them one of the most interesting defensive units in the entire NHL. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin, and the just drafted Ryan Murray are going to be involved in some exciting hockey in the future. Will the excitement be as widespread in October of 2013? Will the bloggers who have sprung up to cover the team over the last few years of futility maintain their passion over the second lockout in seven years? Two years of lockout to ten years of play is hardly something that motivates a fanbase.
Only the most casual of fans rely on the team or league sites as their primary source of news. The days of sports leagues controlling news that tightly are dead and gone. Even the major news papers and television stations don’t own the fanbases anymore. Neutral news like Yahoo, and Score, or sports specific sites like HockeyThisWeek or Hockey Independent rule the day. Right behind them are the stand alone bloggers, those linked by advertising driven platforms like Bloguin or who have a self managed site.
Just like fantasy hockey, each blog, each Twitter account, each Facebook group, and every last Google+ profile serve the purpose of keeping fans engaged with the NHL. Regardless of who you blame for the lockout, the NHL owners, the NHLPA, or the figureheads of either, some of these secondary sources will cease to exist with a long lockout. Others will suffer a serious degradation of quality. This serves no one. Well run teams use these secondary news sources to keep fans engaged, and mainstream media on their toes.
The bottom line is that every fantasy hockey league slot not filled, every blog that stops covering the NHL, and every knowledgeable person permanently reassigned and replaced, if at all, by someone who doesn’t understand the league at the gut level is a loss that shouldn’t happen.