And, we’re done. The on-ice portion of the NHL season has ended after 8 1/2 months with a new champion. For the rest of the league, that means business off-ice is about to pick up, and as a non-fan of the two finalists, not a minute too soon. In this collection of newsworthy bits from around the league, the Flames continue to bolster their staff, the champs are feted, and recriminations from the aftermath of Wednesday’s events on the West Coast begin.
Calgary added a couple of members to the operations staff this week, with Chris Snow taking over the video coordinator role from Rob Cookson, and Clint Malarchuk assuming goaltending coach duties. I don’t envy the latter’s job, frankly. Miikka Kiprusoff has been openly poor three out of the last four seasons, has three more years on a very hefty contract, and his NMC runs through this season. If Kipper is mediocre or worse again, Malarchuk might have to hope that the scales finally drop from the eyes of Flames’ management, or he’ll just be the latest collateral damage in the wake of the team’s inability to see their number one goalie for what he is.
Snow’s ascension is interesting in that it gives the impression that the team is trying to modernize its pro scouting. Snow is also going to be in charge of statistical analysis, and from the sounds of his interview with Rob Kerr, his influence might only be limited by the team’s own imagination. He also noted that teams that are already using advanced analysis likely aren’t talking about it, although it’s reasonably common knowledge that Gabe Desjardins has done work for the Sharks. If nothing else, having the Flames embrace this stuff should allow the bigfoot media types the chance to openly discuss statistical analysis without feeling like they’ll be mocked in polite society. Baby steps, people.
Given how close he came to re-entering the draft, Erixon was delighted by the happy coincidence of being traded to his father’s former NHL team. Despite the family connection to the Blueshirts, Erixon said he never had any idea that the Flames might trade his rights to New York.
Are you friggin’ kidding me? Look, I’m not a particular fan of how players are allotted to NHL clubs, since the draft doesn’t really permit the free movement of labour, but I hope Tim Erixon’s just saying that BS for media consumption and to keep the Rags from facing a tampering charge. Happy coincidence, my ass.
In other prospect news, Max Reinhart was left on the outside looking in as Canada’s WJHC tryout roster was announced this week. I’m glad that Patrick Holland has been selected, but Reinhart’s absence is pretty puzzling. Of course, it’s Kevin Prendergast doing the picking, so there’s every chance that it was just an act of blatant incompetence to leave the Flames’ best junior prospect at home rather than any particular shortcomings as a player on Reinhart’s part.
Victors and the vanquished:
The Bruins had their parade yesterday, and although I’m certainly happy that Vancouver didn’t win, I’ll confess some unease at the willingness of people to overlook the obvious fact that the Bruins were permitted a different standard of enforcement than they would have seen at any point since the lockout. I’m in general agreement with Tom Benjamin, in that Zdeno Chara is a terrific player, but he was allowed to hack at players without consequence for an entire series, which made him nearly impossible to beat, and he wasn’t alone in that approach.
I’m not all that interested in hearing how it was "equal" for both teams, either. The league has spent the last six years developing an officiating standard of sorts, and as a result, certain players have been allowed to flourish in a fashion that might not have been quite so before the fall of 2005. If the goal is a return to the 2004 rulebook, fine. No team would benefit more than the Flames from that move, since it would mean Cory Sarich would return to being a viable top 4 defenceman and Robyn Regher would return to being a feared presence in front of the net. That doesn’t mean that what we witnessed over the last two weeks is laudable, though.
Honesty compels me to note that by Wednesday night, I was rooting for both teams to lose, and then perish in an inferno. Had they headed to Granville Street in the game’s aftermath, I might well have gotten most of my wish. Really, though, Mayor Robertson? Anarchists? I think you meant to say "garden-variety loogans, a few of whom were wealthy scions". Anyone watching the proceedings with half a brain cell could have advised you that the closest most of the perpetrators on Wednesday have ever been to anarchism was when they sang along to Rise Against that one time.
The two teams now, like everyone else, get to turn to building a club for next year. Last time out, I made this point
I will say that no matter who wins the Cup, we likely won’t hear loons fetishizing either team’s construction as if it were some sort of holy grail. Vancouver has drafted one decent roster player since the lockout, and the Bruins traded the best player they’d had in half a generation for 50 cents on the dollar just five years ago, so ecomiums that glorify the Canuck way or the Boston way should be in short supply, and thank heavens for that.
In the interim, the route that the Bruins in particular took to assembling their club has been noted by others, and I do hope that people realize that the path to success isn’t simply found by unloading every one of its older players, tanking for years, and then hoping it all works out. Steve Tambellini and Don Waddell aren’t to emulated, in other words.
The Bruins are in good shape cap-wise, and should be able to replace Ryder and Kaberle easliy enough. If Marc Savard is done, they’ll have another 4M a year to toss into the pot. The Bruins could likely use one more decent defender to shore up a group that needed a lot of help from Tim Thomas over the course of the season, and there are a few decent candidates likely to be available July 1st.
The Canucks could use at least one ot two more forwards that can play a bit. Malhotra was a shell of himself on his return and his eye may never allow him to be 100 percent again, and given his prediliction for the East Coast I’m not sure Chris Higgins will be back, so a top-six winger and one more useful third liner would likely be on order. I doubt Ehrhoff sticks around either, absent a desire to take a lot less money, although any team that signs him for much more than his current salary is asking for trouble.
With the draft and July 1st rapidly approaching, other teams are beginning to prepare for next season as well. The Devils and Preds filed for salary arbitration for Parise and Weber, respectively, in order to ward off any potential offer sheets. I don’t doubt that both teams expect to sign their top players to lengthy deals, although Zach Parise’s situation seems a touch more unsettled.
One interesting note is that because the teams have chosen arbitration, they can’t walk from an award. As I said, I doubt either guy gets there, but the Devils are only about 10-11M under the likely cap figure, so a 5m+ arbitration award to Parise would put Loophole Lou in a bit of a tight spot. I’m tearing up at the thought of it.
Other RFAs of note include Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos. With neither player eligible for arbitration, they could be targets for offer sheets, although Dean Lombardi seems unconcerned about that occurring to Doughty. That seems reasonable, since the defender is the only major unsigned piece of the Kings’ roster give or take Wayne Simmonds, and they have roughly 15M in cap room. With Michal Handzus declining in effectiveness and unlikely to be back, they might consider adding one more center as their final move this summer.
It doesn’t appear that Steve Yzerman expects any issues cropping up as he attempts to ink his young star to a deal, but Tampa might have to unload a body or two to make the numbers work. They have about 25M in cap space, but they only have 12 players under contract, and since I can’t imagine they’ll budget much past the mid-point, they might have more like 18M in available room. Stamkos will likely get about 40 percent of that on his own. Add in a new deal for Eric Brewer, and it’s understandable that Simon Gagne, Sean Bergenheim and maybe Ryan Malone could be elsewhere by the end of the summer so that the Lightning can ice a full roster.
Down in Florida, the Panthers might be goalie shopping, if George Richards’ surmise is accurate. The Panthers are in a very interesting place. They might need to spend almost 30M just to get to the salary floor, and I can’t see many UFAs rushing to Sunrise unless Dale Tallon wildly overpays, so they could be a team that is willing to take a bad contract or two if they can get somethig else of value in the transaction. They could use a center or two as well. Hmmmm.
Finally this week, teams around the league are finishing the task of making coaching choices, with Minnesota and Dallas selecting two new faces to lead their clubs. That leaves two teams in the market, as the Winnipeg TBAs are still in the process of choosing their man, having completed a series of interviews this weekend, and New Jersey still needs to choose someone for Lou Lamoriello to fire next March. As a person living in the area, just having MacT around for his press conferences alone would be amusing, but I’m guessing True North might well be utilizing a different set of criteria as they pick their man.
That’s all for this week. Flames Nation will be on the scene in force next weekend as the NHL draft plays out, and beyond the acquisition of kids, it’s often a time where teams begin moving assets other than draft picks, so it should be an interesting couple of days.