Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Christian Ehrhoff Production And Value

It would seem by listening to Vancouver sports talk radio that Canucks fans are prepared to say goodbye to 50 point defenseman Christian Ehrhoff saying that he does not deserve to be paid more than Dan Hamhuis (who had 23 PTS in 2010/11). The question is being asked; has Ehrhoff been successful because he's on a great offensive team, or is the team strong on offense because of Ehrhoff's puck moving ability? Here's all you need to know, when the Canucks acquired Christian Ehrhoff as a salary dump from San Jose, his production went up only 2% from 42 to 44 PTS. He did not experience a large jump in numbers because he joined teams with the Sedins. On the flip side, Henrik Sedin jumped from 82 to 112 PTS when Ehrhoff joined the team because they finally added an effective puck moving defenseman to improve the break-out and transition through the neutral zone. Ryan Kesler had 59 PTS pre Ehrhoff, and jumped to 75 when he was added to the roster.

I'd say the Canucks benefited far more from having Christian Ehrhoff than the player benefited from playing on this team. Canuck fans saying that Ehrhoff should not be paid more than Dan Hamhuis need to give their collective heads a serious shake. Hamhuis is a 25 point defenseman, Ehrhoff is a 50 point defenseman. He is worth at least $5 million, though because of position scarcity in free agency, he could get as much as $6.5M. I doubt Detroit will offer him more than Lidstrom.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NHL Active Consecutive Games Streaks

After seeing that Henrik Sedin has not missed a game since before the NHL lockout, I decided to look up current iron man streaks in the NHL. He and Jay Bouwmeester are very close, both having missed their last game in 2003/04. Though it would appear that JB is the reigning NHL Ironman at over 500 games (if you only count regular season). Sedin has at least at 490 consecutive games (550 if you count playoffs), which is still well shy of the record set by Doug Jarvis at over 900. The Jarvis record is more impressive to me than the Cal Ripken record, given the amount of physical punishment that hockey players endure at high speeds. Martin St. Louis and Brad Boyes are north of 400 consecutive games and Travis Zajac rounds out the top five. Iginla has at least 328.

On March 15th 2011 produced this list of active Ironman leaders.

Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary (496), 03.06.2004 - present
Henrik Sedin, Vancouver (488), 03.21.2004 - present
Brad Boyes, Buffalo (480), 10.05.2005 - present
Marty St.Louis, Tampa Bay (460), 11.17.2005 - present
Travis Zajac, New Jersey (388), 10.26.2006 - present

NHL Draft: Drafting From USHL And High School

It continues to happen every year, NHL teams draft players from high school and the USHL, two leagues that generally act as feeder leagues for the NCAA. The USHL is far more successful at producing NHL talent than high school hockey, which has to be the worst level to evaluate a player. The quality of the competition is so weak compared to Canadian junior that projecting a high school player into an NHLer is incredibly difficult. From 1995 - 2003, only Tom Poti, Paul Martin, and Brian Boyle were drafted from HS and went on to play at least 160 NHL games. That's hardly an impressive list of all-stars.

Of the players drafted from this demographic, 95% go on to attend college and play in the NCAA. Of the players who play in the NCAA, 73% will stay for 4 years. Of the players who stayed 4 years in college, 10% went on to play 100 NHL games. Of the players who left college after fewer than 4 years, 34% went on to play 100 NHL games (suggesting that leaving college early triples your probability of an NHL career). It is difficult to say whether good players leave early because they are destined for a professional career, or does leaving early help improve your chances of a pro career? When I am a General Manager in the NHL, it will be official policy that we do not draft players from American high school teams. The USHL however is a respectable source of talent, if you don't mind waiting 4-5 years before players turn pro.

If you use the metric that 160 GP provides the measure of a successful pick as some academics have, American high school has roughly a 6% success rate. The USHL has an 18% success rate by comparison with players like Ryan Malone, Joe Pavelski, Matt Carle, David Backes, and Tyler Arnason.

Monday, June 27, 2011

NHL Draft Expected Games

Have you ever wondered how many career games played you can expect to get for each draft pick? Well if you total all the draft picks from 1995 - 2003 then add the total career NHL games of each player drafted at each pick, you'll get a chart much like the one below.

You can clearly see the drop off after the first half of the first round. If you are a team like Detroit who consistently drafted their first player later than 25 over this time frame, they never have the opportunity to draft where the elite prospects are being chosen. Once you go beyond the 50th pick, the probability of success really levels off. There has been a recent study of NHL Draft probability theory (as written about at the Globe and Mail), but some of the analysis is flawed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Philadelphia Trades Carter And Richards?

While there is no doubt that the Philadelphia Flyers received great value in return for trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the moves left a lot of people scratching their heads. These are two elite forwards under contract for a reasonable cap hit (albeit they have a combined 20 years left on their deals) on players entering the prime of their playing careers. One of the objectives was clearing room to sign goaltender Illya Bryzgalov to a new 9 year $51 million dollar contract, but it is hard to imagine Philly being a better team over the next 2 years given what was exchanged. They will be better for it 3-5 years hence, but this has been a Stanley Cup contender the past 2 seasons, winning 4 playoff series (over the same span the high powered Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins have each won 1 series).

In addition to a number of high draft picks, Philly gets Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and blue chipper Brayden Schenn. Voracek is a restricted free agent that should command $2.5 - $3.2 million per season. The 7th overall pick in 2007 is a quality young player that came in just under 50 PTS, is 22 years old, and will continue to improve for the next 6 years. Simmonds is also a free agent, but with less offensive production should come at a cheaper price. I'd put him at $1.7 million and I would be hesitant to go above $2m. The other forwards in his age, production, and experience range are all under $2m. The draft picks will bring a return in 3-6 years, Schenn is 5 years behind Richards, and Voracek is 3 years behind Carter.

Philly might be better off for this trade in a few years when the draft picks start providing a return, but in the meantime they have set their timeline back 3 years. If they are able to add Brad Richards that could greatly increase their chances of making the playoffs. Otherwise I don't see Philly as a playoff team next year. You could argue that Mike Richards and Carter for Brad Richards and Bryzgalov is an even swap, throw in Voracek, Schenn, 4 draft picks and Philly might not skip a beat. If they don't sign Brad Richards, they will have a big hole at the forward position.

Alpocalypse: "I'm not crazy, I just perform this way"

I just finished watching the Al Yankovic spoof of Lady Gaga, and I must confess that I enjoyed the experience. I loathe Lady Gaga and had a really hearty laugh watching this brilliant satire of her music and her public persona. If you enjoy satire and dislike Lady Gaga, then there is a good chance you will enjoy this video. To ensure there's no bad karma from making fun of a song intended to have a positive message, Yankovic is donating the proceeds from the song to a human rights charity. Also, I strongly recommend listening to Chuck Klosterman interview Weird Al.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

NHL Awards Recap

The 2011 NHL Awards have been handed out, and here are some thoughts.

**Tim Thomas, Vezina: I called this one in December. Thomas went on a run in the first half of the season that was nothing short of remarkable. His post all-star numbers were decidedly ordinary, but still enough to lock down goalie of the year. In January at work I was walking by a group of Canuck fans talking about the team and one guy mentioned that Roberto Luongo might end up winning the Vezina. Without breaking stride I interrupted with "Tim Thomas will win the Vezina" and continued walking.

**Dan Bylsma, Jack Adams: Allow me to express my amazement that a number of people in the Vancouver media seemed to think Alain Vigneault deserved this award. There is no question what Dan Bylsma did keeping the Penguins afloat without Malkin and Crosby was more brilliant than lucky. What made the injuries even more devastating was that they were so close together, losing two of the best players in the game; then grinding out a respectable season with a collection of inexpensive role players. Jordan Staal and Kris Letang definitely deserve assists on this one.

**Corey Perry, Hart: Voted best player in the league by the media, but not by his peers. Boy that's a shock. Perry has quite a reputation for being a jackass. Guaranteed he did not get any votes from the Red Wings for the NHLPA MVP, but the media recognized how astonishing his second half performance actually was. Sure he benefited by playing with some highly skilled and physical linemates. Perry-Getzlaf-Ryan was easily the best line in hockey this season. Getzlaf gets a big assist for this trophy and should maybe have his name engraved in smaller print under Perry's (assuming names are even engraved in the Hart Trophy).

**Nicklas Lidstrom, Norris: All hail Nicklas the great! We're not worthy! We're not worthy! 7 Norris Trophies, many won after the age of 30. Even at 41 years old he was the best defenseman in the league last year. You knew Chara wouldn't get the votes after the hit on Paccorietty, whether or not it should matter. Lidstrom is now 1 Norris shy of the record set by Bobby Orr and will be returning for another season.

**Daniel Sedin, Art Ross, NHLPA MVP: Voted best player by his peers and the NHL's leading scorer marks a strong season for the Sedin brothers. Vancouver media speculated that playing with Henrik hurt Daniel's chances at the Hart, but Perry played with Getzlaf and Ryan, which is arguably a stronger support staff. Vancouver is lucky to have the twins, and would not have made it as far as they did without them.

**Mike Gillis, top executive: How the Keith "Healthy Scratch" Ballard trade did not disqualify Gillis from this award defies logic. He traded a player now nominated for the Calder to Florida for a healthy scratch. The Luongo contract is one of the worst in hockey. Sure he has made some shrewd moves as General Manager and he is good at his job, but this award should have had Steve Yzerman's name written all over it.

**Ryan Kesler, Selke: A very deserving honour for best defensive forward, or should I say, best defensive forward as chosen from among the top 30 offensive players. The Selke has evolved to the point where offensive production is almost as important as defensive efficiency when choosing a victor. If offense were not allowed as a variable, my nominees for the Selke would have been Jannik Hansen, Gregory Campbell, and Justin Abdelkader.

**Jeff Skinner, Calder: Players who are this productive this fast are a rare commodity indeed. Just months after being drafted as an 18 year old, he finds himself in the NHL lighting lamps on fire. Excellent player with a bright future.

Post Lockout NHL Draft Bargains

Who have been the best draft day bargains in the NHL since the lockout in 2004/05? I have looked at all players drafted from 2005-2010 after the 4th round to see who turned out the best and offer an explanation as to why they were not drafted earlier. It does seem easier to find a quality forward in the late rounds than defencemen. There are currently very few successful NHL players drafted in the late rounds of the 2007 and 2008 drafts, so most of the players listed below are from the 2005 and 2006 drafts. This may either reflect the diminish quality of NHL draft classes, or many late round picks take 5-7 years to make it to the NHL.


1) Jamie Benn, Dal: Drafted in the 5th round 129th overall in the 2007 draft, this player is special and will be a tremendous asset for any team for the next 10 years. He was drafted out of the BCHL tier II junior league as an 18 year old (typically done by players who want to avoid major junior and maintain their NCAA eligibility). Then instead of going to college after graduating high school, he went to the WHL (scoring 79 goals in 2 seasons), and then went directly from Canadian junior to 82 games with Dallas in 2010.

2) Sergei Kostitsyn, Nsh: 7th rd, 200th overall pick by Montreal in 2005. He was hidden in Belarus until being drafted and moving to Canadian junior. 23 goals for Nashville this last season. 2005 Hockey News Scouting reports says "doesn't have his older sibling's high-end potential, but does possess sound offensive instincts".

3) Patric Hornqvist, Nsh: The last player taken in the 2005 draft, 230th overall by Nashville was playing in the NHL by 2008 and has almost 200 career games played in 2011. The Hockey News did not produce a scouting report summary of him the year he was drafted.

4) Matt D'Agostini, STL: 6th round, 190th overall pick by Montreal in 2005 (a good draft year for the Canadiens). He already has 4 years NHL experience and scored 46 PTS for St Louis in 2011. He was playing in the OHL when drafted and was a productive offensive player. It is not clear from the statistical analysis why he fell to the 190th pick when clearly he should have been a 2nd or 3rd rounder. His 2005 scouting report says "possesses a wealth of offensive acumen but lacks size and strength", when he was listed at 170 lbs. His current playing weight is over 200 lbs. So Matt has put on 30 lbs since becoming a pro.

5) Nathan Gerbe, Buf: 5th rd, 142 overall by Buffalo in 2005. Again not highly regarded enough for a blurb on the Hockey News 2005 draft analysis. He was listed at 5'6 at the draft but seems to have shrunk an inch since and is now listed at 5'5. Had he been 6 inches taller he would have been a much higher prospect. He played his first semi-full NHL season in 2010/11 and scored 31 PTS in 63 GP. He has 30-40 goal upside in the coming years.

6) Darren Helm, Det: 5th rd, 132 overall by Detroit in 2005. He is not an explosive offensive player, but his speed, grit, and defensive ability make him a valuable member of the Red Wings roster. In his first 4 NHL seasons he already has 64 career playoff games and 10 playoff goals. Not bad for a kid under the age of 25. He's the next Kris Draper.

7) Matt Calvert, CBJ: 5th rd, 127th overall by Columbus in 2008. This offensive dynamo fell to the 5th round because of his small stature, but we know that he can score. Here's what the Hockey News had to say about him after being drafted "has excellent speed, offensive instincts and loads of setup skills... he is undersized at 5-9, 164 pounds and must prove capable of producing against bigger, older opponents". He looked good with 20 PTS in 42 GP in 2011. We'll see what more he can do next year.


1) Jason Demers, SJ: An absolute steal in the 7th round (186 overall) in 2008. He was not drafted until after his 20th birthday, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense considering he'd been playing in the QMJHL since age 16. All scouts had plenty of opportunity to watch him play over several years. Then in his last season he jumped from 24 PTS to 64 PTS and after being undrafted for 2 years was finally picked in the 7th round by the Sharks. A 64 PT major junior defenseman in the 7th round. He played 1 year in the AHL before becoming an NHLer. What happened in the summer of 2007 that led to his 40 point increase in scoring? Coaching? Better training? After watching in the playoffs for the Sharks this year, Demers is a very valuable asset at just 23 years of age.

2) Carl Gunnarsson, Tor: 7rd rd, 194th overall by Toronto. Drafted out of the Swedish elite league, where he produced very little offense (in his draft year). Much like Stralman, he spent 2 years developing in that league before making the jump to the NHL. Has scored 35 PTS in 111 GP since crossing the Atlantic. Whether or not he delivers on his upside has yet to be seen, but Brian Burke did recently extend him for 2 more years at $1.3 million per season.

3) Andrew MacDonald, NYI: 6th rd, 160th overal by the Islanders in 2006. Did not play major junior until he was 19 years old, but he put up 46 PTS in 68 GP in his rookie season in the QMJHL the year he was drafted. Being 2 years older than many in his draft class should explain why he fell to the 6th round. He scored 27 PTS in just 60 GP for the Islanders, has high offensive upside, and is under contract for 3 more years at close to the league minimum. He's 25 years old.

4) Anton Stralman, CBJ: 7th rd, 216th overall by Toronto in 2005. A great pick by John Ferguson out of the Sweden-2 league. Has played 212 NHL games before his 25th birthday. He is a respectable offensive defenseman with 40 PT upside.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thoughts On Return Of The Jedi Ending

Allow me to deviate from sports for a moment to discuss the ending of the movie Return of the Jedi, and what a possible sequel might look like. Did the Empire crumble after Palpatine's death? Who was third in command after the Emperor and Vader? Even without the Death Star they still had overwhelming military superiority, so a strong new default leader would be in a great position to maintain the advantage. Sure ship construction had to be slowed by the massive diversion of resources to build a moon sized battle station, but they would still have a very large fleet that remained largely intact after the destruction of the Death Star. In fact, guaranteed after the destruction of the battle station, that fleet of Star Destroyers sitting back blocking escape would have moved in and finished off the rebel fleet which had already sustained heavy losses.

Obviously they need to redesign storm trooper armour after its vulnerability to sticks, stones, and furry little dwarfs was exposed. Then there's the part where Luke is trying to save Darth Vader from dying. I get that it is his father, but what does he think is going to happen? If the Republic is restored, Vader would be the first on trial for war crimes. How many innocent people died because of him over 20 years of authoritarian rule? If Himmler killed Hitler, that does not absolve the subordinate for his crimes against humanity. Maybe that's it, Luke is trying to bring Darth to the Galactic Hague.

So how would things work out if George Lucas did an episode 7? Does the Empire crumble immediately without its Emperor ushering in an era of peace and prosperity? Do all the generals put up their white flags and surrender? I suppose that prophecy of Anakin being the one who brought "balance" to the force meant that he would kill virtually everyone who had the ability to use the force, both good and evil. Evidently whoever made the phrophecy neglected to tell the Jedi council how "balance" would be achieved.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

NHL's Best Power Play Free Agents 2011

Is your team looking to boost its power play this offseason? Here is a list of the best available power play unrestricted free agents in the NHL heading into the 2011 free agent season.


1) Teemu Selanne, Ana: If he decides to resign it will likely be with Anaheim (Teemu loves living in LA), but no other unrestricted free agent forward can boost your team's power play more than this guy (even at 41 years old).

2) Tim Connolly, Buf: While an injury risk, TC is a creative offensive player who would be on the 1st unit PP of almost any team in the league. He scores PTS while making the players around him better.

3) Simon Gagne, Phi: He'll likely cost your team $5-6 million per season, but there is no question that this player can produce offense. He is also an injury risk and I would caution my favourite team from overpaying to acquire him, but for the right price he's a tremendous asset.

4) Brad Richards, Dal: A power play workhorse who spent 384 total minutes on the ice with a man advantage, scoring 29 PP PTS. This player won't come cheap, and should land the biggest contract of any free agent forward. The price might not be right, but he is a high value player.

5) Michael Ryder, Bos: Boosted his value with the Bruins cup run, though his last contract was too expensive so it is difficult to gage his value heading into free agency. He provides good value at $4 million per season, but anything higher than that is a little too rich.

6) Vinny Prospal, NYR: Tampa might have bought out the remainder of his contract before he landed in New York, but there is no question he has value on the power play. While he only played 29 games, he scored 10 PP PTS in 90 minutes with the man advantage (which translates to 33 PP PTS over a full season). He is 36 years old and running out of gas, so don't overpay.

7) Ryan Shannon, Ott: If you want a player who can produce on the power play for a cheap price, this unrestricted free agent has to be on your wish list. He only banked $625,000 last season and won't break your bank account for the offensive production he brings with him.


1) Niklas Lidstrom, Det: If he resigns it will be with Detroit, but no other defenseman available is more effective on the power play, even at 41 years old. He scored 39 PP PTS and was on the ice for a PP goal every 6.3 minutes with the man advantage.

2) Christian Ehrhoff, Van: It is difficult to tell if Ehrhoff is the beneficiary of playing on a strong PP unit or if he is the main reason that unit was productive. Vancouver's PP became better as soon as he joined the team, and I believe from having watched many Canucks games this year that this puck moving defenseman is a big reason that Vancouver was so devastating with the man advantage (Stanley Cup finals notwithstanding).

3) James Wisniewski, MTL: He's due for a raise from the $3.5 million he earned last season, but his 29 PP PTS is a big bonus for the team who lands him. At 27 years old scoring 51 PTS he should command around $5 million per season.

4) Anton Babchuck, Cgy: With one of the biggest slapshots in the game, this is a player you want to put on your power play.

5) Tomas Kaberle, Bos: Tommy is supposed to be a Power Play quarterback, but Boston's PP became half as efficient after they added him from Toronto. Sure they won the Stanley Cup and how can you argue with success, but I don't think Kaberle deserves any credit whatsoever for the Bruins victory. Buyer beware. He's not worth it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Predators Take Shea Weber To Arbitration

The Nashville Predators have opted to go the arbitration route with franchise restricted free agent defenseman Shea Weber, and the main reason they are doing this is to block other teams from making contract offers. It means that the team has to hurry and sign him to a long term extension before arbitration begins, otherwise Weber will be an unrestricted free agent in 2 years and will likely be leaving town. Every team in the NHL would love to have this player, and thus demand for his skill set is very high. Going to arbitration is very smart on the Preds behalf because when you look at the list of defensemen under 30 who scored at least 40 PTS last season, none is making more than $6 million per season. Duncan Keith is signed for 12 more years at $5.5 million, Brent Seabrook 5 years for $5.8 million, and Dustin Byfuglien is signed for 5 more years at $5.2 million per season.

Is Nashville willing to sign Weber to a 12 year contract for $72 million dollars? We'll find out in the next few weeks, but that's about what it will take and what a team like the Red Wings would offer (especially if Lidstrom retires). Going to arbitration might make Weber a free agent sooner, but it guarantees that no other team can tender an offer and there are a number of teams that would tender very large offers. The Preds are taking Shea to arbitration as much to protect him from open market bidding as to solidifying the long term interests of their franchise. They would have the right to match competing offers, but I suspect they can't afford to. This franchise was very nearly financially dead just 3 years ago.

My dream of Shea Weber wearing a Red Wings jersey next season is officially dead.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NHL's Top 10 Penalty Killers 2011

Who are the best penalty killers in the NHL? I have identified the top 10 using a composite statistical ranking of 3 categories: 1) avg time spent killing penalties, 2) goals against while player on the PK, 3) points scored on the PK. Since offense on the PK is included as a category, there is a bias towards forwards. In fact every player in the top ten list is a forward. Defensemen typically don't get nearly as many PTS on the PK as forwards since many PK goals are produced by forwards creating turnovers on the blueline.

1. Jamie Benn, Dal: He was scored on once for every 18 minutes of penalty killing, which ranks him among the top forwards in this category. This 2nd year player is the youngest on this top 10 list, and has a bright future in hockey. He is a tremendous asset who will be a point per game producer for years to come. Remember this name in your hockey pools and fantasy leagues, especially if SHPs count for extra.

2. Michael Grabner, NYI: In 115 minutes killing penalties, Grabner had 7 short handed points and was only on the ice for 7 goals against. His offensive production with a man short was equal to the number of times he was on the ice for another team's power play goals. That's impressive. Jamie Benn was the only other player to accomplished this feat.

3. Matt Cooke, Pit: This largely despised player is secretly one of the leagues best penalty killers. At this point he has become a PK specialist spending 20% of his total ice time killing penalties; that is of course when he was not sitting in the penalty box for one of his 129 PIMs.

4. Pascal Dupuis, Pit: A PK workhorse and unrestricted free agent who scored 4 short handed goals and spent nearly 200 minutes on the PK. He will be a great addition to any team and will provide great value short handed.

5. Milan Michalek, Ott: $4.3 million for 3 more years might be expensive for a penalty killer, but Milan put up some impressive numbers in his 62 games. He was scored on only once per 24 minutes with the disadvantage. His 4 PK PTS give him strong value on both offensive and defensive fronts.

6. Frans Nielsen, NYI: Led the NHL with 7 short handed goals. Despite his offensive production he was on the ice for a PK goal against every 10 minutes (which is the worst score in this category for a player in my rankings). Ergo he was the best at scoring short handed, but was on the ice for a lot of opposing teams PP goals. His $550,000 contract for next year is one of the best bargains in hockey.

7. Matt Cullen, Min: An all-around good penalty killer, both in the offensive and defense realms. Tough to score on and also scores PTS.

8. Brandon Prust, NYR: Among the league leaders in SH PTS who was limited in opportunity by the 160 penalty minutes he incurred during season. One more year at $800,000 is great value.

9. Claude Giroux, Phi: Another player who made the list for offensive production that was not particularly difficult to score against. If your goal is to produce offense when shorthanded you can put the highly skilled players on your PK, but if you want to stop the other team from scoring on the power play you need players who can perform that duty. Giroux was much better on PK defense than teammate Mike Richards, who also scores many SH PTS.

10. Alex Burrows, Van: His PK offensive production has fallen, but he remains a top penalty killer on a top penalty killing team. He used to take more penalties and score more SH PTS, now he takes fewer penalties and produces less PK offense.

Honourable mentions: Jordan Staal, Josh Bailey, Maxime Talbot, Brooks Laich, Brooks Orpik, Marc Staal, Willie Mitchell, and PK Subban.

Jumping Off The Vancouver Canucks Bandwagon

The Vancouver Canucks are not your 2011 Stanley Cup champions, losing game 7 at home. Following the game downtown Vancouver erupted in rioting, leaving a cloud of black smoke that was visible for miles. I was guilty of jumping on the Vancouver bandwagon when Detroit was eliminated from the playoffs, but I have now officially jumped off the bandwagon. I'm cancelling my subscription and taking down my car flag. 11 more years of Roberto Luongo? Thanks but no thanks. Loooooooooser. Boston fans chanting his name while he sitting on the bench long after getting pulled in Game 6 may have caused permanent psychological damage to Roberto's already frail ego. He needs people to pump his tires. Team USA should have started Tim Thomas in the 2010 Olympic gold medal game.

Regarding the riots, there are some people saying that this was perpetrated by a small group of anarchists spread among a crowd of thousands. From what I've been hearing from people who witnessed the event is that it was a lot more than just a few people participating in this civil disobedience. There were hundreds if not a few thousand hooligans, with hardly anybody wearing black pajamas.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Boston Fans Boo Mason Raymond's Broken Spine

When Mason Raymond collapsed to the ice with a broken spine, the initial reaction was a chorus of boos by the crowd in Boston, who thought he was diving. This has been the default reaction of Bruin fans (and some ESPN personalities) every time a Canuck gets hit, whacked, slashed, or punched. The ESPN people (among others) have labelled this a team of serial divers and now all players are assumed guilty. This has been a brutally officiated series and a brutally officiated playoffs, where Brad Marchand can just skate up to a Sedin twin and punch him in the face 4 times without getting a penalty. A player collapses to the ice with a broken spine and the fans boo. Something is wrong with this picture. I can't understand why the referees are giving the Sedin brothers so many unsportsmanlike penalties when these two are honourable men who have no history of diving or faking injury. In the first period of game 6, Zdeno Chara was called for interference and they called Henrik for unsportsmanlike conduct just to even out the calls.

I'm not going to sit here and claim that Burrows and Lapierre are fine sportsmanlike players, but it is inappropriate to extend labels to the entire roster. I'm going to say booing the busted spine is bad enough karma to cost Boston this series.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Nothing agitates me more than Vancouver Canuck fans who refer to Daniel and Henrik Sedin as "the sisters", and now Mike Milbury calling them Thelma and Louise. These are two tremendous hockey players without whom Vancouver would not be in the Stanley Cup finals. Yes they are under performing in this series and it is fair to say they need to be more productive, but questioning their gender is hardly a fair and moral assessment of the situation; especially since we have no idea what injuries they may or may not be playing with. I'm not a Canucks fan but I live in Vancouver, enjoy watching their games and the Sedins are a big part of that.

I know that we shouldn't take Milbury seriously, as he was one of the worst General Managers this league has ever seen with a playing career that's only remembered for the video of him in the stands beating a fan with a shoe. Alexei Yashin, that was a real man's man, right Mike? Better try to keep your day job Mr. Milburry, because no owner is going to hire you again to run their hockey team.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Top 10 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Forwards 2011

Here is my list of the top 10 available unrestricted free agent forwards heading into the July 2011 signing period.

1) Brad Richards: If your team needs a forward, this is the best one available, but it will cost you $7-9 million dollars per season. He is an elite player and I suspect the team that lands him will be the team offering him the longest term. Anything over 4 years is too long at his projected salary range. (UPDATE: signed with the Rangers for 9 years at $6.7M per season, ergo the Rangers gave him longer term in order to get the annual cap hit down.)

2) Alex Tanguay: He is an effective player and a strong addition to any team. He out performed his $1.7 million for 2010 scoring 69 PTS and still has a few quality seasons left in the tank. I'd like to see my favourite team offer him a 3 year $10 million dollar deal. (UPDATE: re-signed in Calgary for 5 years at $3.5M per, a very fair cap hit attained by offering a 5 year term.)

3) Ville Leino: I still don't understand why Detroit let him go. He can expect a substantial raise from the $800K he made last season. Doubtful Philly will retain him. (UPDATE: signed in Buffalo for 6 years at $4.5M per. That's an expensive price to pay. They'll get production, but certainly not at a bargain price.)

4) Erik Cole: His agent should be trying to get a $4 million per year contract, I just don't know if any GM is willing to go that high. He's a proven goal scorer. He could be a valuable addition to a number of teams. (UPDATE: signed with Montreal for 4 years at $4.5M per. That's a fair price.)

5) Jussi Jokinen: At 28 years old this 50 point player will command at least $3.5 million per season, if not more. (UPDATE: re-signed in Carolina before July 1st for 3 years at $3M per, great value signing for the Hurricanes.)

6) Teemu Selanne: He scored 80 PTS last season but at 41 years old how much longer can he keep this up? He loves Anaheim, so I doubt he'd play anywhere else if he decides to continue playing.

7) Scottie Upshall: This is a player I'd love to see sign with my favourite team. Optimal value is 5 years $15 million, but the team that gets him will likely have to sweeten the pot. (UPDATE: signed by Florida for 4 years $14M.)

8) Simon Gagne: I wouldn't pay him a penny more than $4 million per season, but somebody might offer him more than that. He is a player with top end talent, but the frequency of his injuries is a concern if you are making a long term contract offer. (UPDATE: signed with LA for 2 years at $3.5M per. Great signing for the Kings.)

9) Michael Ryder: During these playoffs Ryder has substantially added to his value. His last deal at $4 million per season was too high, so he'll be lucky to get that on his next contract. He won't get any less than $3 mil per season. (UPDATE: signed with Dallas for 2 years at $3.5M per. Fair price.)

10) Sean Bergenheim: This player is getting a substantial pay raise. His $700K in 2010 will be at least tripled on his next contract after his performance in these playoffs. (UPDATE: signed in Florida for 4 years at $2.75M per, more than triple his salary from last year.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

ESPN's Bill Simmons A Hockey Fan Again

The best part of the Boston Bruins rallying around their fallen teammate to even the Stanley Cup final with the Vancouver Canucks is that ESPN's Bill Simmons is becoming a hockey fan again. As a BS Report podcast subscriber, I'm happy to see one of ESPN's most popular writers at the Stanley Cup final with his father cheering for their favourite team. While the city of Vancouver has been pushing the collective panic button over two embarrassing defeats, Bill Simmons was writing an extended column about why he has become a hockey fan again. Here is a photo captured of Simmons and his father Lanny MacDonald after Boston's 1st goal.

The mood in Vancouver right now is unquestionably doom and gloom, like the Chicago series without the 3-0 lead. Frankly I think the coach needs to do a line shuffle and put Burrows with Kesler, and put Torres or Oreskovich with the Sedin twins. Somebody who is big, fast, and can rumble around the ice like a bowling ball. Prior to the series the Oracles at EA Sports ran a simulation where Vancouver won in 7 with the home team winning every game of the series. EA Sports has been remarkably accurate in their predictions these playoffs.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aaron Rome Suspension Too Much

The NHL has handed out its largest ever suspension in the Stanley Cup final as Aaron Rome was given 4 games for his hit on Nathan Horton. It was not ruled a blindside hit because the impact was head on (or north/south), the suspension came because the hit was late. How late? Impact occurred one second after Nathan Horton passed the puck, while Horton was still admiring his pass. It is unfortunate that Horton was injured on the play and I wish him a speedy recovery, but had the impact occurred a fraction of a second sooner, this would have been a clean hit. Half of a second is the difference between no suspension and a record setting suspension? Zdeno Chara got zero games for breaking Max Paccorietty's neck, and I don't recall the Bruins players being sanctimonious at that time about taking dirty hits out of hockey.

My fear is that we are heading in a direction where too much physical contact is going to be deemed illegal, leading players to stop hitting and taking contact out of the sport entirely. Maybe men's hockey would be better if it were more like women's hockey, but I am someone who enjoys watching hitting in sports. Now every hit has to be micro-analyzed for its legality, leading to hundreds of hours of punditry debate on whether or not each hit is clean instead of talking about how great the game was. Maybe this is a natural evolution, but all people who play hockey accept the risk of harm when they play at that level. The fact that Nathan Horton was looking in the other direction increased the severity of the injury. Had he been looking forward instead of to the side he would have been more prepared for impact and would not have sustained as serious an injury as he did. I have always been a fan of Nathan Horton since I watched him play in the OHL, but forgive me if I disagree with the length of the suspension.

I stopped listening to the Hockey News Podcast because every show was just a debate about who should have been suspended that week instead of actually talking about the game and analyzing player performance. I refuse to purchase or even visit the Hockey News while they employ Adam Proteau.

For the record, I do maintain that Steckel should have got 50 games for his hit on Crosby in the Winter Classic. I may even have defended Matt Cooke's knee on Ovechkin as adequate retribution for the Crosby hit...but that's just me...I generally support vigilante justice in hockey, though I suspect my demographic is shrinking.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Lapierre Taunting Bergeron

When Maxime Lapierre dangled his fingers near the face of Patrice Bergeron with that crazy eyed look, I have to admit that I laughed out loud. I did not think that Alex Burrows should have been suspended and I don't think the Bruins whining about it was at all productive. Understandably Claude Julien is making this a big deal because his team lost the last two games and he is desperate for something to motivate his players. The puck is about to drop on game 3 so we will see if this tactic works. Did Lapierre get into Boston's collective heads, or did he simply motivate them? We'll find out in 60 minutes.

Since I found humour in watching this "taunting" incident, I'm not about to criticize the action. It was quality entertainment. By the way, I can't be the only one who thinks that Maxime Lapierre bears shocking resemblance to Christian Bale.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Top 10 NHL Unrestricted Free Agent Defensemen 2011

In a few short weeks the 2011 NHL Free Agency period will begin as teams race to acquire the most valuable players. As a Detroit Red Wing fan facing the retirement of Brian Rafalski and the possible retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, I am particularly interested in the blue line. I did not include Lidstrom on this list of most coveted blueliners because if he decides to keep playing it will be with the Red Wings. He is deciding between Detroit and Sweden. How could you not choose Detroit? It is such a beautiful city...

Here is my list of the top 10 free agent defensemen of 2011:

1) Christian Ehrhoff, Vancouver: At 29 years old, this 50 PT D-Man is at the top of my free agent wish list. The Canucks have 3 big names to resign, and at least 1 (if not 2) of them will start next season with a new team. If I were Ken Holland I would offer him $6.5 million per season. The Canucks can't match that. (UPDATE: Signed in Buffalo for $40M over 10 years. Could have scored higher annual pay, but the appeal of his new contract is that he gets roughly half his money in the first two years of the deal).

2) Kevin Bieska, Vancouver: If the Canucks do manage to resign Ehrhoff, Kevin Bieksa would still be a strong consolation prize. One of these two Canucks should find their way into a Red Wings jersey next season. I'd offer him $5 - 6 million per season. (UPDATE: re-signed in Vancouver for 5 years at $4.6M per season. Clearly left money on the table to stay in Van)

3) James Wisniewski, Montreal: 27 years old and 51 PTS, this young man will command $4.5 to 5.5 million dollars per season. (UPDATE: signed in Columbus for 6 years at $5.5M per)

4) Ian White, San Jose: My opinion of Ian White's value increased in the playoffs as he was a very effective player for the Sharks. He's 27 years old and has his best years yet ahead of him. He should get at least a $1 mil pay raise on the $3 mil he earned last season. (UPDATE: signed in Detroit for 2 years at $2.9M per. Guaranteed he had better offers on the table, and does not get nearly the love that he deserves.)

5) Eric Brewer, Tampa: There is no doubt that Brewer increased his value after a strong playoff run with the Lightning, but as reliable as he is, I suspect he'll command about $1 million more per season than I'd be willing to pay him. He made $4.25 last season, but I would not pay him a penny more than $5 million. I need more offensive upside from my highly paid point men. Brewer is unlikely to surpass 30 PTS anytime soon. (UPDATE: signed in Tampa for 4 years at $3.9M per, signed before July 1st instead maximizing value.)

6) Anton Babchuck, Calgary: He has one of the best point shots of all the available defensemen and is worth his value in power play production. He made $1.4 million last season, and I'd offer him as much as $3.5 for next season. He's still a young man at 27 with peak production yet to come. (UPDATE: he re-signed in Calgary for $2.5M per season, a great value)

7) Tomas Kaberle, Boston: I have never been a fan of Kaberle, who has been remarkably ineffective for the Bruins in the playoffs. This alleged power play quarterback actually has made Boston's PP worse. There is no question the Bruins paid too heavy a price to acquire him from Toronto. I do not want to see this man in a Red Wings Jersey. (UPDATE: signed in Carolina)

8) Joni Pitkanen, Carolina: Still under 30 years of age, somebody will likely pay him more than he's worth because of the offensive upside, which may or may not be realized. (UPDATE: re-signed in Carolina for 3 years at $4.5M per season. That seems a little rich, but clearly the Hurricanes wanted him back.)

9) Bryan McCabe, Rangers: At 36 years old this D-Man can expect a pay cut from the $5.75 million he earned last season. I'd offer him for $2.5 million over 3 years.

10) Sami Salo, Vancouver: If he could stay healthy he would have far more value with that booming shot on the power play. But at age 37 this man does not have much left in the tank. He can help your special teams and log quality minutes when healthy, but his healthy moments are few and far between. (UPDATE: re-signed in Vancouver for 1 year $2M, which is a very fair price to pay for that slapshot.)

10 Best Contracts In The NHL 2011

What players have the most valuable contracts in the NHL in 2011? This list is based on best value from a team perspective and the focus was on players aged 30 or younger who have at least 2 years left on their contracts at $4 million dollars or less per season. Young players entering their peak production years at bargain prices. I have compiled a database of 2010/11 statistical performance for all NHL players, including their draft and contract information. The best contract in the league is Kris Letang hands down.

I've picked out my 10 favourite contracts.

1) Kris Letang, Pittsburgh: 3 more years at $3.5 mil. One of the best puck moving defensemen in the NHL. The unsung hero of this Penguins franchise. Only 24 years old with peak performance yet to come. Could max out at 70-80 PTS with a healthy Crosby.

2) Claude Giroux, Philly: 3 more years at $3.75 mil. A 24 year old forward at 80 point calibre for that price is a fantastic bargain.

3) Alex Burrows, Vancouver: 2 more years at $2 mil. If you've been watching the playoffs then you know this is one of the best value contracts in the NHL. It was a bargain at the time it was signed and is still a bargain.

4) Ryane Clowe, San Jose: 2 more years at $3.625 mil. This man is turning into a monster and a fearsome power forward. A bargain at that price.

5) Dustin Brown, LA: 3 more years at $3.175 mil. This is a great contract. Any team in the NHL would take this deal without flinching. LA gambled early with a long term deal which is going to pay off.

6) Alex Edler, Vancouver: 2 more years at $3.25 mil. At 25 years old and already 304 GP, this will be a top 10 D in the NHL for the next 2 years. 60 -70 point potential.

7) Stephen Weiss, Florida: 2 more years at $3.1 mil. Strong performance at a good price. The only reason the Panthers were trying to move him is because he has such an appealing contract at 28 years old and so they were trying to extract a large bounty. Nobody paid the asking price, and I'm sure Florida is happy to keep him for 2 more seasons.

8) Bryan Bickell, Chicago: 2 more years at $575,000. The good news for the Hawks is that you get 2 more years of this emerging 25 year old power forward at a bargain basement price, the bad news is he'll be unrestricted at the end of this deal.

9) Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg: 2 more years at $3.75 mil. If the Jets don't want this contract, they would be able to find a buyer willing to pay a steep price in a heartbeat. That's a steal of a price for a 50+ point defenseman.

10) Marc Staal, Rangers: 4 more years at $3.95 mil. This 24 year old is quickly turning into an elite shutdown defenseman who has yet to fulfill his offensive upside. If I were Ken Holland, I'd offer 2 first picks and two prospects, but I doubt New York are willing to part with him at any price. He's a keeper.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

15 Worst Contracts In The NHL 2011

What are the worst contracts in the NHL as of 2011? There are two components to a bad contract, 1) annual cap hit 2) years remaining. Chris Drury would easily have the worst contract in the NHL if it did not expire after next season. I'm ranking the Vincent LeCavalier as the worst contract in the NHL because Tampa is on the hook for 9 more years at almost $8 million per season until he's 40. Vinny has been wearing down the past few seasons with ever more frequent injuries. Expiring contracts are not as obstructive because they are relatively easy to move at the trade deadline.

Here is my list of the worst contracts in the NHL.

1) Vincent LeCavalier, Tampa: A very talented player who can still help a team win in the playoffs, but 9 more years for a 31 year old at almost $8 million per season is an albatross. Tampa will feel long term pain for their short term gain on this deal.

2) Wade Redden, New York: $6.5 million dollars is quite the salary to receive while playing in the minor leagues, but that's where you can expect Wade Redden to stay for most of the final 3 years on his contract.

3) Brian Campbell, Chicago: 5 more years at over $7 million per season is not good value for a player with declining offensive skills. He's a good player, but at that price with that term, this is a bad contract. UPDATE (Jan 2012): Campbell having a resurgent year in Florida.

4) Scott Gomez, Montreal: $7.4 million per season is quite a lot to pay for 40 PTS, especially when you've got that contract for 3 more seasons with an over 30 player.

5) Ilyia Kovalchuck, New Jersey: No player in the NHL is guaranteed more money over his career than the $100 million the Devils owe Kovalchuck between now and 2025. This became one of the worst contracts in the league the moment it was signed, and everybody but Lou Lamirello realized it.

6) Danny Briere, Philly: He's a nice little spark plug, but 4 more years at $6.5 million is not what I want to pay a 34 year old oft injured centerman.

7) Chris Drury, New York: There might only be one year remaining on this albatross, but $7 million per season is far too much for a player with 5 PTS in 24 games. His next contract should be at least half of what he's making now. The Rangers paid almost $1.5 million for each point Drury had in 2010/11. UPDATE: Rangers bought him out.

8) Jason Spezza, Ottawa: Make no mistake, the Senators have been trying very hard to move their much maligned $7 million dollar player, but there aren't any buyers for 4 more years of Spezza at that price. This is another case of a quality player who scored a fat contract before experiencing a large decline in production. He was never quite the same without Heatley. There is still upside left in this under 30 player, but he needs the right line mate to fulfill expectations. UPDATE (Jan 2012): He's earning his contract this season.

9) Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton: Again, a quality hockey player who can make a strong contribution to any hockey team, but 4 more years at $5.5 million is not what I want to pay a 33 year old who averages a point every other game.

10) Chris Pronger, Philly: 6 more years at $5 million per year is quite a lot to owe a 37 year old player who can no longer stay healthy for a full season. Will Pronger play until he's 43? Probably not, but he will count against Philly's cap until then whether he retires or not because he was over 35 when he signed his deal.

11) Joffrey Lupul, Toronto: $4.3 million for two more seasons is a bad contract for this calibre of player. Although my Leaf fan friend believes that Lupul is the key to getting Kessel going, and is valuable as supporting cast. UPDATE: I'm sorry Joff, I was wrong (Jan 2012).

12) Marian Hossa, Chicago: $5.3 million per year might seem like a fair price for a productive forward, but 10 more years for a 32 year old that has a lot of miles on the odometer is a bad contract. UPDATE (Jan 2012): He's earning his contract in 2012.

13) Mattias Ohlund, Tampa: The $3.5 million cap hit might seem reasonable, but the 5 more years for a 35 year old who had 5 PTS in 72 games makes this a bad deal.

14) Keith Ballard, Vancouver: Having watched a lot of Vancouver Canucks hockey this season, $4.2 million for 4 more seasons is quite a lot to pay your 8th defenseman. Canucks fans seem to think this will be an easy contract to move and that Ballard would play far more for almost any other team. I'm not so sure any GM will want this contract.

15) Sheldon Souray, Edmonton: He only has one year left on his $5.4 million dollar contract, so the Oilers should be able to move him next season even though Souray spent all this season collecting a fat pay cheque to play in the minors.

2010/11 NHL Age Histogram

Just how old are the players in the NHL? Of all the 750+ players who played at least 7 games in the 2010/11 season here are how many there are by year of birth. This is my first attempt uploading an Excel chart, which I had to copy into Photosuite and save as a jpg. The greatest number of players were born in 1984, players who turned 26 in 2010. From that age and older there is a steady decline in frequency. I was born in 1979, aged 31, and 80% of NHL hockey players are younger than I am.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bono Hitchhiking In West Vancouver

U2's Bono was picked up hitchhiking on Tuesday in West Vancouver when he was caught in the rain, and this story has become somewhat of a sensation. He was picked up not far from where I live, on a street that I drive by daily, and yes these streets have names. He was picked up by none other than Edmonton Oiler player Gilbert Brule who formerly played for the Vancouver Giants. That's quite a coincidence considering Bono was going to be doing a show the next night in Edmonton. What is the probability that this mega super star would decide to hitchhike in a suburban neighbourhood (how far away could his limo have been), and the person who happened to pick him up would be a professional athlete who just happened to play for the top franchise in a city where the musician was doing a large concert the next night? I can't say with absolute certainty that this was "arranged" ahead of time, but the probability of this confluence of events is virtually impossible.

At the concert Bono did a whole bit about this guy who picked up a hitchhiker, and then said it was Gilbert Brule, and you could hear the response from the crowd was a mystified "oh wow, he's an Edmonton Oiler". It's all part of the show...

Where's Patrice Bergeron's Suspension?

It is very disappointing that the NHL did not suspend or even fine Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron for deliberately sticking his finger in Alex Burrows mouth in a scrum in game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. Sure some people wanted Burrows to be suspended for gently biting down on that finger, but that offense would never had happened if not for Bergeron's premeditated act. Did Patrice wash his hands before placing a finger in another person's mouth? Unlikely, which put Burrows at risk for catching a virus. If an animal wrangler sticks his hand in an alligator's mouth and the gator clamps down, whose fault is it? Would anyone blame the alligator? I doubt it. This is no different.

All sarcasm aside, the point I'm trying to make is that Burrows most certainly did not deserve a suspension, which some people were demanding. Don't put your fingers in other people's mouths. That's really the moral of the story here. It was a very exciting game 1, which I was pleased to see the Canucks win in the dying seconds. When the home team wins game 1 of a Stanley Cup final, they win the series 86% of the time. This series is over. The Canucks will be your 2011 Stanley Cup champion.