Mar 172009
 

With Martin Brodeur matching and soon passing Patrick Roy for the most wins by a goalie in the history of the NHL there has been a lot of discussion of who was the best goalie ever. Is it Patrick Roy or is it Martin Brodeur? Out of those two goalies, I think the edge probably still lies with Patrick Roy for a number of reasons that I won’t go into right now. What I want to discuss is Dominik Hasek and how he is probably a better goalie than either Roy or Brodeur.

Hasek is an interesting case and most people will immediately dismiss him because he didn’t win multiple Stanley Cups, and isn’t even close to the leaders in career wins (he is 10th with 389 trailing Roy and Brodeur’s 551). But here is where things we get into the question of how much do we reward players for longevity. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur were great goalies for a longer time span than Hasek, but there is probably little argument that Hasek was easily the best goalie in the NHL from 1993-94 to 2000-2002. During that 9 year span he won two Hart Trophy’s as the league MVP and six Vezina trophies as the NHL’s best goalie. He led the league in save percentage for 6 straight years from 1993-94 to 1998-99 and in many of those seasons the runner up wasn’t even close.

Dominik Hasek is the all time leader in career save percentage with a .9223 save. Second place is Roberto Luongo at .9188 and Brodeur and Roy are at .9136 and .9102 respectively. But what makes Hasek’s numbers really special is that he did it on some Buffalo teams that were hardly star laden. In 1996-97 he played 67 games and posted a 37-20-10 record witha n outstanding .930 save percentage on a team whose top 10 scorers were Derek Plante, Brian Holzinger, Donald Audette, Michael Peca, Jason Dawe, Dixon Ward, Matthew Barnaby, Garry Galley, Micheal Grosek and Alexei Zhitnik. That is hardly the kind of talent that Brodeur and certainly Roy have played behind.

So the question is, should we penalize Hasek because he started his career late, partly because he is from the Czech Republic and came to North America late (he was 26 when he came to North America) and late in his career he suffered from injuries? I guess the answer is yes, longevity should count for something, but in Hasek’s case he has played 735 games, which puts him 18th on the list of most games played by goalies. I think that is good enough for you to not penalize him very much for longevity.

The last remaining question is, how much should we value career wins and Stanley Cup wins and playoff success in general. Here is where Hasek really trails Roy and Brodeur but is it really fair to Hasek that he didn’t play on some of the all-star laden squads that Roy and Brodeur played on? I say no. He should not be. We should evaluate goalies solely on what they do, not what the teams they play on achieve. Hasek doesn’t have the same playoff team success as either Brodeur or Roy but he has a better playoff save percentage than either Brodeur or Roy. Hasek also has an Olympic gold which he played a major role posting a minuscule 0.98 goals against average and an outstanding .961 save percentage.

I can’t say that Hasek is the best goalie ever because I have a hard time evaluating goalies before I started following hockey in a serious way in the mid 1980′s. But, I will say that Hasek is by far the best goalie I have ever seen. Better than Roy. Better than Brodeur.

Mar 092009
 

A recent blog post from Howard Berger suggests that because of that lack of moves by Brian Burke at the trade deadline we should take it is as an indication that Brian Burke is in no rush to make over the Toronto lineup, despite what everyone thought when Burke took over the team just over 3 months ago now. Well, everyone except me. Back when Burke was hired I wrote the following:

Other than Antropov, I really don’t think anyone is a sure bet to be traded. I don’t think Burke will come in and say ‘I have to trade players X, Y and Z for whatever draft picks I can get for them’ as many believe he should.

Except for Dominic Moore being traded, I was right. But enough about that, where does Howard see this team going heading into next season:

That’s because the Leafs are contractually bound to 16 players from the current team – or 69.6% of the 23-man roster. These players include forwards Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan, Nikolai Kulemin, Jamal Mayers and John Mitchell; defensemen Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn, Luke Schenn, Jonas Frogren and Ian White; and goalie Vesa Toskala. Does that club look familiar?

Not all of the aforementioned are in the upper echelon in salary, so Burke will have a sizeable amount of cap room to work with. But, teams can still only dress 20 players each night. As such, Burke has a key philosophical decision to make: Does he want the Leafs to stay the same, or to tail off for at least a year? Right now, there is no answer to the question. And it’s the most common thread among several-hundred e-mail submissions I received over the weekend for a Q & A blog I’ll get to in a couple of days… almost all of you wondering – as do I – what course Burke will follow in the off-season, and how that course will impact 2009-10.

The early evidence suggests that Burke isn’t overly anxious to detonate the roster. This is partly because of the monumental effort required to do so [look, again, at the above list of signed players], but it also involves the intrinsic quality of a GM that has worked his way into one of the NHL’s hottest markets. Burke simply doesn’t like to lose hockey games. Missing the playoffs this season will be a radical departure for the GM that raised the Stanley Cup only two short years ago. Though he must understand the Leafs will endure more pain before they harvest any meaningful gain, such actions are easier spoken of than followed.

There are couple of interesting things Howard wrote in the above portion of his blog post. The first is, why does Burke only have the options “to stay the same” or “to tail off for at least a year?” Why isn’t there a third option of, “improve the club for 2009-10?” The second interesting point Howard made was “The early evidence suggests that Burke isn’t overly anxious to detonate the roster.” My response to that is, why must Burke detonate the roster?

I think I know why Howard wrote these two things. I think he wrote them because he, like so many of his fellow Toronto sports media friends, believe the only way to improve a team is to tear it down to next to nothing, be really bad for several seasons to get high draft picks, and then rebuild again. But why must this be the case? Is this how Boston turned their team around? Is this how Philadelphia turned their team around? Is this how Burke’s Anaheim Ducks were built? The answer to all three questions are No. Philadelphia and Boston were 13th and 15th in the eastern conference just two seasons ago. The only teams that do a complete tear down and rebuild are the small market franchises that partly do it to save money like the Penguins of the past and in recent years the Coyotes, Blues, Islanders and Kings. When was the last time San Jose, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Vancouver or Montreal did something like this?

The fact is, the Leafs have already made significant changes to their roster . Since Cliff Fletcher took over for John Ferguson Jr. Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Andrew Raycroft, Nik Antropov, Dominic Moore, Alexander Steen, Carlo Colaiacovo, Kyle Wellwood, Hal Gill, Chad Kilger, Wade Belak, Johnny Pohl, Andy Wozniewski, and Staffan Kronwall have left the club while Hagman, Grabovski, Kulemin, Stempniak, Mitchell, Finger, Van Ryn, Mayers, Frogren, Schenn, May and others have been brought in. That is quite a turn over already. A lot of young players have been given the opportunity to show their stuff this season and this will continue as physical defenseman Phil Oreskovic will get an opportunity to play tonight against the Senators.
Continue reading »

Mar 062009
 

We all know that we are in a global recession right now and that this is likely to have a serious impact on a number of industries, including professional sports. We have seen several sports leagues and organizations cut back staff or cut ticket prices and we have all read about the speculation of how the recession will impact salary caps in leagues where the salary cap exists. No doubt the recession is going to have an economic impact in the short term, but what kind of effect will it have in the long term?

The last 20-30 years has no doubt been a boon for pro sports as players salaries and franchise valuations have skyrocketed. A big reason for this has been the role of sports media. In September, ESPN will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary as the first “all sports” television station and from it began a huge growth in sports coverage. Now there are several all sports stations including sport specific sports stations and dozens, if not hundred plus all sports radio stations. All of these television and radio stations have needed content which has driven up local and national broadcast rights revenue and all of the sports talk shows have really boosted the overall interest in sports. Then the internet and blogs came along and fans themselves could create their own sports content and generate their own sports buzz.

It didn’t stop with fans either. City, state/provincial and even federal politicians got all caught up in the sports buzz and many of them took a ‘if you build it they will come’ attitude and several cities built, largely with taxpayer money, sports stadiums and arenas. Some cities didn’t even have pro sports franchises but built them in hopes of attracting one (see Las Vegas and Kansas City who are looking for hockey or basketball franchises for their mostly empty arenas). Sports leagues accepted many cities offers and expanded, landing themselves huge expansion fee revenue in the process.

But things are changing. The boon in professional sports has coincided with an overall boon in personal consumption of everything from big houses, to big SUVs to big screen TVs, and spending hundreds of dollars, several times a year to go watch a sporting event. The result is that the savings rate for individuals has fallen from 10+ percent in the early 1980s to the point where the American savings rate was negative meaning people on average spend more of their disposable income than they actually had. As you can imagine, this isn’t sustainable for very long and the end result is what we have now: an economic collapse.

So what happens if people, and businesses, decide they can no longer spend without concern for the future and decide that instead of spending every penny they have, and then some, they should save money closer to historical norms, 8-10%, how is this going to affect professional sports? It is quite possible that we see an unravelling of much of what has happened in the professional sports industry over the last 20-30 years. If people decide, as they pretty much have to, to spend less money, not only will that mean they will likely choose to go to fewer sporting events, but also they will be buying fewer cars, taking fewer vacations, going out to dinner less frequently, buying fewer ‘designer’ items. That in turn will put business in a crunch while will force them to cut advertising budgets (if no one is buying, there is no need to advertise anyway) and advertising revenue for sports franchises will take a significant hit. It will also mean less advertising revenue for sports media outlets which will result in those media outlets being less interested in paying big bucks for broadcasting rights.

As the North American economy shifts from a largely consumption based economy back to a more balanced consumption/savings based economy professional sports will have to adjust. This is not just going to be managing through a one to two year recession; which will have a quick and immediate impact on league revenues. This will also entail a more long-term adjustment process where individuals will value saving money as much or more than spending it. Adjustments have begun to occur as well both within sports leagues and franchises and in related industries (one of the first, and once highly successful, all-sports radio stations, WDFN in Detroit, has eliminated all local content). The professional sports heyday is over and an era of recession likely followed by a decade stagnation is likely in store for professional sports.

Mar 042009
 

I’ll update this with any late trade announcements as they come in.

Florida trades Noah Welch and 3rd round pick for Steve Eminger
Columbus acquired Kevin Lalande from Calgary for a 4th round pick
San Jose sends Kyle MacLaren to Philadelphia for a 6th round pick
Chicago acquired Sammy Pahlsson from Chicago for James Wisniewski
San Jose acquires Travis Moen and Kent Huskins from Anaheim for Nick Bonnino, Tim Pihlmeye and
Conditional Draft Pick
Los Angeles trades Patrick O’Sullivan and the Flames second round pick to Carolina for Justin Williams
Carolina trades Patrick O’Sullivan and Carolina’s second round pick to Edmonton for Erik Cole
Edmonton trades a second round pick to Buffalo for Ales Kotalik
Tampa trades Olaf Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers, 4th round pick for Richard Petiot

The last one is a salary dump for the Lightning which should save the Lightning about $500,000.

Mar 042009
 

Derek Morris has been traded to New York Rangers for Dmitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes and Prucha.

Dominic Moore has been traded to Buffalo for the Carolina Hurricanes second round pick. Details to follow.

Erik Christensen traded from Atlanta to Anaheim for Eric O’Dell, Anaheim’s second round pick from last year.

Jay Bouwmeester has not been traded.

Carcillo/Upshall/Antropov

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Mar 042009
 

The Flyers have acquired toughness in Dan Carcillo from the Phoenix Coyotes for Scottie Upshall and a second round pick. I think the Coyotes did well in this trade with Upshall and a second round pick but the Flyers do well as well by adding a high energy physical player for a guy, Upshall, who really was lost behind all of the other Flyer forwards.

Also, the Leafs have traded Antopov to NY Rangers for a second round pick plus another conditional pick. Brian Burke wanted a first round pick but he had to settle for a second round pick, which could easily be a mid-second round pick. The conditional pick is probably dependent on whether the Flyers make the playoffs or not.

Guerin to Penguins

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Mar 042009
 

Bill “where will he go” Guerin has been traded to Pittsburgh for a conditional pick. Along with Kunitz this is a very good deal and gives the Penguins a solid second line of Crosby, Kunitz and Guerin. The Penguins, should they make the playoffs, are now potentially a team that can make another long run.

The deal is Guerin for a 5th round pick, but if the Penguins make the playoffs it becomes a 4th round pick, and if they win a playoff round it becomes a 3rd round pick.

Recchi to Boston

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Mar 042009
 

Mark Recchi has been traded to the Boston Bruins with a 2010 second round pick for defenseman Matt Lashoff and forward Martins Karsums. As good as the Bruins have been, they don’t have a ton of experienced playoff performers so this (along with Montador) is a good pick up for the Bruins. Recchi has a lot of playoff experience and a couple of Stanley Cup rings.

Jokinen to Calgary

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Mar 042009
 

TSN is reporting that Olli Jokinen and a 3rd round pick have been traded to Calgary for Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Brust and a first round pick. The Flames will need to free up some cap space and the most likely candidate to be moved Adrian Aucoin and his $4 million contract.

In another minor trade, Boston has traded Petteri Nokelainen to Anaheim for defenseman Steve Montador. Montador isn’t the Duck defenseman that the Bruins were rumoured to be after (Pronger) but he’ll provide some good depth for them.

Mar 042009
 

There have been four waiver pickups and a pair of minor trades.

-Toronto picks up Martin Gerber off waivers from Ottawa and defenseman Eric Reitz from New York.
-The Dallas Stars have picked up Brendan Morrison off waivers from Anaheim.
-The Pittsburgh Penguins have picked up Craig Adams off waivers from Chicago

The Buffalo Sabres have acquired goaltending insurance by picking up Mikael Tellqvist from Phoenix for a 4th round pick.

Pittsburgh has acquired defenseman Andy Wozniewski from St. Louis for defenseman Danny Richmond.