Five things: Worrying stuff

Ryan Lambert
August 22 2012 09:29AM

1. Kent's Iginla stats

Boy if that wasn't the most depressing thing you just about ever read in your life, right?

For those that didn't read it, or just want the Cliff's Notes version, it's basically this: Jarome Iginla played against 29 skaters for more than 30 minutes last season, and got beaten — and often buried — in scoring chances by all but four of them. Those four were Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Shultz, Dany Heatley. All, not coincidentally I'm sure, were on the putrid Minnesota Wild for the entirety of last season, save for Schultz, who was traded to the even-worse Oilers.

What can we deduce from this? That Jarome Iginla is now a shadow of his former self, and not the kind of guy you want to pay $7 million a season, no matter how many jerseys he sells (tons) or how wonderful his smile is (very).

Look, I get it. Jarome Iginla is and probably forever will be the face of this franchise, no matter how Mike-Modano-on-the-Red-Wings he ends up being. He's beloved by fans and more importantly business partners, he does what he's "supposed to do," and is therefore "good in the room," and he's a generally great, awesome, likeable guy.

But, especially if there's a prolonged lockout, this team really needs to be prepared to cut bait with him. Ironically, the team keeps him around as a means of staying in playoff contention, but as Kent points out, unless he's a third-liner and power play specialist — a role he would accept under no circumstances, which is irrelevant because it would never be asked of him — his value to the team on the ice is pretty much negative and therefore by definition restricting its chances to actually make the playoffs.

Things I'm not saying here include, "Jarome Iginla sucks," or "I don't value what Jarome Iginla means to the franchise," but what I am saying here is that it's probably best for everyone if, after this contract, he's made to either ply his trade for substantially less money and in a reduced role with this team, or to do it elsewhere.

If you want the team to improve, it starts with unloading the $7 million power play guy in the No. 1 right wing slot. In terms of goals versus threshold, Iginla was about in line with Frans Nielsen and David Krejci. You wouldn't give those guys Iginla money, and any willingness you have to do the same for Jarome is simply a function of nostalgia.

2. Whither the Heat?

So the Canucks owner is reportedly planning to buy the Heat and its operating company, and move the Canucks' farm team, currently located in Chicago for some reason, there. It makes perfect sense. The drive from Vancouver to Abbotsford, and vice versa, is just about an hour, and there's no reason on earth why any team in 2012 should have their farm team more than a couple hours' drive from the big club.

Unless you're, like, Tampa, Phoenix, or Florida, where the demand for and interest in hockey is approximately zero-point-zero, most NHL teams are located in areas that can more or less support a minor-league venture, at least within a two-hour halo.

The idea of having far-flung farm teams isn't a new one, of course, and it still persists today in many cases. Hockey-mad Minnesota's farm team is located in Houston; LA's is in Manchester, N.H.; Anaheim's is in Nofolk, Va.; San Jose's is in Worcester, Mass.; Tampa's is in Syracuse. This was a plan that worked pretty well back when I first started watching the AHL in 1998.

That was when the Lowell Lock Monsters moved into the new Tsongas Arena, and were an affiliate of the New York Islanders. At the time, there were only 19 teams in the American league, and most of them weren't exactly far-flung from each other, relatively speaking. Granted, this was and often still is a bus league and therefore geographic proximity was out of necessity, but the team farthest south and west was in Lexington, Ky., which was still only an hour and a half from Cincinatti's Ducks club. Seven of the league's teams were in New England, none more than four or five hours from another. Three were in the Atlantic provinces.

The Western Conference, at that time, were made up of four teams in New York state, one in Ontario, two in Pennsylvania, and the aforementioned Kentucky and Ohio clubs.

Now look at the AHL: It's a continental league, with teams from Abbotsford to St. John's and THREE in Texas. Have farm teams in your backyard. It only makes sense.

3. The Hartnell deal, or: Why on earth would you give him that?

I could see the Flyers' desire to get him locked into a six-year deal that pays him $4.75 million per season if his contract were expired and he was testing the market, but no, he has one more year on his current deal.

This is the very definition of buying high.

Hartnell had never sniffed 37 goals in his career before this season, when he played with the second-best center in the league last year behind Evgeni Malkin (Giroux) and one of the most dynamic offensive players in the history of the sport.

And nonetheless, he needed a career high 15.9 shooting percentage to get to within three goals of 40. He's already 30 and will be 31 when his current deal expires. I understand the desire to give him an attaboy contract and a modest raise (he makes $4.2 million against the cap currently), but the term and the money are both absurd overpayment for a guy who's going to disappoint next season, if this year is now considered anything like his baseline.

I saw some usage stats that showed this kind of thing is repeatable if he's put in the right situations, but even if he scores 30 two of the six years into this deal, that's only a third of the way through it.

The Flyers' ownership wouldn't be crying poor so often if it didn't keep giving bad players ridiculous money and term.

4. Shut up, Stan Fischler

I don't know what Canadians, in general, know about Stan Fischler.

In essence, he is the biggest Rangers schill in the business, routinely picking them to win everything from the Stanley Cup to the Super Bowl to the Battle of Alberta. And somehow, he's an even bigger schill for ownership.

In his latest Fischler Report, published in the New England Hockey Journal and, assumedly, elsewhere (which also literally copy-and-pastes a Forbes article about the Panthers and Kings), the possibly-senile old man was back at it again. 

"Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin did a nifty bit of grandstanding when they flanked Donald Feh last week," he wrote, adding, "Too bad they didn't say a few words about how they and their brethren never had it so good despite the 24 percent pay cut they were hissing and moaning about at the start of the last agreement."

I don't know, exactly, what part of this is the most laughable. The fact that he expected or wanted Crosby and Ovechkin to be like "I don't know guys, we're makin' tons of money!" within punching distance of Don Fehr, or the fact that Fischler thinks the players are doing better than before. Yes, NHL salaries were averaging about $2.4 million in the 2010-11 season (and would have gone up for last year, slightly), and that's up from $1.83 million in the season before the lockout. Doing the math, that's roughly a 33 percent raise, and that's great.

But, like, haven't the owners seen a substantial increase in their revenues since then as well? Or did I just dream that billion-dollar NBC contract?

Now look, if you're on the owners' side, you're entitled to that opinion, but to act like one side is doing better than the other in this is, well, extraordinarily disingenuous and wrongheaded. Everyone in the NHL is getting rich, partly as a result of major-market teams doing pretty damn well the last seven years, and to act like it's the players' fault for not wanting owners to reach into their pockets again is ridiculous.

5. Something from the Flames' site

In breaking down the team's top-10 prospects (with Mark Jankowski oddly at No. 4 ahead of Akim Aliu) over the weekend, the Flames' management also took the time to explain their new approach to drafting, which I found terribly interesting.

Instead of looking at a players' individual skills — good hands, good speed, etc. — they now evaluate based on how they seem to "think the game."

"I would certainly say that is one of the more distinct changes we've made — to really prioritize people that have hockey sense the way we define it, and have the ability to think and feel the game so that if their skills are in order, they'll have the rest of the pieces they need to compete at the highest level," said John Weisbrod.

I think it's a great idea. In fact, that's why most teams adopted that philosophy years ago. That may partially explain the Jankowski pick, and if we're going to be hit with more puzzling decisions like that in the future, at least it'll all be entertaining.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#51 PrairieStew
August 23 2012, 12:29PM
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@cLyde

The NFL did replacement players - it was terrible.

Yes the players are not taking financial risk, but they are taking physical risk, and in today's professional sport it is more difficult to stay at the top of the game.

To me, it's not about how much the players make, it's about the owners digging their own holes with 13 year 98 million dollar deals and then holding the game hostage every 5 years asking the players to solve their own stupidity.

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#52 cLyde
August 23 2012, 12:50PM
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PrairieStew wrote:

The NFL did replacement players - it was terrible.

Yes the players are not taking financial risk, but they are taking physical risk, and in today's professional sport it is more difficult to stay at the top of the game.

To me, it's not about how much the players make, it's about the owners digging their own holes with 13 year 98 million dollar deals and then holding the game hostage every 5 years asking the players to solve their own stupidity.

Not talking replacement players. I am saying I don't support the players in this. They are extremely well compensated and if the owners need to be dug out of their holes every few years to maintain a competitive balance, then so be it. The players may take a physical risk but so do many other people everyday at a fraction of the salary so that does not wash one bit. In today's sport, players are actually playing longer and there are many more players than 20 years ago due to expansion.

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