Archive for April, 2013

April 30, 2013

Habs-Sens Playoff Preview: A Man With a Mustache Has Something to Hide

by Jacob Saltiel

Over at Allhabs.net, you can find out how the Canadiens might match up against that fiend with the crustache, Paul MacLean: http://www.allhabs.net/feature/canadiens-senators-preview-man-with-a-mustache-has-something-to-hide/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook.

However you feel about the Habs, residents of the Ottawa valley probably feel the same way- unless their Leafs fans.

April 27, 2013

Tape Delay: Anticipating the CBC’s Playoffs Intros

by Jacob Saltiel

It’s playoffs next week, and that means the CBC will be producing some of their pulse-raising pump-up videos. Over at Allhabs.net, here’s a post about what we’ve seen from Hockey Night In Canada, and what we can hope for if the Habs face the Leafs:

http://www.allhabs.net/game-preview/hnic-masters-of-the-montage-video/.

Git ready.

April 22, 2013

From the Archive: Pacioretty Injures Chara’s Reputation

by Jacob Saltiel

(Today on the usually excellent Backhand Shelf Podcast, Jake Goldsbie remarked that “Pacioretty won the Masterton Trophy for beating himself up on a stanchion. To rebut this offensively counterfactual statement, BGS reproduces here what was written at the time of the incident. Please enjoy, and remember that blaming the victim is silly, so, Habs fans, tr not to boo Chara too loudly next time he’s on the ice.)

 

chara-pacioretty

Can you identify the victim?
cbc.ca

 

Montreal, QC– And in one moment, Zdeno Chara’s career changed. Hustling for the puck against reputed Montreal Canadiens diver, Max Pacioretty, Chara attempted a routine check on the streaking forward to separate him from the puck- which vanished from all replays- when Pacioretty attempted to sell an interference call by flinging himself face first into the stanchion, silencing the Bell Centre and forcing the referees to eject Chara from a close divisional rivalry game with seeding implications.

Pacioretty knocked himself unconscious on the play and lay prone on the ice for several minutes as interns from the National Theatre School of Canada dressed up as doctors loaded him onto a stretcher before sending him to the hospital for tests. The spectators were so taken in by Pacioretty’s performance, that they immediately booed the Bruins captain, even though according to Chara’s coach and teammates, he is not “that kind of guy”.

Said Chara on the hit:

I was riding him out and unfortunately, I leaned and he jumped a bit and he hit the extension,” said Chara. “Obviously it wasn’t my intention to push him into the partition. Things happen fast. That’s not my style. I play hard, physical, but I never try to hurt someone.”

Jacques Martin, the director of the Lord Chamberlin’s Men, did not drop the act even after the referee incorrectly awarded the Canadiens a 5 minute major for interference:

“It’s serious when you see an injury like that,” said Montreal coach Jacques Martin. “The league has to deal with those issues. It’s not the first time. It seems to be getting worse and worse. It was a dangerous hit.”

Following the hit, journalists rushed to the defence of Chara, pointing out that, upon watching replays of the hit, there was clearly no intent on the part of Chara to build the Bell Centre’s arena to include the middle stanchion that Pacioretty jumped into. Equally absurd is the claim coming from certain corners of the French press that Chara’s actions were clearly premeditated as evidenced by his degree in Architecture and Engineering earned from the Technical University of Košice before undertaking his hockey career.

When reached for comment in the Bruins dressing room, rookie Brad Marchand, clearly disgusted with what he sees as a lack of respect for the game, commented that “The Oscar’s were last week”.

Pacioretty’s act was so convincing that doctors at the Montreal General wasted valuable public resources in submitting Pacioretty to a battery of tests that, perhaps inevitably, came back negative. Obviously also supporters of the Montreal Canadiens, the doctors kept Pacioretty overnight in the hopes of the NHL’s head office suspending Chara.

Only time will tell if the league office will finally put its collective foot down and suspend Pacioretty for hurting Chara’s feelings and causing him to hide in the Bruins’ team bus until a PR executive convinced him to meet the media post-game and comment on the suicide attempt.

Either way, this rivalry continues to heat up and bear out the prophetic words of Marchand: “They like to get in and shoot their mouths of and then when you hit them they’ll dive down and fall easy.” Anticipation for the rematch in Boston at the end of the month will certain draw interest from various corners of the acting community, as Meryl Streep and Anthony Hopkins have been rumoured to have bought tickets immediately after hearing of the performance.

With files from Associated Press

April 19, 2013

“I think ya broke the knob off crankin’ so hard”: Suck Knob at 11, Are the Canadiens This Bad?

by Jacob Saltiel
636012-carey-price-rater-entrainement-raison

Price can’t watch this trainwreck either…
from lapresse.ca

Are the Canadiens terrible? See BGS’ thoughts over at Allhabs.net: http://www.allhabs.net/fan-focus/are-the-canadiens-this-bad/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

April 16, 2013

A Guide to Recognizing Your Mediocre GMs, Part 2: Kevin Lowe (Steve Tambellini/Craig MacTavish/Scott Howson)

by Jacob Saltiel
mactavishtambellini

From one meat puppet to another…
from edmontonsun.com

Yesterday’s ambush on the employment status of Steve Tambellini reminded everyone that, though he takes many forms, Kevin Lowe is still in charge of the Edmonton Oilers. Lowe has read his Niccolo Machiavelli. In discussing how Cesare Borgia pacified the residents of Romagna who lived under the rule of a tyrannical aristocracy, Machiavelli described the following 3 step process in The Prince:

1. Appoint a hatchet man to preside over the bloody work of removing said aristocracy: “Thereupon he promoted Messer Ramiro d’Orco, a swift and cruel man, to whom he gave the fullest power.”

Enter Tambellini, exit any attempt to win games.

2. Transfer blame for bloody purge onto said hatchet man: “And because he knew that the past severity had caused some hatred against himself, so, to clear himself in the minds of the people, and gain them entirely to himself, he desired to show that, if any cruelty had been practised, it had not originated with him, but in the natural sternness of the minister.”

Collect draft picks, suck, let marinate long enough that fans blame Tambellini.

3. Brutally execute minister to the delight of subjects: “Under this pretence he took Ramiro, and one morning caused him to be executed and left on the piazza at Cesena with the block and a bloody knife at his side. The barbarity of this spectacle caused the people to be at once satisfied and dismayed.”

Fire Tambellini, return.

It worked for Medieval Italian politics, and it worked for Kevin Lowe. Well, if by ‘worked’ you mean ‘Kevin Lowe remaining in authority’ rather than bringing actual success to the Oilers. Examining Tambellini’s short and mediocre tenure, what immediately leaps out is how few moves he actually made in his 4 years in charge. Other than unloading All-You-Can-Eat champion Dustin Penner on the LA Kings for picks and Colten Teubert to undue the damage caused by Kevin Lowe signing Penner to that offer sheet from Anaheim, Tambellini hasn’t done much to hurt or harm the Oilers.

Here’s a quick rundown of Tambellini’s other moves:

– Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz

– Stealing Justin Schultz from Anaheim.

– Re-acquiring Ryan Smyth for sentimental purposes.

– Handing out 6 million dollar contracts to Eberle and Hall immediately upon the conclusion of their entry-level deals in a way that suggests that Tambellini has no idea how leverage and control works for young players.

– Extending declining assets Ales Hemsky and Ladislav Smid.

– Picking up Ryan Jones off of waivers.

– Acquiring Ryan Whitney and a 6th round pick for Lubomir Visnovsky.

– Signing Eric Belanger.

– Signing the drunk driving, occasionally puck-stopping Nikolai Khabibulin.

Most of those moves are depth moves, and any that have been left out of that list are also minor moves with minor consequences. Can anyone think of any former Oilers player of consequence playing elsewhere today?

Tambellini’s main contribution to the Oilers has been to show up to TSN’s overwrought draft ranking show in a suit and grin sheepishly while the panel manages to turn a 5 minute bingo game into an hour or three of programming. Since the Oilers have been consistently abominable, it’s worth asking how they got there, especially considering that the GM with the “block and a bloody knife at his side” actually had nothing to do with their transformation into a horrible team. It can’t even be said of Tambellini that he was either swift nor cruel.

Neither Here Nor There
Officially, Kevin Lowe was GM of the Oilers from 2000 until 2009. In that time, the team finished the regular season in the following rankings:

2001: 6th
2002: 9th
2003: 8th
2004: 9th
2005: LOCKOUT
2006: 8th (Stanley Cup Finals)
2007: 12th
2008: 9th
2009: 11th

That straddling of the playoff line is an impressive balancing act, but also extremely bad for a franchise. Getting in as an 8-seed means one has a high chance of simply getting stomped in the first round, while ensuring a later draft pick. Some may point to the finals appearance as a vindication of ‘get in, and anything can happen’, but that outlier is the result of the one season that Chris Pronger- arguably the most dominant defenceman of his era behind only Nick Lidstrom- played in Edmonton.

In fact, Chris Pronger was so good that season that he managed to get an Edmonton team that included a young Marc-Andre Bergeron to the finals. Habs fans will recall Bergeron for his huge shot and total defensive ineptitude. Oilers fans remember him for tactically injuring his own goalie in the finals.

That Pronger ended up leaving Edmonton wasn’t Lowe’s fault, but perhaps Pronger, wily individual that he is, knew more about the Oilers’ ability to compete than the man in the front office. Lowe didn’t do badly in the trade, getting back multiple high picks and the highly regarded scorer Joffrey Lupul and 7th overall pick Ladislav Smid. Regardless, Pronger’s departure signaled the beginning of the bottomfeeding for Edmonton.

Lowe Tide

It’s really post-Pronger that the wheels come off. In rapid succession, Lowe achieved the following things:

– Offer sheeting Thomas Vanek to a then-ridiculous $7+m/year contract that Buffalo could have easily matched, which they promptly did.

– Offer sheeting the only so-so Dustin Penner, which enraged Brian Burke. Worse than the trashtalking that Burke gave Lowe in the media, he simply took the draft picks from Edmonton.

– Lowe made fan-favourite Ryan Smyth cry over a few hundred thousand dollars, receiving a bunch of prospects that never turned into NHL regulars and a 1st round pick.

– From that Pronger trade, Lowe quickly turned an injury-plagued Joffrey Lupul into Joni Pitkanen. Then, after a year in which Pitkanen struggled on a bad team, turned him into Erik Cole. Then, after Cole struggled on yet another bad team, he traded Cole for Patrick O’Sullivan (Patrick O’Who? O’Exactly!) and a 2nd round pick. Until this season, all three of those players went on to have productive seasons elsewhere, and Edmonton was left with none of them.

– Finally, he traded away Jarrett Stoll and Matt Greene- both useful players- for Lubomir Visnovsky, who lasted all of 107 games before being packed off to Anaheim by Tambellini.

Along the way, Lowe succeeded in burning bridges with both Anaheim and the Sabres, and possible making other GM’s nervous about their restricted free agents. While Burke can be a bit of a blowhard, he might have been right about Lowe screwing with other team’s salary cap management to minimal effect.

The pattern of these various moves seems to be creating holes, then filling them in ways that create other holes, necessitating further moves that, predictably, created more holes. After the Lowe era of big trades and lots of movement, it seems almost as if the mandate for Tambellini was to do as little as possible while the hoard of picks and prospects develop. The young Oilers need help, particularly on defence and in goal, before they start winning. Tambellini’s firing is questionable because the Oilers were never going to go from worst to first given the youth of their core and lack of proven veterans.

For the next stage, Craig MacTavish returns in a nice reversal (replacing the man who fired him) with Scott Howson, former Blue Jackets GM and former assistant GM in… EDMONTON(?!) serving as caddy.

Speaking of which…

The Replacements
It’s hard to say what MacTavish will be like as GM. He was a good coach, but he’ll have learned his management skills from Kevin Lowe and Tambellini. Sure, he’ll have ideas of his own, but the culture he’s been brought along in isn’t exactly progressive. A cynic might suspect that he’s merely serving as the public face of a management team being taken over by Howson. Astute Edmonton fans probably wouldn’t accept the mediocre former Columbus GM, but they certainly won’t boo/hate upon local hero C-Mac.

As for Howson, his stock might be high right now because of the Nash trade looking much better than it did a year ago. This shouldn’t obscure the fact that this is the same man who gave $6m/year to James Wisniewski. He also traded the Couturier pick, the improving and already talented Jakub Voracek, and a 3rd rounder to Philly for Jeff Carter, who was promptly traded to LA for Jack Johnson and a first. Johnson is wildly overrated, and pretty much every other asset aside from the 3rd pick would have helped Columbus more.

Like Lowe/Tambellini, Howson seems to enjoy putting 18 year old rookies on the team ahead of schedule (paging Ryan Johansen). It’s a massive warning sign that a team can’t develop prospects when you consider that the only two 1st round picks the Blue Jackets have ever drafted that remain with the team are Ryan Johansen and Ryan Murray. Every single other one either plays elsewhere (Brassard, Nash, Moore, Klesla, etc…) or turned out to kind of suck (Zherdev, Filatov, Brule, etc…). Now, Howson can’t possibly be to blame for all of that, but one has to wonder what exactly about his resume indicates that he’s the man to turn this group of talented young stars into a playoff machine. Given the exact same mandate in Columbus, he failed miserably. Columbus’ 2011-2012 season was worse than a gong show.

It’s more than worth noting that Howson’s career pre-Columbus was as Kevin Lowe’s right hand man. So, what’s old is new again, except that it never realy changed. Ever a Lowe proxy, the big difference is that the mail Howson’s carrying has MacTavish’s name on the letterhead. So, Oilers fans, your best hope is that the return of this brain trust will come with some new ideas. Which, uh, given the track records involved, is small consolation. It will, however, be amusing to have MacTavish quotations back in the NHL on a regular basis.

As for Tambellini, he might have gotten out at the right time. The patience he displayed in watching his team bottom out and gain valuable young prospects is admirable. Having never been given the option to really go for it, he at least didn’t make any comical errors.

Would that Lowe and Howson be able to say the same.

April 12, 2013

PK Subban, Motivation, and Success

by Jacob Saltiel

Please follow the link for my latest over at allhabs.net: http://www.allhabs.net/feature/p-k-subban-taking-names-and-kicking-ass/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook.

Subban, again, is the topic, but this time based on a recent interview with Sportsnet.

Enjoy!

BGS

April 9, 2013

Rounding Errors and Jammed Calculators: League Revenues and Player Contracts

by Jacob Saltiel
Gary Bettman

Haters Gon’ Hate
from gmoneysack.blogspot.com

After a lockout in which the usual refrain about dying franchises and sustainable business models made the rounds, why might players such as Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Alexander Semin suddenly get huge contracts from organizations that were run conservatively in the last CBA? It’s likely that Gary Bettman, and the rest of the NHL’s front office picked up on a financial trend and took advantage of an expiring CBA to change the financial dynamic of the league to allow teams to make more and spend more money than before. As agents and general managers take advantage of or are confounded by the new CBA’s economics, the contracts awarded to the above-three players will become more commonplace. Whether they actually jam up salary caps as badly as some have speculated may not occur at all.


Nostradamus of Long Island

The purpose of the lockout was to sign a CBA that would make NHL franchises more valuable. As games were cancelled and hockey fans were treated to dramatic high tragedy unseen outside of the ancient Greek epidaurus since the first production of Clytemnestra, many wondered if the league had caused permanent damage to it’s brand. Fans posted messages about never returning and personally impugning Gary Bettman for having MacBethed them and major media sites published them.* Turns out the gang with all of the information and the fancy degrees knew more than everyone else. If there are fans stalking the streets shouting and tweeting about how they’re still boycotting the NHL in protest, they certainly can’t be found in Montreal. Rather, the league could contract to just Montreal and Columbus, the Canadiens could smash the Blue Jackets for a decade, winning the Stanley Cup every time, and Montrealers would probably still blow up a bus and smash an SAQ or seven every spring.

As Nicholas Cotsonika’s reports, the NHL had access to information about fan retention that remains private. This doesn’t mean that Bettman won’t brag about the information disparity (from Puck Daddy): “We keep metrics all the time,” Bettman said. “Rather than engage in the speculation that many do, we actually try and do some real research, and our fans have reconnected in a very big way.” Yes, he’s talking about you. He knows what you’re thinking right now. The importance of this is that the cap will be going down next year, but if Cotsonika is right, then the cap might start rising again in subsequent seasons. In fact, with new TV deals (goodbye Hockey Night in Canada!), previously penurious owners** might start making it rain on their stars.

Range Rover Sales Are Up

Which brings us right back to Getzlaf, Perry, and Semin. At beginning of this abbreviated season, it seemed a given that at least one of the two Anaheim stars would be playing elsewhere in the summer. Anaheim wasn’t known to spend huge on longterm contracts. Both wanted to get paid, and with the pessimism about declining cap numbers, it seemed like they were labeled for departure. Then a champagne monsoon struck. Getzlaf and Perry were signed in turn to maximum contracts worth more than $8m/year. They’ll each be 35 in 2021 when these contracts expire. If you’re reading this and you’re aged anywhere in your 20’s, you might have a marriage, a mortgage, and kids by the time they stop playing. Ponder that. And your mortality.

Similarly, Semin got a 5 year contract extension and a raise to $7m/year 30 games into his 1 year deal with Carolina. Where Anaheim was a cautious rather than cheap team, the Hurricanes stay away from the cap ceiling as if it were the edge of a precipice overlooking a vast abyss while their GM Jim Rutherford has some downright backwards notions about drafting defencemen.*** Unlike Getzlaf and Perry, it’s a mystery whether or not Semin is even worth the money.

Mo Money? No Problem

Something else might be at work here, and there’s a good chance that whatever Murray and Rutherford are seeing is the same thing that Nostradamus Bettman saw in preparation for the lockout. If you look at the dollar value of the contracts, it’s easy to think an avian insanity virus is gaining a foothold in NHL front offices. But then, under a cap system, the # of dollars can be misleading. What really matters is the percentage of cap space allocated to a player. Why? Well, under a cap system, all the contract of a player indicates is the maximum amount of money he can make. League revenues can increase  beyond what they were when the contract was signed, and hence the % value of that contract can decline over the life of a deal. In that sense, particularly with maximum contracts, they become more manageable as long as league revenues increase.

To take the Getz as an example, next year his $8.25/m salary will cost Murray a little less than 13% of his $64.3m in cap space. In 2005, the salary cap was set at $39m. By the end of the new agreement, it had reached $64.3m. That’s more than a 50% increase. Hypothetically, if Getzlaf had signed his contract in 2005, his % against the cap would have been an untenable 21%. By the end of the CBA, that % value would have dipped to 13%. So, the risk**** for these kinds of contracts that by the age of 35 Getzlaf might slow down and be an overpaid veteran is actually mitigated by this effect.

Sure, there’s some risk involved that the entire economic landscape in which professional sports leagues in North America operate can change. For that to happen, though, would require the booming TV content industry to stop spending money on sports coverage and for average people to suddenly stop buying cable and satellite packages and for sports bars to stop televising games and for people to stop buying tickets and buying merchandise, etc… etc…

That’s why if you’re a general manager negotiating with a homegrown player of elite quality, you can reasonably gamble on maximum contracts. A contract like Getzlaf’s hurts in the short term, but the Ducks have a variety of cheap young players on entry-level contracts filling out their roster. By the time those young players start requiring new contracts, Murray will have a better idea of which of them are worth retaining and which can be off-loaded for cheap value, such as picks or additional prospects. As the % value of contracts given to Perry and Getzlaf decline, he’ll still have flexibility to retain the next wave of quality players.

The bets that GMs will have to make in the new CBA involve giving these contracts to the right players. A 13% value contract really isn’t much of a hindrance if that’s Getzlaf in his current form collecting the pay checks. As for Semin and his 10.8% contract, well, he certainly isn’t getting paid to fight, so he’d better score a lot. As more of these contracts get signed, the mayhem will really begin when stars on these contracts begin picking up career-altering or ending injuries. Until then, enjoy the show.

Under Bettman’s leadership, it will definitely go on, and it will almost certainly turn a profit.

***

*But everyone agrees that they’d drink an afternoon Coors Light with Bill Daly and laugh about the old days.

**This category does not include Charles Wang, whose ownership of the Islanders makes pre-Carol Ebenezer Scrooge look like the founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation.

***At a time when it’s nearly universally accepted that you can’t win without defencemen, this poorly conceived… strategy… is probably a big reason the Hurricanes blow.

****As with any guaranteed contract, the main risk is that they’ll got incapacitated or slowed by injury, but one can’t necessarily predict when the that’ll happen.

April 8, 2013

Prognosticating the Playoff Race

by Jacob Saltiel

That fraud Jacob Saltiel is at it again, posting pseudonymously at allhabs.net on the topic of playoff seeding.

Follow the link to, hopefully, enjoy: http://www.allhabs.net/feature/playoff-picture-becoming-clearer-habs-control-fate/

April 4, 2013

A Guide to Recognizing Your Mediocre GMs: Part 1 Joe Nieuwendyk

by Jacob Saltiel
Brian+Burke+Joe+Nieuwendyk+2009+NHL+Entry+q7kqbnRh368x

“Is that tie available for a 2nd round pick and a prospect?”
from zimbio.com

(This multi-part series isn’t about the Canadiens, but as a Habs fan, you might want to know which GM’s you want Bergevin to call up on the red, white, and blue trades telephone. What follows is a detailed analysis of recent trades by rival GMs)

The Once and Future Chump

It was sad to see the Atlanta Thrashers go.

Not because it makes Tom Glavine cry silently to himself in his roomful of baseball awards or because the Thrashers were, generally speaking, a free 2 points to any team willing to ice an entire lineup against them. No, when the Thrashers moved, the the 29 other GM’s in the league lost their ideal trade partner, Don Waddell.

The halcyon days of trading overpaid veterans or just a collection of low-ceiling prospects and deceptively mediocre draft picks for talent simply by dialing the ATL area code (404) over.

Take, for example, the following transactions from the twilight of Waddell’s reign:

1) Braydon Coburn, Philly’s top-3 defenceman, actually started in Atlanta. He was traded as a prospect straight-up for 2 years of an ancient Alexei Zhitnik. This was the only year the Thrashers organization made the playoffs, and Waddell thought this might help them out.

2) For that same playoff crawl, Waddell acquired 22 games of Keith Tkachuk for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick spread out over 2 years to St Louis. Following that off-season when Tkachuk became a free agent, he promptly re-signed with the Blues for 3 more productive seasons.

Of course, after making these trades, the Thrashers were promptly swept in the 1st round.

3) Did you know that Waddell had Heatley and Hossa at one point in the organization’s history? Well, he lost both the way one loses their car keys in the wash.

Here’s a quick account of the complicated machinations that led to Patrice Cormier almost playing regularly for the Winnepeg Jets:

– Heatley traded straight-up almost 3 years of Hossa.

 -After it became clear that Hossa wouldn’t extend his contract, Waddell had to act again. Hossa was traded to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and a 1st round pick (29th). Yes. The Colby Armstrong most recently seen limping off the ice at Flambeau Field.

4) But wait! Both Heatley and Hossa had a particularly talented linemate, first name Ilya. Tired of the mediocrity and wanting to win, Kovalchuk justifiably refused to extend his contract too. Waddell’s long search for equal value was confounded by the poorly kept secret of Kovalchuk’s exorbitating contract demands, but what followed is a masterpiece in getting hosed by the crafty Lou Lamoriello.

Atlanta swapped 2nd round picks with Jersey as part of the trade, so the return for one of the best offensive players of this generation of NHL’ers, was Bergfors, Oduya, Cormier, and a 1st round pick. Oduya was probably the best player in that haul, and the 1st is nice, but REALLY?! A solid 3rd defenceman, maybe a grinder out of Cormier, and a 1st round pick for Kovalchuk? Encore, Don, encore!

But those days are over. Or, were…

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

It’s a good thing Nieuwendyk found work in NHL upper management. Judging by the way he gambles with young prospects, if he weren’t a GM, he’d defaulting on his mortgage and appearing on EducAlcool ads between periods of Habs games thrice weekly. To keep him on the rails, Dallas upper management also includes Mark Recchi (reputed M.D.) and Bob Gainey. If you’re a Habs fan reading this, you’ll be familiar with the latter’s work. The fascinating thing about the Dallas organization right now is the stark difference in aptitude between drafting and managing players.

Consider that the Stars have recently found players like Benn, Neal, and Eriksson outside of the 1st round. Whoever they have watching the kids is good at their job. That’s where the good news ends if your a Dallas fan, since a quick survey of Nieuwendyk’s moves shows that these players may not be around as long as you think- if they aren’t already gone.

To beat a dead horse, trading Neal and Niskanen for Goligoski established that Nieuwendyk criminally underrates his own assets. Niskanen isn’t exactly a throw-in either, and even if Goligoski scores 30-40 points a season, it’s hard to justify giving away a power forward like Neal who was just entering restricted free agency without getting back a high pick in return. It’s not just the obvious mismatch in talent that makes this trade bad, but the subtleties of the CBA’s that seem to have escaped Nieuwendyk.

Trading away Brad Richards and his expiring contract at the deadline a couple of seasons ago might have returned a similarly talented young player. Nieuwendyk didn’t do that, opting instead to gamble that his team could make the playoffs as a low seed. Of course, the Stars went on to miss the playoffs and Richards escaped to New York in a clear violation of the sports management principle that one shouldn’t build a team to finish in 8th place, but to win it all.

And, well, if you’re going to set lofty standards for your organization such as “finish just outside of the top half of the league”, you shouldn’t, y’know, miss by 2 points.

***

The negotiation with Jamie Benn compounded this perception of Nieuwendyk’s lack of comprehension of the salary cap. With Benn refusing to sign a contract coming out of his entry level deal, Nieuwendyk managed to thread the needle between keeping Benn’s salary down- $5.25m/year when the player has no leverage isn’t exactly a bargain- and buying Benn’s expensive unrestricted free agency years. In fact, Nieuwendyk signed him exactly to when he’d hit the market (2917), meaning that unless Benn’s ability falls off a cliff, he’s going to get really pricey. In the simplest terms, Nieuwendyk failed to use his leverage over Benn to any effect. One imagines Benn’s agent hanging up the phone and saying “Really?”

Two other recent moves, Ryder and a 3rd for Cole and Steve Ott and Pardy for Derek Roy were at best moving sideways, at worst silly. Ott, a grinder who scores in the mid-30’s had value to any playoff team and it’s not implausible that most playoff teams would have wanted him last off-season. The return? Impending unrestricted free agent Roy, whose last two seasons were marred by injury or mediocrity. It’s not that Roy’s a bad player, but Ott was signed for more years and, as demonstrated yesterday, the Stars were forced to trade Roy away because of their iffy playoff status and fruitless contract negotiations. A 2nd round pick and 23 year old prospect Kevin Connauton isn’t a terrible return, but that he had to make this trade so soon shows a certain aptitude for painting oneself into a corner.

Bergevin’s gem of a trade with Nieuwendyk led to the Stars taking on the last 2+ years of Cole’s contract- after Cole surely played his best hockey of that deal last year. It’s hard to imagine Ryder being worth less had Nieuwendyk simply waited for the trade deadline to move the productive forward, let alone that Bergevin sampled a 3rd round pick in the deal.

So, when Jagr was dealt to Boston for a 2nd (possibly a 1st) pick and two prospects, it was time to roll the laugh track. Not because an expiring contract on Jagr wasn’t worth the conditional pick, but because Nieuwendyk called the two players he received in return prospects. Lane MacDiermid and the aptly named Cody Payne are goons who can’t really be considered prospects since, if they develop appropriately, they might play 7 minutes a night. In a league where, any year now, staged fighting, and hence the goon role, might be disappearing.

Hold The Line

Whichever hockey team you cheer for (not you, Stars fans), pay close attention the next time the words ‘Stars’ and ‘trade’ appear on your web browser/Sportscentre newsticker. Gamblin’ Joe might have just brilliantly solved a salary cap crunch or created an unstoppable line- for a rival team in your division in your division.

Until this effect becomes too obvious, let’s hope the media keeps confusing Nieuwendyk’s talent as a player and a manger. Perhaps some of this is unfair to Joe. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances. Perhaps an internet leak revealed to many other GM’s in the league incriminating photos of Joe involving inflatable animals, mezcal, and individuals in clown get-up not named Mrs. Nieuwendyk. After all, Tijuana isn’t that far away. Perhaps not. Perhaps his reign is characterized by poor evaluation of the value of his own players and how the salary cap works.

April 2, 2013

PK Subban, Future Tycoon

by Jacob Saltiel

Bob Gainey’s Stare, under his pseudonym of Jacob Saltiel, guest posted on Allhabs.net today.

Check out what he had to say about PK Subban at this link: http://www.allhabs.net/all-habs-news/p-k-subban-poised-to-break-the-bank/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook

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