Friday, November 30, 2007

A man of Reason

Refreshing to read article regarding the lack of scoring and solutions to improve it.


Buffalo Sabres president Larry Quinn made a presentation to the governors Friday which passionately asked for the league to consider spending more time and money on research and development to try and figure out ways to improve the game.

"We didn't propose any rule changes either," said Quinn. "What we said is, goal scoring is going down, we don't think the zone trap is what our fans want to see, and we've got to find a way to get it out of the game without damaging the game. And that requires a lot of research and development in my opinion. So it was a good discussion.".

Quinn would like to see the league's head office adding way more staff in order to tackle these issues more effectively.

"If somebody wants to go to a bigger net or a smaller catching glove or anything, we have the desired outcome at the end by researching it before we do it," said Quinn.

"For instance, there's a theory that bigger nets would get rid of the trap and improve goal scoring," added Quinn. "Who knows if that's true? I don't. So ideas like that need to be tested thoroughly so that if we decide to do something like that, it has the desired result. You'd hate to do it and not have it work."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Battle of Alberta

12. Calgary 25 10 12 3 23

14. Edmonton 24 10 13 1 21

"Gee, I expected the Battle of Alberta to be a little more battling than this"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lessons Learned from the 2003-2004 Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

The Edmonton Oilers highest scorer, Shawn Horcoff, is 47th in the league with 20 points (24 Games). Is it a problem that they don't have enough high end depth? Somewhat. In the sense a top scorers typically posts strong numbers on the PP, which in turn helps win hockey games. That being said, there are two examples in recent history that illustrate a club doesn't necessarily need a 80+ point player in order to win hockey games.

2003-2004 Edmonton Oilers


While they didn't qualify for the playoffs, which can mostly be attributed to the special teams, they won more hockey games than not. Despite the fact the PP (29th ranked in league) and PK (27th) were both among the bottom 5 in the league, the team ended up 7 games over .500, just 2 points out of 7th and 8th place in the Conference.

The key? Everybody contributing offensively while playing strong even-strength hockey. 14 players posted at least 20 points. The leading scorers were Ryan Smyth (59), Radek Dvorak (50), and Michael York (42). Only Ales Hemsky (-7), Eric Brewer (-6), Scott Fergueson (-5), Brad Isbister (-2) and Jason Chimera (-1) were on the wrong side of the ledger. On the good Side, Ulanov (+19), Dvorak & York (+18), Staios (+17), and Pisani (+14) among many others.

The team was 9th in GF (221), and 16th in GA (208)

The 2007-2008 team has only one thing in common with the 2003-2004 club - an inefficient powerplay (30th in league). While the PK is stronger (10th in league), EV play is a problem. 74 GA are a pitiful 29th in league rankings, most of them scored against at EV strength. Outscorers gone (or not playing this year due to injury) from the 2003-2004 club include Dvorak, Moreau, Pisani, Reasoner. The Oilers had a solid second line in Torres-York-Dvorak who simply put, took on the soft minutes and murdered opponents. Stoll isn't Mike York yet. And Dvorak never found his offensive touch again. On the back end, Staios was a better defenceman those days, as was Jason Smith. Cory Cross was effective as a bottom pairing, and seemed to have a career year. Igor Ulanov was a pleasant surprise, signed mid-season.

To be fair, that club was largely out of the playoff hunt until it's late surge in late February and March. They acquired Petr Nedved at the trade deadline who put up career-esque numbers clipping 15 points in 16 gaves. On the flip side, one can argue that a top scorer (i.e. One that posts results on the PP) like Nedved was proof enough that a top scorer is required to win hockey games, despite how good the team is on even-strength. The 2006-2007 Dallas Stars certainly seem to support that theory.

What we learned from the 2003-2004 club?

- Veteran hockey players are required to establish a strong 5-on-5 system

- Craig MacTavish is a good hockey coach, who currently can only do so much with the youngest team in the league that has 3 veteran hockey players (Souray, Pisani, Moreau) out with injuries much of the year.

- Perhaps the Oilers strong EV play made goaltenders Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkannen appear better than they actually were/are.

- If the Oilers had better goaltending from Tommy Salo (See Turco, Marty 2006-2007 Dallas Stars), the Oilers would have contended for the division

- PP and PK, like it or not, do matter. Perhaps even more so under the new NHL rules. That's why, when Ray "FUCKING" Whitney, who has over the course of his career demonstrated exceptional PP skills and results, publicly states he wants to play for the Oilers (and he went for only 1.5M), you don't pass up the opportunity. Carolina got a gem - one that certainly overperformed his contract and helped the Carolina Hurricanes win the 2006 Stanley Cup. Too bad, he could have been on our side.

- The West was certainly not as competitive as it is now. Going forward, you hope the NHL Western Conference doesn't imitate the NBA Western Conference of recent years

- The 2007-2008 Oilers squad lacks a 2nd line that can murder soft opponents, the way Torres-York-Dvorak did

- Future Oiler clubs, once the younger players gain experience, should attempt to imitate the 2003-2004 club's EV play, with more success on the PP. Perhaps Craig MacTavish is after all the right man to take them to the promised land.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Oilers on the Skids - December 5, 1993


What a hottie in the opening 5 second.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ryan Smyth Struggling in Colorado

Ryan Smyth is my favourite player. He's one of the few NHL players in my life that I've met.

I wasn't a fan of the trade, but I'm also not the most objective party.

20 games into the season with Colorado, he's posted these numbers:

20 6 7 13 -6

5th in team scoring, 6th in PPG.

Of course he's doing the heavy lifting in Colorado, but those simply aren't good numbers. The minus 6 is tied for 2nd in the team worst category, only "Behind" Scott Hannan who is -11. Of course the plus/minus numbers should always be used on context (Sakic is -4, Wolski is +9).

So, the ultimate questions to the 'sphere - what is wrong with Ryan Smyth? Did the Oilers make the right move taking a stand over $100,000/year?

Of course even if the Oilers had made the right decision - they followed it up by acquiring for PR purposes, Sheldon Souray, negating any possible future benefit of the decision.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ryan O'Marra Struggling

During training camp, I had written this piece on O'Marra. Now is a follow up on this prospect.

Above is a picture illustrating Ryan O'Marra as a Champion.

These days, he is anything but one

20 year old Ryan O'Marra, the central piece of the Ryan Smyth deal is struggling.

In the ECHL.

After playing only 3 games and going pointless with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, he was demoted to a lower tier league in the ECHL. He has posted 6G, 1A, 7 PTS in 11 games, 8th on his team in scoring.

For a 15th overall pick, it's a disappointment, especially considering he went 4G, 1A, 5PTS in 8 games as an 18 year old kid in the AHL. In the past, he's received rave reviews of his play and style:

Ken Morrow on his play in the AHL as an 18 year old kid

"I watched (O'Marra) in the World Junior tournament this year and he's just a steady two-way guy who shows up to play every shift," said Ken Morrow, the Islanders' Director of Pro Scouting.

"As you saw, he can score you some goals, he can kill penalties, he can check, and he can hit...he does a little bit of everything," explained Morrow, adding that O'Marra "doesn't look out of place (at the AHL-level)."

"He looks like a ten-year pro the way he handled himself...he's 18-years-old but he plays like a 25 or 26-year-old," said Morrow.

"I think we have a good one," pronounced Baseggio.

Is it just a confidence issue, or did his 2 major injuries kill his career as a professional hockey league player?

Monday, November 19, 2007

David Staples Article on the Oilogosphere

In case you missed it, a great article written by David Staples in today's Edmonton Journal.


That being said, there's another guy that deserves some mention. He's smart, original, and hammers his points home.


Have to say he's one of the top bloggers out there. He hasn't posted recently, but make sure to check out his archives.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mr. Glass still serving a purpose

After the PR work for the "Cash Is King" Lottery, Ethan Moreau doing his latest PR work for the the Oilers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Loweapologists Arguments

Term is coined by Dennis.

Here are the most often arguments given by Loweapologists, trying to convince the majority that Kevin Lowe is the man with a plan.

Argument 1: "Smyth isn't worth 5 YEARS! Guys break down at 34 and 35! Just look at Amonte and Naslund!!!"
Fact 1: Lowe obviously though otherwise, considering he offered Smyth a 5 year, 27M deal. A deal that would keep Ryan around until 36.


Argument 2: "Smyth is injury prone. Kevin Lowe made the right choice to pass on Smyth."
Fact 2: Compare with Souray's GP totals, and tell me who exactly is injury prone

And again, Kevin Lowe didn't pass on Smyth by offering him a 5 year contract. Therefore, the injury prone line is bogus, even if it was true that Smyth fit in that category.

Argument 3: "Kevin Lowe is thinking about the Oilers in long run. Thus, the Dustin Penner contract fits in with Kevin's long term vision as Penner will be earning his money in years 3, 4, and 5 of the contract."
Fact 3: If that were the case, why would Kevin Lowe offer a 4 year contract to a 35 year old Michael Nylander, whom is likely to decline in years 3 and 4 of the contract

Argument 4: "Ryan Smyth is Greedy. He is the only reason why Kevin Lowe could not sign him. Ryan should have taken a hometown discount. The truth is, Ryan Smyth didn't want to stay in Edmonton, while Sheldon Souray did."
Fact 4: Sheldon Souray took the best offer (in monetary figures, signing bonus, and length of contract). That is the only reason he signed here. In fact, according to this piece in the Montreal Gazette, the Oilers came out of nowhere to sign him:


A day later, the Canadiens offered Souray a four-year deal commonly reported to be worth $22 million, numbers he says “are close.”

By then, he had similar or better offers elsewhere – eventually a half-dozen or so serious offers, Souray says, before Edmonton came out of nowhere, “not even kicking the tires” until July 11 – and felt he had slipped well down the Canadiens’ list of priorities.

It is also to important to note, none of the guys in Moreau, Pisani, Staios, Horcoff, Lupul, and Roloson, at the times during their negotiations, took a hometown discount. But Ryan Smyth should have!


Argument 5: "Kevin Lowe is put at a huge disadvantage! Nobody wants to play in Edmonton!!!"
Fact 5: Players do want to play in Edmonton, as proven by the numerous guys that have signed long term contracts here. Typically, they go where the money is. While it may be a little more difficult for Lowe to compete in the UFA market when players have the choice, that doesn't mean every guy out there is a Pronger.

Detroit isn't exactly a tropical paradise either.

When given a choice, who would want to go to a place where the team has sold off every damn good player over the years, and won one game in regluation (one that cost us Patrick Kane) in the final 20 games? Last time I checked, celler dwellers teams like LA and Chicago also have had trouble attracting the marquee free agents.

Not to the endless drama within the organization, comparable to an episode of "Days of Our lives"


Argument 6: "Dustin Penner was a GREAT MOVE BY LOWE!!! Draft picks and prospects are massively overrated!"
Fact 6: If they are overrated, then why were you defending the return on:

The Pronger deal (An unproven Smid with little offensive game, a Lupul who had raw tools but poor ES numbers, a 1st, a 2nd, and another conditional 1st)

The Smyth deal (Nilsson, a 22 year old that had yet to crack the NHL on a full-time basis, O'Marra who had just come off a major injury and barely cracked the PPG as a 19 year old in the OHL, and is now doing only OK in the ECHL. Topped with another 1st round draft pick).


It's downright funny sometimes.

Before the ''You're a Basher Crew'' gets on me, hopefully the Oilers win against Minnesota tonight.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Revenue sharing and the Canadian Dollar

A great article by ALLAN MAKI AND ERIC DUHATSCHEK from the Globe and Mail, on the issue of revenue sharing and the appreciating Canadian dollar.

Below are some interesting excerpts from the article.

The Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes and Florida Panthers will soon feel the strain of a robust Canadian hockey economy, which is generating money for the NHL and increasing its hockey-related revenue. In turn, that could raise the NHL's salary cap. The high end of the cap, $50.3-million (all currency U.S. unless otherwise noted), isn't the issue. It's the low end, which is $34.3-million and could go up. For this season, the Predators and Washington Capitals had to spend upward of $4-million to $6-million just to reach the cap minimum. Now, there are questions surrounding the revenue-sharing aspects of the NHL's collective labour agreement.

According to published reports, the bottom-ranked clubs that receive revenue sharing "must generate a year-to-year growth rate in excess of the league average revenue growth rate." With the financial success of the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers, the NHL's weakest clubs may not be able to better the league average in revenue growth, and that would mean a deduction in the money they'd get from their partners.

In other words, the weak clubs would be weakened a little more, which wasn't supposed to happen in the new NHL. Of all the loopholes the league tried to close with its new collective agreement, this one was left unsecured.

"It's possible," Cal Nichols, the head of the Edmonton Oilers' Investors Group, said when asked whether small-market U.S. clubs could be damaged. "I can say that as our revenues grow, so increases what we pay into revenue sharing. I'm not going to say everything's wonderful [in Edmonton] until we find out what we have to pay. We don't know yet."

Playing the RFA Game

Based on 2007-2008 NHL Salary Cap of 50.3M, the RFA Offer sheet compensation was as follows:

AmountCompensation Due
$773,442 or lessNone
$773,442 - $1,171,8823rd round pick
$1,171,882 - $2,343,7642nd round pick
$2,343,764 - $3,515,6451st and 3rd round pick
$3,515,645 - $4,687,5271st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
$4,687,527 - $5,859,412Two 1st's, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick
$5,859,412 or moreFour 1st round picks

As the cap goes up, these figures adjust.

The Edmonton Oilers have the following Restricted Free Agents in the summer of 2008:

Jarret Stoll
Robert Nilsson
Joni Pitkanen
Tom Gilbert
Denis Grebeshkov
Marc Pouliot
JF Jacques
Zach Stortini

Stortini is extremely unlikely to receive an RFA offer sheet.

JF Jacques is another guy that is unlikely to garner much interest.

MAP, although possibly will become a regular NHLer one day, has yet to prove himself in the NHL

That leaves us with:

Jarret Stoll
Robert Nilsson
Joni Pitkanen
Tom Gilbert
Denis Grebeshkov


Say Jarett Stoll gets a 3.5M offersheet. Do you take the 1st and the 3rd?

Assume Robert Nilsson is really a full time player, and he receives a 2.2M offersheet. 2.2M is too much coin, but at the same time a 2nd round pick is insufficient compensation. Do you really want to lose the center piece of the Ryan Smyth deal over 1M?

Joni Pitkanen, meanwhile is recipient of a 4.6M offersheet. Is a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd suffient for a guy who was a top 5 pick?

Tom Gilbert gets his well earned, 2.3M offersheet? Any choice but to match?

Denis Grebeshkov - 1.5M. Is a 2nd rounder enough?

So why the concern? You end up with guys on the lower end of the chart ripe for picking, at salaries beyond their value towards the hockey club. In other words, you won't be receiving the same ''bang-for-your-buck" as you initially anticipated. At the same time, the compensation is insufficient, forcing you to reluctantly cough up the money.


Just like players can take advantage of negotiating with other teams, GMs can essentially protect their assets (RFA's) by taking them into arbitration. The kicker is that a player can only be taken to arbitration once in his career (which makes Pitkanen ineligible for team-applied arbitration), and the player must have 4 years or professional hockey experience. Using Mike Cammalleri's 3.1M and 3.6M arbitration award (despite posting 55 and 80 points in the past 2 years) for the next two years, perhaps Kevin Lowe should be thinking hard about taking Jarrett Stoll to arbitration. Especially if he ends up with 30-40 points.*

*Assumption made that he's not packaged in a trade by the summer of '08

I'm not sure what the deal is with Tom Gilbert, a guy who played a full 4 years in the NCAA, followed up with a season in the AHL and currently in the NHL.

Dennis Grebeshkov can be taken into arbitration as well.


I'm not really sure what will happen.

Since the lock-out, there have been only 3 RFA offersheets, 2 of them by Kevin Lowe. History, therefore suggests there isn't much to worry about. On the flip side of the coin, we've seen numerous clubs lock up their top young players on long term deals, post-Vanek offer sheet. It will be an interesting summer - will the GM's break the ''old boys network'' or carry on the illegal activity in the name of collusion?

Perhaps, like every summer, UFA's will dominate the market, some at prices or terms that are clearly beyond logic.


Perhaps a guy like Dion Phaneuf will receive an offersheet in the range below:
$4,687,527 - $5,859,412Two 1st's, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick

Perhaps a guy like Ovechkin will receive an offersheet in the range below:
$5,859,412 or moreFour 1st round picks

Perhaps Buffalo does indeed seek revenge against the Oilers and throw an offer at Nilsson or Pitkanen.

Not that I have a problem with it - it's a legal tool available for GM's to improve their hockey team. Why teams allowed the NJ Devils in the summer of 2005 to sign 3 UFA's, pressed at the cap, without consequences (i.e. Paul Martin, an RFA possibly available for only a 2nd round pick) is beyond me.

RFA offersheets - they really are fair game. Aside from rookies coming off their entry level contracts, a smart GM will make sure he that he protects his most valuable young assets or locks up good young players for the long run.

It will be interesting to see where Kevin Lowe falls, going forward.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Coyotes Marketing Promotion - "All You Can Eat"



The Phoenix Coyotes announced that they are now offering an “All You Can Eat” ticket package. Fans purchasing the package receive five (5) premier weekend games plus they can enjoy unlimited hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn, peanuts and nachos each time they visit Arena.

“The Coyotes are committed to making National Hockey League action affordable for our fans” said John Browne, Executive Vice President, Chief Sales Officer for the Phoenix Coyotes. “This package provides cost certainty for our guests and represents a great value when you consider the regular price of just the ticket and then add on the value of the food and beverages.”

The package is available in both the upper and lower seating levels. The “All You Can Eat” upper level package is priced at $150 ($30 per game) and includes an upper level ticket regularly priced at $28. A lower level package is also available at $275 ($55 per game) and includes a lower level ticket regularly priced at $55.


Pretty self-explanatory.

One of the few good things of a market that have consistently told the world that they don't want NHL hockey, are value-based promotions for fans.

Relocated from Winnipeg in 1996, with little hockey history behind the market, Phoenix has been an ultimate failure. Dubbed early on as a non-traditional market, it has done little to shed away from the label. After arriving in Phoenix, the team posted six consecutive .500 or better seasons, making the playoffs in every year but one. Attendance, however, regularly flirted in the bottom 10 category, never topping the 15,604 mark hit in the first year. Despite a new state-of-art facility constructed in 2003, attendance spike was temporary and the team finished 24th in 2006-2007 at 14,988 average attendance (including 1,580 complimentary tickets) per game.

Schedule Breakdown - A reason to be optimistic


Pacific Division

San Jose Sharks (1/2H, 0/2A)
Los Angeles Kings (0/2H, 1/2A)
Anaheim Ducks (0/2H, 1/2A)
Phoenix Coyotes (0/2H, 1/2A)

Northwest Division
Vancouver Canucks (1/4H, 1/4 A)
Minnesota Wild (1/4H, 2/4A)
Colorado Avalanche (1/4H, 1/4A)
Calgary Flames (0/4H, 2/4A)

Central Division
Detroit Red Wings (1/2 H, 1/2 A)
Nashville Predators (1/2H, 0/2A)

Philadelphia Flyers (1/1 H)

The injury-depleted Edmonton Oilers have only only played 7 out of the 17 games games this year on home ice.

Divisional comparison:
Calgary Flames - 11/17
Colorado Avalanche - 10/17
Vancouver Canucks - 8/16
Minnesota Wild - 7/15
Edmonton Oilers - 7/17

*Western Conference teams the Oilers have not played this year include: Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, and St. Louis

*Phoenix, Anaheim, and Calgary are the only teams the Oilers have played that have a current record as of NOV 12 below .500

*7 out of the remaining 9 games in November will be on home-ice. Souray is expected back next game, and Pitkanen shortly after. Moreau is a complete unknown, and there have been hints that Pisani could be back as early as the end of this month. December follows a 6:8 ratio for home and away games.

* 2 out of the 8 back-to-backs have been completed. 6 more remaining.

*4/15 PPV games have been broadcasted. 11 remain on the schedule.