Jan 302009
 

We are now on the new server. If anyone has any issues with accessing pages or if they find the new server slow please leave a comment and let me know so I can fix the problem or upgrade the speed of the server if necessary.

Jan 222009
 

Over the past several weeks we have had several tidbits of information come out giving indication to the general state of the NHL economy.

Dec. 22: NHL defies economy, projects rise in revenue

The NHL projects a 2 percent increase in league revenue for the 2008-09 season despite facing one of the worst economic crises to hit North America since the league contracted from 10 to six franchises around the time of the Great Depression

Dec. 24: Report: Coyotes receiving financial assistance from NHL

According to The Globe and Mail, the Coyotes are receiving financial assistance from the National Hockey League to keep the team afloat. The report indicates the team is receiving advances on their share of league revenue.

Jan 18: Paul Kelly Admits Escrow Payments to Rise”

Last night between games on HNIC, NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly was interviewed by Ron MacLean (link to HD video of the entire interview). The first thing they discussed was the rumor that escrow payments made by the players would be rising from 13% of their pay to 17-20%. Kelly wouldn’t say exactly how much the payment would rise, but he did answer in the affirmative that the 17-20% range was accurate.

Jan. 22: Report: Predators may buy own tickets to ensure NHL funds

According to the Tennessean, Predators officials have discussed the option of buying up unsold tickets to ensure they collect the maximum revenue-sharing from the league. Earlier this month, an ESPN.com report indicated the Coyotes forfeited 25% of their full share for failing to meet specific targets.

So, what can we conclude from all of this. First off, not everything is all rosey in all NHL locations despite what Gary Bettman would want you to believe. Clearly the Coyotes and Predators continue to struggle financially and I am sure Tampa, Florida, Atlanta, the Islanders and a few others are not that much better off.

Second, the players are going to have to give back a huge chunk of money because their salaries will far exceed the percentage of revenue they are allotted. This, I believe, will be a first for the players under the new CBA and it will be interesting to see how the players react to not getting as much money as they contracts stipulate. We can be pretty certain that the players will decide not to opt out of the current CBA (a smart thing to do in tough economic times) but when it expires for real in a couple of years when hopefully the economy has turned around and they might be in a better bargaining position, lets see how much of an issue this becomes.

Finally, the 2% revenue increase should give us some insight into what next years salary cap could be. When the salary cap gets set it is based on the previous years revenue and then the players can opt to boost it by up to 5% pending revenue growth projections. The players have always opted to do this including for this season. But, revenue growth has not grown by 5% and thus the cap is essentially higher, by about 3%, that it should be based on this years revenues and this will be reflected in next years salary cap numbers.

A few months ago <a href=”http://www.hockeyanalysis.com/?p=804″I discussed a variety of scenarios of revenue growth and the falling Canadian dollar and the impact they will have on the salary cap next season. I can now refine that projection using the 2% revenue growth number.

2007-08 Revenue: $2.62 billion
2008-09 Revenue: $2.67 billion (estimated based on 2% growth)

With revenue of $2.67 billion next years salary cap will be approximately $55.8 million with the players having the option to increase it to $58.2 million. So far the players have always opted to increase the salary cap the maximum amount they are allowed to but with projections being next years revenue will drop, not increase, it is quite likely they will not opt to implement the salary cap increase.

The NHL probably has fairly good projections for the remainder of this years regular season as many teams have sold a significant portion of their tickets and advertising revenues are all pretty much booked and accounted for. Playoff revenue is a different story as not a single playoff ticket has been sold yet and if the economy is still in the dumpers as many people expect, will NHL teams be able to jack up playoff ticket prices as much this year as they have in the past? If they can’t, that 2% revenue growth could be an optimistic number. Only time will tell but everything seems to be pointing to a drop in the salary cap of $1-2 million next season and quite possibly stagnant or dropping further the following season.

Jan 132009
 

With all the Lecavalier trade talk, the question of the day is this: Is Vincent Lecavalier over rated?

Yesterday I read someone who rated Lecavalier one of the top 10, possibly even a top 5, player in the NHL? Is he this good? Is he even top 20? I am not so sure.

The evidence for Lecavalier being one of the best in the NHL would include the fact that he has won a Stanley Cup, the fact that he has had a 50 goal season and a 108 point season and the fact that in addition to being skilled he can play a physical game. But is this enough to rank him among the elite?

While there is no doubt he is an very good hockey player there is ample evidence to conclude that maybe he isn’t among the best of the best.

In his 10 seasons in the NHL (if you include the first half of this season) he led his team in scoring just three times and was second just two other times.

In his 10 seasons in the NHL he has just two seasons where he achieved a point per game pace.

He has only twice scored more than 35 goals or more than 80 points.

In the season when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup Lecavalier finished 4th in team scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs.

In 752 career NHL games he has just 290 goals and 640 points which is good but unspectacular. For example, Eric Lindros, who also had size and played a physical game, had 372 goals and 865 points in about the same number of games (760).

This year will be just his 4th all-star game appearance, has never won an MVP award and only once was named to the NHL’s second all-star team.

Save for a season or two he has played mostly on bad teams.

That is a lot of evidence against Lecavalier being an elite level star NHL player which many people believe he is. So, is Lecavalier over rated and where would you rank Lecavalier among NHL forwards? Is he worth his 11 year $85 million contract extension he signed in the summer? If you were Tampa, would you consider trading him? If you were Bob Gainey would you trade two or more roster players, a top prospect and a first round pick for Lecavalier?

Jan 092009
 

Back on November 25th the NHL was at the quarter point of the season so I decided to take a look at what it would take for teams to make the playoffs. Now that we are approximately at the halfway point it is time to revisit that question and look at what teams will have to do in the second half if they are to make the post season.

I assumed that a team will need 94 points to make the playoffs which in most years post lock out has been enough though in any given season and conference it may not. Right now in the eastern conference the 8th place Sabres are on pace for 92 points and in the west the 8th place Wild are on pace for 88 points. Once playoff contenders stock up on extra talent at the trade deadline we should see these numbers increase so 94 seems like a reasonable goal if a team wants a really good chance of making the playoffs.

Team GP Pts Pts/Gm GR RPts RPts/GR %Pace
Boston 41 64 1.56 41 30 0.73 46.9
Washington 41 57 1.39 41 37 0.90 64.9
Montreal 40 54 1.35 42 40 0.95 70.5
Philadelphia 41 53 1.29 41 41 1.00 77.4
New Jersey 40 49 1.23 42 45 1.07 87.5
NY Rangers 42 51 1.21 40 43 1.08 88.5
Buffalo 40 45 1.13 42 49 1.17 103.7
Carolina 42 47 1.12 40 47 1.18 105.0
Florida 41 44 1.07 41 50 1.22 113.6
Pittsburgh 42 44 1.05 40 50 1.25 119.3
Toronto 41 38 0.93 41 56 1.37 147.4
Ottawa 39 32 0.82 43 62 1.44 175.7
Tampa Bay 40 32 0.80 42 62 1.48 184.5
Atlanta 42 33 0.79 40 61 1.53 194.1
NY Islanders 42 28 0.67 40 66 1.65 247.5

In the above table you will find how many games played (GP) and points (Pts) the team currently has and their points per game pace (Pts/Gm). Next you will see the number of games remaining (GR) and how many points they require (RPts) to reach 94 points total and their required points per game pace (RPts/GR) to reach 94 points. In the last column you will find the percentage of their current pace they must maintain over their remaining schedule to make the playoffs (%Pace = (RPts/GP) / (Pts/Gm) ).

Boston is all but a lock to make the playoffs not even needing to pick up points at half the pace they have been to reach the magic number of 94 points. Washington, Montreal and Philadelphia look to be in pretty solid positions if they can avoid any lengthy losing streaks while New Jersey and the Rangers look to be on fairly solid ground as well but should get too complacent. Then things get quite interesting as Buffalo, Carolina, Florida and Pittsburgh are all currently in a tight battle. All are in striking distance which one will pick up their game enough to grab that final spot, or will a pair of them really pick up their games and challenge the Rangers or Devils. My money is on either Pittsburgh or Buffalo as they have the most talent but Carolina is a balanced team and Florida plays a very good defensive game and has good goaltending.

Toronto would need to go on a real lengthy hot streak to get back in the race while the remaining four teams, Ottawa, Tampa, Atlanta and the Islanders, can all but book early spring vacations. Toronto would have to gain points nearly 50% faster in the second half than they did in the first half for them to make the playoffs and the remaining four teams would need to see a 75% improvement. In the Islanders case they need to get points two and a half times faster than they did in the first half of the year to make the playoffs. In short, they need to be as good as Montreal and Chicago were in the first half. Don’t be betting on that happening. I hope John Tavares likes Long Island.

Continue reading »

Jan 072009
 

Sorry for being pretty absent over the past few weeks. I was away for a couple weeks on vacation visiting family and stuff. But things should hopefully pick up from here on.

I would like to take a moment to announce that Joe, from Joe’s Washington Hockey Blog has moved his blog to Capitals.hockeyanalysis.com and will become the maintainer of the Capitals blog on HockeyAnalysis.com. Joe will be a great addition to HockeyAnalysis.com as the Capitals are challenge Boston for top spot in the east and are a represent the eastern conference and are a serious threat to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.

Brian Burke’s first trade as Leafs GM was anything but a blockbuster acquiring Brad May from the Anaheim Duck’s, but it does confirm indicate that Burke really likes to acquire players he knows well. As I have said before, Burke isn’t one to make a trade just to dump a player he doesn’t want or need, he makes trades to acquire a player he wants. He wanted to add more toughness and Brad May was his guy.

Despite the fact that the Senators have one of the worst records in hockey, many people still claim that they are a very talented team playing below where they should be. They have three highly skilled players in Heatley, Spezza and Alfredsson but might be the least talented team in the NHL from player #4 on. Their #5 point producer is Alexandre Picard, who hardly had a regular shift in Tampa last year. Brendan Bell, who couldn’t make the Phoenix Coyote’s team last year is not getting a regular shift and nearly 17 minutes a game on Ottawa’s defense. Jason Smith who saw his ice time diminish significantly in Philadelphia last year is now getting 18 minutes a game for the Senators. Winchester, Ruutu, Foligno, Donovan, Phillips, Volchenkov, Kelly, Schubert, Neil, McAmmond, etc. all have their beneficial attributes but being highly skilled are generally not among them. Please, the era of the Sens being one of the most talented teams in the NHL is well behind us.

Don’t look now but the laughing stock of the NHL early in the season are now back in the playoff race. Yes, I am talking about the Dallas Stars who are now one game above .500 with 39 points and trail 8th place Phoenix by just 4 points and have 3 games in hand. The Stars are 9-5-1 since the Sean Avery incident and subsequent suspension. Prior to that they were just 8-11-4.

The Jonathan Tavares sweepstakes will probably come down to three teams, the New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, and the St. Louis Blues. The Islanders are a downright horrible team with no stars and the Thrashers aren’t much better with just one star player who is playing poorly. Both will likely trade away more talent come the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Blues have been devastated by injuries. It started off with Erik Johnson before the season began and Paul Kariya, Eric Brewer and Jay McKee are out with injuries. This Blues team probably wouldn’t have challenged for a playoff spot but without Johnson, Kariya, Brewer and McKee they just aren’t a very good team. My bet is Tavares goes to one of the eastern conference teams but the Blues will be in the hunt with their injury situation. Honorable mention goes to toe Lightning and Senators who probably will be able to stay ahead of these other dreadful teams.

Kris Versteeg leads all rookies with 13 goals and 33 points and may very well have the inside track on rookie of the year thus far (now that Brassard, my pre-season pick is injured and out for the season) but two guys to watch for are Bobby Ryan and Steve Mason. Ryan has 8 goals and 22 points in just 23 games and has been playing a key role in Anaheim’s offense. Ryan was the second overall pick in 2005 behind some guy names Sidney Crosby and he is finally showing why he was so deserving of being picked so high in the draft. Meanwhile, Steve Mason has gotten the Columbus Blue Jackets in the playoff hunt with a 13-9-1 record with 5 shut outs, a 1.82 gaa and a .934 save percentage. His goals against average and save percentage are both tops in the NHL. If he can continue to play anywhere close to this level for the remainder of the season he’ll be a lock for rookie of the year.

Hero to Zero

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Jan 022009
 

The last original member of the Minnesota Wild will be switching jerseys next year. Doug Risebrough and his front office staff made a good run at trying to re-sign franchise star Marian Gaborik, and reportedly offered an 8-year, $64m contract but only to be spurned. Gaborik’s departure was clear, but with the Wild expected to make the playoffs it created an interesting situation. It didn’t make any sense to keep Gaborik past the trade deadline, but it also didn’t make sense to trade away the franchise’s most potent offensive weapon before the playoff run.

Gaborik broke out last year with a 42-goal, 77-games played effort, temporarily dispelling any tags of being injury-prone. But, as some expected, the injury bug bit the Slovak winger again and has only appeared in 6 games thus far. This does not bode well for a UFA-to-be winger who is going to ask for top dollar and a long-term contract. In 8 seasons in the NHL not once has the winger played a full 82-game season, and only 4 times in which he has played more than 70 games.

Sometime next week, Gaborik is expected to undergo hip surgery and will be out for at least 10 weeks, and even for Gaborik and the Wild that is wildly optimistic due to his past history. He came back briefly and unsurprisingly showed brilliance offensively, but was asked by management to take two games off to rest his groin. It made sense for the Wild – they’re playing well enough without its star and giving him extra rest means a less likelihood of him re-injuring or aggravating his groin. However, as local Minnesota reporter Michael Russo reports, it seemed fishy from the beginning.

Barring a miracle comeback, the Wild will not be able to trade Gaborik and even if they did they won’t be getting a package good enough for them to pull the trigger. There’s just simply too many question marks surrounding Gaborik. He’s only 26 and many experts believe that Gaborik’s just scratching the surface of what he can do and he’s worth every penny – if he plays. Earning just a shade over $6m this year, Gaborik will be looking for a pay raise, but unless Gaborik agrees to a contract with an injury clause much like Eric Lindros‘ (in which his pay was wholly dependent on how many games he plays), a lot of teams would be strongly cautioned to throw that much money at him. The stat that many GMs will use as a case to sign him though? The Wild are 42 games above .500 when he plays and 9 games under .500 when he doesn’t.

One For the Books

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Jan 012009
 

I’m a big World Juniors fan. I think it’s one of the best tournaments in the world in terms of showcasing the best international talent. I’ve held off commenting about Canada until now, and only because they haven’t really been challenged until tonight against USA. It was the marquee tilt before the new year, and it didn’t disappoint.

This Canada squad is arguably one of the weaker ones in the past five years. Other than John Tavares, there really is no clear-cut gamebreaking forward. In past years, Canada has really been able to depend on at least two scorers. This is not taking anything away from Cody Hodgson, who has been outstanding in his own right, but offensively he is not nearly as gifted as Kyle Turris or Steve Stamkos, both members of last year’s squad.

Going into the tournament, even strength was a problem because of this. Tavares was obviously going to tear up the tournament on the powerplay, but even strength offense fell to the shoulders of Hodgson’s line with Jordan Eberle and Zach Boychuk. When your most offensively gifted player is expected to have problems 5-on-5, it’s a little worrisome, but fortunately for Canada they have incredible depth in all positions. Early on in the game the Americans took advantage, jumping out to an early 3-0 lead with two even strength goals by Kevin Shattenkirk and Jim O’Brien. Dustin Tokarski, the “big game” goalie, looked rusty after 9 days of rest, but after allowing just one goal for the next 48 minutes of play he certainly earned the win.

Penalties abound in the game, but USA put themselves in a pickle two straight penalties from Matt Rust and Blake Kessel. Perhaps it’s because international hockey rules are more stringent about stick infractions and hits, but it seemed as though both teams had some trouble early on adjusting to referees Vyacheslav Bulanov and Tom Laaksonen. With Canada on the powerplay the floodgates opened, with two quick goals from Tavares, the second one a beauty (as if he hasn’t filled the highlight reel enough). In all the Canadians scored 4 of their 5 goals (excluding the empty netters) on the powerplay. With the Canadians’ speed and tenacity it’s easy for the other team to take penalties and it occurs more often at this age because players are a little less mature and composed. James van Riemsdyk was a clear victim of this after snapping his stick after taking a slashing penalty. Not surprisingly van Riemsdyk was held off the scoresheet despite being one of the tournament’s top scorers. Even when Canada has trouble scoring, they’ve traditionally always been able to take out their opponent’s stars. This year it was holding van Riemsdyk, along with Colin Wilson (who was robbed by Tokarski when he was alone in front) off the scoresheet. Jordan Schroeder was limited to one helper. Instead I thought it was the speedy Tyler Johnson and Aaron Palushaj who were USA’s best forwards. Drayson Bowman was solid as well but I don’t feel he stepped up his play against such a tough opponent. Remember even Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were held to moderate effectiveness in their world junior appearances against Canada.

No doubt this team is heads and shoulders above the rest of the competition, despite boasting relatively less known players like Stefan Della Rovere and Patrice Cormier, but both who are quickly making a name for themselves for their strong forecheck and physical play. Both players responded immediately when Chris Di Domenico was hit in the face by a stick when skating by the American bench. The ensuing scuffle really strained the tension between the two teams. While it can be argued that the Americans were unsportsmanlike for doing this, the same can be said for the Canadian players who rubbed it into USA a bit by skating so close by their bench. Regardless, the incident sets the stage for future Canada-USA battles, which will no doubt always be as tense, if not tenser. After an American boom with Mike Modano, USA Hockey remained quiet but have yet again returned to prominence with guys like future USA ambassador Patrick Kane leading the way in the NHL. Canada will face much tougher competition from USA in the future – sorry, USA, but you can’t deny the fact that Sweden and Russia have been better in the past 2-3 years. Clearly the player who high sticked Di Domenico was thinking about setting the stage for future battles in mind…

Ryan Ellis has been a revelation on the blueline. The diminutive 18-year old has been a force on the powerplay, and his poise with the puck is incredible. Him and PK Subban has anchored a incredible Canadian powerplay which is clicking at close to 70%. However, I think one of the bigger disappointments for this team, in my mind, is Alex Pietrangelo. The St. Louis first rounder is an excellent puck mover and I don’t think he looked too out of place in his short stint with the Blues. However, I was a little surprised when Pat Quinn named Ellis as the the top powerplay quarterback instead of Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo has been limited to the second powerplay unit and spot duty on even strength – I think a little disappointing for him and the Blues, who were no doubt expecting Pietrangelo to play a key role for Canada. I think for the Blues Pietrangelo will be a long-term project, as opposed to Erik Johnson who had a great rookie season and seemed to make the transition without much trouble.

With the win Canada advances to the semis, and will face the winner between Russia and the Czech Republic. Good luck to the boys.

Another note: I wonder if it’s a warning flag for some teams when Tavares can’t score on even strength. Sure, he broke Wayne Gretzky‘s scoring record in the OHL, but I don’t even remember Gretzky being so night and day on the powerplay or 5-on-5. He’s no doubt a top end talent, and he would be my first pick, but since Sidney Crosby a lot of Canadian kids (especially top 5 picks) have been, well, overhyped. Turris is having trouble adjusting to the NHL game and by all accounts should’ve stayed at another year in the NCAA, but I think he was rushed and it doesn’t help with the Great One throwing so much praise and support on him.