Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Contracts - Part 1 (a Smyth Continuum posting)

It is my interest, right now, to declare my opinion on some of the many contracts signed by the Oilers over the last few years. I have done so before but, for purposes of having it here in plain sight, I shall declare my opinions again.

If I go way back in time it all starts with the 1998-99 season and I am at the local Boston Pizza with my buddy Paul. At the time I make the observation that the Oilers simply have too many million dollar players. The point being that with all of the lunchbucket guys getting more than they should the team would always be hampered by a lack of money for the big dollar guys.

I groused about this sort of thing for several years - then came the Eric Brewer contract. 1.5 million the 1st year and 2.5 the second was, imo, a stupid contract. Not stupid because of the dollars but because of what the dollars represented and what they would mean.

What it Represented

Eric Brewer was a RFA at the time and his negotiating power was debateable. He didn't have arbitration rights yet and this contract represented the last chance the club would get to enforce their will on his contract situation. This idea, the ability to exert will, is a very important concept to grasp. Once Brewer reached arbitration rights or, upon reaching the holy age of 31, became an UFA the club would no longer hold the ability to exert maximum pressure.

The cycle of pay under the old NHL CBA was pretty simple: clubs had the hammer then the arbitrator had the hammer then the player had the hammer. It is important to note that under the old CBA the NHL clubs rarely used their hammer time wisely. Players deemed important to the club would, all too often it seemed, call the shots. If the GM didn't pay them what they wanted the player would hold out. The GM's, being wimps, would fold like a cheap suit.

Remember, the contract lasted for two years and at the end of it he got arbitration rights. Lowe was signing Brewer to a contract that would match the cycle perfectly AND which paid Brewer more than fairly.

What did this represent? Nothing less than the inability of Lowe to use the CBA, as it existed, to his advantage. Meanwhile, to the West, Brian Burke would pistol whip Matt Cooke into a 4 year deal at very low dollars. Burke knew how the CBA worked.

What it Meant

There are two things that the signing meant. One has already been mentioned, i.e. Lowe was/is not a great CBA or salary guy. The second is the real kicker however. HINT: Take a look at the 2nd year of that deal.

2.5 million dollars.

Think about that for a second. Not only does Brewer hit arbitration right when he should he also now has a starting figure of 2.5. Built into the contract was, what I can only call, an outstanding inflation figure. If it had been a contract for 2.0/2.0 it still would have been too high but with the switch of 500k EVERY contract that Brewer signed from then on would have the extra hundreds of thousands in it.

Simply put:

Lowe had Brewer at his, theoretical at least, mercy and Lowe was the one who gave up. A better contract, one with the CBA cycle in mind, would have been for 3 or 4 years and would have topped out at 2.0. Lowe didn't even have to go all 'Burke' on his ass. A contract of 1.5, 1.75 and 2.0 would have still been very generous given Lowe's advantageous position.


So where do we (the Oilers) stand now?

Lowe has had two great contracts go his way: Hemsky's 4.1 /yr for 6 years was awesome and MAB's 4 year deal was equally good.

Lowe also has at least one 'okay' deal on the books: Horcoff's 3.6 /yr for 3 years is adequate and would have been great if it had had an extra year at the 3.6.

Note, as I point out in the Horcoff case - the right number of years is just as important as the money paid out.

Other than that it is all downhill.

Pisani's deal is a joke. 2.5 /yr for 4 years for a 3rd line, defensively responsible RW who has a decent shot and one good play-off under his belt? You gotta be kidding me.

Lupul's deal is equally horrendous. Ending at the ludicrous figure of 2.9 million this contract was a total cave-in by Lowe. Brewer's 2 yr deal all over again.

Roloson and Moreau both have bad deals but for different reasons. Neither is as bad as Pisani's or Lupul's.

The Staios deal is one I have to sit on the fence on. Defensemen went for such a premium in the off-season that I can't really complain too much. My gut says it is too much but my head says I have to give it a meager pass.

I could spell it all out but right now the Oilers are overpaying, and undersigning, four players some 1.5+ million dollars a year.

It is 1998-99 all over again only this time the number is roughly $2 million instead of $1 million. And yes, they still can't afford to pay their big dollar guys.


Tyler Dellow at
mc79hockey has a bang up post on it all and Vic Ferrari has been weighing in at Irreverent Oil Fans.


Have a great evening everyone.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

On The Perimeter (a Smyth Continuum posting)

The problem with starting this blog so late (in my fandom) is that I have so much to say and have said so much (on other blogs and at certain message boards) . Hence, when something momentous happens, something so momentous that it outright REQUIRES me to start a blog of my own, I actually have to go back in time in order to start at the beginning. So...

Perimeter players

We all know who they are. Playing on the wings or at the center spot they tend to have good skill sets but be defensively deficient, disappear when leaned on and don't play any sort of effective physical game. The best have very good skill sets and are 'okay' defensively. The very best can dominate a game when they are 'on'.

Problem is that the whole reason they are perimeter players in the first place is because they lack the desire to play every game with the switch turned 'on'. Yashin, Huselius, Jagr, Sykora, Cassels, Lupul. Rank them or slot them in, in terms of effectiveness, where you will.

There IS a place for perimeter players in the NHL. Physical teams that lack in offensive skill sets can get a great deal of mileage out of a couple of perimeter guys (Huselius is, currently, a great example of this in Calgary). The trick is balance.

Too many bangers and your team can't score. Too many perimeter players and you get walked over by a physical team that can match or neutralize your skill. At the highest level (the NHL) it all becomes about exerting YOUR will to dominate that of your opponent. The wildcard in hockey is the goalie... but that is a wholly different post for another day.

So. Given that this post is from the past, about the future, if someone had asked me to discuss the prospects of the NY Islanders before February 27, 2007, I would have told them that:

- Petteri Nokelainen should be avoided because the risk factors are too high - guy doesn't score and how good is his defensive play in the 'tap me I hear a whistle calling' NHL?,
- Ryan O'Marra is the real deal but tops out at 'okay' 2nd line center - probable 3rd line guy with the question being 'Halpern, Madden, Peca, Marchant good? or Reasoner good'?,
- Jeff Tambellini is a player I don't know enough about to even form an opinion** - to be fair he seems like a pretty decent scorer so maybe I should care
- Grebeshkov will be a very good defenseman in the NHL should he ever come back over - the problem wasn't his play it was his salary demands,
- Kohn and O'Neill are pretty good d-man prospects that don't get much press and of the two I like O'Neill better,
- Robert Nilsson is a perimeter player and the question becomes - how perimeter? Nolan and MacT demand similar attributes from their players and Nilsson can't play for Nolan,
- Kyle Okposo is the real deal and is one of the best prospects out there - period.

It is now the future. Nilsson is an Edmonton Oiler.

The question is pretty simple: on a team that was already heavy with perimeter players of varying skill levels (Hemsky, Sykora, Lupul, Nedved) where does Nilsson even fit in?


In regards to the Smyth trade itself,
mudcrutch is rather upset about it all while speeds and lowetide thought it pretty good.


** generally a bad thing as it means the player/prospect has never done anything to get my attention and so I don't really care