[Author's note: Power rankings are usually three things: Bad, wrong, and boring. You typically know just as well as the authors which teams won what games against who and what it all means, so our moving the Red Wings up four spots or whatever really doesn't tell you anything you didn't know. Who's hot, who's not, who cares? For this reason, we're doing a power ranking of things that are usually not teams. You'll see what I mean.]
9. Finally, the Kings get an outdoor game
It's hard to be sure at what point one just has to resign oneself to the idea that the NHL is going to keep pumping these outdoor games until every market has gotten a crack at it two or three times, but I have to feel like I'm coming up on it soon.
I really do get it: These things make ludicrous sums of money for the league, and that's good for owners and players alike. That obviously makes sense. But here's my thing with this continued insistence on playing multiple outdoor games a year: There's no effort to mix things up.
The Los Angeles Kings are obviously one of the great teams in the league and the only real choice for the Sharks to play in an outdoor game, particularly because of how things went in the playoffs last season. This is a rivalry game that builds on top of the previously existing dislike between the teams. Add in a brand new stadium and it's all well and good.
But do I really need to see the Kings play outdoors twice in less than 13 months? Especially with all the pomp and circumstance and “this is such a unique experience”-ing that comes with it? And really, the Kings aren't an especially engaging team to watch.
They're excellent, obviously, but for entertainment value wouldn't you rather see just about any team in the league? The aesthetic value of any outdoor game is necessarily diminished by the conditions under which the game is played, and adding in a team that's already not particularly pleasing to the eye makes it worse.
Plus, you know, there's all these other good hockey markets out there that should maybe get a crack at it. Minnesota still hasn't played one, which is ridiculous. The Jets could sell out any stadium in Manitoba. Finding the right venue could make the Stars or Predators more popular in their markets.
That's the thing, I guess. These games are almost guaranteed to sell out. Even if it's an oddity — and let's be honest in calling a game in an otherwise largely disinterested market at Dodger Stadium just that — it draws interest from the average sports fan. These markets don't have the glamor of Los Angeles and New York, and obviously I'm not advocating for an outdoor game in Miami or Phoenix, but for a league that's always accused of playing favorites, the NHL sure does play favorites a lot.
Sports is a business, sure, but there's something to be said for being equitable here.
8. Stopping cap circumvention
Marc Savard is taking a job with the Ottawa 67s of the OHL, working as a scout this coming season. It is truly great to see him be able to get out and do things again after what seems like such a long, dark period in his life brought on simply because he played a game.
With that having been said, it is ludicrous that the Bruins keep getting the cap benefit of simply leaving him on the long-term injured reserve and don't take the heat from his cap-circumventing contract. If he's not actively trying to make it back to the NHL so that he can still be written off — and he 100 percent should not actively try that — the least he can do is keep up appearances and not actually take another hockey job. Again, I'm all for him getting out of the house and actually doing something, but the Bruins shouldn't continue to benefit.
If he was retiring at this age having played hockey the last few years, there'd be no concerns about the cap recapture penalty. It would be accepted as a fact of life. This is the reason why Chris Pronger isn't officially working in the Flyers' front office at this very moment: It's a little too dubious to say he's both trying to be in the NHL and also definitely taking an office job somewhere.
Now granted, the recapture penalty for Savard, at this point, wouldn't be too bad, but the Bruins are: a) in a bit of a cap crunch to begin with, and b) clearly skirting the rules here. So why don't they have to pay the price for it?
7. Shady Russian offers
Speaking of the Bruins, turns out their prized young “defense”man Torey Krug apparently got a big-money KHL offer, corroborated by just one ultra pro-Bruins media member (who recently compared Krug, laughably, to Jake Gardiner). And wouldn't you know it, that offer came right when the team's contract talks would probably have been heating up.
Obviously this is a bit of grandstanding by the player's representation, because even if Krug did get a big-money offer in the Russian league, the likelihood that he'd take it — for a lot of reasons — seems quite small.
Let's think about who takes KHL offers in this day and age. Russian players of all stripes who want to go home, at least for a little while. Aging Eastern Europeans. Borderline NHLers. Torey Krug is none of those. He's an American-born already-established bottom-pairing offensive defenseman who can be a weapon on the power play. Is he overrated in Boston? Of course. But he's not the kind of player who typically decides to pick up stakes and rough it for Barys Astana, or whichever team is proffering this money. Hey, how's a game in the Ukraine sound? One for which you have to fly on a 60-year-old plane with chickens to get there. Cool.
If this is anything other than an attempt to wring an extra year and $1 million per out of the Bruins, I'd be shocked.
6. The NHL hate map
It was a little shocking to see more people hate the Bruins than the Penguins, Leafs, or Flyers. Well, not that shocking.
5. Ovechkin's value
Once again we have to have the discussion about how valuable Alex Ovechkin is. And somehow, it's not one of those, “Yeah, but how super-valuable is he because he's obviously super-valuable?” ones. It's an “Is he really all that good?” one.
Craig Custance recently talked to 12 “NHL executives, coaches, and players” to find out who they'd pick as their mythic One Player To Start a Franchise. The answers were largely what you'd expect: Crosby and Toews and Stamkos and Kopitar and Doughty and Getzlaf and Tavares. And so on.
One name notably absent from the top-13 list was Alex Ovechkin. And so now we have to once again examine whether Ovechkin is actually one of the top 13 players in the league based on a number of factors, not the least of which is his current value. This, again, is the reigning back-to-back Rocket Richard winner.
Neil Greenberg did a great job of breaking down why Ovechkin remains one of the more valuable players in the league, even going forward. Hint: It's because he's really good. In terms of “point shares” (that is, the overall number of points Ovechkin's overall game will bring to whichever team he plays for over the remainder of his career) he's about even with Evgeni Malkin, and actually a little bit ahead of Ryan Getzlaf. A bunch of other guys remain ahead of him, but in terms of actual value, there are only seven superstars you can expect to provide more than him by this metric.
I guess point shares don't take into account his terrible plus-minus!!! What a bum!!!!!
4. The Sharks' quote-unquote rebuild
It was pointed out yesterday that the Sharks are once again — for about the third or fourth time this summer, by my count — trying to walk back all that rebuild talk once they realized they couldn't blow it all up. Probably smart that this is how it unfolds, with no rebuilding at all, instead.
The one aspect of the rebuild that isn't being talked about much, though, is Brent Burns apparently moving back to the blue line. This is something that strikes me as a little baffling. Since his move to forward about halfway through the 2013 season season, he's been very, very good for San Jose.
We're talking 68 points in 93 games, a pace for 60 points in an 82-game season. We're talking about a plus-4.3 corsi relative (on the Sharks!). We're talking about a very strong top-line winger. In terms of goals for per 20 minutes of even-strength ice time, Burns is ninth in the league over the last two seasons. Ahead of guys like Thomas Vanek, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos, Max Pacioretty, Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, and so on. This is not some strange coincidence.
And they're giving all that up to move him back to the blue line, where he was certainly good, but by no means earth-shattering. His scoring when he was a defender in 2010-11 and 2011-12 ranked him tied for 77th among NHL defensemen (the same number as Joni Pitkanen, and behind Nikita Nikitin), and his possession numbers simply weren't as good. Was he a quality defenseman? Sure he was, but he wasn't that difference-makingly great of a defender that would make this idea actually palatable.
The argument, I guess, is that the Sharks can put basically anyone with Joe Thornton and watch them put up a 60-point season (or perhaps better) with some amount of ease. That makes sense. After all, we still remember who Jonathan Cheechoo is simply because of Thornton's abilities. Which, by the way, have to be considered somewhat waning at this point in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
So okay, let's say you can plug anyone in there and expect that performance. And that you now have a top pairing of Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. That makes your power play terrifying, does it not? But it also makes the rest of your defense not as good; the Sharks have just one left-shot defenseman of note (it's Vlasic), meaning that you're just moving guys out of position with this move, even if you're move a trained, younger forward into that wing slot alongside Thornton.
The Sharks have a problem on the blue line, it's true. That's probably the biggest reason they lost to the Kings (and not “chemistry” or “clutch” or whatever other mumbo jumbo). And they got rid of Brad Stuart, which was smart. But they still haven't addressed the big problem with this team. Not with this move, and not at all this summer.
3. Suing Charles Wang
It's all well and good to find it funny that Charles Wang is being sued for not selling the Islanders — and especially for such a dumb alleged reason as “the Clippers' asking price was high” — but the fact of the matter is that this whole time, he's still going to own the Islanders and he's still going to be bad at it.
Tough bounce for Isles fans. But they can take solace in the fact their team will probably be pretty good this year. And make the team more valuable. And Wang probably less likely to sell. And... oh.
2. Paying old guys
Selanne might sign a $5 million deal to play for a Finnish team in the KHL, which allow him to only play home games because travel sucks, especially in the KHL. This isn't a bad idea in a garbage league with a team looking for some pop both on the ice and at the box office. Not bad at all.
Alfredsson might re-up with Detroit with the Red Wings carrying the understanding that he wouldn't play every night. Two out of every three games or something like that, maybe. Definitely not any back-to-backs. And for that, he'd probably get an incentive-rich deal with a relatively low base salary so as not to upset the cap-ple cart. (They have nearly $5.3 million to spend, says Capgeek, but between Alfredsson and Danny DeKeyser's new deal, they're probably going to come close to that mark.)
It's shrewd, inso far as Alfredsson can still help a team that needs help, even at his age. But here's the problem: The Red Wings already have a billion forwards.
Not counting Alfredsson, the number of right wings on the roster is already fairly high (five if you count Anthony Mantha, who seems likely to make the team), and 13 of their forwards are on one-way deals. Thirteen! That doesn't include Alfredsson, and Tomas Jurco, who's the only one not on a two-way. It's crazy.
Granted, Alfredsson won't play every night — a fun and new way for Ken Holland to keep potential NHLers from being full-time contributors — but nonetheless, they'd carrying 15 NHL forwards and seven D. Plus two goalies is 24 roster players.
So who do you send down? Jurco's your only option, unless you find something to do with Danny Cleary and Drew Miller. Which you should.
The work has been unimpeachable for so long that someone had to take notice one day. And because the work is unimpeachable, all the crusty media types who just a few years ago were screaming that bloggers were ruining hockey are now screaming that Tyler Dellow is not a nice person.
As though not being a nice person were in some way a means of disqualifying someone from holding a job for which they are eminently and demonstrably qualified. Dellow, it turns out, thinks and sees the game in a different way than just about everyone else, and has repeatedly shown why his video-plus-statistics analysis is important.
Derek van Diest went on Edmonton radio this week and just about cried over the hiring, saying Dellow couldn't understand the Oilers because he doesn't watch it live (an inexplicably silly argument). And also that Dellow is a jerk about things, who attacks those with whom he disagrees. Which is true.
He moreover said that this is just the Oilers making sure Dallas Eakins had all the tools he wanted to properly run an NHL team, and echoed the other grumblings that if teams were hiring bloggers — BLOGGERS! — to help them get a better look at this new-fangled “fad,” then they must truly be desperate. As if trying to use every tool at one's disposal to find a competitive advantage was somehow all of a sudden unforgivable, and worthy of repeated admonishment.
I'll tell you exactly what it's like: For the longest time, teams have really gotten by on their talent, not pushing themselves to approach the game more competitively. More recently, a number of teams — and you can tell which ones they are because they're the ones with all the trophies in the last few years — have started going more in that direction as a supplement to their talent at finding and utilizing players in traditional ways. They worked harder to get every ounce of effort out of their talent, rather than just coasting on what they had. In doing so, they became the best.
The Oilers are only now getting back on a rush the other way, instead of going to the bench and saying they'd rather not keep up with the rest of the league. Like that lazy bum Ales Hemsky.
What this widespread media reaction really gets back to is that people aren't happy when you do actual research with which to criticize their work. If you have actual data to poke holes in their logic, and then you aren't super nice about it, they get very upset.
You often hear hockey pundits — those with big important positions at popular periodicals — say that writers shouldn't criticize each other, though they never really say why. The reason is they don't like to be told their analysis, which they support with nothing but opinion rather than hard evidence, needs to be rethought. They'd rather think the game the way they always have. Numbers, who needs 'em? Turns out the answer is, “A growing number of NHL teams,” and that's not a satisfactory solution for the head-in-the-sand crowd.
I'd agree with those who've said this isn't exactly “The Summer of Stats,” but it's definitely “The Summer of Shocking Realization That The Game Is In Fact Changing After All Despite The Protests Of Those Who Have Long Denied Such Changes Would Ever Exist or Need To.” But that's not as catchy.
(Not ranked this week: Losing Kimmo Timonen.
You really hate to see any potentially career-threatening injury, but that's got to be especially true for the Flyers. Timonen was probably their best defenseman last season, not that it's saying much, and for this to come down now — and like this — is just awful.)
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