Sunday, July 29, 2007


We Don't Throw At .260 Hitters

I'm bored, so I decided to start a fight with PJ Swenson over at Mirtle's site. Well, he actually started it, saying that "Oiler blogs are overrated," but like I said, I'm bored, and Matt told me to fill up some space here while he was on the vay-cay, so there you go. Done and done.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I would have preferred an offer sheet to Fred Penner

Matt and I are away on vacation, which is why there hasn't been a post here poking fun at Kevin Lowe's latest move. Not to worry, though. Black Dog, Covered in Oil, mc79hockey, and Lowetide have it covered. My own take is that I hope Burke lets Penner go, because I really want this team to continue stinking for a long time. This whole house needs to come crumbling down. As for what Burke will say at any press conference, I'm going to differ from the norm. I think Burke will say very little in terms of trashing the Oilers. Let's face it, going after an RFA is something Burke would totally do, and I'm pretty sure he and Lowe get along quite well. We're going to get a lecture from the patronizing, sarcastic floating brain that is Brian Burke, that is for sure, but I think it will be the opposite of what most people expect.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I guess ominous is in the eye of the beholder

Item: Daryl Katz comments on offer to purchase the Edmonton Oilers

For a fanbase that suffered through Peter Pocklington and Michael Largue and threats and promises and all of our heroes leaving in their prime, Daryl Katz is like manna from heaven.

Who could resist this?

Terry Jones:
Katz promising "to play to the cap" and saying "I am committed to building a winning team" also sounds like a warning bell to me.

Good businessmen have been known to buy teams as a toy. And if they do, they usually want to play with it.

I wish TJ had elaborated on his chilling conclusion there, because I'm genuinely curious as to just what the hell he's afraid of. I suppose he's probably concerned that Laforge and Lowe (among others) would get fired and replaced, but I wouldn't exactly characterize that as Every Oiler Fan's Worst Nightmare.

Or, maybe he's worried that Katz is going to move the Gretzky statue into his personal office, torch the banners, rename the team the Jug Hustlers, and build a new arena/Walmart/Bowlerama complex on the highway to Fort Saskatchewan. With Terry Jones, you never really know.

***Andy Update*** Thanks to Matt for posting this. I'll just add in an article on Katz from The National Post that ran earlier this week. My own thoughts are in the comments.

***Andy Update*** Here's another story from the Edmonton Journal. Love what the Mayor has to say, myself. He doesn't care at all who owns the Oilers. He's just doing what is right for Edmonton. That's why Lyle Best, Cal Nichols, and Pat LaForge are on the "Arena Feasibility Committee". Because he's really taking into account the interests of the entire community.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Almost set

Tanguay - Langkow - Iginla
Huselius - Lombardi - Nolan
Nilson - Yelle - Primeau
Boyd - Conroy - Moss

Regehr - Sarich
Phaneuf - Aucoin
Eriksson - Warrener


There's your nominal Opening Night lineup, as things stand today. The Flames are probably right about where you want to be in terms of the cap: the table at left shows them $2M under, but when Godard and Hale head off to the minors (if everyone's healthy) then it's $3M. That's a number that lets them acquire virtually anyone they want midseason or at the deadline, or (God forbid) pick up a goalie with some experience if Kipper gets hurt.

I still suspect that there's one move left (not including getting Giordano's signature on a contract). What we have here is a depth chart that requires a rookie to make the lineup at forward, but has no room for Giordano.

My problem with this is that I think Giordano should be in the starting 6. Sutter's principal problem with it (I'm guessing based on past behaviour) is the open 12th forward slot.

On the D: Sarich, Regehr, and Eriksson just signed contracts -- they're here to play. Aucoin was just acquired at considerable cost -- he's here to play. Phaneuf is going nowhere anytime soon, he's here to play. That's 5 D who are absolutely not getting traded or getting sent to the minors any time in the near future.

Clearly, if Giordano is to be more than an injury replacement or depth player, there's only one guy who can move to make room for him, and it's Warrener. I don't know what the conventional wisdom is on The Warrener, but I suspect that there's a few teams around the league who are thin on the blueline and would be happy to take him on. Yes, he's a bit overpaid, and injury prone, but he's a veteran; he's pretty solid when healthy (and he's not that old); and he's been to the finals 3 times with 3 different teams, so there is clearly some leadership and wisdom there.

Up Front: it wouldn't bother me in the slightest, but I just don't see the Flames hitting training camp with the message that "one of you rookies will make not only the team but the lineup". It's just... out of character a bit. Throw in Keenan's famous preference for experienced players, and I have to predict that they bring in one more veteran forward.

Together: I'm not looking forward to the day Warrener gets moved, but I think it's fairly inevitable. They need his cap space for next year, and they need his lineup spot for this year. I suspect they'll move him for (A) a veteran depth forward in the final year of his contract, or (B) picks/prospects/another David Hale, and then use the dough saved to bring in a Friesen type.



Jumping off from the much-linked Tim Wharnsby piece Cracks show in NHL player, owner partnership in Thursday's Globe & Mail, Tom Benjamin takes a look at the disincentive for growth created by the CBA. And for once, I think he misses the mark by a bit. Read the whole thing, but here's the gist of the argument:
Higher league revenues are not in the interest of any (not just American) individual team unless those increases are driven by their own or pooled centralized revenues... When the Leafs raise ticket prices, salaries go up for everyone. As pay per view expands in Vancouver, player costs are driven up in Washington.

The owner of the Atlanta Thrashers would be very happy to see Nashville stay put. If Hamilton generated $50 MM more than Nashville, the Thrashers don't see a penny of that money and player costs across the league go up by about $1 MM a team. Why does Atlanta want Nashville to move? Why would a Toronto? The Leafs might like the idea if it reduced revenue sharing costs but it won't because those are tied to revenues, too. If Nashville doesn't get the money, another poor team will get more.

[...] In the Gary Bettman Hockey League, the big market teams don't even have to spend to drive up salaries. Now salaries can be inflated by big market revenues whether the big boys spend or not. Most teams don't want to see league revenues grow.

The first point to make here is that, while I'm no fan of the CBA for all sorts of reasons, I fail to see how the CBA creates or exacerbates this problem, such as it is. It certainly is a rebuke to those who believed (as advertised) that the new CBA would usher in a new "one big happy family" world order, but it's not a problem created by the CBA.

When the Leafs raised ticket prices (or created new revenue streams) in the old days, salaries went up. When any team found a new way to make money, they'd use some of it on their player budget, which increased salaries. It happened via market forces rather that direct linkage, but it happened all the same. It doesn't mean much when Tom says "Now salaries can be inflated by big market revenues whether the big boys spend or not", because they did and do. It doesn't really matter what the system is: it is never going to be in Team A's direct & immediate interest for Team B to find new money and gain a competitive advantage.

That's not really the point I wanted to focus on, though: I point to Tom's piece because I think we have different senses of the interests of NHL owners in the grand scheme of things, and maybe the commenters can referee.

In the context of competitive advantage (relating to player signing and thus on-ice success), maybe Tom is right when he says "The owner of the Atlanta Thrashers would be very happy to see Nashville stay put." But what about, "The owner of the Atlanta Thrashers was happy to see Jim Balsillie's bid for the Predators fail"? That is a different matter, and it seems to me a lot less likely to be true.

While Balsillie probably went too far with the selling of season tickets in Hamilton (and that stupid business with the Competition Bureau), I think he was right -- or rather, wise -- to make his big-dollar bid for the Predators with the plainly stated condition that he did not intend to keep them in Nashville. I think the aggressiveness of the thing was by design, despite that fact that he knew full well that the league machinery wasn't going to snap promptly to life and give him an "As you will!" And the design was to appeal directly to the 29 other owners' own interests, rather than Gary Bettman, or "The NHL" as a collective.

Think of it as a pop quiz, Speed-style, to any owner who has the imagination to realize that their best exit strategy someday might be a sale to someone who wants to relocate. "OK hotshot, so you feel like franchise relocation needs to be considered carefully, deliberately, and collectively. Fair enough. Now, what if that opinion could cost you 50 million bucks? What do you do? What do you do?"

My guess is that, among others, the owners of Atlanta and Florida threw up when they got word that Balsillie had been denied the Predators. I'm not denying that NHL owners can be long-range thinkers (see below); I am saying that the existing arguments against franchise relocation are nowhere near compelling enough to induce these guys to forsake tens of millions of dollars for themselves.

When Tom says that teams care more about themselves more than about "the league", he's right, but there's something missing there that's important. Order of concern for Team A in a league with teams A to Z goes like this:
I hope that's clear enough. I think it's fairly obvious that most people in the Flames organization, scouts to accountants, worry about the Flames most days, not the league. I do think that observers (media etc.) get confused about 2 & 3. Some other team is not the league. If Cal Nichols said that he doesn't care if the Predators survive in Nashville or not, the temptation is to label him as short-sighted or selfish. He may be both of those things, but it's worth considering if maybe he simply thinks the league would be just fine if the Predators had to move, or even that it'll be better off.

Also: there is the short-term, and the long-term. I'm literally the last person that would argue with Tom that people behave according to the incentives that exist, but I think he puts too much weight on the incentives that exist specific to this CBA.

The present CBA has an expiry date. The next one, and the one after that, will be different. Extremely different? I doubt it, but time will tell. Maybe some of the cost certainty elements will be watered down. Maybe some of the revenue-sharing provisions will be altered. I dunno. What I do know is that NHL owners have to plan for this in some way; they do have incentives to make decisions that will benefit the value of their businesses regardless of exactly what the next CBA says.

Steadfastly supporting a franchise that appears to have no chance of being profitable in their present location is not one of those things. Keeping a team from relocating into a market that will be extremely lucrative is not one of those things. Exercising an extreme amount of collective control over the fate of an individual franchise is not one of those things. And being indifferent -- or hostile -- to overall league revenue growth is not one of those things.

(And let's not forget: the next CBA will not drop out of the sky, it will be negotiated. If the league and owners spend the next 4 years trying to torque everything except Hockey Related Revenues, then the notion of the "partnership" will be in much bigger shambles than it is now, and it will considerably more difficult to negotiate a CBA with terms favourable to them.)

When I assess the short, medium, and long-term interests of NHL owners, each weighed as appropriately as I can figure, I think they must be in favour of the Balsillie bid for the Preds. It got denied this time, because Gary Bettman aggressively intervened (note: his interests are not identical to the owners'), and because Balsillie overplayed his hand (acting as if it was a done deal, instead of simply being clear about his intentions). Next time -- especially after all the owners have had time to reflect on this past bid -- Gary's veto is going to be overridden. Or at least, that's my prediction.

Epilogue on Price:

Colby Cosh had a pretty good column a few weeks ago about Balsillie and the Predators, where he accurately described the consensus on the stunningly huge bid as "a swashbuckling gesture by an old collegiate sportsman." Cosh himself characterizes this as questionable; I agree, and then some.

Ballpark at least, I'm certain that Balsillie believes it to be a good investment at that price (subject to his relocation plans). I'll concede gladly that there might be an "I really want it!" premium included; there's also clearly a "No Hassles" premium in there to bolster his relocation plans. (I'd offer the analogy of a buyer adding $15k to an offer on a house in exchange for the current owners leaving in 15 days instead of 60, and throwing in the window coverings. It's not really "worth" $15k, but the buyer wants to get it done, move in, and not have to jack around with buying and installing new blinds.)

Even without knowing the exact magnitude of those "premiums" -- or understanding what considerations are included in the bid re: lease breakage, legal fees & penalties, etc. -- it would seem that Jim Balsillie is bidding over $200M for an NHL franchise with no real history, to move it to a market that, while rabid for hockey, has no arena.

In other words, there's no real mystery why Darryl Katz' bids for the Oilers (now up to $175M) have, in Cosh's phrase, "been greeted with stony silence". The Oilers have some Stanley Cups (5 is it?); Top 10 revenues; the legend of Gretzky and the Boys on the Bus; a recent playoff run that reinforced (with a sledgehammer) that love and demand for everything Oily is massive beyond quantifying; and an arena that, while not state-of-the-art, is jammed full every game and perfectly amenable until the day that the political climate is suitable for extracting much $$ from the taxpayers for a new one.

Katz is simply not offering near enough money. I have to laugh when Cal Nichols grunts that "we have no interest in selling". Ri-ight... is there an alternate universe where he could say, "We'd consider selling, but the club is worth A LOT more than what's being offered!"? Cause he'll never say it in this one.

There's one other notable element of the Cosh piece that goes to the main part of this post: the references to Craig Leopold's decision making ("..the second-best bid now apparently being preferred out of sheer pique by Predators owner Craig Leipold." and "Even after deliberately turning down the high bid for his asset,.."). What explains this decision to forsake $40-$50M? I doubt it's pique. A massive cash payment from MLSE for ridding them of a potential headache? I doubt that either. Personal affection for Mr Bettman, or Mr. Boots? Nah. It has to be the "No Hassles" premium, upside-down. He had to have been put under serious duress by Bettman: the league wasn't going to approve the sale, so he could either reject Balsillie's bid outright, or plan on spending months or years, and millions of dollars, in court. He "voluntarily" chose the former. Think the owners of the Thrashers and Panthers envied the position Bettman put Leopold in? Me neither, and as such I doubt it'll happen that way again.

Cripes, I need an editor.

Friday, July 20, 2007


I Got A Lot of Problems With You People!

You know what I have a problem with? The people who make hot dogs and hamburgers, as well as their respective buns. Hey, grocery world, quit ripping me off. Do you think I don't notice that you create a difference between the amount of meat I get and the doughy receptacles you supply? Safeway, I know you package hamburgers in tens and buns in six, eight or twelve so that I'm stuck buying more than I want to buy. Ditto Save-On and Sobeys. And you know what? I hate you for it. Every time I have to pay an extra 3-6 bucks so that my bun/meat quotient is balanced for one of my summer extravaganza, a little bit more of my civility dies. If you continue in this practice, grocers, I'm coming for your frozen food sections. You heard me. DOORS INTENTIONALLY LEFT OPEN. That's right. Open. You've been warned.

Thursday, July 19, 2007



Jon Stewart on last night's Daily Show:
And I have to say, Michael Vick: being a two-sport athlete, football and dogfighting? It's not really as impressive as the Bo Jackson thing.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


No less sensible than the MPAA's system

Hey, you can get a content rating for your blog! Here's ours:

Online Dating

A screencap including the "logic" behind the R is the punchline:

  • Something tells me we'll have a hard time finding a G-rated hockey blog.

  • Monday, July 16, 2007


    The 6.4 Million Dollar Question

    Lowetide brings up something that's been nagging at me for just about the lifetime of this site:
    There's a lot we don't know about coaches, and it isn't getting any better.

    100% true, of course. He transcribes "analysis" of every NHL and WHA coach from 1978 and asks three questions:
    ...29 years later how much more do we know about NHL coaches and what they do to help their teams win? Aren't there a group of questions we can ask about them (starting this winter) in order to improve our knowledge of them? Is anyone else interested in this stuff?

    The answer to the first is, approximately, nothing. The answer to the third is definitely; there are blogs, forums, pub tables, and many many more venues that have seen hours and hours of time, and mental horsepower, devoted to discussing this question. Is the coach doing just what he needs to be doing, or is his head up his ass? Pick any pro sports team and you can find fans who will passionately argue the affirmative, and fans who will passionately argue the negative.

    The second question is the tough one, and I think my answer is, I'm not so sure that there is.

    The optimist in me says surely we can get somewhere with this. There is so much more information available now than there was 30 years ago, and we've come a very long way developing some more sophisticated statistical bases for evaluating players (I say bases because I don't want to claim they're definitive).

    The pessimist in me says dream on. As I say, this broad question is not limited to hockey at all. Baseball has the best statistics, and is the most suitable for statistical analysis, but there is still very little consensus as to who the best managers are, or what makes a good manager. Or how big a difference good manager vs. bad manager makes on results.

    The very fact that there is essentially no accepted objective ways to evaluate coaching -- despite that there are so many people interested in (arguing about) it -- leads me to believe that it'll never happen. (And if you're tempted to answer "Scoreboard" here, my follow-up questions would be (1) Which one? and (2) Remind me how you determined how big the coach's impact was on the scoreboard again?)

    Surely the most optimistic-yet-realistic answer to Lowetide's second question is "Yes, but we really don't know what those questions are." My only bright idea here is to use some plurisapience. I wonder: would a broad survey of attentive hockey fans, on the topic of what makes good coaching, produce a more accurate picture of reality than the alternatives? (One alternative being the considered opinion of a smart guy who's been following hockey for a long time, like Lowetide or Duhatschek?)

    My thought would be to construct a multiple-choice poll-type-thingy on a broad range of the elements of coaching. It would mainly serve, if I guess correctly, to identify maybe a couple of areas where there actually is a broad consensus. Something like:

    1) Coach A's .500 team is excellent at even strength but has poor special teams. Coach B's .500 team has excellent special teams but is poor at even strength. Who is the better coach?

    2) Coach A and B both have teams that finished with 100 points and scored 30 more goals than they allowed. Broken down by period though, Coach A's team had all their +30GD in the 1st period (+30/0/0), and Coach B's team had all their +30GD in the 3rd (0/0/+30). Is Coach A better prepared, or does he have a great team which he undercuts by failing to make good adjustment? Is Coach B superb at making in-game adjustments, or does he prepare his team poorly? (Or is this entirely a physical fitness issue?) Who is the better coach?

    3) Coach P's A's team is great at home, terrible on the road. Coach B's team is poor at home but great on the road. Who is the better coach?

    4) Essay question: Name one way in which you would evaluate the performance of Coach X that is distinct (or distinguishable) from how you would evaluate the performance of X's team.

    - Put another way, if there was a good coach who was running a team that was performing below expectations, how would you know? How about a bad coach whose team was nevertheless exceeding preseason expectations? These things have happened -- is there evidence you can point to?

    etc. To me, to ask these questions is to realize that they're probably unanswerable. Then again, maybe I'm just looking at the question too broadly and getting needlessly discouraged. If we came up with a hockey equivalent for "putting a guy with a sub-.300 OBP in your leadoff spot costs your team runs and thus games", it would constitute a major advance. I'll be fascinated to see where Lowetide goes from here.

    Thursday, July 12, 2007


    Souray An Oiler

    Can we trust this story this time? If so, a few thoughts:

    a) how much, and for how long? How badly did we overpay?
    b) will LT finally be happy, or at least content, with our defence?
    c) we will now have three "puck moving defencemen" (Pitkanen, Tarnstrom, and Souray). Does this deal make Tarnstrom, to some extent, expendable?
    d) will the local and national media finally shut up about people not wanting to play here?
    e) are any of his relatives part-owners?

    Tuesday, July 10, 2007


    Read and React

    As usual, I have no inside information or particular insight, but it looks to me like three things happened these past 10 days which, cumulatively, have thrown a monkey wrench into Darryl Sutter's medium-range plan for the Flames roster.
    1. Pittsburgh signs RFA D Ryan Whitney to a 6-year, $24M contract
    2. Edmonton GM Johnny Fontane signs RFA C Thomas Vanek to a 7-year, $50M offer sheet, which Buffalo then matches
    3. Pittsburgh signs RFA C Sidney Crosby to a 5-year, $43.5M contract extension
    Sutter has long been aware that Phaneuf will be due a big raise, but these events have certainly made Phaneuf more expensive. They have also introduced an element of risk (and of urgency) to contract negotiations with Phaneuf, where it probably wasn't a concern previously.

    Certainly now, there's no way to get Phaneuf signed to a contract any longer than one year for less than $4M/yr. If they want to sign him to a long-term deal that eats up 2 or 3 of his UFA years (like Whitney's), the price is surely going to be in the $5M range. And that's today: if his form rounds out in the early part of this season (i.e. he takes that next step we've all been waiting for since at least the beginning of last season), the price goes up some more.

    Take a look to your left, won't you? With a few estimates (and players not under contract in red), this is what the payroll for the 2008/09 Calgary Flames looks like in the event that (a) both Phaneuf and Kiprusoff are re-signed shortly, and (b) Langkow, Huselius, Conroy, and Yelle are replaced with "Brad Isbister" x4.

    Yes, that total is $50M. I think the cap next season is going to be about $53M, so in other words in the event that you can sign Langkow (or his equivalent) to a $3.6Mx3yr contract -- which you probably can't -- you've hit it.

    The best-case scenario here (or perhaps least disruptive is a better description) is roughly that Warrener leaves for prospects/picks, and Phaneuf & Kipper get squeezed even more than what I've shown. Then, instead of having $3M to replace the 4 forwards with upgrades from Brad Isbister, you have maybe $5.5M.

    If Moss, Boyd, and Taratukhin all impress and perform this season, maybe that ain't so scary. But it still looks to me like the most likely eventuality is that Kipper is not re-signed (let's hope Irving has a hell of a year in the AHL).

    The scenario that is still pretty remote, but much more likely than it was two weeks ago, is Phaneuf being dealt away in the manner of Havlat or Tanguay. This doesn't excite me at all, but when the numbers are right in front of you and the nearly unavoidable alternative is starting a goaltender in 2008 who is a career AHLer (Krahn/C-Mac), or a 2nd-year pro (Irving), or some proven mediocrity (say, Raycroft), it's a lot easier to swallow.

    Monday, July 09, 2007


    "But, but... the children!"

    Changing gears from hockey drama for the moment... I was in the car on Monday listening to ESPN radio. Erik Kuselias was on, and said something I've heard before, but considering he's a law school grad, a Ph.D. candidate, and a member of Mensa, I thought it was somewhat remarkable. I paraphrase:
    So Barry Bonds is going to be starting the All-Star game in San Francisco, and he'll get a huge response from the crowd, standing ovations... What am I supposed to tell my 11-year-old son? What happened to 'cheaters never prosper'?

    Though I qualify x3, I'm a pretty mediocre parent, and am loathe to tell anyone else how to do it. However, I don't exactly see this issue as one of the toughies, so I have some suggestions that EK is free to take or leave.

    For starters, I believe it's unwise to teach your kids things that are untrue. So while it's a good idea to try to teach your kids to behave with honour -- and what honour means -- telling them "cheaters never prosper" is not only false but probably counterproductive. Cheaters do prosper sometimes -- that's why people cheat. It seems to me that if your kid believes that you shouldn't cheat because either (A) you'll get caught or (B) most people will despise you, then as soon as they figure out a way around those consequences (in their short-range view of things), the coast is clear!

    Fortunately, you can use Barry Bonds to teach your kids at least 3 object lessons, all of which are relevant and important regardless of whether you believe Bonds is a martyr or Satan in a leather recliner.

    Due process matters. Often times the rules and technicalities of the legal system mean that someone who did something wrong gets away with it, but the opposite would be worse. Would you like to get into serious trouble at school without getting to tell your side of the story? Or if you didn't know exactly what you were being accused of, or by who? Or if the principal had already decided you did it before you ever got to talk to her? Me neither. If you were wrongfully accused of something, how would you like to be treated? Then those have to be the rules for everybody.

    Agreements matter. As you grow up, you're going to find yourself party to all sorts of agreements, formal and informal. And sometimes, the other party to your agreement will do something that seems terribly unfair or wrong, but that wasn't specifically against the agreement you made. This is life. When it happens, take it as a lesson learned, and use it to make better agreements next time -- or refuse to enter into an agreement where the behaviour you don't like isn't prohibited. Would you like if someone you had an agreement with was able to change it by themselves? No? Then that should be the rules for everybody.

    Incentives matter. This is an important one. Barry Bonds looked at how he could benefit from performance-enhancing drugs, and decided that the enhanced performance he would gain and the (say) $50 million extra dollars he might earn was worth the risk of getting caught and being disgraced, banned from the game, or even jailed. What things are important to you? What kind of rewards might induce you to break the law, or worse, do something that you know is wrong? When this type of choice is presented to you (and it will be), do you understand your own values so that you can make a decision you won't regret later?

    As a bonus 4th item, depending on your kid's age, you might want to use this opportunity to discuss drugs in general. As per my preamble, I don't think Drugs Are Bad/no qualifiers is something I want to teach my kids, because I don't like to teach them untrue things -- especially when they will find out soon enough that said thing is untrue, and my credibility as a father will suffer.

    The same drug is used by the bodybuilder trying to get an edge, and the person wasting away with AIDS; the same drug is used by the teenager going for some Friday night fun and the cancer patient trying to maintain an appetite for the food they need to stay healthy; the same drug is used by the man who has thrown away his family and job and the man who is trying to remain functional while dealing with chronic excruciating back pain. What do you think makes the difference between OK and Not OK? Is it whether it was recommended by a doctor? Where it was purchased? What the law says about it? What kind of effect it has on the rest of your life, your job, your family?

    Would you like to substitute your judgement on this matter for that of others? Would you like it if theirs was substituted for yours?

    Friday, July 06, 2007


    Stop, you're breaking my heart

    So since Lowe already has the #1 booked up for a while, I guess we'll have to play the World's Second Smallest Violin for the Sabres.

    1. Lessons In Human Nature -- Sometimes it doesn't matter if you're telling the truth: if what you're saying is exactly what a shameless or desperate liar would say, that's just bad luck for you. "We're gonna match you no matter what, so why are you bothering?"

    I'm accusing no one of nothing. Wake up, Quinn & Regier. Is there a lot of GMs talking about their RFAs with phrases like, "Well, if he gets any kind of decent offer sheet from somewhere else, we're screwed, we can't afford to keep him."?

    2. The Buffalo Sabres have been permitted under the CBA to negotiate a contract with Thomas Vanek for the 2007/08 season for 371 days now. For the first 365 of those, they were the one and only team permitted to do so, all the while with the knowledge that Vanek could sign an offer sheet with another team when those 365 days were up.

    No doubt they could have signed him to a Ryan Whitney deal 10 days ago, or 200 ago. They didn't. It was the Briere/Smyth mistake, with a twist (aka a mistake). Get over it, ladies.


    4th Line Friday

    Dallas Stars signed both Brad Winbister and Toby Petersen to one-year deals today. Wisbister even wrangled a one-way contract. ("Stars Sign Three Players", no permalink.)

    Petersen is a depth player, who will never again be relied upon by an NHL team like he was in the final 30 games of '06/07, but I have a shiny penny here that says there are more Shucks! in Edmonton this season about letting Winchester get away than Lupul.

    Relive the peak of the Toby Matters era here.

    Most of Winchester's career highlights to-date covered here.

    J.F. Jacques still hasn't scored an NHL point, or even been in an on-ice goal hug -- marvel at the magnitude of that (and btw, can we get Elias on this?) here.

    Thursday, July 05, 2007


    It's you, Kevin

    I know it's a cliche, but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh 'til it hurts looking back at this old piece Andy dug up in March:
    "I would not do this job for another four years under what I just went through the last four years," Lowe told the Journal. "It was too difficult, too difficult emotionally, spiritually, psychologically."

    That's K-Lo on November 22, 2004, claiming he'd resign if the new CBA wasn't significantly better for his spirit and psyche. And while I'm sure he's glad he has most of his erectile function back, this past year hasn't been any better for him than those dark pre-lockout days.

    I hit this now because, as Tyler points out with no wasted words, Lowe is finally admitting what we all knew already. While the return may or may not have been decent, and you never know when a warrior's body will break down for good, and you can't properly evaluate trades until a few years down the road, and blah blah etc., moving Ryan Smyth out of Edmonton was a financial decision, not a hockey one. And the kicker is, it's a financial decision that he now regrets.

    The Matheson piece that Tyler links had a different couple of paragraphs that jumped out at me:
    A frustrated Lowe says the Oilers are thinking of hiring a "concierge" to look after player needs in the future, but he can't understand why free agents won't sign here.

    He acknowledges the travel out west is harder than in the east, but he says a third of the league's teams travelled more miles than the Oilers last year. He also knows some players don't want to play in Canada.

    You can parse this however you want, but you know what it is as a whole? Loser talk. While Godfather analogies are overdone (thanks a lot, Simmons), I'm thinking of glossing Lowe as Johnny Fontane. Alas, there is no Don Corleone in sight to give him the "You can act like a man!" speech.

    Instant update: more from Terry Jones today.
    Johnny Fontane: Oh, Godfather, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do.
    Don Corleone: [shouts] You can act like a man! [he slaps Johnny]
    Don Corleone: What's the matter with you. Is this how you turned out? A Hollywood finocchio that cries like a woman.
    Don Corleone: [mock sobbing] What can I do? [camera pans to Tom who is laughing]
    Don Corleone: What can I do? What is that nonsense. Ridiculous.

    MORE: Metrognome weighs in:
    The Circus Comes to Town
    "We got more gongs than the break-dancing robot that caught on fire".
    So long, Kevin. We can all plainly see it's a comb-over.

    AND MORE: Worth resetting this bit from March, I think:
    When the push for public funding of a new arena begins in earnest, you're going to hear plenty (again) about the intangible value of being a "major league city". At that point, someone might want to Ask Matty why the Oilers are so willing to negate this value to anyone who's paying attention by behaving like The Littlest Market That Barely Could.

    Tuesday, July 03, 2007


    I keep trying to get out...

    Cosh has a fine post up on the Nylander Affair.

    Monday, July 02, 2007


    Advantage: INTARWEB

    Some recognition is in order. It would seem that the hot meme right now, amongst those who watch and write about hockey for a living, is Back to Square One: roughly, "Rangers and Avalanche are outspending everyone again, what happened to the new NHL paradise, remind me why we lost a season to a lockout?"

    I will forego all analysis and predictions on the state of the NHL today simply to note that if you've been reading Tom Benjamin's NHL Weblog at, you are surprised by nothing that's happening. For 2+ years, Tom has been saying two principal things (well, more than that, but two that are on point here):
    1. The cap was set artificially low in the first place, relative to the percentages suggested in the text of the agreement
    2. This CBA would soon enough be to the advantage of the big-market teams, as (A) they'd be able to afford to spend to the cap, and (B) the lower UFA age would mean they could spend that money on players in their prime, rather than those who were over-the-hill or just about there.
    I mean, it is to laugh to read (unfairly picking one guy) Jim Kelley's piece at today.
    Wasn't this the deal that would put all teams on a competitive footing regarding payroll costs and therefore strike a competitive balance throughout two lands?

    I'm sorry, did we miss something or did all that go out the same way of the promise of reduced ticket prices?

    Cripes, maybe he's just giving his audience what he thinks they want, but grow up! It still baffles and irritates me just how suggestible and credulous some pro hockey pundits are. If you honestly thought that ticket prices would be pushed and held down by the new CBA, you might as well wear a T-shirt that says I Have No Capacity For Critical Thinking.

    House MD is one of my favourite shows. Yes, both the medical storylines and the fact that anyone will still cooperate with him are beyond implausible, but one of the central themes of the program is a pretty valuable lesson.

    Dr. House's schtick is that he never actually meets his patients in person, at least not in the first two segments. It's a deliberate strategy: he finds listening to them useless at best and misleading at worst, because Everybody Lies. Everybody is not evil -- that's not the idea -- but everybody lies, for different reasons. They're ashamed about X, they're fooling themselves about Y, they had never even considered Z. He diagnoses based on observed symptoms (observations performed by his lackeys) and test results.

    Most of us who analyze hockey -- and especially those of us who actually have access to, or relationships with, NHL front offices -- need to be a lot more like House. We should be looking at what the evidence tells us, and then worrying about the self-serving comments from the people stuck in the middle of it.

    The CBA is long, but it's not War & Peace. Why would anyone who does this for a living pay attention to what Gary Bettman says it means rather than just reading the fucking thing? Print hockey media types are college-educated: why did so few (any) of them crack out a calculator in 2005 and figure out what 55.5% of ~$2.4 billion is, then see what the cap would roughly be two years down the road (i.e. now)? It's embarrassing.

    Instant Postscript: naturally, Benjamin just posted this exact same piece looking at the exact same article. ("What hath Bettman wrought? Exactly what he wanted.") Too bad, this is too long to toss out. Anyway, big props to Tom for using his brain instead of his ears.


    Collector's Item #34

    *Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic on the same team... cripes, I practically want to cheer for the Avs. Between a) adding Hannan and b) Leopold being healthy, their D is going to be a lot better too... bad news for the rest of the NW.

    *Isn't Horcoff the logical choice to be the next captain, not Moreau? I realize Moreau was hurt, but it wasn't him that the team trotted out in front of the media to defend the Smyth trade.

    *I hope Michael Nylander is no more effective in this Alberta stint than the last one

    *I really hope Sarich is as good as Vic thinks he is.

    *There were more contracts for less than I expected today than for more. Gomez and Kariya were the only ones that gave me the annual Wow, Sellers' Market! twinge. Hannan, Blake, even Rafalski and Briere were lower than I expected.

    *Honest question: just how screwed are the Islanders right now? Seems like every other guy signed today was an Islander this past year, plus Yashin was paid to FOAD.

    *I know we've been over this general concept before, but again, if Hale is the Flames' #6 D on Opening Night instead of Giordano, I might just... ack. Dunno. It would displease me, how about that.

    *I saw very little of TSN's Frenzy blahblah today, except for Pierre McGuire saying that Joffrey Lupul was young and would be "energized by his new surroundings". So much of the bad rap about Edmonton fans is 100% true, but it would be completely unfair (and hilarious, natch) if Lupul had a good year this year, and the story locked in that his problem this year was the whole thing about the fans expecting him to replace Pronger, then jumping on him when he struggled.

    *The other thing I caught on TSN was Sutter's little thing commenting on the rumoured Iginla extension. Now, either I'm deaf, or he said that extensions for Iginla and Regehr were getting done, like, right now.

    I'm on the wrong machine to update my spreadsheets, but: between the Sarich signing, the Iginla extension, the Regehr extension, and that fact that Keenan (much like Playfair) is going to ride Kiprusoff like a rented-with-insurance Durango....

    The odds of Kipper being the Flames #1 goalie in October '08 dropped today. They dropped for me, and I had some of this stuff priced in already. It's not impossible that he'll be back: the fact that Iginla will be at less than $8M and Regehr will be less than $5M helps. But I have it as below 50/50 now, easily. Enough to predict that he's gone by this day next year (might as well get it in early). Fortunately, he's here this season, and the team might be pretty good...

    Sunday, July 01, 2007


    Free Agency: Open Thread

    TSN, SportsNet, Spector, Mirtle.

    Forwards, Defencemen, Goaltenders.

    ***Update*** Lupul traded! Stauffer devastated, the sane rejoice.


    Patience, grasshopper

    Tanguay - Lombardi - Iginla
    Huselius - Langkow - Moss
    Primeau - Conroy - TBA
    Nilson - Yelle - TBA

    Regehr - Warrener
    Phaneuf - Aucoin
    Giordano - Hale


    Despite where we see the TBAs here, the most likely Flames' UFA signing in the next couple of days is a defenceman. I suppose it could be someone in the Danny Markov/Andy Sutton tier (see Mirtle's casual rankings), but more likely it's someone lower down: a player who's not too old yet who might just have another little leap in him. You know, this year's Andrei Zyuzin, if that had worked out at all.

    My value pick here is Stephane Robidas. Played 18:04 a night for the Stars, one of the best defensive teams in the league. He got pushed down the depth chart when everyone was healthy, but that wasn't that often. And today, the fact that he scored 0 goals last year is a blessing, not a curse.

    The worst contract will probably go to Stuart (he's gonna get paid like he's dominant and an offensive threat, but he's neither). Accordingly, I'll say he's not going to California, since all 3 of the Cali GMs seem pretty smart. Back to the EC, it says here. Also, I'll correct myself: the worst contract for a D-man will be the 5-year deal that goes to the guy who's a healthy scratch before the end of Year 2 (I just don't know which guy it is yet).

    At forward, the value pick for any other team is Gelinas: still an excellent EV player, and knows a thing or two to show the kids as well. That's no good for the Flames, though, unless they plan on reacquiring Mike Commodore and Ville Niemenen as well. Value pick for the Flames is our old friend D-Vo: Radek Dvorak's counting numbers are the worst thing he has going for him. If the Flames didn't have 14 centres coming into training camp, I'd love Todd White too.

    Token contrarianism: the worst contract at forward is going to Chris Drury. He is a very nice player and takes a hell of a faceoff, but he is not actually made of magic (he only appears to be). His counting numbers, like everyone else on the Sabres, were torqued this season by that crazy synergy (and coach's approval) they had going there. He's going to get paid to be someone he's not.

    Final note: I may not be near the computer when Smytty signs his long-term deal, so I'll save you some suspense. Just assume that the link to the TSN story on the deal is beneath the header, "Imagine what he would have gotten if he was an elite player!"

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?