(Ed. Note: The column formerly known as the Puck Daddy Power Rankings. Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
8. Randy Carlyle
Well, the Ducks brought back Phil Kessel's ol' buddy Randy (good one!), and in his introductory presser he said some of the right things. He thinks analytics “have a place in the game” and he's changed his approach and all that stuff.
It is possible for people to change.
But Carlyle's demise in Toronto was greatly precipitated by the fact that both he and Dave Nonis (who works for the Ducks now!) wholly refused to change their view of the game, and ended up driving that club into the ditch. The mockery this decision has earned in the last 48 hours or so is well-deserved from the point of view that Carlyle has done little to prove he's changed. Obviously we're not in the interview room talking to him about what changes he would implement, but we just have no evidence Carlyle can effectively run a bench in the 2010s.
He had success with the Ducks in the past, but having Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer makes it very easy to have success in that way. Those two left and the Ducks immediately went down the toilet. A few former NHLers have already said that Carlyle was deeply disliked by the Ducks core when he was fired the first time. Bet the few of those guys who are still around are super-psyched.
All the data suggests that this change alone could cost the Ducks four or five wins in comparison with what they got under Bruce Boudreau. That's a huge swing.
Yeah, maybe Carlyle is different now. But probably not.
7. Conn Smythe voting
“I went Sidney Crosby No. 1, Phil Kessel No. 2, and Logan Couture No. 3. … I put a caveat on my ballot, which you’re allowed to do, which said if Phil Kessel scores in the final 10 minutes of that third period – and I voted with about 13 minutes left in the third period last night – but I put the caveat if Kessel scores in that final stretch of minutes, then he moves up to 1 and Crosby drops to No. 2.”
(Bob McKenzie, the smart nice man everyone loves, had Kessel No. 1. Except he also included a condition where if Crosby did something great in the final 10 minutes, he should be bumped to No. 1. Not sure if a shot block and an assist on an empty netter counts, but it might.)
So if Kessel puts a goal into an empty net, or Crosby doesn't make that shot block and pass, that potentially changes the whole thing. That's a weird-ass qualification, but it speaks to what a strange process awards voting in the NHL is in general.
6. The Flames' new coach
The selection is worrying.
Gulutzan ran the Canucks penalty kill last year. They were ranked 18th. Penalty kills can be random, sure, but that alone is a reason for concern; a guy who's supposed to get this team working effectively on special teams was below the league average last season.
Before that he was the head coach in Dallas, and his team ranked 26th in expected goals-for percentage over two seasons (one of which was abbreviated by the lockout).
Again, he might be a perfectly good head coach. After all, he didn't have a lot to work with in Dallas in those days, nor did he have a wealth of talent on the power play in Vancouver.
But if you fire a coach and wait two months to make a hire, and then you hire this guy? They said they wanted a coach from a “winning program” who can help shore up the club's special teams. Two swings, two misses.
It's just reason for concern when looking at the decision-making process. This isn't-not an outside-the-box hire, and that's nice to see the Flames at least do that much. But there's plenty to question here. And you'd have thought a team with this kind of talent group would have preferred more of either: a) a young prodigy like Travis Green, or b) a sure thing.
With Gulutzan, who knows?
5. Expansion fees
One thing I've seen a little bit recently is the idea that owners are “taking a smaller piece of the pie” with the now all-but-confirmed Las Vegas expansion team, in exchange for 1/30th of the $500 million expansion fee. That may sound like a lot, but it's not even $17 million per team.
Nice to get that kind of money for doing nothing, obviously. Especially because it doesn't count as hockey-related revenue and therefore doesn't have to be split with the players. But still, it's not like they're sitting there saying, “Well, I'd love this money now, so I will let you take more down the road.” They're rich businessmen who got to this point because they are good at business. Getting a smaller slice of a business that generates billions in revenue per year doesn't sound like a good idea.
What they are actually doing in taking an expansion fee is gambling. They're getting $16.67 million right away, sure, but they're also hoping that Vegas will generate more revenue per year than the league average, which gives them the chance to make even more money down the road. That way, if the team generates $150 million in revenues each year (the league average for 2014-15 was around $140 million, and should be around that number for this season as well), then the amount of revenue per team goes up, and owners make even more money in addition to the expansion fee. Pretty simple.
Certainly, the city seems to have the enthusiasm now, as any expansion market does. But the league isn't taking it on thinking it will be a charity case. Obviously there have been misguided expansion efforts in the past, so owners have to hope this is another Minnesota — which sells out most of its games and so on — and not another Columbus.
That's probably why the league wants the Vegas team to be competitive right away. Competitive teams actually generate interest, and most expansion teams are terrible. Which kills interest before it starts. While teams might not want to part with decent players, owners see the value in doing so. Yeah it hurts to lose a second-pairing defenseman, but it hurts even more to lose more money to revenue sharing.
4. The Sharks
Yeah, they missed out on the Cup. But the odds that they're going to change anything at all this summer other than maybe having to trade Patrick Marleau (remember, he did allegedly put in that trade request early last season) are low. And that's fine, because given the quality of the players coming back, it's quite likely they will be really good again next season.
Here's a list of their departing UFAs: Nick Spaling, Dainius Zubrus, Micheal Haley, Roman Polak, James Reimer.
Here's the RFAs they have to re-sign: Tomas Hertl, Matt Nieto.
The RFAs are no-brainers. The UFAs are all guys you can let walk at this point. Gotta get someone to replace Reimer, but Jones is your guy anyway. Everyone else, you can replace for peanuts.
This team should have no difficulties being competitive again next year. Let's get Joe Thornton a Cup for 2017.
3. Mike Sullivan
Who would have guessed that a guy who spent years as a Tortorella disciple would end up coaching his team to winning, fun, beautiful hockey? Let's hope more teams take the lesson and speed the game up.
2. War on Ice
Behind the Net and Hockey Analysis did it first, and Extra Skater was in many ways the first extremely user-friendly site in the field. But I'm pretty sure there hasn't yet been a more feature-rich stats site that put great data together with extreme usability better than War On Ice, which signed off this week.
The site, started by A.C. Thomas, Alexandra Mandrycky, and Sam Ventura, and gave users plenty of options to chop and screw any data they needed, all under one convenient roof.
In addition to having a great site, they also went out of their way to provide users features they asked for, and supplied any specialized data they couldn't get themselves. On more than a few occasions, I asked for something from them and had an email a short time later.
The quality of the site is probably a big reason why Thomas and Mandrycky got hired by the Wild this year, and why Ventura has been with the Cup champion Penguins for a while. Which is why they shuttered everything. In fact, they did the community a service by keeping it up through the end of the season.
War on Ice will be dearly missed, but we also need to look to what comes next. Corsica, run by Emmanuel Perry, seems the logical successor, with a bunch of other options and a clean, usable interface. It's also still under construction, so new stuff is coming.
If nothing else, War on Ice showed everyone what a stats site could and should be. Now people are taking that and running with it. We all benefit.
1. Gordie Howe
Nothing to say that hasn't already been said. You're simply never gonna see another like him.
(Not ranked this week: No more hockey until September.
Well thanks, I guess, to the World Cup of Hockey for reducing the amount of time I'm going to have to wait to see meaningful hockey once again. Middle of September is a better start date than the first week of October, at the very least.
But now we're into the NHL offseason, and there will, fortunately, be plenty to talk about for the next month or so. After that, though? July 15 is about when the hockey world turns into a barren wasteland. Minor signings, basically no trades. Everyone's at the cabin. Savor all the news and trades and signings while you can.)
(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)
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