[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.]
6. The Calgary Flames
The Flames are currently going about the business of locking down all their restricted free agents, which is a fine idea.
After that, they will apparently turn their attentions to getting new contracts for the guys who still have one year to go on their existing ones, but who they don't want to see leave any time soon. That's obviously also a good idea. Where they're starting, however, is not.
They're starting with... well, no, it's not Mikael Backlund, the soon-to-be first-line center who drives possession better than just about anyone on the team. And no, it's not going to be T.J. Brodie, who's probably one of the most overlooked very good defensemen in the league. It's not those guys, who should be tied to the organization for years at reasonable dollar figures to come because they're strong players in their mid-20s.
No, the Flames are instead focusing on 31-year-old, oft-injured winger Curtis Glencross. Late last week, Glencross said that the Flames want to get going on a new deal for him, one that would explicitly not-include any sort of hometown discount for the team that's made him an inexplicable folk hero. Which, you know, is his prerogative; when you're on the wrong side of 30, you can't be blamed in any way for wanting to cash in on a deal in the eight figure range.
But why would Glencross be Calgary's priority when so many more pressing ones are on the table? Unless they're expecting a protracted negotiating process with Backlund and Brodie, which they might be, the only reason to focus on Glencross first is that the Flames are a team as poorly run as they are fundamentally bad. Watching a good number of Flames games makes you realize Glencross really isn't very good; he doesn't drive possession in any appreciable way, he's hurt all the time, he doesn't draw penalties because he rarely has the puck, and he lives off a high shooting percentage.
He's fine, but he's not the kind of guy you should try to secure before your No. 1 center and No. 2 defenseman. Pretty simple, really.
5. People who don't think Ryan O'Reilly is “worth it”
It's been somewhat shocking to see so many people come out in droves in favor of the Colorado Avalanche's attempts to marginalize Ryan O'Reilly.
They did not believe that he's worth the $6 million he sought (and eventually got), and they did believe the Avs were justified in asking him to take the maximum 15 percent pay cut allowable under the current arbitration rules. It's pretty baffling.
On the one hand, O'Reilly is something of a bellwether for the new analytics movement. He's not a guy who scores a ton, in theory, given that his career high in points per game is just 0.8, set this past season. But he is a guy who gets the puck into the attacking zone, which is incredibly useful to have.
But here's the thing, over the last seven seasons, there are very few centers who have been as good at putting up points as O'Reilly, who just completed his age-22 season. In fact, when looking at scoring rates from the Behind the Net era — which runs 2007-08 to present — only 11 centers have produced 0.7 points per game from the ages of 20 to 22, and O'Reilly is one of them. The company is pretty exclusive: Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, Backstrom, Tavares, Kopitar, Toews, Seguin, Duchene, Couture. The full details are here, and Jordan Eberle is on the list despite not being a center. He's obviously at the lower end of that list, at 10th of 11, but if you're going to be in a group, that's the group to be in.
In addition, you can also look at the relative corsi numbers for all forwards, regardless of age, over the last three seasons and see how O'Reilly stacks up as well: He's 23rd in the league. But if you break it down to just centers, he's sixth in the league, at 3.7 percent more than the rest of his team during that time. The guys ahead of him: Patrice Bergeron (who has a pornographic league-leading 9.2 percent), Henrik Sedin, Kopitar again, Joe Thornton, Toews again, and Seguin again. That, too, is pretty exclusive company.
So let's take all those players who were ahead of him on both lists, and let's think about what they got paid against the cap in the years coming out of their age-22 seasons. (The chart, made yesterday, assumed he wanted $6 million — which is exactly what he took — because even if the award he was seeking in arbitration was $6.75 million, everyone knows he was not going to get that much. You ask for the moon because you know the arbitrator Is likely to come down between the team and player's valuations.)
No one's arguing O'Reilly is as good as Crosby or Stamkos or even Seguin. But he's at least in the same ballpark overall. He's certainly worth in the neighborhood of $6 million-6.5 million. Pretty demonstrably.
T.J. Oshie is a very famous hockey player because he happens to be really good at a skills competition that has — or at least should have — no bearing on the actual sport itself. This weekend, though, Oshie showed that when it comes to golf, he has the opposite problem.
When he's gotten all the way to the green and has a pretty easy lie, you'd think it would take a professional athlete just one putt to get it in the hole. Not Oshie. He needed a second putt. Then a third. Then a fourth.
The, “Ohhh. No no no,” after he misses the third one is a highlight.
Now, where have I seen this kind of no-closing work from Oshie before? Oh right, the playoffs. And all non-shootout parts of the Olympics. Right.
3. Piling on Ovechkin
Poor Alex Ovechkin got dumped this weekend, and that provided some clowns the ability to once again conjecture if the Caps would also like to break up with their three-time MVP and four-time Rocket Richard winner.
Pretty easy answer: Nope.
The definitive thought on the subject of Ovechkin's breakup, though, is this one:
once again ovechkin fails to get a ring.— Jeff Israel (@jeffisrael25) July 21, 2014
2. Ryan Johansen's negotiating power
Contract talks are progressing between the Columbus Blue Jackets and their ostensible No. 1 center, Ryan Johansen, after a few months of what seemed like a bit of a cold war.
Johansen, following his first full season of really effective hockey for the Blue Jackets, may or may not want a two-year bridge deal, and there's no word on the money. But as Elliotte Friedman suggested in the final 30 Thoughts of the 2013-14 campaign, that Brandon Dubinsky $5.85 million mark probably isn't the worst guess for a jumping-off point.
But you have to examine whether Johansen is worth that kind of money. The short answer, from a cursory look, is “probably not.” Yeah, 33 goals. Because his shooting efficiency was 13.9 percent. Of the 21 guys who broke 30 goals last season, Johansen's shooting percentage was 10th, but behind guys who can demonstrably keep theirs high, like Ryan Getzlaf, Sidney Crosby, and Jarome Iginla. This despite the fact that his shots per game (2.89) was 15th of those 22.
The likelihood that Johansen doesn't score 30 goals again next season without significantly boosting his shot total is at least somewhat high. Will he still be a .75 points-per-game guy? It seems unlikely. You can't count on that kind of production in terms of goals, but he's still an improving player, and will likely be one for another three or four years overall at least.
His possession numbers, meanwhile, are good (plus-1.5 percent) despite some pretty tough usage, facing the best competition on the team, and third-hardest zone starts among Jackets forwards. That's not bad at all for a 21-year-old on a team without a ton of high-quality scoring threats. Again, we have to consider whether this is something he can repeat; all indications would be that it is, because you don't see guys that young getting minutes that hard and driving play too often.
If you can get Johansen for something in the neighborhood of $5.5 million for the next two to four seasons, then that's something you basically have to do, right? Jarmo Kekalainen is a terribly smart manager and will likely make the correct decision in the end. The good news is team and player have the rest of the summer to work it out.
1. The Toronto Maple Leafs(?!?)
Well who in the world would have guessed that of all the people the Toronto Maple Leafs would hire as their new assistant GM, it would be 28-year-old “advanced” stats darling Kyle Dubas, ex of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL.
A bit of an unconventional pick, all things considered, especially when you look at who made it. The Leafs have, in fact, spent the bulk of the last several seasons — first under Brian Burke and now under Dave Nonis — screaming that if you look at stats when evaluating hockey players, you are a nerd and an idiot who hates the sport. Dubas, who made his name implementing the kind of data the Randy Carlyles of the world would like to banish forever, was a Brendan Shanahan hire. Very obviously so. And that signals that things are changing in Toronto.
(However, anyone suggesting that he was hired because he represents a reasonable middle ground between “a numbers guy” and “a hockey guy” is being daft. They don't give jobs to non-hockey guys, obviously, but if you want hockey guys they're lined up outside Air Canada Centre around the clock. The team, in fact, fired two of them to make room for Dubas. They brought him in because he's going to make Carlyle and Nonis see the value of these numbers or see themselves out. That's Shanahan's endgame here.)
Here's what you have to understand about Dubas, and what might make his effectiveness in the NHL a little harder to spot: No one in the OHL was making heavy use of advanced stats when he was hired in 2011. The Soo was bad that previous season, putting together just 56 points in 68 games. In Dubas's first year, they improved to 64, but still finished out of the playoffs. In 2012-13, they jumped to 78. This past season, they hit 95 and won their division.
The competitive edge won't be there in the NHL, where many teams are already investing heavily in analytics and have been doing so for years. But if the Leafs can start spending money wisely, and using players wisely, and making personnel decisions wisely (basically, change the way they do everything at present), then that's at least something.
Dubas may indeed lead a revolution: One that brings the Leafs to actually being good again in a few years' time.
(Not ranked this week: The old guard.
Tough bounce, Steve. The good news is the people who scream and cry about how much they hate Mikhail Grabovski will have a built-in excuse when the team Randy Carlyle coaches still loses because it's doing Randy Carlyle things. The Leafs are only starting to play in the Corsi Hockey League, but the growing pains will still be there. And they'll rain hell on the Calculator Crowd when it happens.
Brian Burke, meanwhile, is going down with this ship.)