Wednesday, August 17, 2005

All's fair in love and hockey, apparently

With the rumors that the Sens are apparently on the verge of trading Wade Redden heating up (apparently John Muckler did NOT read my thoughts on the matter), there's a story in the Palm Beach Post - yes, Florida papers do cover hockey - that caught my eye. There's a quote from former ESPN commentator Bill Clement I thought I'd pull.

Longtime ESPN analyst Bill Clement said the "new NHL," with its salary-cap range, has simply returned to some basic principles of doing business.

"There are two realities under this model," Clement said. "One, every team is now allowed a fair chance to succeed, and two, winning is going to be based on your organizational model instead of who's the most wealthy.

"You have to earn excellence — you can't buy it. You have to draft well, nurture well, trade well and plan well financially.''

Unless, of course, you're the Ottawa Senators, and you do too good a job of drafting and developing young players. Then you can't keep them all. Because that wouldn't be fair. Everyone should have a chance at getting those young players, you see.

But I'm not bitter.


At 2:49 PM, Anonymous Cranky Leafs Fan said...

Lighten up Francis.

Your sour grapes would mean something if Ottawa had done something with these players.

Saying one is good drafting and developing players is a nebulous concept. However, losing in the first or second round every year is quite a clear measurement of the success or failure of the draft and development.

Compare the Sens record and the record of the teams to which Sens graduates have gone against, let's say the Oilers of the late '80s. Not only did they have their cup run, but when they started breaking up, the remants took LA to the finals and took NYR to the Cup.

I hate the Oilers, but it is hard to argue that those might have been the best collection of players that we'll ever see in the NHL.

The current Sens' line-up is great for a hockey pool but does not have what it takes to get to the finals. They have nice regular season numbers, but when the game steps it up to 11, most of the guys disappear.

If I can have a Don Cherry moment, there are not enough good Canadian kids on the team. The Stanley Cup does not mean the same thing to Europeans as it does to Canadians. For them it's just a job.

So I would say that this change in league is not a crisis for the Sens but an opportunity for them shed the pretty boys that seem more interested in getting home in the springtime and getting top dollar for them.

At least the Sens have something to work with. The Leafs on the other hand are screwed. Can you believe that on top of the concussion crew the Leafs want to bring in Steve Thomas? What is he - 50?

At 3:33 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Ottawa was one game away from the finals with this core two year seasons ago, and blatantly outplayed the Leafs in every aspect of this game called hockey in the '04 playoffs. They just happened to run into a red hot goalie, and had one of their one fold like a cheap tent under pressure.

So I'd say this team has proven they can compete and win, and thus, the idea of dismantling it, especially when the core are all entering their primes, gives me great pain. We've brought this guys along and now, when they're gonna break out, it will be for someone else.

And saying they're not the 80's Oilers isn't really an insult is it? No team is. But this one has been pretty good.

I'm just a little bummed that this new CBA, which was sold to us as being the savior of small markets like Ottawa, is in fact hurting us more than any other team except a couple others.

Just when we get an owner who's said he's willing to spend whatever to win, the rules of the game changes. Wonderful.

But you're right, all one has to do is look down the 401 to see that it could be worse. Of course, I don't think the Leafs did as poorly this offseason as some of their fans did. Still not a great situation though.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

Look, at the end of the day, it'll level the playing field... you can't keep all the good players forever. They will end up on other teams, and all things equal, there should be 30 fairly competetive teams. What I hope this leads to is a fierce playoff race towards the end of every season where fans from every team (okay, maybe not the Caps) can have something to cheer about. And what's the alternative? Salaries were inflated prior to the 24% rollback as it is, so without this CBA, the Senators might have been able to keep even less pieces of their team. At least now player salaries are regulated.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Why should the playing field be levelled though?

If the CBA was about curbing the escalating salaries, then I would say great.

But, it seems like they want to distribute talent throughout the league, which I will still contend is not fair, as it, essentially, punishes those who draft too well.

If you're a team who doesn't, well, fear not, because you'll be able to cherry pick the other teams much earlier than ever.

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8:06 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

What's the alternative? Have no cap and let one team hog the talent? Players have to start realizing that if they get paid 7M, then there's less cap space to keep other good players. GMs need to realize that too. Unfortunately, I dont think it will ever happen, so this CBA is a security net for escalating salaries. They players always want more, and there are GMs willing to pay more. That's just the way it is. As a result of a cap, you keep the player salaries reasonable enough, that a team like Calgary or Edmonton can hold their own when bidding on an Iginla or a Pronger. A direct result of a cap system though is also the distribution of talent... they just go hand in hand. As far as I'm concerned, if it lessens the gap between the 30 teams, then I'm for it.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Tom L said...


It's a shame that part of the Ottawa's core is going to get broken up, it really is. But, the CBA fight wasn't just about curbing escalating salaries, it was about flattening the salary curve and diminshing the opportunity cost for the players uprooting themselves and moving from town to town.

Right now, the problems are heightened because, the market is in a complete state of flux. So, you guys are going to lose Redden because he's worth more to the organization in what he can bring in return than what he brings on the ice.

Honestly, though, I expect Hossa to be the one who gets moved and not Redden. I don't see Hossa as the player to bring the Cup to 'Twa. Redden's got 10 times the heart and heart wins Cups.

TiF you don't think the playing field needs to be levelled then consider playing a game where everyone has the same win condidtions, but you get to start with twice as many resources as me and generate resources at twice the rate. How many times do you think I'll want to play that game before realizing I can't win.

That's the situation in the NHL. The fans in the smaller markets stay away do to the futility of it all, depressing revenues and perpetuating the cycle. See MLB for an example.

Personally, I think that in five years the players are going to have a different attitude about upping and leaving town the minute they are UFA's. The flattening of the salary curve will lessen the opportunity cost with respect to salary and heighten the opportunity cost of working in a known and stable environment.

It's going to take a full generation (5-6 years) of hockey players growing up in this system to fully change the expectations, though.


At 12:39 AM, Anonymous pete said...

Allow me to present a hybrid theory...

It may at first seem unfair that this CBA forces Ottawa to lose a part of their core, but i'd suggest that might be a good thing. As has been noted, this core hasn't gotten it done. So mix it up a little. This CBA may not be the most Ottawa-friendly one, but it's a damn sight better than the last one. There, money killed you. Here, all your really being asked to do is to shed one of your top five players - as opposed to all five under the last deal.

As I've said before, if I'm Muckler, Redden is the player I'm most likely to move simply because he's at his max trade value, and I don't see his game improving too much. Hossa still has upside. Ditto Havlat. Ditto Spezza. And maybe Chara too.

one last thing i want to point out is how annoying it is when ottawa fans say "look how good we are at developing talent."

First off, the sens have had their fair share of busts. And secondly, it ain't that hard to draft well with consistently high picks. I realize the early 90s days of back to back #1 over all picks are gone, but they're not that far off. Say what you will about how shitty the Leafs are at drafting, but the leafs haven't had a top 10 pick in well over a decade. Maybe more. As I recall, Spezza, Phillips, Redden, and Hossa were all top 10 picks. I'm just saying - It's not exactly finding a diamond in the rough when you choose Sidney Crosby number one. Havlat and Alfie were late rounders, I seem to recall, but I wouldn't pretend that Ottawa has some uncanny knack for spotting talent.

At 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although it must be frustrating to watch your team, that has always been fiscally responsible lose talented young players think about this. Even with the old CBA Ottawa would have lost some of this talent anyway. They were on the verge of becoming too expensive for the Ottawa market. They would have needed a 50 million dollar pay roll to keep Hossa, Redden, Alfredson, Chara, Philips, Spezza, Hvlat, etc... The new CBA will create parity. It doesn't mean players will no longer leave because their club can no longer afford them, it just means that when they leave they will go to places other than New York, Dallas, Detroit, Colorado and Toronto.

Chuck in Calgary

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Jackson said...

Tom & Pete: well said. I was also thinking to make the point about the "great drafting" and I am glad someone else did... and the other great point is that in the old CBA Ottawa would have lost most of their core not just a couple of pieces. I hope that Tom's right about the next generation of hockey players, perhaps we can look to the examples of other hard capped sports leagues and see how it's working out for them...

At 12:35 PM, Blogger aquietgirl said...

Pete, Hossa was a 12th overall pick. (Splitting hairs, I know.) And when we start our nauseating speech about how good we are at developing talent, we mean that. Developing talent, as in the minor league system, as in helping a player reach their full potential, not in finding them late in the draft. There's a reason that the Islanders drafts pretty well but turn out shitty players that mature elsewhere (McCabe ... Bertuzzi...).

At 1:43 PM, Anonymous pete said...

Congrats, aquietgirl. You're team's track record is better than Mike Milbury's. So is my dog's.

Seriously though, I don't mean to take potshots. But just as I'm sure all the "Toronto is the centre of the hockey universe" crap that comes out of here must irk Sens fans, I get really tired about hearing how fantastic the Sens are at drafting and developing. Taking Jason Spezza is not drafting skill. Neither is watching him score 70 points, 5 years after you drafted him. All you need is a #1 overall pick, a copy of The Hockey News' draft preview, and 5 years of patience. Finding Kaberle, Elias, Hejduk, Hull, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, St. Louis, Kiprusoff and yes, even Daniel Alfredsson somewhere in picks 20 through 200 is a talent some teams have consistently demonstrated. And neither yours, nor mine, is one of those teams. That's all.

For what it's worth, I think the Sens will do well this year. They'll win the division, 100+ points. The east will come down to them and Philly, most likely. All you need to do is worry about Dominik Hasek. He ain't no dominator anymore. Everyone points out how the Leafs are gambling on injury-prone players, but I think the Sens have just as big a wild card in net as the Leafs. Both Belfour and Hasek could just as easily win the Vezina as they could go on injured reserve for the entire year. That said, I'd rather have your team than mine right now.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger aquietgirl said...

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm not arguing that our draft record is better than New Jersey and Detroit. Forget about it, you seem to been more bent on voicing your annoyances than anything else. I'll let you rant.

I live in Toronto and I honestly don't think the Leafs will falter as badly as most people think. They've always been injury prone. Taking a risk for $1-$2 mil isn't too bad, but getting deep into the playoffs isn't too likely a possibility. I'll compliment your fans here. Even though it doesn't look like a stellar season's coming, most Leaf fans I've spoken to have really shrugged that off and said they'll be there no matter what. The sense of loyalty is annoying and admirable.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous pete said...

I understand - you're talking about "developing" talent, not merely "drafting" it.

But I just don't buy either argument. Are you claiming the Senators have been more patient bringing up their picks? That's certainly not true. Yashin, Daigle, Bonk, Spezza, Hossa, Phillips, Fisher - all were playing regular ice time with the big club in the year immediately following their draft. Granted, in the former cases, it was because those players were all the atrocious teams had going for them to market to fans. But by the end of the 90s, that wasn't true. Who knows if Jason Spezza would be a better player today if he'd spent three or four solid seasons in the AHL tearing up the league like he did last year, instead of sitting in Jacques Martin's dog house? I don't know, but I suspect he might be. I bet Spezza loved playing last year, because he spent 10 years playing hockey as a dominant scorer, before finding himself in Ottawa trying to fit in. I bet lighting it up in Binghampton was fun for him, and brought that attitude of "i kick ass" flooding back to him.

I just don't consider it "developing talent" when you take a very talented kid, plonk him in your roster, let them struggle to find their legs before eventually being good players 3-5 years later. That player developed himself despite his club. Maybe it's me, though. Developing talent, to me, is taking a player nobody else sees as having any above average skills and turning them into an asset, by seeing what different roles they can play. Maybe one team gives up on a prospect because he's slow. But another team turns him into a workable stay at hom d-man. One team says an prolific scorer in junior will never score at an elite level? Somebody else turns him and his speed into a solid defensive forward. (Fredrik Modin, anyone?) Martin St. Louis also springs to mind. Calgary didn't develop his talent, and gave up on him - too soon, apparently. Tampa Bay saw something in him, and provided a system where he could flourish.

Anyway, this is not meant to be a "rant" as you said. I try to avoid that as these blog comments too often devolve into non-sensical yelling. In my opinion, by any yardstick you want to measure, the Senators are not one of the more astute franchises at creating their next generation of players. That they have players they've drafted on their roster in prominent roles is despite their efforts, not because of them, I think.

as an aside, if you ask me, the fact that Leaf fans are so loyal is one of their worst traits. Possibly more than anything else, that explains why they haven't won a cup in nearly 4 decades, despite ample resources and opportunity.

At 5:50 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

Yashin, Daigle, Bonk, Spezza, Hossa, Phillips, Fisher - all were playing regular ice time with the big club in the year immediately following their draft.

Not true.

Yashin was drafted in 1992. He didn't suit up until the 1993-94 season. Spezza was drafted in 2001 and didn't suit up for the Sens until the 2002-03 season (only for 33 games, spent most of the year in the A). Hossa was drafted in 1997, and didn't suit up until 1998-99 (the seven games he did play in 97-98 doesn't really count). Fisher was drafted in 1998, and didn't play for the Sens until 1998-99. Phillips was drafted in 1996 and didn't play for the Sens until 1997-98.

Just saying, if you're gonna use them as examples, you should probably make sure they're accurate.

When it comes to picking diamonds in the later rounds, I'd put the Sens against any other team. Among their post-1st round picks:
Pavol Demitra (1993-227th pick)
Daniel Alfredsson (1994-133rd)
Andreas Dackell (1996-136rd)
Sami Salo (1996-239th)
Magnus Arvedson (1997-119th)
Karel Rachunek (1997-229th)
Mike Fisher (1998-44th)
Antoine Vermette (2000-55th)

Even the players that aren't with the club anymore contributed and were often dealt for another assett.

Except for New Jersey, most hockey people seem to regard Ottawa as having the strongest program as far as drafting and developing their prospects.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

And as far as your assertion that Spezza would've been happier and better suited in Bingo instead of with the big club:

You clearly don't know anything about Jason Spezza. When he was cut from the 2001 team, he sulked his way out of the city. Same thing for 2002. He didn't want to be in Binghamton and was insulted he wasn't with the big Sens.

Whether or not he should've been, who knows, but considering Spezza seems to be on the verge of having a breakthrough year, I find it quite dubious that you're criticizing the team's handling of him.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

I'll pick Detroit over Jersey and definitely over Ottawa... Detroit have plucked the likes of Datsyuk (171st in '98), Zetterberg (210th overall in '99), Holmstrom (257th in '94) from late rounds, and haven't had a pick higher than #19 since '91. In addition to that, they haven't had the benefit of a first round pick in the following years (I've put the highest pick they had that year in brackets): '97 (49), '99 (120), '01 (62), '02 (58), '03 (64), '04 (97). They also picked up Fischer (25th in '98) and Kronwall (29th in '00) in that period, late in the first round, as well prospect Igor Grigorenko (62nd in '01). If we look back a little further we see: Lidstrom (53rd in '89), Fedorov (74th in '89), Osgood (54th in '91), Knuble (76th in '91) are the notables among others. Detroit has a long history of excellent drafting and developing, and I would say hands down they are the best.

At 12:12 PM, Anonymous pete said...

to clarify on Spezza:

I have no doubt that Jason Spezza wanted to play in the NHL the day after her was drafted. And as such, he doubtless did sulk over not playing, or being 4th-liner, or being benched, or whatever else when that didn't happen.

But I would bet that once he was established in the AHL (last year, for example, wasn't him being "demoted" because there was no NHL) he enjoyed his day to day role of being the go-to scoring guy. I'm talking about the everyday play. In Binghampton, he was THE guy. He's used to being THE guy. His coach in the AHL used him as THE guy. I bet he liked it and will come back stronger this year because of it. He spent a year getting rid of his insecurities, and remembering what it's like to be THE guy. That's all I'm saying. Nobody likes to be demoted. I'm not claiming he ever once said "I want to hone my skills in the AHL" I'm just saying that out on the ice, I bet he enjoyed himself last year.

You're right - I expect him to have an absolutely huge year this year, in large part because of that.

ON the drafting, well spotted. I too know the wonders of But I had looked in the wrong year. All the players I mentioned got drafted one year, and played the next, in my eyes but after a second look, I can see that was incorrect. They played the year after that. Still not sure if that qualifies as "being patient" but your point is well made.

I really dont' mean to be bashing on the Senators. I just hear all the time from fans how "great" they are at drafting, when the fact remains that the team got their entire core (Hossa, Phillips, Havlat, Spezza, Chara, Redden) by either having a top 10 pick (havlat excepted I know) or by trading it.

You do have a fair number of workable late rounder NHLers, but the only two stars are Alfie and Demitra. Still, that's two more than my team! I just don't think Andreas Dackell is anything to hang my hat on. Is he any more impressive than Sergei Berezin at 256, Freddy Modin at 64, Danny Markov at 223 or Tomas kaberle at 204? All teams have their lucky gems. The skill is in consistently doing it.

Anyway, that's all. I'm not trying to get into a pissing match here. We'll leave that for May! I'm just saying IMHO Detroit and NJ are in a class my themselves in drafting, and Toronto is somewhere near the bottom. Ottawa, remains, in my eyes, solidly in the middle over all.


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