Thoughts on Thoughts” is a feature that looks at Elliotte Friedman’s terrific weekly post “30 Thoughts.” Justin Bourne selects his 10 favourite tidbits, and elaborates.

Last editionJamie Benn and “The Unsigned Three”

Friedman’s column, January 29th: P.K. Subban eyes bigger payday

Opening:

Elliotte’s opening this week was on P.K. Subban’s new contract, and what it means for him and the Habs going forward. My initial reaction to the Subban numbers was semi-shock. As in, “I need to figure out what I’m missing here, because he’s obviously worth more than that,” and it was Friedman’s piece that has taken me to where I feel like I have a comfortable grasp of the situation.

How I see it:

In a nutshell, the Canadiens and Subban are going to be negotiating a new, sizable contract during this calendar year. His “two year deal” essentially means that he doesn’t make a (comparative) ton over the next three-months-or-so of the 2013 NHL season (you don’t get paid in playoffs), then suddenly it’s the 2013-14 season and you have a stud d-man in the final year of his RFA deal that you should negotiate with before the year is up. It’s basically eight or nine months before these two sides will be back at the table talking nickels.

So, in the short-term, The Canadiens have no salary cap problems because Subban isn’t playing for a ton. The second year of the deal is for $3.75M, so if the Canadiens want to qualify him, they have to at least start there. And assuming he’s played at-or-near expectations without sustaining a major injury, they’re going to lock him up for a long time, likely into multiple unrestricted free agency years. Subban could be (as Friedman puts it) the second highest-paid player on the team before we know it.

So yes, he’s underpaid right now. But he doesn’t miss a year of salary, doesn’t kill the Canadiens, doesn’t form a rift with the organization….it’s just a really smart deal all around. I’m impressed.

3. Many of you have asked about offer sheets. As one GM (not one quoted elsewhere in this blog) said: “If Nashville is going to match that offer to Shea Weber, what the [bleep's] the point of  doing one?” He added that some of the vulnerable teams are getting increased revenue sharing under a new CBA, giving them even more incentive to match — with your money.

Maybe I’m missing something here, after the “with your money” add on, but isn’t the idea with an offer sheet, especially to the Habs in their current situation, that “we either get a really good player for our picks, or we put their team in salary cap hell?” Weakening your opponent can be as good as getting better. I understand now (thanks to Patrick Burke last week) that effing over a fellow GM can result in repercussions down the road, but still, to act like there would be no benefit to slapping a team like Montreal with an offer sheet seems disingenuous to me. I’m still learning the front office side though, so let me know what I’m missing here if you like.

10. Couple notes about Alexander Ovechkin: McPhee said the experiment of moving him to right wing is not dead. When the Capitals played in New Jersey last week, Ilya Kovalchuk — who went through a similar process last season — told Oates that while he hated it at the beginning, he eventually grew to like it.

It takes time. I made the switch a couple times over the course of my career, and I found the best thing was – get this – reps. As in, do it, do it, do it, don’t switch back to the other wing and fall back into that mode, just stay there for long enough until it’s unconscious. If it’s still not working at that point, well, maybe then it’s time to reassess.

11. I asked GMGM (as local fans call him) about one executive’s assessment of Ovechkin, that “he’s too big.” Understand: this is not to say he is out of shape, just that he is too bulked-up. In the 2005 NHL Guide and Record Book, the Great Eight is listed at 212 pounds. Now: 230 on NHL.com. McPhee disagreed, saying, “His ideal weight is 227 or 228. He’s at about 231 or 232.” And before anyone jumps on that, he doesn’t feel that difference is a big deal, either, because it’s close to where Ovechkin should be.

Playing so much as five pounds overweight can be a major hindrance at the top level. I’m not saying Ovy’s fat and needs to trim up or anything, but I just remember the one summer I “bulked up” in college that my offensive numbers plummeted (summer before my junior year). I was pretty damn fit (shirts looked great!) but I just couldn’t outskate anyone like I needed to on the big WCHA ice rinks. Ovy doesn’t lack for strength, so if I’m in his camp, I’d rather see him too svelte than too thick. …Depending on what role you want him to play, of course.

12. Kings? Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times advanced an interesting theory on Hockey Night in Canada Radio – that Dean Lombardi believes the defending champions deserve a chance to prove they can right the ship before he makes any moves. They’ve won two straight after three losses to open the season. It fits with what Lombardi wrote in a brief email: “I have to let this play out a bit.”

HELLS. YES.

I mean, not to be condescending here, but anyone ripping on the Kings right now should get a grip. They were an eight seed last year, so maybe they struggle a bit in the regular season for whatever reason, but they just won the Stanley Cup and barely changed their roster. That qualifies as “proven.” Don’t mess with success until it “proves” it can’t get it done anymore.

15. Don’t know if it fully explains San Jose’s 5-0-0 start, but suffice it to say the Sharks are well aware of the belief their “window” has closed. (Patrick Marleau: “I’ve been asked this question a couple of times this year.”) There is no doubt the organization is using that as motivation. There is also no doubt of Larry Robinson’s impact. When he speaks, everyone listens.

Yeah, I was one of those window’s-closed folks. I don’t know if the Sharks are on their way to becoming some Bill Simmons-esque “nobody believed in us!” team, but I could see how that would’ve been motivation out of the gate. That enthusiasm and desire to “prove it” can get smothered as success brings more articles like the one I just linked too, but I now think they’re too good to revert back to entirely average this season. Which is fun – I like when the top teams have more immediate competition.

17. Justin Schultz gets a lot of praise for how he moves the puck, but opponents point out that other Edmonton defencemen deserve credit for their ability to get it to the forwards. On Nick Schultz (Justin’s partner): “There’s no panic with him. He makes the right plays.”  Corey Potter and Jeff Petry also received mention.

Why does this feel like jealousy from teammates and not love? Instead of “yes, he’s incredible” it’s “well, he’s playing with some pretty great players.” It’s probably that I haven’t heard stuff like that before about Corey Potter and Jeff Petry that leave me inclined to heap the accolades on Justin Schultz (a good West Kelowna boy like myself, let’s go!). So, in a credit-where-credit-is-due more: Justin Schultz is just fantastic. He’s already one of my favourite defensemen in the league to watch – moves well, has good vision, is creative, and has great general offensive sense.

18. More on the Oilers, from some of their opponents: “Their poise with the puck is amazing, fun to watch. They will get chances every game.” Biggest issue is already pretty obvious: “They are going to struggle in their own zone, the goalie will have to be good.”

We’ve talked about this on the Backhand Shelf Podcast quite a bit – the Oil are likely going to score, so it’s a matter of keeping the puck out of their own net. it’s great that Justin Schultz is getting a lot of minutes, but he’s not yet that guy that makes you think “phew, we’re okay _____ is out there.” Even with Lidstrom’s offensive talents we used to think about him like that in his own end, and I feel like it takes years and years of maturity and NHL experience to get there. Edmonton certainly doesn’t have any guys like that yet.

19. Devan Dubnyk’s had some nice bounce-back games for them already. Destroyed by San Jose? He’s great against the Stanley Cup champions. Rough night against Calgary? How about 37 saves to beat Colorado? That will impress people, because it shows his compete level. The big question: are the Oilers going to be good enough defensively to really give Dubnyk a shot to show what he can do?

Bah, with compete level here. Sorry to that guy, but all NHL goaltenders are capable of stepping in and winning a few hockey games – the trick is cutting out games like “Rough night against Calgary,” where your team loses by a goal (and sure, “destroyed by San Jose” is bad too), because those are points your team needs. I agree that it’s up to Edmonton to make life as easy as possible on Dubnyk, but I’m skeptical they’ll be able to do that, and it’s a sketchy situation when you have to worry about protecting your goalie. I picked them eighth in the West, because I think they’re talented, but when other teams tighten up their D and effort in playoffs, I doubt they’ll win so much as a single playoff game.

20. Remember that line about Washington from before — that they were really hurt by the lack of exhibition games? Same thing goes for Calgary. Opponents see a team that has more skill than before, but is still getting used to Bob Hartley’s tactical adjustments. The Flames were considered a “heavy” team that would “lean” on the opposition. Now it’s about being quicker and using that speed to pressure. 

I don’t care for the attempted style switch from the Flames – in general, I support up-tempo, and I support using speed to pressure, but the fact is that the Flames are the third oldest team in the NHL and I feel like that’s going to be taxing on them. Have you ever played against NHL legends, or even just ex-NHLers? They don’t give up possession because they don’t want to chase it again. They think “we have it, why give it away?” On a club with guys like Iginla, Bouwmeester, Wideman, Tanguay and all the rest, I’d rather see them play a possession game, and take the odd turnover instead of trying to out-skate faster opponents (you’re allowed to use different forchecks for different lines – you could have Baertschi and Backlund going mach six if you wanted to). Coaches are always trying to jam their square peg of a roster into their round hole of a system, when they’re the party who should be making changes depending on what they’re given.

25. Whatever the Maple Leafs decide to do with Phil Kessel, the one reason I’d be wary of trading him is he is perfectly suited to playing in Toronto. He doesn’t pay attention to anything: the newspapers, sports radio, etc. It’s hard to insulate yourself from that intensity. It’s why Toronto and Montreal were ready to throw millions at the Sedins, who are similarly unbothered. Those guys can be hard to find.

This is a really great observation on Kessel: the kid constantly gets called code words for “sorta shy,” and the media in Toronto probably don’t love that a guy who could be the most recognizable Leaf couldn’t give a compelling interview for all the money in the world, but realistically, the throngs of media in Toronto have never affected his play. It’s not even like comments about Kessel roll off him like water off a duck’s back – it’s like they don’t even register, don’t even get processed. He gets annoyed at his lack of hockey success when he struggles, but it’s never because it means people are going to say or write mean things about him. It’s because he likes doing well at his life’s work: hockey. And he’s had a pretty darn good career here so far.

Comments (16)

  1. the media wants to get rid of kessel because he doesn’t talk

  2. One reason gm’s don’t do offer sheets is because even though you may screw the other team cap-wise if your offer is matched, you’ve just inflated the price of comparables that your own players will use when you want to re-sign them in the future. So you may screw them now, but you’re just screwing yourself in the future.

  3. If Subban is underpaid now then it is a bad deal for him. In fact, he is so underpaid that he might be better off playing for free (cost to him $1 million dollars or so) on a one year deal and then going to arbitration next year when he would certainly get more than 3.75 million.

    There is no upside on this deal for Subban. It doesn’t get him any closer to his payday and he gets dramatically underpaid for two years.

    I don’t know how Subban can look into the mirror after this. He must really love hockey because as a business decision this is terrible.

    • You obviously didn’t comprehend anything you read about Subban. It’s a bridge contract. He’s going to get paid before the start of next season, and it’s going to be for an extended period of time, for a lot of $$ year. The team has to pay a little extra to buy some of his UFA years if they want him long term. It’s how the Entry level, RFA, UFA system works, as it is right now.

      He will be a well paid player before the end of the calendar year.

  4. I agree that the Kings need the chance to ride things out and prove that they can’t get it done, but there are a few names on the roster that have a history of poor play. Penner, for example, hasn’t done himself any favors by playing like shit to start the season.

    For LA’s sake, i hope he does get things going quickly.

  5. Remember Burke made the big giveaway trade with Boston so really fellow American Kessel really doesn’t have to answer to the new ownership and can be traded if they decide he’s not earning his keep! I think he wants out regardless of what Nonis tells the media as he’ll never live up to that awful trade and is in a no win situation!

  6. The Kings have plenty of ways to tinker with the roster if need be – most significantly, Mitchell will be back in the lineup soon enough. Given that they’re at 0.500 without him (and per NHL.com, 74-39-20 all-time when he’s in the lineup)., it’s reasonable to say that they have no need to change things around too much.

    • They are also without Greene, likely for the remainder of the regular season. And their top 6 isn’t exactly pouring in goals.

      • This formula isn’t exactly unprecedented.

        And Greene’s survivable, since his main contribution is on the PK (but even then, Mitchell plays more and they’re top-10 so far this season). Greene only played 16:40 / game last year – and that number dropped a little bit in the playoffs in spite of the fact that the Kings’ OT games should’ve boosted it a bit.

        But Mitchell being on the ice would allow them to revert their top four to the more traditional pairings (Doughty / Mitchell, Scuderi / Voynov), which would probably go a way to returning things to normalcy.

  7. My interpretation for point #3 is that when it comes to sending an offer sheet to a player on a team like Nashville, who are a team for whom actual dollars is the issue and not salary cap, the issue is not so much “we either get a really good player for our picks, or we put their team in salary cap hell” but rather “we either get a really good player for our picks, or we put the team in financial hell which we will have to fund through revenue-sharing”. So for a rich team like Philadelphia to send an offer sheet to a cash-strapped team like Nashville, they’re not putting them up against the cap but just making them lose money which they will have to compensate through revenue sharing.

    This clearly does not apply at all for a team like the Canadiens, who have enough money to throw around, but not so much in the way of cap space.

  8. Here is how I see the offer sheet thing as breaking down.

    First, it depends if you are a small market or a big market team. Small market team is arguably less likely to put in an offer sheet because they simply don’t have the cash to make an offer that a big market can’t match. If you are a big, and this is where the GM’s comments come in, you are likely funnelling cash to the small market team through revenue sharing. The small market teams (generally) arent in a cap crunch, they play close to minimum, but they are in a cash crunch. So, if you know they are going to match, it’s purely a cap issue.

    If you are putting in an offer sheet on a larger market team (like the Habs) to put them in ‘Cap Hell’, then you have to assume one of two things:
    – Either the player was ready to take a home-town discount and you are trying to eliminate it. I can’t really see this being more than $1m per season.
    – You are offering over the odds in which case, if they don’t match (a la Penner), you end up paying a player more than they are worth and losing a bunch of picks.

    Because teams will likely match a reasonable offer, you really screw them very little while putting a target on your back. Seems redundant to be honest.

    • There have been seven offer sheets since the 04/05 lockout. Only the Penner deal wasn’t matched and that one doesn’t go down in history as the best trade in the world.

      There was some funny business between San Jose and Chicago but the offers weren’t for silly money – it was more that Chicago had put themselves in that situation by failing to get their qualifying offers in.

      Arguably only the Vanek sheet and the Weber sheet are the ones for silly money, both were matched.

      And you want a clear example that it puts a target on your back – look at Vancouver and St Louis in 2008.

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  10. That last part, about being media immune. It reminds me of Ballard and Booth, who came from the very quiet market in Florida to a very intense market in Vancouver, and both admitted that they struggled with the transition. So definitely, being able to block out all that noise is a huge asset.

  11. Ovi, please, not Ovy.

    /nitpicking over

    Also, about #17 — didn’t it say that opponents said all that stuff about the other D-men? So how can it be jealously from teammates when the teammates didn’t actually say all that?

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