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What We Learned: Why do we overvalue playoff performance?

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

Joel Ward(notes) wasn't an NHL regular until he was 28. He'll be 31 in December.

He's never surpassed his career highs of 17 goals and 35 points set in that first season, and in fact had diminishing returns since then, with just 10 goals last season.

And he got a 200 percent raise.

Weird, right? But the fact is there were few eyebrows raised when Ward signed with the Capitals for four years at $3 million per a few weeks ago.

Likewise Ville Leino(notes) getting $27 million over six or Sean Bergenheim(notes) getting $11 million over four. Those scant few eyebrows that did bother to perk up were quickly shouted back down again.

After all, these guys were proven playoff warriors, players who elevated their games to levels previously considered impossible just weeks before when the regular season was still crawling with inexorable tedium to a close. And that, after all, is what's really important.

It's what makes LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez and Peyton Manning and, yes, Roberto Luongo(notes) infamous chokers, and where real men transcend the confines of their natural abilities to become something greater.

And that, of course, is absurd.

(Coming Up: Red Wing gets Twitter hoaxed; sick shootout goal by Wild prospect; the buyout and Wojtek Wolski(notes); the Devils snag Larsson; Ales Hemsky(notes) and the Blue Jackets; why the Brendan Morrison(notes) was a smart one for Jay Feaster; Charlie Huddy needs a clue; David Backes(notes) is good people; the Bruins make another smart move; goalie debate in Florida; and a terrible, laughable Iginla trade proposal.)

There is no denying that Joel Ward and Sean Bergenheim and the 2010 versions of Ville Leino and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) were outstanding in the postseason.

The best example of this is, again, is Ward. Despite his 29 points in 80 games last year, he nearly reached that mark in just 12 postseason games, scoring seven times and piling up 13 points. And that meant big, almost inconceivable money and term for a guy on the wrong side of 30 who doesn't provide much if anything in the way of regular season scoring.

Same goes for Bergenheim. A guy who had 29 points last year just got a four-year deal for a little more money than he probably should have. Part of that was Florida needing to eat up some cap space, sure, but a large portion of that was also his rather notable postseason performance in which he scored nine goals in 16 games, just five fewer than he did in 80 during the regular season.

He was often more apparent in Tampa's games than Steven Stamkos(notes) or Marty St. Louis. And the resultant attention meant big, big bucks.

Meanwhile, Leino was rather poor in the postseason this year (five points in 11 games) and had by far his best regular season (19 goals and 53 points, a huge jump from previous highs of six and 11). He likely got the contract on the promise of that production explosion and (more notably) his reputation as a playoff assassin, having scored 21 points in Philly's run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010.

Byfuglien, similarly, converted an outstanding Stanley Cup-winning run with the Blackhawks and subsequent trade to Atlanta — plus a very strong first half of the season — into a contract that was quite literally an embarrassment of riches. Anyone that turns a 17-17-34 season into $26 million over five years has a GM who doesn't know what he's doing, especially given that Atlanta then converted him to a defenseman. And it would have worked out, too, if everyone in the Eastern Conference didn't figure him out so quickly. He signed his big extension on February 15, and promptly scored just 3-7-10 in the final 23 games of Atlanta's season.

But one supposes that the real question is why that entitles them to earn that much, especially when the regular-season performances are often outpaced by a few weeks of work when springtime rolls around.

This isn't like Corey Perry's(notes) final three months of the regular season, when he scored 25 of his 50 goals in just 30 games. The sample size is far, far smaller. This is often a dozen or so games without the heavy travel and grind of the NHL regular season wearing down on them. Shouldn't there be someone telling general managers that a few weeks' worth of strong performance (often as a result of favorable matchups and zone starts) doesn't mean a guy should see his salary multiplied a couple times?

Given that overpayment is a tradition as old as free agency itself, this isn't going away any time soon. Problem is, like lots of bad things we just accept because of tradition, there's been no shortage of reasons for people to wise up. All of them have gone by, ignored.

In a year or two, when people are all of a sudden wondering aloud why the heck Joel Ward is making $3 million and Dustin Byfuglien's pulls down $5.2 million against the cap, it will be important to keep in mind that GMs should never sign guys to contracts in the hopes that they'll live up to the deal.

It should always work the other way around.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks are still talking extension with Andrew Cogliano(notes) after trading for him. Word is when he heard the Ducks were working to "draw" up a proposal, he curled up in the fetal position and sobbed uncontrollably for an hour.

Boston Bruins: Seriously, how did Peter Chiarelli get Adam McQuaid(notes) for that long and that cheap? That's how you manage a roster: Get young guys on affordable contracts long, long before their current deal expires. The other 29 GMs should be taking a lot of notes.

Buffalo Sabres: Buffalo was named the 25th worst-dressed city by GQ Magazine, and no wonder. The picture they used was of four people in Buffaslug jerseys. Shoulda topped the list for that reason alone. (Full disclosure: my hometown of Boston was NUMBAH ONE KEHD!!! City of Champions.)

What We Learned: Why do we overvalue playoff performance?Calgary Flames: Brendan Morrison back with Calgary at a reasonable rate, and that might be the first really good move Jay Feaster has made since taking over from Darryl Sutter. He at least works well with Alex Tanguay(notes) and Jarome Iginla(notes) because he knows how to just win a draw and get the hell out of their way.

Carolina Hurricanes: Well, Bobby Sanguinetti's(notes) still alive. No kidding.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks are pretty much done wheelin' and dealin' at this point. The only thing left to decide is whether Chris Campoli(notes) comes back as a restricted free agent or they trade his rights. Hey didn't his awful clear attempt end their season?

Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic(notes) shot a hole-in-one at a celebrity golf tournament on Sunday and that was officially the best thing anyone on the Avalanche has done so far in 2011.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets might trade for Ales Hemsky. If they do, they better hope realignment doesn't put them in the same division as the Sabres or else Robyn Regehr's(notes) going to eat him.

Dallas Stars: Adam Pardy(notes) is really excited to be joining the Stars because as a former Calgary Flame he has grown quite used to not making the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings: Someone on Twitter pretended to be Jimmy Howard(notes) over the weekend, but no one wanted to be Chris Osgood(notes) for obvious reasons.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers re-signed both Ryan O'Marra(notes) and Taylor Chorney(notes) on Friday, earning the "Most Underwhelming Day of Transactions" award for the offseason.

Florida Panthers: Jacob Markstrom(notes) wants to be the Panthers' goalie this season. With only Jose Theodore(notes) and Scott Clemmensen(notes) ahead of him on the depth chart, he has a whopper of a chance.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings signed six guys on Friday, and Dale Tallon just rolled his eyes because that's not even that many.

Minnesota Wild: Sick shootout goal by Wild prospect Sam Lofquist.

Montreal Canadiens: Randy Cunneyworth might become the new assistant coach to replace Kirk Muller. He's currently the Habs' AHL head coach.

Nashville Predators: The Preds signed Craig Smith from the University of Wisconsin, but frankly, he probably should have gone pro last year.

New Jersey Devils: Adam Larsson — all locked up. When he heard the news, Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy hockey blog editor Greg Wyshynski did the Curley-from-the-Three-Stooges-run-in-circles-on-the-floor thing for 45 minutes straight.

New York Islanders: The Islanders were charging $12.25 with fees included to watch a rookie camp scrimmage. I think history has shown that nickel-and-diming fans always wins them over.

New York Rangers: It's looking more and more likely that Wojtek Wolski's gonna get bought out. Next stop: KHL.

Ottawa Senators: New Senators goalie Mike McKenna(notes) did something pretty cool over the weekend: he let the fans pick his pad design for this coming season.

Philadelphia Flyers: Andrej Meszaros(notes) is now fully recovered from a wrist injury and his ability to understate things is right behind it. "The team will be slightly different because of these changes," he said of the Richards and Carter trades. Slightly.

Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Smith(notes) is eager to participate in a rotation with Jason LaBarbera(notes), and the Coyotes are probably eager to finish 14th in the West.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Here's a really interesting rookie camp exit meeting between Tom Fitzgerald and prospect Zach Sill.

San Jose Sharks: Will the Sharks make another big offseason move? Prrrrrobably not. No one's left out there.

St. Louis Blues: David Backes goes after non-Americans, and he and his wife save homeless dogs. If there's a better family on the planet, David Backes will kill them.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mathieu Garon(notes) seems more than a little pumped to be on a team that doesn't suck for the first time in two years.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Who's better, Darryl Boyce(notes) or Philippe Dupuis(notes)? Better question: Who cares?

Vancouver Canucks: Speaking of guys who got paid because of a good playoff run: It's Kevin Bieksa(notes)!

Washington Capitals: Holy hell look how many people turned out to see rookie camp for the Caps.

Winnipeg Jets: New assistant coach Charlie Huddy has not seen much of the Thrashers' defense, apparently. "It's a good group back there," he somehow said without irony. Team was 29th in goals allowed last year. I mean c'mon.

Gold Star Award

What We Learned: Why do we overvalue playoff performance?

Well played to Japan for defeating the US in the finals of the women's World Cup.

Minus of the Weekend

What We Learned: Why do we overvalue playoff performance?

Word on the street is some TSA agents commandeered the Stanley Cup and it missed its flight to Buffalo. Which is weak. (Ed. Note: Or something like that.)

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "flame4evr" has lost the plot.

iggy for okposo

Nope.

Signoff

Oh you have many question, Mr. Sparkle. I send you premium, answer question hundred percent.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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