Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leaving Las Vegas

Our man Lowe is off the charts this summer. Though like mc79hockey.com, I'm not sure how much of the blame starts with the EIG's budget restrictions. I mean if the Oilers had been willing to take back salary in the Pronger trade, would the Oilers be in different circumstances right now?

And if Lowe had known that the Oiler budget would be this high last summer, would he have signed on Smyth to a long term deal in the $5 million per annum range, as was reportedly being requested by Smyth's camp? Would Lowe have been more open to a no movement clause?

If Smyth had known, with certainty, that the Oilers would be a cap team. Would he have been willing to be more flexible in negotiations?

If the Oilers had run a more veteran team last season, and enjoyed more success, and shown a willingness to spend ... would they have been a more attractive option for UFAs this summer?

The most reasonable answer to all the questions above is Probably. But we are where we are, this is out of control now. Lowe is chasing losses, and it isn't pretty to watch. Though strangely enough, these are the exact types of moves that seem to appeal to the listeners of talk radio. Go figure, perhaps these moves work well in video games, I dunno.


On to the mistake du jour:

This Dustin Penner is an interesting player for sure. He's really late on the development curve no doubt, but I remember seeing him play in the AHL before he started scoring, and he was just dominant along the boards against that level of competition. Extraordinary really. Torres was the only player in the game who was clearly better than him, I thought.

Still, this is a wild overpay. Penner's gaudy counting numbers won't repeat. He bleeds scoring chances against, and we all know that this isn't beer league man-on-man hockey... wingers have a huge impact on the number of scoring chances their goalie faces, probably greater than any other position. So Penner is a bad fit for the Horcoff/Hemsky line. He simply isn't good enough to face that level of competition without being exposed.

Apparently Penner took over Lupul's old gig as Carlyle's whipping boy. There is a reason for that.

Dustin** played about half of the time with Marchant as his centre last season and posted good results. Bear in mind that they had the benefit of strong goaltending and defense behind them as well.

Problem is: Marchant did a lot better in terms of GF and GA (puck has to be somewhere!) when he WASN'T playing with Dustin.

The other line that Penner played a bunch on was the Getzlaf/Perry line. They did very, very well together. Granted these two players are pretty special talents, and for the most part they didn't play against good opponents. Still, results be results.

Problem is: Getzlaf/Perry did a lot better in terms of GF and GA (puck has to be somewhere!) when they WEREN'T playing with Dustin.

This is, of course, eerily similar to the circumstances that turned Lupul into a hypnotic shiny object last summer.

I look at this roster and I can't begin to imagine how they are going to match up competitively against anyone in the NW. I pity MacTavish here, it's kind of like being dealt a terrible poker hand ... but on the back of the cards are pictures of the hottest women in the deck. That's going to make it even tougher to lose with them. Hell, there are very few teams in the league that they will match up well against. This is a lottery pick team IMO. And my gut feeling is that Lowe's next move is to make a trade that will make them even worse. And Lowe has mortgaged some of the future, in terms of future budget salary cap and draft picks also. Most notably a first round draft pick that should be 5th overall, or thereabouts, in a draft that is meant ot be heavy in high end talent.

On the RFA "raiding" issue, I don't think any GM wants to lose a player this way, just because he might be seen as a soft target for RFA offer sheets by other GMs in the future. Better to be seen as a crazy-eyed bastard who will match any RFA offer sheet, no matter how insane it may be. But in this case, it's just far too much. Burke has to walk away I think.

On the upside, this offer to Dustin Penner is sparkling genius compared to the asinine attempt at signing Vanek. And it beats the holy hell out of Lowe's proposed contract that Nylander used to leverage other suitors. And I have to admit, it is all very interesting to watch. Lowe's self destruction is like an oddly compelling serial drama right now.





** This icetime information for Penner, the results with and without linemates ... it comes courtesy of David Johnson's absolutely terrific stats site. This really is addictive stuff, and it makes you appreciate guys like Iginla and Sakic even more. I'll put a link to it on the sidebar.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kevin Lowe, having some fun

Diving back in the RFA offer sheet world, Kevin Lowe and the Oilers have signed LW Dustin Penner to a 5 year, 21.5 million dollar contract.

I have been on the RFA offer sheet bandwagon for awhile, but was not for it this summer given that I thought EDM's draft pick would be worth too much to lose as compensation, given the quality of the RFA's available.

I don't like this move, but I'm not very familiar with Penner, so it's not much of an informed opinion in any case.

Interesting summer, this one. It has gone very differently from what I would have done, but let's see how it turns out.

*edit* The more I think/read about this move and Penner, the less I like it, but I will admit there is upside and it could, in theory, work out.

Also, I do not think Burke will match this - I would guess that Penner will be an Oiler.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Oilers Sign Souray

Big news today regarding the Oilers defense - we have less of it now. The following is from an HF post I made a little while back:

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I have made a quick attempt to quantify the tradeoff between Souray's PP points and his god-awful defensive play.

Sheldon Souray absolutely dominated on the powerplay this season to the tune of 48 powerplay points in 394.2 minutes of powerlpay time. This gives him a massive 7.31 ppp/hr. He was also a spectacularly horrid -28 playing what I consider to be an average ES workload (behind Montreal's match-up pair of Markov and Komisarek).

Mudcrutch's website lists the 50th percentile for powerplay points per hour for a defenseman to be 3.9, which unfortunately is clear of any mark our current defense can claim. If Souray scored at this league average rate on the powerplay, he would have scored 3.9(394.2/60) ~= 26 points with the man advantage.

Basically what this shows is that if you take Souray's 22 points on the PP above average and smack them onto his ES numbers he still comes out -6 while playing very average minutes. This ignores powerplay goals scored while he was on the ice that he had no hand in points-wise but it's still pretty telling: Sheldon Souray's spectacular powerplay skills combined with his awful defensive skills equal one very average NHL defender. Would you pay an average defeseman $5.7M per season? I know I wouldn't.

And finally, while Souray has always been a very good powerplay player, he had a career year last season in terms of production. While he also careered in terms of his minus rating I would say the latter stat is the most likely to repeat itself.
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More to follow, including a gross trip into the world of rationalization that explains why this is a GOOD idea (from ONE perspective, at least).

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OK - here's the universe in which this signing could be a GOOD idea.

Edmonton is set up to be a very poor ES team. The club we saw last year was 26th in the NHL by the GF/GA metric according to NHL.com and we clearly can't say improvements have been made. Sure, Joffrey Zoolander's departure could have meant the rest of Edmonton's players could have come out of their magnum-induced trance and play some fucking hockey but Smith for Pitkanen doesn't help the team at even strength. Neither do the signings of Tarnstrom and Souray... and wait, there's 60 games of #94's positive net effect that we're going to be missing as well.

Based on this, the only possible, fathomable, "I might suggest such a thing if I were two drinks away from comatose"(-able) way that Edmonton gets into the playoffs is by being dynamite on special teams. I sincerely think that their only glimmer of hope rides in trapping like hell and dominating with the man advantage. Souray gives them a shot at this (whee, bad pun!)

Edmonton's forward corps on the PK remain largely unchanged from last season. In fact, all of Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, and Marty Reasoner played more minutes shorthanded last year than Ryan Smyth. Jarret Stoll wasn't far behind either and that includes the fact that he only played 51 games. We are definitely a man down defensively without Gator but it is at least conceivable that Edmonton doesn't slip too many spots from its surprising 8th place finish in NHL penalty killing. Thank God we still have Roli.

I think by now anyone reading this will have figured out my next point. By adding a dominant powerplay presence in Souray to a unit that already includes Hemsky, Pitkanen and Horcoff, Edmonton has taken a giant leap forward in terms of expected powerplay production. If Souray comes in and puts up a PPP/hr in the mid to high 6 range, Pitkanen and Hemsky do what they do, and Horcoff/Stoll/whoever else continue to be somewhat useful, Edmonton's powerplay could climb into the top half of the league.

I don't honestly think that the formula will end up a winning one. It's clearly a reach to suggest that Edmonton *will* finish in the top 10 for both PP and PK performance this season. I do think, however, that it's the only option Kevin Lowe had left to save face and leave a glimmer of hope for a winning season. I also think that it's a much more astute decision than most hockey fans with a clue re: Souray are going to think it is at first blush.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

S-N-A-F-U

Tyler and Cosh have excellent posts up regarding the Nylander fiasco.

Tyler in particular seems to suggest that all contract law in the concerned jurisdictions is out the window based on language in the NHL CBA.

I wonder if that's really the case.

What exactly is a Letter of Intent? Does it have value regardless of the definition of an NHL/NHLPA contract? Furthermore, do you need an SPC with a player to prove that he negatively impacted your franchise's business? I'm not convinced of that either.

Anyway, I'm not sure I really care about this issue at all. No matter what happens, Nylander isn't going to be an Oiler and the organization's credibility is shot. Neither of those things is changing.

I do think Nylander would have been a pretty good move. I can't imagine the money would have been worse than $5.5MM/yr and I'm perfectly fine with burning a year at the end of the deal, so I'm not even that worried about the term. I trashed Nylander in the comments on this blog during the playoffs, but I checked his career scoring rates this offseason prior to the UFA season. They look very good and they looked good sans Jagr. I also think he was an excellent fit for Hemsky and I've heard mention that he's a little more focused than earlier in his career. That is to say, I wouldn't have been that worried about his softness.

Of course, I'm interested in watching the Oilers win some hockey games in the next two years, so I might be a little biased. I also don't think you rebuild by sucking for 4-5 yrs anymore either.

Just my opinion of course, but I think the Oilers organization has cemented its Mickey Mouse status this week. Assuming the past 13 months haven't already been enough.