Monday, April 21st, 2014

Summer Potpourri

25

I haven’t posted much lately for a number of reasons but I have been following things and I’ve very nearly made several different posts on the news (or lack of news) this summer. The short version of about six posts:

1) In Cowtown – Even though I thought Daryl Sutter was nuts to trade for Olli Jokinen and then crazy to trade him, Sutter’s decision to bring him back does make some sense to me. The Flames chose not to fire Sutter, which means they are still trying to win. To win they need more offense. Jokinen and Tanquay were relatively cheap and Sutter probably couldn’t have found more offence for the money.

I can imagine how it could work out. It probably won’t, but I can imagine it.

2) Ballard, Hamhuis and Malhotra – Both Ballard and Hamhuis are good players and I’ve decided I like the Gillis strategy in respect to the defense. There is no obvious number one guy, but the Canucks now have six top four defensemen.

Malhotra is clearly an upgrade on Wellwood, but the contract seems rich to me. And speaking of Kyle, I’m sorry to see him go. He wasn’t a good player for the Canucks but he was better than I expected and I enjoyed his happy-go-lucky personality. I’m also sorry to see Mitchell go. Still, a thumbs up for Mike Gillis so far this offseason.

(The Salo injury may very well turn out to be a blessing in disguise, a blessing that is one of the unrecognized perversities of the CBA. The Canucks can spend Salo’s salary – probably by keeping Bieksa – and by the time Sami is ready to play, somebody else will be on the injured list. Had Salo waited until the season started before getting hurt, good replacements wouldn’t be available. Pavol Demitra on the injured reserve last season represented depth. By the time he was ready to play, Mitchell was hurt.)

3) Salary Cap Squeeze – Even though the players voted for an unwarranted cap increase, there seems to be very little loose cash available for some pretty good free agents. It looks like our – the fan’s – loss will be the KHL’s gain. If the players hadn’t been willing to let escrow escalate…

4) Chicago Dismantled – The destruction of the Hawks has probably been the biggest story of the offseason. I suppose the Cup excuses Dale Tallon in the eyes of Chicago fans, but not in mine. Even if the team dumps Huet, I think they still have to give away one of Sharp, Bolland or Seabrooke. They might have been better off letting San Jose have Hjalmarsson.

Bowman says he is keeping Sharp, but I can’t see how the arithmetic works. Check out the Capgeek and tell me that I’m wrong.

I’m not expecting good things out of Dale Tallon in Florida.

5) Kovalchuk Contract – I guess I can understand why the NHL decided to finally draw a line on this sort of bullshit deal, but they created a mess by letting things go so far. I can’t see a big difference between this circumvention of the CBA and the Hossa or Luongo circumventions.

I thought the Rick DiPietro contract was a circumvention even though his contract did not tail off in the later years. Today, I’ll bet the league wishes it had rejected that contract. Several inches after Rick cashed in, Lou tried to take the mile. Still, I think Kovalchuk probably has a very winnable grievance.

Its a mess that makes the league look ridiculous. In other words, business as usual in the NHL.

6) Oilermail – Proving – once again – that it is impossible to be too cynical about the motives, the greed and the credibility of of the dorks who own NHL teams, Daryl Katz has declared that the Oilers are “unsustainable” if they don’t get a new publically subsidized arena. Why he isn’t satisfied with a tidy tax shelter and a positive cash flow is beyond me. A billion dollars isn’t enough, I guess.

Katz does deserve credit for inspiring Matt Fenwick to make his first post since April. What he said.

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Comments

25 Responses to “Summer Potpourri”
  1. speeds says:

    They’d have to go with a short roster, carrying only 21 players, but it’s possible.

    AUTO-GENERATED CAPGEEK.COM LINES
    FORWARDS
    Jonathan Toews ($6.300m) / Patrick Kane ($6.300m) / Marian Hossa ($5.275m)
    Patrick Sharp ($3.900m) / Dave Bolland ($3.375m) / Tomas Kopecky ($1.200m)
    Troy Brouwer ($1.025m) / Viktor Stalberg ($0.850m) / Jack Skille ($0.600m)
    Jeff Taffe ($0.550m) / Bryan Bickell ($0.542m) / Jake Dowell ($0.525m)
    DEFENSEMEN
    Brian Campbell ($7.143m) / Duncan Keith ($5.538m)
    Brent Seabrook ($3.500m) / Niklas Hjalmarsson ($3.500m)
    Brian Connelly ($0.875m) / Shawn Lalonde ($0.773m)
    John Scott ($0.512m)
    GOALTENDERS
    * Antti Niemi ($2.500m) / Corey Crawford ($0.800m)
    CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS
    (these totals are compiled using the bonus cushion)
    ROSTER: 21; CAP: $59.4m; CARRY-OVER PENALTY: $4.158m
    PAYROLL: $59.742m; BONUSES: $0.573m; CAP ROOM: $0.231m

  2. Nuuuuugs says:

    Since you expect failure out of Tallon in Sunrise, I was curious as to your thoughts on Yzerman in Tampa, and how he’s done so far with his short tenure as GM.

  3. Tom says:

    I don’t think that’s a practical situation, Speeds. I doubt if the NHL would let the Hawks open the season with a roster limited to 19 skaters. That’s tantamount to planning to have short benches. Planning to break the rules the first time a couple of guys get banged up at the same time.

    Nugs, my opinion of Tallon is on record. Whether he can evaluate talent or not is irrelevant to me. I don’t think he has essential management skills. (I worried about the same thing with Mike Gillis. In his case, my worries were unfounded. At least I thought Gillis was smart. Tallon was a kid in Vancouver, of course, but he never struck me as a smart kid.) The Yzerman resume may lack a thing or two, but he does strike me as smart, and he apprenticed in the best organization in the game.

    I like the mix of players Yzerman has managed to acquire, but I don’t think it is fair to evaluate any GM based on a short tenure. I hope he does well.

  4. James Mirtle says:

    Tom, you and Fenwick should just give it up and go in together on a rarely updated, but terrific new blog.

  5. James Mirtle says:

    This is what I came up for the Blackhawks’ roster, although as you state, they’d have to make more deals once someone was injured. Rockford is close, so they’ll be sending callups up and down all year.

    http://twitpic.com/291q67/full

  6. bh says:

    hey guys you aren’t including the blackhawks bonus penalty from last season.

    so speeds your roster is over 4 million over the cap.

    james your roster is about 3.5 mil over the cap, and isn’t a complete roster, which I highly doubt the nhl would let a team do- even if it fit under the cap.

  7. James Mirtle says:

    Err, BH what I posted says there are 20 players on the roster and it’s roughly $300,000 under the cap. The bonus penalty is included there under “deferred bonuses.”

  8. bh says:

    ah yeah i see that you’re right. but i still don’t know if the nhl would allow them to have a 20 man roster at the cap. i doubt they’re going to have the same grace they had with the flames when they couldn’t ice a full team.

  9. Tom says:

    I thought the rule was that a team had to declare a 23 man roster that was cap compliant on opening day. Thereafter they can demote players and carry a smaller roster to save cap dollars to spend later, but I don’t think they are allowed to start out with a cap compliant 20 man roster.

    If that is not the rule, it should be.

    If the NHL allowed your roster, they would start icing an illegal lineup within a couple of weeks. Most injuries don’t last long enough for the long term injury rules to kick in and teams are supposed have the cap space to manage that sort of thing. If the Hawk team you envision has a couple of minor injuries and a case of the flu, they’d be playing with 15 skaters. Having five or six guys out isn’t that unusual. What then?

    They’ve let teams get away with icing too few players – I guess because they did not know what else to do – but they can’t let the Hawks start the season knowing that they would be forced to ice an illegal lineup within weeks. A long term injury to one of the stars would give the Hawks flexibility as long as the player was hurt, but another problem could occur if one of the really cheap Hawks goes down long term. They’d have to have another really cheap player ready to step in.

    I still think the Hawks have to lose at least one more large salary.

  10. snafu says:

    Tom,

    Teams cannot exceed the 23 man roster limit between opening day and the trade deadline. From my understanding, they indeed can start with 20– 18 skaters and 2 goalies. I also agree that this wouldn’t be very smart however.

    On the matter of cap circumvention, while all the attention is focused on teams circumventing the upper limit, the back-loaded contracts can be exploited to help teams spend less than their cap hit would indicate– and thus not meet the salary floor. This averaging of salaries that are allowed to fluctuate wildly over their terms isn’t looking like a great idea any longer, if the league is really interested in maintaining spending in a specific range. With the cap generally tending to increase each year, this system encourages cap circumvention.

  11. sv says:

    So what I’m hearing is that the Hawks doctor could possibly be their MVP this season.

  12. James Mirtle says:

    Demote Beach another year and add another league minimum contract. Then you’re up to roughly $1-million space, far more than teams like the Sharks kept all season.

    It’s ugly, but not impossible. The question is: Is that team a contender still?

  13. agrabia says:

    Hey Tom,

    Don’t wanna toot my own horn too much, but Matt’s not the only one writing again. Thought you might like this.

    http://whydowntown.ca/

    • Tom says:

      I noticed. I’ve been tempted to make a lengthy post about Katz and the arena, but I’ve said it all before. (I did enjoy hearing about the “bankruptcy” in Vancouver. Huh? Never happened.)

      I’d never support public money for the hockey team anyway, but I sure wouldn’t do it without seeing the Oiler books. Still, if I had to bet, Katz will get what he wants without providing any real information at all.

      Sigh.

      • agrabia says:

        Canucks thing cracked me up. Problem is, no one here ever fact checks this stuff. Except us, of course. And then we’re called all sorts of names for not taking them at their word. Fun times in Edmonton.

  14. Dennis_Prouse says:

    One other key story this week – the fact that Ice Edge, shockingly, looks like they don’t have the cash to complete the Coyotes transaction. Really, who would have guessed?

    It certainly looks like the chickens have come home to roost for many clubs when it comes to bad contracts. You can only make so many bad signings before you are completely hamstrung. You will now see teams icing fourth lines and third defence pairings made up of guys all earning fairly close to league minimum. The number of recognizable veterans who will enter September without contracts will be shocking.

    The more interesting area comes with the goalies. There is a huge goalie glut out there. Guys like Turco and Theodore still don’t have deals. What last season proved, however, is that riding one guy for 70+ games in the regular season is folly – almost uniformly, these goalies wilt from overuse come May. The two goalie system is coming back into vogue. This is why I believe that, despite some of his other bad moves, signing Biron was a good call for Sather. They should use Biron a lot in the regular season, i.e. 25-30 games, to keep Lundquist fresh for the playoffs. Vancouver should do the same with Luongo, but the Canucks don’t have a proven NHL goalie to eat those kinds of games.

    • Tom says:

      One other key story this week – the fact that Ice Edge, shockingly, looks like they don’t have the cash to complete the Coyotes transaction. Really, who would have guessed?

      The City of Glendale is so screwed. I think the NHL has left them twisting in the wind. If they were really willing to help and they really believed in the market, they would have priced the team reasonably. Nobody except the city has any reason to hurry on any deal. The hockey team should be on everyone’s “most likely to regress” list.

      You will now see teams icing fourth lines and third defence pairings made up of guys all earning fairly close to league minimum. The number of recognizable veterans who will enter September without contracts will be shocking.

      I agree, but I don’t see this as a good thing.

      Vancouver should do the same with Luongo, but the Canucks don’t have a proven NHL goalie to eat those kinds of games.

      I’d like to see Schneider play a fair bit. The team is paying him $900,000, so I think they are prepared to try and prove himself.

    • James Mirtle says:

      “The number of recognizable veterans who will enter September without contracts will be shocking.”

      Absolutely. I don’t think people have grasped how many mass retirements and signings in Europe we’ll see this fall.

  15. Tom says:

    Absolutely. I don’t think people have grasped how many mass retirements and signings in Europe we’ll see this fall.

    What do you think will happen when people do grasp it? Anything? I don’t think people will decide player quality is on the decline unless that becomes a media story.

    • rajeev says:

      I was banging my head against this wall about this back in the summer of ’05. If you don’t care that you’re going to see more of Jason Strudwick than Denis Grebeshkov this season, you like something else more than hockey. Kudos to James for bringing this up in the MSM, but this has been completely predictable and obvious for a long time.

      • rajeev says:

        I think it’s clear but the “you” in the above comment is the general “you” and not Tom, of course. Tom was one of the first people to talk about this many moons ago.

      • Tom says:

        I think the league has been leaking talent since the lockout, but it is starting to bleed. I don’t think Bettman understood how dependent his system was on rapidly growing revenues.

        Anyway, I also expect to see more contracts dumped into the AHL. Obviously this is not good for the quality of hockey played in the NHL. I don’t expect to hear this criticism much in the MSM. They still have a product to sell. The real question is, as always, what will be the impact on the business? Won’t the stars do better if the quality of the competition gets worse? Won’t there be more goals? Won’t that sell? If the fans grumble about it, but don’t vote with the wallet, is it a problem for the league?

        One reason Chicago will be an interesting team to watch this year is that they are going to be the most extreme team imaginable in terms of the percentage of their payroll going to there top nine players. If they do well, they could be a model for big market teams. If they don’t…

  16. Dennis_Prouse says:

    One development that might be emboldening teams is the way ice time seems to be distributed now. There seems to be more and more teams having success by playing their fourth line very little. Look at Chicago in the playoffs – their fourth liners barely touched the ice. IIRC, the Lightning followed a similar model in winning the Cup in 2004 – the fourth line played so little it was almost comical.

    The only pitfall to this strategy is injuries. Your depth is going to be woeful in the event of a rash of injuries, but I guess GMs figure that if they get hit by injuries, they are hooped regardless.

    Finally, as I said above, I think you need two quality goalies with the pace of the current NHL game and travel schedule, and the whole “ride one guy for 70 games” strategy isn’t working out anymore. The teams in tough shape are the ones who committed a ton of cap space to one starter. (Hello, Vancouver!) In a similar vein, you have to believe that Boston is desperately looking to unload Tim Thomas’s contract to someone. (Good luck with that.)

  17. Tom says:

    One development that might be emboldening teams is the way ice time seems to be distributed now. There seems to be more and more teams having success by playing their fourth line very little. Look at Chicago in the playoffs – their fourth liners barely touched the ice. IIRC, the Lightning followed a similar model in winning the Cup in 2004 – the fourth line played so little it was almost comical.

    Teams always shorten the bench in the playoffs. I don’t think this is particularly unusual. It would be interesting if one of the statsi studied the issue. Are fourth liners getting less ice time? Is this because fourth liners are poorer players, less trustworthy for the coach, or is it because coaches now think it is better to pour the ice at the better players even during the regular season?

    I don’t see this as a positive trend at all. I don’t think the league benefits if Dave Scatchard has a role as a designated $500,000 man. He’ll clear waivers and he’ll do well as a fourth liner as long as he gets so little ice time its comical. The fans sure don’t benefit.

    The only pitfall to this strategy is injuries. Your depth is going to be woeful in the event of a rash of injuries, but I guess GMs figure that if they get hit by injuries, they are hooped regardless.

    This pitfall has two barrels. The strategy makes the rash of injuries more likely because the better players play more and play more when they are tired.

    Finally, as I said above, I think you need two quality goalies with the pace of the current NHL game and travel schedule, and the whole “ride one guy for 70 games” strategy isn’t working out anymore. The teams in tough shape are the ones who committed a ton of cap space to one starter. (Hello, Vancouver!) In a similar vein, you have to believe that Boston is desperately looking to unload Tim Thomas’s contract to someone. (Good luck with that.)

    Isn’t this a contradiction? Why is it okay to ride the top forwards but not a top goalie? I don’t like a two goaltender system because it always sets off a goalie controversy. When has it ever really worked? It may be a good idea to go cheap in net but I think the jury is probably still out on that.

    While I agree that the Thomas contract is impossible to deal, Boston (or Vancouver or any other rich team) can always dump the contract out of the NHL. These types of disasters really only hurt those who can’t compete with the big boy wallets.

  18. Dennis_Prouse says:

    Tom, you are right in that most of the teams running the two goalie system last year did so largely by accident. Injuries or poor performances forced a change in their strategy. (Huet flaming out in Chicago, the emergence of Rask in Boston, etc.) To actually run a two goalie system by design would require a coach with lots of confidence and clout in his organization.

    If I am Tortorella in NY, I am telling the media before the season that, barring injury, Lundqvist will play about 50-55 games, and Biron will play 25-30 games. Then stick to your plan, regardless of how much whining you hear from fans and the media. I think the goalies would benefit – Lundqvist knows he is never going to have more than two starts in a tow, and Biron knows he won’t sit on the bench for any longer than two straight before he gets to play. The players too will know the strategy, and can adjust accordingly. Come playoff time, you ride the guy who gives you the best chance to win, knowing that whoever it is, he won’t be worn down.

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