Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Too Long for Twitter

  1. With this Vancouver mess unraveling right before our eyes I can't help but not feel sorry for Mike GIllis. I wrote about this when he traded Hodgson for Kassian --a move that looks pretty bad right about now-- and stood before reporters stating how he pulled one over Regier's eyes by starting him more in the offensive zone and artificially inflating his numbers. He later proceeded to corner himself with the Schneider-Luongo fiasco, trades Schneider, tells everyone that was the plan all along, then trades Luongo not even a year later. Now they are left with two question marks in net, a third/fourth line center (who I admittedly like but honestly isn't that great) and a good prospect in Horvat who should be an NHLer, but I wouldn't exactly call a star in the making. Gillis was once hailed as an analytical guy and praised for thinking about things like how to maximize his players sleep due to their long travels. In reality though, he was gifted an elite core with all star goaltending, the Sedins, Kesler, Edler, and Bieska with nice secondary guys in Burrows, Hansen, and so on. He made a few nice moves acquiring Ehrhoff for nothing, taking advantage of Hamhuis being from BC, and signing Manny Malholtra among a few others, but by and large he inherited a great core. The cake was finished. He put some icing on it. Factors such as getting players more sleep were I'm sure nice and beneficial at times, but I look at that the way I look at how moving to the East was supposed to help Detroit and moving to the West was supposed to Winnipeg due to less travel time. It really hasn't. Teams are what they are at the end of the day. Gillis has always been a mediocre GM who was really given the keys to the car and added some nice features to it. This was argued with me for awhile, but I think that's clear now. 
  2. Furthermore on GIllis- He has always been described as a guy who thinks he's the smartest guy in the room type and I think he should serve as a lesson to all. When I read Behind the Moves, one thing really stood out to me and it was what Stan Bowman said about his dad- he said that he's always trying to learn. He never says no to anything (appeared to be geared towards advanced stats). That guy has been in hockey for decades and has won championship after championship, and he doesn't think he knows it all. He is always trying to learn more and get better, and that's how you have to approach this game. As soon as you think you know it all in hockey, you've failed. This is a complicated sport with a lot of moving parts and one thing I always try to tell people is that unlike a football or basketball, there is no clear defense and offense. Yes, there are offensive and defensive situations, but in the flow of play there is no just "offense only" or "defense only," save for special teams. That makes this an incredibly tough sport to gauge and really, that's why people talk about being "students of the game." Sure, have general ideas of what you want, but always be open minded and trying to learn. I think Gillis got content, believed he knew it all, was arrogant, nobody wanted to deal with him, and it bit him in the ass. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what it appears to be from the outside. 
  3. One final thing on this- while Vancouver pretty well sat on their laurels and basically sat back on their core through the good times, I'd urge everyone to take a look at Chicago and what they have been doing. They've cycled out bottom productive players to consistently keep the cupboard full, and have made little moves here and there that will hopefully pay off. Just yesterday they moved a 2nd for David Rundblad, who is still only 23, was once the most promising young defenseman in hockey, and has lit up the AHL. They've also traded for Versteeg this year, locked in good bottom players such as Shaw and Bollig, and have cycled out players and brought in enough assets that they could probably trade for a top player still if they really wanted to. They've won two Cups in the last four years and are still trying to get better. 
  4. Also wonder if Nonis might take a note from the Lu debacle and look into trading Clarkson. I'm not one for knee jerk reactions but Clarkson wont ever live up to the contract that he signed and right now clearly can't play with Kadri or Lupul (meaning he can't play with the Leafs skilled guys). I'm not a huge Lupul fan, but I'd still take him over Clarkson any day because he can score, and paying a guy like Clarkson $5.25M for the next six years to play on your third line is nuts. It would be tough to admit mistake so early into a massive signing but it would be for the good of the team. Nonis might get kicked around by the MSM in Toronto for it, but egos need to be put aside. What I learned from the Lu debacle is that if you have a really bad contract on your hands and can simply get rid of it, do it. Don't hold onto your ego. If Vancouver traded Lu for a first and Scrivens like they could have, they'd still have Schneider and would be better off right this second and the foreseeable future (Horvat will take years to develop still). A lot of teams wanted Clarkson in the summer and probably just think he's having a bad year, but if you wait another year everyone will find out what the Leafs now know- he's not a true top six forward. 
  5. Yesterday's flurry of moves reminded me of Jussi Jokinen last year. Guys like Robidas and Penner were traded for basically nothing, and they are good, productive, NHL players. Top 6 forward, top 4 D types. As if every team is full in those spots. Last year Jussi Jokinen went through waivers, was unclaimed, and then traded for a conditional pick in which Carolina retained salary. He now counts for a little more than $2M on the Pens cap, already has 16 goals and 43 points, and is on pace for almost 60 points if this keeps up. And they got him for nothing. Crazy. 
  6. On the note of underrated players and move, the contract and general acquisition of Anton Khudobin is right up there in that category. I guess teams have stayed away from him because he's a 5'11 goalie (I've heard some teams automatically cross goalies off their list if they are not at least 6 foot), but all he's ever done is stop pucks. He has a .912sv% in 158 career AHL games, and a .930sv% in 44 NHL games. At 28 he's still young for a goalie, and he'll be making only over $2M for the next two season. That's a bargain. Good on Rutherford. 
  7. As for the bad on Rutherford- When he traded for Jordan Staal that was supposed to be the signal for this team to launch back into contention as contenders again, yet they are quickly heading into a second straight playoff-less season with Staal who has been bad (on pace for 36 points this year which I know isn't his game but he counts for $6M against the cap. Six!). The Canes have some good players in the Staals, Skinner, Faulk, Sekera's having a huge year, and yes Semin is still a good player, but he hasn't brought any depth in while guys like Penner and Robidas are moving for fourth rounders. Instead they play a bunch of guys like Bowman, Dwyer, Nash, to go along with a bad Tuomo Ruutu, back to reality Jiri Tlusty and back to the NHL Manny Malholtra. It's just a waste of good top players to supplement them with that. 
  8. Reminder that Washington just traded Erat after 62 games as a Capital for Rotislav Klesla (who nobody wanted on waivers), Chris Brown (who I like but will struggle to be an everyday NHLer and was sent straight to the AHL) and a fourth. This is after giving up Filip Forsberg for him. I don't think Forsberg has superstar written on him or anything, but he's well on his way to being a good NHLer and will be cheap for years, all for a guy that played 62 pretty terrible games for Washington. That might be one of the worst trades in recent memory. For Nashville, it almost makes up for Poile trading a first for Gaustad. 
  9. I think Edmonton is doing a better job than people think and will turn the corner soon. Getting Perron was a great move, as was Boyd Gordon. Even Hendricks is pretty solid as a fourth liner. In net they are not proven, but Scrivens and Fasth can be a good duo and both have shown they can play at a high level in the NHL for extended periods of time.  They obviously still have a ton of work to do (I'd trade Gagner and Eberle, but that's just me) but these smaller good moves will pay off. Nurse still looks like a beast in the making and Klefbom is promising too.  If they can trade some of their talented forwards for top four defensemen and make a few solid additions at forward (don't have to be top six guys, but good third liner types) I think they will be in the hunt next season, finally.
  10. I think Conacher is a good young player that teams should want to acquire. He's an RFA this summer so he's still controlled and he has 49 points in 107 games. Sometimes players get off to hot starts and when it's not sustainable people seem to sour on the guy because he "wasn't what we thought he was" but Conacher is still a productive player that ripped up the AHL and has shown he can play a regular shift. For teams like the Islanders and Sabres that are simply trying to get better and get NHL players on their team, he seems like a no-brainer add for free.
  11. I think a few players that can be had that appear to be available for cheap will be Lee Stempniak, Ales Hemsky, possibly Tom Gilbert and Thomas Fleischmann, along with Jamie McGinn. Should be a fun day. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

10 Observations on Burnside's USA Article

I'll keep this introduction short because I assume if you're hockey savvy enough to know this blog or be reading it, you've probably read the Scott Burnside piece on how the US team was put together. If not you can read it here. All the talk about what this means for reporters and access is interesting, but if I'm being completely honest I don't really care (unless it means all access stops). What I do care about is some of the hockey discussions that went on, so without further adieu here are 10 observations from a revealing article:

  1. I found it more than interesting that Burke thought teams would be "excited" to play against Yandle should an injury occur and he have to step into the top four, but the team had no problem naming Justin Faulk to the team and eventually settled on Fowler over Yandle too. What, Canada and Sweden wouldn't be excited to play a top four that contained Faulk or Fowler in it? 
  2. Another note on Yandle was that USA was completely comfortable in simply saying "Pavelski is going to play the point on the power play." You have the highest scoring American defenseman over the last four years but you leave him off because you're going to have a forward on the point instead? I know Pavelski plays the point in San Jose, and he's great at it, but that's a huge task to ask of a guy on big ice when he's going to probably be up against penalty killers like Claude Giroux, maybe Patrick Sharp or Rick Nash, or whoever. Nothing against Pavelski, and I think he can reasonably play there, but why is it a forgone conclusion?
  3. Couldn't help but get a laugh out of this: "Shero insists he'd still rather throw in his lot with the Detroit netminder given his playoff experience and the belief he'll rise to the challenge if called on. "I'm going to take my [bleeping] chances with Jimmy Howard," Shero says." This is to a "T" why Marc Andre Fleury is still Pittsburgh's goalie. 
  4. As much slack as the management team is getting for Bobby Ryan not being on the team, the coaching staff didn't want him. In Toronto we hear from analysts all the time how the "top-six, bottom-six, model is dead" but the Pens coaches legitimately didn't want Bobby Ryan because that's the system they are running and Bobby Ryan wasn't going to play in their top six and they thought he wasn't a good fit for that bottom six grinding role. 
  5. I didn't really care about Burke or anyone else ripping on Bobby Ryan, but the actual strange thing was Burke saying he should have drafted Johnson over Ryan.  Ryan is a four time 30 goal scorer with size, while Jack Johnson is a big, fast defenseman who isn’t very good defensively or offensively. How is this a real conversation?
  6. One of the quieter worries about Ben Bishop was his poor World Championships. Let that be a lesson to all the people who don't think that tournament matters. Conversely, John Gibson took over and led USA to an unexpected bronze medal after Bishop struggled, and Gibson's name was on USA's radar to start the season. John Gibson has never played an NHL game and he was in USA's pool of goalies months into the season. Think about that. 
  7. It was interesting hearing the debate on "I want the three best goalies" versus "who is playing well." Frankly, there was a lot of flip-flopping on that stance. When it came to Jack Johnson it was "he's been there before, he wont let us down for 12 days" and yet for goalies it was sometimes "who is playing well (hello Jimmy Howard)." And yet at forward it was also "Well Kyle Okposo is playing well but we wont hear from him years from now." One American has more points than Okposo this year. Taking the best versus who is playing well is a tough debate. Personally I'd take the best players and hope they get it together. I'd rather go down with my best struggling versus playing worse players who end up not being up to the task.
  8. It was also interesting, and I know we didn't hear their full discussions, on how little they put into stats. When Dean Lombardi had his whole Yandle presentation he touched on him being the highest scoring defenseman over the last four years yet nobody seemed to care (he can't play D was the prevailing notion). The same thing when it came to Bobby Ryan and how good a point producer he's been. Frankly, I thought Dean Lombardi came off as the smartest guy in those meetings and it's not a surprise when you consider the team he's built and the overall success he's had in his career. You got a little glimpse into how little executives put into stats, and the stats I'm talking about are literally only goals and points. Imagine otherwise.
  9. Conversely, I was a little surprised to hear Dean Lombardi be complimentary of Jack Johnson considering their history. If you don't know what I'm talking about just Google "Dean Lombardi Jack Johnson" and have fun.
  10. Was surprised at the little talk of versatility. Maybe it simply wasn't included, but when it came to the defense it was like "who is a LD, who is a RD, okay let's pick each from these categories." On forward it was the same thing "who is a RW, who is a LW, okay let's go." Crazy things happen in these tournaments, guys get hurt, guys play like garbage, etc. The only thing they wanted for flexibility was five centers but otherwise they appear to be very certain of the match-ups and roles they want and there isn't much wiggle room otherwise. This scares me that Subban wont be on Canada simply because he's a RD.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Too Long for Twitter- November 6th

  1. Claude Giroux has had a brutal start to the season, but I’m surprised at how many people have now decided that he’s not worthy of playing for Team Canada because of it. In the three seasons before this he put up 217 points in 207 games, he can play wing and center, he’s tough, he’s good on the PK, and he has 55 points in 50 career playoff games. Remember this shift against Pittsburgh in the playoffs? He actually skated by his own bench before he did and said “watch what I’m going to do.” But we’re not taking him cause of 14 bad games on a crap team? How is this real conversation? Giroux is a no-brainer to me.
  2. Much like the Desharnais contract before it, I think the Habs made a mistake giving Emelin the money they did. And I like Emelin. He’s obviously really physical and he’s solid on the penalty kill, but he’s 27, has played two years in the league, and hasn’t averaged over 20 minutes of ice time so that makes him worth over $4million/year? At the very least, I think Emelin will play in their top four because he and Gorges are their only signed D-men (they’ll get Subban done; he’s an RFA), but he’s better suited to be a 4-5D, not a 3-4D. When are teams going to learn you don’t pay guys good money when they don’t up points?
  3. Another player that falls under that category? Paul Gaustad. The Nashville Predators, of all teams, pay their fourth line center (Fisher, Cullen, Legwand are all ahead of him) $3.25M. I love trying to find good grinders that can be “glue guys” on your bottom lines, but it’s unbelievable how teams don’t focus on the talent portion of their roster first before trying to supplement it with grinders. Nashville can’t afford to pay their fourth line center that much. That’s the same money that Clarke MacArthur just signed for this summer.
  4. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Oilers have to start trading some skill up front for some actual defensemen and/or goaltending. The crazy thing is that Hall, Eberle, RNH, Gagner, Yakupov, Perron, and Hemsky are players that are all cut from the same cloth if you know what I mean. It’s not like any of these guys are big, physical, excellent defensively or anything else; they are all simply skilled offensive players of varying degrees. The Oilers might challenge your defense, but they don’t challenge you in their own end and there’s no commitment on the back end to being a strong team and making the opposition work for their goals. Eakins basically said as much a few days ago talking about how his players loved to score but not play defense.
  5. That said, the Yakupov talk reminds me of the Stamkos talk in his rookie season. Apparently, the Rangers actually agreed to a deal to bring him in that was nixed, but you get the point here. You don’t trade a kid before he’s barely even played in this league. Frankly, the Oilers should be trying to trade Eberle, or maybe Gagner. Obviously Hemsky too. Keep Yakupov, Hall, and RNH, and build around them.
  6. And of course, now Yakupov is being linked to the Rangers. Sather tried to poach Stamkos as I just noted, and way back when he tried to steal Lecalvier from Tampa when he struggled early on. And those are only examples I know of. If Sather is trying to poach your young struggling player that you drafted first overall, that’s the seal of approval that he’s going to be a star.
  7. I guess I’m in the minority here, and I’ll probably get ripped for it, but I really don’t believe the Lapierre hit on Boyle was THAT bad.  The bad hits from behind to me are the ones where a shoulder is driven through a guy’s back as he’s facing the other way. Boyle got to the puck first, which Lapierre knew was going to happen, and decided to turn the other way and reverse the play rather than try to chip it by Lapierre. Lapierre anticipated the chip and geared up to hammer Boyle but when Boyle reversed he kind of eased off and pushed him down.  He obviously made contact and it was stupid, but he didn’t make contact with the head and toss his head into the wall. The problem I find with a lot of these hits is that player’s anticipate the opponent is going to do something, but when they don’t they still finish the hit as if they did. Was it unnecessary? Yeah. Could it have been avoided once Boyle turned? I don’t think so Lapierre was going pretty fast. Could he have hammered him a lot harder? Yes. It was an unfortunate play, but I don’t think it was jaw dropping brutal.
  8. In games featuring Dallas-Colorado and Nashville-Florida I saw icing plays in the dying minute where the winning team was protecting a lead, shot the puck down and the icing was waived off yet the defensive guy touched the puck first. That’s because the refs made subjective calls to keep the play alive. I don’t know how they fix that, but that’s a serious problem to me.  If a Canadian team got burned by that it’s all we’d hear about it. Look at the teams I mentioned when that happened.
  9. If Moulson was a by-product of Tavares, the Islanders will win that trade. Otherwise, it was pointless because Vanek won’t score much more than what Moulson would have on the Isles (what, 40 goals by Vanek instead of 30 by Moulson?). So by that token they could have just traded the first and second round pick they tacked on in that deal for another legitimate goal scorer and kept Moulson.  One thing I will say about Moulson is that he reminds me of Heatley in terms of being a guy with size and a big shot but not a good skater, and we can all see how fast Heatley has declined. Heatley is two years older than Moulson.
  10. Before the Leafs signed Mikhail Grabovski to his long-term contract that has since been bought out, they shopped him around to see if a trade was worthwhile. At the time, it was thought that the Leafs could have moved Grabovski to Chicago for Brandon Pirri and a draft pick. It was a trade I said I’d take at the time so Pirri has been someone I’ve monitored ever since to see how he progresses. He led the AHL in scoring last year and as of this writing he has 5 points in 10 games for the Blackhawks playing a little over 11 minutes a night. Something to monitor, I guess.
  11. One last thing on the Leafs: If they are really looking to bring in a forward then they should be eyeing the Florida Panthers as a trade partner more than anyone else. Florida is open for business and has a bunch of center options the Leafs could get in on: Marcel Goc, Scott Gomez, Jesse Winchester, and maybe even Shawn Matthias (he hasn’t had a great start, so maybe Florida is finally fed up with him).  Most of those players won’t cost much and two of them are guys that can potentially help for years to come in Goc and Matthias.
  12. I’m not sure where people get off talking about Brandon Saad playing on team USA just because he partners with Patrick Kane in Chicago. Here are USA forwards that are better than Saad: Kessel, JVR, Kesler, Pavelski, Ryan, Brown, Pacioretty, Backes, Stastny, Parise, Callahan, Wheeler, Stepan and the aforementioned Kane. That’s 14 right there.
  13. Another American forward worth noting right now: Kyle Okposo. He’s playing with John Tavares and has 19 points in 15 games, but nobody is saying a word about this guy! He was compared to Jarome Iginla in his draft year and although he hasn’t become anything close to Iggy, maybe he’s finally starting to realize that potential a little bit. Okposo had 24 points (but only four goals) in 48 games last year, but then came up big in the playoffs with three goals and four points in six games.
  14. At what point do we start taking Tampa Bay seriously? They are second in the East right now, but it’s worth noting they had a strong start last year too before falling fast. I said last season when Tampa got Ben Bishop that their tandem for this year reminded me of Reimer-Scrivens last year. The question is, is Bishop going to be a .925sv% goalie all year? Stamkos and St. Louis can score, Purcell can score, and Filppula has been an unbelievable acquisition so far. A few other things I question are: Is Alex Killorn seriously going to get the 70 points he’s on pace for? Sami Salo is in their top four; when is he going to inevitably get hurt?  Same goes for Ryan Malone who I’ve always like but just can’t seem to play a full season. Tampa will fight the question marks all season but they’ve had a hell of a start and have a great farm system. Maybe Yzerman does know what he’s doing?
  15. Biggest difference I’ve seen in Dallas from the start of the season until right now (they started 2-3-0, and are 5-3-2 since): they’ve realized Dillon-Robidas are their best shutdown pairing, not Goligoski-Gonchar. They will be in tough to make the playoffs, but I love the direction of this team.