Jun 302007
 

As I am sure you are all aware, tomorrow is free agent day. As some of you know, I am a Leaf fan but I live in Ottawa so am intimately aware of all the happenings in Senator land. The Senators are in a tough situation heading into the free agent period. As of right now they have close to $42 million spent on 16 players with at least another million dollars committed to Saprykin should Saprykin want to sign his qualifying offer. They have 3 restricted free agents that they likely want to re-sign in Ray Emery, Chris Kelly and Christoph Schubert. But here is there problem. Other teams are seemingly interested in putting in a qualifying offer for Emery. Rumours are that Boston is interested as might be Los Angeles or St. Louis. I am still convinced that Detroit might be interested as well as they are seemingly having trouble finding an appropriate number for Hasek. Or rather, maybe conveniently not finding an appropriate number in order to wait and see if they could get someone like Emery. Regardless, Emery might be getting as much as $4 million next year so that is going to quickly eat up Ottawa’s cap space.

So that brings me to Chris Kelly. Chris Kelly is probably my favourite player on the Senators and I don’t think he gets the respect he deserves. He is fast, feisty, great defensively, a great penalty killer and last year got 15 goals and 38 points. If I were the Leafs, I would toss some money at this guy as I think the Leafs could really use Kelly speed and penalty killing abilities. Is Kelly worth as much as Nik Antropov? Probably. If I am the Leafs I’d present Chris Kelly a 4 year offer sheet in the $1.8-2 million dollar range and see if Ottawa has the guts, or cap space, to match. The compensation for a deal in this range is only a second round pick so it is well worth it. You could even front load it and include a no-trade clause to make it even more difficult for the Senators. My guess is it is at best 50/50 whether they would match or not. Kelly is Toronto born so he might jump at the opportunity to play in his home town.

If the Leafs could sign Kelly and someone like Paul Kariya via free agency they would add a lot of speed to their lineup which is very much in need of some speed. Kelly would significantly improve the penalty kill and Paul Kariya will add a lot of offense as well as a guy who has been very good in the shoot out (12 for 18 the past 2 seasons). With those two players and Toskala in the fold and a bit of luck in the health department the Leafs should easily pass the Islanders, Thrashers and Lighting to move up several spots in the eastern conference standings next season.

Jun 292007
 

I just heard Doug MacLean be interviewed on Team 1200 here in Ottawa. He said Columbus was top 10 in attendance, top 10 in corporate support but near the bottom of the league in local TV revenue. He said that what he made all season in local TV revenue, the Leafs make in 3 games. That’s crazy. He then talked about advertising rates. A 30 second TV ad in Columbus nets $220, in Detroit $1250. He mentioned that he believes that the average TV ad rate for Kansas City is below that of Columbus. That means, even if the people of KC fans and corporation support the team to death, they will at best be a low-mid revenue team. If they only get luke warm fan support they will quickly look like another Nashville.

In a league where the majority of the revenue is locally generated, the only viable locations are where local revenue can be generated. This is different from the NFL where revenues are largely league revenues from a multi-billion dollar TV contract where having a team in Green Bay is viable (and not in Los Angeles oddly).

And this all gets back to the failure of the NHL to generate a large American TV contract. As Bettman’s theory went, if we stick teams in all the major (and mid-level) U.S. markets, the networks will be desperate to sign a national TV contract. But honestly, that is the stupidest theory around because the national networks have no interest in showing the Columbus Blue Jackets or Carolina Hurricanes on TV. They want the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings, etc. The big market teams. In total NBC broadcast 18 NHL games over a 7 week period and despite having a horrific team, Philadelphia was featured in four of these games and the almost equally inept Blackhawks were featured three times. The reigning NHL champions from Carolina only saw one NBC game but they were playing the NY Rangers who NBC showed a total of four times. Nashville was never shown, nor was Phoenix or Florida. Small market teams don’t generate national TV contracts, large market teams do.

So the best case scenario that I can envision by having a team in Kansas City is another low-mid revenue team that does next to nothing in developing a larger national TV contract in the U.S. The best case scenario is another team like the Columbus Blue Jackets. Pretty scary but that seems to be the truth. It seems to me that the only reason there is any interest in moving a team to Kansas City is because the city is offering an arena with free rent and not because it is a good or viable hockey market. In fact when the International Hockey League folded in 2001 several teams from that league joined the AHL but the Kansas City Blades weren’t accepted. The AHL didn’t even want Kansas City but now the NHL is considering it?

But all of this creates an interesting dilemma for some teams in the NHL. The way the NHL is currently set up, the salary cap (and minimum) is determined by league wide revenues. The strange thing is that for some of these small revenue teams having league wide revenues go up is a bad thing because it means they have to increase their payroll, a payroll that might already be causing them to lose money. Last year the Florida Panthers probably had a payroll of no more than $30 million, but this season they are going to be forced to increase that to meet the league minimum. But, the Panthers revenue is not likely to increase by the same rate, if at all, and thus the team becomes less profitable, or more likely sustain greater losses. With this in mind, the Panthers likely prefer to have the Nashville Predators move to small market Kansas City instead of Hamilton as Hamilton almost assuredly will have the greater revenues of these two locations. Maybe this is what is provoking the anti-Hamilton sentiment at NHL headquarters because a team in Hamilton means teams like Florida, Atlanta, Phoenix and others suddenly become a little bit less viable and might cause another team to more. Or maybe more importantly, makes potential expansion teams less viable meaning either the price tag for an expansion team drops or maybe interest in expansion teams drops altogether.

I really wonder if what we are seeing happening with the Nashville Predators, Kansas City and Hamilton is really a (short sighted) power struggle between the low revenue teams and the larger revenue teams with Bettman firmly on the side of the small market teams because he brought those teams into the league. Those are his babies and their success or failure will form the foundation of his legacy as commissioner. On the flip side, if the NHL expands that benefits the small market teams because the salary cap will drop since the league revenue will be divided by more teams and the new teams are likely to be below average in revenue). Small market teams want expansion as it will help preserve their viability and they will get a chunk of money to put in their pockets. Large market teams do not want expansion because it means more teams will spend up to the lower cap meaning they will get a smaller competitive advantage.

I really believe that the NHL is in a mess right now and Nashville is just the tip of the iceberg. The core problem with the NHL is that the revenue difference between the big revenue teams (Toronto, Detroit, NY Rangers, etc.) and the small revenue teams is huge and getting larger because the league is a local revenue league, not a national TV revenue league. This problem can get resolved in one of two ways. Either the large revenue teams anti up more money for the revenue sharing system or more teams (Atlanta, Florida, Phoenix being likely candidates) go the way of the Predators and end up moving and maybe even folding altogether. I don’t see greater revenue sharing happening any time soon so that means look for teams to move. A team in Hamilton is likely going to hasten the demise of those low revenue teams and Bettman is going to fight that if he can through forcing the Predators to Kansas City and through expanding to other small revenue locations. It will be horrible for the league in the long term but it might just save Bettman’s teams.

Jun 262007
 

There is a lot of talk about the Leafs wanting to bring in a veteren hockey man to provide some assistance to current GM John Ferguson Jr. Apparently the Leafs tried to get Scott Bowman and even may have made inquiries to Brian Burke about whether he was interested but neither of those two want the job. The current talk is that they are now looking at John Muckler, the recently fired GM of the Ottawa Senators. The question I have to ask is why John Muckler?

To the best of my knowledge, Muckler has been GM of two teams, the Buffalo Sabres from 1993-94 to 1996-97 and the Ottawa Senators from 2002-03 to 2006-07. In his four years as GM of Buffalo his teams missed the playoffs once, lost in the first round twice and in the second round once. In Ottawa he has had a bit more success having lost in the first round once, second round once, third round once and this past season lost in the Stanley Cup finals. But, when he joined the team it was one of the most talented teams in the NHL so it’s not like he built it from scratch. Of the players on this past seasons roster most of the key players (Alfredsson, Spezza, Redden, Fisher, Volchenkov, Phillips, Emery, Schubert, Neil, Schaeffer, Vermette) were in the organization before Muckler joined the Senators and most of the players that Muckler has acquired over the past year or so the new GM Bryan Murray is desperate to let go. Comrie and Preissing are not going to be re-signed. Gerber and Corvo are being shopped to anyone willing to take on their contracts and Murray has no real interest in keeping Saprykin around who Muckler acquired at the trade deadline and gave a qualifying offer to just prior to being fired.

When one truthfully evaluates his career as a general manager in the NHL the evaluation has to be mixed at best. He has had some good teams and some not so good teams, some playoff success and some playoff dissapointments but what it all means is that it is difficult to conclude that he is one of those elite hockey minds that the Leafs want to employ akin to the Bryan Colangelo and the Toronto Raptors.

Jun 252007
 

A couple weeks ago I posted an article about the Leafs defence and how it isn’t as bad as many people think. Well, since then I have been working on trying to improve on the methodology by including shot type (slap shot, wrist shot, snap shot, tip in, backhand, wraparound) and in that process I found a few mistakes/issues in what I did previously.

First, I found a bug in my program that caused a number of powerplay goals to be considered even strength goals. When I fixed this the general conclusions of that article remained in tact though the amount of the goals caused by the goalie was reduced for most teams. In general the closer that a teams penalty kill ability was to their even strength ability the more valid the results but where a teams penalty kill ability was seemingly far superior or inferior to their even strength ability the results were skewed. The most notable team was the Philadelphia Flyers who were down right horrible at even strength but for some reason managed to have a pretty good penalty kill. When I fixed the bug the Flyers looked far worse than they did in the previous article.

The second issue I discovered is that not all shot distances and types are created equal and that there is significant (unintentional) bias in how game monitors decide what is a wrist shot vs snap shot as well as the distance a shot is from the goal. It is a bit surprising but it is clear to me now that some game monitors have a real hard time distinguishing between a 10’ shot and a 15’ shot. Since teams play half their games at the same arena (their home arena) if that arena’s game monitor couldn’t judge shot type or shot distance very well their shot difficulty ratings would get significantly biased one way or the other.

In an ideal world I would there would be an easy method for factoring out that bias and using all the data but I cannot think of any such easy method. The quick and dirty solution is to just look at shots against while playing on the road. This will eliminate any significant home arena bias and hopefully and biases found in other arenas will get averaged out on their own. For the most part this is likely true but I am still not completely happy with this solution because I think on some level teams play a bit different at home than on the road. More on this later but for now just looking at road shots is the best solution so lets go with that.

Ok, so what I did was group shots into 19 categories based on shot type and distance.

  • 0-14′ wrist shot
  • 15-29′ wrist shot
  • 30-44′ wrist shot
  • 45+’ wrist shot
  • 0-14′ snap shot
  • 15-29′ snap shot
  • 30-44′ snap shot
  • 45+’ snap shot
  • 0-14′ slap shot
  • 15-29′ slap shot
  • 30-44′ slap shot
  • 45+’ slap shot
  • 0-9′ tip-in
  • 10-25′ tip-in
  • 26+’ tip-in
  • 0-12′ backhand
  • 13-24′ backhand
  • 25+’ backhand
  • wraparound

I then performed an analysis more or less equivalent to the analysis done in the previous article. By doing that I come up with the following results:

Team ExpGA/60m GA/60m Goalie Impact
Philadelphia 2.58 3.15 0.57
Los Angeles 2.68 3.08 0.39
Edmonton 2.49 2.85 0.36
Washington 2.63 2.95 0.32
Phoenix 2.39 2.71 0.32
Tampa Bay 2.52 2.80 0.28
Montreal 2.71 2.98 0.27
Carolina 2.39 2.56 0.17
Chicago 2.66 2.82 0.15
Colorado 2.66 2.76 0.10
Boston 2.87 2.95 0.07
Calgary 2.46 2.50 0.03
San Jose 2.08 2.10 0.02
Pittsburgh 2.50 2.51 0.01
Toronto 2.44 2.42 -0.02
Anaheim 2.23 2.18 -0.05
Florida 2.58 2.52 -0.06
NY Islanders 2.71 2.62 -0.09
Columbus 2.02 1.93 -0.09
Minnesota 2.45 2.33 -0.12
NY Rangers 2.38 2.16 -0.22
Detroit 2.11 1.88 -0.24
Nashville 2.61 2.36 -0.25
Dallas 2.16 1.91 -0.26
Buffalo 2.67 2.38 -0.30
Ottawa 2.60 2.30 -0.30
New Jersey 2.48 2.11 -0.37
Atlanta 2.62 2.21 -0.41
Vancouver 2.34 1.81 -0.53
St. Louis 2.73 2.18 -0.55

Goalie Impact is the amount of goals per 60 minutes of even strength ice time the goalie is responsible for above or below what an average goalie would allow.
There are a lot of similarities between the table above and the table in my previous article but there are some teams that have moved up or down the list.

Toronto: Toronto’s defence (ExpGA/60m) drops a bit in the ratings influenced partially by factoring in the amount of time the Leafs spend at even strength but more significantly because of removing a small home ice bias that made shots at Air Canada be reported as being at a slightly greater distance than they likely actually were (it should be noted the Air Canada Center bias was much lower than some other arenas). The result is that the Leafs dropped to 11th best road defence from 8th. Not a huge drop but I figured since the article was primarily about the Leafs defence I should mention it. Also, because of these changes it makes Andrew Raycroft look much better than under the previous analysis. Using this current approach the net effect of Leaf goaltending is pretty neutral (i.e. On the Leaf goaltending was about average). And this gets to my problem with just looking at road statistics. The Leafs were generally a worse team at home than on the road despite the fact that it is typical for a team to play better (by about 10%) on home ice as road ice. Raycroft may have been the culprit as he had an .898 save percentage on the road and a .890 save percentage at home but it could also be the Leafs as a team played differently and gave up tougher shots at home. Without reliable statistics we will never know which is true or whether it is some combination of the two.

St. Louis: Wow! How did they become the team with the goalies that saved the most goals? That is hard to believe considering the names of the goalies they have on their roster but it seems to be a function of the number of shots and their difficulty. St. Louis goalies also posted a much better road save % than a home save %.

The next thing I looked at is how individual goalies performed. Based on league wide save percentages for the 19 groupings I calculated how many goals a perfectly average goalie should give up given the shot types that each goalie faced. Here are the results sorted by the number of goals the goalie saved per game.

Name Team ExpGoals Goals Diff Diff/game
SANFORD, CURTIS St. Louis 30.80 23.00 7.80 0.42
OSGOOD, CHRIS Detroit 22.82 18.00 4.82 0.34
LUONGO, ROBERTO Vancouver 59.43 42.00 17.43 0.33
BACASHIHUA, JASON St. Louis 22.43 19.00 3.43 0.33
HEDBERG, JOHAN Atlanta 20.96 17.00 3.96 0.32
LEGACE, MANNY St. Louis 35.99 27.00 8.99 0.29
BRODEUR, MARTIN New Jersey 81.80 65.00 16.80 0.28
LEHTONEN, KARI Atlanta 65.11 52.00 13.11 0.27
DIPIETRO, RICK NY Islanders 63.73 52.00 11.73 0.27
TURCO, MARTY Dallas 56.34 44.00 12.34 0.27
MILLER, RYAN Buffalo 54.75 43.00 11.75 0.26
VOKOUN, TOMAS Nashville 40.43 33.00 7.43 0.24
LUNDQVIST, HENRIK NY Rangers 59.50 49.00 10.50 0.21
GERBER, MARTIN Ottawa 29.63 26.00 3.63 0.19
BURKE, SEAN Los Angeles 33.80 31.00 2.80 0.17
EMERY, RAY Ottawa 57.16 50.00 7.16 0.17
NORRENA, FREDRIK Columbus 40.98 35.00 5.98 0.17
HASEK, DOMINIK Detroit 33.82 27.00 6.82 0.17
THIBAULT, JOCELYN Pittsburgh 26.19 24.00 2.19 0.17
RAYCROFT, ANDREW Toronto 62.74 55.00 7.74 0.15
MASON, CHRIS Nashville 44.26 40.00 4.26 0.15
BELFOUR, ED Florida 49.00 43.00 6.00 0.15
THOMAS, TIM Boston 62.58 57.00 5.58 0.13
HUET, CRISTOBAL Montreal 41.48 38.00 3.48 0.12
KHABIBULIN, NIKOLAI Chicago 58.75 54.00 4.75 0.12
BACKSTROM, NIKLAS Minnesota 36.16 34.00 2.16 0.08
KIPRUSOFF, MIIKKA Calgary 65.53 62.00 3.53 0.07
GRAHAME, JOHN Carolina 27.94 27.00 0.94 0.05
GIGUERE, J Anaheim 45.88 44.00 1.88 0.05
GARON, MATHIEU Los Angeles 22.90 22.00 0.90 0.04
TOSKALA, VESA San Jose 30.08 29.00 1.08 0.04
NABOKOV, EVGENI San Jose 39.80 39.00 0.80 0.02
KOLZIG, OLAF Washington 46.13 46.00 0.13 0.00
BRYZGALOV, ILJA Anaheim 25.00 25.00 0.00 0.00
FLEURY, MARC-ANDRE Pittsburgh 56.29 57.00 -0.71 -0.02
BUDAJ, PETER Colorado 56.11 57.00 -0.89 -0.02
SMITH, MIKE Dallas 15.23 16.00 -0.77 -0.05
ROLOSON, DWAYNE Edmonton 64.88 68.00 -3.12 -0.06
THEODORE, JOSE Colorado 27.57 29.00 -1.43 -0.07
HOLMQVIST, JOHAN Tampa Bay 45.68 48.00 -2.32 -0.07
JOSEPH, CURTIS Phoenix 51.39 54.00 -2.61 -0.07
BIRON, MARTIN Philadelphia 33.72 36.00 -2.28 -0.09
WARD, CAM Carolina 48.86 53.00 -4.14 -0.10
FERNANDEZ, MANNY Minnesota 38.52 42.00 -3.48 -0.12
NIITTYMAKI, ANTERO Philadelphia 50.70 55.00 -4.30 -0.12
BOUCHER, BRIAN Columbus 17.38 19.00 -1.62 -0.14
LECLAIRE, PASCAL Columbus 13.87 16.00 -2.13 -0.14
JOHNSON, BRENT Washington 37.11 40.00 -2.89 -0.15
AULD, ALEXANDER Florida 30.08 33.00 -2.92 -0.16
DENIS, MARC Tampa Bay 37.94 43.00 -5.06 -0.17
AEBISCHER, DAVID Montreal 26.86 31.00 -4.14 -0.20
TELLQVIST, MIKAEL Phoenix 23.38 28.00 -4.62 -0.22
MARKKANEN, JUSSI Edmonton 16.84 20.00 -3.16 -0.25
HALAK, JAROSLAV Montreal 20.38 25.00 -4.62 -0.41
TOIVONEN, HANNU Boston 16.45 22.00 -5.55 -0.55
CLOUTIER, DAN Los Angeles 17.88 28.00 -10.12 -0.68
DUNHAM, MIKE NY Islanders 18.94 28.00 -9.06 -0.75
ESCHE, ROBERT Philadelphia 23.18 32.00 -8.82 -0.86

For the most part the table makes perfect sense. It is still surprising to see the St. Louis goalies near the top of the list (I am beginning to think this is an anomaly of some sort) but it is no surprise to see Luongo, Brodeur, Lehtonen, DiPietro, Turco, Miller, Vokoun, Lundqvist, etc. near the top of the list and Esche, Dunham, Cloutier, Toivonen, etc. at the bottom of the list. So for the most part the list passes the smell test as everything seems right.

Here are some more observations:

1. Leaf goalie Andrew Raycroft does OK here as well as he would be somewhere in the middle of the NHL regular starting goalies.

2. It is interesting that Martin Gerber ranks higher than Ray Emery.

3. While the Panthers have seemingly upgraded from Belfour to Vokoun, the same cannot be said for the Leafs as Toskala is ranked well below Raycroft. I should add that while Toskala has a pretty good save percentage it could be attributed to the quality of his opponent as he has started against the Kings 5 times, and Coyotes 4 times, St. Louis, Columbus and the weak offensive Dallas Stars 3 times. That is a pretty easy schedule. Interestingly, like Raycroft, Toskala also seemed to perform much better on the road.

4. Teams might want to consider avoiding trading for Manny Fernandez and his large contract as he ranks quite poorly.

What’s left to do?

There are still a couple of things I would like to tackle in this area of analysis. The first would be to see if I can come up with some kind of reliable method for making use of the home stats. The second thing is that while I think the above analysis does a pretty good job of accounting for shot difficulty I think the quality of the shooter is still factor that is not factored in fully and I’d like to see if I can find some kind of method for factoring that in. Problem is, I am not sure if there is enough data to properly evaluate individual shooters but I might give it a try.

Jun 232007
 

This season could be the off season of changing goalies. Yesterday we saw two goalies get moved in Toskala and Vokoun but there will be a lot more goalie movement to come. Ottawa is certainly going to move Martin Gerber, even if they get nothing in return and Manny Fernandez has probably played his last game in Minnesota. With the Ducks giving Giguere a big time contract it is difficult to see the Ducks keeping Bryzgalov around as a backup just to see him walk as an unrestricted free agent next summer. With the Panthers acquiring Vokoun, Ed Belfour, who despite his age played relatively well for Florida last year, will be looking for a new home next year as well.

Teams that are potentially looking for a goalie include Los Angeles, Phoenix, St. Louis and and Boston. Phoenix and Los Angeles and possibly St. Louis apparently have an interest in Gerber and Boston seems hot on acquiring Manny Fernandez.

If Boston does acquire Fernandez the Eastern Conference is going to be very interesting next year. Fernandez in Boston should make them much better and definitely a playoff contender. Florida missed the playoffs by just six points and have improved their goaltending significantly with Vokoun and don’t look to lost anyone of significance off their roster and may add more in free agenct. As of right now Toronto has essentially the same team that missed the playoffs by one point with better goaltending and Mark Bell and $5-6 million still to spend. And so far Philadelphia has added Martin Biron (at the trade deadline), Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell and hopes to add one more significant player (Briere or Gomez seem to be the top candidates). Those four non-playoff teams look to have made significant improvements already.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators and New Jersey Devils are in tough to maintain their current rosters. In Buffalo it seems likely that they will lose at least one of Briere or Drury. In New Jersey it seems Scott Gomez is all but gone and Brian Rafalski might prove tougher to re-sign than everyone thought. And in Ottawa, the Senators are desperately looking to dump salary (for sure Gerber, possibly Redden) just to maintain the guys they have as they currently have close to $42 million in salary cap space committed and still have to re-sign or replace Emery, Comrie, Kelly, Preissing, Shubert and Saprykin. It is difficult to see any of the Sabes, Senators or Devils improving next season and more likely than not they all slip a bit.

So what does all that mean? Well it’s still early in the off season but if you thought this years playoff race in the east was a bit crazy stay tuned, next seasons could be even crazier.

Jun 232007
 

I don’t read every sports writer in every newspaper in every city in North America. In fact, I don’t even come close. But even so, I have to be confident in saying that the absolute worst sports/hockey writer has to be Steve Simmons. The reason why he is such a bad hockey writer is he for some reason has a personal vendetta against everything Maple Leaf. Even if he is writing about something non-Leaf he still has to get a Leaf jab in.

For example, yesterday he wrote an article about Garry Monahan who was the first player every drafted into the NHL. It was a somewhat interesting read somewhat ruined by his personal vendetta against the Leafs.

In all, 21 players were chosen, 20 of them from Ontario. Some of the names remain familiar: Peter Mahovlich, from St. Mike’s, taken right after Monahan by Detroit; the Leafs selected Walt McKechnie with their first pick, Jim McKenny with their third and Gerry Meehan with their fourth.

How long ago was this? Might have been the last time the Leafs outsmarted teams at the draft.

For what purpose, other than displaying his inherent anti-Leaf bias, did he have to write that last sentence? It contributed absolutely nothing to the story and took away a lot. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason he wrote the article is to take that jab.

And now today he thrashes all over John Ferguson Jr. and the Leafs for the trade he made yesterday to acquire Bell and Toskala. In particular about forgetting all about building through scouting and the draft. But let’s look at the facts here.

First off, by nearly everyones account this is one of the worst drafts in recent history. If that is the case, how bad could this draft be? Let’s look at the 10-25 picks of some recent bad drafts.

1994: Nolan Baumgartner, Jeff Friesen, Wade Belak, Mattias Ohlund, Ethan Moreau, Alexander Kharlamov, Eric Fichaud, Wayne Primeau, Brad Brown, Chris Dingman, Jason Botterill, Evgeni Ryabchikov, Jeff Kealty, Yan Golubovsky, Chris Wells, Vadim Sharifijanov
1999: Jamie Lundmark, Branislav Mezei, Oleg Saprykin, Denis Shvidki, Jani Rita, Jeff Jillson, Scott Kelman, Dave Tanabe, Barret Jackman, Konstantin Koltsov, Kirill Safronov, Barrett Heisten, Nick Boynton, Maxime Ouellet, Steve McCarthy, Luca Cereda, Mikhail Kuleshov

So out of those 32 players in those two weak drafts I only see three guys (Ohlund, Boynton, maybe Jackman) that turned out to be better than Mark Bell let alone better than Bell AND Toskala and none of them are star players or een first line players. Even in a good year you are only going to get at most 4 or 5 quality players from positions 10-25 and maybe one star player. Even with mid-first round draft picks in good years the odds of drafting a first or second line player or top 3 defenseman are pretty slim.

And it is not like Bell and Toskala are old at 26 and 30 years of age respectively. Bell is a big, strong, two-way forward (and we saw how important these kind of guys were to Anaheim) who outside of last year looked like he had developed into a reliable 20-25 goal scoer, 45-50 point guy and a solid second line winger. And the worst case scenario for Toskala is one of the best backup goalies in the game and the best case is a solid starting goalie. Plus neither Bell or Toskala are making a huge salary. Scott Hartnell, who just signed a 6 year, $4.2 million per year contract, has never scored more than the 25 goals and 48 points he got in 2005-06 which happens to be the exact output that Bell provided the Blackhawks in 2005-06.

Maybe the Leafs could have gotten a high quality player with their 13th pick yesterday but more likely than not they would have drafted a dud from a whole lot of duds in a bad draft year, just like every other team drafting from the 10th spot and beyond. But Steve Simmons doesn’t seem to care one iota about reality, logic, reason or even journalistic integrity and instead lets his anti-Leaf bias rule his career (and maybe his life, who knows). It’s unfortunate that readers of the Toronto Sun get stuck with a clueless writer like that.

Jun 212007
 

One of the interesting things when it comes to hockey players salaries is how little top goalies make relative to top defenseme or forwards. I don’t think many people will argue with me when I say that goaltending is the most important position in hockey. Few teams with questionable goaltending make the playoffs. Of the top 16 teams in save %, 15 of them made the playoffs. The only team to make the playoffs and not to be 16 teams is Tampa (which interestingly had the worst save % in the NHL) and the only team in the top 16 to miss the playoffs is the Montreal Canadiens.

But, when it comes to salaries it seems goalies don’t get the credit they deserve. The Flyers paid $6.3 million for 6 years for an offensive oriented 32 year old defenseman whose small size makes him somewhat vulnerable defensively and yet a top 30 year old goalie who just won a Stanley Cup only gets $6 million a season for four years. Maybe the best goalie in NHL history and recent Vezina trophy winner Martin Brodeur is playing for $5.2 million. The top paid goalie, who is also probably the best goalie in the NHL today, Roberto Luongo makes $6.75 million a season. Is Luongo only marginally more valuable than Timonen or about the same value as Pavel Datsyuk ($6.7 million/season) or significantly less valuable than Brad Richards ($7.8 million/season)? No, of course not. Luongo is immensely more valuable than any of those guys, as is any of the elite goalies and yet teams seem to consistantly value them below what top defensemen or forwards make. It makes no sense to me because if I were a GM I would do whatever I can to get and keep a top goalie pretty much regardless of cost. In my opinion, the Islanders got it right.

Jun 212007
 

It is draft day tomorrow so I figured it would be a good idea to refer everyone to a simple draft analysis I conducted a year or so ago. It basically gives everyone an indication of what to expect from players based on where they are drafted (i.e. top 5, top 10, mid first round, late first round, etc.) but everyone should remember that this is supposedly a weak draft so the chances of a player making an impact in the NHL are probably even lower (at least for first round picks).

Jun 042007
 

Dany Heatley: 1 goal in last 9 games, 3 shots in last 3 games
Teemu Selanne: 2 goals in last 10 games

Combined those two guys potted 98 goals in the regular season but both have been in horrendous playoff scoring slumps. If one of them can break out, it could be the difference in the series. It’s something to watch for in the remainder of the Stanley Cup finals.