Thursday, July 13, 2006


Potpourri for $1.3M (or so) please, Alex

**The more I think about it, the more negative I get about the Jeff Friesen signing. At least it's only a one-year deal. The reports have his salary at either $1.3M or $1.6M; I'm going to assume that this difference is due to some incentive clause, which I suppose begs the questions:
  1. What milestones is he rewarded for passing?
  2. (this question applies even if the premise is flawed) What is expected/hoped from him, or rather, what would constitute a successful year for Friesen?
I've been going over his numbers, and I just don't see the upside. His career high in points was 63, all the way back in 97/98. His high in a year starting with a "2" is 51, back in 02/03 (he also had 10 goals for the Devils in the playoffs that season, which is the absolute most recent bit of data that shows he might be offensively talented).

But forget all that; last season's numbers are much, much worse. In his defense, he went from the Devils to the Caps to the Ducks, with at least one trip through waivers: certainly not ideal conditions for a guy to excel. But:
What to say? He'd better be a hell of a guy in the dressing room, because statistically, he's a poor man's Shean Donovan (never thought I'd use that phrase!).

**To follow up a bit, Yes, I'm happy to see that the Flames have moved Jim Playfair into the Head Coaching position. He's got a lot of pressure on him, but I think he's well-equipped to handle it. He's a smart guy; he has HC experience (in the AHL) and NHL experience (as the Flames AC for 2-1/2 seasons); and he knows the team.

I also have warm feelings about his judgement. This is all from memory, so correct me if I'm wrong, but: when the Flames fired Greg Gilbert, they didn't have a replacement ready to go, and wanted to put an interim coach in place (which ended up being Al Macneil). At the time, Playfair was the HC of the Saint John Flames, and Ken King/Craig Button offered him the job -- with the Interim tag.

A lot of guys would jump at any opportunity to become an NHL HC, even though the circumstances are both lousy and tenuous (Therrien and Torchetti being the most recent examples), because they never know when another opportunity might come up. But Playfair said No. He essentially told the Flames that he would accept the Head Coaching job c/w a suitable contract and committment, but that he wasn't going to do it on a caretaker basis.

Objectively this seems like a wise decision (more obviously so in retrospect), but it takes some stones. That might have been the only offer he ever got to coach an NHL team, but he declined it because the situation wasn't right for him (and the team) to be successful. I'm real, real glad it worked out for him.

(Footnote: yes, JP is the first former Oiler player to be the Head Coach of the Flames).

**The chatter on the radio about Coach Playfair's promotion included pretty much unanimous agreement that this spells the end of the era of the single coach/GM. They may be right, but the discussion was weird: they were basically saying that oh, now that there's a salary cap, there's a lot more work for the GM. I don't get this.

Surely the "new" work created by the cap (say, more number crunching, financial & statistical projections etc.) is the first thing delegated by any GM, not just one who's also the coach. Surely the GM's roles of supervisor, leader, and decision-maker are substantially the same as they've always been.

The element of truth, I suppose, would be that with more roster turnover, summers are busier with more decision-making. NHL Head Coach is a fairly consuming job; even if you assume that during the season you can do both jobs by delegating the right tasks from both, you need a vacation at some point.

From my own perspective on the Flames, the reason I'm glad the job is being split up is for the checks & balances. As I discussed at length in May, the Sauve situation was made much worse by Darryl Sutter's dual role. If a comparable situation comes up next January, the coach has a GM who can tell him, "You screwed up! Go kiss and make up, and if a good deal presents itself, I'll make it."

**Yes, Tie Domi was in Calgary over the weekend. I am assuming for my own mental health that it was to watch the chuckwagon races and spend a day in Banff, and will entertain no rumours or suggestions to the contrary. Now I'm going to end this post, so I can cross my fingers and leave them that way until he signs with the Penguins or somebody.

Go Flames.


I've wondered lately, why not only is their a more pronounced division between GM and Coach, but why NHL staffs' don't grow dramatically. Why don't we see position coaches for every position? So not only Goalie/Defense coaches but center/wing coaches, face-off coaches, power-play/penalty killing coaches, skating coaches, etc. Plus on the business side, as well as Capologist and contract person, why doesn't management team include schedule specialist/travel specialist, minor league team liason etc.

Apparently Domi visits the Stampede nearly every year. So no worries on that front.

Ah, the fun frustration of Friesen! The only two things more frustrating than having Friesen take part of your payroll are:

1. Trading for him again a few years later.
2. Watching him beat you in G7.

Oops, was that second one a bit too close-to-home?

Seriously, though. The only thing redeeming about the guy is his G7 record. You'll only have to hate him the 88-or-so games that come before that.

Will Domi play on the 1line and Iginla drop down to 2line?

Just wondering.

I dunno, Matt. If you look at Friesen's ES rate stats for the four seasons prior to 05/06, he's a definite step up from Donovan.

His 05/06 regular season was Peca like, but Donovan only had 1.4 ESP/hr so it's not like the bar is set high or anything.

"Seriously, though. The only thing redeeming about the guy is his G7 record. You'll only have to hate him the 88-or-so games that come before that"

And that is pretty much it. Friesen is a Game 7 guru, and has a Cup. I remember when he first broke in with the Sharks. Great things were expected of him. I wonder if that mentality still exists.

Two things, RiversQ:

- How much better were they? Has he usually been above 2.0 ESP/60? I'd be happy to have a straw to grasp at..

- More subjectively, how far backwards is it appropriate to look for a 30-year-old, in trying to estimate future performance? I know the whole freakin' system is out of order right now because of the lockout, but I don't want to cling to a performance that's too far in the past. Is there any reason why anyone should expect Friesen to score more than 15 goals this year?

Here were Friesen's stats with Regina

1991-92 Regina Pats WHL 4 3 1 4 Pts-- -- -- -- --

1992-93 Regina Pats WHL 70 45 38 83 pts

1993-94 Regina Pats WHL 66 51 67 118 pts

1994-95 Regina Pats WHL 25 21 23 44 pts -- -- --

Great, if the Flames demote him to the Hitmen, he'll clean up.

Matt: I'd say you need to look at three seasons for most players. Three seasons because every once in awhile a player (or his linemates) will get lucky/unlucky for a year and his SH% will jump/fall. Three seasons will usually average this out.

For a guy who's 30 yrs old and playing in the league for quite awhile like Friesen and Donovan have, the 26-32 years are usually right in the heart of steady ESP/hr numbers - just based on my liberal sampling of the data. eg. A guy like Ryan Smyth is eerily consistent. He's not alone amongst NHLers IMO.

Friesen's recent 3yr average ESP/hr is 1.8. That's pretty darn good. He'll never fill the net, but he scores enough to be an outscorer, if his GAA is decent and Friesen's usually is decent if memory serves.

Donovan's recent three year average is 1.5 ESP/hr. So Friesen's an upgrade if you assume they have comparable GAA and strength of opposition. However, that rate upgrade costs a marginal $975K. I'm not sure that's worth it, unless Friesen can do that against tougher opposition or if he can keep down the GA at a better rate than Donovan.

In defence of Friesen, you also have to remember that this was coming out of the lockout and he may not have kept himself in game shape during that time off, as a number of the veteran players didn't (Keith Tkachuk anyone)...

At this point I think he is worth the risk, even if it is a little steep for my liking...


Wasn't Friesen hampered by injury last year as well? I think I read somewhere that he played for a month through a significant groin problem...

2. Watching him beat you in G7.

More than one franchise has felt this pain. He may not have been an ex-Sen, but it didn't mean that dagger to the heart with about 80 seconds left didn't hurt like hell.

Wasn't Friesen hampered by injury last year as well? I think I read somewhere that he played for a month through a significant groin problem...

Not only played through some time, but missed a lot of time also.

That was the justification (excuse) for why we picked up a winger at the trade deadline with 3 goals on the year.

Usual response: "OK, but why Friesen?!"

also apparently had a bit of an attitude issue playing for the Caps, iirc, didn't like the losing day after day, coach, etc. - whatever it was he played himself out of there.

I think he's an upgrade from Donovan in that he is a solid player who also gives you the added bonus of the odd big goal when you need it - I also read or heard that Carlyle wasn't a fan of his - maybe he was out of shape? Anyhow, guy has a rep of scoring big goals. If he scores one or two that will be one or two more then most Flames got in the playoffs this season.

Here's what I wrote about the Ducks re-acquiring Friesen.

He's not useless, and he's not without upside, but he's frustrating as hell. He loves retreating with the puck for some reason. It doesn't cost you, but it doesn't impress you much, either.

That's OK, Freezy. Save it for game seven.

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