Thursday, 31 January 2008

New CBA Needed (or) It Is To Laugh

Be interesting to see if the small/medium budget teams look to close the three, now obvious, negotiated advantages the big budget teams enjoy:

1. the 'send-him-to-the-minors' addition by subtraction method;
2. the LTIR Cap bumps;
3. the 'he wasn't playing earlier' pro-rating

When the Cap was lower, with budgets and the Cap more in balance, these strategies weren't worth eliminating (or perhaps noticeable) because NO team would be so far ahead in spending ability that use of any of these strategies would upset the playing field any.

Not the case now.

If a team has a budget of $45 million then a Cap of $54 million means little (with one possible exception **) because any player sent to the minors, lost to LTIR or brought out of retirement STILL counts against the Cap that matters for your team - your budget of $45 million. Mistakes cannot be made because they cannot be recovered from.

For a team that can easily spend $60+ million on player salaries the ability to send a player to the minors or bring one out of retirement is only a matter of math. And the math isn't that hard. Even losing a player to LTIR isn't THAT big a deal because the money to pay for another guy is easily found (even if the player isn't).

Only three ways to fix it:

a) fix #1 and #3 (#2 has some merit), or
b) increase revenue sharing, or
c) use a combo of 'a' and 'b'

Be interesting to see what happens.

It was borderline inevitable really - once the divide between big money and small/medium money teams got large enough to swallow several salaries in it was only a matter of time. I like to think that it was simply a matter of the Cap rising faster than anyone thought it would.

** If more and more contracts go the route of big money early then we might see where teams with lots of Cap space begin to benefit in a meaningful way. Take a lot more contracts built that way for it make a difference however. imo anyways.


Have a great evening everyone.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Franchise 101 - Part 02 - Owners

Part 2 of a series of posts regarding NHL (sports really) teams. The series will serve as a template by which a casual fan can better determine the present and future state of the team they love.

Owners are a diverse bunch. They come in all shapes and sizes and most of it matters not at all. What does matter is their underlying level of wealth (more being better), and a combination of four other characteristics: Committment, Focus, Involvement and Motivation. In order:


How much money does your owner(s) have? As noted, more money is, generally, better.


How committed to the team is the owner? Being committed to being an owner is not the same as being committed to the team - especially when cheques have to be written.


How focused on the team is the owner? Think large corporations or teams going through ownership turmoil, an unfocused owner can often mean an unfocused team.


How hands on or hands off is the owner? If hands on... are you getting Dr. Jekll or are you getting Mr. Hyde? Owner involvement is the joker in the deck and it cannot be easily predicted or quantified.


What is the motivation of the owner? An owner motivated by a profit he/she/it can be sure of may not be willing to risk more than the minimum.


Why post something so obvious? Because the temperment and talent of the owner of a team is, imo, the single biggest factor in determining the on-ice success of a team. The owner determines the vision to be fulfilled, the owner hires the management, the owner sets the standard by which the entire team will function. The owner is the money.

To go one step further - the owner of a team is the ONLY factor that can enhance, mitigate or negate the impact of ALL other factors that can affect a team.

(If I feel so strongly about the role of owners why did I post about market concepts first? Because I thought about the market concepts first.)

So those are the two basic, interlocking, building blocks of a team. The owner. The market. Everything else will build from there. In terms of impacts: where a good owner can support a team in the worst of paying markets it takes a great market to support a bad owner over any real length of time.

The owner means more than the market does, but owners don't get to be owners by being stupid and even the greatest team owners can be worn down over time.

So again. Think about your team. And then think about the owner of the team. Now put the two together.

Franchise 101 - Introduction and Chapter Listing


I would be remiss if I didn't link the site of the fellow who had that photo taken; you can find his site at and this particular photo is found under the 'Old Toronto Stories' heading. I enjoyed reading some of that history, almost to the point where I almost started to like the center of the universe. But not quite. :-)

Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Conventional Wisdom Cracked Wise - Part 02

It is no secret that I get tired with most of those who post on the fanboards now-a-days. Considering the incredible amount of NHL data and analysis now available there is no excuse, excepting that of age I guess, for some of the junk that gets written out there.

What REALLY bugs me however is when said junk gets transmogrified into some kind of commonly accepted principle.

As in... there is no reason to wait for the off-season for valuable RFA's and UFA's to become available because the teams which own their rights will sign them in a timely fashion.

Proper analysis of this issue comes in two parts a) a look at the term 'valuable' and b) will players come available.

In this post I will focus on b) will players come available?

To which I give you:

Philadelphia Cream Cheesed

Please note - I am not picking on the Flyers as I think Paul Holmgren has done an outstanding job rebuilding that team. However, they illustrate my point rather nicely and such gifts I cannot refuse.

Roster Detail

Immediate Notes

Gauthier isn't included because he is already in the minors and will probably stay there until his contract is up. Also, Rathje's LTIR status is irrelevant because he starts and ends his year on that list.

The chart shows that the Flyers have, in 2008/09, ~ 45.04 mill of next years Cap space allocated to 8 forwards, 3 defensemen and 2 goalie's. This leaves some 4 or 5 forwards and 4 or 5 defensemen left to be signed.

Let's deal with 2 of those spots right away - the 12th forward spot and the 8th defenseman spot will automatically be slotted in at 550k /year. New total is ~ 46.14 mill for 15 players.

If next year's Cap rises the 4 million some are predicting then the new Cap is 54.30. The difference is ~ 8.16 mill.

The RFA's

Umberger, Carter, Cote, Kukkonen and Jones.

Of these, the two guys who have counting numbers above expectations are Umberger (++) and Jones (+++). Carter (+) isn't dominating as people would like but is still showing respectably while Cote (+) is doing pretty well considering the opposition he plays. Kukkonen isn't doing anything special either way.

Of the 25+ age group, Cote and Kukkonen will probably come cheap. Without the benefit of big year's they can't demand much and while both can play the 'almost 27' card only Kukkonen has the 'Europe is HOME' card. So let's be fair here. Maybe 600k for Cote and 1.25 mill for Kukkonen?

Now the two outperformers. Umberger and Jones. If both players keep performing well they won't come cheap. Umberger, on a deal that takes him into his UFA years will net an easy 2.5 mill while Jones is no less than a 1.8 mill signing under the same auspices.

I am being very nice to Holmgren with both of those deals.

That leaves Carter. Hard to say what will happen there. Hard not to note that he is still on pace to score 20+ goals and 40+ points. In today's NHL that means a two year deal of 2.0+ million. Let's be nice to Holmgren (again!) and assume that no one makes a RFA run at Carter and he signs at 2.0.

RFA signings should cost the Flyers a cool 8.15 mill. (to answer the obvious question - no, I didn't plan that)


Smith and Vandermeer

No money left to sign them. If there was I would expect that Smith would get the going rate of 3+ mill for 'veteran stay-at-home defensemen and respected by all Captain types' while Vandermeer will be hoping GM's notice he is consistent at playing well against weaker opposition (say 1.5 mill?).

Cap Flex and Maneuvers

Holmgren does have some moves he can make. I will rate them by degree of difficulty.

EASY: Moving Sami Kapanen (poor performance) and Antero Nittymaki (expensive back-up). At the very least they are easy salaries to swallow (via the minors). If replacements come in at 550k each the savings total 1.4 mill in Cap space and certainly add breathing room.

MEDIUM: Moving Hatcher is a possibility. Holmgren could then seek an equivalent (maybe keep Smith) or make the deliberate switch to Coburn, Kukkonen, Jones and eventually Picard/Parent. Option 1 doesn't free up Cap space while Option 2 could really pay off if Coburn takes another leap forward in development. Moving Kukkonen is also an option but the Cap Flex gained is marginal at best.

HARD: Trading other roster players. Philadelphia has very few 'poor' bets on the roster. Most of their players are underpaid given performance (Coburn, Upshall), earning their keep (Biron, Knuble, Lupul), too new and shiny to trade (Timonen) or close to unmovable regardless (Gagne, Hartnell).

Summary of the Cheese

Philadelphia is, due to one great trade deadline/off-season, looking at a successful future. Most of their salary issues are minor in nature (Kapanen/Nittymaki), will resolve themselves over time (Knuble/Hatcher) or have the promise of established performance (Gagne/Timonen). Hartnell's underlying play is fine so if he can improve his counting numers he will earn his contract.

That means the issue is, quite simply, the Cap itself. None of the raises that I have proposed for any of the roster players I named is overcosted - to get any better Holmgren would have to replicate the success of Coburn's contract... good luck with that.

So, even given that his roster is well constructed, he (Holmgren) STILL looks to be losing one of Hatcher/Smith and then Vandermeer off his roster at the end of the season.

For the record - I believe that the progression of Coburn, et al will result in the Flyers having a better team next year and that Holmgren has set that team up for continuing sucess over the next 5 years (if not more).

Summary of the Point

There are more teams like the Flyers out there. There may not be a lot of big hitters available this coming off-season but RFA's and UFA's will come available this off-season and steady, veteran players like Smith and Vandermeer will be in that group.

Think further for a second. Everything I just wrote about the Flyers goes out the window if they pull Stanley Cup Cinderella run. If Carter or Umberger pulls a 2005/06 Fernando then all bets are off and Holmgren's off-season gets a lot more interesting real quick.

So remember, sometimes conventional wisdom has it wrong.


Have a great evening everyone.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Franchise 101 - Part 01 - Markets

Part 1 of a series of posts regarding NHL (sports really) teams. The series will, hopefully, serve as a template by which a casual fan can better determine the present and future state of the team they love.

The market that a team operates in is a function of origin, size, support and wealth. Really. That is it. Teams can mitigate market impairments (hedging currency, revenue sharing) or exploit market strengths (special jerseys, get those movie stars!) all they want but the basics are as listed:


A matter of being Canadian or American. A very specific circumstance and not one that is an issue right now but we all remember when the Canadian dollar was less than 80 cents right?


A matter of geography and population. How many people does the team have access to? Not always just the city the team plays in. More people is generally better.


A matter of market size and penetration. Just how popular is the team? Smaller markets have to have more per capita support, wealthier support or some functional mix.


A matter of how much money the fans have to spend. Lots of fans with a little cash each, few fans with loads of cash or, as is generally the case, some kind of mix. All cash welcome.


Why post something so obvious? Because the market that a team operates in is one of the basic building blocks of team competitiveness. A team that operates in a small, poor, uninterested market that suffers from currency issues will require special circumstances indeed if it is to be competitive long, or even short, term.

The greatest of special circumstances is, of course, ownership.

But before you turn your mind to ownership please think about your team in the context of the four points I just mentioned. Be sure that the marketing department of your team will have this all covered (they know their fan demographics down to the shirt sizes I am sure) but I am not posting this for their benefit.

Think about your team.

Franchise 101 - Introduction and Chapter Listing


Have a great evening everyone.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Conventional Wisdom Cracked Wise - Part 01


One that is almost topical, even.

Lord Bob (see: South Smythian Rolo-Gator link on the right) was making me look bad so it was time to post again. Immediately following this post will be a series of BADLY outdated posts - all in limbo for far too long because of house reno's, work stress and writer's block - posted because I will be damned if I am going to waste all of that. Still... sorry gone so long.

Without further ado...

How To Trade The Untradeable...?

I read a lot about how goalies, specifically Roloson, have no trade value in the NHL these days. I disagree with this assessment. I believe that a team merely has to get creative.

Think about Tampa Bay for a second. Tight budget, lots of Cap space, top-heavy team with no depth, no goaltending to speak of and a dead-weight of a deal for a goalie they simply don't want or need right now in Marc Denis.

Enter Dwayne Roloson

Denis & 2nd round pick

Why? Simple.

a) Roloson (sv% .901) is better than Holmqvist (sv% .892);
b) Roloson's Cap hit (Roloson = 3.667 vs. Denis = 2.867) is easy for TBay;
c) Roloson's higher salary only costs ~350k (pro-rated) this year with no increase next*
d) Edmonton, even keeping Denis, gains a Cap savings of ~ 800k;
e) Edmonton gains the ability to buy Denis out (cannot do with Roloson);
f) Edmonton gains a 2nd round draft pick for losing the better player

* Roloson and Denis have the same 2008/09 salary

The needs of both teams are served. Tampa gets a guy who might save their year and he won't cost them much more than they were willing/committed to spending in the first place while Edmonton gets greater Cap flex and a pick.



Have a great evening everyone.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Oilers 2007-08 Season Preview

Executive Summary

The team is a mess. The forward group will be overmatched most night and the defense is a mish-mash of ill-fitting parts. Goaltending will have to carry the team but as good as the tandem of Roloson/Garon is they don't make for a Luongo and to be honest it would take a goaltender THAT good to make this team finish in the play-offs.

Projected Finish: somewhere between 22nd to 26th overall.

Scariest Stat from 2006-07: Roloson's PP sv% of .894 was 8th best


This group is a mess. At best this team can put together two decent lines and after that it will be overmatched vets babysitting rookies.

Hemsky & Horcoff

Expect these two to carry the load. I don't know if Horcoff can raise his game another notch but he will have to now that Smyth is gone. Hemsky remains in the tweener zone (star or superstar?) but his skills are unmatched on this team.

Penner, Stoll & Torres

Three guys who may or may not be positive contributors. Can Penner be a team leading, 1st line LW? Can Stoll overcome his concussion? Will Torres finally become a consistent performer (in a good way)? Too many question marks for players who should be sure bets.

Moreau & Pisani

Two of the teams better players and both are out to start the season. A full roster of veterans to start the season and MAYBE this team isn't bottom-6 but that doesn't matter now. Both players are out and Lowe didn't pick up any veterans to carry the slack. wheeeee!

Reasoner, Sanderson & Thoreson

Thoreson is just starting out, Reasoner is settling in and Sanderson is almost done. As 4th line guys they should be fine. Anything beyond that is debateable. I expect/hope Sanderson to be deadline fodder and I protest Thoreson's start in the minors.

Nilsson, Pouliot & JF Jaques

Three of the rookies who have substantial playing time at either the AHL or NHL level (substantial for rookies anyways). Left side is weak so expect them to get their time there. Two of the three should pan out as NHLers and you know I am a Pouliot fan...

Brodziak, Cogliano & Gagner

All rookies. Gagner still has that 'new-baby' smell but the other three have lots of college or AHL experience so that may make the difference. This should be Brodziak's best chance to make the club and I expect Gagner to get 10 games in. Cogliano is loved by the team so he will make the team in some capacity.


Another mess. More skill than last year but the player mix is a mish-mash of specialty skills and rookie mistakes waiting to happen. Few natural pairings means trouble.

Souray & Staios

These two will have to be the stalwarts on this this club. Both will probably have to take on a babysitters role and depending on baby it is hard to say how well they will do. Problem: both players are more suited to playing the role of a #4 or even #5 guy. Funny thing, Staios backing Souray makes for a decent defensive pair... but we don't have the depth for that.

Pitkanen & Tarnstrom

Which Pitkanen and which Tarnstrom will show up? Both have shown that they can be star point producers but in this case neither one will be running the show where it counts (the PP). Pitkanen will have to steady his game and balance point scoring with strong defensive play while Tarnstrom will have to be a steadier defender than most think he can be.

Grebeshkov, Greene & Smid

All of these guys have some 'at-bats' but that doesn't mean they are anywhere near the top of the order. Grebs is a total wildcard - did a year in Russia help or hurt? Greene is a lean, mean penalty taking machine built for the old NHL more than the new while Smid continues to hope the game slows down for him. Problem is, the team can't wait on baby steps.

Gilbert, Rourke & Roy

Interesting cases here. While all are, technically, rookies, they are all older than their NHL games played would indicate. Roy and Rourke should be the least risky #7 guys this team has ever fielded while Gilbert, despite a good training camp, will probably need his year in the minors. Look for all three to get some games in. Lots of games would probably be a bad thing.


Roloson & Garon

Best goaltending rotation this team has had in years. I don't even need to get specific. Roloson and Garon are both good goalie's capable of above average play. Garon had injury issues last year but he should still make for a capable back-up. Roloson is getting older but hopefully that doesn't cross the line into too old this year.

How Will They Do?

My projected finish (just based on gut feeling) is somewhere between 22nd to 26th overall. Believe it or not. Some teams are worse right out of the gate while others are just a player injury away from total collapse. Some made up percentages:

00% - finish 01 - 14 (don't even think it)
01% - finish 15 - 16 (perchance to dream)
09% - finish 17 - 19 (if it ALL works out)
20% - finish 20 - 22 (a real possibility)
50% - finish 23 - 25 (most probable imo)
15% - finish 26 - 27 (shouldn't be this bad)
05% - finish 28 - 30 (PHX, CBJ, CHI)


Have a great evening everyone.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Smart, Smart, Smart

Smartest Trade of 2006-07

Not best. Smartest.

The Philadelphia Flyers trade Freddy Meyers Jr. and a conditional 3rd round draft pick to the New York Islanders for Alexei Zhitnik.

Holmgren knew he had budget and Cap to spare and he knew SOMEONE at the deadline would give him more for Zhitnik than he gave up. Now, granted, the return he did get for Zhitnik was over the moon (Coburn... wtf?), but even if one calls that a fluke it was STILL a very heady trade by Holmgren who, I might think, knows a little about buy low and sell high.

Smart, smart trade.


Have a great evening everyone.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Oilers - An Off-Season Review - 2007 Edition

Not a great off-season for Lowe. I cannot say it more clearly.

The Good

Garon was a great signing by Lowe. He had injury issues last year but in the games he did play his Sv% was a respectable .907%. He will provide excellent back-up goaltending for Roloson and can step into the #1 role if Roloson falters.

Pitkanen will always be an exceptionally talented defenseman. Getting the best player in a trade usually means your team won the trade and Lowe won this trade. The only problem here is that Pitkanen is even more Hemsky than Hemsky is.**

** With Hemsky we only wonder if he will ever take the next step up, Pitkanen is fully capable of taking a step back - that would make him a very expensive mistake given his numbers justify a $4.5 mill+ contract. For those kind of dollars you want a guy who can do more than score.

The Meh

Tarnstrom is a guy I have ALWAYS supported. Normally I would consider this a great move. Problem is that Lowe also added Souray and we already have Stoll - that makes three players who rely on PP results, generated from the point, for their scoring. And where does Pitkanen fit in there?

The rest of the Pitkanen deal (as a group):

-- Sanderson is deadweight who will probably last the year with us. Lowe MIGHT be able to dump him (deadline) for a late pick but miracles are not for us.
-- Lupul wasn't a good fit here. The Oilers just don't have a line where they can hide him. He might do okay in Philly given that they have more centers capable of babysitting him.
-- Smith is a HUGE loss for the Oilers. One of the few players on the team who is capable of making any player he plays with better.

I like Pitkanen enough that I can avoid giving this deal a thumbs down but mark my words - Smith was team super-glue and I am legitimately scared for this team without him back there. To be frank, if Lowe had had the option to send Greene or Grebeshkov instead, it would have been a better move (even if we then had to throw in the draft pick).

The Bad

Penner should settle in as a decent #2 winger for the Oilers. Problem is that the Lowe picked him up at a much higher price than he should have. The team will easily be one of the worst in the league and top-5 picks in deep drafts are almost a gimme when it comes to drafting IMPACT players. This one hurts.

Souray is the kind of defenseman who should be playing on the 3rd pair at Even Strength, the 1st pair on the power play and the 2nd pair on the penalty kill. In those spots he should be a difference maker. The problem is that, at that pay ($5.4 mill/yr and 3yrs NMC) he:

a. will not be playing a lesser role (at EV) that maximizes his skill set, and he
b. takes us right to the Cap limit (crippling the teams ability to make trades), and he
c. has to perform at an elite level just to justify the dollars, and Cap space - the contract is essentially unmovable.


e. there is no proof Souray is a driver of PP results (the stats only show that he can score), and
f. the team already had a PP pointman with a big shot in Stoll, and
g. the team had already added Tarnstrom, and
h. the addition of Souray just further unbalanced the roster (too few players good at EV).

All in all - a complete disaster in the making. Of all the bullets posted it is 'c' that matters - at 5.4 mill /yr the Oilers can't afford to have Souray perform at anything less than an elite level. There is no room for margin in this contract.

Hejda, on the other hand, is the sort of defenseman you only dream of (as a GM). Last half of the year he played like a legit #3 guy. Given that he is a VETERAN player from the Euro leagues I find it hard to assume that his level of performance could/would backslide much. Absolutely collosal blunder by Lowe.

Johnson and Dvorak are the kind of forwards a team needs to sign during rebuild years. They provide veteran play on the 3rd and 4th lines and can shelter rookies as they develop and learn the game. If the team is lucky they can outperform their opposite lines and provide a boost to the entire team in doing so. Too bad Lowe didn't sign ANY of those kinds of players.


The signing of Garon makes sense for any team at any time. Good back-up goaltending, signed for cheap, is... just... well... it's every good thing. Kudo's to Lowe.

The 'not' signing of Hejda makes no sense at any time for any team. Cheap, reliable, young. It doesn't get any better than that. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

After that, the problem is that Lowe's moves, as a whole, don't make sense. Edmonton is NOT a contender. Contending teams come in several flavors and Edmonton is none of those. Hence, this is a rebuild year. Given that then:

-- Pitkanen is a great player to trade for. Young, can produce, could be dominant, didn't give up too much for him. Losing Smith hurts but for a rebuild this is as good as it gets.
-- Tarnstrom was an excellent signing. Short-term deal, veteran player, deadline trade-bait all the way. Unfortunately, this is the last move Lowe made that makes sense.

-- Penner was a horrible signing to make. By all means, PUSH Anaheim on the dollars, but giving up a 1st, in a draft like the 2008 will be, given how bad the team is, insane.

-- Souray is not a player that a rebuilding team signs to a long-term deal with a NMC. Overpay for one or two years and trade at the first deadline the first chance you get. Or don't sign at all.

One might think that three positives (Garon, Pitkanen, Tarnstrom) and three negatives (Hejda, Penner, Souray) makes for neutral - the team is no worse and no better. Problems are that neutral still means a REALLY bad team, the team is in a long-term rebuild cycle hindered by medium-term contracts and there is no long-term upside (the 1st rnd pick).

Not a great off-season for the Oilers at all. A tremendous number of things will have to break in our favor just to ensure we aren't giving Anaheim a lotto pick. Ouch.


Have a great evening everyone.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Oilers - Rookie Camp - Yellowknife 2007 - Part 3

It is like he is looking into my soul. Joey is da bomb.


I cannot say enough good things about the Edmonton Oilers management and the players they brought up here. Great lift for the City of Yellowknife and the honours given Shorty Brown are of a higher order.

For all it is worth, 'Thank You'.

My Favorite Player:

TYLER SPURGEON - Best player on the ice, imo, all three days. Pure joy to watch. Everything you want in a 3rd or 4th line guy. EVERYTHING. I hope he has a career as great and wide as the smile I wore whenever I saw it was him with the puck. Never let me down once.

My Favorite Surprise:

WILLIAM QUIST - Easily the best 'who?' on the Oilers depth chart. If I am a GM with another team Quist is the guy I want as a 'throw-in' if I am trading with the Oilers. If he adds a shot to his game he could really surprise. The first impact Swede for us?

My Favorite... Tie?:

BRYAN YOUNG and SEBASTIEN BISAILLON - Either one of these guys could turn into a real, live d-man who makes a difference in the pro's. Not even close to a sure thing BUT you can see elements of the pro-game in their game and that is what gives them a leg up on most of the guys I saw here.

My Biggest WTF?:

ANDREW COGLIANO and RYAN O'MARRA - Neither really showed me much. Normally that might not bother me EXCEPT that it was clear they had better skills and 'game' than most of the guys they were playing against. Both should have had more dominant moments than they did.

And that is it. All the comments I really want to make. My apologies for how long this took to post. Got busy and got writer's block and got nuthin' written. Simple as that.


To reiterate, this post is the third of three (oddly enough). The other two are found (in counting order) below this one.

Have a great evening everyone.