Sunday, February 10, 2008

Think Man Think!

Had the annual night, or in this case day, out with my best friend yesterday. Four seats this year so two of our longtime pals made the trek down from Sudbury to catch the Leafs, followed up with dinner and many pints. Good times.
The Leafs beat the Wings so cue Tony From Woodbridge calling in and opining on how Fletcher needs to load up at the deadline so The Passion That Unites Us All can make their annual run to the Cup. They actually played a nice game, conservative and smart, and Toskela outplayed Hasek who was terrible on Sundin's equalizer and the overtime winner. Another thing to note is that after Cleary went down the Wings generated very little offensive pressure outside of their big line. On a night like this one can see the effect of the cap on this league. Only two years ago when the Oilers upset the Wings, Detroit had three pretty dangerous lines rolling plus a fourth line of Maltby, Cleary and Franzen iirc. Now I have seen little of the Wings this year and they seem to be in a little bit of a February downturn but this team can be beaten, I would say. If you have the guys who can shut down Zetterberg and Datsyuk then I think they may be had. I would think they'll be shopping over the next two weeks.
So, back to the Leafs, who are really the poster boys for what not to do in a league that has a salary cap. JFJ is considered to have gotten a bum rap here and there is no doubt that MLSE's treatment of him at the end was beyond disgraceful but this team is littered with his mistakes and, as a result, are likely going to finish up the road for at least the next couple of years much like the Oilers. Problem is they can't even point to a nice collection of kids like the Oilers can.
Now MLSE makes our concerns about EIG look teeny tiny in comparison. Larry Tanenbaum's fingerprints were all over the two year deal that thuggish pinhead Tahir Domi got and its likely that this was not the only case where ownership was involved however JFJ's penchant for handing out large longterm deals to players has handcuffed this team. Toronto fans point to Paul Holmgren's masterful job at turning around Philly but the fact is that Holmgren had a pretty decent collection of young talent that the Leafs cannot match - Gagne, Richards, Carter, Pitkanen, to name a few. He had Forsberg and Zhitnik who he could move. Here the Leafs have Sundin and you might say Hal Gill is a comp to Zhitnik contract wise, at least. And finally when it came to the summer Holmgren had a pile of cap room which he used to acquire Briere, Hartnell and Timmonen. The Leafs have absolutely none. He used Pitkanen to bring in Smith and Lupul, moved Zhitnik for Coburn and made a nice little move to get Biron and boom! Rebuild complete. Not to mention the haul for Forsberg and the number two pick in last year's draft. Pretty amazing to see what some guys having off years and a lot of injuries will bring you if you're smart about it.
The Toronto media is trumpeting that there is a lot of interest out there in a lot of the Leafs but the truth of the matter is that I would guess that the guys teams are looking at are the guys the Leafs do not want to move. Kids like Steen and Stajan and Anton Stralman as well as Tjulsty who played against the Datsyuk line and handled himself pretty well. Toskela. Kaberle. McCabe. Antropov. To shake things up they might have to move a guy like Kaberle who would likely bring a nice return but it hurts when you have to move a guy to make space because you're a bunch of dummies.
I think if they could move McCabe (Islanders) they would but the guys they really want to move aren't going anywhere. And this is where JFJ has fucked the Leafs. Its really a cautionary tale for Kevin Lowe and any GMs. There is only a finite amount of money to go around as Tyler Dellow points out and while the fallout from this so far has hit fading guys like Anson Carter, Tony Amonte, Jeff O'Neill, Jason Allison and so on, guys who made a pile of cash and who can retire rather then play for the minimum, the fact is that pretty soon there are going to be a lot of guys like, yes, Mike Johnson, a pretty decent player who barely found a job this season. The smart GM is going to be able to pick up some pretty good players for bargains pretty soon, guys like Dominic Moore who played a terrific game for the Leafs yesterday.
Now that would be the smart GM. The Leafs are stuck with Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft and Pavel Kubina for starters plus they have big money tied up in McCabe and Kaberle and if they sign Sundin ... well, that's about it for them. Huge contracts with lengthy term and guys who are not even close to outperforming that money - its a combination that will kill you. The media can trumpet all they want how teams covet Tucker and Blake and McCabe but the Leafs are not moving the first two - their contracts and performance preclude it. Indeed the Leafs would have gotten a huge return if they had moved Tucker last spring and McCabe the spring before as both finished up career years but it did not happen and now its likely that they are stuck with all three of these guys for a while yet. At least McCabe is a decent player. Not worth what he's getting but he's decent.
So what does this have to do with the Oilers? Well Lowe has been on a terrible run for almost the last two years now and its likely that with Katz coming in the clock is ticking on our man Kevin. What I fear and what most Oiler fans should fear is that Lowe will be tempted to go for the sexy home run again this summer. I'm thinking it may really be a dull six months coming up and I would certainly prefer that to Lowe giving Michael Ryder 4 per or something goofy like that. The talk now is that the Oilers may move Pitkanen, with one of the main issues being that they have so much cash tied up in Souray. This Souray deal has the potential to hobble this franchise for a couple of years and its a perfect example of the stupid PR related deal (like the Tucker deal) that a good GM will always avoid. Some people squawk about the deals given to Moreau, Roloson, Pisani, Staios and Torres but these are really small potatoes - with the exception of the Roloson contract I think Lowe could move any of these if he wanted to. Staios is the highest at 2.7 but that's relatively small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. And in two years three of these contracts will be off the books.
I think it was Tyler who described the job of a GM to be a series of gambles and its true. Who you draft, who you trade for and trade away, who you sign, for how much and for how long - its a never ending series of bets that you are making. Some choices are easy - signing Lidstrom or Sakic to a neverending series of one or two year deals or drafting Mario Lemieux. Some look easy, for example Chicago drafting Patrick Kane, but how many people remember the questions a lot of people had about him, legitimate questions? Some are difficult - do you sign Ryan Smyth for five years for big money? Do you gamble on Dustin Penner?
You don't bet on Sheldon Souray - that, friends, is an easy one.
In gambling on Souray, Lowe has made a huge mistake, one that JFJ made over and over again - he paid big bucks for a one trick pony Dman and gave him the term to boot. Consider Norris trophy candidate Jan Hejda (thanks Heed). A lot of people look at the Oilers failure to sign this guy and say good riddance but considering that they might have had him, a solid top four guy on a team that needs a solid top four guy, and had him for cheap at that - well this is what I am talking about. Go through the list of players who signed to one or two year deals last summer who would have given more to this team then Souray. If you are a Leafs' fan and look at the production of Blake or Tucker and think that you could have had two years of Comrie or Guerin or a year of Petr Sykora. The Oilers could have had Hejda and Ryan Smyth for a little more then Souray. And they could made up the difference there by moving Torres. LW would have been Smyth, Penner, Moreau. Not too shabby. Too bad Lowe didn't have a Globe and Mail subscription (we'll chip in) seeing as David Shoalts gave the cap number for this season around Christmas of last year. Might have ponied up that extra 100 grand.
You HAVE to use your fucking noggin. You just do. We'll see if Lowe has learned anything this summer. He had better have or in a year and a half we'll be minus Pitkanen and Horcoff but we'll have eleven million wrapped up in Souray and Markus Naslund. Forever.


David S said...

You know Pat, I really like your take on things.

That Souray thing is sure a pile of crap. I have to think Kevin's hands were tied with that one. Katz was knocking on the door and I'm sure he was told from above (EIG) to go out there and make a splashy, high-dollar deal. Problem was (and maybe still is), hardly any player in their right mind would bite except for Souray.

So watcha gonna do? Souray's shoulder was a liability from the get-go. I have to believe Lowe knew what the possibilities were. I mean, he may not be Einstein, but he's not completely stupid either.

With a new owner in the box (who doesn't really care what people think of him), maybe we'll see the real Lowe this summer.


rickibear said...

Not signing a soon to break down scoring left winger to a continually declining return contract is the sign of a good GM. Not recognizing that turns you from objective blogger to a subjective Fan. I admire your FANatisism.

David S said...

EIG: Kevin, we need a name player acquisition so we look good in front of Edmontonians. And we need him now!

KLowe: OK. Hey Souray, how about a "continually declining return contract"?

Souray: Nope.

KLowe: Allright. What do I have to do to make you an Oiler today?

Some of you guys out there are still under the delusion that we're like most other teams, that we can call the shots and pick up just about anybody we need. If we don't its somehow KLowe's fault. No doubt he's made some jumbo mistakes, but he's not dealing with the same deck of cards as alot of the other teams in the league.

grease trap said...


you can say that again.

voxel said...

Pitkanen can be resigned - there aren't major cap issues that others are screaming about.

Black Dog said...

rickibear - I was actually for the Smyth move - definite minority there - signing aging players to big money longterm deals is not the way to go about it I think. But then Lowe turned around and signed Souray. If he's going to blow the budget that way I would rather have had Smyth.

Lowe has said numerous times that he would have signed Smyth if he had known the cap was going up (although now he has changed his tune to the budget).

Can't have it both ways. Applauding Lowe for not signing Smyth when Lowe says himself that he blew it with Smyth - can't have it both ways.

voxel - they can fit him in

david - I would agree with you 100% - Souray was related to Katz - Souray himself said the offer came out of left field

Gord said...

The Oilers have had a tradition of overplaying average players during the season to build up their value then trading them for undervalued players (i.e. Bergeron for Grebeshkov). I suspect that is what they are doing with Stoll right now...

The flip side of the coin is that they downplay certain players to decrease their value - that is what they were doing with Hejda last year - until the Katz offer threw that plan in the garbage because Lowe promised to sign "big name", highly paid players.

To get to my point, I suspect Grebeshkov, Nilsson & Thoresen are being "hidden" so they can be re-signed at a lower price without having to worry about RFA offers.

But that is just my theory.......

Black Dog said...

gord - I think that may be a function of them just being younger guys but I also think that in a year like this where management knows the team is going nowhere they probably aren't too upset that Gilbert has hit the rookie wall by the looks of it. He's had a tough few weeks and its going to drive his price down I would say.

Pat H said...

Souray himself said the offer came out of left field

iirc, he said that they weren't even "kicking the tires" until July 11. There's an article by Dave Stubbs that has a lot of interesting info in it, and I'm pretty sure that's where I first saw that angle.

When you put the puzzle together, it's just so freaking obvious that it was a PR move. I can't believe that Lowe gets away with that one. This is the same guy who was saying, pre-cap, that there were "a bunch of lunatics" out there spending money on players.

I keep thinking of your line from a few posts back, about liking Lowe better when "he had to, you know, think".

David S said...

"When you put the puzzle together, it's just so freaking obvious that it was a PR move. I can't believe that Lowe gets away with that one."

Like the title of the post says - Think Man Think!

Lowe isn't in charge of PR. He does what he's told by...guess who?

Mr DeBakey said...

There’s a Klowe interview on the Oilers site right now. He talked to the Boy Wonder last week.
Lowe is pretty lowe key - Happy with the D, Happy with the kids, Could use more scoring [KP said the same recently], RFAs are under control…
Happy, happy, happy.
The last topic though was Pitkanen. Lowe finishes by saying we’ll see what his value on the open market is at the end of the season - it’s not clear if he means $$$ value or trade value or both.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail July 1 – no chasing wildly after Hossa or anything like that.
Target one or two guys [Trent Hunter anyone?].
They could use some size, some scoring; the D – holy mackerel we’ve got a lot of them guys.

Based on some recent spreadsheet work. The Oilers have up to $3.75 for a 2nd line winger. That’s resigning all the current RFAs for reasonable amounts. Pitkanen & Gilbert Gilbert are at $7mm total in this scenario. The UFAs are outta here.
If Stoll & Grebs are moved – replaced by Pouliot & Roy – an add’l $2mm is freed up.

Anonymous said...

Naslund would help

Black Dog said...

anon - Naslund would help - at 3M a year for a year or two.

mr. d. - sounds like they're moving Pitkanen for sure

what's the deal with T. Hunter - you were stumping for him elsewhere too, right?

namflashback said...

Whether or not EIG, LaForge, Watts were behind the Souray splash (splat!) -- I am curious to know if they were behind the stupidity of all Lowe's public huffing prior to the draft.

I love a tasty EIG/LaForge conspiracy theory as much as anyone -- but sadly, and Vic Ferrari and I went on about this for sometime last year -- Lowe wears 80% of this.

I would guess that Lowe never had enough "month-to-month" budget flexibility that would help him with something like the Smyth re-sign. Think about the fluctuation in the dollar between Sept 2006 and Mar 2007.

Sadly, Lowe is the guy who decides how the money is spent. Nylander just was a crap deal. 1.2M on Hejda.

Hopefully Katz's "active management style" can get Lowe's head on straight again.

Mr DeBakey said...

Someone else mentioned Hunter, too.
They suggested
That could be a righteous line.

He's a big lad.
Scored 20 last year.
Less goals this year, shooting % only 5%, Yikes!
Playing the tough minutes tho'

Lets face it, The Oliers have less than zero chance at the A-list guys

Black Dog said...

Not many A list guys left. RFA or UFA

doritogrande said...

Mr D. I see your Hunter, and raise you Brian Rolston.

2 years, 4M per sound decent?