Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

The cost of doing business


(Disclaimer: read this post before anything here)

If you browse through the leaders of Relative Corsi or Points per 60 minutes, or any other of my favourite measures to quantify players, it’s not like you’re ending up with a bunch of third lines scrubs up top.

We’ll look at the 2012 season because it’s the most recent 82-game campaign, with a large enough sample size to take away some of the hangers-on that lived as linemates for a full season. Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin at the top. Keep going down, and you’ll find players generally recognized by everybody as good two-way players: Anze Kopitar, Pavel Datsyuk, Joe Thornton, Henrik Zetterberg… most good players wind up with good possession numbers.

There are very few players that hockey fans recognize as “good” that the statistics don’t suggest are. While certain players have skill sets related to defence or shooting that may not be captured entirely in Corsi statistics, they’ll generally pop up near the top of some other list. Who cares if they do. You can tell who good players are by watching them. That was never the issue.

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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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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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Call-ups apparently don't get to chose their number. Go Ovi, I guess?

Call-ups apparently don’t get to chose their number. Go Ovi, I guess? (By the way, Marc Danis stuff this deke with his left toe against the right post)

If I’m being honest with myself, a slapshot to the face probably didn’t end my hockey career. It probably gave me an out.

It’s not that I didn’t want to continue playing hockey for a living, it’s that it’s really f***ing hard to be a pro hockey player if you aren’t born with the talent of Alexei Kovalev. It’s a ton of physical work for the lessers.

Every summer after the hockey season guys take off a certain amount of time, depending on when they’re eliminated, before talking themselves into returning to the gym and getting back to work. As much as the guys who went deep in playoffs need the most rest days, they get the opposite, because the next season is upon them quickest and I’m telling you, you cannot go to training camp in bad shape or you fall behind the eight-ball. You look unimpressive, you drop down the depth chart, and you start in a hole that feels like the bottom of a well, and you’re staring up at the light trying to figure out how the hell you’re going to get back to level ground.

Something like this happened to me, which is why I say a puck to the jaw hardly ruined some bright career. When I realized the NHL was not a league I would be playing in, I went into self-sabotoge mode during the summer of 2008.

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2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four

The headline’s a bit dramatic, if only because who the hell knows what happens going forward with injuries and the potential for terrifyingly bad luck, but if everything stays the same as it currently sits, I feel like the Stanley Cup is waiting to be dropped from it’s dunk tank-like perch into Corey Crawford and the Blackhawks’ hands…if he can just throw a couple strikes at the target.

Last night was huge for Chicago. If Boston scores the OT winner they head back to the Windy City with three cracks to beat Chicago once. The Blackhawks would be in full second-guessing themselves mode, having blown multiple leads and having given up six. Quenneville might tinker with the lines, or the lineup as a whole. Crawford is strung up from a sturdy branch. Ray Emery starts answering more questions. The whole thing starts to unravel, because that’s how the reactionary world of sports works.

But winning heals everything, and in the process, the Blackhawks had a barrel full of back-monkeys jump off, which will entirely free their stars up mentally to play the game as they can again. Jonathan Toews starred as The Beast in the Crease and scored for the first time since May, a span of 10 games dating back to the Red Wings’ series. Patrick Kane scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final. Patrick Sharp got his second of the Final. Hell, they even scored a powerplay goal.

And further, Marian Hossa made it all the way through the game and now doesn’t have to play again until Saturday, which means he gets an extra day to heal up, and will definitely play in Game 5. Those of you who’ve played through injuries know just how valuable that extra day can be – where the one day off in between contests means you wake up going “Ughhh f*************k, everything hurts,” there’s the potential to feel human with the bonus day in there.

Now they’ve got two of three games in the Madhouse on Madison. Everything would be peachy and perfect if it weren’t for this one large, scary elephant hiding behind the dresser:

The hell is up with all those low-glove goals on Corey Crawford? Is this a thing? Is shooting there like using The Cheat Move in NHL ’94? Read the rest of this entry »