Oct 312008
 

1 – Alexander Semin had some choice words for the NHL’s poster boy, Sidney Crosby. The Caps forward is off to a hot start and with the team being hailed as favourites to win their division again, didn’t hold back any punches. In short, Semin believes Crosby’s overrated – and that Chicago’s Patrick Kane is the superior player. He believes that stats, in particular Crosby’s, have made him out to be a better player than he actually is. I’m never turned off by some good sound bytes, but this sort of personal trash talk doesn’t really stoke any fires for the Pens-Caps rivalry, and I also believe that the Caps needs to reach the finals before they say anything more.

2 – Adam Proteau at THN thinks Gary Bettman needs to go. I agree… as do many others. Does Bettman?

3 – I think Doug Weight‘s hit on Brandon Sutter was clean. I don’t think Weight had any other choice than to lay him out – if he hadn’t it would’ve created an offensive rush for the Canes. Sutter’s concussion was unfortunate, and I hate to say it, but it was his fault. He had his head down in a prone position, reaching for the puck in the neutral zone. What did he think was going to happen? The players have to protect themselves – I don’t think there’s an easier way to put it, and getting rid of the instigator rule is a step in the right direction.

4 – Marian Gaborik‘s been a staple in the rumour mill since the end of last year. However, despite losing him to injury, the Wild are 6-2-1 and at the top of their division… which makes you really wonder if Gaborik is worth the reported $85-100 million the Wild have apparently offered him. There’s no mistake that Gaborik’s a world-class player, and even though I am attributing Antti Miettinen‘s recent scoring surge as a flash in the pan, I don’t think the Wild need him, especially at that price. Jacques Lemaire plays a system that doesn’t require a bona fide offensive player, although it is nice to have one. The Wild are just as happy winning games 2-1 than 6-1. Gaborik has proven himself to be injury-prone and seems to be intent on testing the waters on the market, and if that is indeed the case the Wild should just trade him.

Oct 312008
 

Toronto Maple Leaf fans across the blogosphere are responding to a recent Howard Berger post in which he called Leaf fans ‘losers’. In a coordinated response several Leaf related blogs have responded with the following post:

Dear Most Valuable Losers

Yesterday, continuing a long-standing trend, another Toronto reporter took his shot at Leaf fans. This time it was Howard Berger calling us “losers” but we’ve seem the same cookie-cutter article before from virtually everyone who covers the team.

Quite frankly, we’ve had enough.

As fans, we believe that those most deserving of our praise and our scorn are directly inolved in the game, whether it’s on the ice, in the press box or in the executive corridors. Fans don’t pencil in the starting five, make bad trades, or write the headlines of the day and shouldn’t be blamed (or praised) for the totals in the wins and loss column.

Hockey may be just a game but it’s also a passion. If you’re looking for passionate hockey coverage that offers insight and humour and you’re sick of being blamed for supporting a team you’re passionate about, you have a better option.

It’s time to leave the media superstars behind. There’s compelling, timely, wide-ranging content waiting just for you online in the Barilkosphere.

Many have found this better way of following the Leafs, but not every Leafs fan has been so lucky. Please send this message to your fellow Leaf fans via e-mail or postings on message boards and let them know that they do have a choice.

We hope you’ll join us here in the Barilkosphere and become regular readers.

I have been very critical of the media from time to time in the past but this is one of the first real coordinated responses to the media. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops and whether Howard Berger posts a counter response.

Oct 292008
 

On Monday NHL Players Associations Executive Director Paul Kelly was on Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown discussing several topics but of particular interest was the light he shed on NHL revenues, the contribution of Canadian teams to those revenues, and the impact of the Canadian dollar on those revenues. You can listen to the complete interview but let me summarize.

He stated that 27% of all league revenues are generated by the 6 Canadian NHL franchises and that of the 12% revenue growth the league saw last season, one quarter, or approximately 3% growth, was attributed to the rise in the Canadian dollar. This to me was the clearest statement I have heard from anyone in regards to the percentage of league revenues generated by Canadian teams and the extent of impact it had on the league wide revenue. He went on to say that the rise in the Canadian dollar contributed approximately $75 million to league revenue increase in 2007-08 over 2006-07.

From these numbers, which I believe are pretty accurate, and with the salary cap numbers, which we know exactly, we can estimate what actual league revenues over the past two seasons.

The 2008-09 salary cap was set at $56.7 million which according to the CBA is $8 million above the ‘midpoint’ which is what is calculated from 2007-08 league revenues plus 5%. Crunching the numbers we get $56.7 million less $8 million less 5% multiplied by 30 teams gives us $1391 million, which is what the 2007-08 players share of revenue should have been. This would then put the total league revenues at approximately $2.62 billion. Doing the same calculations for the 2006-07 season I have calculated the 2006-07 total league revenue to be $2.32 billion.

From those numbers we can determine that league revenues rose $300 million from 2006-07 to 2007-08 which is a 12.9% increase in revenues which seems a bit higher than Paul Kelly’s statement of 12% revenue increase but the rise of $300 million matches exactly with his claim that the rise in the Canadian dollar accounted for 25% of the increase in revenue as 25% of $300 million is $75 million. I haven’t seen or heard any firm numbers but rumours were that last years revenue was in the $2.6 billion range so my numbers seem reasonable.

It should be noted that in calculating the salary cap the formula takes into account player benefit costs. I do not know what the player benefit costs are but I estimated them based on a sample formula found in the CBA and scaled it at the same rate of increase as player compensation which may or may not be correct and may lead to some of the disparity with the numbers.

So, what does all this mean looking forward and how much the salary cap be affected? Lets take a few scenarios while assuming that the Canadian-US dollar exchange rate for the 2007-08 season was parity (i.e. one Canadian dollar equals one U.S. dollar) and that the players choose to adjust upward the salary cap by 5% for the 2009-10 season.

Scenario: The Canadian dollar drops to an average of $0.80 US while there is an across the board revenue increase of 5% not accounting for the exchange rate. Based on this scenario, the Canadian portion of revenue would be cut by 20% from the dollar and then increased by 5% for estimated revenue growth while the U.S. revenues would simply increase by 5%. Under this scenario total league revenues would be $2.602 billion or a drop of about .67%. This would result in the salary cap dropping slightly to $56.5 million per team.

Here are some other scenarios.

Exchange
Rate
Revenue
Growth
Estimated
Revenue
Estimated
Salary Cap
0.75 3% 2.516 54.5
0.75 5% 2.565 55.6
0.75 7% 2.614 56.7
0.75 9% 2.663 57.9
0.80 3% 2.553 55.3
0.80 5% 2.602 56.5
0.80 7% 2.652 57.6
0.80 9% 2.702 58.7
0.85 3% 2.589 56.2
0.85 5% 2.64 57.3
0.85 7% 2.69 58.5
0.85 9% 2.74 59.5
0.90 3% 2.626 57
0.90 5% 2.676 58.2
0.90 7% 2.728 59.3
0.90 9% 2.779 60.3

Revenues are in Billions of dollars and salary cap is in Millions of dollars.

If my projections are accurate, so long as the league can increase revenues (not including currency factors) then the salary cap isn’t likely to be impacted negatively in any significant way and could increase by a couple million dollars if the Canadian dollar rebounds measurably (it has jumped a couple of cents today). But in a worst case scenario where the league cannot grow at the same pace as it has and the Canadian dollar remains where it is today the salary cap is likely to fall by up to a couple million dollars.

In the Paul Kelly interview there were a couple of other tidbits that I found interesting and might signal the direction the players want to go in future CBA negations. When asked if he thought the NHL-NHLPA is really in a partnership he responded “I think it is clear the answer to that is no.” He went on to say “It would be a fallacy to call it a partnership because we don’t have an equal voice on a number of issues.” He mentioned expansion and re-location of franchises as a couple of examples where the players have no input. Expect this to be a bargaining point or a bargaining chip during the next CBA negotiation.

When discussing expansion and relocation he praised RIM CEO Jim Balsillie and stated that having someone like him and his wealth in the NHL would be a positive but also mentioned that he believes that there are people within the NHL that do not want him to be a part of the league. Paul Kelly was also very positive and receptive to the idea of having another NHL team in Toronto or southern Ontario and eluded to the fact that he thinks the Toronto area could probably support 3 teams.

It’ll be interesting to see how the NHL-NHLPA relationship develops over the next year or two but it is becoming clear to me that the next great battle might the players to push for expanding the ‘partnership’ beyond just revenue sharing but into all areas of revenue development including franchise relocation and expansion.

Oct 262008
 

For those of you who don’t know already, one of the world’s most popular blogs, “Covered in Oil,” will be inactive for an indefinite amount of time. Known as “DMFB,” on his site, Dave Berry was employed to cover the Oilers and get a quote or two after the games. He was given a pass into the press box, and to break up the monotony of the game, he does live web-blog coverages, until he was informed by an Oilers official that he was not allowed to do so and will have his press pass revoked. You can read the entire (ridiculous) account here.

I think what the Oilers did to Berry was complete bull. I don’t think I can sum it up any better than that. If the mainstream media (the papers, magazines, radio, and TV) continues to be so fearful of change and evolving technology I don’t think this will be the last incident until some rules are made clear. Tom Benjamin and Matt Fenwick think the Oilers do have grounds to ask Berry to leave, but only because the Luddite Oilers, as a business, are protecting their interests.

As bloggers we’re separate from the influence of corporate and commercial identities, which makes our writings as good, if not better, than some of the mainstream media out there. Bloggers have been regularly criticized for their (un)accountability, but as long as we have readers and users who leave comments that will never be the case. I don’t think it’s completely a stretch to even say that perhaps we’re more accountable than mainstream media, if only because we don’t have ties to any corporate sponsors or employers. The bias in our blogs is inherently different than those who are officially employed by a team or the NHL to cover games (have you ever noticed how boring NHL.com blogs are?).

Going back to Berry, I think it’s quite universal that everyone feels bad for him (except, perhaps, the Oilers). I alo think it is completely unfair that his pass was revoked because he didn’t let the Oilers know that he was doing a live blog. What’s stopping a guy from bringing his laptop to games and doing a live blog in the stands? What are the paranoid Oilers so afraid of? I think in an increasingly integrating society, especially technologically, any blow to the blogosphere is a blow to the fans.

Berry leaves us with this final thought…

“At the same time, though, it would be disingenuous for me to say that this was the sole reason why I’m taking an extended hiatus. Truthfully, there’s a lot about the professional sports world that bothers me that really came into focus during this whole thing. I could list examples, but basically it all boils down to the fact that I’m uncomfortable with the amount of attention paid to what are basically games, and I no longer want to be a part of it. I don’t want to tell anyone how to spend their free time, but the fact simple entertainment has grown to this level of import bothers me too much to continue with it.”

It seems to me that the Oilers are more interested in other things than their fanbase.

Oct 242008
 

I have written here several times before but I think it deserves repeating because this is could be a major issue in the months and possibly years to come and could have a significant negative impact on the smaller Canadian NHL franchises. The issue is the falling Canadian dollar. A season ago the dollar averaged fairly close to parity. Right now the Canadian dollar has dropped below 79 cents in US dollar terms. This is real bad news for teams like the Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators and Edmonton Oilers, all of whom struggled for their survival in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s when the dollar ranged just 10 to 15 cents below where the dollar sits right now.

The reality is, the approximately 20 cent drop from a season ago essentially equates to a 25% rise in player salaries solely due to the drop in the Canadian dollar. Add to that the increase in the salary cap, which rose nearly 13%, and the Canadian franchises could see player costs rise as much as 45% this season in Canadian dollar terms.

Let’s use the Calgary Flames as an example. Last season they spent slightly below the cap at approximately $48.5 million and this season they are scheduled to spend about $57 million in salaries. In Canadian dollar terms, assuming a parity exchange rate a year ago and 80 cent exchange rate this season, last years payroll was $48.5 million CDN and this years payroll would equate to $71.25 million. In one year the Calgary Flames payroll increased $22.75 million, or 46.9%. Ouch. That has to hurt a businesses bottom line.

So far we haven’t seen much fall out from this but if the Canadian dollar remains this low next summer don’t be surprised if we see some Canadian franchises, particularly Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton, look to shed salary. If the Canadian dollar drops to 70 cents or below we may once again hear talk of the small Canadian franchises struggling to be profitable and maybe even struggle to survive.

The CBC has an interesting article on this issue outlining how each of the Canadian teams payrolls will increase in Canadian dollar terms based on the exchange rate. Although the article is informative it should be noted that they calculated the exchange rates incorrectly and the actual values are higher than they present. For example, at the 80 cent mark they multiplied the teams payroll by 1.2 (increased it by 20%) but in fact they should have divided by 0.8 which in fact would increase it by 25%.

Oct 242008
 

Darren Dreger on TSN yesterday said that Bob Gainey had proposed a new rule to increase offense: players will not be allowed to block shots lying down on the ice. Ridiculous? Yes. But, okay, I’ll bite.

Let’s say the NHL goes through with this. The first question is, what’s the penalty? Because it’s absolutely ridiculous to penalize a player for making a good defensive play, let’s say the “downside” is an offensive zone face-off for the shooting team. It’s the only viable solution I can think of, but even then it doesn’t necessarily promote offensive play. I can just as easily put a Henrik Zetterberg to take the face-off and win it, and totally negate what could’ve been a set offensive play. Gainey’s solution doesn’t fly – I think there are more ways to make the more exciting (that also doesn’t necessarily mean more offense) – in part because it really stops the evolution of the game. 30 years ago, shot-blocking wasn’t a big part of the game, but players like Mike Komisarek have made it into an art form, and today defensemen at the peewee levels are being taught how to block shots properly. That’s not even mentioning the fact that with the amount of blocked shots these days, there would be too many whistles to get the game going. As a side note, I’ve never understood why some defenseman don’t take the extra step and step around the player lying down on the ice and instead choosing to shoot right at the player. Chicago’s Brent Sopel is notorious for this.

I don’t know where Gainey is coming from with this suggestion, but it all really ties back to Gary Bettman‘s obsession with trying to make the game more appealing to the US fanbase. However, Bettman’s approach is narrow-minded, and he believes that the only way to generate an American fanbase (and more importantly, revenue) is to make the game more exciting by allowing for more offense. While I do admit that watching players score goals is somewhat satisfying, I’m just as happy, perhaps more, watching a 2-1 nail-biter than a 6-2 blowout.

Bettman has refused to believe that the NHL is not the NBA, and it can’t be marketed as such. Basketball is one of the few sports that have very few barriers of entry, which is why it has such a large global fanbase in Asia and Europe. The NBA also thrives on the personality of its players, both negative and positive (Ron Artest, anyone?). This was also a sticking point when Brian Burke was on OTR, where he said hockey is doing fine in the States, considering it’s relative obscurity and many barriers of entry. The NHL has to sell itself, like the Detroit-Pittsburgh series. It can’t be sold through marketing ads, music, or highlight reels, but as long as Bettman refuses to believe this, the NHL will continue to sit on a carousel of rule changes and its subsequent marketing flops.

EDIT: Neal on the Leafs section of the site and puremetal33 have also had discussion on this point. Read it here.

“The NHL doesn’t need to to increase scoring, what they NEED to do is stop trying to sell the game to the same idiots who watch the NBA. The NHL is a niche sport for intelligent observers. It can’t and won’t be sold to the lowest common denominator.” – puremetal33

EDIT #2: You’re telling me that Jordan Staal should be penalized for this? (scroll to 0:38) Give me a break.

Oct 222008
 

I could live with Kurt Sauer‘s hit on Andrei Kostitsyn. It’s a fast game and it happens when people are hitting others – the arms come up sometimes to protect themselves and near the boards is always a dangerous area to be. What I don’t get, however, is what Georges Laraque was supposed to accomplish.

There are only a handful of teams out there who dress their tough guys fairly regularly: Montreal with Laraque, Minnesota with Derek Boogaard, Pittsburgh with Eric Godard, Atlanta with Eric Boulton, Anaheim with George Parros (who is on a scoring streak), Buffalo with Andrew Peters, Calgary with Andre Roy, St. Louis with Cam Janssen and now David Koci, and the Coyotes with Todd Fedoruk and Brian McGrattan. It goes without saying that coaches choose to play these players 2-5 minutes a night to ensure the safety of their star players, but it does take two to tango, and what if the opposition refuses to fight and pull a Sauer? Instead of dropping the gloves with Laraque, he choose to do it with a much smaller Tom Kostpoulos, who in the process is made to look absolutely silly. So… what’s the point of dressing Laraque? Sauer refused to dance, and there was nothing the Habs, Sergei Kostitsyn, or Laraque could do about it. Obviously there was some sort of thought in the back of Guy Carbonneau‘s head that told him Sauer would willingly respond to Laraque and keep the “fighter’s code,” but he didn’t.

Of course this brings us back to the “unwritten” code amongst NHLers, in which borderline hits on star players have to be answered, but Sauer was always in the driver’s seat. He made the hit and dictated how the Habs would respond. This also goes back to the Ottawa-Buffalo brawl, in which Lindy Ruff sent out Peters and Patrick Kaleta (EDIT: not Kaleta, but Adam Mair and Paul Gaustad as PeterS points out) on purpose against Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley to avenge Chris Neil‘s borderline hit on Chris Drury. The Sens made the hit, and in the process made the Sabres look like a goon squad with Ruff taking the brunt of it.

So what does having a “heavyweight” accomplish? The only upside is that it’s supposed to protect your players and intimidate the other team, but judging from Kostopoulos’ face it sure didn’t do anything to faze Sauer. Teams that regularly dress their heavyweights are wasting 2-5 minutes of ice-time per game, instead of giving that ice-time to quality players. If heavyweights are supposed to dictate the tone of the game, or even just to provide some sort of spark, the Habs and Laraque failed miserably in that department. Sauer’s not dumb enough to take on Laraque, and I don’t imagine many players in the league are. So, really, what’s the point?

Oct 212008
 

The Minnesota Wild have been rumoured to have offered Marian Gaborik upwards of $8 million per season on a long term contract but so far Gaborik has refused to accept any of Minnesota’s offers.  It seems almost certain that Gaborik’s days in Minnesota are drawing to a close.  Unless Gaborik changes his mind he will almost certainly be traded before the trade deadline and maybe even much sooner than that.

There are really two types of teams that would be interested in Gaborik.  The contenders and the rebuilders.  The contenders are top level teams looking to bring in Gaborik primarilly for a Stanley Cup run.  The rebuilders would look at Gaborik only if they could get him to sign a long term contract and become a key component of their rebuilding team.  So, lets take a look at who might be interested in Gaborik and what they might need to offer in return.

The Montreal Canadiens have 13 regulars set to be free agents next summer, many of them of the unrestricted variety.  Because of this Montreal is likely to make all the moves they can to make a serious push for the Stanley Cup this year as this might just be the Canadiens best hope for another Stanley Cup over the next couple years.  If Montreal wants to get serious about acquiring Gaborik the starting price will almost certainly be someone like Chris Higgins and a first round pick.

The Ottawa Senators are desperately looking for another top 6 forward and would probably have an interest in Gaborik but his price tag is probably too high both in terms of what the Wild would want in return and in fitting Gaborik’s salary under the cap.

Other contending teams that might be interested are the Flyers and Rangers but both have salary cap issues that would need to be dealt with first.  It is less likely that the Wild will trade with a western conference contender but if they are open to that I wouldn’t be surprised if Dallas was interested (again, if they can resolve salary cap issues) and Brian Burke in Anaheim has never shied away from making bold moves in an attempt to improve his team, which is struggling mightily right now.

There have been rumours that the Los Angeles Kings might have an interest in Gaborik.  Of course, this would only happen if they can get Gaborik to sign a long term contract.  Should they make the trade it is likely that Frolov or Dustin Brown would be going the other way along with a top prospect or a first round draft pick.

The Vancouver Canucks need offense badly, especially if they don’t think they can re-sign the Sedin twins, and might have an interest in Gaborik and reuniting him with his good friend Pavol Demitra.  The Canucks don’t have as many quality forwards to offer the Wild as either Montreal or Los Angeles but they do have some quality defensemen that might help get the deal done.  Kevin Bieksa might be at the top of that list.  If a forward were necessary to get the deal done the Wild might choose to go after Ryan Kesler but may settle for Steve Bernier.  A prospect or draft pick is likely going the other way as well.

There haven’t been any rumours but one wonders if Cliff Fletcher and the Leafs might try to get involved.  Fletcher has also rarely shied away from making the bold moves, particularly when rebuilding a team.  Though he may be interested in Gaborik, I suspect he won’t make a move like this since he isn’t the long term GM of the Leafs and might let a future GM make such a move.

There is no doubt there will be a number of teams interested in Gaborik.  He is a superb talent with ample offensive skills.  The main drawback to Gaborik has been his health.  He has only played more than 65 games once in the past 4 seasons (77 last year) and is already injured this season.  That might be enough for some teams to shy away from giving him a long term contract.

Whatever happens with Gaborik, it seems likely that he won’t finish the season in Minnesota.

Oct 202008
 

The only thing that’s saving the Ducks from being the worst in the league is their one win (4-0 vs. SJ). Some teams have traditionally been off to bad starts (Dallas), but the hockey the Ducks have been playing have been horrendous. In six games, the Ducks’ top offensive weapons in Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, and Chris Kunitz have only combined for a measly 3 points and -18. Instead, it’s the third liners that have done most of the scoring, led by veteran linemates Rob Niedermayer and Travis Moen, both with 4 points. I find it a little surprising that the usually vocal Brian Burke and Randy Carlyle have remained mum on their star players’ disappearing acts, but they probably know something we don’t know. The Ducks will continue to fall if their players refuse to show up for games. Some of the lack of scoring can be attributed to the penalties the Ducks have taken (Getzlaf, Perry, and Selanne aren’t regular penalty killers), but it’s no excuse for 4.2% powerplay. When will they start showing up? How long before Burke makes some noise?

The Pacific Division will be no contest this year if the Sharks continue to play they are – with something to prove. Asides from the loss to the Ducks, the Sharks are 5-0 with a goal differential of +10 (18-8). That is the best ratio in the West, and it shouldn’t be surprising. Jonathan Cheechoo is off to a great start with 4 goals and Patrick Marleau has been pretty good with 4 points. The powerplay is only clicking at 12.5%, but with Todd McLellan behind the bench (he managed Detroit’s powerplay in years past), that number should increase substantially by December. The question is though, how long can the Sharks keep this up? It’s early in the season and the Cup is months away – will the Sharks burn out? The toughest thing in pro hockey is to stay motivated, and will Cheechoo and Marleau be able to keep that pace?

Drew Doughty has been great for the Kings. He has yet to register a point, but is a healthy +2 and logs just under 20 minutes of ice-time per game (19:59). He’s making a strong case for himself to stick around full-time, especially now with Jack Johnson out for an extended period of time. The Kings are a surprising 2-2 to start, with a emphatic win over the cross-town rival Ducks while managing to keep the Sharks on their toes with their home-and-home series at the start of the season. The Kings have only scored 1 more goal than their opponents, and that will be a problem as the season goes on. Jason LaBarbera is playing just fine for now, but he’s no NHL starter. The Kings are only one of three teams (Minnesota and Buffalo) that have had perfect PK so far. Can the Kings play spoiler this year?

The Stars are off to a terrible start and so is Marty Turco, especially after a 6-1 drubbing by the Blues. As stated previously the Stars are slow starters, but they’ve allowed 13 goals in their 3 losses, and with such a defensively tight team it’s unacceptable. The Stars are really feeling the effects of not having Sergei Zubov. Captain Brenden Morrow has been frustrated and he’s starting to take some bad penalties, and along with linemate Mike Ribeiro (they were separated briefly against the Avs), own the team’s worst +/- at -4 and -6, respectively. Fabian Brunnstrom made noise with a hat trick in his debut, and the Stars will look to him to provide some scoring after letting Nik Hagman and Miettinen walk. When will the Stars turn it around?

The Coyotes’ 2-3 start is rather pedestrian, but with a 12-17 GF-GA ratio it’s a little alarming, considering that adding Kurt Sauer and having Ilya Bryzgalov on board for a full season should help defensively. Olli Jokinen has not disappointed, with 6 points in 5 games, while Kyle Turris has pitched in nicely with a goal and 3 helpers, making an early case for a Calder nomination. Trading away Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard took a lot of Phoenix’s depth away, and it’s showing, with the third pairing of David Hale and Keith Yandle both an awful -5. The desert dogs have some cap room to play with and may opt to bring in a veteran presence to their blueline – perhaps either Rhett Warrener, Anders Eriksson, or Kyle McLaren?

Oct 172008
 

Bruce Garrioch, Tim Baines, Don Brennan and Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun wrote a ‘discussion style’ article today that brings up an interesting point about the importance of offense from the defensemen.

Don Brennan: Waiting for you guys to say something smart is like waiting for snow to melt … The Senators’ defence last season was a collection of Orrs, Harveys and Coffeys compared to this group. Each year, the Stanley Cup champions get 200-plus points from their blueline. The Senators will be lucky to get 130 from theirs this season. Case closed.

I decided to look into this a little more. Last years Stanley Cup winner, the Detroit Red Wings, had 204 points from their defensemen in the regular season. That was good for best in the NHL. Here are how the rest of the teams defenses stacked up last year including whether they made the playoffs or not.

Eastern Conference

Rank Team DefPts Playoffs
1 Montreal 198 Y
2 Pittsburgh 160 Y
3 Toronto 160 N
4 Buffalo 154 N
5 Washington 148 Y
6 Florida 146 N
7 Ottawa 146 Y
8 Philadelphia 143 Y
9 Boston 136 Y
10 NY Rangers 134 Y
11 Tampa 131 N
12 Carolina 128 N
13 New Jersey 123 Y
14 NY Islanders 120 N
15 Atlanta 91 N

Western Conference

Rank Team DefPts Playoffs
1 Detroit 204 Y
2 Anaheim 165 Y
3 Nashville 160 Y
4 Chicago 151 N
5 Dallas 150 Y
6 Calgary 148 Y
7 Los Angeles 146 N
8 San Jose 146 Y
9 Minnesota 144 Y
10 Phoenix 140 N
11 Colorado 129 Y
12 St. Louis 120 N
13 Vancouver 116 N
14 Edmonton 114 N
15 Columbus 109 N

In the eastern conference, if offense from the defense was the sole factor in making the playoffs Toronto, Buffalo and Florida would have made it and in the west Chicago and Los Angeles would have. But clearly there is some kind of correlation (direct or indirect) between offense from the defense and a teams success. The bottom four teams in the west and four of the bottom 5 in the east missed the playoffs. Simply put, if your defense aren’t producing much offense you will struggle to make the playoffs.

Going a step further, if we look at each playoff matchup we will find the majority of the matchups had the team with the most regular season points from defensemen winning the playoff series. The only exceptions to this are Dallas (150 points) defeating Anaheim (165 points), Colorado (129) defeating Minnesota (144), San Jose (146) defeating Calgary (148) and Philadelphia (143) defeating Washington (148) in the first round and Philadelphia (143) defeating Montreal (198) in the second round.

Of those 5 exceptions, the San Jose-Calgary and Philadelphia-Washington series very similar point production from their defense (within 5 points of each other) so really they aren’t exceptions. They were also both 7 game series so the closeness of the series matched the closeness of their offense from defensemen totals. Plus San Jose added Brian Campbell to their defense which probably gave them the edge over Calgary in regards to offense from their defense.

That really just leaved three series where the team with the lower scoring defensemen defeated teams with higher scoring defensemen and in the case of Dallas, it isn’t like that are lacking in the offense from defense department anyway. Going back one season we saw two teams with high scoring defenses play in the Stanley Cup finals as the Anaheim Ducks (209) defeat the Ottawa Senators (191).

There are certainly a lot of other factors that go into what makes a successful team but based on the past couple seasons, being able to produce offense from your defense seems to be a fairly important factor. Some highly offensive defensemen switched teams this past summer (Boyle to San Jose, Campbell to Chicago, Visnovsky to Edmonton, Redden to NY Rangers, Streit to NY Islanders, McCabe to Florida, etc) so lets see if this really makes an impact on the success of those teams. So far it is a mixed bag with San Jose (4-0-0), the Rangers (5-1-0) and Edmonton (2-0-0) looking like winners while Chicago (1-2-1) and the Islanders (2-2-0) having mixed results.

As for the Senators, they sit at 1-1-1 with 6 points (on 8 goals) from defensemen with newcomer Filip Kuba leading the team with 4 assists.