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Hockey Talkie: Status Report on the NHL’s Long-Term Front-Loaded Contract Signings

December 16, 2011 1 comment

[Originally post for betonhockey.com on December 6/2011]

Alright all you NHL teams that tried to weasel your way around the NHL salary cap by signing players to long-term front loaded contracts, how have your deals been working out for you so far? You thought you were pretty smart by signing those sneaky but legal deals, so let’s see what you’ve come up with so far.

New Jersey Devils, you made the most publicized deal of the bunch, signing Ilya Kovalchuk at age 28 to a 15 year, $100 million dollar contract; keeping him as your property until 2025 when he’ll be 42 years old. That very same year, Kovy appeared in 81 games and put up his worst year’s point total (60) since his rookie year when he only had 51 – a far cry from the 98 he put up as a Thrasher in 05-06. Oh, and you missed the playoffs last year too. You better hope he picks his socks up, because no team in their right mind is ever going to be involved in a trade for that much money for a player with such relatively poor point production. The only offsetting factor is that Kovalchuk’s an outstanding player. He could neutralize most of this heat by playing like a superstar again. If he doesn’t, the Devils get a FAIL on this one.

Philadelphia Flyers, you signed Chris Pronger at age 37 to a 7 year, $34 million deal that locked him up in orange until 2017, when he’ll be 43. You also made him your captain. You’ve had decent playoff success, but still failed to win the Cup. Pronger’s been injured on numerous occasions, with a knee and eye injury being the most recent. Last year he only appeared in 50 games, his lowest since 94-95, and consequently had his lowest point total since then as well. This season he’s missed games due to a virus, the afore mentioned eye injury, and surgery on his knee. Is he going to make it to 43? Although Pronger brings a lot of veteran leadership and experience, I’d say Philly is behind the count on this one. [update: on December 15/2011, it was announced that Pronger will miss the remainder of the NHL season and playoffs due to post-concussion syndrome]

New York Rangers, looks like you didn’t think your signing of Scott Gomez in 2007 for seven years and $51.5 million was that great a move after all, considering you paid him $18 million of that contract before flipping him to the Montreal Canadiens for them to pay the remainder. Might have been a good play though, Gomez’s point production is constantly under criticism, and he’s coming off a career worst point total of 38 (his best was 84 in 05-06 with the New Jersey Devils) — pretty poor for a centerman. He’s the Habs’ problem until 2014, when he’ll be 34 years old. In the end, a win for NYR for moving him, and a tie at best or loss for Montreal when it’s all over.

Vancouver Canucks, you inked Roberto Luongo at age 32 to a 12 year, $64 million contract, keeping him a Canuck until 2022, when he’ll be 43. As much as I hate the Canucks, there’s no question that Roberto is an elite goaltender, so I understand your wanting to keep him around. Thing is though, as great of a run you had last season, Roberto let in more than 20 goals during last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Between that and your stars not scoring, you failed to win your franchise’s first Stanley Cup, and your fans destroyed your city. And that was only year one. You’ve got 11 to go, and Lu has already been shaky; giving way to “backup” Cory Schneider multiple times this season. Many think that Schneider should be the team’s #1 goaltender. Do that, and you’ll have $5.3 million dollars sitting on the bench every year you allow it. It’s great to have a President’s Trophy winning season and all, but if you fail to win the big trophy, it’s all for not. If Luongo can’t be consistent when it counts over the next decade, Vancouver loses this one. And maps may have to be re-drawn over the area that used to be the city of Vancouver, if rioters are given any more reason to cause carnage.

And New York Islanders, the pièce de résistance unquestionably still belongs to you. In 06-07, you signed Rick DiPietro to a 15 year, $67.5 million contract – keeping him on Long Island until 2021, when he’ll be 40 years of age. Apparently you were not informed that Rick needed to be kept in an antique store with a “FRAGILE” sign around his neck. You got two decent seasons out of him right off the hop, but it has been downhill from there. Due to injury, Rick played in only five games in 08-09, eight games in 09-10, and just 26 last season. Goaltending has been nothing short of a metaphorical revolving door, as DiPietro has shared the net with multiple goalies – none of which seem to be able to keep pucks out of it. The team has been, or close to, dead last in league standings the last number of years. You haven’t made the playoffs since Rick’s first season with the team. Between hip surgery, knee surgery, groin problems, neck injury, concussions, facial fracture, and sickness, DiPietro has only been able to play in a fraction of the games you surely hoped he would. And when he did play, the team still ended up being bad. Sorry NYI, there’s just no way you come out on top from this one. [update: on December 15/2011, DiPietro was placed on injured reserve yet again, after suffering a groin injury]

So, NHL owners, what have you learned?

Hockey Talkie: 24/7, NYI, Kings Colors Contention, Price Pose, Langenbrunner Laud, Spin-O-Rama’s, Pro-tection, and Euro-League Relegation.

January 15, 2011 3 comments

So I, seemingly like every hockey fan, loved HBO’s 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic mini-series. I touched on it a couple of blogs ago already, and the topic’s generally been beat to death and forgotten by now, but there’s two points I still want to discuss: First, as cool as the series was, the build-up was for a gimmicky mid-season game. Doesn’t the series seem tailor-made for the passion and emotion behind the pursuit of the Stanley Cup in the playoffs, and for specifically, the Cup Finals? Wouldn’t your eyes be glued to your TV watching the triumph of winning and heartbreak of losing the toughest trophy to win in sports? The boyhood dream storyline, first and last shots at the Cup… can you imagine seeing Marian Hossa backstage at any point of losing 2/winning 1? It blows me away that Americans need hockey to be put in a football stadium (where I can’t imagine fans at the game can see any of the action on a playing surface that’s ¼ the size of the football surface, unless they’re watching the jumbotron the whole game, in which case why didn’t they just stay home and watch it on TV?) in order for them to flock to it. Part of me thinks someday they (Americans)’ll get our game, the other part thinks the US sell is a big waste of time and the NHL should just milk the Canadian loyalist audience for all its worth.

On a lighter note, one of, if not the funniest segment of the whole series was Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau Christmas shopping for his wife, getting distracted by a Haagen Daaz ice cream store, saying “it’s never too early for ice cream”, getting turned away because the store didn’t serve ice cream that early, getting rattled, and then leaving the store with a shoes for his wife that were admittedly the wrong size and color. I mean, fat guy hypnotized by ice cream? The comedy writes itself. Enjoy:

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In an ongoing effort to not be poor, I was seriously considering betting against the New York Islanders for the rest of the season to make some money; and it seems good that I didn’t follow through on the notion, because they started beating top teams like Detroit and Pittsburgh. Someone tell the Islanders they’re not supposed to play “spoiler” until the playoff push. Good for them frustrating top teams lately, as well as my interest in gambling.

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If the LA Kings were better in their earlier years, do you think they would have stuck with the purple and gold jerseys? The LA Lakers win titles, and they look good in those colors; yet the Kings were bad, and got mocked for them. Coincidence?

Same colors: One is adorned in rap songs, the other ridiculed through history.

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I really enjoyed Carey Price’s crossed arm pose after stopping Pittsburgh in a shootout recently, mostly because of the heat he’s taken in Montreal for so long; it was good to see him have some success and win some favour back.  I’ve secretly been cheering for him to shake the Halak-ian curse, and I think he’s pretty well done that, finally.  Then of course, the Habs lost to Pittsburgh, and Marc-Andre Fleury jammed it down his throat by doing the same pose. Hmm, oh well, so much for that.

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I was surprised to see Jamie Langenbrunner not only traded from the New Jersey Devils recently, but also traded for so little. A guy that’s won 2 Cups, captained an NHL and Olympic team, and always put up consistent, steady point production seems worth more than a 3rd/2nd round pick. But there isn’t much value in anyone from the Devils these days. I think NJ got hosed in that deal; at least Langenbrunner gets to play for a good team.

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There’s been lots of talk about spin-o-rama goals in shootouts these days. My thought is I’m fine with them. My only potential beef is with goals like Mason Raymond’s ; I think he might have stopped moving forward, which is the only real shootout rule, besides the idiotics of Kovalchuk losing the puck and Stamkos falling (seriously, of all players, those two both f’d up clear, uncontested breakaways?).

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Ovie demo'ing the 2012 Oakley visor

I’ve never understood why pro players insist on things like wearing no helmet in warm-up, taking the earguards of their helmets, and wearing visors that are not approved by any standards association in the world. I just don’t get wearing less protection at the level full of the biggest and toughest players in the world, that theoretically could damage you more than anyone else in the sport. Did anyone see Scott Gomez a few years ago take a puck in the head during warm-up that ricocheted off the post and into his melon and bust him open? At literally every level of hockey besides pro, you have to wear approved equipment (minor, junior, college/university, & minor pro), so why do players shed all the gear they’ve gotten used to over their entire playing career to be less safe? It’s gotta be all aesthetics, right?  From a business standpoint, it’s a really dumb move — the pros wear all this special gear, and young minor hockey players want to wear it, but when they go to buy it, they find out it’s not approved by the safety standards that regulate equipment use at their level (The Oakley visors are the prime example, they’re illegal in every level up to pro).  These kids are the major market for equipment manufacturers because parents will buy their kids whatever they want, in contrast to the junior or college player who gets all their gear provided to them by their team. 

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And lastly, do you think European-League relegation theory would ever work in North American hockey, specifically the NHL–AHL and maaaaybe ECHL? The process is this: If you win your league, your team ascends to the league above and receives an inflated budget. If you finish dead last, you go down and lose money. Sure, this could introduce a lot of problems, most notably probably the last-place/first-draft-pick system, but it’d make for a little more competitiveness and exposure to unknown teams, don’t you think?

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