Around the league – Jan 28, 2010

It is January 28th, 2010 and Alberta is rebounding nicely from a financially tough 2009, but if the first month of the New Year is any indication, then 2010 will be much harder on the hearts of hockey fans in Canada’s richest province than 2009 was on their wallets.

The Oilers have lost all ten games in January and the Flames have now lost eight in a row and have been outscored 30-12 in those games. The Oilers play the Blues tonight, while the Flames are in Phoenix and if both lose tonight they will clash for an epic Battle of Alberta on Saturday night.

Nothing like a combined 20 game losing streak to get Albertans excited about hockey.

The big question is who is in worse situation right now?

The Oilers have ZERO chance of making the playoffs and fans are left to cheer for the THRIST for FIRST (keep losing and finish last and have a 48.1% chance of getting the 1st pick) and trying to figure out which players Steve Tambellini will deal before March 3rd. For the remainder of the season they will watch the games while debating whether to cheer more for an Oiler goal or an opposing one. Fun stuff.

Flames fans are on the edge of insanity. Some have called out Jarome Iginla’s leadership and many feel that dealing Dion Phaneuf is the cure to the Flames’ scoring woes. The Flames can’t score, but should we be surprised?

Darryl Sutter continues to build his team around goaltending and defence. He had Mike Cammalleri, but decided that Olli Jokinen would be a better option moving forward. Wrong.

Craig Conroy, a hell of quote, is currently their first line centre. Conroy makes Oiler fans think that maybe Shawn Horcoff isn’t the worst first line centre in the league.

Oilers fans are sick of losing, but now they are forced to dream about a possible franchise player being drafted. I wonder if Flames’ fans realize that their team doesn’t have a first or second round draft pick this season. Imagine if they miss the playoffs and don’t have a pick in the first 60 players? It will be hard to replenish a depleted farm system without any top picks.

Even if the Flames make the playoffs is there any reason to believe they can avoid another first round exit? Right now fans of the Red and White need to pray that Sutter can convince someone to take Phaneuf’s remaining four years and his $6.5 million cap hit, and get a proven scorer in return. If not, they will either miss the playoffs, or squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round and then sell their fans that not having a pick in the first two rounds isn’t a big deal.

I don’t know if any fans will be cheering for their team to win on Saturday. An Oiler win might get them on a hot streak before their biggest game of the season –Monday in the TOILET BOWL battle with Carolina–, while a Flames win might be the start of something and convince Sutter nothing is wrong with his team.

Ice women of the week

Who said the Coyotes don’t have any fans? Brazilian Daniella Sarahbya might be their hottest fan. I wonder if Dave Tippett told his team she would show up for an autograph session if they made the playoffs?

Random thoughts

  • Keep it in mind that today the Leafs, Flames and Flyers don’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft. Both Leaf picks belong to Boston due to the Phil Kessel trade. The Flyers’ picks belong to Anaheim as part of the Human Rake (Chris Pronger) trade, while Phoenix owns the Flames 1st rounder as part of the Olli Jokinen trade and the Blackhawks have the 2nd rounder as part of Rene Bourque trade from July 1st, 2008. The Leafs will miss the playoffs; the Flames are currently in 9th while the Flyers are tied for 6th, but only one point ahead of 9th, 10th and 11th.
  • I wonder how many heads will roll if these three teams all miss the playoffs, and don’t have a first or second round pick?
  • Since firing their goaltending coach, Eli Wilson, the Senators have won seven straight. Of course Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have returned, but Brian Elliot was named First Star of the Week, last week so clearly he hasn’t missed his goaltending coach.
  • The Red Wings reign is over. They gave up two goals in the final 1:30, and then lost in OT to Phoenix on Wednesday. Chicago is the new big dog in the Central division, while the Red Wings are in a fight just to make the playoffs. Only one player from the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 drafts has played in the NHL. Shawn Matthias has played 41 games for the Florida Panthers. We will see if the Red Wings scouting staff can re-build the Wings.
  • The Oilers and Flames only have two players with 12 or more goals. Iginla (21), Bourque (17), Penner (21) and Gagner 12. Only the Rangers with Gaborik (29) and Callhan (13) have the distinction of having limited goal-scoring threats.
  • Ethan Moreau is a hot commodity out west. San Jose, LA and Anaheim are interested. Putting him on a solid checking line with Pisani and Horcoff is as much of a showcase as it is Pat Quinn trying to shelter his young players from the opposition’s top lines. The Sharks and Ducks seem the most interested.
  • Sheldon Souray, if he is moved, could easily follow Moreau out west. Keep in mind that Dean Lombardi is very skeptical of acquiring any player who he thinks wants to be in LA for anything other than hockey. So Souray would have to convince him that he isn’t interested in any type of acting until he is done playing.
  • I spoke with a few agents this week and it seems many GMs are hesitant to make a move until after the Olympic break. If they make a move before the Feb 12th deadline, they will have to pay a player 16 days of his salary before he plays a game. That might not seem like much, but in a cap-tight world it could be.
  • The year is 193 days and the salary cap is broken day on a day-to-day basis. Ilya Kovalchuk and his $6.4 million cap hit means he costs $33,160 a day. So if a team trades for him before the break he’d cost an extra $530,569 against the cap.
  • Souray would cost an extra $447,668, while Moreau costs $165,803. It might not seem like a lot, but many teams are trying to save money, but more importantly fit contracts under the cap.
  • It sounds like Mike Gillis wants a physical D-man and possibly a centreman. The Canucks are on fire and I can’t see how he doesn’t make a move or two before March 3rd.
  • I wonder why Brent Sutter continues to use Daymond Langkow as his go-to-guy on faceoffs? Langkow is a woeful 43.6% on draws. Olli Jokinen is 49.4% and Craig Conroy is 50.2%. None of the numbers are great, but the Flames are tied with the Oilers as worst faceoff teams in the NHL at 47.1%. Wow, Alberta teams suck right now!!!!

Leaders through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
35: Patrick Marleau
34: Alex Ovechkin
33: Sidney Crosby
30: Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley
29: Marian Gaborik
28: Steven Stamkos
26: Mike Cammalleri
25: Alexander Semin
24: Henrik Sedin, Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash

Assists:
54: Joe Thornton
52: Henrik Sedin
44: Brad Richards
42: Martin St. Louis
39: Ovechkin, Tomas Plekanec and Mike Green
38: Patrick Kane and Vincent Lecavalier
37: Tomas Kaberle, Duncan Keith, Nicklas Backstrom and Paul Stastny

Points:
76: H. Sedin
73: Ovechkin
67: Crosby and Thornton
61: Gaborik
59: Kane and B. Richards
58: Backstrom
57: Marleau
56: Heatley, Kovalchuk and St. Louis

Plus/Minus:
+32: Ovechkin
+27: Jeff Schultz, Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Burrows
+25: H. Sedin
+24: Brent Seabrook
+23: D. Sedin, Zach Parise and Backstrom
+22: Marleau and Green
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads the race for the Green Jacket at -24, one ahead of Shawn Horcoff at -23.  Patrick O’Sullivan sits at -22 and Robert Nilsson is -19.

PP Goals:
Twelve: Gaborik and Heatley
Eleven: Stamkos
Ten: Mike Richards, Marleau, Evgeni Malkin and Kovalchuk
Nine: Ryan Smyth

Hits:
213: Cal Clutterbuck
194: Ryan Callahan
190: Dustin Brown
181: Steve Ott
179: Stephane Robidas
174: Brooks Orpik
160: Mike Fisher
158: Matt Greene
155: Scott Nichol
154: Doug Murray

Shots:
237: Ovechkin
230: Parise
223: Jeff Carter
197: Crosby
195: Gaborik and Rick Nash
190: Malkin
189: Phil Kessel and Marleau
188: Mike Cammalleri

Final points

If Kovalchuk honestly believes he should be paid close to Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin then he is disillusioned. He’s never won the Hart or the Art Ross trophy and he has never led his team to a playoff victory. His agent should tell him to wake the hell up if he honestly believes he is worthy of $8 million. He is a great scorer, but is way too selfish of a player to be considered with the elite of the elite.

And why did Brent Sutter use Iginla in the shootout last night. He is now 0 for 3 this season and 7 of 26 for his career. He isn’t good in shootouts, so why keep using him?

  • The Wild offered Gaborik 7+….the Rangers gave it to him. I'm sure ther were other teams offering in the same teritory too. Sames goes for Hossa, he may have taken a long-term deal with a cheaper overall salary cap hit, but as someone already mentioned he's still making 7+ for the majority of the years, and teams like Edmonton did offer him 7+ as well. History has shown that if a GM views a player as a gamebreaker (especially goal-scorers), they get offered big money despite the over value.

  • Jason Gregor

    Lecavalier got 11 years with an annual cap hit of 7.7mil in 2008. So big money is still available to superstars, and I would classify Kovie as a superstar. If Heatley can get 7.5mil, Kovalchuk could get at least that amount on the open market. Didn't we offer Hossa 9mil per season???

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Just something I noticed when looking up impending UFA's. There really isn't anything that special this year, granted Lidstrom, Nidermayer and Gonchar are UFA's I don't think they hit July 1st.

    Is it maybe better to hold off on moving Souray/Lubo?

    This is actually a very poor UFA group for top end talent.

  • Travis Dakin

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Hossa, Zetterberg, Datsyuk all have $5 to $6 million cap hits.

    HORCOFF TOO!!! haha

    Jason Gregor wrote:

    Wanye has a man crush on Souray…

    Don't we all?

  • DK0

    ~Her panties seem to be painted on and thus would not cover her… ohh god… ITS A LADY BOY ISNT IT?!?!!?!~

    haha, a bunch of my friends are in Thailand right now. Made me think of that…

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    "If Kovalchuk honestly believes he should be paid close to Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin then he is disillusioned. He’s never won the Hart or the Art Ross trophy and he has never led his team to a playoff victory. His agent should tell him to wake the hell up if he honestly believes he is worthy of $8 million. He is a great scorer, but is way too selfish of a player to be considered with the elite of the elite."

    NHL contracts have never been about slotting in where you fall in the pecking order (ie Kovalchuk is worse the Crosby so he should get less) It's about supply and demand and GM's willingness (ie desperation) to spend.

    Besides Stall and Nash just resigned for 7.8 and 8.25 in similar situations (ie the top dog on relatively unstable teams) and Kovalchuk is better then both of them.

    To give an apples to apples comparition the top contract coming out of the lock-out was Richards at 7.8, he had a max contract at that time, so in relative terms, salaries have actually been going down.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      Good point, but I think Smid brings other elements to the table…

      Oh…Horcoff…right. Well, frankly I am tired of people bitchin' about how much he makes. Did you complain when the original contract was announced? Do you think if we all sit back and complain that it is magically going to change? Do you think that if we keep picking apart Horcoff's game and how he is not worth the money that he will magically use that pressure to get better…………or will that exact same pressure continue to make him worse? He knows he sucks this year, he knows that it is difficult to skate with that horseshoe up his ass…do we need to tell him every single moment? No.

      Woah…where did THAT come from…Sorry Kev, i am just going to scroll back up to the girl with paint all over her and calm back down…Don't mean to pick on you at all, just built up frustration…moving on…

      • I'm a Scientist!

        Not bashing Horc at all- I would have signed that contract too. I would have him as my 3rd line centre any day. I'm merley suggesting that this Management group does not know how to assess talent and there should be a fall guy for this. Are we just supposed to sit back and trust this Management group to build a competive NHL team going forward when history and present day standings suggest otherwise. The fact that they seem to think that throwing big money at one player will change the team says enough. Did they actually believe that the ridiculous RFA offers they made in the passed were going to make this Team a contender. The sooner they figure out that hockey is a team game the better off this organization will be. How long have we been accepting their excuses ? I can accept Horc- but please, play him where he belongs and that is not on the top line. His contract, not him is affecting player movement and future signing. This impacts in a huge way stategic player movement going forward, especially if the cap trends down in future years. I am a long time die hard Oil fan and am tired of seeing ops run this way….sorry for the rant !

      • BBOil

        Agree with this point, tired of hearing people bash Horcoff. He has sucked this year, but at least he is the first to admit it. I know admitting it doesn't change performance, but at least you know you have an honest player that doesn't need others to hold him accountable. He is more than capable of holding himself accountable.

        When was the last time you heard Ethan Moreau acknowledge any of his flaws. (Not trying to throw Moreau under the bus as he is already there, but assuming he goes I'd like Horcoff as a captain because only a guy that is self accountable can hold others accountable).

        • I'm a Scientist!

          Actually this is what I'm most tired of hearing….how Horcoff works hard and holds himself accountable

          Hey, give me 5.5 mil for the next 6 yrs and I'll work hard and when I suck I'll just hold myself accountable and all will be ok.

          • BBOil

            Better than the alternative of taking his money, accepting he is on a bad team, and mailing it in day in and day out, then pretending he is earning his contract.

            Not saying his play merits the money, and that holding himself accountable makes anything ok, but like it or not we are stuck with him, and I'd rather he at least earn some of his money by continuing to work hard and show some leadership on a team apparently lacking it. If people are going to bash his play, give him some credit for what he does bring.

  • I'm a Scientist!

    I haven't been this excited about the Coyotes since…well…never…

    *prints out a picture and runs feverishly to the darkest corner of The Lab*

    Giggity.

  • Dyckster

    Week 2, no comments on the ethical issue that we are supposed to be patiently waiting for… Feels like T-Lo telling us changes will happen and they never do

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I like the email of that ice girl better, but this will do.

    Interesting that Lombardi would even question Souray's motive to go there. Would think that Lombardi should realize this is a non-issue with Souray.

    As for Langkow, I've mentioned that many times but why do we do it with Cogs?

    I have to say I have never agreed with your Kovalchuk parity comment. Why should Kovalchuk get 7 when Richards gets 7.8? Gaborik 7.5? Drury 7? Kovalchuk would be crazy not to ask for 8+ and he will get it on the open market. The max is what 11mil, so to me that is what the best players should be making. Crosby took a discount to stay in Pittsburgh, so maybe Kovalchuk doesn't take a discount and wants market value. Just my thoughts on the contract matter.

    • Jason Gregor

      Eight million on the open market? Really?

      The Rangers gave Gaborik money, but how many other teams have come close to paying guys that much in the past few years? Excluding Ovechkin, Crosby and Malkin?

      Hossa, Zetterberg, Datsyuk all have $5 to $6 million cap hits. And they have won more than Kovalchuk.

      I don't see any way he gets more than $7 million as a cap hit. He isn't worth more.

      And wow $8.7 million to you is a discount!!! I'd love to work for you.

      • He had Mike Cammalleri, but decided that Olli Jokinen would be a better option moving forward.

        They chose Bouwmeester over Cammalleri, not Jokinen, right? The long-term $ was spent on J-Bo rather than Cammi. Jokinen had just this year left, and they had them both last season, subtracting Cammalleri for Bouwmeester this season. They really couldn't have kept Cammalleri and added Bouwmeester, even if they got rid of Jokinen because that would've been a lot of term tied up.

        • Chris.

          Everyone (including Cammalleri) knew the score when Sutter sold the farm for Jokinen… IMO, Cammalleri's play down the stretch reflected that. Classic over-tinkering by management. It would be funny if the Oilers finally broke their streak down in Cow Town saturday.

          • They chose to spend the long-term dollars on Bouwmeester over Cammalleri.They weren't gonna spend long-term on both. So, they found what they thought would be a suitable replacement on a short-term deal (Jokinen). They couldn't have signed BOTH Bouwmeester AND Cammalleri to long-term deals (technically I suppose they could have, but that would've put them into a bigger bind cap-wise then the method they chose).

            If you want to argue that they should have signed Cammalleri over Bouwmeester, then that's a whole different argument (one I'd still likely disagree with – waiting to see if they now deal Phaneuf for a forward that's better than Cammalleri and Jokinen).

            Capice?

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Zetterburg/Datsyuk re-signed by a Stanley cup contender big difference, neither hit UFA status either and both are front loaded.

        Brian Campbell 7mil would you consider that fair market compared to others?

        It's not always about fair it's about what a guy can get and how desparate teams are.

        As for 8.7, isn't it a discount considering they could've made 11mil? Pretty sure those words were used when those contracts were signed.

        • Travis Dakin

          8.7 was signed by a guy who wanted to leave enough money in the coffers for the team to be able to sign more players to win the cup. I think that was a wise decison.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Has there been any idication that this is how Kovalchuk is thinking? I agree it is very wise, but I just don't see it with Kovalchuk unless he is just desparate to get out.

          • Travis Dakin

            I think we all don't know what the stalls are in terms of contract talks are. From all indications, he likes Atlanta and the GM feels the only real threat to Kovalchuk leaving is Russia. If he is indeed asking for that kind of money, it would probably be for the price of not winning anything in his career and to me would show a lack of character/smarts on his part.

            I respected Crosby so much more when he took that contract which allowed them to keep Malkin and Stall. What's worth more when you are making 8.7 million… another 2 or 3 million a year or hoisting the cup. Crosby has the money, the endosements and the cup. Ovechkin has…. money.

            I wonder which way the other Russian will lean. haha maybe he actually does want to test free agency and would sign a smaller contract with a winner.

          • Travis Dakin

            The Oilers sent Wayne Friggin Gretzky in the PRIME of his career to the Kings with McSorley and Krushelnyski for Martin Gelinas, Jimmy Carson, 3 first round draft picks and $15 Mil.

            Kovalchuk is not worth 5 assets! hahaha that's hilarious.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        Hossa/Zetts are heavy front loaded. Front loaded contracts vs traditional contracts are two very different things.

        Zetterburg is actually making 7.75 for the vast majority of his contract.

        Hossa is making 7.9

        Sure, if Kovalchuk signs a 13 year deal with 2/3 years at the end at league min he'll probably end up with a cap hit at 7.5 or less. But if he signs a straight up deal??

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      OBJ:

      <<Interesting that Lombardi would even question Souray's motive to go there. Would think that Lombardi should realize this is a non-issue with Souray.>>

      Nowhere did Gregor quote Lombardi on that. He just said that Lombardi is careful about players (in general) who show a keen interest for moving to the L.A. market.

      This is how rumours start.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        I more meant that it would be interesting if that even became an issue. There is very little that would suggest this would be an issue with Souray.

        Edit: All it would take is Souray to have a 30 second conversation with Lombardi telling him I want to go to California for my kids. So even if Lombardi asks the question is there really not enough evidence that Souary wants to go there for his kids and not the sun?

  • Souray as an actor huh? I can totally see him wining academy awards.

    Why are there no ice girls? Maybe because there are actual female hockey fans in Edmonton? Or children at games? I thought the Flames were looking at introducing ice girls this year. I would have laughed. Even at the games I've been to in the states, no one pays them much attention, they still leave during intermission for beer. In Chicago they clear the ice in their little outfits. In Dallas lower bowl seats are used to build a platform for them to dance on during commercial breaks.

    Can you see Edmonton or Katz willing to give up lower bowl seats for ice girls?

    • Jason Gregor

      The Flames do have Ice girls…

      And Katz wouldn't have to give up a seat for women who shovel the snow. You are right they wouldn't be cheerleaders like in the States.

      Also remember though, that cheerleading/icegirls are much more part of the American fabric than up here.

      And because there are female fans what does that mean. I can tell you honestly that every week when I'm selecting my Ice Woman of the week a girl friend of mine helps choose of sends me who she thinks would be good.

      Wanye has a man crush on Souray…so why can't women respect beauty? I don't see it being an issue. And don't be surprised to see Ice Women in Edmonton at future games. If they aren't scantily clad I don't see many women being upset about it.

    • I'm a Scientist!

      For the record, ice girls are good to look at, but girls that dig hockey and get into it are waaaaaaay cooler. I wouldn't trade a hot female hockey FAN for a ice girl…ever. Well, maybe on Tuesdays…

  • Twiggs wrote:

    In a hockey crazy town like Edmonton, why the heck don't we have ice girls like that?

    You just answered your own question; there's an inverse relationship between the fan's passion for hockey and the number of ice girls a team needs to cram into the arena to make the game watchable.

  • Jason Gregor wrote:

    •Ethan Moreau is a hot commodity out west. San Jose, LA and Anaheim are interested. Putting him on a solid checking line with Pisani and Horcoff is as much of a showcase as it is Pat Quinn trying to shelter his young players from the opposition’s top lines. The Sharks and Ducks seem the most interested.

    I think that feeling I just had was the last of my respect for the Loyal Order of NHL General Managers floating away.