Cam Charron

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Shot quality

Toronto Maple Leafs v Boston Bruins - Game Two

If you’re an assistant coach of a National Hockey League team and you say something that immediately sets off the bullshit detector of hundreds of hockey die-hards and analysts, it may be time to seriously question the direction of your franchise.

Meet Greg Cronin, the man behind such lines as “I think Orr has proven he’s more than just an enforcer”, who gave an interview to Alec Brownscombe of Maple Leafs Hot Stove that made the rounds this week. Everything in it just seemed off, and while Cronin seemed to be aware that there are, er, certain metrics that showed his Toronto Maple Leafs were not as good as their wins and losses record indicated.

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Remember when you were young / You shone like the sun(belt division)

In the absence of all other news, I think that the whole Ilya Kovalchuk situation is still a good jumping off point for this week. What’s been under-reported in all the opinion pieces about whether Kovalchuk quit on his New Jersey teammates is what the cost against the cap for the Devils would have been if Kovalchuk had decided to retire with 5 or 9 years left on his deal rather than 12.

I represent a minority of hockey fans because i’m not fundamentally opposed to the idea of salary cap recapture. Since the Devils are the first team to be dinged for the $3-million in salary cap benefits they received in the time that Kovalchuk was a Devil thanks to his front-loaded deal, they represent the test case. Nobody’s going to be cool with Kovalchuk leaving after three of 15 years and the optics aren’t good, but as I wrote Friday, it was probably the best situation for New Jersey going forward.

Stars, especially those at the wrong side of 28, don’t exactly age gracefully. While Martin St. Louis and Daniel Sedin won recent scoring titles in their 30s, it’s not like every year the best offensive stars in the NHL aren’t spry pups in their physical prime.

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New Jersey Devils v Los Angeles Kings - Game Six

At least at this point, nobody is really disputing that the New Jersey Devils are not going to be a good hockey team next season. Nobody prominent has come out and stated that the Devils are better off without Ilya Kovalchuk on the basis that he was a fat teammate/bad teammate/lazy teammate.

It’s interesting, because last season there was a case to be made that the Devils were a much better team than their record indicated. Fresh off of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Devils were a 55.1% Corsi Tied team with a .912 team even strength save percentage. They had excellent shot ratios but couldn’t buy a save. Headed into this season, they’re a patchwork club with little offence at best.

Financially, the Devils are probably better without Kovalchuk. There seem to be some allegations that Kovalchuk “stole” $23-million of the Devils’ money, that the Devils’ are again circumventing the salary cap or that it’s easy to convince a player owed $77-million to walk away from all of it. (Note to Stu Hackel, the Devils don’t actually have to “pay” any of the recapture cost.)

Kovalchuk played three years in Jersey and played generally well. I think that there’s some evidence (covered nicely by Driving Play) to suggest that he was on the down of his career, and with the biological clock striking 30 you couldn’t count on Kovalchuk to produce like an elite player. The Devils got three years of one of the best players in hockey right at the tail end of his prime. Besides, once you factor in the lockout year and Kovalchuk making about half of his salary, he got about $18.5-million from the Devils since his “money years” didn’t start until the shortened 2012-2013 season. Two of the the years he played for New Jersey for less than his cap hit.

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Party on, Garth Snow

"Party on, Wang"

“Party on, Wang”

Garth Snow was named the Executive of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2007, likely because he made three moves for big name players that eventually resulted in a New York Islanders playoff appearance in his first season.

However neither Ryan Smyth nor Richard Zednik, two of Snow’s acquisitions midseason, played another game for the Islanders. Marc-Andre Bergeron played 46 games in 2007-2008 before he was traded to Anaheim and the Islanders quickly sunk into 5th place in the Atlantic Division and stayed there for five consecutive seasons.

It was during those five seasons that the Islanders were a bit of a joke, and a lot of focus was placed on Snow and the 15-year contract that Rick DiPietro signed in the fall of 2006. Like in the case of Ilya Bryzgalov and Roberto Luongo, if that long term deal for a goaltender that was a massive failure in retrospect was the idea of the general manager, he’d be fired by now. I think during those years at the bottom of the Atlantic Division as Snow rebuilt the prospect system of the Islanders and tried to find players that would help him compete in 2012-onward, the futility of the team was symbolized by that DiPietro contract.

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teddy ballgame

Congratulations to the Toronto Star for having written the stupidest thing ever written about hockey. Maybe not “stupid” overtly, because being Tyler Bozak’s agent on this particular day is a pretty good career move. The article itself was written by A.J. Warner, a law school student and aspiring player agent who has been training himself to inflate his weak argument with so much bullshit, and the casual reader probably hasn’t noticed that Warner has called Bozak “one of the best in the NHL in the faceoff circle” and doesn’t mention that Bozak is just 22nd out of 61 regular faceoff takers in the NHL over the last two years.

And then you read that…

[Mikko Koivu] is another solid comparison to Bozak because they play a similar style and began their professional careers at a similar age. In Koivu’s first 203 games he had 117 career points, or 0.58 PPG.

…and when the remainder of the article neglects to mention that Koivu’s point scoring rate is 25% higher than Bozak’s when he was age 26, you begin to realize that some people work towards a conclusion by pulling together numbers, rather than let the number steer their way towards an educated conclusion. Pulling up Hockey Reference for both players isn’t exactly tough. You just have to type the URL into your browser, search for “Tyler Bozak” and “Mikko Koivu” and the Internet does the work for you. You don’t even have to wait for the newspaper to print out career statistics.

It is easier to say things like “Bozak is good at faceoffs” and “Koivu and Bozak are good comparables, here are Koivu’s points per game numbers” and then somehow get away with not actually writing down how Bozak does in the faceoff circle. I’m guessing if Bozak were 5th in faceoffs rather than 22nd, he’d have written down Bozak’s faceoff percentage.

Just what the world needs though, another white guy writing about sports.

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"Memories" (Getty)

“Memories” (Getty)

Now that Vincent Lecavalier, Roberto Luongo and Ilya Bryzgalov have sufficiently caused grief and diverted enough organizational plans, it’s as good a time as any to look at those long, cap-circumventing deals that dove tailed at the end to create an artificially low salary cap hit.

You may remember the ones. Only July 1, 2007, Daniel Briere, a 30-year-old forward coming off a 32-goal, 95-point season with the Buffalo Sabres signed a long-term, eight-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers that saw him get owed $26-million over the first three years of the deal. Instead of being hit with an $8.7-million cap hit like a normal team, the Flyers were dinged just $6.5-million. In exchange for money up front, the final two years of the deal saw Briere paid just $5-million total, bringing the overall cap hit down by over $2-million.

At the time it was genius, and it wasn’t long before other NHL clubs started using these deals to lock down their lifetime players long-term. While Rick DiPietro’s contract was the first to have an ultra-long term spanning over a decade, Briere’s was the first that exploited an advantage to rich teams buried within the collective bargaining agreement.

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2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

How much weight do you place on a good playoff performance?

If you look back through the Chicago Blackhawks players between 2009 and 2012, Bryan Bickell is 13th out of 28 players (min. 10 GP) in points per game with 0.47. Bickell had 17 points in 23 games in the most recent postseason and is probably going to parlay that into a significant UFA contract.

It won’t be a smart deal, but it’s not like Bickell is a slouch of a player. Over a 5-year period, he’s sixth on the Blackhawks in even strength points per 60, and is 115th in the league, right around Artem Anisimov, Martin Erat and Pierre Parenteau.

There are some teams that won’t have too much hesitation signing Bickell to a few years with a fat paycheque as one of the more productive depth players in the league.

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