Fire Ritch Winter



(For those who don’t know what an “FJM” is, go here and read a couple. You’ll get the idea.)

Ritch Winter’s a pretty powerful hockey agent. His clients include Ryan Getzlaf, Braydon Coburn, as well as a spate of others. Ritch Winter also writes articles, like this one, on a blog.

It was linked to on twitter by a couple of people, and I took a gander at the article. Needless to say, I was not impressed.

Is Tom Renney a good fit for the Edmonton Oilers?

Most Oilers fans would say “no”, and they’d be right. The way Renney throws lines out there on home ice suggests to me he might not be a good fit for any team.

Is Tom’s handling of his young prospects on defense, being so dissimilar from the way Glen Sather managed the young Oiler defense in the 80s, something that will kill any chance the “Young Oilers 2.0” have to achieve anything significant.

Yes, because it was the 20-year-old defenseman that lead to winning those cups, right?

At UCLA, he could control the practices, game strategy, decide who plays and who sits – but, most importantly, he decided on who his players would be.

Because I’m sure that coaches and GM’s never talk. I mean, why would a GM want players that would fit the mold of what his coach is trying to do? Man, that would be super dumb. Teams like Detroit and Vancouver and New York and Los Angeles and San Jose and on and on never have the right players for the coach to work with.

He refused to take the job because he would have to give up the closed loop managerial and coaching model that made him so successful at UCLA.

So… it was because he was a control freak and couldn’t trust other people in his organization.

Based on the Oilers firm conviction they would challenge for a playoff spot this year, it is clear Tom has failed.

Well, it’s kind of tough to fail when you have Andy Sutton playing number 4 minutes. That situation’s just doomed from the start.

So is Tom the wrong coach or has management just failed him? A bit of both it turns out.

Look at that! A good point.

The Oilers’ management team has failed to provide him with the players essential to the success enjoyed by the Oilers teams that Kevin Lowe played for. And Tom has failed to follow the very successful total “young” team model Glen Sather followed with the young Oilers and is now employing in New York with his new look Rangers.

Well, we’re back to the bad points. It’s difficult to provide a player like Gretzky since he was pretty much the best player ever. Also, take note that in New York this is the first year Sather has been succesful in forever and that it’s mostly on the back of Lundqvist’s career season so far.

We hear so much talk in Edmonton about this team reminding fans and media of the young Oilers.

Well, that’s because Edmonton’s management group is the worst in the league and they’re trying not to get fired. They also have a convenient amount of pull within said media.

Huge glaring differences in goal (management’s fault) and on defense (probably Tom’s fault).

You mean “huge glaring differences in goal (everyone in the organization’s fault for not having good goalies) and on defense (everyone in the organization’s fault for not having good defense)”.

The young Oilers of the 80s had Grant Fuhr AND Andy Moog.

Ah, Andy Moog. The guy who had 1 year over .900 in SV% in his first 11 (tracked) seasons? Brilliant.

Great young goalies tend to perform better when they have a competent back-up who can jump in when they struggle. It gives them confidence.

How does someone who can steal your job doing your job give you confidence, exactly? Also, does Rich have any evidence for this whatsoever?

Now, Devan Dubnyk has some considerable potential if you look at his performance utilizing Professor Michael Schuckers, “Defense Independent Goalie Ratings”

DGIR is a very new (and flawed) stat and will likely be replaced by something better in less then a year, but OK. (Jonathan Willis took down DGIR here and Gabe Desjardins critiques it here.)

By the time the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup back in 1984, Fuhr had as many wins as Dubnyk has NHL games played as of January 13, 2012. Fuhr had those wins on 3 of the best teams ever.

Gretzky and Messier also had 900+ points in that time-three seasons. Wins are a horrible way to evaluate a goaltender’s performance.

Forwards considerably more skilled than the Oiler forwards of today. But, I digress.

This is likely the reason the goaltenders mentioned above and the periphery young players he’s about to mention had the amount of success they did, but it’s completely glossed over by Winter.

…Why did he not play his young D prospects this year in an effort to bring them along as part of the NHL development program like he is doing with his young forwards.

The easy answer here is because the kids aren’t ready for the NHL, but we’ll let Ritch continue.

Sather’s 1980/81 edition of the Oilers featured 5 defensemen 25 years of age or younger (Kevin Lowe, 21; Charlie Huddy, 21; Lee Fogolin, 25, Paul Coffey, 19 and Risto Siltanen 21).

Now, be honest: if you aren’t a 40-year old Oilers fan, the chances you’ve heard of Huddy, Fogolin or Siltanen because of their on-ice achievements are nil. Coffey happened to be one of the five best defenseman of all time and Lowe was a defenseman in over his head on a team that never crested the .500 mark.

Glen Sather was coach and General Manager and, in those dual roles knew his players well.

I’m not sure what the point he’s trying to make here is-should Tambo be the coach? I think Renney, considering he spends 270 days of the year evaluating players in the organization, knows his players pretty well.

Glen played his kids, played his teenage goalies, his teenage forwards and his teenage defensemen. So they could develop at the NHL level and bond into a team together.

And be 10 games under .500 in the season Winter uses as an example, even though they had the best player of all time score over 150 points.

Play them all for experience.

Because “experience”, not “skill”, is the reason teams win championships.

Martin Marincin, David Musil and Oscar Klefbom are three of the Oilers top 5 prospects.

I can only hope that he doesn’t count 18-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 19-year-old Taylor Hall and 20-year-old Jordan Eberle as prospects.

Makes no sense. None. It runs counter to every successful rebuild in multiple sports.

Actually, it does make sense, since those guys aren’t ready to play in the NHL. Thus, they are not playing in the NHL. Sending players out there to be dominated night after night by the best players in the world won’t help them develop into long-term NHLers. Also, Hockey’s not like the other “multiple sports”, so you would expect a rebuild to work differently.

Renney completely missed the boat failing to offer at least two of Musil, Marincin and Klefbom the same opportunity he showered upon Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.

Except the difference here is that Hall and Nugent-Hopkins have been sheltered in their minutes, and as a result, have put up points. If the defense had players in the mold of Hemsky, Smyth, Horcoff and Belanger then the Oilers probably could’ve afforded to keep one of those guys if they really wanted to. Unfortunately, the Oilers only good defenseman, Tom Gilbert, is alone on the back-end.

Also, please note that Ritch Winter represents David Musil.

The Oilers believe defensemen take time to develop.

Because they do…?

Kind of like many teams thought 18-year-old forwards were not NHL ready.

Fact: most 18-year-old forwards do not play in the NHL because they are not NHL ready.

After the lockout, when forced to alter their stance, Duchene, Del Zotto, Skinner, Stamkos and Hedman, among others, proved management wrong – AGAIN.

This, kids, is what we call “confirmation bias”. Never mind that the two biggest names there had awful rookie seasons-probably because they weren’t ready for the NHL -but Winter ignores the percentages. Since 2007, the percentage of first rounders who have played regularly (>20 games) in their rookie year is a paltry 17%. That number drops to around 4% when the whole draft is counted.

The Oilers are victims of the same traditional thinking that causes so many teams to so often miss the playoffs.

Most teams that think 18 year olds generally need time to develop make the playoffs. This is a fact, because all teams seem to think this way. Kids get dominated in this league because they aren’t as fast, as strong or as savvy as verterans. Only the very best of the best make the leap out of junior.

The new look Oilers missed the boat in failing to play the good young defense early enough to ensure they develop conterminously with the young core of forwards who should be developing chemistry with the D.

That doesn’t work when only one half of the group actually belongs in the NHL and the other doesn’t.

Chris Chabris and Daniel Simons in their book “The Invisible Gorilla” constructed a short film of two teams passing basketballs.

Because passing a basketball and evaluating a player are the same thing.

The gorilla is in view for 9 seconds. Many thousands of people have seen the video, and about half of them do not notice the gorilla.

Ritch is using this experiment rhetorically to make a point, but it’s a sloppy metaphor nonetheless. The Gorilla study is on the volitional aspects of attention and the limited cognitive “energy” people have at any one time. What Rich is actually talking about is how convention can blind people to other possibilities. Limited resources vs a more wilfull ignorance. 

“Defensemen take time to develop.” “Defensemen take time to develop.” Say it enough and you will miss the obvious.

The obvious? That defenseman take time to develop and not every player has the same skill set and some can’t play in the NHL at an early age?

And fail to notice what was so obvious to Glen Sather when he was building a successful team. Having 3 of the best players to ever play the game? It may create a situation under the salary cap whereby the Oilers miss the small window the new CBA provides for teams.

This is a stupid argument. Because some players get better at a young age, not forcing other players to play in the NHL in a vain attempt to create a good team will give a franchise salary cap problems?

When Chicago won the Cup back in 2009, the team’s two best forwards were 20 and 21.

Both of these men were high draft picks that got protected ice time due to the presence of veterans like Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp handling the tough minutes.

Their top two D just 24 and 26.

Which is right in an NHL player’s prime and way ahead of any 18 or 21-year-old. Also worth noting here is that the Chicago Blackhawks got into extreme cap trouble, almost causing them to miss the playoffs last year because they had to bring up rookies who were unable to handle the rigors of being an NHLer.

Michael del Zotto in New York is 20th in defenseman NHL scoring as of Jan 15th (played his first NHL game at 19) and Erik Karlsson at 21 in leading the league in scoring amongst defensemen.

Karlsson starts in the offensive zone 58% of the time and Del Zotto’s PDO is a staggering 106.2. Also, Del Zotto lived off the percentages his rookie season and when those regressed his sophomore year he got kicked down to the AHL.

Sather did one thing well. Very well.

Signing Gretzky to a contract?

Sather played players young, gave them a chance to prove they could play and weeded out the rest.

Which is a luxury you can have when you have players to pick up the slack. The failure here isn’t that the Oilers don’t have young defenseman, it’s that the defenseman they do have suck so bad they can’t afford to bring up the young ones and shelter them.

If Winter has to pick a bone with Oilers management, he should do so by criticizing the construction of the team currently on the ice, not by advocating the use of players who would likely get killed by playing regular minutes in the NHL. This isn’t the 80’s anymore, Ritch. Players are larger, faster, and there are more highly skilled guys out there that can take advantage of young kids. It’s just a bad idea.

Also, using one of the great dynasties that featured generational talents and future hall-of-famers as a template for team building is absurd. As is ignoring the fact that Sather has been one of the worst GMs in the league for the Rangers over the last decade or so.

But I digress.

  • Something I mentioned to Gregor yesterday. Bobby Orr must giggle himself to sleep every night knowing the quality of idiot he competes against.

    Further to that comment. If you are a parent of a potential NHLer…. and have the capacity to read and evaluate character. Would ya?

    Finally…. the sooner Ritch gets them started, the sooner they get to that first UFA contract….. and in the end….. all that matters to a guy like him.

    Perhaps Ritch should seek advice from someone in marketing and realize that a reputation is built over time and destroyed in seconds. It may delay his need to hammer the send button and expose himself as a fool.

    Or not!

    Hes a legend in his own mind.

    Does that count?

  • If Winter had even one smidgen of evidence that playing an 18, 19 or 20 year old defenceman in junior had any impact on that player’s long term ability ceiling, I would listen. I have never seen anything even remotely demonstrating that to be the case.

  • I’ve actually heard some decent interviews from Winter in the past on Edmonton radio. So much so, that I had tossed his name out in “future GM’ talks. But his last couple of interviews, and that blogpost, have completely undone any of that.

    I’m actually curious if he (or agents in general, *cough*Mike Barnett*cough*) believes what he says, or if he could change his philosophy just like *THAT* and play the other side of the coin when managing a team of players, as opposed to negotiating the biggest contracts for players.

    In any case, I’d like to see him take the helm of a team (NOT CALGARY!) just to see him prove how smart he really is… or isn’t. I know where I’d put my money.

  • Getzlaf: $26.625 million over 5 years
    Coburn: $18 million over 4 years
    Hossa: $63 million over 12 years (8, actually)

    I’d say he does his job really well!

    And if he took Calgary’s GM job, how could you tell if he failed?

    • ChinookArchYYC

      glad you enjoyed it!

      @Robert Vollman

      he’s a good agent. he has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to personnel moves within an organization, if this post is any indication.

  • RexLibris

    A few years ago, Winter was interviewed on Bob Stauffer’s old 1260 show and he said that he felt Phaneuf would likely be one of, if not the first, $100 million player. I wonder if that changed when Phaneuf went to play for Brian Burke?

    Justin – great point at the end there. The Oilers didn’t have any defencemen to build around save Gilbert and Smid. Whitney has been a non-factor for virtually all of last season and thus far all of this. This “The failure here isn’t that the Oilers don’t have young defenseman, it’s that the defenseman they do have suck so bad they can’t afford to bring up the young ones and shelter them.” is the most accurate statement I have read yet about this Oilers D. Thank you for that.

    And to compare and contract ANY team with the Oilers of the 80s is ludicrous. A great many things came together perfectly to create that roster. It’s like player comparables, there are some that can be considered appropriate (he handles the puck like Havlat, he skates like Niedermayer, he hits like Stevens) but some player comparables are simply untouchable. Nobody should be held up as the next Bobby Orr or Gordie Howe. But then Winter is an agent, he has made a (very profitable) career out of hyperbolic statements that inflate a player’s abilities, so should we be surprised that he falls into that same rhetorical habit so easily in his blog?

  • “Ah, Andy Moog. The guy who had 1 year over .900 in SV% in his first 11 (tracked) seasons? Brilliant.”

    1. Why pick on him instead of Fuhr, who had 0.
    2. His one season above .900 he had 6GP, making this meaningless.
    3. Total number of goalies with more than 20GP with a SV% over .900 from 82-83 through 89-90 season – 17

    Criticizing a goalie in the 80s for having a below .900 save% season, is not relevant in any way.

    However, I will agree with your main point, Ritch Winter is an idiot.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      I apologize if I came off as picking on moog-the point was merely to illustrate that moog and fuhr probably weren’t as good as ritch was making them out to be.