June 13, 2013

Salary for Sucking: 30 Teams and Compliance Buy-Outs

by Jacob Saltiel

Reporter: “Who do you think will be bought out- other than you, I mean?”
Kaberle: “Hmm. I’d have to think about that…”
from penaltyboxhockey.blogspot.com

In order to get under the declining salary cap, the union demanded that teams be able to buy out 2 players per team at no cap hit. After the playoffs end this year and next, teams can buy-out a bad player on a bad contract, or a good player on a bad contract, or Scott Gomez. Again. The window to use these buy-outs is 48 hours after the Stanley Cup is awarded. Without further ado, here are the teams in order of most cap space to least and who they’ll buy out and why. All salary information is from the capgeek.com, the TSN of management news in the NHL.

New York “Wrong Island” Islanders
Actually, the Islanders are trying to get to the salary floor, rather than the ceiling. Rick DiPietro’s career might be finally euthanized if the Islanders make any kind of free agency pickup. Garth Snow’s shown some creativity (as with the Tim Thomas deal), and may use his compliance buy-outs craftily by intentionally trading for a player on a massive deal alongside picks or prospects. That way, he can take the bad salary of some other team’s books and use the compliance buy-out that he doesn’t need.

Winnipeg Jets
The Jets barely have anyone under contract, and even fewer players signed longterm. As such, they’ll be like the Islanders, hoping to use their buy-outs in trade.

New Jersey Devils
Does Lou Lamoriello dare amnesty Ilya Kovalchuk? It’s not because Kovalchuk is a terrible player, but the length of his contract is a ticking time bomb. 15 years. And he signed it when he was 28. If Kovalchuk retires before he’s 43 (likely?), the Devils could march onto a salary cap landmine with the CBA’s screwy calculation wreaking havoc. See, the money left on the contract when a player retires gets multiplied in dollars and years as a penalty and remains on the camp. It’s unclear the exact formula, but some projections are terrifying.

If Lamoriello chooses to try his luck with Kovalchuk, he might consider buying out Travis Zajac. Sure he just signed Zajac to that contract, but as discussed elsewhere, that was a horrible idea at the time, and Zajac sure played like it. Hell, maybe Lamoriello will burn it all down and buy them both out!

St Louis Blues
The Blues don’t have any bad contracts, aren’t near the cap, and really haven’t got much use for the buy-outs. See above for Wrong Island as to how they may decide to use their buyouts. Or they could just sign Gomez and buy him out instantly for the shock value and to send a message to the rest of the locker room.

Phoenix “Maudite de” Coyotes
The Maudites Coyotes’ best candidate for the buy-out is Shane Doan, only because he’s a whiner. He’s also their captain and it’s very unlikely they have the money to stop playing someone even if that player sucks, or whines at a Hall of Fame level.

Ottawa Senators
The Senators will use their buy-out on Mike Duffy. Whoops, pardon. Terrible joke. Actually, Mike Duffy or Nigel Wright are as likely as anyone else on the Sens to get let go, given that their only long-term contract is for Erik Karlsson, who isn’t going anywhere.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Mikhail Grabovski is signed for 4 more years at $5.5m/year, but with Bozak leaving, he might get more minutes. He’s not worth that contract, but unless the Leafs decide to make it rain on a free agent this year or next and really need to free up some salary, it’s unlikely that Grabo goes.
John-Michael Liles isn’t so lucky. He’s signed for three more years at nearly $3.9m/year. Jake Gardiner fills the role that Liles was originally brought in for, but doesn’t suck at it.

Calgary Flames
Will an entire NHL roster get bought out? Impossible, but if it could happen, this team would come closest to considering such a move. Dennis Wideman isn’t worth the longterm, $5.25m/year salary he’s making, and Jiri Hudler and Alex Tanguay are both overpaid and no longer have Jarome Iginla to pass to. Maybe Jay Feaster can buy-out the owner of the Flames, Murray Edwards with one of the buy-outs, and then use the other on himself. Cough. Sorry, Flames fans.

Columbus Blue Jackets
James Wisniewski and RJ Umberger, making $5.5m/year and $4.6m/year respectively are both useful players in some ways, but are paid as if they’re useful in all ways. They aren’t, and if the Blue Jackets decide they want to wait a year and dump either of then, it won’t be shocking. Still, they’re productive so it’s a bit of a reach.

Florida Panthers
The Panthers have some expensive defenders in Brian Campbell ($7.1m/year) and Ed Jovanovski ($4.125m/year) who might be ripe for the buy-out. But then, Campbell is still productive, and Jovanovski’s best days are long past. Up front, they might be tempted to dump Scottie Upshall and his $3.5m/year salary because Scottie Upshall still has a few more NHL teams to play for before he collects all 30.

Buffalo Sabres
Ville Leino is almost certainly gone, but what about Tyler Myers? The young defender’s only gotten worse with each passing season, and he’s paid $5.5m/year until 2019. Maybe Darcy Regier will give Bryan Bickell $6m/year in perpetuity to play alongside Leino and then buy them both out next year when they combine for 8 goals playing on either side of Steve Ott.

Edmonton Lowes Oilers
Assuming Kevin Lowe continues to rule the Edmonton Oilers through a system of magical rings and undead lieutenants, it’s unlikely anything good will come out of giving the dark Lowerd Kevin the use of this tool. He’ll probably get rid of Shawn Horcoff and then tell the media that he knows a lot about winning before asking them to please tell him the location of the One Ring.

New York Rangers
Bob McKenzie’s already gone on record stating that Brad Richards is as good as gone, only that it’s a question of which year he gets bought out in. Like Kovalchuk, Richards’ deal can be a disaster if he retires early. Unlike Kovalchuk, Richards deal is already a disaster. Otherwise, the Rangers managed to get out from the contracts to Gomez, Redden, and Gaborik before anything terrible happened to them. This proves once again the old saying that “With 29 other general managers in the league, you only need to find one stupid one.”

Dallas Stars
Assuming new GM Jim Nill halts former GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s policy of signing players no younger than 37 years old to multi-year deals, the Stars won’t need to buy anyone out. But here comes Sergei Gonchar from Ottawa! 2 years, $10m is a lot of money for a 39 year old, 1-way defender whose contract is on the books regardless of retirement, spontaneous combustion, or world-level catastrophe as depicted in films such as Comet, The Day After Tomorrow, Planet of the Apes, etc… The Stars aren’t near the cap, so they probably won’t need to use a buy-out until they trade Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski and a 1st round pick for Lecavalier.

Nashville Predators
Like Kovalchuk, Shea Weber’s contract is a riddle that needs solving. They need him, but what happens if he retires early? The Flyers really put the gears to David Poile when they bombed the Predators’ salary cap with that offer sheet. Due to operating on a shoestring budget that caused the David Poile to unload Lombardi on Toronto with Cody Franson for not much in exchange, it’s unimaginable that the Preds would use a buy-out. In a parallel universe where the Predators were financially solvent, would they consider dumping the $3.25m/year face-off taker, Paul Gaustad? He’s got 3 more years at that deal, which is a hefty salary for someone of his, uh, talents.

Detroit Dread Wings
The Wings have cleverly offered deals to their stars that keep them under contract at bargain prices. Exhibit A, Niklas Kronvall, whose cap hit is a mere $4.5m/year, or almost the same as Mike Komisarek. Think about that. Johan Franzen’s signed until his 40 with one of those cap circumventing deals, and considering the cap hit’s only a shade under $4m/year, his performance would have to drop off a cliff or he’d have to suffer a career-threatening injury for a buy-out to be worthwhile.

Los Angeles Lannisters
The Kings’ salary cap is in trouble next season. They aren’t due to lose any of their core players, but with about $7m available to pay a series of depth players requiring raises, they might be hard pressed to pay their debts. Trevor Lewis, Jordan Nolan, Kyle Clifford, Slava Voynov, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Bernier are all out of contract. Of that group, Voynov is most likely to get a big raise due to his offensive value on a blueline where only he and Drew Doughty are currently relied upon to move the puck forward. While they gave up way too much to acquire the putrid Robyn Regehr, who according to his possession stats must be allergic to handling hockey pucks, they may need buy him out for the $3m in cap space. That, and finally trading Jonathan Bernier should give them some breathing room this coming season and the following.

Colorado Avalanche
Figuring out who the GM of the Avalanche is right now is like playing a game of Guess Who?! Patrick Roy is the coach, but also a VP. Joe Sakic is a VP, but not the GM. Greg Sherman is the GM, but he’s not allowed to make any decisions. Whoever’s throwing the levers in the machine, they might start by undoing Sherman’s signing of David Jones ($4m/year, 3 years), and getting rid of the amusingly bad Shane O’Brien ($2m/year, 2 years). They aren’t hard up the cap next year, but the following season Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jamie McGinn are RFAs, while Steve Downie’s a UFA. That quartet will need some numerical incentives to stick around, and the $6m they’d save by dumping bad players can come in handy.

San Jose Narcs
Whether or not he’s any good, Martin Havlat’s been alternated between the rink and the trainer’s office during his time in San Jose. It might not be totally his fault, but at $5m/year, he might be done. Consider also that, after next year, Joe Pavelski is an UFA and that Logan Couture will be a RFA, and the Sharks’ll need the cap space, even with Dan Boyle’s deal running out.

Anaheim Ducks
As discussed earlier on this blog, the Ducks are gambling that the salary cap will rise sooner rather than later. They’ve already locked up Getzlaf and Perry for the rest of recorded history (global warming and all that…), but the rest of their roster is signed to manageable deals. They have a horde of free agents to sign, including Methuselah the Wise Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu though, but no obvious candidates to buy out. If they continue with their recent trend of playing rookies, they should be fine.

Minnesota Wild
Their villainous owner, Craig Leipold might be loathe to spend money on trifles such as buy-outs, but the Wild aren’t far from the cap. They could use more depth players and have to re-sign a couple of young guys if they want to improve. So who might be walking the plank? Chuck Fletcher might try to unload the always tradeable Dany Heatley (COLUMBUS CALLING!?), but if he can’t find a taker for the last year of that $7.5m cap hit contract, he might just have to toss him like a message in a bottle, to be picked up on some other shore, in some other time. Adieu, Heater.

Pittsburgh Maringouins
With today’s news that Evgeni Malkini’s been signed to a more expensive contract than Sidney Crosby, Ray Shero begins the task of finding complementary forwards at bargain rates. On defense, the Pens’ are loaded with young prospects, who if they can develop sooner than later should keep their blueline affordable. Up front there’ll be problems sooner than later. The only other forward signed past next season is James Neal. That’s it. Kris Letang will almost certainly get a fat raise on his $3.5m/year deal to keep him from becoming a free agent, meaning the Penguins need only about 11 forwards, while more than half of their salary cap will already be eaten up by the team’s core. Oh, and a goalie. Given his recent exposure as a total fraud, the most obvious move is to cheer Marc-Andre Fleury over a sea wall. Do you see that kid in the clip? That’s not Jason James Richter, that’s Pittsburgh fans everywhere.

Carolina Hurricanes
The ‘Canes are pretty much stuck with the core that they have, since they likely won’t have the cap space to add any impact free agents. The only pseudo-candidate for shameful dismissal on this roster is Alex Semin, only because everyone hates him and he’s a maddening Russian Enigma and because the last time he backchecked was before the wall came down and because he’s only playing for the money and because he couldn’t pick the Stanley Cup out of a police lineup. Whoops, pardon, I briefly channelled about 54% of Canadian hockey commentators.

Boston Bruins
The evil but talented Bruins are facing a cap crunch. Nathan Horton’s an UFA and Tuuka Rask is a RFA. Next year is the last on Patrice Bergeron’s deal, too. For next year, there’s $5.8m to be split between the former two players, which’ll be hard to do. Would Peter Chiarelli, so adept at locking up his core long term, consider buying out a complementary player such as Rich Peverley ($3.5m/year) to keep Horton? Marc Savard’s still on the books, and he and his $4.5m/year contract is almost certainly done, which’ll help. Even with that, signing Horton is a risky proposition. He’s undeniably one of the few talented power forwards in the league- if Bickell’s getting paid, imagine what Horton would get- but he’s also struggled with severe concussions since the 2011 final. Whatever the case, Chiarelli needs to and will proceed prudently to keep his team together, even if the current situation is a difficult one.

Washington Capitals
With about $5m in cap space and Karl Alzner a RFA, the Caps will have to say goodbye to the Michael Ribeiro experience unless they can jettison some driftwood. It’s hard to pick who needs to go, but perhaps a complementary forward like Joel Ward should go. He had a strong year in the shortened season, and his size makes him useful even when he’s not scoring, so buying him out would hurt. It comes down to how badly McPhee wants him some Ribs.

Montreal Canadiens
The Habs’ll only need to sign a couple of depth forwards and possibly a defender for next season. When- not if, when- they shove Tomas Kaberle into space, Bergevin will have about $10m in cap space, meaning they can make some moves. Patience might still be the best thing, considering the thin free agent market this year. If, however, a player like David Clarkson of the Devils becomes available, it might be worth it to back up the money truck on him. No matter what happens, good bye Kaberle! You might have been Pierre Gauthier’s worst move.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Steve Yzerman has about $2.5m in cap space and only 10 forwards. In other areas, the team is fine, but needs at least 3 more bodies and wiggle room for call-ups, etc… To consider the unfathomable, might he be tempted to end the Vincent Lecavalier show in Tampa? Lecavalier’s a local celebrity, and there’s still $45m left on his deal, which is a tough hit to absorb for any millionaire. On the other hand, Lecavalier’s become injury-prone, is declining in effectiveness (he hasn’t scored more than 29 goals since 2008), and his $7.27m cap hit is only going to get worse. It’s also a back-diving contract, meaning that if he retires, the Lightning are royally screwed. This year, it’s hard to see Yzerman waving goodbye, but what if Lecavalier struggles next year? WHAT THEN?!

Chicago Blackhawks
With an army of young players ready or nearly to play in the NHL, the ‘Hawks aren’t in as dire shape as their $2m in cap space might indicate. They need to re-sign Nick Leddy (RFA) and Marcus Kruger (RFA), and face the decision of whether or not to keep Bryan Bickell (UFA). Bickell’s going to get an out of control contract- remember, it also only takes 1 of the 29 other GMs to screw everything up- but if he takes a pay cut, and if Bowman the Younger uses his buy-outs, he might be persuaded to stay. Steve Montador ($2.75m/year) is as good as gone, and if Bowman decides to get rid of Michael Frolik ($2.33m/year), that makes an extra $5m in cap space while losing nothing more than a depth forward.

Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks have $47,222 in cap space. They need 3-5 more forwards and likely want to re-sign Chris Tanev (RFA). The first thing they need to do is resolve the Luongo/Schneider crease clogjam(TM), which’ll save them about $5m if they finally admit that they aren’t going to get back comparable value for Lalongo. It’s laudable that Gillis is trying to get some form of equal value back for Luongo, but given the cap situation, simply removing him from the payroll is worth more strategically than anything any other GM is likely to give up. Well, there’s still the possibility that Gillis finds a dance partner, but otherwise, he might consider buying out poor David Booth and saving $4.5m/year in progress. Booth was a good player once upon a time, but then he got concussed repeatedly and is a huge injury risk.

Grilladelphia Deep Fryers
Having acquired Mark Streit when they were already about $2.5m over the cap, the arithmetic-destroying Flyers will almost certainly use all of their buy-outs, and maybe some other teams if Paul “It’s all Monopoly Money to Me!” Holmgren can work some of his magic. Danny Briere and his $6.5m/year cap hit? Gone. Chris Pronger and his 35 and + contract at $4.9m/year? Seeya! That’s $11m right there, but what about goaltending philosopher Ilya Bryzgalov? It’s much easier to buy out the remaining two years of Briere’s deal than the remaining decade or so on Bryzgalov’s contract. Will they try and pack Briere off to some other team and then allow Bryzgalov to entertain reporters in some other city? Whatever they do, it’ll be fascinating since they clearly want whatever Mark Streit is selling and are already flirting (making out with, really) with CBA Impossibility. Holmgren is the ideal GM for this situation, not just because he created it, but also because he doesn’t blink twice when trading Jeff Carter in cold blood to Columbus, weeks before a no-trade clause kicks in. Holmgren doesn’t care what you know about the CBA, hockey, or fan favourites; he will keep the music playing on his musical chairs of trading as long as he has to.
What’s that?

I think he just left the party in a cab with CBA Impossibility.

June 8, 2013

Change We Can Believe In: Looking Back On Bob Gainey’s 2009 Free Agency Madness

by Jacob Saltiel

That worked out…
from habseyesontheprize.com

Flashback to summer 2009, Habs fan. The Canadiens had just been ignominiously dumped by the Bruins in the playoffs. Several players from the team that had finished 1st the previous season were entering free agency. Most famously, the much-loved Saku Koivu was out of a contract, as was the lusted upon Alex Kovalev. Back then, Mike Komisarek had not been exposed as an imposter and many hoped that he might become the captain one day. At the time, Bob Gainey knew he had to do something to re-make his team- but what?

He- or his assistant, the skulking Pierre Gauthier- hatched upon a mad scheme; let the pending free agents walk, and sign as many other free agents for as much money as possible. The day before free agency, the dreadful Scott Gomez trade happened, which set the tone for maybe one of the worst months in sports management history. If not for a young Slovakian goaltender channeling the ghosts of Canadiens goaltenders past, the science experiment would have been a total failure. Let’s pick through the wreckage, player by player, to see what services they rendered to the Canadiens since that day week in July.

Jaroslav Spacek
Spacek got a 3 year contract, averaging $3.8m/year after scoring 45 points with the Buffalo Sabres. He was 35 at the time, and never scored more than 21 points with the Canadiens. He wasn’t terrible, but neither was he particularly effective. He was fun with the media and would have been fine as a 4th or 5th defenceman, but then his contract was all wrong for someone that low on the depth chart. Actually, “his contract was all wrong for someone that low on the depth chart” is Pierre Gauthier’s operating principle. By the 3rd year of his contract, Spacek had actually gained value because of his expiring contract and the perception that he could play 3rd pairing minutes. So what happened? Gauthier traded him for Tomas Kaberle, who the Canadiens still have on the books until they mercifully buy him out in a few weeks.

Mike Cammalleri
Bob Gainey gave Cammalleri a $30m, 5 year contract after a career year. Not for lack of trying, Cammalleri never lived up to that deal in Montreal. Due to injuries and never playing on a line that could support him effectively, Cammalleri’s regular season output for the Canadiens was humble. In that exciting run to the playoffs, he played out of his mind, scoring 13 times in 19 games and terrorizing other teams every time he got open with the puck. This wasn’t a horrible signing at the time, and might have worked out a lot better if the plan wasn’t to play him alongside Scott Gomez. We’ll always have this highlight, though. Despite working hard for the team, Cammalleri was shamed by Gauthier and embarrassingly (for everyone involved) traded mid-game to the Flames for Rene Bourque and a 2nd rounder. Not for the last time in the Gauthier tenure, anonymous rival GM’s would comment that they didn’t even know Cammalleri was available for trade. As everyone knows, when you need to sell something, you definitely don’t want to create a bidding war for that asset by telling multiple people about it who may be interested.

Hal Gill
Hal Macinnis! Harold Priestley Gill! Joe Beef patron and all around good guy, Gill turned out to be one of the better signings. At $2.25m/year for 2 years, he was a bargain. Then again, he might have been one of the least watchable players in the NHL. It sure was effective, but turning on the TV to watch a hockey game and seeing ol’Giller flopping around in front of his crease on the penalty kill was about as much fun as watching your dog get run over. Whatever, it sort of worked, and the Gill-Subban dynamic alone was worth the price of admission. He was extended for another year, and then traded for the probably-retiring-due-to-injury Blake Geoffrion, Robert “WHO IS THAT?!” Slaney, and a 2nd round pick. Pretty good value. Unlike say, Scott Gomez, Hal Gill is always welcome back in Montreal, and even got a shout-out in The Art of Living According to Joe Beef. Seriously, check the acknowledgements. Not bad for a guy who played for both the Leafs and Bruins.

Travis Moen
TraMoen was brought in to add some grit to the bottom half of the Habs lineup for 3 years, $1.5/year. Well, he was supposed to do that, but it’s unclear what Moen does these days. He throws the occasional hit and plays decent defence on the 4th line, but that’s about it. This didn’t stop him from getting a $350,000 raise and 3 year extension from Bergevin, but there’s not a lot to say one way or another about the big plugger.

Brian Gionta
The eventual captain of the Canadiens was also picked up on this impulse spending spree. His $25m contract runs out at the end of next season, and it’s unlikely he’ll be retained unless he’s willing to take a paycut. Like Cammalleri, Gionta’s struggled with injuries, including tearing both of his biceps in the last couple of seasons. In his first two years as a Canadien, Gionta scored 28 and 29 goals, which was respectable, but injuries and ineffectiveness, and a lockout have limited him to 22 goals total over the last two seasons. Of course, that’s not the only measure of a player’s value. He’s a hard worker who’s decent in puck possession, with a 2.92 on-ice CORSI.* He’s well-liked by his teammates and his hand-eye coordination around the net is still good. He’s going to be 35 next year and facing a lengthy rehabilitation, and certainly not getting any taller. Because of this, he may not fit into Bergevin’s plans for a team trying to get younger and bigger.

Hindsight is 20/20, But Pierre Gauthier/Bob Gainey Are Blind
So, 4 years on, the Canadiens turned  their signings not still playing with the team into two 2nd round picks, Rene Bourque, Tomas Kaberle, and the associated waste in cap space. Out of Kovalev, Komisarek, and Koivu, only Koivu’s played well since then. It’s not as if the Canadiens had to retain those guys, but the route they chose to go in recklessly handing out contract was a poor strategy. Even if the salary cap’s coming down, that won’t necessarily mean GM’s lower the salaries they hand out to free agents. For example, a 39 year old Sergei Gonchar was given a 2-year, $10m contract today, even though that cap number can never come off the cap. The Stars aren’t tight against the cap, but that’s a lot to pay for a 1-dimensional defender who might have a rapid decline.

This summer, the Canadiens won’t have a ton of cap space to use, but let’s hope Bergevin uses it prudently, since it rarely occurs that great value comes out in free agency. If it does, it’s often pricey. Adding a scoring forward would be great, but a guy like Bryan Bickell, currently playing out of his mind alongside Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, could cost way more than he’s worth in a serious bidding war. After all, free agency isn’t be one of Gauthier’s secret trade markets.


*All this means is that when he’s on the ice, his team generates slightly more shots than the opposition.

May 27, 2013

Shane Churla Hired, Effects to Be Felt a Decade From Now

by Jacob Saltiel

Churla in Action
from strongchurch.org

While it’s hard to know what or how deeply felt the effects of a single scout in an organization may be, no one can say that Shane Churla hasn’t had his brushes with greatness before. One can say emphatically that he’s felt greatness first hand and that it left an impression on him. Here’s footage:

And before anyone protests, Pavel Bure scored 779 points in 702 regular season games, and 70 pts in 64 playoff games. Legend!

What’d He Do?
According to this article from the Dallas Stars’ website, Churla was assigned to work with the USHL (the USA’s answer to the junior Canadian Hockey), the Alberta Junior Hockey League*, and the WCHA, or western US colleges like North Dakota or Minnesota, etc…

Now, Canadiens fans, you can call him yours. What might that mean? Churla’s began his scouting career in 2005. In the ’05 draft, the Stars picked James Neal 33rd, Matt Niskanen 28th, before trading them both away for Alex Goligoski.

In ’06, the Stars drafted Ivan Vishnevsky with their 1st round pick. Vishnevsky sucked, though he was dumped on Atlanta for the solid Kari Lehtonen. Now he plays in Russia for a team whose name is unpronounceable. The other name in that draft of any import to the stars is Richard Bachman, who after maturing in the AHL for a few years, may turn into a decent backup, though he got lit up this year.

The Stars didn’t have a 1st round pick from 2007-2008, but still picked up the brilliant Jamie Benn in the 5th round, and some other players who may yet play a regular shift in the NHL. Colton Sceviour’s (4th round, 112th overall, ’07) been productive in the AHL for the last 2 years, with 105 points in 137 games, while Philip Larsen, a smallish Danish defenceman has threatened to become a full time member of the Stars D’ for the last 2 years.

In ’09, the Stars picked in the 1st round again, taking Scott Glennie, who might suck. Glennie might be a victim of Excellent Linemate Syndrome**, as he played alongside Brayden Schenn. Schenn was picked 3 spots ahead of Glennie and has established himself at the AHL level and shows occasional flashes of becoming a productive NHL’er. Glennie has struggled to score in the AHL for the last two years, so he might be a bust.

After that, the news gets better, with massive Alex Chiasson (2nd round, 38th, ’09) showing signs of productivity following his college career. He’s 6″4, scored 6 times in 7 games in a call up this year, and also put up a respectable 35 points in the first 57 games of his AHL career. Reilly Smith, (3rd round, 69th, ’09) also played for the Stars for the first time this year after scoring 35 points in 45 games at the AHL level. He didn’t score much in his first 37 NHL games with a mere 9 points, but he may have more room to develop.

After that, it gets hard to tell how successful the Stars’ drafting has been, given that the prospects in those post-’09 drafts have had 3 years or less to develop. Jamie Oleksiak, the overgrown 1st round defender they drafted in 2011, has already played for the Stars, and others may be on the way.

That may seem a little thin, but consider also that Brendan Dillon and Jordie Benn were signed as undrafted free agents. Dillon is a Calder contender this year, while Jordie Benn looks like he’ll join his brother as a regular contributor in the major league.

What to Expect?
Of those picks mentioned above, the following played in leagues Churla was scouting: Alex Chiasson (USHL, 2008-2009),  Jamie Oleksiak (USHL, 2008-2010), Richard Bachman (USHL, 2006-2007). Churla’s role wasn’t limited to just those leagues, and it seems like he may have helped with the observation of other western prospects, including the underachieving Glennie and the overachieving Dillon. If it’s the case that Churla was also responsible for players from the BCHL and WHL, then this may be good news for the Canadiens, who haven’t done well in western North America under Trevor Timmins’ tenure. Other than Brendan Gallagher and Ryan White, few players from the west have been drafted by the Habs, and fewer have met expectations (Ryan O’Byrne and David Fischer). As the title indicates, however, it’ll be years before the fans get to see the results of Churla’s powers of observation or not.


* The AJHL is a Junior ‘A’ hockey league, or an alternative to Canadian Major Junior Hockey. Notable picks from this league include: Fernando Pisani, Brent Sutter, Dylan Olsen, Mason Raymond, and Matt Frattin. Hard to think it’s a major pipeline of NHL talent, then. For comparison’s sake, the BCHL (B.C’s equivalent) has produced both Kyle Turris, Jamie Benn, and Travis Zajac in recent years, with Paul Kariya also being an alumni.

**Excellent Linemate Syndrome is when two highly rated draft prospects play on the same line. As scoring totals can be so high in junior, it can occasionally be difficult to determine which of the two prospects is actually of NHL calibre. For an extreme example, Eric Chouinard played with Simon Gagne, and got drafted ahead of him by the Canadiens in 1998. That many probably haven’t heard of Chouinard speaks volumes, moreso that most NHL fans are aware of who Simon Gagne is.

May 10, 2013

Suggestions for 21st Century Broadcasting

by Jacob Saltiel
The announcement that Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole will be leaving TSN for Fox Sports West is a loss for Canada’s Sports Leader and for viewers of sports highlights in Canada. They were goofy. They approached their profession with a healthy dose of self-awareness and detachment. Listening to their recaps of games was like watching hockey with a particularly witty friend in a bar, especially so when they would shout “EVERYONE TAKE A SHOT!” as overtimes progressed to shootouts. Livening up the events of games whose scores are already known is impressive in this era of instant information and omnipresent vigilance by sports fans.

Onrait and O’Toole dealt with the mornings after, the post-party, the afterglow of the main event. While there are exciting play-by-play announcers out there (the excitable Christ Cuthbert comes to mind), the format for live events hasn’t changed much- and no, putting a former player or coach between the benches doesn’t count as a massive change, especially since the restrictions of broadcasting for a family audience prevents the reporting of cusswords, smacktalk, and abominable statements. Which leads nicely into the purpose of this post; several ideas, in no order of importance and with no regard to their practicality for invigorating the broadcasts of sports. Some may argue that sports requires no adornment- the competition is enough- but contemplate these possibilities and ask yourself if you would or could change to another sports feed…

1. An Uncensored HBO-style Channel for Sports
Let’s not pretend that our heroes are all clean-cut, churchgoing types who wouldn’t know the word ‘fuck’ if it happened to them. After all, there’s only one Jonathan Toews. Trashtalk, mindgames, and  frustration are part of sports as anyone who plays or watch knows. There probably isn’t any sociological proof to support this next argument, but it’s highly probable that nothing promotes the use and invention of blasphemy, scatology, and cussing at home like turning on a playoff game with your favourite team. Sure, HBO’s 24/7 series shows us this side of athletes, but only retrospectively. This should be live.

So let’s not just mic up the players to little effect. Who gives a fuck to hear 17 second clips of hockey players saying “let’s go, eh!’ and “I got hit in the arm, yeah, oh yeah, right in the arm”? Let’s find out just how hateful and transgressive our heroes are. There’s quite a bit of hate speech in that link, but these are ultra-competitive athletes- not gender theorists-and the recording of such quotations can only lead to tensions with journalists post-game, which will only lead to more copy about those encounters, and so on. Perhaps a public debate about issues arising from sports cursing and trashtalk could help the public to think critically on such issues. How come only fans standing next to Tiger Woods on the greens are treated to his language while viewers at home were told euphemistically what a competitor he was for all these years?

This will also allow for homer play-by-play and colour commentators to really give it to the home team when they suck. Sometimes a team’s backup goaltender really does play as if he had played right wing in the 2nd period, and the uneducated fans at home have a right to know exactly when, rather than being told that such-and-such player is struggling or fighting the puck. Negativity can dissuade people from sticking with a blow out though.

Which is why it should be paired with raging, hyperbolic optimisim…
2. More Homer Announcers
Some may wince at the headline to this section, but there’s method to this suggestion. Hawk Harrellson and Jack Edwards are obnoxious to viewers from outside of South Side Chicago or Boston, but their fanatical devotion to their team at the expense of their profession can be exploited to a different purpose. For games between hated rivals, let’s pair up the homer announcer of one team with the homer announcer of another. For example, at the next Habs-Bruins game, who turns the television off for a booth team of Jack Edwards on the play-by-play and Murray Wilson on the colour commentary? Or how about Mike “scratch my back with a chainsaw” Lang teaming up with Washington’s colour commentator for the next Caps-Pens showdown?

The tension in commentary could rival that of the tension on the ice. Combined with the 1st suggestion in this post, this could lead to Murray Wilson calling Jack Edwards a flaming sycophant on the air, with Jack Edwards probably responding to Wilson that he’s a jackass and a hack journalist. You’d be right to argue that this might detract from the focus on the game- and that’s exactly the point. Told to keep the bickering of their rival interpretations of what’s happening right in front of them for stoppages of play, this could mean less talk of getting pucks in deep, and more argument about which team is in fact diving more, or sucking harder. This can only make the telecasts more interesting. Besides, Canada’s state-funded channel’s cast of hockey experts includes an old man who hits a single with a Leafs’ player every decade, so let’s just go ahead and stop pretending the talking heads don’t like some teams more than others.

3. Stunt Announcers
With no elaboration necessary, Morgan Freeman needs to do play-by-play for the Penguins.
Will Ferrell is a Lakers fan and has appeared in a movie in which basketball happens. He’s even worked as an usher for evening at the Staples centre. Let’s give him the colour commentary for the Lakers, particularly in a mediocre season such as the one Lakers fans just endured. There are other combinations one can think of, but let’s not get too comfortable with the usual play-calling teams.

4. Abolishing Statistics That Don’t Make Sense
Yes, broadcasting for as many people as possible scares some channels from using complicated measures of performance, but that’s no reason to coddle the kids at home. Using wins and losses to say anything about a goaltender or pitcher is a waste of airtime, so stop wasting airtime when there can be cursing, recriminations, and celebrities freaking out for their teams. Keeping commentary misleadingly simple has the unintended consequence of keeping the viewers actually stupid. Anyone who enjoys talking about sports at the bar, in their living room, or on the street should be spared having to explain why junk stat X doesn’t support false argument Y. No one would be seriously injured if they didn’t have to hear the word clutch again. In relation to sports, what is clutch? Is it a metaphor? Where does it’s meaning come from if not the lemming-like repetition that keeps it alive? Enough!

5. Montages of the After-Party
The CBC already does montages of the playoffs and the actual sporting event, but once the trophies are handed out and final victory has occured, what happens next? Much of it is shaded in rumour and innuendo. In this era of sports media intruding on every aspect of a professional athletes life, how come there’s no access for the Bacchanalian debauchery that must follow glorious victory? Hell, viewers are treated to all kinds of boring minutiae of how rich the players are, or how hard they work out, or how philanthropical they are- why stop there? The CBC can’t detail one camera crew to the Stanley Cup celebration? As a compromise to the players and their agents, networks shouldn’t be able to air an unedited hour-long show, but a 5 minute music video consisting of the party thrown by the owner. Does anyone in our voyeuristic culture consider themselves capable of not watching this?

So, TV Networks, what are you waiting for? By the time you’ve read this, it’s been on the internet for at least 125 seconds. Get to work.

May 8, 2013

A Glossary of NHL Playoff Jargon

by Jacob Saltiel



from willkempartsschool.com

To help the average fan understand the language used by TV commentators throughout the playoffs, here’s a handy list of terms or phrases and their definitions:

Answer the Bell: In boxing, the beginning of a fight. In hockey, the necessary conclusion to a hockey play. See also hockey play.

Beauty: Missing teeth, violent, bearded. See also Dirty and Winner.

Bulletin Board Material: 2-dimensional diagram of a hockey rink on a WhiteErase board, accompanied by erasable markers and covered in an arcane language consisting of X’s, O’s, arrows, lines, and numbers.

Character: Euphemism to describe teams without talented players that win, teams with talented players lose, but also teams without talented players that lose and teams with talented players that win. As in “This team has a lot of character.”

Clutch: An adjective to describe the individual player who wins without his team, or whose goals count for double, or who is mediocre as a rule with unpredictable and brief flashes of competency.

Dirty: Describes a player who will actually do anything to win. For example, Dale Hunter. See also Winner.

Focus: The ability of an athlete to practice his profession at the appropriate time.

Hockey Play: An illegal play resulting in injury enjoyed by nostalgic TV commentators who wish such plays occurred as often as shots, passes, and skating strides. As in “That’s not suspendable, that’s a hockey play gone wrong.”

In-game Adjustment: Playing a centre with a different winger. Assigning certain players easier minutes against easier opposition, such as the water bottles at the end of the bench.

Injury Update: A tale told by a pundit, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Key Player: Goaltender.

League Review: Marination period before the delivery of a botched decision.

Let’em play: An admission that two referees is worse than one referee, but still not as good as zero referees.

Loss of Composure: Any team playing against a vastly superior opponent.

Mic’ed Up: Over the course of a TV broadcast of a single game, the gradual citation of an entirety of a hockey player’s non-scatological lexicon.

Monster: The imminent recipient of Pierre McGuire’s cellular phone number.

Old-time hockey: The appearance of formerly legal plays in contemporary hockey, such as two handed slashes. Often used by commentators to lament the rules of today’s hockey, which liberally tolerates the forward pass.

Reset Button: Game 1 of next season.

Soft: When applied to a European hockey player, an implication that he does not enjoy being hit. When applied to a North American, the allegation that he is European.

Questionable: When applied to a play, See Dirty. When applied to a call by referee, linesmen, or the NHL’s head office, wrong.

Under the Knife: Stanley Cup Winners aside, the reward for playing with a serious injury.

Veteran: A player who has remained in the league for years without being stained by the brush of hyperbole.

War Room: A room full of men qualified by having watched hockey for years to analyze and decide all plays and calls by officials live. Distinct from a bar due to the sobriety rather than accuracy of the men in the room.

Winner: A player who distinguishes himself from his peers and opposition by actively attempting to win the game. See also, Dirty.

May 6, 2013

Send In the Clowns: Game 3, Habs-Sens Review

by Jacob Saltiel

Over at Allhabs.net, there’s the BGS review of Game 3, in which the Canadiens loss of composure and is traced back to their coach’s failure to react to the Senators’ scheming, and how wrath and rage won’t save the Canadiens in this round:

May 3, 2013

Murder, She Wrote: Habs 2 – Sens 4

by Jacob Saltiel

Over at Allhabs.net, you can check out the BGS review of last night’s opening game loss and Eller’s injury:

Moving forward, let’s hope Michel Therrien doesn’t turn this into a revenge tragedy…

May 2, 2013

Bon essai, Ottawa: The Senators Radio Anthem is Brutal

by Jacob Saltiel

Unlike the Corel Centre, no cows graze in the wide open plain surrounding the Capitol
from tripadvisor.com

[UPDATE, 3:13pm: THE CANADIENS ANTHEM IS EVEN WORSE. Why are these radio stations demeaning their listeners!?]


Today on Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski posted a link to the Ottawa Senators playoff radio anthem.

To belabor the point, it’s putrid.

If this is what gets Senators fans excited to watch some hockey

In a hypothetical universe where the residents of Ottawa don’t cheer for either the Toronto Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens, it’s a cruel joke that some radio announcer would pretend that prospective Senators fans would really get their competitive juices flowing to this.

To borrow a point from Drew Fairservice (@DrewGROF), Macklemore and Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” is a gimmick song not much better than “Who Let the Dogs Out?”. Tricking it out this way only makes it more ridiculous.

To add to Wyshyinski’s comments, those clever radio hosts managed to think up some other disses:

Exhibit A: “hey Carey, the Price is wrong b****!”

Wow! Has anyone ever heard that one before? He made a clever pun on the price- GET IT?!- the price being wrong? I hope they send him a copy of this to hurt his feelings.

Exhibit B: “gonna make them wish they had The Rocket”

Sure, of course all Habs wish they had a modern day Rocket. Sens fans will probably wish they had a healthy Jason Spezza, but they’ll have to do with prolific goal scorer Colin Greening for now. That’s right, the Colin Greening.

Exhibit C: “the Habs are going down, they are a bunch of clowns the Sens will party-up in stripclub town”

Low blow going after Montreal’s strip club appeal! Even if the Senators were playing Columbus in the first round, one assumes that they’d still celebrate their victory in Ohio because… the Senators play in Ottawa. Being from Ottawa, whoever made this song probably did not know that a large enough city can be known for more than one type of entertainment venue. When the Senators win a playoff series in Ottawa, rumour has it that they put on some headsets and listen in on Question Period at the House of Commons. YOLO. God alone knows how they’d spoil themselves if they ever won.

Of course, none of this really matters since there aren’t any actual fans of the Ottawa Senators, so all the Leafs and Habs fans can get together and laugh about this phony attempt to convince the internet that anyone watches Senators hockey. Now, let’s hope Michel Therrien doesn’t attempt to play this tape as motivation for his players. It’d be a shame if someone got a hernia.

May 1, 2013

Today’s Hockey-Literature Crossover: “Nabokov Wins One for the Islanders”

by Jacob Saltiel

Vladimir Nabokov’s Stare
from wikipedia.org

The author of The Secret Life of Vladimir Nabokov, Andrea Pitzer, is aware of that other Nabokov, first name Evgeni. Over at McSweeney’s, you can read Evgeni’s stream of consciousness from the Islanders net in the style of Vladimir. You can also hear her read on the CBC’s As It Happens, here.

For those unaware, Nabokov the author wrote Lolita, published by a French press known for producing erotica, it was the last book to be banned in the United States due to paedophilic content. Nabokov was one of the most notorious, influential and formally daring writers (Pale Fire) of the 20th century. Once told in an interview that his sense of the immorality of relationships between older men and very young women came across quite clearly, Nabokov responded:

“No, it is not my sense of the immorality of the Humbert Humbert [the narrator of Lolita]-Lolita relationship that is strong; it is Humbert’s sense. He cares, I do not. I do not give a damn for public morals, in America or elsewhere. And, anyway, cases of men in their forties marrying girls in their teens or early twenties have no bearing on Lolita whatever. Humbert was fond of “little girls”—not simply “young girls.” Nymphets are girl-children, not starlets and “sex kittens.” Lolita was twelve, not eighteen, when Humbert met her. You may remember that by the time she is fourteen, he refers to her as his ‘aging mistress’.”

from The Paris Review: The Art of Fiction, Number 40.

Nabokov the goaltender has played 646 games in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks and, currently, the New York Islanders. He’s been known to make saves like this. In the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins, however, he’ll probably get scored on repeatedly and mercilessly.

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.