NHL NEWS: All the small things.
Of course depending on the team you support, these news items might not be “small things”, but due to time and space constraints I’ve crammed them into one article. Enjoy!
PHWA SCREWS UP ALL-STAR VOTING
In a concerning-yet-hilarious incident yesterday, the Professional Hockey Writers Association — a collection of around 180 journalists across North America who vote on various NHL awards — announced it’s end-of-season All-Star Teams. One of the most prestigious honours a player can earn, the teams are as follows:
1st ALL-STAR TEAM:
CHRIS KUNITZ – SIDNEY CROSBY – ALEX OVECHKIN
PK SUBBAN – RYAN SUTER
2nd ALL-STAR TEAM:
ALEX OVECHKIN – JONATHAN TOEWS – MARTIN ST LOUIS
KRIS LETANG – FRANCOIS BEAUCHEMIN
Notice anything… odd? That’s right, Alex Ovechkin is listed at two positions, IN THE SAME SEASON. It was a widely known story during the season that Ovechkin, who previously in his career was a LW, was converted to a RW by new head coach Adam Oates. The NHL reportedly sent out a memo to the PHWA members that they should vote for Ovechkin as a right winger, but 45 writers still voted for him as a left winger!!!
The incompetence of the situation is staggering. It has been defended by many, who say that Ovechkin is listed as a LW by NHL.com, but the league’s website is notoriously inaccurate on that front. On principle, being a hockey writer should mean you know what position one of the best players in the world plays – you should be watching the games, reading stories from around the league, researching.
It’s not vital or expected that they should know the positions of every player in the league – players switch positions all the time up front – but it’s Alex Ovechkin for crying out loud. The PHWA did issue an apology last night, acknowledging that a big mistake was made and that they will look into it, but it is too late. Many will say that the All-Star Teams don’t matter, but to myself and many others they really do: they provide a great glimpse at who the very best players in the NHL were in any particular year.
The other primary issue comes when we consider which NHLer was left off of the 2nd All-Star Team thanks to this gigantic balls-up. Why, it’s none other than my one and only, Mr. Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers. Hall had an exceptional season, finishing as the 2nd highest scoring player in the Western Conference behind only Patrick Kane with 50 points in 45 games, and cementing himself as an elite NHL forward. An All-Star nod would have been the perfect opportunity to increase his exposure to those in the Eastern Conference who are unaware of just how good he is, not to mention garner Hall a rather nice bonus package – although the details on that aren’t quite clear (he may have made his max-bonus already, but it’s not certain).
Tyler Dellow, the well-known lawyer and Oiler blogger who’s as renowned for his ability to take on the NHL establishment (see the Colin Campbell email fiasco that eventually led to him leaving his high-profile job with the NHL) as he is for being at the forefront of new statistical analysis in the NHL, has decided this time to rip apart the PWHA trying to find out just who voted for Ovechkin as a left-winger.
Some have dismissed this as a witch-hunt, but in mine and many others opinions it is a worthwhile cause as it will expose a shaky organisation who many already suspected weren’t fit to vote for such prestigious awards. I mean who voted Nazem Kadri for the Selke Trophy for crying out loud?!
Over at his site mc79hockey.com, Tyler has written a terrific piece on the whole fiasco, and it’s well worth a read. You can check out his current list of who voted for Ovechkin as a LW and who voted him as a RW here, and see the voting breakdown here.
This could also be a notable turning point in the perception of mainstream writers when compared to bloggers; whilst bloggers – like myself – are often thought of as being fanboys with no accountability and no connections, many (certainly not all) journalists and writers have long been under fire for how they conduct themselves in these awards processes, as well as how “cushy” they get with the teams they cover, not asking the hard questions and in many cases being mere mouthpieces for NHL teams. That only one writer so far has come forward about voting for Ovechkin at LW says a lot about how accountable for their own actions some of these writers are.
ST LOUIS RE-SIGN LEOPOLD
As per TSN, the St Louis Blues have agreed to a 2 year contract extension with veteran defender Jordan Leopold. The deal will see him paid an average of $2.25m per season.
Leopold was acquired for a couple of draft picks from the Buffalo Sabres back in March, and scored 10 points in 39 games between the two clubs. At 31, Leopold is certainly not done but is no longer in his prime. That said, he is still a very capable NHL defender and a nice piece to the puzzle of the Blues’ strong defense corps. Rob Vollman’s Player Usage Charts suggest Leopold was playing tough competition with around a 53% offensive zone start, and was performing pretty well in those situations in terms of shot differential.
A decent price-point on a short-term deal, this is a good signing for both sides.
With Free Agency beginning tomorrow, many players have been placed on waivers with the purpose of using a compliance buyout on them. The list of buyouts so far look like this (courtesy of TSN.ca):
- Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay ($1.762m per year for 14 years, plus $8m in bonuses over the next 3 seasons)
- Rick DiPietro, NY Islanders ($1.5m per year for the next 16 years)
- Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia ($1.643m per year for the next 14 years)
- Keith Ballard, Vancouver ($1.4m per year for the next 4 years)
- Danny Briere, Philadelphia ($0.833m per year for the next 4 years)
- Tomas Kaberle, Montreal ($1.5m per year for the next 2 years)
- Rostislav Olesz, Chicago ($1.41m per year for the next 2 years)
- Steve Montador, Chicago ($0.683m per year for the next 4 years)
- Jeff Schultz, Washington ($1m per year for the next 2 years)
- Mike Komisarek, Toronto ($2.25m per year for the next 2 years)
- Tom Gilbert, Minnesota ($1m per year for the next 2 years)
- Carlo Colaiacovo, Detroit ($0.95m per year for the next 2 years)
- Nathan Gerbe, Buffalo ($0.308m per year for the next 2 years)
Not too many surprises on this list. Tom Gilbert perhaps, as he is a defender still in his prime and capable of top 4 minutes, he simply had a down-year, and also Nathan Gerbe I was fairly surprised to see on there, given his small contract. That said, he’s seen his scoring numbers decline since he broke out in 2010/11 with 31 points, down to just 10 points in 42 games this past year. Gerbe is one of the smallest players in the league at 5’6″, so if he’s not scoring, he isn’t doing much of anything. He doesn’t PK, and his stats over on the Player Usage Charts suggest he was getting killed at even strength in terms of shot differential. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised.
More interesting are the names not yet on the list. Ville Leino is the most obvious one perhaps, given his contract pays him $4.5m per season on average and he has only scored 31 points in 79 games since being signed by the Sabres in 2011. Eric Belanger is another, as he’s had a miserable time in Edmonton following a very good career literally everywhere else he’s played, but his cap hit isn’t a problem for the Oilers so maybe they use him as a depth option and try and find a trade partner if possible. Dany Heatley is another one, though that is explainable: the Wild simply aren’t allowed to buy him out thanks to him still being on injured reserve. Perhaps Brad Richards? Although it looks like the Rangers may see what he has for another year.
There’s still a little time left, so we will see who else gets set free.
It looks like Filip Kuba has been bought out of his $4m per year contract by the Florida Panthers. However, this is a “regular” buyout, as opposed to a compliance one, so the Panthers will be carrying the buyout next year. The 36 year old now becomes a free agent. This is an interesting move, and a route I was interested to see if any teams would take. I presume this was a move designed to free up a contract spot, but maintaining a cap hit so that the Panthers don’t have to worry about reaching the cap-floor so much.
Sergei Kostitsyn has been placed on waivers by the Nashville Predators, though it’s unclear whether that is for buyout purposes or whether it is just to see if anyone will claim him first. Other players placed on waivers are Hal Gill, Matt Hunwick, Greg Zanon and Kris Russell.
BLACKHAWKS EXTEND LEDDY
The Chicago Blackhawks have announced the signing of Nick Leddy to a new 2 year contract; financial terms have not yet been disclosed.
Leddy, 22, has two full seasons under his belt as well as half a season in 2010/11, scoring 62 points in 176 games including a current career high of 37 points in 2011/12, very good statistics for a young defenceman. The former University of Minnesota player was originally drafted 16th overall in 2009 by the Minnesota Wild but was traded to Chicago in the Cam Barker deal – an absolute steal for the Hawks, seeing as how Barker was bought out by the Wild after 1 season and is barely an NHL regular anymore.
Leddy is not quite at the level of a top 4 defender just yet, but has performed very well to date; at just 22, he has plenty more room to grow into a quality top 4 NHLer. According to the Player Usage Charts, Leddy has been taking on easy competition with advantageous zone-starts, but has been dominating in shot differentials and thus may be ready for more responsibility.
JETS TO KEEP CLITSOME FOR 3 MORE YEARS
The Winnipeg Jets have announced the extension of defender Grant Clitsome on a 3 year deal, as per TSN. The deal will see him paid just over $2m per season.
Clitsome had 16 points in 44 games this year, and 55 points in 149 career NHL games so far. At 28, what you see is what you get really – he isn’t going to improve much more, but as it is he’s a very good third pairing defenceman who can play in all situations, put up some offence, and dominate middling competition at 5v5. A nice player to have on the roster, and although I’d say $2m might be at the high end of what I’d pay him, it’s not going to put the team in dire straits cap-wise.
PENGUINS RE-SIGN FAN FAVOURITE DUPUIS
The Pittsburgh Penguins have locked up yet another key piece of their group, signing winger Pascal Dupuis to a 4 year extension worth $3.75m per season, meaning he won’t become a Free Agent tomorrow.
At 34, Dupuis is still going strong – stronger than ever perhaps, after putting up 20 goals and 38 points in 48 games this season, most playing on a highly effective line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. He also scored 7 goals and 11 points in 15 playoff games.
Since being nothing more than a throw-in in the Marian Hossa deal back in 2008, Dupuis has been a key two-way player for the squad and has put up 212 points in 379 games since joining the team – only Malkin and Crosby have more in the same span. Of course, he has certainly benefited from playing primarily with Crosby, but the fact he is strong defensively and can also score makes him highly valuable. His player usage charts indicate that he is absolutely dominant against some of the toughest competition on the team, and as such he may even be underrated.
BLUE JACKETS EXTEND COMEAU
Blake Comeau has signed a one year contract extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 27 year old scored 6 goals and 12 points in 42 games this year, split between Columbus and Calgary from whom he was acquired in April for a 5th round draft pick.
He had 5 points in 9 games with the Blue Jackets, showing a glimmer of hope that he might be able to regain the form that saw him score 41 goals over 2 seasons with the New York Islanders from 2009 to 2011. Whilst that is unlikely to happen, you never know, and Comeau is a physical presence who may still be able to chip in on offence from the bottom 6 should he not recover that scoring touch.