Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Free Agent Signings for the Last Couple Days

Its been two days since last free agent post. There have been a few more free agent signings.

Alexander Ovechkin signed an entry level contract with Washington. TSN's story is here. The Capitals also resigned Brian Muir. TSN's story is here.

Nashville resigned Gleg Classen. TSN's story is here.

Boston resigned Hal Gill. TSN's story is here.

Edmonton acquired Yan Stastny (Peter's son) from Boston for a 2006 4th round draft pick and signed him. Stastny will probably be a decent NHL player, although I can't help wonder when other teams are acquiring established NHLers for draft picks of this type and the Oilers are only acquiring prospects. TSN's story is here.

The New York Islanders signed Robert Nilsson (Kent's son) to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Mostly, these signings are prospects and role players. For the most part, teams have their rosters in order and are putting the finishing touches on them.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How Good Was Doug Harvey?

One player that is a sabermetrics and hockey challenge is Doug Harvey and his rating in a top 10 defencemen of all time list. Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor ranks Doug Harvey the third best defenceman of all time. Daryl Shilling's Hockey Project Rating System does not rank Harvey in the top 10 defencemen of all time (he rates him 16th). As I stated in the sabermetric challenge of Ray Bourque, I think Harvey is one of the most dominant defenders of all time. I would rank him the second best defenceman of all time.

Doug Harvey broke into the NHL in 1947 with the Montreal Canadiens. He was immediately seen as an outstanding physical presence who was very good in his own zone. In the 1951/52 season he made his first leap to the level of elite defenceman when he was named to the First All Star Team for the first of ten times in an eleven year period (he only made second team in 1959). In 1954, the Norris Trophy first came into existence. Harvey won it for the first time in 1955. He won it seven times over an eight year period. In 1961, the "rebuilding" Habs who were one year removed from winning 5 Stanley Cups in a row (of course Harvey was a big part of this), traded the 36 year old defending Norris Trophy winner to the New York Rangers for tough guy Lou Fontinato. Harvey won one final Norris Trophy in his first year with the Rangers before slowing down and signing as a free agent in the AHL with Quebec in the 1963/64 season, where he made the AHL Second Team All Star (back in the original six days, sometimes NHL role players would get offers for the same money they could make in the NHL to star with an AHL team). He spent two years with Quebec before signing as a free agent with AHL Baltimore. After a year and a half there, Baltimore attempted to trade him to Providence. Harvey had a clause in his contract that allowed him to become a free agent if he was traded. He activated this clause and signed with the NHL Detroit Red Wings. Detroit started him out with their AHL affiliate in Pittsburgh, but by the end of the year he was back in the NHL with Detroit at age 42. The next year, the NHL expanded to twelve teams. St Louis signed Harvey as a free agent and named him playing coach of their farm team in the CPHL in Kansas City. When Kansas City missed the playoffs, the Blues brought Harvey back up to the NHL for their playoff run. A 43 year old Harvey scored 4 points in 8 playoff games. Harvey played the next season in the NHL with St Louis before permanently retiring and trying his hand as a coach.

Harvey had a stretch of 11 years from 1951/52 to 1961/62 where he was a superstar defenceman. It is the best eleven year run of any defenceman ever in hockey history (Bobby Orr had a better run but it lasted a shorter time). Doug Harvey chose to slow down and become an AHL player at the conclusion of this run (at this time, this is almost the equivalent of WHA time that Darryl Shilling would consider undocumented time - despite the fact it is fully documented). He made a few more runs as a useful NHL defenceman well into his forties before retiring to coach.

Pnep gets Harvey rated in approximately the correct position (third) because he strongly values awards and Stanley Cup playoff runs (Harvey was part of six Stanley Cup victories in Montreal). This is where he gets the majority of his points in Pnep's system. Harvey was not an offensive star. His career best was a 50 point year in 1956/57. This lack of offence makes Harvey hard to rate. An ideal sabermetric system would be able to quantify his defensive prowess and not require the input of awards voted upon by others (who might make incorrect calls on occassion). However, in this case, Harvey's awards and playoff success make up for his lack of offence in Pnep's system.

Shilling seriously underrates Harvey. This is because Shilling puts a much higher emphasis of scoring for defenceman then Pnep does, although Pnep has a much more awkward calibration of points between different positions. In Shilling's system, Harvey fails to score well in his career value, in his career scoring rates and in his "dominance" which is related to leading the league in offensive stats relative to other defencemen of the time.

I think Doug Harvey is the best example of a player who had great defensive value but did not dominate offensively. That makes him a sabermetric challenge. An ideal sabermetric system would be able to evaluate his defensive prowess and show his dominance without requiring the external input of the awards he won. This system should be able to show that he was a deserving choice for these awards. It should show his value to be as great as some of the better seasons by offensive defencemen over the years. I do not how to do this in practise. Defensive prowess is very hard to show statistically.

Doug Harvey was an elite defenceman. Showing this sabermetrically is hard.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Free Agent Signings for the Last Few Days

The rate of free agent signings has slowed down, in part due to the weekend. My last free agent post was Thursday. This is the signings for late Thursday, through the weekend and into today.

Pittsburgh accepted Dick Tarnstrom's arbitration award. TSN's story is here.

Edmonton signed Danny Syvret to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Nashville resigned Martin Erat. TSN's story is here.

Florida signed Dan Focht from Pittsburgh. He will provide some defensive depth. TSN's story is here.

Ottawa signed Lance Ward from Anaheim and Jeff Hereema from Vancouver. They will provide depth. TSN's story is here.

Craig Adams leaves Carolina to sign with Anaheim. He will provide the Ducks with some depth. TSN's story is here.

Free agent signings have slowed down now that teams have most of their rosters in place and are starting to think about training camp.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

What is the NHL Still Hiding?

In July, I wrote What is the NHL hiding? asking why the NHL does not publish information that diehard fans want like the CBA and salaries of players. The NHLPA promises to post the CBA, but they are not doing this with any priority.

When the NHL does give fans a look it is often lacking.

My interpretation is that either the NHL does not care about their diehard fans or they want to control all information so they can put their spin on any situation without fans being able to call them on their halftruths. Is there another explanation? Neither potential explanation puts the league in a very good light.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Sabermetric Challenge of Ray Bourque

Ray Bourque was a very good defender. He is the highest scoring defender of all time. He has made the First Team All Star 13 times in his career (which is more times than any other defender made the First and Second Teams put together). Bourque also adds 6 more Second Team selections. From those numbers alone, one might conclude that Bourque is the best defender of all time. However, it is a universal (or almost universal) belief that Bobby Orr is the best defender of all time.

In hockey sabermetrics systems it is a common problem to rate the top defencemen of all time. I compared two sabermetric systems, Daryl Shilling's Hockey Project Monitor and Pnep's Hall of Fame Monitor. Daryl Shilling concludes that Bobby Orr is the best defender of all time, while Pnep concludes Ray Bourque.

With all of Bourque's acheivements, he never reached the extreme dominance over the league that Bobby Orr did. Orr won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman 8 years in a row. He was the top scorer in the NHL twice. He was the NHL MVP twice. He was the Playoff MVP twice (both times he won the cup). By comparison, Bourque won 5 Norris Trophies over a period of 8 years. He never seriously contended for the NHL scoring title. He never won any MVP's in the regular season or playoffs, though he was twice Hart Trophy runner up. Bourque's career lasted much longer than Orr's (in fact he played almost 1000 more career games 1612 vs. 657), so this allows Bourque to exceed Orr in career numbers. How does one reach the sabermetric conclusion that Orr is ahead of Bourque given Bourque's much better career numbers? Shilling does this by considering dominance in his Hockey Project Monitor. Pnep does not consider dominance. This shows the importance of dominance of a player being considered as well as his career acheivements, instead of only looking at career acheievments.

There are other defenders that I would argue were significantly more dominant than Bourque, but played in earlier times. They are Doug Harvey who won 7 Norris Trophies in 8 years in the 1950's and 60's and Eddie Shore who had a career in the 1920's and 1930's predating the existance of the Norris Trophy, but he won the Hart Trophy four times. Both of them played in eras where offense from defencemen is less common then it has become in modern times (though they were some of the higher scoring defenders of their eras), so they do not have significant career numbers. It is a tough sabermetric problem to design a system where Shilling ranks Shore sixth in his top 10 defenders and Harvey not at all. Pnep ranks Harvey third in his top ten and Shore not at all. I think that both of them should probably be rated above Bourque (with Bourque ranked as the 4th best defender of all time). Clearly, these two systems reach very different conclusions. In future posts, I will discuss why this is. The problem is that it is hard to show dominance statistically when that dominance is defensive and not offensive. It is one of the problems in hockey sabermetrics that has been a fatal flaw so far. I hope that someday, it gets solved, but until it is, any results of any hockey sabermetric system must be taken with a grain of salt.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

NHL Rule Change Seminar

Today, the NHL attempted to use the internet in an interesting new way to try to win back some fans. They held a web seminar at to explain the rule changes that have been adopted for the NHL relaunch. It was a good idea. Boston Bruins coach Mike Sullivan and St Louis Blues goalie coach Keith Allain explained the rules in a video chat. They had a telestrator set up so they could show examples of (for example) two-line passes. This event was not available to everyone. Invitations were sent to people who are on an NHL maillist (I'm not exactly sure what I did to get on it).

The rule changes were explained in a very vanilla manner that sounded much like the NHL's talking points. Jamie Fitzpatrick does a better job explaining the rule changes in the link I gave in the first paragraph. The choice of Sullivan and Allain as presenters is interesting. Neither are high profile coaches. Neither are directly linked to some of the issues the NHL is trying to crack down on (for example trapping and large goalie equipment). They did an pretty good job of presenting the information, although I think both have impressions of how these rule changes will really affect their teams and how they plan to react to them, but of course they will not give away the answers for free in a forum like that before even playing one game.

The whole session lasted about 45 minutes. First Sullivan presented the skater rule changes. The he answered a few questions. Then Allain presented the goaltender rule changes. Then he answered a few questions. The questions were selected from those entered by people like me attending the web seminar. The whole seminar was marred by technical problems. As much as 20 minutes of the 45 minute seminar were lost when they experienced either video or audio problems (or both).

They did not select my questions to answer. I asked two of them. I asked why all the reasoning for the rule changes was explained in how it would increase scoring. Why is scoring a good metric for good hockey? For example, the Stanley Cup finals are low scoring and the All Star game is high scoring, but the Stanley Cup finals are way better. I also asked what is so wrong with ties - when they were discussing how the shootout would end them.

Mike Sullivan chose questions that were as vanilla as possible. He stalled for large periods of time between questions while he was looking for such questions (I assume that means there were not many of them). He answered questions like: Coach, what is your favorite new rule? and In tag up offsides does only the offside player need to tag up or does the whole attacking team have to be outside the offensive zone to prevent an offside?

Keith Allain was less selective in his questions. He attempted to answer questions like: Can you trap even with legal two line passes? (obviously you can - the trap is common in Europe where there is no red line in many leagues) or Do you think its right to decide a team game with an individual contest like a shootout? He was quite non-commital on his answers. For example on the shootout question saying there are two different lines of thought, but the NHL consulted their fans and they want shootouts.

At the peak, over three hundred people were attending the web seminar, but as technical problems occurred, there were only about 90 people who stayed until the end.

My opinion of the rule changes (at least the short version). I think that most will accomplish little. Scoring will likely not change much. Obstruction crackdowns will slowly be abandoned, like the last few obstruction crackdowns. When you make many changes to the rules, undoubtedly, there will be unintended consequences. I am not sure what they will be, but they are more likely to detract from the game then improve it. I think in 10 years, many of these rule changes will be changed again. Unfortunately, the shootout is probably here to stay.

More Signings and Roster Moves

Since my last free agent post we have some more signings and trades.

Roberto Luongo's arbitration hearings are over and he is signed with Florida for next year. TSN's story is here. Luongo is unhappy with the Panthers taking him to arbitration, but at least they have him signed.

Tampa Bay resigned captain Dave Andreychuk. TSN's story is here.

Buffalo acquired Toni Lydman from Calgary for a 2006 3rd round draft pick. TSN's story is here. Lydman will be a solid defenceman for the Sabres.

Atlanta traded Kip Brennan to Anaheim for Mark Popovic. TSN's story is here. This is a minor trade and does not appear to have been done for salary cap reasons as neither are very expensive. Popovic has potential that Brennan doesn't, so I see Atlanta as a minor winner.

Montreal resigns Andrei Markov. TSN's story is here. They also signed 2004 draft pick Mark Streit from Switzerland. TSN's story is here.

Ottawa signed Andrej Meszaros ot an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Anaheim resigned Samuel Pahlsson. TSN's story is here.

Some of these moves are going to be important this year when we look at it in hindsight. More moves are still to come, some which may be very important, although most of the free agent frenzy is over.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Attack His Character and Then Trade Him

Most teams have one or two players who are well respected by the fans and it would be a public relations nightmare to trade. Fortunately, there is a time honored method to make this trade. You plant stories in the media about the players shortcomings. This is easy to do because the media and the NHL are deeply linked.

A specific example of this is Ottawa's recent trade of Marian Hossa that occurred yesterday. Hossa is one of the NHL's best players. He is just coming into his prime and will likely have his best years of his career in the immediate future. He has not ever had an MVP calibre season or led his team to the Stanley Cup yet, but his numbers over the last few years are as good or better than some players who have accomplished those feats. Trading a player that good is hard to do.

Thus, Ottawa had to cut him down a peg in their fan's eyes. Naturally, it needs to be pointed out that Hossa is European, and therefore cannot be as good as any Canadian boy. Since he is European, he must be a soft player, even though he used to be one of the better Sens in terms of "hits" when the NHL used to keep that stat. He has not (yet) led a team to the Stanley Cup. Worse, he had the balls to ask his team to pay him his fair value. This salary increase would force the Sens to have to break up their core, an intended consequence of the new CBA. All this is used to turn the Sens fans against Hossa. Here is an example of an article that makes this point (unfortunately, the Sun media makes you pay for older stories, so its not so easy to read it anymore).

Ottawa had to send him and useful (though overpaid) defenceman Greg de Vries to Atlanta for Dany Heatley. Heatley is a very good young player who has some important questions to answer as to whether he will live up to his potential after his car accident. The Atlanta media is playing the same game making the trade of Heatley palatable to their fans.

Hossa is a far safer choice as a franchise player then Heatley. Heatley has some far more serious demons to overcome to become a franchise player in the NHL. Hossa has already been Ottawa's best player for a few years including (so far unsuccessful) playoff runs. Hossa has scored at point per game rate the last two years the NHL played and was not far below that level the two years before that. Heatley exceeded point per game scoring rates in 2002/03, but has not been able to approach those levels since the car accident where he was injured and Dan Snyder died.

This move weakens Ottawa, but it does not seriously weaken them. Heatley still has the potential that maybe Ottawa will come out ahead, but the better bet is that Atlanta does. Nevertheless, Sens fans are quite happy with the deal. As an example of that, there is a poll on the TSN webpage asking whether you would rather build your team around Heatley or Hossa. TSN is a Canadian TV station and thus will have far more Canadian voters in the poll (and far more exposure to the Ottawa media campaign against Hossa). As of the time of writing this, 80% voted for Heatley, despite Hossa being the better choice.

The campaigns to attack the character of star players before trades work. Many of the fans believe these campaigns. Thats why teams do them. They are very dishonest and often burn bridges with otherwise good players who in this CBA of high player movement might one day down the road be a candidate to return to the franchise. These campaigns make the player's return less likely. Most of all, however, I object because they lead fans to turn off their brains and argue that their team improved by making that bad trade that got rid of their superstar. These fans do not see that they are being manipulated into that position.

Yet More Roster Moves

Since my last free agent post we have some more signings and roster moves.

Martin St Louis resigned with Tampa Bay. TSN's story is here. There was speculation that Tampa could not afford him and LeCavalier, although this seems to be false. Nevertheless, the salary cap is going to force Tampa to break up their core much sooner than they would have under the old CBA - it has already started with Khabibulin in Chicago.

Mattias Ohlund resigned with Vancouver. TSN's story is here.

John Pohl was traded to Toronto for future consideration by St Louis. TSN's story is here. Likely, this trade will have no NHL significance at all. Pohl is a minor leaguer.

Detroit signs Andreas Lilja from Nashville. He should provide some defensive depth. They also signed Don MacLean from Toronto. He will likely start the year in the AHL. TSN's story is here.

Patrik Elias resigns in New Jersey. TSN's story is here. Although this technically puts the Devils over the salary cap, that is probably not important because Elias is suffering from hepatitis A and will likely miss most or all of the season. As I pointed out in injuries and the new CBA, the Devils will be allowed to exceed the salary cap as long as they are only exceeding it with injured players and with the high NHL injury rate, if Elias comes back this year, there will likely be other injured guys whose salary space can be used. Nevertheless, the Devils may move to reduce salary, but there is no need to get below the cap including Elias's salary.

The New York Islanders resigned Justin Papineau. TSN's story is here.

Anaheim moved to get below the salary cap by trading Steve Rucchin to the New York Rangers for minor league goon Trevor Gillies and a conditional 2007 draft pick. TSN's story is here. The Ducks got nothing of value in return for Rucchin.

Washington signed Petr Sykora (not the Anaheim player) from the Czech Republic. He last appeared in the NHL as a Nashville Predator. TSN's story is here. Sykora could be a useful forward. The Capitals also resigned Chris Clark. TSN's story is here.

Teams are still signing their rfa's and assorted remaining ufa's. There are also some trades being made to ensure that teams stay below salary caps. This is the end game of the free agent frenzy, it is less glamorous then the signings of the first few days, but it is still quite important to the success and failure of the NHL teams.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Free Agent Signings And A Big Trade For Tuesday

In my last free agent post, I concluded that the moves were winding down. Although that is probably true, we had a big one today.

Ottawa resigned Marian Hossa and then traded him along with Greg De Vries to Atlanta for Dany Heatley. Ottawa then resigned Heatley. TSN's story is here. This move was made to get Ottawa below the salary cap. I think that Hossa is the safer bet because Heatley hasn't shown yet that he is the same player since before his car accident, but both could be outstanding franchise players.

Anaheim tries to reduce payroll a bit by trading Mike LeClerc to Phoenix for a 2007 conditional draft pick. TSN's story is here. Like many trades this summer (but unlike Hossa), this trade is a salary dump where the dumping team gets little substance in return.

Chicago signs Todd Simpson from Ottawa. TSN's story is here. Simpson will provide Chicago with some depth on defence.

Josh Green signs with Vancouver, leaving the New York Rangers. TSN's story is here. Likely, he will split time between the NHL and AHL.

The New York Islanders signed Petteri Nokelainen to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

The sheer volume of signings is way down from its peak a couple weeks ago, but major moves such as the Hossa/Heatley deal are still being made.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Free Agent Signings for the Last Few Days

Since my last free agent post, an entire weekend passed with no signings. There were a couple signings late Friday night that I am including with today's signings.

Teemu Selanne leaves Colorado to sign with Anaheim. TSN's story is here. He no longer has the ability to be nearly as dominant as he was in his last tour in Anaheim.

Cam Barker signed an entry level contract with Chicago. TSN's story is here.

Serge Payer resigned with Florida. TSN's story is here.

Patrick Eaves signed an entry level contract with Ottawa. TSN's story is here.

Vancouver signed Sven Butenschon from the New York Islanders. They also acquired Steve McCarthy from Chicago for a 2007 3rd round draft pick. TSN's story is here. This gives Vancouver some defensive depth again. I think Chicago is trading McCarthy closer to where he grew up (Trail, BC) because they have no need for spare parts that may be unhappy.

Philadelphia signed Jamie Storr from Carolina, Eric Chouinard from Minnesota and Pat Kavanagh and Ryan Ready from Vancouver. These players will most likely be on their AHL affiliate, although they may provide some depth at the NHL level. TSN's story is here.

Shawn Bates resigns with the New York Islanders. TSN's story is here. They also signed Joel Bouchard from the New York Rangers to provide some depth. TSN's story is here.

Paul Mara resigned with Phoenix. TSN's story is here.

The New York Rangers signed Jarkko Immonen. TSN's story is here.

Minnesota resigned Rickard Wallin. TSN's story is here.

Florida signed Jean-Marc Pelletier from Carolina. He will likely be in the AHL. TSN's story is here.

Most of these signings are to provide depth, but some will still be quite significant this season.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Early Thoughts on New CBA

There has not yet been a single game under the NHL's new CBA, but we have had lots of roster moves and the largest free agent group ever. I think it is time to reflect on what has happened and whether or not that is a good thing.

I believe this CBA and the lockout was not done to hold down spending - if it was it was an abject failure, it was done to bring in a system that Gary Bettman thinks is better for business. The idea is to set up a situation where all teams can sell to their fans that they are serious contenders. All teams have to be able to sell the fact that this year they can win it all. Of course, most teams will not be able to be serious contenders, so many are selling false hope.

The biggest part of selling hope is large player turnover. No matter how poorly my team was last season, they will be a brand new group of guys. These guys will be better than last year. This season that was accomplished with a two year crop of free agents. In the future, it will be accomplished by lowering free agency ages.

Also, it is important to make sure that all teams participate in signing big name free agents. For the most part, this was accomplished with a salary cap. In the past, certain big money teams were able to outbid the smaller market teams and sign the free agents. While signing these free agents was a failed strategy for many teams, some smaller market teams were upset when they had to part with familiar big name (but aging) players. Quite often, teams were able to rebuild by selling off these famous players for young stars. Where would Calgary (for example) be today if they had not traded Joe Nieuwendyk for Jarome Iginla or Theoren Fleury for Robyn Regehr? However, the fans felt like these were bad moves that prevented them from winning, when in fact, the opposite was true. Calgary could not have gone to the 2004 finals without making these moves. They were good hockey moves to win in the future that were sold to the fans as being necessary due to a bad CBA. In fact, they were the right move to make independant of any CBA. Nevertheless, fans wanted change to fix the problem that their teams were making good rebuilding hockey moves. They wanted to be able to compete every year without ever rebuilding. It did not matter that this is an impossibility. For every winner, there must be a loser and sometimes this would be their team.

With the salary cap, teams had to spend. They had sold it to their fans as a benefit of the CBA so they had to follow through. It was a new toy for GMs to play with, so naturally, the GMs played with it. It is still true that free agents are too old to turn a team around (in almost all cases). It is still true that you cannot build a winning team by free agency alone. This doesn't stop teams from selling themselves as instant contenders because they signed Nikolai Khabibulin and Adrien Aucoin into a bad Chicago team or they traded to get Chris Pronger and Mike Peca into Edmonton. Neither of these teams had the pieces to be serious contenders before and adding a couple aging players who might be injury prone will not significantly change things.

I think the teams that will do the best this season are the young teams that were improving the most when hockey stopped for the lockout. These are teams like Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Vancouver, San Jose and Calgary. For the most part, these teams were going to be top contenders with or without a new CBA.

Nevertheless, the CBA has affected these teams. Those that have been winners for the longest on that list (Tampa, Ottawa and Vancouver) are having their success punished. This CBA is designed to punish successful teams. Teams that are good will be full of players who deserve raises, but a salary cap prevents all those players from getting their raises without some of them going to other markets. Tampa has had to let Khabibulin go. They have had to give up a lot of defensive depth. They are having trouble resigning Martin St Louis. Ottawa has had to get rid of some depth and might be in more trouble depending upon the arbitration award Marian Hossa recieves. Vancouver has had to give away defensive depth and may have more troubles depending upon Mattias Ohlund's arbitration award.

The consequence of good teams being punished is that under this CBA fans will never again get to see great dynasty teams. If a team starts to win, they will get to expensive and have to be broken up. Great teams like the Oilers and Islanders of the 80's or the Habs of the 50's and 70's will never ever be able to exist. There is no way to get that level of talent under the salary cap. Great teams will not be as great as they once were. Therefore, there cannot be Stanley Cup final series between two great teams. There also will not (likely) be really bad teams. Any team can sign decent players set free by the salary caps and earlier free agency and we should no longer see really bad teams. Is this an improvement? I do not think so. Losing the best teams means we will lose the greatest games. That is a major loss.

One of the biggest changes we have seen so far is from the earlier free agency. There is yet to be earlier free agency (that starts next year), but teams have had to prepare for it. Players such as Vincent LeCavalier, Joe Thornton and Rick Nash have signed much longer term contracts for more money then they otherwise would have so that teams have a chance to keep them in their best years of their careers. Instead of these players salaries suddenly climbing as they approach 30 years or so of age, their salaries are climbing much earlier in their careers. Whether or not their teams would have held on to them for their prime years was never in question in the old CBA (whether or not they would keep them in their thirties was). Now since it is in question, they have had to pay them much earlier in their careers.

Another consequence is that owners have successfully pushed the blame in many fans eyes when they cannot keep their team together. In the past, you blamed being a small market when you broke your team up. Now you can blame the salary cap. You can blame individual players who have big contracts (ie blame LeCavalier for signing a big contract because that doesn't leave enough cap room to sign St Louis and Khabibulin). Its not the player's fault that they are stars and deserve big money. Are they supposed to be "exploited" by their current team by signing for well below their market value to stay with their current team, the same team that would dump them in an instant if they got hurt or stopped producing?

This CBA has succeeded in creating hope in a lot of markets. In many markets this is false hope. Not all teams can compete. How will the markets react when they see that they have been sold false hope? After a few years, we will see that some teams no matter who they sign cannot win. This will be because they lack a plan and keep signing the wrong guys. These markets will once again become disillusioned won't they?

This CBA punishes the strong. It hurts the fan in that they will no longer get to see any truly great NHL teams. Once a team becomes great they will have to be broken up. I will miss epic battles between two great teams that we often used to see in Stanley Cup finals.

This CBA has made good young players more expensive because they reach free agency sooner. This makes it even harder to keep a good team together because your players become expensive before they play their best seasons, unlike in the old CBA when it usually happened after their best years.

This CBA has given fans an unrealistic expectation that players should want to sign with their old team for far below market value to allow their team to keep other players. For the most part, this is a mistaken belief. It is not in any player's best interests to do this. However, the CBA has set up a situation where each dollar paid to one player is a dollar not paid to somebody else. It hurts team unity as stars on a team must compete with one another to get a big contract.

This CBA has also led several players to pursue options in Europe. For middle and lower level NHL players, they might have a better chance to make more money in Europe. So naturally, the NHL will lose from its talent pool, while European fans gain. It may lead to the emergence of a much more powerful European league or leagues.

Is this good for hockey? I do not think so. I think that this CBA will produce some serious problems in time. However, for the short term it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is successfully selling hope to most (if not all) teams. This hope is false hope for most teams, because no CBA can create more winners in the NHL. For every winner, there must be a loser. Once many teams see that their hope they have bought into with a couple high profile free agent signings is false hope will their fans be turned off? That is an important question. How many times can a market successfully sell their fans the false hope that this new free agent signing is going to push their team to instant contender status when it never does? It will be interesting. I still remain quite skeptical. Gary Bettman's past record as commissioner of the NHL is not a good one. Most of his past changes have been poor ones. Why will these be different? If these fail, how much is reversable? We cannot ever go back again can we?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bobby Orr is the Best Defenceman of All Time ... Right?

Most (if not all) hockey experts consider Bobby Orr to be the best defenceman in the history of hockey. Then how come in a comparison of the top 10 defenders of all time by Daryl Shilling's hockey project rating system and Pnep's hall of fame monitor both systems do not agree that Bobby Orr is the number one defender of all time?

This is a common sabermetrics and hockey problem. In all time player rankings how do we deal with players who played short dominant careers versus players who played longer less dominant careers? Bobby Orr played a relatively short career due to knee problems that forced an early retirement. He was the most dominant defender of all time. He twice won the NHL scoring title and Hart trophy. He was an eight time Norris trophy winner, which is the most times any single player has won that award.

Bobby Orr first came to the NHL as an 18 year old with the Boston Bruins in 1966. He was an immediate star. He won the Calder trophy as best rookie that year and made the NHL 2nd team all star. For the next eight years he won the Norris trophy annually. Six times he topped 100 points including 1970 and 1975 when he lead the league in scoring. He won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in his two Stanley Cup wins in 1970 and 1972. He was a six time leader in the NHL in plus/minus rating. In 1975/76 his career was nearly over. Multiple knee surgeries had taken a big toll on his body. Over the next 4 seasons with Boston and the Chicago Blackhawks, he only managed to play in 36 games. He still managed to star for Canada in the 1976 Canada Cup where he was the top scorer in the tournament and its MVP. In 1979 he had to retire.

Daryl Shilling succeeds in rating Bobby Orr as the best defender of all time. He has a sizable lead over Paul Coffey and Ray Bourque, players who had more career points than Orr in much longer careers, but were never as dominant. Pnep fails to get Bobby Orr as the top defender of all time. He has Ray Bourque as the number one defender of all time, with Orr ranked second.

I think Darryl gets a better result because he considers dominance and career totals separately in his system. Pnep only considers career totals. This is an important difference and one that makes Darryl's system a better one.

Bobby Orr is the best defender of all time, he was far more dominant than any other defender either before or after him. Yet, because of his short career, it can be a challenge to show this in a sabermetrics system unless you specifically consider dominance. Orr's dominance is partially lost when you consider only career numbers.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Free Agent Signings for Friday

A few more teams made free agent signings since my last post.

Dallas resigned Brendan Morrow. TSN's story is here.

Ottawa signed Steve Martins from St Louis, Brett Clouthier from the New Jersey system and Tomas Malec from Carolina. None of these players are expected to play big roles. TSN's story is here.

Edmonton resigns Shawn Horcoff. TSN's story is here.

Nashville signed Randy Robitaille from Atlanta. Since he had a very good year last season, leading the Swiss League in scoring, this could turn out to be a very good signing. TSN's story is here.

Phoenix signed Steve Passmore from Chicago. He is probably going to be in the AHL. TSN's story is here.

I think some more good players are out there who are still free agents who will really help their teams that wind up signing them. The depth that these players provide may make a big difference this season.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Free Agent Signings For Thursday

The biggest days of the free agent frenzy may be over. Since my last post a few teams have been active.

Vancouver resigned Dan Cloutier. TSN's story is here.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin leaves Pittsburgh to sign with Toronto. He will be their backup goalie. TSN's story is here.

Florida signs Rostislav Olesz to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Anaheim resigns Jonathan Hedstrom, who had been playing in Sweden. TSN's story is here.

Josef Vasicek resigns with Carolina. TSN's story is here.

Dainius Zubrus resigns with Washington. TSN's story is here.

John-Michael Liles resigns with Colorado. TSN's story is here.

As teams start to fill their rosters, signings are beginning to slow down, but there are still some key guys out there who are still to be signed.

OLN/Comcast TV deal

In June, ESPN declined their option on the NHL's US TV deal. The NHL shopped around their TV rights to other networks. They found a buyer in Comcast who is willing to pay $135 million to have their network the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) win the US TV rights over the next two years, which was more than the deal ESPN opted out of. ESPN still had the right to match any offer, which the considered to try to keep a potential competitor (OLN) from getting established. It is thought that they might have decided not to because of some of the other clauses in the deal. Comcast agreed to show the games on their primary network, while presumably ESPN wanted the games for ESPN2. TSN's story is here.

From a business standpoint, the NHL accepts more money for a less visable network. They did this before when they were on SportsChannel America instead of ESPN in the late 80's and that did not work out well. This could be different depending upon how OLN is marketed and what other sports are brought in to go with hockey. We know that in the short term, hockey will be the most important show on OLN. Thus, they will have to promote it well. I will follow hockey there, but how many casual sports fans will?

The only thing I have ever watched on OLN is the Tour de France bike race. OLN gathering my viewership more often is a win for them. I recall during the final day of the Tour de France, the show they were pushing hard during all their commercial breaks was reruns of Survivor. That shows how far OLN will still have to come to become a serious sports network if Survivor reruns are their top show to push following the conclusion of the Tour de France.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

More Free Agent Signings

Today the NHL's free agent frenzy continued. Since my last post, we have seen teams start to look again at signing unrestricted free agents, after the deadline for restricted free agents to accept their qulaifying offers passed, which had led to a bunch of RFA signings earlier this week.

Phoenix signed Curtis Joseph from Detroit. He should be an adequate starting goalie, if he can stay healthy. TSN's story is here.

Josef Stumpel signed with Florida, leaving Boston. He should be one of the Panthers better forwards. TSN's story is here.

Anson Carter leaves Los Angeles to come to Vancouver. They hope he will bounce back from a poor season and be a productive forward. TSN's story is here.

Colorado signs Curtis Leschyshyn from Ottawa. He should be a depth guy on defence. TSN's story is here. Also, Colorado resigns David Aebischer, Peter Budaj, Tom Lawson, Vitaliy Kolesnik, Brett Clark and Paul Healey. TSN's story is here. Kolesnik is a very interesting signing after his excellent showing for Kazakhstan at the World Hockey Championships.

Alexander Mogilny signs with New Jersey, leaving Toronto. If Mogilny is healthy, he will contribute as a top forward, but his health is a big question mark. TSN's story is here.

Washington signs famous son Chris Bourque to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Boston resigns Travis Green. TSN's story is here.

New York Islanders resign Brent Sopel. TSN's story is here.

Once again, I think that when we look back at these moves, in hindsight, some will be very significant to the upcoming season, but they are very hard to find in advance.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Czech's Ready to Sign NHL/IIHF Deal

TSN is reporting that a small majority of Czech league teams are willing to sign the IIHF/NHL deal that covers international hockey including transfers of players between leagues. They had rejected this deal but the NHL has strongarmed them into accepting it. The Russians still will not sign the deal. They want to be able to negotiate player transfers on an individual basis. Likely this will lead to problems for NHL teams acquiring Russian NHL players in the future. Possibly, this may also lead to NHL players leaving the NHL to return to Russia disputing their NHL contracts.

Another Day, Another Bunch of Signings

Once again we have a bunch of signings since by last post.

Today, Vincent LeCavallier resigned with Tampa Bay. He is an important part of their franchise. TSN's story is here.

Montreal resigned Tomas Plekanec and also signed Jonathan Aitken from Chicago. TSN's story is here. They hope to be successful role players with Montreal this year. Montreal also resigned Marcel Hossa. TSN's story is here.

Nashville resigns Steve Sullivan and Dan Hamhuis. TSN's story is here. They also resigned Simon Gamache, Darren Haydar, Darcy Hordichuk, David Legwand and Greg Zanon. TSN's story is here.

Atlanta resigns J P Vigier and Derek MacKenzie. TSN's story is here. Atlanta also resigned Jim Slater. TSN's story is here.

Carolina resigns Glen Wesley. TSN's story is here.

Detroit signed Andy Delmore from Buffalo. Likely, he will be an extra defenceman for the Wings. They also resigned Daryl Bootland and Jason Williams. TSN's story is here.

Edmonton resigns Raffi Torres. TSN's story is here. Edmonton also resigned Ales Hemsky and Matt Greene. TSN's story is here.

Pittsburgh resigns Konstantin Koltsov. TSN's story is here.

The New York Islanders resign Radek Martinek. TSN's story is here.

Vancouver resigned Bryan Allen. TSN's story is here.

Florida resigned Juraj Kolnik and Filip Novak. They also signed Martin Tuma to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

San Jose resigns Brad Stuart. TSN's story is here.

Los Angeles signed Brad Fast from Carolina. Likely he will begin his year in the AHL. They also signed Jeff Tambellini to an entry level contract. TSN's story is here.

Washington resigned Jeff Halpern and Brendan Witt. TSN's story is here.

Phoenix resigned Krys Kolanos and Jeff Taffe. TSN's story is here.

Buffalo resigned Jochen Hecht. TSN's story is here.

Anaheim resigned Mark Popovic. TSN's story is here.

St. Louis resigned Jamal Mayers, Eric Brewer, Petr Sejna and Brett Scheffelmaier. TSN's story is here.

A large number of those signings are spillovers from last night when restricted free agents qualifying offers expired, so players accepted them before the deadline. Its still a mad rush to get everyone under contract before the season begins.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Free Agent Signings For Monday

The weekend is over and it is back to NHL teams signing free agents at a break neck speed. Here are the weekends signings, with links to go further back into the free agent frenzy.

Today, Pittsburgh signed John LeClair from the Flyers. TSN's story is here. LeClair's years as an NHL star are probably over. He would be best filling a Dave Andreychuk type role for some team, but on Mario Lemieux's club, this isn't necessary. I don't think the LeClair signing will do much to help the Pens. Pittsburgh also resigned Josef Melichar. TSN's story is here.

Montreal resigns their captain Saku Koivu. TSN's story is here.

New York Islanders resigned Oleg Kvasha and Arron Asham. TSN's story is here.

Vancouver resigns Sami Salo. TSN's story is here.

San Jose resigns Patrick Marleau and Marco Sturm. TSN's story is here.

Columbus resigns Rotislav Kleska, Pascal LeClaire and Tim Jackman. TSN's story is here.

Dallas resigns Jason Arnott. TSN's story is here.

New York Rangers resign Tom Poti. TSN's story is here.

Los Angeles resigns Joe Corvo. TSN's story is here.

Carolina resigns Pavel Brendl and Bruno St. Jacques. TSN's story is here.

Minnesota signs Daniel Tjarnqvist from Atlanta. TSN's story is here. Tjarnqvist is a very fast trapping checker who should fit in very well in Jacques Lemaire's Minnesota system. I think this will go down as a very good signing.

Since qualifying offers automatically expire tonight, I expect more restricted free agent signings to comed tonight.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Free Agent Signings For The Weekend

Free agent signings slow down on weekends, but they do not completely stop. For a look back at earlier signings look here.

This weekend, Calgary signed Roman Hamrlik from the New York Islanders. TSN's story is here. Hamrlik helps cement Calgary's defence which could be the best in the NHL right now.

The New York Islanders resigned Michael York and Trent Hunter, avoiding salary arbitration in both cases. TSN's story is here.

These are some players who could have very significant roles on their teams this year.

Why Don't We Sign Some RFAs?

In the last NHL Central Bargaining Agreement, signing restricted free agents from other teams was a ridiculous strategy. In most cases, the team that signed the player to an offer sheet did not get the player. The player had the offer matched and remained with his old team. All that was accomplished was driving up salaries league-wide plus signing a player for a team you are competing against. As a result, they were rarely ever signed and even more rarely did they actually change teams. The last example of a successful restricted free agent signing was Chris Gratton who was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers from the Tampa Bay Lightning. This occurred in 1997. As compensation, Tampa Bay received 4 Flyer first round draft picks. This was not really a deterrant to any signings because these picks would be taken so far in the future (signing occurs in 1997, so picks will be 1998,1999, 2000 and 2001). How much would you pay to trade for a kid who is currently 14 or 15 and will not likely be in the NHL for the better part of a decade? It turned out that these 4 first round picks were used to select Simon Gagne (who is a good NHLer), Justin Williams (who has shown signs that he might become a good NHLer), Maxime Ouellet (who is still considered a prospect and not yet made any NHL impact) and Tim Gleason (who is also considered a prospect who has yet to make an NHL impact). Tampa didn't want the draft picks well in the future, so they promptly traded them back to the Flyers for Mikael Renberg and Karl Dykhuis. That worked out so poorly, that the teams reversed the deal about a year and a half later, as Renberg and Daymond Langkow were traded to the Flyers for Gratton and Mike Sillinger. All in all, signing restricted free agents was a pretty useless thing to do.

This seems to be changed under the new CBA. Even if the team matches your offer, you have forced them to use up some of their salary cap room to retain the player. This is good for your team because it prevents the opposing team from being able to afford as many good players. Also, the compensation scheme is significantly reduced.

In the old CBA here is the compensation scheme (as of 2003, it was indexed to league average salaries - all numbers are average annual salaries in the offer sheet):

If the offer is $727,502 or below no compensation
If the offer is over $727,502 - $1,000,315, compensation is a third-round choice
If the offer is over $1,000,315 - $1,182,191, compensation is a second-round choice
If the offer is over $1,182,191 - $1,455,005, compensation is a first-round choice
If the offer is over $1,455,005 - $1,818,754, compensation is a first and third-round choice
If the offer is over $1,818,754 - $2,182,505, compensation is a first and second-round choice
If the offer is over $2,182,505 - $2,546,256, compensation is two first-round choices
If the offer is over $2,546,256 - $3,091,882, compensation is two first-round and one second-round choice
If the offer is over $3,091,882, compensation is three first-round choices
For each additional $1,818,754, compensation is one additional first-round choice to a maximum of five

Under the new CBA, here is the situation:

If the offer is up to $660,000, no compensation
If the offer is $660,000 to $1 million, compensation is one 3rd round draft pick
If the offer is $1 to $2 million, compensation is one second round pick
If the offer is $2 to $3 million, compensation is one 1st and one 3rd round pick
If the offer is $3 to $4 million, compensation is one 1st, one 2nd and one 3rd round pick
If the offer is $4 to $5 million, compensation is two 1sts, one 2nd and one 3rd round pick
If the offer is over $5 million, compensation is four 1st round picks

Not only is the compensation less, draft picks are not worth as much because of reduced free agency ages in the new CBA, so you do not have control of nearly as long in a player's career when you draft them. This makes signing restricted free agents to offer sheets a logical move, yet it is one we have not yet seen? Why not? I think part of the answer is the newness of the CBA and the abbreviated summer. Everyone has to figure out how to play by a new rulebook and immediately sign the majority of their players in a record large group of free agents with a shorter than usual signing time, so they have not had time to try new things like signing RFAs to offers. That may change, Detroit has to sign Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to restricted free agent contracts, both a very good young players who deserve raises, however Detroit does not have a whole lot of salary cap space in which to offer them raises. If I was a team with some salary cap room left (teams like this still exist right?), I would attempt to sign one or both of them to an offer that I don't think Detroit can handle. It would be a good move under the current CBA wouldn't it?

NOTE: These compensation draft pick dollar figures are tied to the salary cap, so they go up over time.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Yet Another Day of Free Agent Signings

Another day of free agent signings to report. Here are yesterdays signings.

Today Los Angeles signed Valeri Bure from the Dallas Stars. He will try to fill out their second forward unit. They also resigned potential laden Alexander Frolov, Jeff Giuliano and George Parras. Finally, they traded Bryan Muir to Washington for future considerations. TSN's story is here. Muir will fill a bit role in Washington.

Toronto resigned Nik Antropov and Clarke Wilm. They also signed Mike Hoffman and Roman Kukemberg to entry level contracts. TSN's story is here.

Calgary resigned Miikka Kiprusoff and Rhett Warrener. TSN's story is here.

Florida signed Chris Gratton from Colorado. TSN's story is here. They hope he will fill out a position on their top couple lines. They also resigned Niklas Hagman. TSN's story is here. Finally, they resigned Stephen Weiss and Kristian Huselius. TSN's story is here.

Washington resigned Matt Pettinger. They also signed Jamie Heward from Columbus and Boyd Kane from Philadelphia. The final two will be bit players at best. TSN's story is here.

Ottawa resigns Jason Spezza, Anton Volchenkov, Antoine Vermette, Chris Neil and Christoph Schubert. TSN's story is here.

Martin Biron resigns with Buffalo. TSN's story is here. They also resigned Ryan Miller and Brian Campbell. TSN's story is here.

Carolina resigns Erik Cole and Jesse Boulerice. TSN's story is here.

Montreal resigns Jan Bulis. TSN's story is here.

Dallas resigns David Oliver. TSN's story is here.

The New York Islanders signed bit player Allan Rourke from Carolina. TSN's story is here.

Chicago resigns Tyler Arnason. TSN's story is here.

Most of the signings are restricted free agents, however, some of those that remain are unrestricted. I think some of these players will go on to play important roles this season, but we will have to watch the season to learn which ones.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Team Selected Salary Arbitration Cases

Yesterday, the players filed for salary arbitration. Today, for the first time, teams can take certain players to salary arbitration. Only two teams took one player each to arbitration. San Jose is taking Alexander Korolyuk, they expect a reduction in his salary. Florida is taking Roberto Luongo, they are doing this to ensure that he will be signed in time fror training camp and not hold out. Florida expects to sign Luongo at a considerable pay raise in this process.

Another Day, Another Bunch of Signings

Another day of free agent signings. Here is a link to yesterday's signings. There are still players that will be play key roles next season, trick is for teams to find them.

Toronto has signed Eric Lindros from the New York Rangers. TSN's story is here. Along with Jason Allison, Toronto is looking to lead the NHL in concussions next year.

Joe Thornton resigned in Boston. TSN's story is here. Boston did well keeping Thornton from unresitricted free agency a few years.

Derek Morris resigns in Phoenix. TSN's story is here.

Colorado resigns Marek Svatos, Dan Hinote and Jeff Finger. TSN's story is here.

Montreal resigns Mike Ribeiro and Mike Komisarek. TSN's story is here.

Dallas resigns Steve Ott and Niko Kapanen. TSN's story is here.

San Jose resigned Nikos Dimitrakos and extended Kyle McLaren's contract. TSN's story is here.

New York Islanders signed Brad Lukowich from Tampa Bay. TSN's story is here. He will likely be a role player on Long Island. They also signed Wyatt Smith from Nashville. TSN's story is here. He will likely spend most of the season in the AHL.

Steve Reinprecht resigned with Calgary. TSN's story is here. Calgary also resigned Andrew Ference. TSN's story is here.

Atlanta resigned Pasi Nurminen, Brad Larson, Francis Lessard, Andy Sutton and Tomas Kloucek. TSN's story is here.

Washington resigned Jared Aulin and Jakub Cutta. TSN's story is here.

Anaheim resigns Mike LeClerc. TSN's story is here.

Tyler Bouck resigns with Vancouver. TSN's story is here.

Blair Betts resigns with the New York Rangers. TSN's story is here. The Rangers also signed Joe Rullier from the Los Angeles Kings. TSN's story is here. Likely Rullier will start the season in the AHL.

Shane Endicott resigns with Pittsburgh. TSN's story is here. Pittsburgh also resigns Kris Beech. TSN's story is here.

Ray Emery resigns with Ottawa. TSN's story is here.

Detroit resigned Tomas Kopecky. TSN's story is here.

Nashville resigns Scott Hartnell and Jeremy Yablonski. TSN's story is here.

Chicago resigns Mark Bell. TSN's story is here.

Minnesota resigns Andrei Zyuzin. TSN's story is here.

That's a lot of people signing over the last day or so. Mostly, they are restricted free agents, most of the key unrestricted free agents are already signed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Complete List of Players Filing for Salary Arbitration

Shawn Horcoff Edmonton Oilers
Marian Hossa Ottawa Senators
Trent Hunter New York Islanders
Paul Mara Phoenix Coyotes
Josef Melichar Pittsburgh Penguins
Brendan Morrow Dallas Stars
Mattias Ohlund Vancouver Canucks
Justin Papineau New York Islanders
Brent Sopel New York Islanders
Dick Tarnstrom Pittsburgh Penguins
Mike York New York Islanders

Still More Free Agent Signings

Another day another bunch of free agent signings. Here is my last list of free agent signings. With the deadline for filing for salary arbitration passing this afternoon, there are several restricted free agent signings as well as several other moves.

Pittsburgh acquired Jocelyn Thibault from the Chicago Blackhawks for a fourth round draft pick. TSN's story is here. Yet another trade showing that players have very little value in this CBA.

Tampa Bay signed Sean Burke from Philadephia. TSN's story is here. He will be a poor replacement for Nikolai Khabibulin. Tampa also resigned Dan Boyle and Dmitri Afanasenkov and signed Rob DiMaio from Dallas. TSN's story is here.

Philadelphia resigns Robert Esche. TSN's story is here.

Ottawa resigns Martin Havlat and Mike Fischer. TSN's story is here.

Boston resigns Sergei Samsonov and P J Axelsson. TSN's story is here.

Vancouver resigns Daniel and Henrik Sedin. TSN's story is here.

Toronto resigns Wade Belak and Aki Berg. TSN's story is here. The leafs also signed Alexander Khavanov from St Louis. TSN's story is here.

San Jose resigns Wayne Primeau. TSN's story is here. They also resign Nils Ekman. TSN's story is here.

Carolina resigns Justin Williams and Radim Vrbata. TSN's story is here.

Mike Cammalleri resigns with Los Angeles. TSN's story is here.

Edmonton resigns Jarret Stoll, Jani Rita and Brad Winchester. TSN's story is here.

Washington signs Mathieu Biron from Florida and Ivan Majesky from Atlanta. TSN's story is here. Looking at their roster, these guys may have to play significant roles, and they are not good enough to succeed in that position.

Jan Hrdina leaves New Jersey to sign with Columbus, where he will be a role player. TSN's story is here.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NHL to be on OLN

The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the NHL and Comcast are on the verge of agreeing to a 2 year $100 million deal to broadcast NHL hockey on the Outdoor Life Network (OLN). This is more money then the deal ESPN opted out of. That was $70 million over two years. Apparently, ESPN has the right of refusal on this current deal for $100 million, but is expected to decline it.

OLN is trying to set itself up as a viable alternative to ESPN. They already broadcast the Tour de France and have the rights to the America's Cup Yacht Race and the Boston Marathon. There would be two NHL games per week on OLN - which is better than nothing - frankly I would hope for even more than that. Since the NHL would be part of a major repositioning of the network, they would likely get a very high profile position in OLN's schedule. That is a good thing. Will casual sports fans notice? Will they bother to check OLN to see if any sports are on it?

Free Agent Signings For Tuesday

Another day another several free agent signings in the NHL. Here are yesterdays free agent signings with links to previous day's signings. Likely some of these signings will be very important in the upcoming season, even though most of the stars have already signed.

Philadelphia resigns Kim Johnsson, Branko Radivojevic and Patrick Sharp. TSN's story is here.

Calgary acquired Phillippe Sauve from Colorado for a conditional 7th round pick. TSN's story is here. Players have very little trade value in this new CBA (unless Edmonton acquires them). Sauve is a potential laden goalie who might emerge as a very good goalie someday. Worst case, Calgary will have a solid backup with his acquisition. I think this is a very good move for the Flames.

Edmonton resigns Marty Reasoner and Dan Smith. TSN's story is here.

Andrew Cassels leaves Columbus to sign with Washington. TSN's story is here. He is an aging player who won't bring much to a rebuilding Caps team. Brendan Witt is asking for a trade instead of staying to playh with this rebuilding squad. Why is rebuilding necessary in today's NHL? The players you rebuild with will leave as free agents before they reach their primes. With the many free agents out there, Washington could have a slightly more competitive team if they made an effort to enter the free agent market. Rebuilding was useful undeer the old CBA, but it won't work under this one.

St Louis signs Dean McAmmond from Calgary and resigns Bryce Salvador, Eric Boguniecki and Colin Hemingway. TSN's story is here.

Minnesota signs Todd White from Ottawa and resigns Willie Mitchell and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. TSN's story is here.

Kevyn Adams resigns with Carolina. TSN's story is here.

Atlanta resigns Shane Hnidy, Brian Maloney and Adam Smyth. TSN's story is here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Free Agent Signings For Monday

More free agent signings today. Here was my last post on signings (with links to previous days). Most of the biggest stars are signed but there are more players left. Some of these cheaper signings will prove to be very important ... although hindsight may be needed to find them.

Chris Osgood signs with Detroit leaving St. Louis. TSN's story is here. Osgood is a solid but unspectacular goalie who will likely be the Wings starter.

Richard Park leaves Minnesota to sign with Vancouver. TSN's story is here. Park is a solid role player.

Simon Gagne resings in Phiadelphia. TSN's story is here. Philly hopes he is a star in their future, unless he leaves as a UFA.

Pierre Dagenais resigns in Montreal. TSN's story is here.

Jason Marshall leaves San Jose to return to Anaheim. TSN's story is here. I don't think Marshall has much left in his NHL career.

Mike Grier resigns in Buffalo. TSN's story is here.

Washington signs Ben Clymer from Tampa Bay and Miroslav Zalesak from San Jose. TSN's story is here. They will be role players at best.

Matt Cullen signs with Carolina leaving Florida. TSN's story is here. He is likely going to be a role player for them.

Rob Davison and Jim Fahey resign with San Jose. TSN's story is here.

Atlanta signed Eric Boulton from Buffalo, Ramzi Abid from Pittsburgh and Scott Barney from Los Angeles. TSN's story is here. They hope to be useful role players.

I expect signings will continue as teams fill out their rosters. I expect some of the signings will in hindsight become very important. The trick is figuring out which ones.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Top 10 Defencemen: Schilling vs. Pnep

This is my next post on sabermetrics and hockey. I have already compared the top 10 forwards of all time according to Daryl Shilling's hockey player rating system and Pnep's hall of fame monitor.

By Daryl Shilling's method, the top 10 defenders of all time are:

1. Bobby Orr 1358 points
2. Paul Coffey 1169
3. Ray Bourque 1102
4. Didier Pitre 998 *Pitre was a forward why is he on this list?*
5. Al Macinnis 935
6. Eddie Shore 910
7. Brian Leetch 872
8. Denis Potvin 857
9. Lester Patrick 850
10. Red Kelly 810

Pnep's top 10 defencemen of all time are:

1. Ray Bourque 4664.82
2. Bobby Orr 4037.97
3. Doug Harvey 3467.36
4. Paul Coffey 2958.37
5. Red Kelly 2925.27
6. Denis Potvin 2618.40
7. Al MacInnis 2491.13
8. Nicklas Lidstrom 2473.00
9. Pierre Pilotte 2411.71
10. Chris Chelios 2331.12

Numerical values are not comparable between the two systems, but relative differences are.

These two systems are quite different. The differences occur at the beginning, Shilling rates Bobby Orr as number one all time, Pnep picks Ray Bourque. Orr is clearly the best defender of all time, any rating system that does not show this is flawed.

At number two, Shilling picks Paul Coffey, Pnep picks Bobby Orr. I think this is two early for Paul Coffey, but it shows the problems of apply sabermetrics to hockey, Coffey is the best example of an offensive defenceman with poor defensive ability. Its hard to rate his defensive ability, so if we stick to offence for the majority of our rating system, players such as this will be overrated.

At number three, Shilling picks Ray Bourque, Pnep picks Doug Harvey. Harvey is somewhat the opposite of Coffey, a very good defensive player who did not score as often as many of the other top defenders.

At number four, Shilling picks Didier Pitre (a forward from the early days of the NHL). Pnep picks Paul Coffey.

At number five, Shilling picks Al MacInnis. Pnep picks Red Kelly.

At number six, Shilling picks Eddie Shore. He was a very good defender that Pnep missed out altogether and shilling underrates. Pnep picks Denis Potvin.

At number seven, Shilling picks Brian Leetch. Pnep picks Al MacInnis.

At number eight, Shilling picks Denis Potvin. Pnep picks Nicklas Lidstrom.

At number nine, Shilling picks Lester Patrick (an early player he overrates, who was a great builder of the early professional hockey systems). Pnep picks Pierre Pilotte, a good defender from the 60's that Shilling misses.

At number ten, Shilling picks Red Kelly. Pnep picks Chris Chelios.

These lists are very dissimilar. This is because Shilling tends to rate offensive value highly. In contrast, when he rates defenders, Pnep tries to rate +/-, games played and all star appearances in place of offense. Shilling is also more open to players from the earliest days of pro hockey. He ranks players who played ouside the NHL and credits them for undocumented points in their careers, adjusting for games played along the way (this is a significant adjustment, the earliest players often played less than 20 games in a season). This will leave me a good number of future posts to explain the specific differences between the rating of these different defenders.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Free Agent Signings For Saturday

A weekend may slow free agent signings in the NHL today, but it doesn't stop them completely. Here are the free agent signings for today.

Pittsburgh signs Zigmund Palffy from Los Angeles. TSN's story is here. Pittsburgh doesn't have a good enough team to buy their way to being a contender, but they are trying.

Carolina signs Ray Whitney from Detroit. TSN's story is here. Carolina is another team that is not good enough to become a winner with a few free agent signings.

Rick Nash resigns in Columbus. TSN's story is here. He is the future of their franchise.

Milan Hejduk resigns in Colorado. TSN's story is here.

Scott Nichol leaves Chicago to sign with Nashville. TSN's story is here. He will be a role player for the Predators.

Free agent signings are slowing down a bit - but that might be expected on a weekend - of course most of the top players have been signed so they would slow down anyway.

What is Going On In the NHL Free Agent Market?

Most people assumed that a new NHL CBA meant that salaries in the NHL would go down. They thought that it would mean GMs would react with restraint in the free agent market. Clearly, this is not true. One week of free agent signings have proven this. There have been a lot of free agents signed for a lot of money in a lot of different markets. Here is a summary of the signings from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The marketplace is clearly different. Some teams that knew they could not compete financially for a team of free agents with some of the bigger markets so they didn't try. They marketed the lockout as a chance to let them enter the free agent market and now that they got their CBA, for public relations reasons, they have to enter the market in a significant way even if it is not their best longterm plan. In many ways, buying free agents (at least when UFA age is 31) is a lazy quick fix. Its never as good as producing good new young talent because the guys you can buy are all passed their primes and into decline, but its easier to do and it produces a result much faster. The result often does not hold up in the long term, because the player ages badly and often gets injured. I think many teams will find that despite spending a good amount of money on free agents, they have not actually improved their teams. However, it is a new toy for some markets. It is a toy that many markets told their fan base that this CBA would let them play with and now that its in place they have to play with it even if their playing doesn't make much sense.

Economically, we were sold the lockout because the NHL was in financial trouble, how is it so many teams can afford to pay so much money to free agents? A partial answer to this question is that we were lied to. Some teams are actually growing their payrolls after losing a year to a lockout. The only logical conclusion is that they were always able to pay this and had no reason to, until now, their marketing scheme now includes selling the hope of new free agent signings that will turn the franchise around. Of course, it is not possible to turn most franchises around with free agent signings, most will fail, Most GMs must be smart enough to realize this. Either they believe that they are smart enough to beat the odds, or cynically, they are doing this mostly to placate fans and sell false hope.

How much money are the free agents actually signing for? Is it as much as is reported? The answer is not really. This is a consequence of the idiot proof NHL. Cost certainty means that some portion of players salaries is held in escrow and if the total player cost exceeds 54% of the total revenue (as these terms are defined in the CBA), the escrow money will be returned to the teams. Since this 54% number is totally arbitrary that teams can afford to exceed, they probably will exceed it. Except that they cannot, if it is exceeded, they get the escrow money. Teams know that if they sign a player to, for example, $4 million a year, they do not have to pay $4 million a year, they will get some of it back in escrow. Teams can sign players to contracts for more money then the player is worth knowing they will not ever actually have to pay them that money. Agents know it too. If you want to pay him $3 mill, sign him for closer to $4 mill and you will pay him $3 mill. All that really matters is the relative salary level, the exact numbers will be adjusted by escrow money. Since they are clearly too high for the CBA, it is clear that they will be reduced.

Teams have been forced into the free agent market because of the way they have marketed the lockout and because it provides (often false) hope to sign free agents. Many teams are forced to make moves that may not be in their best longterm hockey interest for public relations purposes. The salaries that players are being signed to are actually higher than the players will actually be paid. It is widely expected that salaries will not be as high as have been reported becuase of the "cost certainty" provisions written into the CBA.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Free Agent Signings Today

Possibly, this will be the last post of this nature. Possibly, this is the last day where so many signings occur that it is hard to merely keep track of them all and the best I can do is post a list of the major signings with my opinion of them. Probably I will be able to take a step back and look at the big picture of which teams are going to be improved from this frenzy and which will be worse and what is going on with the free agent market as a whole. In the meantime, the free agent inspired roster moves are here: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Here are today's singings:

The biggest signing is Nikolai Khabibulin who leaves the Stanley Cup champs to join the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. TSN's story is here. I guess Chicago may not be a total joke afterall, they may even compete for (and likely lose) a playoff spot.

Nashville signed Paul Kariya from Colorado. TSN's story is here. Kariya is coming off a poor season, but I think he could fit in very well in the Nashville roster.

Toronto signed Jason Allison from Los Angeles. TSN's story is here. If he can recover from injuries, this could work out well for the Leafs. They also resigned Tie Domi. TSN's story is here.

Washington signed 2004 first overall pick Alexander Ovechkin. TSN's story is here. I had earlier speculated here (for example) that he might stay in Europe instead of accept salary restrictions imposed by the new CBA. I was wrong about Ovechkin, but I still think some good Europeans will chose to avoid the NHL under this CBA.

Colorado signed Brad May from Vancouver. TSN's story is here. He will be a role player at best for the Avs.

Jussi Markkanen and Igor Ulanov resign with the Edmonton Oilers. TSN's story is here.

Brendan Morrison resigned with Vancouver. TSN's story is here.

Nolan Pratt resigned with Tampa Bay. TSN's story is here.

Likely signings should slow over the weekend, in part because its the weekend and an part because many of the top available players have already signed. If that happens I hope to step back and take a look at the market as a whole.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More Free Agent Signings

Another day, another bunch of free agent signings. I think they are almost done, Nikolai Khabibulin is probably the only player left (as a UFA) who will make a serious impact to his signing team (in the right market maybe Paul Kariya also). Here are the highlights of today's signings.

Anaheim signed Scott Niedermayer from the New Jersey Devils. TSN's story is here. This is one of the biggest impact free agents available. The also signed Rob Niedermayer from Calgary in order to lure Scott.

New Jersey shored up their defence by resigning Brian Rafalski, signing Dan McGillis from Boston and Vladimir Malakhov from Philadelphia. TSN's story is here.

In order to free up cap room for their Peter Forsberg signing, Philadelphia traded Jeremy Roenick and a 2006 3rd round draft pick to Los Angeles for future considerations. TSN's story is here. Trades like this show just how little value players can have under the new CBA.

Alexei Zhamnov signed in Boston. TSN's story is here. He'll help add depth to the Bruins.

Alex Tanguay and Kurt Sauer agreed to qualifying offers with Colorado. TSN's story is here.

Chris Chelios resigned in Detroit.

Viile Niemenen formerly of Calgary and Jason Ward formerly of Montreal signed with the New York Rangers. TSN's story is here. Likely these guys will be utility guys.

Daymond Langkow resigns with Calgary. TSN's story is here.

Oleg Tverdovsky returns to the NHL after spending a couple years in Russia. He signed with Carolina. TSN's story is here. He'll probably do suprisingly well upon his return having stayed in shape in Russia while some opponents took last year off.

Columbus signs Martin Prusek from Ottawa to be their backup goalie. TSN's story is here.

Chicago signs Martin Lapointe from Boston and Jaroslav Spacek from Columbus. TSN's story is here. These guys won't help Chicago much. Look for another awful Hawks team.

Teppo Numminen leaves Dallas to sign in Buffalo. TSN's story is here. Given the heart troubles he experienced a couple years ago and his age, this signing may not amount to much.

Andre Roy leaves Tampa Bay to sign in Pittsburgh. TSN's story is here. He's a goon, but one with a little bit of talent.

Those are today's highlights. Likely there will only be a couple more days (at most) with crazy numbers of free agent signings. Then we can slow down and look at which teams came through this process with the biggest gains and losses. Likely all 30 teams are trying to sell themselves as greatly improved, but that is not logically possible. There will be teams that made a lot of signings, invested a lot of money and messed up and dropped significantly. Picking them out will be fun and maybe a bit controversial.

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