The stretch is now upon us and teams are jockeying for position. For some teams, it's a clear call and they know their spot. For a few others though, the story is not decided, and the scramble is on. This article will focus on the six clubs we've identified still have at least a mathematical shot at getting in but aren’t there yet. Here's a look, starting in the East:
NEW YORK ISLANDERS -- Long Island is an apt place to start, with Pat Blais's charges nine points behind New Jersey, and the Devils have a game in hand for that extra bit of security. The Isles made a big noise at the deadline, moving high priced vet Holik along with Tikkanen in a five player deal that netted them Peter Forsberg. Clearly, he'll be the centerpiece of any future playoff drive. At the same time, they still have enough veteran talent to at least be flirting with a longshot run, and we didn’t have the heart to count out The Dominator, even though the team is fading further with this latest three game skid.
MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS -- The Admirals are finding the waters rough indeed, matey. Milwaukee finally clipped the Blues this week for the lead in the Central, but it's only a point and they paid a dear price with injuries to Zhamnov and Helbling. Thankfully for them, neither injury is long term. And they should be in the hunt until the end, especially if the AHL has the grace to get the call-up paperwork straight. Jeff Deres knows it's hard to get good help these days, and Sharks were circling this week. It's definitely a fight to the finish here, and they just might need a bigger boat.
ST. LOUIS BLUES -- It should be unthinkable for the Blues to be on this list, given their epic early season run but it is what it is and here they are. Something definitively went wrong and despite a flurry of trades to fix the problem, it hasnt yet. Notable additions Tomas Sandstrom and Brendan Shanahan were acquired to push them over the line, and on paper they still look impressive but the Blues have fallen back. With Roy, they have the ability to catch fire at any time, regardless of who he faces on a given night. We think the Blues will still be there at the end, but their postseason course is a lot muddier than before. MINNESOTA WILD -- It's hard to figure this team out, even for GM Kurta. Equal parts inconsistency and resilience, this team has been a study in adventure all year. Their penalty kill had gotten better since the trade for Madden, but then their chief rival Milwaukeee tagged them for four power play markers recently. And yet, after the loss of Kasparaitis to injury should spell disaster to their playoff hopes, they are 3-1 without him so far. They have one soft spot in their schedule down the latter part of the stretch.Depending on how they do in those three games could mean the difference between the crown and a sixth seed, facing Edmonton in the first round, or being out altogether.
LOS ANGELES KINGS -- The primary danger for Minnesota, LA still wants a party hat despite being in a rediculously stacked division that has them fifth. They've done their part despite dealing Tkachuk, grabbing Friesen and Patrick Sharp in trade. They seem to be another team on the edge of balancing the future with a run for now, and they still can make some noise. Regardless of what happens this season they'll be heard from. It's a given that if they were in any other division they'd be solidly in the hunt.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS -- For awhile now, they've been the team that should, but they're turning into the team that should have. For the moment though, they sit just seven points behind the Central leading Admirals and have gotten lost in the shuffle somewhat. The schedule is daunting, but if they make it through to the final five games with a shot, guess what? They're all against Central opposition and they could have the last word yet.
Deadline Dealin' Matt Schroor
Holy Shit what a crazy couple day. Leading up to the deadline there were many deals made, the deadline was almost a dud. Then at the last minute bam, the biggest deals of the trading period. I won’t do too much lead up,I am going to look at the Top 5 deals from the Eastern conference this trading season.
5. Kings acquire Jeff Friesen from Flyers for S15 and S16 1st Round Draft Picks
Had to add this one. If anyone thought that Jeff Friesen would move for 2 1stRounders you would have been crazy. He is a good younger player that has excellent offensive touch but the two 1sts is a little steep. Great patience from Zach to wait till the last minute to complete this deal and take the sting out of losing Peter Forsberg because he would not sign a contract extension.
4. Sens acquire Darcy Tucker and S13 1st from Whalers for Nylander, Pivonka, and S15 1st
Darcy Tucker was a impending free agent and he was going to be moved out of Hartford the question was the cost. Sens got the better player out of the deal and he did sign quickly in Ottawa. The Whalers got a couple good role players that will attempt to fill the void that Tucker left. The exchange of the 1sts balances out the deal to be almost even for both sides. Just a good hockey trade for both parties.
3. Bruins acquire Alexei Zhitnek, Peter Forsberg, and Tomas Kaberle from the Flyers for Al MacInnis, Jeff Friesen and S15 1st.
Holy shit, how is this number three. I actually guessed earlier that these two teams would be involved in a trade close to the deadline. This was a monster deal and both teams end up moving players that were already on their way out of town. Boston got two young defenders and have a ton of upside. Philly got one of the best defenders in the game for a short period of time and a S15 1st. Of course I missed someone, he will be mentioned later. Once again good hockey trade from both teams, Boston gets younger on the blueline(more to come on that next) and Philly gets a lot of picks and MacInnis.
2. Bruins Acquire Joe Nieuwendyk from Rangers for Glen Wesley, and S14 1st.
Joe is the biggest name to move in the trading period(O wait, shit, late minute trade fucked me). Joe was coming to the end of his career but still has value. GM Schroor 1.0 decided that this was time to him to move. Boston finished the job moving the greybeards of the blueline by moving Wesley. He has the makings of two very strong forwards lines with Nieuwendyk and rolled the dice one more time. The Rangers end up adding Welsey and Lumme(Sorry Lumes, not top 5 this time) put them in the running for the top bluelines in the game. He also added an every elusive S14 1st.
1. Bruins acquire EsaTikkanen and Bobby Holik from Isles for Peter Forsberg and Luc Robitaille
If Steve was playing craps before he is playing fucking Yatzee now. He just picked up three of the top players in the East is a couple days. Esa and Bobby(and his massive 11m contract) have been playing well together and will probably be better with better linemates in Boston. They now have the best forward corp in the league, hands down. The moved all there defenders and hope that their lower OV(not say bad) can keep the other teams offence at bay. Pat finally got to move Esa in the twilight of his career. He got Forsberg back which is the linchpin of this deal, his younger centre that he was looking for. Luc Robitaille was also added to the deal to send scoring back. Once again both teams got what they were looking for. Boston are in win now mode and have made the moves to get there. The Isles got their younger centre and a top line winger. There were no real winners in the deals or losers. I will say this, I am fucking scared of the Bruins, so brother please to care of the before the Finals.
Blockbuster Du Jour Steve Tindall
Sit down children, I’m going to tell you of a magical place where you could go and rent VHS tapes, DVDs, and video games. Grandpa what are those things you ask? Well let me tell you….What? Speak up sonny! Not the video stores? You wanted me to talk about trades? Well why didn’t you say so in the first place whippersnapper?! Get off my lawn! Okay children we’re going to take a different walk down memory lane. We are going to make our way out to the weaker, less important part of the VHL. Go West young man! There we will look at these inferior teams and identify a singular deal that shaped that team’s current identity. So without further ado and in no particular order….
Vancouver The Canucks have made more than a few “big” trades. Some of them weren’t even forced by greedy FA bound players. Deals where Kirk Muller or Joe Nieuwendyk were moved and not even a first rounder came back in return. PavelBure was moved after stating that the Western teams weren’t good enough for him and telling GM Matt Schroor “trade me right fucking now!” However, the deal that shaped the current Canucks landscape has to be acquiring Theo Fleury. The cost? Brett Hull and a 1st rounder. Hull is retired now and Fleury is the heart and soul of the team. Pretty much the only indispensable player on the roster.
Winnipeg The Jets should feel the need to play keeping up with the Joneses in the competitive Pacific. The only issue seems to be that their roster has been better than most for many seasons. It’s just converting that talent to playoff success that seems to elude Winnipeg. Or they need to find someone capable of removing the large horseshoe from Vancouver’s ass. The Jets have moved several name players but the “big” deal in my opinion is getting Tony Amonte for Todd Marchant, Sami Pahlsson, and a 2nd. Wow, what a deal. Well done Mike.
Saskatoon Ah toon town, my 2nd favourite whipping boy. The Wolves recent resurgence was largely tied to the acquisition of one Curtis “Cujo” Joseph. Well he was recently moved to Chicago for Roberto Luongo. So either of those deals could be the One right? Franchise goalies are the most important asset a team can have (or so it says in my Pittsburgh Penguins league domination manifesto). I would have to disagree. The deal I’m going to highlight is one done not by current management and definitely is one that Mr. Hurley would like a take back on. In what to my mind is the worst robbery in VHL history, GM Dustin Funk of the Whalers snatched Joe Sakic. What did he give in return for one of the best Centers in the game? Adam Burt, Dean McAmmond, Jan Bulis and a Hartford 1st (or as I call it an early 2nd). So either Funk is a Jedi working his powers on the feeble minded or there was a secret fishing trip somehow involved. Good Lord how do you break up Sakic, Sundin, and Lindros?!
San Jose The Sharks have made numerous deals. For the most part they involved smaller “tune up” deals. There is one in particular that sticks out and affected me personally. New Jersey was in cap trouble and needed to make some space. The outcome was the Sharks getting Thomas Steen and Claude Lemieux for Jeff O’Neill, Alex Ponikarovsky and a 2nd. Those two vets are what put the Sharks over the top and won them a Cup. Frigging game changing vets for a 2nd , a light blue chipper and a man known as “Pony”. Steen is retired now but Lemieux remains a game changer. O’Neill was traded somewhere else and is okay I’m sure. I lost a Cup because of this horse shit deal.
St. Louis The Blues have been involved in many deals and quite a few involved big name players. At first glance the Roy trade seems fairly obvious because of the impact he is having this season. If he continues his stellar play in St. Louis for the remainder of his career I will revise my opinion. To me the big deal was for Vaclav “I’m not your cousin Vinny” Prospal. Now I will have to clarify a little as the Blues have had not 1, not 2, but 3 deals involving Mr. Prospal. The one I’m referring to is the last one involving the Milwaukee Admirals. Prospal was sent back (maybe for good) to St. Louis for DaymondLangkow, Alexander Daigle, and two 1strounders. Quite a steep price at first glance.Langkow and Daigle are young promising commodities which is why they’ve been traded so often. The draft picks were from a team that had stockpiled them, thus diminishing the loss of them. In return they got a player that had found his form and could be a franchise player.
Milwaukee Did I mention Langkow and Daigle have been moved several times? Now, I could argue the above Prospal trade as the most impactful deal for the Admirals as well. I could but I won’t. I think the deal where GM Deres took those two suitcase warriors, added Rhett Warrener, Chris O’Sullivan and two 1st round picks and sent them to LA is the bigger deal. They took advantage of LA being unable to extend Rod Brindámour and Jason Smith and got one hell of a deal. Brindy is an elite forward and Smith is a tough nosed defender who can score too. The Admirals got both to sign extensions and become key pieces for their playoff push.
Well this went longer than originally planned. Tune in next time for part two.
Money, Money, Money ... pt. III Nathan Schroor
I’m not going to lie about how much harder this is getting with some frisky teams moving many (or all) of their players in a reshuffling of the deck (looking at you Boston). But the formula does seem to allow comparison at any time during the season now, so it is a concept to build on and yes, I take requests. I have also taken note of a few non-financial related observations that seem noteworthy during this exercise. Without further adieu, the Matt G prescribed introduction is concluded.
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Simon Gagne 13G / 17A, 7G / 13A, $550,000 C – Dale Hawerchuk 10G / 21A, 12G / 13A, $6,737,000 RW – Pavel Bure 23G / 21A, 10G / 17A, $4,940,000 Combined - 46G / 59A, 29G / 43A, $12,227,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 28.6% / 35% Price Per Point: $55,600
Notes: Pretty much a perfect season for Simon Gagne and one of the best rookies in the league this season. Would like to pay a high compliment to GM Tindall for his development of the youngster, even if he lost patience with Simon in junior; this is how young players can be put into positions for success so other teams take note. Despite almost an entire roster shuffle these three players remain on the roster a form the second-best value line in the division while being the second priciest. Gagne is also the best value player evaluated so far in any division (until Zetterberg), I like the work so hard Boston (and thanks for Wesley back)
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Mark Recchi 13G / 8A, 5G / 6A, $5,871,000 C – Dale Hawerchuk 18G / 19A, 3G / 16A, $3,099,000 RW – Pavel Bure 15G / 21A, 5G / 9A, $550,000 Combined - 46G / 48A, 13G / 31A, $9,520,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 26.7% / 40% Price Per Point: $55,524
Notes: Narrowly defeating Boston in value this line has generated much less actual production and might be cause for the disappointment in Buffalo even with all the talent there. Not quite certain of what Mark Recchi has accomplished to earn his raise but perhaps he will perform better if he feels compensated, in fact this line is doing so well in spite of him. Marian Hossa also gets a big nod for his development and the work that GM Whobacher is doing, but its kind of a savant skill in Buffalo and the GM’s willingness to work with other GM’s these days is going to lean even heavier on that ability in the future. Recchi was the most expensive top line player in the division after a who recently took a pay cut, probably should have had Mark’s agent…
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Geoff Sanderson 22G / 22A, 4G / 17A, $3,745,000 C – Joe Sakic 28G / 25A, 12G / 17A, $5,229,000 RW – Scott Mellanby 6G / 16A, 7G / 3A, $6,897,000 Combined - 56G / 63A, 23G / 37A, $15,871,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 25.5% / 33% Price Per Point: $72,446
Notes: The most striking thing here is that even with above average salaries Joe and Geoff earn their pay and simply produce, with both registering in the middle of the pack for value individually (52K and 47K respectively) and being the 4th best value line in the division thanks to dragging Scott Mellanby along. That’s what $176,105 per point buys you for the division’s most expensive player despite playing alongside elite talent. Taking Toronto out of the mix this line plays the least of any in the division at only 33% and only accounts for just over 25% of the team’s points. Some of this is great offensive defenseman but also a testament to team depth. With the only enemy of the Whalers being the contract button, it still hasn’t overly slowed down the team as they yet again roll over the division.
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Chris Drury 17G / 21A, 5G / 9A, $1,613,000 C – Kirk Muller 32G / 31A, 10G / 26A, $9,573,000 RW – Martin Erat 9G / 9A, 4G / 12A, $550,000 Combined - 48G / 61A, 19G / 47A, $11,736,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 33.7% / 35% Price Per Point: $51,060
Notes: Imagine a time that instead of Martin Erat, the Canadiens had Tomas Sandstrom. With Kirk Muller the two were putting together a magical season on the scoresheet that still wasn’t translating into a playoff spot. Cough, Patrick Roy, cough. Chris Drury is the best value for players not on an ELC at $24,967 per point and even Kirk Muller at almost 10 million dollars is still a respectable $77,829. Continued development of the youngsters will be more difficult without the presence of the aforementioned veterans but GM Torre needed a valuable return for them and not a swan song into retirement. These three accounted for more than a 3rd of their teams offense, best in the division in even strength value and combined value, only second to Boston’s PP forwards. In Drury and Erat the Habs have a strong base to rebuild their franchise.
Notes: Line combinations often changed up the right-wing position but at the time of research Neely was leading in average ice time so he gets the nod here. Too bad really since he’s so expensive but I had to pick someone as Joe is also not relevant anymore either, being shipped out to Tampa (more on that later). This very pricey combination is also the lowest in percentage of their offense at only 22.5 percent, but that could easily be because Manny Legace and those defenders are the ones that normally do the beating; after all, I’d know. Joe’s arbitration ruling puts him at a division 5thworst value at $110,101 per point and likely why he signed a modest 6.5 million dollar extension with the Lightning. Kovalev’s career appears back on track and even finished top five in even strength value. Overall the team’s success has always been built from the net out and these figures only serve to validate that assumption. Two VHL Cups don’t hurt either.
Notes: Sometimes Leaf fans get the feeling that this rebuild is going to take just as long as the real-life version and sometimes I tend to agree. With all the young talent assembled on this roster it’s a wonder how many top five picks the team really needs before they take off. The top line is deployed at a league low 26 percent of even strength opportunities, uses the Detroit 1-2-2 strategy and doesn’t even let top sniper Jarome play on the PP. At some point the training wheels must come off and these guys just need to be allowed to try and win some games. Yashin is ranked 3rd worst in the division at $145,755 per point but that could easily be turned back into a positive with some veteran mentors and what’s more Jarome was 4th worst at $136,976 per point. A couple reasonable trades or a success kick at free agency could easily turn these guys into contending for a playoff spot next season, but how many lottery picks is enough GM Constable?
With all those calculations being made and observations made the one thing that is truly hard to measure is successful combinations and what makes them tick. Some teams it appears to be plug and play and success and other great players struggle no matter who they are with, but when it comes to value in the Atlantic Division it appears to be more about team depth and the guys playing behind you that leads to success. So perhaps we can all lay off the $11,000,000 Holik’s in the offseason and start looking at defenders and goalies instead. Value
Best Value Line (4,199,000 Cap Hit), ($62,249 Per Point)
LW Simon Gagne C Daniel Briere RW Marian Hossa
Worst Value Line (17,181,000 Cap Hit), ($469,529 Per Point)
The season is coming down the stretch, the trade deadline is closing in, and races are heating up (particularly in the West). Today we're going to look at each of the division leaders, their chances of holding on, and the likely threats for each crown.
LEADER: PITTSBURGH PENGUINS ( 92 points, +11 margin) GAMES LEFT: 23 ESTIMATED % FOR THE CROWN: 90 %
The Pens have spent most of the season lapping the Atlantic field, highlighted by an incredible 16 game winning streak that had many fans wondering if GM Dave McGowan had somehow gotten hold of Jimmy Page's ouija boards to summon help from the dark side. The reality is, the Pens are playing remarkable hockey in front of a revitalized Sean Burke, something that should make Wild fans want to reach for the lead pipes and pitchforks.
NEW YORK RANGERS - The only club within even a shout (and even then only on a clear day) the Rangers just added veteran Jyrki Lumme, which should help but time's a' wastin', as they say. They need an epic run like the Penguins just had, but the hockey gods are rarely so egalitarian. Conventional wisdom says this one is over, and we agree.
NORTHEAST DIVISION LEADER : HARTFORD WHALERS (84 points, +5 margin) GAMES LEFT : 21 ESTIMATED % FOR THE CROWN : 55%
As we'd covered previously, Hartford has had it going their way all season, but their lead isn't as big as you might have thought even a few short weeks ago. One might have thought it was a runaway, but Ottawa has closed the gap. The edge for now stays with the leaders but Hartford should be glad that a whale can't turn its head. The pursuer(s):
OTTAWA SENATORS - They currently have a 14 point lead on Boston so, this is a singular pursuit unless something amazing happens. They've stumbled in the last 3, but should make up a few of those lost points with the Flames and Caps on the upcoming schedule. But they also have the Jets and Pens to contend with so, it's not going to be a cakewalk to gain ground.
LEADER : ST. LOUIS BLUES (63 points, +2 margin) GAMES LEFT :20 ESTIMATED % FOR THE CROWN: 30%
A season after this division was the league's virtual pee trough, the race within has become the most compelling. The Blues blazed through the first 35 games or so, but have looked entirely mortal of late. Adding Shanny from New Jersey was supposed to shore up the front, but it hasn't worked out that way early. Meanwhile, Milwaukee, Minnesota and even Chicago have largely gotten right and have formed a pack. Here's a look:
MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS - Leading the charge with a valuable game in hand, Milwaukee looks likely to keep the pressure on down the stretch. Also, they have a knack for adding the right player at the right time. There have been rumors but nothing concrete yet. We bet it goes down to the wire.
MINNESOTA WILD - Next up is Minny, whose momentum has somewhat of a stop/start feel. They're largely most concerned with getting back into the post-season, but a division crown would mean a return to relevance. the addition of Madden has jump started the special teams, arguably their biggest weakness. With two games in hand and a little more consistency, just maybe....
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS - The Blackhawks have some ground to make up, but have beaten Minnesota twice this week, and face the Blues head-to-head coming up, and 3 games in hand to boot. a tough schedule could slow them though.
LEADER : EDMONTON OILERS (84 points, +8 margin) GAMES LEFT: 21 ESTIMATED % FOR CROWN: 70 % Careful and calculated as a (beloved) despot should be, VHL's leader and Oilers GM Chris Baker is as steady as ever, guiding the Oilers to the top spot at the moment by steadily adding a mix of top end talent and support players to resurrect the Oilers brand from oblivion. A stiff challenge from their countrymen in Vancouver aside, they look a solid bet to grab the ring....but:
VANCOUVER CANUCKS - Probably the most realistic competition, GM Matt Schroor didn't get to where he is by being an idiot. A slow start threatened to scuttle their season before it took shape, and they've shaved some age from their lineup while keeping the centerpieces and adding complimentary players. It may not get them the division but don't bet against them repeating their run from a year ago. WINNIPEG JETS - A longshot play, no doubt, but a skid by either front-runner could open the door. Craig Anderson is about as solid as a rookie tender can be, but do vets like Amonte, Selanne, and Oates have enough to carry the load for a steep climb ahead?
Beasts of the East or Best Western? Steve Tindall
Lately there has been a debate of which is the dominant conference. There have been numerous debates, several arguments and more than a little trash talk. So I decided to do a little research (as little as possible) and see if there was any evidence to support either side of the argument. It made sense to me to look back at the last 5 seasons as it would give an odd number of years for tie breaks and enough years to see trends.
Let’s start with the most obvious metric, championships. The Stanley Cup Champions of the last 5 seasons are:
S11- Ottawa Senators EAST (still can’t believe these bums won) S10- San Jose Sharks WEST (total hose job, damn game 7s) S9- Pittsburgh Penguins EAST (the Empire isn’t supposed to win is it?) S8- Ottawa Senators EAST (no idea how this flippin’ happened) S7- St. Louis Blues WEST (complete fluke but it screwed PIT so it’s cool)
Okay so it ends up with the East getting a 3-2 edge in Cups. Granted both Sens Cups were complete horse shit but they still count. What was really interesting to me was the fact that every single of those series went to a game 7. That tells me that there is a lot of parity between the top teams.
So now let’s deal with the other end of the spectrum. Let’s go from first to worst. What team has finished dead last and stunk up the joint?
S11- Kansas City Scouts WEST (the competition scalped them) S10- Calgary Flames WEST (the Kane rule anyone?) S9- Tampa Bay Lightning EAST (Deres really screwed the pooch this year) S8- Chicago Blackhawks WEST (tanking with class) S7- Chicago Blackhawks WEST (just making sure he got a good pick)
So here we see that 4 out of the five years we have the bottom of the barrel in the West. Now we have to give the conference a little bit of leeway on this one. Both expansion franchises were placed in the West and it was a given up until recently that the Blackhawks would finish last. It’s not like the East doesn’t have bad teams. Toronto stills stinks like month old limburger and Buffalo was a cellar dweller for many years. Hell, even the mighty, mighty Bruins were shite for a season. However, this is fairly obvious evidence that if you suck that you most likely play in the West.
Next, let’s move away from the teams and look at the individuals. It’s no big secret that if you want to have a great team you need a great player (or two). So now we’ll look at the Hart Trophy Winners:
S11- Theo Fleury WEST (the little bastard is an elite scorer) S10- Steve Yzerman EAST (does he have to be on PIT?) S9- Mark Messier EAST (not sad to see the Moose gone) S8- Steve Yzerman EAST (Dave I’ll give you 3 firsts and a Timmies card) S7- Mario Lemieux WEST (Mario when he was still Super)
Again it is close with the East coming out with the 3-2 advantage. This season it looks like Fleury and Yzerman are both in the running and Montreal’s Kirk Muller is challenging as well. Both conferences have great players but it’s still
Now the final litmus test is where it makes all the difference for me. It is hard to quantify and there are no real measurable metrics. It’s who am I worried about playing? What opponents concern me?
In the West: San Jose, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.
I’m sorry Central Division, you guys don’t concern me. Yes even the Blues with the great season they are having. As for Saskatoon, Calgary and LA? Give me more games against them please.
In the East: Hartford, Pittsburgh, NYR, Buffalo, Philadelphia and I guess Ottawa (well not so much without Thornton).
First up are the two regular season juggernauts in Hartford and Pittsburgh. No game against them is easy. The Rangers have shown they can play with anyone. Buffalo and Philly are both struggling but still have talented rosters that are a threat. Somehow Ottawa has strung together some impressive win streaks. Then there’s a team in Boston that not many teams want to play (especially if Holmqvist keeps playing like he has).
Now I know what a lot of you guys are gonna say. You’re just a homer with an eastern bias. The West is Best, we have the toughest division, yada yada yada…. Well sorry my western friends but the puck don’t lie.
Money, Money, Money ... pt. II Nathan Schroor
I only received positive feedback from my first money article, so I’ll continue to look at value of top line players in the Central Division this week. Please keep in mind that the articles cannot be compared against each other because players were not looked at on a per game value. In the first attempt players were looked at using an annual salary rate but for fairness and comparative purposes salaries will be broken down to their per game rate and then measured. This won’t create the ‘wow’ factor of $150,000 per point costs (for some it still will) but it assesses value when compared at different times in the season. I am going to try and work a per game into this article so the following three (and future articles) will have the means for comparison. However, line combinations rarely stay the same all season for various reasons and surprisingly players don’t all stay in the same places all season. With all that being said let’s get into it anyways…
Note: While certainly one of the most expensive lines in the league, it is surprising to note that aside from Doug Gilmour (understandable at 11 million per season) these guys produce at their pay grades. Turgeon and Richer rank simply as average for the return on their salaries and all together they account for over a third of the team’s offense. I’d say that in spite of the large numbers these guys are costing against the salary cap, the investment is one of the best in the league. Sadly Turgeon is rumored to be on the move, and since beginning this article the Sedin’s and Glen Murray have taken over the helm.
Detroit Position Even Strength Power Play Salary LW – Jere Lehtinen 7G / 5A; 1G / 8A; 3,540,000 C – Doug Weight 13G / 14A; 9G / 14A; 7,917,000 RW – Jimmy Carson 6G / 5A; 2G / 3A; 2,997,000 Combined - 26G / 24A; 12G / 25A; 22,113,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 23.5% / 35% Price Per Point: $117,512
Note: It pains me to write that Doug Weight has not gone to a better place. Both Lehtinen and Carson while relatively low-cost rank bottom five in the division in even strength value, power play value and combined value. In fact, of the 9 ratings for these 3 players they rank in the bottom third in 8 of them. In fact, this is one of the poorest teams regarding value and production and is in serious need of some investment in both. In this division, with Doug Weight and Nicklas Lidstrom on the roster, there is no reason not to compete for a playoff spot. Perhaps some of those 4th round picks can play wing?
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Niklas Hagman 4G / 5A; 4G / 6A; 550,000 C – Andrei Nikolishin 9G / 12A; 3G / 9A; 2,341,000 RW – Tomas Sandstrom 12G / 29A; 8G / 13A; 5,983,000 Combined - 25G / 48A; 15G / 28A; 8,874,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 36.9% / 40% Price Per Point: $52,211
Notes: It comes as no surprise that this is the cheapest line in the Division, but it is also the best value line. Bearing in mind that Tomas’ numbers are also from playing with Kirk Muller and he is no small salary on his new line mates are also top in value in both phases and combined. Niklas Hagman is the best value (it seems entry level contracts are almost automatic despite actual production) at $19,416 per point, with a projected rookie season of 28 points. It is good to see Niko has finished 4th in the division at $47,581 per point with a 49-point projection. Also, interesting to see is that this is the third central division team to be using physical on their top line after zero team used it from the Pacific division. This line accounts for the highest percentage of team offense at just under 37%, 3.5% higher than any other team. Milwaukee
Notes: This line is the only line that has more defence than offense as a strategy and is also one of the most cost-effective lines in the Division at even strength. With Danton Cole costing a whopping $442,000 per PP point its no wonder GM Deres is trying to find him a new home and despite his lack of production the line is still the 2nd highest producing in the division (Chicago 169 to Milwaukee 152). Zhamnov is one of only 4 forwards to finish top 5 in all 3 categories for value (even strength, PP and combined) and is the only one of them that is an established veteran and genuine top line player.
Position Even Strength Power Play Salary
LW – Peter Schaefer 15G / 11A; 2G / 5A; 1,500,000 C – Mike Modano 18G / 30A; 7G / 11A; 6,362,000 RW – Martin Straka 13G / 8A; 2G / 13A; 3,003,000 Combined - 46G / 49A; 11G / 29A; 10,865,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 29.4% / 35% Price Per Point: $55,944
Notes: The second-best value line is also the third cheapest. While very good players at even strength (95 points 2nd in the division) they are less impressive on the power play (40 points 5th in the division). Peter Schaefer is another of the top five in all three categories and the third best value in the division at $31,600 per point; even Mike Modano looks great with that big salary producing at $67,000 per point. Minnesota, like Milwaukee are the only two clubs not using physical with their top players and along with Detroit are the only team not using their top at 40% even strength ice time. St. Louis
Notes: Jason Blake has been traded, which is too bad considering he was the 2nd best value producer in the division at $30,000 per point (write faster next time Nate). This is the only team playing the automatic 1-2-2 strategy and is terrible 5 on 5 value wise; without all the big contracts of Doug Gilmour and Doug Weight the line still produces at a horrible $112,000 per even strength point. Considerable help must be coming from the defense or other lines as these guys only account for 21% of the even strength offense. Might be a point of reconsideration when Vinny’s name comes up for MVP when he isn’t carrying the team 5 on 5 as many might have expected; Doug Gilmour is almost the same value at twice the salary, so I’d throw a vote his way next time.
Wasn’t expecting to throw out so many good things to Kansas City and Minnesota considering the play of the teams in the division, but the numbers don’t lie. St. Louis has a perceived MVP but it might be a lot more of a supporting cast than we all originally suspect. Very surprised at all the physical play in this division given that the Pacific had none of that. Value
Best Value Line (5,894,000 Cap Hit), ($124,982 Per Point)
LW Niklas Hagman C Andrei Nikolishin RW Martin Straka
Worst Value Line (14,454,000 Cap Hit), ($363,719 Per Point)…sigh LW Jere Lehtinen C Doug Weight RW Jimmy Carson
Deep Dive: Defenders pt II Matt Schroor
Let’s continue the look into offense from the blueline that was in last week’s VHL weekly. The stats are from GD 99, so they are a little outdated but paint the picture. Teams are relying more and more on the backend to provide offence. I will call it the Palmer method. We will look into the Atlantic this time around and remind everyone that the conference averages are 29.6% of goals, 48.7% of assists and 41.9% of points are scored by defenders.
New Jersey 31% of Goals, 49% of Assists, and 43% of Points
It is odd to see that last year’s Norris trophy winner’s team in just above average. He isn’t producing at the same pace as last year, but there is also a big drop off after him (41 points) and Brisebois (32 points). After that the team is filled with more defensive players who don’t play much offence. So the fact they are still above average is quite the feat.
New York Islanders 22% of Goals, 44% of Assists, and 36% of Points
They have the third lowest point production in the conference from the backend. They don’t score many goals and half of them are on the tradeblock. Other than Zubov there is no true offensive defenseman in the group. Salo is developing still and could see increased returns over the next number of years. The assist numbers aren’t bad, but increasing goal scoring from the blueline should be a priority.
New York Rangers 18% of Goals, 36% of Assists, and 29% of Points
O brother where art the offence from the defenders? There are actually three players with over 30 points and then a bunch of defensive defenders. Hatcher provided a solid boost. I think it is more because there is so much offence from the forwards that is bringing this totals down but the team could push for a president trophy if they got more help from the defense.
Philadelphia Flyers 17% of Goals, 50% of Assists and 38% of Points
As a team the Flyers have struggled for offence, but things should turn around after the distraction of Jagr’s contract dispute. The blue hasn’t been doing their part in filling the back of the net, but getting it to the forwards to score doesn’t seem like a problem. The team has more defensive dmen than offensive so low totals are not shocking.
Pittsburgh Penguins 29% of Goals, 39% of Assists and 35% of Points
Dejardins is playing unbelievable, Blake as well until his next injury, Housley is steady as always. Then three stay at home defenders who show up because they passed it too one of the very talented forwards.
Tampa Bay Lightning 27% of Goals, 51% of Assists and 42% of Points
Tampa Bay is another team that isn’t scoring a lot of goals in general, but just received a big lift with Jumbo Joe. Having his presence on the powerplay alone should help. They don’t have many scoring defenders, but Lydman is developing quickly and will probably lead the defenders in points.
Washington Capitals 36% of Goals, 56% of Assists, 49% of Points
The high number is a product of very low scoring in general by the Caps. Not all that surprising as they are fighting to land Rick Nash. They have moved two of their top defenders for future picks and players. Jeff Brown is offensively minded but does not factor into the long term plans. Good to see that Hamrlik and McCabe are producing despite a lack of forwards. This numbers should climb as more forwards are added. There is a look at the Eastern conference defense scoring. If anyone has any statistical topics that you would like looked into let me know.