Panthers Rising

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This is Dale Tallon.

For those who have known me on line for a while, you will know that I’ve become a fan of smart management since Kevin Lowe drove the Oiler bus into the ditch back in 2006.

Tallon, who is chiefly responsible for building the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks, was ousted in a palace coup by the Bowman Mafia ®back in 2009.

Tallon’s first season as the Blackhawks general manager was a busy one. The 2004–05 NHL season was lost to a labor dispute, and the new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players was signed in July 2005. Between the new financial structure and many rules changes intended to produce a higher scoring game, Tallon was challenged to build a new team. Tallon signed many free agents, including goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin,[5] defenceman Adrian Aucoin,[6] and forward Martin Lapointe,[7] which led to raised expectations.

The Blackhawks finished Tallon’s first season with 26 wins, 43 losses and 13 overtime losses for 65 points, ranking the Blackhawks 14th in the 15-team Western Conference, and with the third-least points in the NHL.

Under Tallon, however, the Blackhawks steadily improved, raising their points totals to 71 and 88 in the next two years. Though not enough to make the playoffs either year, their poor overall standing allowed Tallon high draft picks to work with. In 2006, he selected Jonathan Toews third overall, then Patrick Kane first overall the following year. The two forwards went on to quickly become franchise cornerstones and were joined by fellow young talents Patrick SharpKris VersteegMartin Havlát and Brian Campbell, all of whom Tallon either signed or traded for.

With a new core of players in 2008–09, the Blackhawks finished the season with a 46–24–12 record for 104 points. Ranking fourth overall in the Western Conference, the team qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Chicago made it to the Western Conference Finals, where they were eliminated in five games by the Detroit Red Wings.

Tallon further bolstered his team in the off-season by signing star winger Marián Hossa and Selke Trophy-winning John Madden. That same off-season, however, Tallon and the Blackhawks management came under fire in early July 2009, when the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) claimed the team did not submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents before the deadline.[8]

In the worst-case scenario, the team’s unsigned restricted free agents at the time, including Kris Versteeg, would have become unrestricted, earning them additional salary and negotiating rights.[8] Tallon was able to sign all his restricted free agents, although at a cost of millions more than he would have to had he qualified them in time.[9]

Soon thereafter, on July 14, 2009, the Blackhawks demoted Tallon to the position of senior advisor, while Stan Bowman, son of Scotty Bowman, was promoted to general manager.[10]

The following day, Martin Havlát, who was no longer a Blackhawk, criticized the team’s management and defended Tallon.[11] He stated, “Every single player on that team is with Dale. I still talk to the guys all the time, hockey players know a phony when they see one.”[11]

He specifically berated John McDonough, the team’s president, commenting, “McDonough couldn’t stand that Dale was so successful and getting the credit for building the Hawks from a last place team to making the Conference Finals in 3 short years.”[11]

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in June 2010. The Blackhawks engraved Tallon’s name on the Cup and issued him a Stanley Cup ring.[12

Tallon took over the Florida Panthers in May 2010.

While he was able to get the Panthers into the playoffs once, he was always hamstrung by unstable ownership and a parsimonious budget until Vinny Viola purchased the team in the summer of 2013 and vowed to spend whatever was need to make the team successful.

Here’s how that pledge looks today:

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Here is an excerpt from a Miami Herald article this morning: 

Spitballin’

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Just a few random thoughts as the NHL takes a brief Christmas break….

Crashing Jets

The Winnipeg Jets are pretty much out of the playoff race.They’re 9 points (remember they have to finish AHEAD of another team) back of the final wildcard berth in the WC and I can’t see them catching either Nashville or Minnesota.

Unless they have an unlikely win streak in the next couple of weeks, the Jets (whose playoff chances are currently at 12% according to Sports Club Stats) should start thinking about next season.

That means they should try and maximize the return they can get for Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd who are coming up on UFA status. And that also means they should make some moves as soon as possible since a team acquiring them could use the help down the stretch not just after the trade deadline at the end of February.

That raises the question of which teams might be in a position to take on their contracts.

In the case of Big Buff, I think we should keep and eye on the Los Angeles Kings who are in a position take take a strong run at another cup.

After shedding the Voynov and Richards contracts, the Kings are sitting with about $4 million in free cap space and could easily fit his contract under the cap.

That raises the question…do the Kings have the pieces necessary to acquire Buff from the Jets?

They don’t have a 1st round pick but they do have some intriguing prospects that might tempt Winnipeg.

Hockey’s Future has a great rundown of what the Kings prospect pool looks like here and I think there are enough quality players in Ontario that could help the Kings piece together a deal.

As for Andrew Ladd, it might be harder for the Jets to part with him since he is their team leader and a consistent scorer but it makes sense for the Jets to move him and further bolster their prospect pool with a possible eye on re-signing him in the offseason.

A team I would keep a close eye on here is the Florida Panthers who have stated they are searching for a scoring winger and, of course, Ladd has a connection to Dale Tallon from their Chicago days.

The Panthers have more than $6 million in free cap space and just a ton of blue chip prospects that might tempt Winnipeg.

The Jets already have the deepest prospect pool in the league and could perhaps add to it significantly if they get a lottery pick and a good return on Byfuglien and Ladd.

A bitter pill for Jets fans this season but also a huge opportunity for the team.

What About Those Canucks?

In my pre-season prognostications, I had the Canucks making the playoffs…not because they’re much good but because Arizona, Calgary and Edmonton are pretty bad. That Anaheim has been horrid has helped make me look pretty smart although I, and no one else, saw that coming.

Well, the Canucks, at the break, are clinging to the last Pacific Division spot despite going 4-5-1 in their last 10 games. But we need to consider a few things here.

The Canucks have had just a brutal schedule up to now with multiple long road trips and have only played 14 home games compared to 22 on the road.

Their next 7 straight games are at home so, if they can get their act together on home ice (5-6-3), they have a chance to pull away from the pack.

We should have a pretty good idea how this will turn out by January 15.

Heere’s Johnny

Picking a team out of the bottom of the scrap heap to perhaps take a run at the last Pacific Division playoff spot is tough since the pretenders are so closely packed and the results could depend on injury and/or a great deal of luck.

But going into the break, the hottest team in hockey is the Calgary Flames (8-2-0).

Calgary is being led offensively by 22 year old phenom Johnny Gaudreau who has 10 goals and 16 points in his last 10 games.

Bu that’s not the whole story.

TJ Brodie has played 25 games since returning from injury…their record in that 25 games is 14W-9L-2OTL

That folks is a playoff calibre stretch of games and also worth noting is that the Flames play 7 of their next 8 games at home where they have a stellar 11-5-0 record.

Gloomy in Edmonton

Both the Canucks and Flames have the Oilers next on their dance cards and it’s likely the Oilers will have to win both to stay in the race as remote as their chances actually are.

Those 2 games are followed by LAK, ANA and ARZ so a week from today the Oilers could be hanging on or out of contention by New Year’s Day.

Based on schedule and momentum, I would wager Calgary will be in a playoff spot a week from now.

 

 

 

 

Snap Shots

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Ladies and Gentlemen…Jamie Benn

Anyone who watched the Dallas Stars dismantle the Montreal Canadiens last night should have taken note of how Jamie Benn can absolutely dominate a game.

I was hoping to post a video of the Stars goal that saw Benn crush Jeff Petry on the boards, take away the puck and within seconds it was in the back of the net but alas could not find a version to embed here. However you can see the play here:

(Click on the 4th Dallas goal scored by Tyler Seguin)

That’s a Hart Trophy worthy performance (among many) that Benn has produced this season.

With a 3 point performance last night, Benn leads the league in goals with 22 and is only 4 points back of Patrick Kane for the overall points lead with Benn holding a game in hand.

Amazingly, Benn is on pace for 55 goals and 109 points.

Sean Monahan

I have a bet with GMoney of Oilers Nerd Alert fame that Sean Monahan’s shooting percentage may be his established level of ability.

1. On the reversion of Sean Monahan’s shooting percentage, with dashingsilverfox:

DSF wins if Monahans sh% is > 12% next year (2015-2016 season), minimum 40 games played (DSF to verify this last point in case he remembers different).

I win if Monahans sh% is 12% or less.

Terms: One bottle of 10 y.o. Talisker vs two bottles of Osoyoos Larose, shipped or ready for pickup to the others locale.

I thought, since we’re getting close to the 40 game threshold, that now would be a good time to look at how the young Calgary centre is doing thus far.

SHOOTING PERCENTAGE BY SEASON:

2013/14 15.7

2014/15 16.2

2015/16 15.8

CAREER 16.0

That career percentage is after 188 games played so, like I said, I think we know 2 things here…Monahan is one of the rare players who can score at this level and, more importantly, I love me some Talisker 🙂

Gimme Shelter

Taylor Hall, as I pointed out a week ago, much to the chagrin of some, has trouble scoring on the road which was confirmed again this week.

Hall had just 2 points on the just concluded 4 game road trip and has 12 points in 19 (.631 PPG) road games this season.

Also of note is the performance of Leon Draisaitl whose shooting percentage has predictably fallen from 33% to 18% and will likely continue to do so affecting both his own totals and those of Hall.

The Pacific Triangle

LAK .656

SJS .515

ARZ .500

CAL .485

VCR .471

ANA .468

EDM .441

There’s not likely to be much, if any, movement in the standings before the new year although I would keep an eye on both Anaheim and Arizona both of which have multiple games in hand on the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pacific Triangle

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What a week in the wacky Pacific Division.

The Los Angeles Kings are pulling away from the pack and have a 9 point lead on everyone with 2 games in hand on most teams. The Kings have won 6 in a row and can put a division championship to bed by the end of December with a schedule that features 5 straight games against their dubious competition between Dec. 22 and 31.

Dec 22 – vs. Sharks

Dec 26 – @ Coyotes

Dec 28 – @ Canucks

Dec 29 – @ Oilers

Dec 31 – @ Flames

Between now and the 22, they play the Sabres, the Canadiens, the Senators and the Leafs so, even if they play 8 of their next 9 on the road, they have a superb chance to put things to bed especially since they sport an 8-3-1 road record. They already have a 99.3% chance of making the playoffs according to Sports Club Stats so I can’t see them faltering.

Behind the Kings, things are getting very interesting as every team has lost more games than they’ve won.

Baseball Standings Dec 11/15

San Jose – .512

Vancouver – .500

Arizona – .500

Edmonton – .466

Anaheim – .465

Calgary – .464

In other words, it’s pretty much a dead heat between 6 teams vying for the two remaining playoff spots in the Western Conference if you concede that 5 Central Division teams will make the playoffs.

Interestingly enough, EVERY Pacific Division team except Arizona is heading out on a road trip this week so how they fare on the road could be a great measuring stick for their longer term chances.

Pacific Division Road Records:

LAK  8-3-1

SJS  10-5-1

VCR  6-5-5

ARZ  7-10-1

EDM  4-10-1

ANA 3-8-1

CAL 3-9-2

Worth noting that  7 of the Coyotes remaining 8 games in December are  at home and the Coyotes have a 7-4-0 record in Glendale.

If they can continue that pace, they should be able to put some space between them and the rest of these dogs by the end of the month.

Another oddity is the Home/Road record of the Sharks. While going 10-5-1 on the road, they just don’t win much at home (4-8-0) so they may keep pace with the Coyotes on their upcoming roadie.

Vancouver is in a very tough spot after losing Dan Hamhuis for a couple of months to a facial injury, leaving them with even fewer bonafide NHL defensemen. This road trip could well spell the end of any playoff glimmers the Canucks may still harbour and they may become sellers as soon as the Christmas trade freeze ends in early January.

The Edmonton Oilers start a 4 game road trip in Boston Monday night before heading to NYR, Chicago and Colorado.

Their current 5 game win streak is almost exclusively because of the play of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl so we’ll see how that goes on the road when opposition coaches can choose their match ups.

Worth noting, Taylor Hall is scoring 1.6 PPG at home but only .667 on the road.

(For those keeping score…Tyler Seguin is 1.36 PPG at home and 1.40 PPG on the road)

Hmmmm….

After a game at home tonight against the Rangers, the Calgary Flames depart for a trip through the Death Valley Division ® with games against Nashville, Dallas and St. Louis with Detroit as a chaser. There’s little reason to believe they’ll improve much on their road record although Mark Giordano has been much better lately and their goaltending is improving.

The Anaheim Ducks need to fire their coach in the worst way as they inexplicably can’t score and likely need a new voice that will at least prepare them to show up at the opening face off.

By way of illustration…the Ducks have scored 56 goals this season…Dallas has scored 102…yikes.

So, other than Arizona likely to separate themselves from the pack this week and San Jose having a couple of games in hand on most teams, I expect will see much of the same mess a week from now.

Gary’s parity is working but it sure ain’t pretty.

 

The Unwatchable Canucks

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I watch a lot of hockey…as many as 10 games a week…. and, because I live on Vancouver Island, watching the Canucks play on local TV is pretty easy but I have to say I’ve haven’t watched any of their past 10 games in its entirety.

If the Sedins aren’t dominating, there is precious little else to see and although the Sedins are having a decent season, the rest of the team is in shambles.

Vancouver Province columnist Ed Willies summed up things pretty well this morning:

The Canucks now have three wins in their last 16 games, which is concerning enough.

But it’s the larger image — the lifelessness, the lack of initiative, the sense that this team has run out of ideas 27 games into the season — which is far more troubling.

This streak has done a number of things to damage the sensitive balance between this franchise and its fan base.

But, mostly it’s reawakened the nightmare images from the Year of Torts; a year in which the Canucks’ brand suffered severe damage.

Can it withstand another season like that?

The sad truth is we might be in the process of finding out.

What ails the Canucks is pretty obvious. They are lacking secondary scoring and they are trying to be successful with only 3 NHL calibre defensemen.

The lack of offensive firepower anywhere but on the 1st line has been dreadful.

Radim Vrbata, while getting all sorts of shots (91) is on pace for 18 goals after potting 31 last season.

Alex Burrows has betrayed his age and Sven Baertschi has been all but invisible.

On D, Dan Hamhuis has fallen off a cliff since playing in the World Championships last spring leavingVancouver with only Chris Tanev, Alex Edler and, surprisingly, rookie Ben Hutton as bona fide top 4.

At this point, Hamhuis, Luca Sbisa, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber are no better than average bottom pairing and it’s costing the Canucks dearly.

To be fair, the Canucks have suffered some key injuries that have thrown their plans into disarray.

Brandon Sutter, brought in to insulate 2 year pro Bo Horvat has been out of action for 12 games.

Hutton is just back from missing 7.

Chris Higgins has missed 12 and now Jake Virtanen is on the shelf.

While lots of teams suffer injury and survive it appears the Canucks are so lacking in depth that they’re in a free fall and, in the long run that might be the best course for a team that is trying to reload on the fly and failing.

The Dallas Stars were able to do so but the Canucks have been saddled with more than a few long term contracts including not trade clauses and don’t have that kind of flexibility.

The strange thing is that because the Pacific Division has been so weak this season, the Canucks, as of this writing, are only 1 point out of third place in the division even after going 2-5-3 in their last 10GP.

So even a modest winning streak could get their season back on track.

But, based on their lacklustre play of late, I wouldn’t bet on it.

 

 

 

Really?

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Here’s a provocative quote from over at Lowetide this morning:

sliderule:
So we have two games in a row were the forwards with worst Corsi scored the goals.

Hall to my eyes played a great game against a very good team.

Corsi says otherwise.

Taylor Hall scored a goal in last night’s game against the Dallas Stars and sliderules’ comment about Halls’ Corsi is, of course, much more accurate than his lionization of a player who was absolutely overwhelmed against a team with actual elite players.

At evens last night, Hall was 10-21 in Corsi events but, as I promised in an earlier comment, I finally had the chance to sit down and track every “touch” Hall had in the game and the results are far from pretty.

Now understand, that my tracking will be somewhat subjective but I attempted to be as fair as possible.

First Period:

  1. missed pass
  2. giveaway in the NZ
  3. tip at blue line – turnover
  4. turnover in the D zone
  5. PP turnover (recovered)
  6. PP poor pass – zone lost
  7. good O zone entry – turnover
  8. one touch GOAL
  9. zone entry – turnover
  10. zone entry – fell down -turnover

Second Period

  1. nice outlet pass
  2. pass batted down -turnover
  3. PP good pass
  4. PP pushed off puck – cleared
  5. PP shot blocked
  6. pushed off puck – turnover
  7. knocked down in the ozone – turnover

Third Period

  1. Nice pass in the O zone
  2. Missed receiving pass – turnover
  3. turnover in the D zone
  4. shoot in – turnover

Overtime

  1. Nice pass to Draisaitl

Hall got credit for 3 SOG last night but I think that was very generous and it’s worth noting that Tyler Seguin was credited with 7.

If we assign a +- value to the events listed above, I think we can see how dominant the Stars were and how ineffective Hall really was when playing against elite players.

There is this persistent myth that Hall is the best LW in hockey which to anyone who sees Jamie Benn play on a regular basses is just horsefeathers.

Consider this:

LW -PPG

  1. Jamie Benn – 1.29
  2. Mike Hoffman – 1.19
  3. Artemi Panarin – 1.12
  4. Mike Camilleri – 1.08
  5. Daniel Sedin – 1.07
  6. Johnny Gaudreau – 1.00
  7. Alex Ovechkin – 1.00
  8. Taylor Hall – .963
  9. Max Pacioretty – .926
  10. Max Domi -.885

In response to a reader’s question, I had suggested that Hall’s production would soon suffer as Leon Draisaitl’s 33% shooting percentage crashed to earth and, of course, that’s exactly what has happened.

Even with last night’s goal, Hall has only 2 points in his last 7 games which coincides exactly with Draisaitl’s plummet to 21.1%.

So, while Hall is clearly a top 10 LW in the league, he is nowhere near the best and I expect him to fall further off the pace as the regression of Draisaitl wends its merry way to average.

I’ll track another game in a couple of weeks.