Dum Luck

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The Edmonton Oilers are likely a much better hockey team today than they were yesterday but they are also a team that is being rewarded, handsomely, for a decade of incompetence.

It is true that the NHL draft lottery exists to give a leg up to teams that have fallen on hard times but the Oilers will now have FOUR 1st overall picks in their lineup and unless their management can deliver a winner in short order, they will deserve every bit of scorn from hockey fans all over the world will heap on them.

With Connor McDavid in the fold, Kevin Lowe and Co. have likely bought themselves more time with fans and, most importantly, owner Daryl Katz but unless they can surround all that young talent with the right veterans (something they have shown little aptitude for), the stakes will be very high.

I would say they have the length of Connor McDavid’s entry level contract to win a Stanley Cup and, if they haven’t, it will be time to blow it all up again.

There are a few reasons for that.

The most important of those is that the Oilers will be in a very tenuous cap position with all of Hall, Eberle, Hopkins and, perhaps, Yakupov earning big dollars and, one would imagine if McDavid lives up to his draft billing, a second contract that far eclipses the $6 million now being paid to Hall, Eberle and Hopkins.

When you consider they have to acquire (and pay) TWO top pairing defensemen and a legitimate starting goaltender, they are likely to have very little remaining cap space to fill out a team with good complimentary players.

Of course, they will likely rely on some of their prospect depth to fill out the bottom of the order but, bear in mind, in 3 years time some of the players will also be needing second (more expensive) contracts as well.

Prudent management I think should already be looking 3-4 years down the road and realize that they need to make some moves now to prevent that situation from developing.

If we assume that two top pairing D are likely going to cost north of $5 million each, you could see a situation in Connor McDavid’s 4th season where the Oilers are paying him $8M, Hall, Hopkins and Eberle $6M each and Yakupov perhaps $5M.

That would be a minimum of $41M to pay 7 players and, depending on where the cap is at, could make it exceedingly difficult to round out a winning roster.

The Oilers can, of course, move any one of those highly paid pieces at any time but, considering they desperately need to fill out they D corp and get solid goaltending, it make a whole lot of sense to start that process right away and get on with trying to win.

Tomorrow just arrived.

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The Integrity of the Game Revisited

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Below is a post I wrote on December 15th and I think it bears revisiting today.

Old friend Lowetide has published a post that calls on the Oilers to actively embrace tanking the rest of the season…following up on trading David Perron for magic beans by dealing away Jeff Petry, Boyd Gordon and any other player that might help the Oilers win enough to move out of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

Now, some of his followers believe Lowetide is not serious about his exhortations but he followed up his post with this comment:

LOWETIDEsays:

This isn’t exactly an unusual stance, folks. If I were king, Jeff Petry would have been signed long term in the last Tambellini window, but for whatever reason he is not (it appears) coming back. All I’m suggesting is trading him now as opposed to later.

Re: Gordon, Oilers are giving up ONE year of a player for the short term. I trust MacT to find a checking center, he did for a decade as a coach and it took him 10 minutes to secure Gordon.

I understand the math, for me it’s worth the risk. Really there isn’t anything I’m suggesting here that MacT didnt ponder before PErrron deal

The issue I have with all of this is that it comes very close to fraud.

The Oilers sell tickets based on the underlying premise that they are trying to win hockey games every night. To do anything else is dishonest and unethical.

The Oilers also have a commitment to the rest of the league to ice a competitive lineup in the spirit of sportsmanship and intentionally losing is no less a transgression than match fixing in soccer since it has all sorts of implications in the fortunes of other teams that are genuinely trying to be successful because intentional Oiler losses have a ripple effect on the prospects of other teams either making the playoffs or not and, of course, there are millions of dollars at stake in those results.

As I outlined in the December 15th post below, i would hope that, if the league offices determine that the Oilers are deliberately losing to gain advantage in the draft, then there should be severe sanctions from the league up to and including stripping the Oilers of their 1st round pick or at least forcing them to pick 30th as the league did to New Jersey when they violated the “spirit” of the CBA by signing Ilya Kovalchuk to that massive back diving contract.

The integrity of the game is what is at stake here folks and, other than making the owners a lot of money, shouldn’t that be Gary Bettman’s primary responsibility.

We’ll see how this plays out.


 

It has become patently obvious the Edmonton Oilers have gone into full “tank” mode in order to get another 1st overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

They are not icing the best lineup they can and GM Criag (it’s not my fault) MacTavish has passed on some waiver wire pickups and trades (see Jeremy Morin to Columbus for a spare D) that would have incrementally improved the team without giving up anything of value to do so.

I’m not going to re-tell the whole sorry tale of the bungled start to the season, nor what led the team to raise the white flag in November, but what we need to think about is the Edmonton Oiler’s responsibility to its customers and, even more importantly, to the league to ice a competitive team and to try to win every game.`

I see things posted on fan forums like “It’s Katz’s team and he doesn’t owe anybody anything”. Well that is just bullshit. Fans are customers and any business that deliberately refuses to ensure the product it’s selling is of the quality claimed at best deserves to lose its customers and at worst is coming very close to becoming criminal.

Blogging icon Tom Benjamin dropped by Lowetide this morning and framed the issue this way:

It isn’t just Oiler fans. You have to not care about the league, the fans of the league or the integrity of the game. There is an obligation to put on a show, to compete, to try. Call it the ethic of sport. Fans in other cities are happy to take the wins, but they are not happy paying to see the Washington Generals and they will be very unhappy to see the Oilers get yet another elite talent as a reward for deliberately punting away yet another season. It’s bullshit.

“Time to take a knee” says Pierre LeBrun. The Oilers should tank, should quit trying to win. It is sensible to do that to get another elite player. I’ve watched the Kevin Lowe clown show for long enough that I can believe it is mostly incompetence, but I don’t think that’s the general perception. The tank is on and everyone knows the tank is on. The Oilers are not trying to get better. They are trying to finish last.

What does that say about the Oilers? What does it say about the league?

It’s time to include all 30 teams in a true draft lottery one where everybody has exactly the same chance to draft the best players.

Not a word out of place there but it raises the question if the league will step in and do anything about it?

There is some precedent here.

Gary Bettman did make a move on teams that were violating the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement by signing players to back diving long term contracts although they were not specifically prohibited in the CBA and, in some cases, penalized teams retroactively for doing so.

To my eye, those contracts were far less a black stain on the league than any team that doesn’t do its best to compete every night and should warrant far more severe sanctions that were imposed at that time.

I’m not sure what the appetite is in the NHL head office to step in here or what remedies they might impose, but I’m sure the owners and General Managers of other teams can see what’s going on and I’d wager they’ll start making their displeasure known to Bettman.

This is no different in my opinion that players or teams deliberately losing to benefit bettors since the financial reward of selecting a generational talent like Connor McDavid would be massive in the years to come.

I believe it’s time for the NHL step in here and let the Oilers know, in no uncertain terms that they are NOT eligible to receive the #1 overall pick and instead will be picking 30th no matter how the rest of the season plays out.

The NHL did that before when they told the New Jersey Devils they were going to be penalized for the Ilya Kovalchuk contract (although it was amended when Kovalchuk returned to Russia)  and I think it’s time to do it again.

Snap Shots

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1) Word today that the Edmonton Oilers will not be renewing their minor league affiliation with Oklahoma City. No surprise there as the Barons attendance has been dreadful from day one. With the American Hockey League working on creating a Pacific division, there is some thought that the Oilers may relocate their farm team to Bakersfield to replace the Condors, a team the Oilers already own. But what has been missing from the speculation is that the Oilers also have some connections to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL. Katz buddy Mike Priestner owns the team and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the destination for the ex-Barons. Saskatoon has a great arena and great fans and remember that former Katz Group mouthpiece Steve Hogle was sent there to manage the team.

Steve Hogle will take over the position of team president in Saskatoon.  He departs the Edmonton Oilers to join the Blades.  He took on a number of different roles with the NHL club.  He was serving the role of vice-president of hockey communications, where he oversaw TV, radio and the club’s website.  Along with that, his duties included game-day presentation, alumni relations and community events.

2) Speaking of the Oilers…they’ve just announced that they won’t allow Leon Draisaitl to participate in the upcoming WJHC. Apparently they believe he is too valuable to the team in its current playoff race. Good Grief!

3) You’ll see a lot of chest thumping on Oiler blog sites that the Oilers have a better Corsi percentage than the Calgary Flames. But, guess what, in the shots that actually matter…you know the ones that hit the net…The Flames are better than the Oilers if ever so slightly. Source

SF SA DIFF
MINNESOTA 32.4 25.9 6.5
CHICAGO 35.0 28.9 6.1
ST LOUIS 31.8 26.9 4.9
NY ISLANDERS 32.1 28.6 3.5
DETROIT 30.9 27.4 3.5
NASHVILLE 31.7 28.3 3.4
WINNIPEG 30.6 27.8 2.8
VANCOUVER 31.2 28.5 2.7
WASHINGTON 30.3 27.8 2.5
TAMPA BAY 29.6 27.2 2.4
CAROLINA 29.8 27.8 2.0
SAN JOSE 31.7 29.9 1.8
ANAHEIM 30.5 28.9 1.6
LOS ANGELES 31.3 29.8 1.5
PITTSBURGH 30.4 29.7 0.7
NY RANGERS 29.7 29.1 0.6
FLORIDA 30.8 30.4 0.4
BOSTON 30.1 29.8 0.3
CALGARY 27.7 28.3 -0.6
EDMONTON 28.5 29.4 -0.9
PHILADELPHIA 29.4 31.2 -1.8
DALLAS 29.6 31.8 -2.2
ARIZONA 29.0 31.5 -2.5
MONTREAL 27.8 30.4 -2.6
TORONTO 30.3 33.8 -3.5
NEW JERSEY 26.5 30.8 -4.3
COLORADO 29.2 34.0 -4.8
OTTAWA 28.8 34.3 -5.5
COLUMBUS 28.0 33.6 -5.6
BUFFALO 23.4 36.0 -12.6

As you can see, Minnesota is severely under performing their shot metrics. Expect them to surge in the new year.

You can also see that shot differential can quickly be sewered by bad goaltending.

4) Much more chatter on the inter webs today that the Oilers couldn’t possible trade the “second best LW in hockey”. That is, of course absolute nonsense. Jamie Benn, Henrik Zetterberg, Rick Nash and Zack Parise, among others, are all much better complete players than Hall. Hall is pretty much a one trick pony and the league has figured out how to defend him.

5) We’re starting to get a lot of talk that, if the Oilers finish 29th or 30th, they will have a lock on drafting either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. That is poppycock. The chances of the 29th and 30th teams winning the lottery is, in fact, only 33.5%. Under the new draft lottery rules, there is a 66% chance that another team will win the lottery. Also coming into play is that Eichel has already said he will be returning to college next season so he’s not likely to be a short-term solution for the Oilers or any other team. And, I remain convinced the league “manages” the lottery. The Oilers don’t have a ghost of a chance of picking in the top 2.

The Integrity of the Game

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It has become patently obvious the Edmonton Oilers have gone into full “tank” mode in order to get another 1st overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

They are not icing the best lineup they can and GM Criag (it’s not my fault) MacTavish has passed on some waiver wire pickups and trades (see Jeremy Morin to Columbus for a spare D) that would have incrementally improved the team without giving up anything of value to do so.

I’m not going to re-tell the whole sorry tale of the bungled start to the season, nor what led the team to raise the white flag in November, but what we need to think about is the Edmonton Oiler’s responsibility to its customers and, even more importantly, to the league to ice a competitive team and to try to win every game.`

I see things posted on fan forums like “It’s Katz’s team and he doesn’t owe anybody anything”. Well that is just bullshit. Fans are customers and any business that deliberately refuses to ensure the product it’s selling is of the quality claimed at best deserves to lose its customers and at worst is coming very close to becoming criminal.

Blogging icon Tom Benjamin dropped by Lowetide this morning and framed the issue this way:

It isn’t just Oiler fans. You have to not care about the league, the fans of the league or the integrity of the game. There is an obligation to put on a show, to compete, to try. Call it the ethic of sport. Fans in other cities are happy to take the wins, but they are not happy paying to see the Washington Generals and they will be very unhappy to see the Oilers get yet another elite talent as a reward for deliberately punting away yet another season. It’s bullshit.

“Time to take a knee” says Pierre LeBrun. The Oilers should tank, should quit trying to win. It is sensible to do that to get another elite player. I’ve watched the Kevin Lowe clown show for long enough that I can believe it is mostly incompetence, but I don’t think that’s the general perception. The tank is on and everyone knows the tank is on. The Oilers are not trying to get better. They are trying to finish last.

What does that say about the Oilers? What does it say about the league?

It’s time to include all 30 teams in a true draft lottery one where everybody has exactly the same chance to draft the best players.

Not a word out of place there but it raises the question if the league will step in and do anything about it?

There is some precedent here.

Gary Bettman did make a move on teams that were violating the spirit of the collective bargaining agreement by signing players to back diving long term contracts although they were not specifically prohibited in the CBA and, in some cases, penalized teams retroactively for doing so.

To my eye, those contracts were far less a black stain on the league than any team that doesn’t do its best to compete every night and should warrant far more severe sanctions that were imposed at that time.

I’m not sure what the appetite is in the NHL head office to step in here or what remedies they might impose, but I’m sure the owners and General Managers of other teams can see what’s going on and I’d wager they’ll start making their displeasure known to Bettman.

This is no different in my opinion that players or teams deliberately losing to benefit bettors since the financial reward of selecting a generational talent like Connor McDavid would be massive in the years to come.

I believe it’s time for the NHL step in here and let the Oilers know, in no uncertain terms that they are NOT eligible to receive the #1 overall pick and instead will be picking 30th no matter how the rest of the season plays out.

The NHL did that before when they told the New Jersey Devils they were going to be penalized for the Ilya Kovalchuk contract (although it was amended when Kovalchuk returned to Russia)  and I think it’s time to do it again.