One of the keys to ANY successful team building strategy is having the RIGHT veterans in place. The'right' veterans are characterized by three characteristics:
1. They can still play the game
-- even if their role has changed (reduced time, fewer responsibilities, etc.) they can still play, in their new role, at a high level
2. They do not distort the salary structure of the team
-- they don't have to be paid minimum wage, some of them can even earn serious cash, what is important is that a role player isn't making far more than he should be
3. They have bought into the team concept and lead from that example
-- they either bleed the colors that they wear or they are true professionals and always give their best; either way they lead on the ice and in the dressing room
Think Jason Smith
1. Once he could play top-line pair without issue - almost regardless of line-mate. Now? Well, now he should only top-line if his line-mate is a legit #1 or #2 d-man - Smith just can't cover all their deficiencies anymore. He is STILL a great pairing partner for the 2nd-line however.
2. Given his age and playing status Smith should be making Staios type money. A retirement contract of 3.0 / 2.8 / 2.2 / 1.5 / 1.5 (taking him to age 38) has a Cap avg of $2.2 mill /yr and should work well. Much more and it gets tougher justify given his diminishing level of play.
3. He has been team captain for many years now. While those years have been good (2005/06) and bad (most seasons pre-2005/06 and 2006/07), HE has always been good. Played as well as he can. THAT is a valued commodity in the dressing room.
One could easily argue that if Ottawa had guys like Smith on defense and a guy like Smyth (Oh, how I miss thee) on the forward lines that they would have won a Cup by now. Guys who play the game with passion make poor teams competitive and good teams great. imo anyways.
ESTABLISHED team leaders under contract:
POTENTIAL team leaders under contract:
ON THE RADAR and on the roster:
They represent, currently, the core of the team.
Horcoff, Pisani, Moreau, Smith and Staios all bleed the blue and copper. Roloson is, at the very least, a true professional and Stoll is growing into leadership roles in every game he plays. Not a bad group to have as a veteran core at all.
Hemsky and Torres represent the wildcards in the group. If Torres ever gets his head together he would be one become one of the great LW's to don the uniform here and Hemsky is the kind of guy who could carry a team if he wanted to and it will be interesting to see if he ever really tries.
If Reasoner can get his game back, and he takes a bit of a pay-cut (say 700k) he could lead the team from the 4th line for a long time on this team. Thoreson fits the very definition of an energy role-player and has a great defensive game so in the same price range he is invaluable.
Greene is an interesting case. He plays hard and that is good. He plays with edge and that is good. The problem is - can he learn to play smart? Better positional play combined with fewer stupid penalties make this guy indispensable. A little more Jason Smith and a little less Sean Brown please.
I have always been a fan of Pouliot. Anyone who has ever read my HF posts would know that. In fact Parise was dropped (or 'not-picked') by the Oilers BECAUSE of Pouliot's game and penchant for playing hard no matter the circumstance.
Trading a 'core' player is always a risky move as they establish a team's identity for the fans, integrate the new players (rookie's or trade-ins) as they are acquired, set the tone for how the team plays the game on the ice, etc.
what, whAT, WHAT!?!
A fear has been identified in the Oilogosphere (Dennis and Lowetide among others). It is, quite simply, based on uncertainty ascribed to Kevin Lowe's mindset after the disaster that was last season.
What will he do?
Most fear he will spend too many assets, or the wrong assets, to try to acquire players (via trade) to try to 'fix' what was wrong.
Where giving up Horcoff to get Richards (Brad) is certainly debateable, giving up Horcoff, Pouliot, Gilbert and a high pick to get Richards crosses the line. The same could be said for any trade for Redden.
My fears are a little more focused. I don't want to lose too much of the core (above). Guys like Sykora and Tarnstrom have a lot of talent but no one ever built a team around them. Smyth on the other hand. Damn
Lose too many core-players and you aren't just rebuilding lines - you are rebuilding the team. Without the continuity a team falls apart. I don't want to be the next 'Phoenix' or the next 'Florida'. Or even the next Oilers (mid - late 90's).
THAT is the scary proposition.
Oddly enough I will be posting in the near future on a team rebuild strategy that DOES gut large parts of the team. I do believe however that doing poorly on purpose, as part of a strategy to get better long-term, is workable. i.e. you shouldn't see any double standards in play.
Have a great evening everyone.