Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Grading the boss thus far

Evaluating those in power is fun. It makes us little people feel very empowered. Perhaps a part of that is because, deep down, maybe even subconsciously, we both aspire to be where they are and think we could do better. Armchair GMing makes up the majority of most hockey message boards I check in on and it's good, harmless fun.

This also applies to players, by the by. I took great pleasure in handing out an F to Zdeno Chara when I did my post-season report card. Just typing that F made me feel good. Does that make me a dick? Maybe it does. What I do know is that it makes me feel a whole lot better about him leaving town, that's for sure.

John Muckler is someone who's come under great fire by the majority of the fanbase, myself included. I was pretty adament that he should've been handed a pink slip back when the Sens were knocked out of the playoffs. Alas, much to the chagrin of myself and others, that wasn't the case. The theories as to why ranged from Muckler possessing knowledge that could get Eugene Melnyk into hot water with the U.S. S.E.C.* to the two being kindred spirits.

Never the less, we're stuck with the old codger whether we like it or not. We can, however, rip his every move that we find idiotic. That's what I plan to do and encourage you to do the same. It's fun!

I was going to hold off doing this until the supposed other shoe dropped (probably the Martin Havlat trade), but what the hell.

The draft
It's difficult to judge how the Sens fared in this area for a few reasons. The first is that it usually takes years and years before one can accurately assess how a team did in a particular draft. The rewards may not be felt until years later. The drafting of Daniel Alfredsson 133rd overall probably didn't look great in 1993, yet three or four years later, it had to be touted as genius (or a wonderful fluke). Also, it doesn't help that, truth be told, I know very little about the players any team picked. I'm not one of these experts on prospects, so pretending to be such for this exercise would be laughable. The only player the Sens picked that I'm familiar with is Pierre Luc Lessard, and that's solely because he played across the river in Gatineau for two seasons and I saw him play a dozen or so times (good puck rusher, but undersized; good potential though). If the book on Nick Foligno is on point and he's everything the scouts say he is, I like picking him. We need more gritty, tough, balls out players in our system (Cody Bass seemed like the lone one before this), and his offensive upside sounds strong. Their 3rd round pick, Eric Gryba sounds like he's years away from being an NHLer. Ryan Daniels seems like he's no better than the other three or four above average goalies we have in the system. Bottom line, this draft was advertised as being poor and based on what I've read from people who know far more about this than I do, the Sens' crop reflects that.

Re-signing Wade Redden/letting Zdeno Chara go
The Senators had to retain either Redden or Chara. The fanbase would not have accepted losing both, so even from a purely optics perspective, this had to be done or there would have been a legitimate riot around ScotiaBank Place. Of the two, I believe they made the right choice. Redden is, all around, the more consistent defenceman and plays a more vital role to the success of the team. He's been with the club longer, and he showed with his willingness to take less money if it meant keeping Chara around, that he has a level of committment to the team. Chara, I'm not so sure about. He talked a good game but at the end of the day, he seemed driven by money. Nothing wrong with that, but we want the guy who isn't. The $13 million over two years looked sorta big on the day it was signed, but within 72 hours, after the UFA market opened and 3/4 of the NHL GMs blew their brains out, that contract looked pretty good. Compared to Chara's $7.5 mil per season, $6.5 for Redden is more than reasonable, and when contrasted against deals like Ruslan Salei at nearly $4 million and Pavel Kubina at $5, it's very reasonable. The one part of the contract that perplexed me then, and to an extent still does now, is the two year committment. I can't decide if this is good or not. On the one hand, it means we'll likely be in this position in two years again. But it also means we don't have a big contract on our hands for many years. The consensus from those in the know is that it was Redden who requested two years because he wants to see the direction the team is headed in and thus possessed some reluctance about signing long-term. I can dig that, as he must be getting sick of not winning a Cup, but it still feels strange to see Martin Gerber and Joe Corvo more committed to this team that a guy who's been here for nearly 10 years. Ultimately, all things considered, a good signing.

Signing Joe Corvo
First, let me admit I greatly underestimated the value of defencemen on the open market (as did Tomas Kaberle's agent, I bet). When I heard about Brian Pothier asking for $2 million per season on a long-term deal, I about fell out of my chair from laughing so hard. I thought "no way any team will give him that". Hell, when doing my projections for where the Sens payroll would be a week ago, I thought he could be kept in the fold for $1 mil a year. Whoops. Turns out I was off by quite a bit, as the Caps gave him a $10 million, four-year contract. Seeing what other middle of the road guys like Keith Carney and Hal Gill were able to command from teams also showed me how out of touch I was. I clearly didn't get it. I thought things had changed, but I was wrong. So the Corvo deal has to be graded in that context, because in mine, over $10 million for four years is ASS, but looking at the big picture, it's only slightly extravagent. I'm still horribly uninformed on Corvo as a player, but the general verdict from Kings fans is that he's our new Pothier. Good offensive skills but soft and a liability in his own end. Corvo seems to be a slight upgrade over B-Poth but has the skillset that makes him well suited for the new NHL. The idea he's paid so much more than Chris Phillips all but assures the Big Rig will get a rich deal in 12 months, probably from some other team. That sucks. It also means our 5th defenceman, Anton Volchenkov, is paid $1.25 million, a pretty sizeable deal. I'll need some great games early from Corvo to be convinced this was a good one.

Signing Martin Gerber
Another contract that I would've found hard to believe two weeks ago. When Dwayne Roloson signed for $11 million over three years to stay in Edmonton, I shook my head at what I believed was an error on the Oilers part, yet we gave Gerber just a tad more and I'm not sure he's any more viable any option. He's younger, true, but he also didn't have Roloson's amazing post season. The thing is, Muckler had to overspend on a goalie. He can no longer afford to treat that position as anything but priority #1 and if they truly think Gerber is the answer than the contract is a good one. I'm just not 100% sold that he is. Put me in the 75% category. One problem I do have with the deal is that it's three years, which means we're gonna have that salary on the books for that long in all likelihood. I think Ray Emery will be ready to be THE GUY within that time. Hopefully, that means we have a valuable asset in Gerber to trade should that be the case, but who can say? I do think it's disappointing that the organization is showing such little confidence in Emery, who I thought did very well for himself in the playoffs all things considered. Bring in a veteran as insurance, sure (I recommended Chris Osgood) but give the ball to Emery. The organization is saying that Emery can still Cam Ward Gerber and take the job, but if that happens, then we have a very expensive back-up taking up valuable cap room. I will say, I like that Gerber had the choice of Ottawa and Detroit, and with the money equal, chose to come here.

Re-signing Jason Spezza
This one confused me. Spezza had to be brought back, but the price tag of $4.5 mil amazes me. That's his market value? I pointed to Eric Staal's signing as being important because it would set the bar for Spezza, but little did I know they would get the same money. Spezza admitted Staal was used as a comparable and thought it was a fair one. Really, Jason? You see that thing on Eric's finger? That makes it unfair to me. I seemed to be wrong when I thought Spezza didn't have arbitration rights and thus had little leverage, as he apparently does, but even if that's the case, could he really have gotten that much in the process? If he used Staal as his comparable then surely any sane arbitrator would see the two have a very distinct difference that should have a direct effect on their salaries. And not to go off on a rant, but why the fuck is it that in arbitration, when someone takes slighly less to stay somewhere, that is an invalid example, because that's not the market, but when a pisspoor team drastically overspends to lure a hot property to their mess it is? I'm no economist (obviously) but is it wrong to think the market is somewhere in between? And like with the Redden deal, we only locked up Spezz for two seasons. If we're gonna throw the big bucks at the kid, then logic would say we get him for more years, right? Apparently not. The aforementioned Staal deal was for three years.

Dean's comments:

John has an impressive track record, but fails to learn from the mistakes of his past as well as those committed by his peers. He often does not listen to reason and seems as if he's existing in an entirely different universe. He refuses to admit his mistakes.

His GPA is low enough that he could be withdrawn from the program, especially considering his already existant standing of being on academic probation, but those in the highest of powers have decided to give him an opportunity to redeem himself. It is wise of John to take this matter seriously.

The "Martin Havlat trade" course, which has become compulsory in this program for John because of his poor performance in "Jason Spezza contract" course as well as the decision to enlist for the "Sign John Corvo" course that was not recommended for his major, will be an important one and will likely play a significant role in determining if John goes forward to even attempt his thesis in April or, hopefully, walk the stage in June.

On thin ice.

* not a real theory, but pretty juicy, huh?


At 6:10 PM, Anonymous David Johnson said...

But he isn't finished yet. Muckler says he is going to sign a tier two forward and a tier two defensemen. he later defined tier 2 as a fourth line forward and a 6th defenseman. Interestingly he also said that Schubert might qualify as one of those.

Hey, just wondering. Do you like Domi? He's available and would come cheap. :) Or maybe Travis Green.

At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Matt Shokking said...

I'll pretend you didn't mention Domi as a possible Senator. That'd go over as well as a Belfour signing.

At 4:02 PM, Blogger Don said...

Chris - see Chara saying that Melnyk told him the team was going to $44 mil

At 5:14 PM, Blogger RD said...

Why doesn't Spezza deserve as much as Staal?

He had a higher point per game average than Staal did, both in the regular season and playoffs.

So he didn't win a cup, who cares? Its not only his fault. In fact, he was the only forward on the entire team who increased their point production in the playoffs.

If you put Spezza on that Carolina team ahead of Staal, Carolina still wins the cup. That's because its a team effort.

Just because Staal has a ring doesn't mean he deserves more money.

At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree Carolina played as a team & Ottawa didn't & exchanging Staal & Spezza might make little difference in the final outcome but Spezza was part of the poor team effort. When Spezza & Heatley were on the ice, it was a 5 on 3 for the other team every time the puck crossed Ottawa'S blue line. They were both disgraceful floaters - they didn't even try to intercept passes let alone check. They just waited for the defence to feed them the puck. Spezza is magic when he has the puck but when he doesn't have it he is a liability.

Unlike some other people's opinion, I think Vermette is a good addition to the Spezza line - at least Ottawa will have 1 forward who will check. I think he belongs on the line because of his defensive skills not his offensive skills.

Overall, I think the ratings on Muckler are too high. I have a bad feeling about this team - I think it will be weaker next year not stronger & I think Muckler has not done enough to fill holes. Muckler seems to be afraid to pull a big trade & instead keeps repeating the same fring moves year after year. He always seems to trade for the same kind of players - a bit of offensive skills but some soft physically.

If the rumours are true about the Luongo offer (Luongo for Philips, Havlet, Emery & a 1st rounder) Muckler should have made the deal. It was costly but Emery would have been a 5th wheel with Luongo around & it looks like Havlet may be going for almost nothing so the only real loss was Philips (a big loss I agree). Subtract the following salaries from your current chart - Gerber, Philip, Emery, Havlet, & Covo & consider what Luongo got in Vancouver. This would save money & be a better team in my opinion. If Ottawa could afford to spend more than $40M maybe even Jovanoski might have been a possibility. Imagine a team with Redden, Jovo & Luongo???


At 8:35 PM, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Chris, who will the No. 6 defenceman there be?

At 2:59 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I think your being a bit rough on Muckler. I mean with guys like Staal and Spezza you have no choice but to pay them market value or one GM or another will take along look at them and deciding a proven first line center whom is only in their early twenties is worth tendering an offer sheet for, draft picks be damned. With guys like Staal, Spezza, Crosby and Ovenchkin why not burn the picks with the expectation you wouldn't have gotten anything better.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger CMcMurtry said...

James: I figured it would be Christoph Schubert (who's an RFA and needs a new deal), but the way Muckler is talking about wanting to acquire another offensive defenceman, it seems like they'll have Schubert as a forward.

Anon: If the rumours are true about the Luongo offer (Luongo for Philips, Havlet, Emery & a 1st rounder) Muckler should have made the deal.

Supposedly Keenan balked at it, as his hard-on for Bertuzzi overwhelmed what I thought would be good hockey sense.

And I agree, in retrospect, it looks like a good deal, though when I first heard about it, I thought it was too much.

Our return for Havlat doesn't look like it's going to be much (my pipedream of Mark Bell even seems unrealistic) and Chris Phillips will be a UFA at the end of this season. With what defenceman were paid during this offseason, Philly will be in line for a big raise, and one we probably won't be in a position to pay, so getting something for him now would be great.

Chris: I'm not saying you don't pay Spezza but I don't believe they paid market value with that contract. They overpaid, and they're not in a position to overpay right now because they're so close to the cap.

As for the idea some team might swoop in and sign him to an offer sheet, that's something that just doesn't happen, fear it as we might.

It's been eight years since it did.


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