Friday, August 26, 2005

Hello out there, we're on the air,

Some quick hockeyblogging:

- It looks like I'm surprisingly alone, among non-Senators fans anyway, in believing that Ottawa improved by getting Heatley for Hossa, regardless of cap considerations.

I gladly confess that I haven't watched a lot of non-Flames hockey in the past few years. However, watching Heatley in game action, I've had this rough thought a few times: "Geez, this guy could win a few Hart Trophies." As good as Hossa is with the puck, I've never had that same thought about him.

- Oilers fans are excited. They should be. But I'm telling you, Mike Peca is not a $4M player. I'm not even sure that he's a $2M player anymore. He's going to be the most ragged-on man in Edmonton by the end of January.

The Pronger pickup was great, although a 6-year contract is too long for anyone in a salary cap NHL, IMO. The Juicy/Conklin goaltending tandem should work out fine. I think C-Mac is a bit of a weak coach, but I expect the Oil to be pretty good this year. (Sidebar - check this fantastic quote from the EdSun's Robin Brownlee, aimed at Flames triumphalism (Þsacamano)):
Remember, fortunes can change in a hurry. Think of it this way - before the spring of 2004, most of the young ladies flashing their breasts on the Red Mile had none the last time the Flames made the playoffs.

- I'm a little surprised there hasn't been more (any?) restricted free agents signing with new teams. I expect this to change next offseason. Because there is less incentive to develop young players now (both the lower UFA age and the higher minimum salary), paying draft picks as compensation is much less unattractive than it used to be. As soon as more GMs get the hang of this new system, RFAs, especially those on teams with cap problems, will become mighty ripe targets.

- The Flames should be favoured to win the Western Conference. I hope they play up to expectations. They have who I consider to be the best player and the best coach in the league. They earned everything they won last year. They have players back from injury, and they signed Amonte, McCarty, and Hamrlik as free agents. And I don't see that any other team in the West has improved themselves to a degree where we ought to expect them to be better than Calgary.

- Leafs fans take heart: even if they're bad this year (which I doubt, but would give me a nice warm feeling inside), they're in great shape next offseason to pick up some serious talent. It's basically a winning organization, and that doesn't disappear in a puff of smoke.

Looking forward to the Flames-Senators Cup Final. Woo-hoooooo!


At 3:39 p.m., Blogger Jay said...

I'm still looking forward to the West Coast hockey experience -- Eastern games beginning *immediately* after work and followed up with another helping well before bedtime.

Sharks/Coyotes/Kings also strike me as much more appealing teams to see four times a season than Hurricanes/Panthers/Predators...

At 3:51 p.m., Blogger sacamano said...

You might be right about Peca; but, I think he will be better than you think, and it is only for 1 season at that price.

I think Hamrlik, with his wonky knees and shoulder, will be the whipping-boy in Calgary at 7m/2 years.

He has always been a bit on the flakey side (Sutter's favourite), taking mental breaks that can last for a shift or a month. Plus, he hasn't thrown a hit in his own end in three seasons.

No doubt, however, the the Flames look very solid.

At 4:15 p.m., Blogger Matt said...

I'm not high on Hamrlik either; however, I feel much better now that they're not paying Lydman to be the exact same player.

And Jay, while Mountain time is the perfect compromise (games starting at 400PST are a little early), I think you'll enjoy it. Alas, the Predators are in the West, so you're still stuck with them - hopefully Kariya will liven things up.

At 5:11 p.m., Blogger Jay said...

Aggh I meant Thrashers -- the whole Southeast Division (minus TBay) are just eye-watering...

At 5:17 p.m., Anonymous Colby Cosh said...

I've had mail from fans who feel that the Heatley pickup was a good one, and that's my own position. The kid has established no limits for himself. Ottawa is going to be an outstanding team anyway, but this trade saved money AND has the chance to put them on another level.

I've been trying to keep my Oilers optimism in check, but picking on their off-season while hyping the Flames' ain't right. Peca is a 30-year-old who had a year off to rest a specific chronic injury. By contrast, the eldritch Tony Amonte didn't get any younger during the lockout, as far as I know, and Oilers fans know well that Hamrlik simply loses the plot 30-40 nights a season. I like Darren McCarty, but he is also three years older than Peca. Gelinas and Lydman are gone. All things being equal, we should be skeptical to change in the roster of a conference championship. And funnily enough you didn't mention Daymond Langkow, the one new Flame I actually fear as an Edmonton fan.

I'd say the Oilers improved more than Calgary, though maybe not enough to catch them. Improvements are always most efficient in your weakest area. Contrary to popular perception, the Oilers were a higher-scoring club than the Flames when last seen, but gave up too many goals. They acquired the world's #2 or #3 defenceman, they acquired a Frank Selke laureate, and they had already gotten rid of the sieve who kept them out of the playoffs in '04. And they've still got cap space. (I guess you didn't see those Zetterberg rumours...)

At 1:01 p.m., Blogger Matt said...

What can I tell you? I can't agree.

The only roster change of Calgary which concerns me at all is the loss of Conroy. (Possibly also trading away Saprykin, but even if he scores 30 for Phx this year, I think the guy needed a change of scenery.)

I stand by my Peca assessment; I wouldn't want him on my team, and I don't think his addition to the Oilers constitutes an "upgrade", regardless of what you think of Mike York.

As for "Improvements are always most efficient in your weakest area", see an interesting and specific rebuttal to that statement by Tom Benjamin here, if you haven't already.

Lastly, speaking of unsubstantiated rumours (i.e. ones I'm trying to start myself), either the Flames or the Oilers could kill two birds with one stone by offering Matt Cooke a contract the Canucks can't afford to match ($1.5M/yr should do it, which sounds like a good deal to me).

At 8:21 a.m., Anonymous Colby Cosh said...

What the hell is "specific" about Tom Benjamin's manifesto? It's mostly a series of unconnected, unsubstantiated, dogmatic statements, some of which make no sense. As a whole I can't tell whether it really contradicts my own beliefs or not. And in at least one important respect--between the pipes--hockey is obviously not a synergistic "team game" in the sense he seems to mean.

What I meant in my original post is that, all things being equal, you will get more wins per goal gained by addressing weaknesses than adding to strengths. This is true empirically, and a fairly obvious corollary of the law of diminishing returns to boot. (It's also true, as Benjamin notes, that personnel changes may have disappointing effects up to a certain "tipping point"--but I wish he'd skipped the trendy lingo.)

One thing Benjamin does say moderately clearly is that if you're a team built on speed, and you're not winning, you're better off bringing in more speedsters and upping the ante than doing anything else to improve. I think this is nuts, and not just because it makes a neat-ish description of recent Edmonton Oilers history. I also have a strong prejudice against tampering with the roster of a young team that won its conference last time out. I'm on record as picking Calgary to end up with the most points in the West, but I can't possibly be persuaded to regard that basic prejudice as anything but reasonable.

At 10:37 a.m., Blogger Matt said...

I'll only concede that I misplaced the word "specific" in that sentence. He is a bit all over the place, but his take on strengths and weaknesses resounds with me.

What I meant in my original post is that, all things being equal, you will get more wins per goal gained by addressing weaknesses than adding to strengths. This is true empirically, and a fairly obvious corollary of the law of diminishing returns to boot.

I don't see this as obvious at all, nor am I aware of the empirical evidence. It's incredibly difficult to separate the success of a "team philosophy" from talent and performance on that team, so I'm not willing to endorse either TB's perspective or yours. As to whether the best way to improve a speedy team is by adding a big, tough, puck-moving defenseman, well, I guess we'll see, won't we!

Whether Sutter's roster moves are properly characterized as "tampering" is a topic for another post.


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