Random Thoughts – Beware Playoff Reputations


Tomas Vokoun
– pic via Trixy Larue


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The post-season has wound its way into the semi-finals and there are few interesting stories that have popped up that I’d like to discuss briefly. Starting with the "upstart" Tomas Vokoun who is, of course, nothing of the sort.

"Dodging the Vokoun Bullet"

It’s good to see a guy who has been a very good goalie for most of his career finally getting a chance to strut his stuff in the playoffs. Vokoun was a top-10 puckstopper in the NHL in terms of save percentage starting in Nashville, but was never considered truly elite because he never "carried a team" to significant success outside of the regular season. Of course, that had as much to do with the quality of the teams he spent playing behind (the Preds and Florida Panthers, mostly) than any failing of his own.

In between jobs with the Flames and Lightning, Jay Feaster wrote for the Hockrey News. One of his pieces was a self-congratulatory article on how he had "avoided" that loser Vokoun when he was available. Hilariously titled "Dodging the Vokoun bullet", Feaster lays out what was more or less the general sentiment surrounding the big goalie not too long ago: 

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

While we had goaltending problems in Tampa at the time, we were not interested in Vokoun. Our pro scouts were not sold on Vokoun’s ability to win a championship and thrive under big-game pressure…

Vokoun was traded to the Panthers on June 22, 2007 and has been the top netminder there for the past three seasons, including the current campaign. He has yet to carry his team to the post-season and last year, when new coach Pete DeBoer really needed him to elevate his play, he faltered, stumbling badly enough that DeBoer handed the starting reins to backup Craig Anderson down the stretch.

Anderson signed with Colorado this past summer and is leading a resurgent Avalanche team. The Panthers countered by signing former Devils No. 3 goalie, Scott Clemmensen. Just as Anderson carried the Panthers last season, Clemmensen was the go-to goalie for the Devils when Martin Brodeur missed most of the season with an injury and the putative No. 2, Kevin Weekes, once again failed to live up to expectations. Clemmensen saved the day in Jersey and Florida did well to land him after losing Anderson.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Unfortunately, Clemmensen has been away from the team dealing with personal/family matters recently, which has resulted in Vokoun carrying the load. Not surprisingly, Vokoun has faltered and the Panthers find themselves desperately needing help from their backup goalie yet again. The only way for Florida to climb back into the hunt is for Clemmensen to do for his current squad what he did last year in Newark, and time is of the essence.

Vokoun’s SV% over his 4 seasons in Florida? .919, .926, .925 and .922. Clemmensen’s save rates for the same team over the same period? .912, .911, .913.

If you ever wonder how decision makers follow narratives too closely and end up missing the forest for the trees sometimes, here’s a nice, shining example for you. Feaster wrote this post on October 19, 2009, meaning the season was probably less than 10 games old. I guess Vokoun got off to a rough start, no doubt due more to vairance than anything, but he recovered to play 63 games that year and post 23 wins and a .925 SV% – .937 at ES (!) which are excellent-to-elite numbers. Clemmensen’s SV% that year was .912 at ES (below averagee, nearing replacement level) and the only reason his overall SV% was respectable was because of an outlandishly lucky .911 SV% on the PK.

So Feaster’s take on the situation – informed by his scout’s "feelings" about a guys psychological make-up as well as a few,  isolated periods of Vokoun’s performance foregrounded above his general high level of play – was exactly 180 degrees wrong.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Anyways, it took MA Fleury falling on his face (a guy who ironically benefits from an undeserved reputation), but Vokoun’s finally gotten a chance to play behind a decent team in the post-season. He’s crushing things with a .940 SV% despite being 36 years old.

A lot of people are on focused on the Iginla angle for the Pens cup run and if they win it will be a great story for Jarome. In addition, though, it will be sweet vindication for a high quality goaltender who laboured behind lousy teams for a lot of years and was unfairly tarred as a loser because of it.

Other Stuff

– Clearly the post-season can make or break reputations that stick to a player for years afterwards. They can also make pending UFA’s a lot richer (or poorer, I suppose). Robyn Regehr has already hit the jackpot with the Kings with a new two year deal, despite the fact he has been on the steep decline for a few awhile now. Reggie can’t really skate at an appropriate level to be competitive these days, and his offense/puck skills were never his strong points. He can still clear bodies from the front of the net and down low, but his utility is extremely limited by his weaknesses, which continue to overtake his game as he ages. My guess is the Kings regret that contract eventually.

Anyways, another guy riding the playoff gravy train is Bryan Bickell.

He’s basically been a plugger for the Hawks for years, but has recently started scoring "big goals" in the playoffs which is garnering him all sorts of attention and accolades.

Now, whenever a relative unknown (or career checker type) starts putting up nice numbers in short bursts, it usually means one of two things:

1.) Unusal opportunity/circumstances

2.) Unusual percentages

This time, it’s probably both – Bickell has 6 goals on just 24 shots on net so far, good for a 25 SH%. With pucks going in for him, Bickell is also getting a bit more time with the Hawks big guns than he would normally garner.

His underlying numbers don’t speak to a player who has suddenly raised his play and is worthy of a substantially larger contract tho. Bickell’s relative corsi is -12.5/60 despite a zone start ratio of 71.1% (!!), one of the highest on ratios on the team.

Bickell is a big dude at 6’4" and 230 pounds, so he’s the kind of guy who makes GM’s eyes light up whenever there’s a hint he might be able to do something besides crash and bang. If he continues to get the bounces, you can assume someone is going to pay him entirely too much for too long this summer.

– Of the four teams left in the playoffs, three of them were were top-5 teams in terms of possession stats this year. Pittsburgh is the other one and their possession was mediocre because their rates took a big hit down the stretch due to a combination of injuries (Neal, Crosby, Letand and Malkin) as well as Ray Shero’s deadline additions, which were a bunch of mediocre or worse possession players (Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow and Doug Murray). 

The Pens are a really, really good team when guys like Crosby, Letang and Malkin are on the ice, but their depth is actually fairly underwhelming in light of losing Jordan Staal and then adding dudes who can’t drive play effectively. Pittsburgh is now much more dependent on the percentages for victory than they were previously, which makes advancing past a team like Boston a lot tougher. Crosby and Malkin might be the sort of rare talents who can actually maintain an above average on-ice SH% for their club, but as we all know percentages can be notoriously fickle. Having Vokoun in for Fleury improves the Pens chances, but I still consider them underdogs personally.

About the Draft…

For the first time in the last two years we may not have the budget to physically send someone from FN to the draft (I have attended the last two) thanks to a vagrant stealing Wanye’s credit card when he was passed out in the gutter one night and maxing it out on pedicures and Cristal.

So unless something changes – like a title sponsor stepping up with a cheque that will cover the costs and get their name on every draft related article from here till June 30 (hint, hint) –  we will have to find a way to get the job done from Calgary.

Which isn’t terrible in itself of course. With the first round being perhaps the biggest one in franchise history it would have been good to have a man on the scene, but we will nevertheless find a way to provide in depth analysis even if I’m not in NJ to take in the proceedings this time around.

  • Regehr’s been great. Like when he was attempting to clear the puck from the crease last night by swatting TOWARDS the net. Then it went into his own net. Accident, sure, but that’s worth $3M? He got beat wide several times as well. Slow, slow, SLOW. And he was horrific in Buffalo.

    Bickell reminds me of Joel Ward. He had a big post-season for the Predators 2 or 3 years ago and cashed in with the Capitals. Hasn’t done much since then AFAIK. It’s the problem with giving contracts based on the one year of performance (ala Stempniak).

    That seems to be the general point here. GMs tend to be a bit short-sighted, or choose to focus on certain aspects of players that may be completely irrelevant.

    • Fooled by randomness.

      NHL decision makers seem to spend a lot of time looking for guys who can “do it when it counts”. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to realize enough that sometimes a guy gets it done at crunch time accidentally (or, conversely, sometimes guys crash because of the percentages, not some personal failing).

  • redricardo

    I see Pierre Lebrun just wrote an article about Bickell’s emergence being key for the Blackhawks.

    Looks like the media is going to help Bickell get a payday!

  • redricardo

    Apparently he has size, and he “Thinks the game really well”.

    Hopefully whoever signs him, he can keep thinking that 25% shooting rate for the whole contract.

  • redricardo

    Speaking of players not being worth their money… I see the Isles are apparently dangling prospects/picks for anyone that will take the Dipietro contract off their hands. Maybe another potential dance partner for the Flames and all their cap room.

    An even less useful player than Lecavalier but the buyout is less as well I believe?

    • Dipietro is signed until 2012 at $4.5M/year. That’s another 7 years for $31.5M or a $21M buy-out (2/3rd remaining contract).

      That is a huge chunk of change to eat. The Isles would have to give up a nice package of players/picks to make that worthwhile to Murray Edwards I think.

        • seve927

          And somehow Dipietro gets his swagger back and splits a season with Rammo both posting .930 right? :-D. Then again there is the thought of league average or below average goal tending helps evaluating our players a little better.

      • seve927

        $21M is less than the $30M Vinny would cost…

        Dipietro, Nino and their 2013 15th overall pick for…. I dunno, would be nice to send some salary back. Tanguay?

        Would love to see an article Kent on creative ways Cgy can use their cap room. IE what kind of a haul could they get, realistically, from teams like Tampa, Isles, Philly etc to make their cap pain go away.

        • While I agree that some creative cap-maneuvering could be useful to the Flames, they seem unwilling to do so. They could’ve done it with Bouwmeester to make his contract a bit more palatable, but they chose not to.

          Just because Murray Edwards & Co have a ton of money doesn’t mean they want to spend it. With American oil + gas resources increasing and the Keystone XL pipeline having so much bad publicity, I doubt these guys would be too excited to just dole out $21-30M. Maybe I’m wrong, but these guys aren’t Mike Ilitch and this isn’t the mid-90s Red Wings.

  • seve927

    It doesn’t seem to me that Bickell’s performance is too out of line. He’s been an excellent possession player all year (.556 CF% while his teammates were .509 without him!), and has been a pretty consistent scorer. He’s had 35 goals in 197 reg season game and 10 goals in 25 playoff games over the last 3 years, and his possession has improved.

    I don’t see him getting too much of any overpayment from anybody with the cap shrinking this year. He looks to me like he could actually be a pretty useful player, no?

    • redricardo

      Decent player, yes. I think my concern is that someone (Flames) sees his emergence, and tries to outbid other teams to add this key playoff big body scorer.

      As long as my team doesn’t overpay for him, I have no issue. But if Feaster doesn’t avoid the Bickell Bullet and we do overpay to add him… Ask the Oilers how Penner worked out. I’m not saying Bickell’s gonna get 5 mil… But someone will overpay.

      Every offseason players become in demand and are overpaid.

    • mattyc

      What are his circumstances(ZS%, QualComp)? The Hawks CF% w/out Bickell could be entirely due to the fact that Bickell is sheltered, and beating up on weak 4th lines.

      • seve927

        He’s definitely had beneficial circumstances. I’m just saying I wouldn’t hold that against him. If he can beat up on 4th lines and score 15-20 a year, I’d take him.

        I guess the expectation is someone is going to overvalue him and give him $20M over 5 years or something. That I wouldn’t be in favour of.

  • It appears that both Florida and Nashville would be down with a trade for their pick.

    Cammy + CGY’s 1st (6) for NSH’s 1st (4)? Maybe throw in one of Butler or Sarich.

    What would it take?

    Florida is brimming with prospects, so they likely need roster players. Cammy + CGY’s 1st for FLA’s 1st?

    I’d start with those and work from there.

    • Parallex

      Not going to happen.

      Nashville are cheapskates, they wouldn’t want to pay Cammy’s salary. Maybe Tanguay… he costs half of what Cammy costs net year.

      As for Florida, I’m pretty sure they’d value the difference between their pick and Calgary’s more then they’d value Cammy as a player.

  • RKD

    Vokoun is a solid goalie, but the question is can he win a Stanely Cup? Even if you have average goaltending, can he make the big saves at the big times? There’s been a lot of buzz about going back to Fleury. Fleury’s was pretty bad against the Isles and for Bylsma to put in a goalie cold is not a good idea. Heard Vokoun is getting the start tonight again, he will be better.

  • RexLibris

    Interesting that Feaster made such a bad call on Vokoun.

    This is the same manager who has leveraged a fair number of Flames assets on getting, and signing, goaltenders.

  • seve927

    i would love to see vokoun write an article entitle “dodging the Feaster bullchit”. poor jay, he was the fat kid that never got picked for sports, now he is seeking revenge against society, for being the chubby nerdy kid.

  • The Last Big Bear

    Random thoughts:

    1) Anton Belov was just signed by the Oilers. He played last year for Avangard Omsk. The same team that Karri Ramo played for. As far as I’m aware Anton Belov, just like Karri Ramo, was still Omsk property. The Oilers first approached their guy during the World Championships, a matter a weeks ago, and he is already signed. While the Flames still have yet to be able to sign their guy from the same team, who has been their property for a year and a half.

    This makes me nervous about Ramo’s contract, which many people have been painting as a mere formality.

    2) Jay Feaster is, in fact, a damn clown.

    3) Rick DiPietro has nothing to offer the Flames in return for his horrific contract. Vincent Lecavalier on the other hand has the potential to fill a crucial role at centre for the Flames. If the Flames draft a future no 1 C at this draft, they need someone to shelter him for the next few years while he works his way up through the ranks. Lecavalier fitst that bill perfectly, as he can be the team’s tough-minute first line centre for the next 3-ish years, and then slide down the depth chart as the new guy works his way into the top 6 and eventually first line. Need to have a clear plan and handshake agreement on when he’s going to retire and/or be bought out, though.

    4) Bickell is worth $2-2.5m, depending on your team’s needs. He will likely get more than that. Coincidentally, the Oilers are looking for size and toughness in their forward ranks. Hopefully, they will be just the fools to give him his long-term overpayment.

    5) For the love of god, trade up at the draft. The Flames only have to move up 2 spots to get into ‘almost guaranteed franchise player’ territory. Although I expect the Flames will be in the same ballpark next season, there’s no promises, and it might be an ever further reach next season.

    6) MOVE UP IN THE DRAFT. Yes, the Flames late 1st rounders have a good chance of landing roster players. But those are ‘Robin’ players. If you want to be a contender, you need ‘Batman’ players. Those guys are in the top few picks, and the Flames have ZERO guys that project to fill that role.

    6) Here’s a brief article where the head of amateur scouting for the Red Wings repeatedly mentions no fewer than 3 times that ‘drafting for need’ is a reasonable option this season. Just to highlight the fact that I think BPA is not divinely revealed gospel that must always be obeyed, as long as you’re keeping your eye 4 or 5 years down the road. (http://www.nhl.com/ice/blogpost.htm?id=18033)

  • I was curious as to whom Bickell’s linemates were. Looks like he played mostly with Andrew Shaw and Viktor Stalberg.

    Helps me give a bit more credit to Bickell in that he is playing well and producing with players not named Toews, Kane, Sharp, or Hossa. He definitely benefited from having a 0.946 SV% from Crawford-Emery this season

  • The Last Big Bear

    I have a friend that is a canucks fan. He seems to think that the Isles will want to take Louongo. He thinks that Nino Nederieter would be going back to the canucks. we’ll see what happens.

    • Does your friend’s name rhyme with Trike Willis? That’s probably what the Canucks THINK they’re going to get for Luongo. It’s why he hasn’t been traded yet. Canucks want the moon and are going to have to come back to reality if Luongo is going to be traded.

      While I hate to say this, Luongo is a pretty good goalie. BUT, he has had some real stinker games when it counted. His contract is an albatross. He’s getting older. He threw a hissy fit when Tim Jackman wrecked his shutout with a minute left one time. There are a lot of reasons that teams will bring up in order to not pay a 1st + Niederreiter-type player for Luongo.

  • I would love to see if we could pick up a top5 pick without having to give our #6 away. But if not, don’t undervalue our #6 as players fall that #6 will increase in value at the day of the draft. I love the idea of picking up Nino & the 15th overall for Depietro. Just do it, its no different than the back ended deals for Kipper & Stajan, just done via buyout. But who knows, Depietro cant stay healthy for mor than 15 games a year, doesn’t the insurance cover some of the salary? Hell I wouldn’t buy him out right away until we actually needed the cap space, which probably wont be for awhile during our rebuild. Would love to acquire Nino & see if him & Sven can get a chemistry going.

  • please cancel acct

    Vokoun [email protected] the bed tonight… Maybe Feaster is right.? Tonight is a big game for the Pens and they are behind no thanks to Vokoun and Fleury.. It’s easier to dump on Feaster and look at stats than to actaully consider that the people who have earned the right to be important people in NHL circles actually have the knowledge that we don’t see all the time….?

    I like Feaster and until he screws up in a way that hurts this organization the way Sutter did, I will trust in him and his vision.

    • the forgotten man

      Some on here can only go by the stats and take comfort in forming there opinions based on something they can measure. But, did anyone notice that Regehr had 6 blocks, 8 hits and no turnovers last night while playing plus 1 hockey? If we just go by those stats, he had a pretty darn good game. But, did he?

      • mattyc

        lots of blocks and hits would suggest he’s always on the wrong side of the puck…

        Regardless, you’re not alone in your view. From Steve Kouleas’ twitter feed:

        @stevekouleas: Corsi is a waste of time let’s leave the hockey to the hockey experts!
        Let me say this…nobody who works in hockey believes it…go to a coach or GM and ask them a question on it…see what happens..
        2 hours ago


        • mattyc

          Interesting. I have ex team mates working in the NHL, WHL and College. They all say the same. They all have different criteria based on their team philosophy. Some is measureable, some not.
          Regehr has to do those sorts of things much more now and be in strong support positions rather than in tight gap control. He just doesn’t have the legs for that. His style is still effective though. Just not at over 20 minutes a night.

        • SmellOfVictory

          Kouleas should talk to the GM of the Sharks, who’s mentioned believing in something very similar at least. And who traded away players to gain assets and managed to improve the team by removing them from the player pool.

          I mean… hurr Douglas Murray big crease clearing durr tough to play against durr big body hurr playoffs

          • SmellOfVictory

            They’re golfing because they played one of the best teams in the league. They sure as hell aren’t golfing because they’re missing a garbage 7th dman who couldn’t skate his way out of a paper bag.

            Are you honestly going to try to attribute any of Pittsburgh’s success to Murray? The guy who’s playing bottom pairing minutes, his team being outshot 18 times for every 60 min he’s on the ice?

          • The Last Big Bear

            He is playing. You said Wilson did a great job getting rid of him and how much they improved. His team isn’t. I seem to remember Murray making a pretty darn big difference in round 1 too.

          • SmellOfVictory

            I said they improved, not that they improved to the level of being cup contenders. In terms of playoff teams the Sharks were middle-of-the-pack, in the same realm as the Wings. A dude who was 7th in overall TOI per game (8th in ES TOI) among regular defencemen for the Sharks isn’t going to have an enormous impact on the team overall, but his loss was still a benefit to them.

      • mattyc

        Not everything can be measured in professional sports. The best teams don’t always win, the best players don’t always shine when the pressure is on and at the end of the day it’s still people we are talking about and they are just as flawed as any of us.

        Weather you think Feaster is a moron or not, and knowing what direction most fans on this site are leaning you do, some players are elite players but when the going gets tough they fizzle under the pressure.

        Maybe Feaster saw this in Vokoun….? And what proof do we have he is wrong?

        I love the Flames and respect the fans and their opinions but I am tired of the same old story of “Feaster is a moron.”

        In 3-5years when we are fully reaping the benefits of his savvy drafting I hope most who hate the guy will retract their premature evaluations on the guy who, weather anyone likes it or not, is gonna be the captain who guides this ship through a rebuild.

        • mattyc

          I hated his trade with Stl. because he had a better offer from Detroit. But, the Blues are now in trouble after taking on that huge contract and the fact they have some really good RFA’s looking for huge money. Perhaps Jay can get a good player or 2 at a discount due to this and the recent trading history. Maybe he thought further down the road on this one.

          • seve927

            That’s what I’d assumed from the time of the trade – there must be something more to it. Now that Jarome has stepped down as GM, I’ll be more inclined to rip Feaster if things don’t take a turn for the better. And I don’t think Feaster will be the guy that’s turning it around, other than by the fact that he’ll be listening to people who know a whole lot more than he does. He shoots off his mouth too much, but I don’t think that makes him a terrible GM.

          • SmellOfVictory

            After that trade all I could think about was all the good RFAs STL has that needed raises. I felt he had something up his sleeve in forcing them to take JBows entire salary.

            @The Last Big Bear

            Touché, but when you look at Feasters draft results so far they are fairly impressive, that’s more or less my point…

        • The Last Big Bear

          “In 3-5years when we are fully reaping the benefits of his savvy drafting I hope most who hate the guy will retract their premature evaluations…”

          Right. You’re rebuking premature evaluations by saying how awesome his decisions are going to be 5 years from now.

          I have some GIFs I could use to describe that kind of mentality, if I knew how to post them here.

  • please cancel acct

    I am loving seeing Boston smoke the pens! Hope it continues in games 3 and 4! I , for one, could give a crap whether Iginla gets a cup! He never got us one so It matters not to me if he gets one! I’m still pissed that our ownership basically had him give them a list and then he got to chose from the list in the end! That was complete B.S.! Talk about caving! Iggy is history and he doesn’t hold a place in my heart like Lanny! We won a cup with Lanny and he’ll always be number one before Jarome! It’s all cool that he did stuff in the community but his records did nothing by way of giving us any championships! He is a classy guy and I will always give him that…. I just am pissed that the flames basically bent over and said, ” it’s all about you Iggy!” We got garbage in return ! Ben Hanowski is nothing special and Agostino is about the same! This whole college philosophy is getting old. Who knows, maybe something will come of one of them, but we got hosed and Iggy got exactly what he wanted! There was zero give and take! GO BRUINS!!!!!!