Friday, September 20, 2013

So ... Chicago model?

It looks like it. Ted signed his extension at six million per, same as Hall, same as Eberle, one would think same as Yakupov will a year from now. This is the path the franchise has decided to take and I heartily approve.

 Its a gamble but as has been said in this corner of the interweb many times (when I say this corner I mean the Oilogosphere as a whole although I have probably said it a million times right here) managing a professional hockey team is all about making a series of bets, some small, some big, with the end result hopefully being a Stanley Cup. You look at your team and you look at the players you have and the players that you want to acquire and hopefully you are astute enough to make an educated bet that works out for you.

Sometimes it doesn't work. When the Oilers signed Eric Belanger that was a good bet. Buddy had a good track record. It didn't work out (and the third year was likely unnecessary) but Tambo wasn't going out on a limb when he signed the guy. It just didn't work. Of course the organization also made a series of bets on other players that failed miserably. Some were small, like extending Sutton or signing Hordichuk for a second year. Some were a little bigger like signing Eager. And some were much bigger, like gambling on Khabibulin and Souray or trading Smyth, Brodziak and Cogliano or not signing Glencross and Hejda. Notice how there are a lot of bad bets? Little wonder the Oilers have been awful for seven years now.

There is no such thing as an infallible general manager. Who are the best? Ray Shero traded two second round picks for Douglas Murray. Stan Bowman just gave six million bucks a year and term to Corey Crawford. Peter Chiarelli, well okay he's pretty damn good, but go through his record and Doug Wilson and all the rest of the good managers and you'll find the mistakes. They are human after all and they rely on other men to help them make their decisions. I like Craig MacTavish quite a bit, I really like his summer's work but the money he apparently threw at David Clarkson makes me a little less confident.

 So they make mistakes because they are human and the nature of the business too is that you're willing to throw a seven year contract (or longer than that before the last lockout) because unless you are Glen Sather or Lou Lamoriello you know that you will be gone in five or six years anyhow, although there seems to be more front office stability in the league these days overall.

There are only two quibbles about Ted's contract. One is the simple nature of it as mentioned above. Its a gamble on a guy who has only been in the league two years and who has had injury issues. So the question is whether its a good bet or not? Part of the problem is that Tambo painted the team into a corner with the Eberle contract. I think, personally, that Eberle is a very good player and that also he is not at the level of the other three kids, the number ones. Its my opinion that Hall is the cream of the crop but of course we will see if this is so. I think that this year we could see either Ted and Yakupov or both for that matter go completely mental, just as Hall did last year. Worse case I believe it will be next year. These kids are special, their counting numbers say so, their underlying numbers (in the case of RNH) say so. For now though Hall is the man. Top ten in scoring in his third year in the league? Would be pretty easy to say to the other kids 'hey he's the benchmark, like Lidstrom nobody gets paid more' except Eberle got the same dough. So there we are.

In any case its a gamble of course but its fine. Quite sure that they went to the doctors about the shoulder. Could he get hurt? Sure. Anybody could. Crosby, Bergeron, Toews, there are three guys a brain injury away from being done. Seriously. But you're still going to gamble on those guys. So that doesn't worry me and I think he's going to be an elite player because what he has done so far has supported that so ... pay the man. Don't quibble and try and get a bridge contract and fack with arbitration. The window where these guys aren't getting paid passed when they threw them into the fray right away and looking at the roster they are probably three years from serious contention anyway at which point they would be getting ... paid.

 And that of course is the second quibble, the cap. They are GOING TO HAVE 24 MILLION tied up in four guys plus Gagner and Schultz junior and oh the humanity. Except the cap is going up, everyone says it is and the feeling is that it will be pushing eighty million and soon and what is the plan anyhow? Don't pay them? If they are the talent and we know that they are then 24 million in an 80 million cap world is a drop in the bucket. And Chicago pays, wait for it, Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp, Keith, Seabrook and they're doing okay. Not to mention Bickell's ticket and what Hjalmarsson and Crawford will be making soon enough.

We have joked and mocked and groaned for years about the 'model' but really Chicago has it right. Their core is locked up and they fill in the holes with relatively cheap kids (2010 Cup - Byfugien, Ladd, Brouwer, Hjalmarsson, Niemi, Bolland, Versteeg) and a few vets (2010 - Campbell, Kopecky, Sopel, Madden). Tallon's fuckup meant they had to jettison more of those kids than they wanted to but in 2013 we saw the same formula at work. The core was augmented by cheap youngsters like Saad, Bickell, Shaw, Leddy and Kruger as well as vets like Bolland, Frolik, Handzus, Oduya, Stallberg, Emery and Roscival. They had to move a few of these guys this summer but unlike 2010 when they were gutted they have lost two fourth liners, a third liner and their backup goalie. Not to say these guys weren't important (Frolik especially will be missed) but its easier to fill around the edges. And of course this is the difference between Chicago and Edmonton right now. The Hawks have a load of talent ready to step in, guys who have been tested in the AHL and have come out smiling, Pirri and Ben Smith and Hayes and Morin and we haven't even mentioned the young Finn who may be the steal of last year's draft. A couple of these guys make the grade and then add another couple of guys at the deadline and they are back where they were this spring. Remember this is a team that won the Cup with Michael Handzus as their second line centre.

The Oilers ... well as Robert Cleave pointed out to me on the twitter, they aren't in the ballpark. If they were they'd be a playoff shoo in this year instead of a team on the margins. The stockpile of young D is impressive. Klefbom and Nurse and Marancin and Gernat and Davidson and Simpson ... a couple of these guys won't be good enough and maybe another gets hurt but in a few years the D is probably going to feature a couple of these guys plus Schultz and Petry and they will be set back there. Disaster might happen but we're not talking Abney and Moroz here. These guys are mature prospects except for Nurse and we are getting an idea about them and they are quality. At this point if shit falls apart its going to be one of those things nobody can help

The problem is up front. A lot of the last cluster (all of them?) are busts and so its Roy and Khaira and the Russians we pin our hopes on with the hope that maybe, just maybe, one or two of Lander and Pitlick and Hartikainen (if he returns) might be able to make the grade. So that is MacT's mission. Fill in around the talent, especially up front. Build that pipeline of kids who can come in and augment the talent year after year. Will he be able to do it? Hard to say but the Oilers, by design or sheer folly, are on the same path as Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, basically every recent Cup winner but Boston, in that they have a core of homegrown talent. MacTavish just needs to fill the rest of the picture in with kids and a sprinkling of vets and if he can do that then he's going to have something. And if he doesn't well then fire his ass.

 And Ted is a part of the talent. So yeah, pay the man.


@eastcoasteh said...

I like what you're saying here, but I do think that it was a bad call to at least not see where the kid is this season. He's had to major should injuries in each season. He's a small frame. I think he's going to be upper echelon great, but I didn't see the harm in saying "hey, go have a great year and we'll sit down at the Olympic Break and bang out a deal". But maybe they didn't want to pressure him to perform and play when he wasn't 100%. Who knows.
The other great thing I like about these contracts is the no-trade is NOT there. So if things aren't working out, we can always shuffle the deck. Yakupov will fall into that category as well.
The difference with Oil and Chicago (in addition to Hawks have more depth) is the D. We don't have Keith/Seabrook. I'm hoping Schultz the Younger (you're rubbing off bud..) makes the Leap this year. I think it's in him. Looking for a huge season out of him. Also, surely out of the half-dozen guys we have going for the bottom pairing, at least 1 will pleasantly surprise, 2-3 will likely tank, and the rest will be adequate. But let's not go all Corey Potter and give a big contract extension after a month!

I'm ending all my posts on your wall with the fact that #94 needs to be in front of the net on the PP. Show the kids how its done to pay the price. You can't tell me the old dog isen't still hungry!

Black Dog said...

hiya - yeah I see what you are saying but I think its like Hemsky when he extended two years ago, they go to the doctor and discuss the injury and see if its something that will be chronic. I think he will be ok. And really I do think he's going to be a huge star. Not much of a gamble imo.

Yep D is where they need help but as noted I think they have the kids on the way. That's the last big piece. Of course its a huge piece but I think they will be good.

Agreed on Smyth.

Roke said...

I like the RNH deal but I wonder if it would have been more expensive had the Oilers decided to wait until later in the season, or even early in the summer. Given that Hall and Eberle each make $6 million and NHL GMs generally collude to not offer offer-sheets I don't think it would have been. IN that case, I think it would have been prudent to be patient. I agree that the young depth is the biggest thing missing from Edmonton's "Chicago model", along with the D. If the Oilers continue to move away from the MOAR BIG/Next Lucic philosophy at the draft the young players should fall into place.

It's not a huge deal but I think Chicago being able to under-pay a Norris-calibre defenseman for his entire career (thanks to Keith's back-diving contract) helps. As a Habs fan it irks me that they didn't give Subban a circumventing contract when the opportunity was there and he was "already in Weber territory", as Zona stated.

Other than rapidly-developed guys on Entry-level deals or cutting off your nose to force bridge deals you aren't going to be able to do that to the same degree.

Bruce said...

My feeling is that if the Oilers were going to follow the precedent of the Hall contract they had to follow ALL of that precedent. Hall was signed in the off-season even as he was still recovering from shoulder surgery, so the team took a little bit of a risk to get him at what is starting to look like a very reasonable price. Indeed, many would consider the Hall contract to be Tambellini's finest hour (it's certainly in the short list of fine hours).

RNH's situation is basically identical to Hall's: both #1 OV's who made the league right out of the gate, both averaged 0.75 P/G their first two years, both missed time in each season to injury & about 22% of their games overall, both had shoulder surgery after their second year. Beyond that a couple of arrows point Hall's way (shots, goals) & a couple RNH's (relative age, tougher position). But it's pretty clear both are key pieces going forward.

So why should they now turn around & say to RNH, "OK kid, if you come back strong & have a great year we'll offer you the same deal THEN that we did to Hall BEFORE he did the same." Why niggle & dime one of the guys over a couple hundred thou, or wait for him to prove something you didn't wait for the other guy. Treating them THE SAME was a key to getting this pact done: same term, same dollars, same structure, same absence of NMC, same timing = early end of the negotiation window.

Instead MacT took the high road, emphasizing "I've seen enough" to make the step. His whole preamble to the presser was great. The "easy negotiation" is a real good sign both ways that the team believes in the player and the player believes in the team; both of which are music to the ears of this Oilers fan.

I get the sense that MacT is strong on the human side of the equation, something that's not always a factor in some of the spreadsheet analyses or NHL '14 roster management styles but it sure in the hell is in real life.

As for that $6 MM cap hit, as their new contracts kick in Hall & Eberle both rank in the #31-40 range of cap hits for forwards (actually a 9-way tie for 32nd). Not bad when one considers Hall was a top 10 scorer last year and Eberle has been top 40 the past two years. Seems like a pretty reasonable gamble that they'll both continue to produce. Unless one foresees a big drop in the salary cap, which if circumstances dictated would likely result in the whole house of cards collapsing anyways. In the current environment, with core players locked up long term at "reasonable" dollars, I think the Oil are in a pretty enviable position.

Black Dog said...

Well said Bruce, that sums it up nicely right there