Five Things: Beginning of the end

1. This is it, huh?

I kind of can’t believe last night was Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Even if you think it ends up being a long series (and I do; I took Bruins in seven), that means only two weeks left of the season at most. June 26, a Wednesday, is the date of that Game 7, if necessary. And that feels really weird. Obviously this is the deepest into June the league has gone. Even Game 7 of the 1994 Cup Final, itself similarly delayed by a lengthy work stoppage, went until June 14, making that game 19 years ago tomorrow. 

The season only began in January, but it feels oddly long, perhaps owing to just how deep into what is normally drafting season things have gone at this point. It sure feels like we’ve watched teams play a lot more than 50-something games at this point, doesn’t it? These games have seemed a lot more arduous than perhaps what I’ve been used to seeing. Harder hitting, maybe. Possibly more shot-blocking. I honestly don’t know.

Maybe, too, it’s because I spent the lockout this time around watching as much hockey as i ever do during the NHL season. In 2005, we didn’t have the viewing options we do now. There were routinely college games and junior games and AHL games and even KHL and Swiss league games that you could just watch, whether it was on TV or streaming online. Last time around I simply found myself going to more college games; probably 50 or 60 in one season where they usually only play on weekends and the longest campaigns go about 45 games.

Maybe too it was all the attention, 24 hours a day, that was being paid to the lockout itself. The negotiations. The setbacks. The whining. While I’m really proud of the stuff I wrote about the lockout (and specifically how full of crap Bettman and the owners were throughout) it kind of wore me down. I can’t believe the season started in mid-January. It feels like forever ago.

2. An actual word of praise

In the past few weeks I have been criticized by those who would prefer I blow sunshine and puppydog kisses up the asses of Flames’ management for, more or less, thinking any decision they make is a bad one. This obviously isn’t what I think, but with that unfounded and oversimplified criticism in mind, here’s something I actually liked from a Flames front office type…

John Weisbrod the other day apparently said something along the lines of the team is actively planning for the guy they take at No. 6 to not be ready to contribute in the NHL for at least a year or two. That was very heartening. I was at least a little concerned that they would, given the desire to sell tickets and maybe force their way into the playoffs, ferry whomever they take there into the league posthaste, or at least before he was ready. That they’ve stated they won’t do this doesn’t mean they won’t in actual practice of course — and who knows, maybe the kid shows up on a training camp invite with little expectation and, like Patrice Bergeron for instance, bullies his way onto the NHL roster through sheer force of will and ability.

But at least they’re couching expectations in such a way that they might not try to cram this kid into the league for the sake of doing so. I didn’t expect that much, really. Such is the subtle bigotry of low expectations, I suppose, but nonetheless, sometimes the Flames surprise me to this day.

3. Wow it’s actually happening (maybe)

As I was writing this just now Gary Bettman and Bill Daly got up on a podium and told the media that no, it wasn’t an absolute certainty that the Phoenix Coyotes would be playing in Glendale next season. Maybe they’ve said this kind of thing before, but those instances always felt like one of those things where they were trying to bully the Glendale City Council into giving them another $25 million for no real reason, content to continue slumming it in the cruel indifference of the desert.

Obviously a lot can change between now and the end of the month, when it seems likely that the league would need to have a decision by, and this looks for all the world to be another Atlanta situation where – "hey, what do you know!" – there just happens to be a suddenly-interested buyer in Canada who would just love to put an NHL team in a too-small rink and sell it out every night and move a billion jerseys for the New Nordiques or whatever.

That it’s gone on this long is obviously kind of hilarious but at the same time oh well, Glendale was always a pretty crap market, even when they occasionally sold out playoff games, and more or less no one on earth — save for a few thousand people, maybe — will mourn the death of the Southwestern experiment. It was a disaster, and was probably always destined to be.

4. Whither Jarome now?

So the Penguins’ grand dream has come to its end and with it Jarome Iginla’s latest run at a Cup, and that has left many to speculate about the future of the former Calgary captain. He’ll probably have to take a paycut, everyone seems to agree, and there will probably be a line around the block for him.

I’ve seen some speculation online that he might sign back in Calgary but that’s just not going to happen. Instead, he’ll have to settle for the most realistic contender with the room to sign him with the cap going down, and of those there don’t seem to be many. Chicago has some. Boston more. Pittsburgh more than that (until this morning when the signed Malkin for a bazillion dollars – ed.). San Jose, Los Angeles, Detroit. These all seem possible destinations, but none more probable, really, than the other. I’m very curious to see where he lands, but I’m not sure that anything would really surprise me, either. Outside a move to a bottomfeeder. Which, again, isn’t going to happen.

5. Stay out of the free agent defense market

Mark Streit, at 36 and clearly on the decline, wants four years from Philadelphia, who acquired his rights yesterday. The funny thing is, he seems likely to get it. Likewise, Sergei Gonchar, who’s 39, just got $5 million a year from Dallas for the next two seasons, for reasons known only to Jim Nill. A $5 million mentor for Alex Goligoski? That doesn’t seem an absurd waste at all.

What this says about the way teams, like say, Calgary, are going to have to pay for free agent defensemen is, well, it’s not anything good, that’s for sure.

Around the Nation

Eric T. writes an open letter to a couple of academics who waded into hockey analysis without doing much research on what has already been accomplished over at NHLNumbers:

But most of all, the biggest stylistic issue I have is that I feel that claims this surprising need either stronger evidence to support them or more discussion of the uncertainty surrounding them. Certainly, conventional wisdom is wrong in places and some of the value of quantitative analysis is helping to identify those places. But if my model had Roloson as a top-five goalie, I would ask how that came about before I proclaimed him a star.

  • BurningSensation

    We need to stick with the organically grown players. cost certAinty and creating an identity are the reasons. No question Myers is going to be good, but why risk that money when you have home grown product on the cusp.
    For years we have complained about mortgaging our future for today versus tomorrow.
    I don’t see how the risk reward of Backlund for Myers is viable at any level discussed on this blog.
    I dont think or believe Buffalo should puke him out either as hopefully he provides just return for dollars paid. Unless he is the second coming of Nicholas Lidstrom it Is tough to gamble on him

  • MattyFranchise

    I think for that trade it comes down to a question of whether it’s harder to find dmen or centers. At this point I don’t think I would be sending Backlund anywhere for less than an over pay. At least for this season. If he ends up being another Moss then I’d get rid of him but until that happens I keep him.

  • marty

    My money is on Iggy landing in LA, Philly or Montreal. There have been some like cough (Rex), that think a 5 year deal for a 29 year old Wideman was a bad deal. Hearing Streit who is 35 or 36 wants 4 years of at least 5.0mill per & will probably get it. After the Gonchar signing, I think we should stop the piling on for that signing.

    Saw on Willis blog a rumour of Calgary & Buffalo with Cammi, Backlund & the 22nd overall for Myers, Vanek & a 2nd rounder. Not sure of the source on this one, certainly interesting, not sure what to think on that one.

    • RexLibris

      Wideman is a bad contract, in my opinion. Having other GMs come along and make worse ones doesn’t negate that.

      Horcoff in 2008 was an absolutely atrocious contract. Second perhaps only to DiPietro. Then along came the Leino signing. And Lecavalier begins to decline. All of a sudden Horcoff doesn’t look so bad. Nothing in the contract changed, and it still ranks as one of the most outrageous deals offered by an Oilers GM, but does the insanity of Lowe’s professional peers really mollify his own misjudgment or simply mask it?

      To date, I have seen only one contract that I think Feaster has got absolutely right: Hudler.

      • BurningSensation

        I don’t mind Wideman’s contract at all. He’s a top 4 Dman who can run a PP, and he’s firmly in his prime. The contract finishes with Wideman only 34

        I also thought Blake Comeau and Cervenka were solid signings even if they didn’t pan out (risk-reward they were definitely worthwhile).

        I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I still love the ROR offer sheet as well.

    • Tommynotsohuge

      Holy crap man. That would be a crazy trade. I am not totally opposed to it, but I would hate to see Backlund go. I think he will blossom into a wicked 2nd line center, but a potential 1st pairing dman and an all-star, would definitely sway my mind

      • Tommynotsohuge

        Well, Vanek is definitely an upgrade on Cammalleri. I don’t know about Myers, though. Isn’t he kind of… you know… terrible?

        Also, Mickis!!!!! πŸ™

        • RexLibris

          The Flames would get two young players who both address organizational need and a 2nd round pick in exchange for a young center, a mid 1st round pick and a “post-apex” player with a significant cap hit.

          This trade takes a liability (Cammalleri), a player and a pick and turns it into two players and a depth pick.

          I think it would be a very smart move. Think of it this way, take Monahan or Lindholm at the draft, keep Vanek for a year and then re-sign or trade for a young center to a team like Philadelphia, have Myers pair with Brodie and coach him to simplify his game. Hard to see a downside there that would outweigh the positives. Losing Backlund would be tough, but it is virtually impossible to gain anything without relinquishing an asset of some value.

          • RexLibris

            I wouldn’t call Vanek young. He’s 29.

            I hate the idea of losing Backlund, but the trade really hinges on Myers. Frankly I don’t think he’s very good. He’s regressed harshly since his rookie season. Is the real Myers a future top pair guy, or is he just another mediocre giant (Hal Gill except he can move)?

            As for contracts Feaster got right, no love for Glencross?

          • BurningSensation

            Myers is just 23, and big men both take longer and don’t always develop in straight lines.

            A good comp is Pronger, after a decent rookie season Pronger regressed for three years before finally figuring it out – after a trade – in StLouis.

            He’s 6’7″, 230+lbs, mobile and just about to enter his prime.

            Vanek is superior (and younger) to Cammalleri.
            Myers has a much higher ceiling (and a higher floor) than Backlund.
            Make the deal!

          • BurningSensation

            It just seems counter productive to me to trade Backlund, a young talented center. On the other hand, the blueline is looking rather brutal.

            I guess it depends on if the Flames think Horak can replace Backlund. Given the way they’ve been utilizing him, it seems they’ve been trying to turn him into another Backlund.

  • BurningSensation

    “In the past few weeks I have been criticized by those who would prefer I stop being an empty hack, for, more or less, thinking every decision Flames management make is a bad one. This obviously is what I think, so with that accurate and smartly argued criticism in mind, here’s something I actually liked from a Flames front office type…”

    Fixed.

  • What I still don’t get is why the NHL has been steadfast in their resistance against the movement of the Coyotes, but didn’t bat an eye when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg.

    @rubbertrout

    they did not “burn a year” of Sven’s ELC. He was playing in the AHL, which means the entry level slide no longer applied, thus the year would have been “burned” regardless of whether he played in the NHL or not.

  • now that the pens re upped malkin, the big question is letang, would it be prudent for the flames brass to pursue a deal with the pens? also would it be a wise move for the flames to take a flyer on cooke,kennedy and dupuis? as for iggy i say dallas, his pal and business partner gags is the owner. a possible move into management after his playing career perhaps?

  • RexLibris

    Sven the hockey asset has not been mismanaged. His trade value, which is the only way I can valuer him, is as high or higher the day the Flames selected him 13th overall. A highly regarded, highly skilled forward who needs to mature physically to meet future expectations. We were all 18 once and can all remember how our bodies blossomed(did i just say that) by the time we reached 21 or 22.
    With average maturation with his incredible skill level he should be a fine NHLer for years to come.
    Too optimistic, well forgive me Im a lif’er Flames fan. This kid seems legit

  • Rockmorton65

    I thought it was a pretty good first year, all things considered. The plan was to have him on the big club all year, but when his confidence slipped, they sent him down to Abby. Seems to me that’s what an ELC is for. He has three years to learn what it takes to play in the pros. I don’t think it’s a waste of a year, considering the comments made by him and the Flames at the end of the year. He said he knows what he needs to do to stick in the bigs. I think he’ll come to camp stronger and better than he was last year. As long as he continues to progress towards being a full time NHLer, I think all is good in Sven-land

    And call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re going to make the playoffs during Sven’s ELC. Just a hunch.

  • Rockmorton65

    I thought it was a pretty good first year, all things considered. The plan was to have him on the big club all year, but when his confidence slipped, they sent him down to Abby. Seems to me that’s what an ELC is for. He has three years to learn what it takes to play in the pros. I don’t think it’s a waste of a year, considering the comments made by him and the Flames at the end of the year. He said he knows what he needs to do to stick in the bigs. I think he’ll come to camp stronger and better than he was last year. As long as he continues to progress towards being a full time NHLer, I think all is good in Sven-land

    And call me crazy, but I don’t think we’re going to make the playoffs during Sven’s ELC. Just a hunch.

  • The only way Jarome gets resigned by the Flames is if it is for the General Manager position. Thus reuniting Iggy and Conroy.
    Probably far fetched at the moment but realistically with the power Iginla wielded with this team for the past decade he might as well been part of the managing group.
    Maybe in five years?

  • Some key stats in my mind anyways.
    Boston blocked 40 shots and Chicago 23. The Boston defense blocked the lions share of their total(Ference blocked 25% himself, Go Flames!)
    Pretty equal hit total 59 for Boston 61 for Chicago. Where they are coming from are very different.
    Boston”s defence doled out 36 of the 59 hits.
    Chicago’s three forward Shaw, Bickell and Bollig doled out 28/61 on much lower ice times.
    These statistics while represent admirable play from the Bruin’s defenceare very concerning to their chances to win. Fatigue, as always will play a huge role. While not an earth shattering prediction here, if Chicago gets up 2 to 0, Boston will not recover.
    This could be a shorter series than originally thought.

  • Burnward

    @rubbertrout

    I don’t know. I think you reward the kid for playing well and give him a taste of what he needs to do to take the next step. I don’t get that worked up about ELC years and that stuff though. So, I might look at it differently than you. I do see your point though.

  • Burnward

    @Kent

    Letang has one year left. Would be tight, but I think they could fit Iggy in. Buyouts of Niskanen/Jokinen would allow it to happen. Anyhoo…will be interesting to see how it shakes out. Will depend on the paycut Iggy is willing to take.

    • marty

      if pitt wants to move those 2 contracts feaster should be on the phone, picking those 2 up on the cheap would be good for the flames. a center and dman that isn’t babchuk, butler or sarich. ps buy out sarich flames

  • Colin.S

    Iggy signs on the cheap in LA to play for Sutter, Boston isn’t gonna want him, neither is Pittsburgh, doesn’t fit in Chicago, Detroit is already old enough. I can see Sutter putting in the pitch for him already.

  • Burnward

    Who cares about Erixon anymore, dude’s a second/third pairing guy anyways. That was also the previous regime’s doing. Let’s not dwell on the mistakes of the past. The way they handled SVEN’s development has been spot on.

  • Burnward

    Gotta think Iggy will stay in Pittsburgh. That’s still an incredible hockey team and I’m sure he would like a chance to give it a real shot there.

    Joining at the deadline, Sid going down for weeks, bouncing around lines/positions…not the easiest transition into a new club.

    He chose the Pens for a reason and if you give him a training camp and a chance to get settled in, it will probably make a world of difference.

    • My guess is PIT isn’t all that interested in keeping him around anymore.

      After the Malkin extension, they have very little wiggle room (not quite $8M), especially if they don’t buy out Fleury. Kris Letang still needs a new deal and my bet is he makes $5.5M/year or more. Brendan Morrow, Matt Cooke, Pascal Dupuis, Tyler Kennedy, Doug Murray, and Mark Eaton all need to be re-signed or replaced as well.

      If Iginla had been a big time difference maker for the team, maybe they’d try to find a way to keep him, but he wasn’t.

      • Bob McKenzie had some interesting tweets today re: Letang’s new contract.

        ——-
        Bob McKenzie ‏@TSNBobMcKenzie:

        “Letang’s negotiations could be more complex. Letang wants to stay in PIT but is entering fourth year of a “bargain” deal at $3.5M.”

        “Weber/Suter deals have skewed high-end D market. Safe bet to assume Letang will be looking for at least double his current $3.5M salary.”
        ——–

        If there’s any truth to that, I doubt Iginla stays. Why sign a post-apex cherry-picker for $3-4M per season to play on the 3rd line when you could lock up one of your top D-men?

        But who knows with the Penguins. They flame out in the CF and everyone gets contract extensions. Contracts are like candy to them apparently. I’m pretty sure Lemieux and Shero have been hanging out in the same circles as Rob Ford.

        Regarding point 5 (UFA D-men), people around here mentioned Couts/Schenn for Gio+more (due to some rumour about that). Looks like with Streit going to PHI, Flames won’t be getting anything from them. Feaster’s inability to exploit the weaknesses and needs of other teams continues to amaze me. It’s almost as maddening as the actual crappy things that he has done.

        • piscera.infada

          To be fair, Streit was a fairly easy and palatable trade for Philly. They gave up very little in compensation for a guy they’ll likely sign. If they get a serviceable (albeit old) defenseman without having to lose Couts, Schenn, a first round pick, or any combination of the three, I assume they take that and run.

          Feaster tried to take advantage of a team’s weakness with ROR, and how did that work out? Horribly.

          He’s probably trying, but what does he really have to offer teams who are in horrible positions other than cap space? Guys on ridiculous contracts, our only reasonable prospects, picks, or guys with no trade clauses. Sometimes I think we just have to face the fact that the Flames really have very few appealing assets to parlay to teams that want hassle-free help.

        • Come on , don’t be so hard on Iggy the icon. would you show interest in raiding the Pens supporting cast of Cooke, dupuis and Kennedy if you were in the Flames big chair? Also who or what would you dangle at Shero if he was looking to shop Letang?

  • RexLibris

    Point 2: While I agree it should be heartening to Flames fans, ought that kind of responsibility and long-term vision be a bare minimum one expects from management?

    That the Flames have exercised patience in their development model is a positive. There haven’t been many decisions with which I can agree, but that is one.

    • RexLibris

      Not always in Edmonton πŸ˜‰ I think RNH could have stayed down and beefed out after being drafted. Same could be said for others.

      Typically flames drafts sat in purgatory with little hope: see erixon leaving.

      • RexLibris

        Nugent-Hopkins perhaps, but certainly not with Hall. He was essentially between a rock and a hard place, too good for the CHL but likely could have benefited from some time in the AHL. Unfortunately, because players in that situation are so few and far between, there is no exception clause on placement.

        Yakupov might have been able to go back to the CHL, but he is driven to play professionally and continue developing. He knew that returning to Sarnia would not help his development long-term and this meant that the Oilers either had to relinquish some control and let him play for Nizhnekamsk or put him on the NHL roster.

        Personally I was in favour of the KHL option, as it would forestall his ELC and save using a year of it on a lockout season. That being said, his talent is already NHL-ready.

        As for the Flames, they haven’t had the opportunity to draft a player this high in awhile, the most recent candidate would have been Phaneuf though Bettman and Goodenow made certain that he had some extra time to develop.

  • It wouldn’t surprise me if Iginla ends up with the Rangers. They have some cap space and Glen Sather is a great respecter of resumes. Which is probably because glittering yet long past triumphs are why he has his job currently.

    The Rags could sell Jarome on the fact that they are contenders as well with a new coach, Rick Nash, etc.