Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Outstanding start guys!!!

3-0-0, nice way for the Oilers to start the season. Yes there will be up and downs but always nicer to start the year 3-0 than to not.

Couple things I've noticed so far (caveat - only 3 games):

(1) Hemsky - controls a line, is making some great puck possession plays on the PP where before he might lose it. Still turning the puck over, but not in as poor locations as before.

(2) Torres - I thought he might have trouble scoring 20 again (assuming scoring at an 03/4 level) because he got some lucky goals last season, but he's looked good the last 2 games.

For tonight's game, I'm hoping for a 5-3 or 5-4 Oilers win, with 3 or 4 points out of Frolov for my hockey pool.

Here's to hoping the momentum continues.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Congratulations Andrej Meszaros!!!

Here it is, roughly 16 months after the 2004 Entry Draft, and perhaps it's time to reflect upon the Oilers selection of Devyn Dubnyk at 14 overall when Meszaros was still on board (eventually selected at 23 overall by Ottawa). Meszaros has cracked the Ottawa blueline at the age of 20, fairly impressive given that the Senators are considered, more or less unanimously, one of the top 5 teams in the NHL for the upcoming season. Not that one would expect Dubnyk to be anywhere but back in the WHL this year, regardless of his performance. stil though, I don't think it's unreasonable to say that, at this point, Meszaros is looking like the better bet. It's pretty unlikely Edm will end up getting more time out of Dubnyk than they would have from Meszaros, with the UFA age now set at 27. True, Lowe and the Oilers staff didn't know that the UFA age would be reduced to 27, but it seemed pretty likely that the UFA age would be reduced.

I'm not writing this entry to trash Dubnyk , but rather to laud Meszaros, a defenceman I really liked at the time of the 2004 draft, as my 2004 draft rankings attest (Pre-draft I had Meszaros ranked 4th, and Dubnyk 54th. As I'm sure one can guess, I was pretty happy at that point on draft day 2004). Meszaros is just a really smart, skilled player, which can only be an outstanding skillset should penalties continue to be called as they have been this preseason. In time he should be able to quarterback a PP, maybe not as early as this year, but it won't take much longer

I kind of wonder what it means that I can make up these sorts of rankings thru reading about prospects, and seemingly perform as well as actual NHL teams. Maybe I've just been lucky, and it's a fluke that I would have picked Meszaros over Dubnyk in 2004. Personally, I think it speaks to a systemic flaw in the scouting system - overvaluing the opinion of scouts who see a limited sample of games.

When you see a player 8-10 times in his draft year how can you possibly expect to have a great read on him? Perhaps team A sees player X (on average) on better days than team B sees him, thus player X is higher on team A's ranking than on team B's?

Maybe that is mainly what accounts for much of the variation among scouting rankings, and scouting staffs. (I first posted on the matter in reply 15 of this HF thread, from where I'm more or less stealing now)

If so, maybe it does make sense that I can create as good a list, or better, simply by reading a bunch of opinions to make sure I get sufficient coverage of the good and bad games each player plays? Maybe all the money spent on scouting could be redistributed elsewhere in the organization, and someone could make a team's draft list by compiling the rankings from various scouting services, perhaps supplementing it with scouts of my own, to get a more comprehensive view of each year's draft pool?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Can the Oilers repeat their scoring from 2003/4?

In the 2003/4 season the Oilers finished 9th overall in GF.

Here is a list of the Oilers about to play the upcoming season (assuming Schremp, Syvret, and D.Smith are sent out)

Forwards that had a career high in goals (brackets are next best year) in 2003/4:

Pisani - 16 (8)
Horcoff - 15 (12)
Torres - 20 (0)
Hemsky - 12 (6)
Moreau - 20 (17)
Stoll - 10 (10) * rookie*

Forwards without a career year (brackets represents career high):

Smyth - 23 (39)
Laraque - 6 (13)
Dvorak - 15 (31)
Reasoner - 2 (11)
Rita - 0 (3)
Harvey - 4 (11)
Peca - 11 (27)
Winchester - ROOKIE

Defensemen that had a career high in goals (brackets are next best year) in 2003/4:

Bergeron - 9 (1)
Cross - 7 (4)
Smith - 7 (5)
Semenov - 2 (1)
Ulanov - 5 (3)
Pronger - 14 (14)

Defensemen without a career year (brackets represents career high):

Staios - 6 (9)

In terms of incoming vs. outgoing regulars:

the Oilers have lost the following goals:

Oates - 2
York - 16
Brewer - 7
Isbister - 10
Chimera - 4
Ferguson - 1
Sarno - 1

for a total of 41 goals lost

And have brought in:

Peca - 11
Pronger - 14
Harvey - 4

With Peca more or less taking York's time, Pronger Brewer's, and Harvey Chimera's. That leaves the Oilers 11 goals shy of last season, with some forwards having to pick up the ice time of Isbister and Oates.

Can they score as many this year?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rita - the odd man out?

There's no question that over the past couple seasons I have been a Rita supporter; a guy who thinks he should have been given a better opportunity to stick in Edmonton. I can say that from what I've heard it sounds like he's done enough to not be farmed out, especially being on a one-way deal for the league min.

But if they have to clear a roster spot (and they will if they decide to keep Schremp, unless someone gets injured in the last 3 pre-season games) he seems like the likely guy given that they can ship him to Europe, but also because he might still have a bit of trade value. On a team like WSH one would have to think he'd easily make the lineup as a regular, he's still somewhat young, and makes the league minimum. Perfect for a rebuilding team, or maybe even a team tight against the cap who wants a cheap 13th forward that they think has some upside.

My vote is that he stays, and starts the year on the 4th line LW with Stoll and Laraque. I don't think that's in the cards, both because it sounds like they have been playing him mostly at RW to start the year, and also because I think the EDM coaching staff likes Winchester and Harvey a bit more. But supposedly he'll be on a line with Smyth and Horcoff tonight, so no time like the present to impress the coaching staff.

Speaking of, were I coach, I think I wouldn't mind seeing lines something like:

Smyth Peca Dvorak
Moreau Horcoff Pisani
Torres Reasoner Hemsky
Rita Stoll Laraque

Pronger Semenov
Smith Staios
Ulanov Bergeron

to start the season.

With a PP unit something like:

Smyth Horcoff Hemsky Bergeron Pronger

Monday, September 26, 2005

So, how does one pick players for a hockey pool this year?

So much has changed it feels impossible to get an accurate gauge on the players for the upcoming season. How has the missed season affected previous star players, now 2 years older? What about the 21 year olds now 23? Or 19 year olds now 21? How have teams themselves changed? How will that affect the production of players on teams that have undergone big shifts in player personel? Add to that the rule changes, which themselves will increase the value of some players, and decrease the value of others.

Tons of questions, no solid answers. Nonetheless, I'm compelled to enter some drafts for "fun" anyways, so I'll try and make the best guesses I can. Here are a couple names that I think might be worth watching, in any event:

Milan Michalek - My favorite player from the 2003 draft, has been plagued by injuries but reportedly has started well for the Sharks in pre-season. Who knows where to rank this guy, if he's worth a pick at all. I think I'll take a leap of faith though, if I can find him in the later rounds.

Jason Spezza - Is he ready to be a top 10 scorer? Would anyone be surprised?

Ziggy Palffy - Health is such a conern here, but IF he plays 70 games he looks like a good pick to me. A dynamo when healthy, he's now surrounded with great offensive talent, if a ton of PP's are awarded to PIT you have to like his odds of putting up some numbers, potentially on a PP with some of the likes of Lemieux, Crosby, Recchi, Gonchar, Tarnstrom, Leclair

HOMER ALERT - Ales Hemsky - I know, I know, risky homer pick, but by all accounts his game has improved since the last time int he NHL. With a more open game is there any way he doesn't greatly improve upon his previous totals?

Ilya Kovalchuk - if you knew he was playing he's a legitiimate candidate for the Art Ross, but how serious is he about playing in Russia? How much should he be discounted because of that risk?

Anyone else got some sleepers they don't mind disclosing ?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Oilers season opening roster

At the start of training camp, I'd have guessed they'd simply go with everyone on a one way contract, which convieniently broke down to 14F, 7D, and 2G - making it more or less seem as though the team was set before training camp. Which more often that not, it is, aside from a spot or two.

With training camp winding down (even though there are still 3 games to go) I'm not sure things have much changed. To me, the safest guess still looks very much like a 23 man roster to open the season, consisting of:

Smyth Peca Hemsky
Moreau Horcoff Dvorak
Torres Reasoner Pisani
Harvey/Rita/Winchester Stoll Laraque

extras: two of Harvey, Rita, and Winchester



IR: Markkanen

I'm not sure if EDM would mind an injury to one ofRita/Harvey allowing them to get a longer look at Schremp, but it wouldn't surprise me that they'd seen enough of Schremp to either send him back, or keep him. If they decide to keep him, it's hard to know who they'd move to do so. There's no one left who could be sent down without having to pay them their NHL salary, so a trade would probably be the best option were one available. In that case it depends on who's worth what to other teams, and who is more expendable, etc. My guess would be Rita as the odd man out, especially if no trade can be worked out and it's true that EDM could send him back to Europe while retaining his future rights.

I'm also hopeful that we'll see Pouliot become a permanent member of the Oilers by the end of the season, but this would depend both upon his performance with the Bulldogs and also how the 3rd and 4th line Oilers adjust to the new NHL rules, assuming they are called as they are being called now, going forward. Additionally, if they decide to keep Schremp, it's hard to imigine room being available for Pouliot as well, unless there are a bunch of injuries (knock on wood).

On defence, Syvret has had a solid first training camp, but would benefit from AHL time - if they can find a spot for him. I'd have to think they will find one for him now, given his performance in training camp. The Oilers certainly won't want to stunt his development if they can avoid doing so.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Semenov's Spot Up For Grabs???

Really? Anyone actually believe this? Every year you can count on a coach at training camp to say something like "Everyone will earn their spot onto this team." The truth is contract status matters.

7 D on one way contracts - 7 spots. But you need guys like Syvret and Greene to play their hardest, thinking they have a shot at making the team so that you can see them trying their hardest. Maybe their best is good enough to force the tem to trade one of the 7 D on one way deals? That's unlikely, but at least this way you get a better look at Syvret, Greene, etc against some NHL calibre players.

I'll be extraordinarily surprised if the Oilers don't start the year with the following 7 D on the roster (barring injury):


Now, of all the players, why has MacT chosen Semenov? Probably just because he thinks Semenov would get the most out looking over his shoulder a bit, a way of sending a message that you could be dealt/the 7th D if you don't change certain things about your game.

Pronger, Smith, Staios, Bereron are all on longer term deals, that leaves Ulanov, Cross and Semenov. MacT probably just doesn't think that kind of motivation would help Cross or Ulanov, but that it might with Semenov. That would be my guess, anyways.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Schremp? Really?

By all accounts Rob Schremp has had an impressive beginning to training camp. The question on the mind of Oilers management has to be:

Is Schremp enough of an upgrade to be worth keeping over any of the 14 forwards on one-way deals?


- seems like he can help the powerplay
- he may develop into a "better" player down the line if he plays in the NHL this season
- to make the team he'd have to be signed, it would be one draft re-entry worry avoided


- defense is his reported question mark (though he's supposedly not been near as bad in this regard as expected), EDM has reliable options already in the lineup and may not have time to develop him this year if they are competing for the Cup if he's not ready
- playing him this year would make him a UFA at age 26, while sending him back to junior would see him a RFA until 27

Additionally, it's worth asking whether he can help the PP more than, say, Pouliot would. Schremp had 23G,23A on the PP for London last year, on a team that scored 310 goals of which 97 were on the PP. By comparison Pouliot scored 22 PP goals (I can't find PP assists on the Q's stats site, or Pouliots PPA numbers anywhere. Schremp has 23 A on the PP, it seems reasonable to guess that Pouliot would have had more than 23 PP assists given that Schremp had 49 A on the year vs. Pouliots 69, but it would only be a guess) on a team that scored 333 goals of which 109 were on the PP.

It seems the Oilers value Schremp's PP skill set more so than they do Pouliot's, from the PP time they seem to be offering (again, from the hearsay I've read, haven't seen any PP IT stats) to Schremp, but I wouldn't mind seeing Pouliot be given the same opportunities in a pre season game or two to see how it goes.

I always like to look for complicated reasoning when the simplest is probably more likely - in this case the simplest being that MacT really does think Schremp can add to the team and honestly hopes he can force his way onto the team. One more interesting theory might be that the Oilers are concerned about Schremp re-entering, and want to get him signed before they send him back to junior. We haven't heard much on this front, but the Oilers would still need to sign him were he to make the team.

My opinion, from what I've read to this point, is that Pouliot is the better player now, and may not be any worse on the PP than Schremp would be. It seems to be commonly accepted that Schremp is the superior PP player, but I don't think it's clear from what I've read. Schremp as a better PP shooter, I could believe that, even better overall , sure, but is it truly a slam dunk that Schremp would be a significantly better PP performer than Stoll? Horcoff? Peca? Pouliot? Reasoner? He has to be to stick.

And should I be convinced that the Oilers coaching staff can perfectly identify the best PP players to begin with? The fact that they had an awful PP last season doesn't necessarily mean they don't know how to pick the right guys, but I can't say it excludes that possibility either.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Ryan Smyth's contract

2 year deal, 3.5 mil per.

This deal amounts to something along the lines of Edmonton paying Smyth 2.9 this year, his last year as an RFA, and paying him 4.1 mil to buy his first year of unrestricted free agency. That's probably about fair. But, were I Smyth, I wouldn't have gone that route. I'd have either gone for a one year deal (and made sure I had it by filing for arbitration) or signed for 4 years. I think his best time to leverage a UFA deal will likely be next summer, not the 2007 summer when the UFA age has dropped to 28 and who knows who else is available.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The trade out East

To ATL: Hossa + De Vries

To OTT: Heatley


From OTT's perspective they shed 3.5 mil in cap room, both this year and next which should help them to retain Chara and Redden, or maybe only one of those two plus Spezza and Havlat.going forward.

Their defensive depth now looks something like:


They would still like to add another depth D, I'm sure. They'll have the money to do so as well, definitely on a one year deal and perhaps longer if someone suits their eye at a reasonable price.

For ATL, they move a player who requested, and probably needed, a trade for a great player in Hossa and a depth defenceman they can use. I'm not sure I'd like this trade for ATL if they just made it out of the blue, but on the other hand I think they did pretty well to trade a guy who didn't want to be in ATL for this much value. Devries will add stability on the blueline, which will be nice in front of the likely Hurme/Lehtonen tandem, if the rumors are true that Nurminen injured his knee and will have to retire.

It will be interesting to see how ATL handles the Kovalchuk contract, will they go longer term like Nash, or 3 year term like OTT with Heatley, taking him to UFA age in 3 years time? In any case the Heatley contract sets a reasonable expectation for Kovalchuk, who might want more, and perhaps get it, but probably not by much.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Horcoff settles before Arbitration

reportedly at 1 million USD.

It's better than I thought it would be, from the team's standpoint. I still think Horcoff would have received more going to arbitration, but not much more.

I can look at Stefan's contract and perhaps argue that Horcoff is better than him, and should get more. I can look at the Sedin contract's and say Horcoff isn't as good and deserves less, I could also probably reasonably say he isn't as good as Cole, so he deserves less than him. But I think it was close enough for both sides that they decided on a nice round number, and it's not worth the hassle to negotiate any more.

Were I Horcoff, I'd have gone thru with arbitration though unless I got a bit more, and taken my chances.With regards to next year's qualifying offer, it's interesting (to me anyways) to note that had Horcoff been paid one cent more his qualifier would have been 100% next summer, and now with his salary at 1 mil his qualifier will be 1.05 mil next summer.

In any case, this leaves Ryan Smyth as the only unsigned player left, and from the sounds of things he'll be signed to a one year deal at something slightly higher than his QO if a longer term deal cannot be worked out before the season starts. I'd like to see Smyth signed for 3 or 4 years, the cheaper the better from a team standpoint but I can't reasonably see him signing for less than, say, 3.25 mil per on a 4 year deal

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Horcoff Arbitration Comparables

I don't think Horcoff actually plans on going to arbitration; I believe he and his agent think the threat of arbitration will help them get a slightly more generous deal than if they didn't opt for arbitration.

From an Oilers perspective, I don't want horcoff to go to arbitration because I want him signed longer term. He'll go UFA in 2 years, and were I the GM I'd like him locked up for 4 years. I would be doing so imagining his offensive production to take a bit of a jump this year, but I would also figure that even if it doesn't Horcoff is valuable with MacTavish as a coach.


The first one that jumps out to me is Mike Fisher, who just signed a 3 year 4.5 mil deal. He is on the high side of what I think Horcoff could get, partially because OTT got him locked up for 3 years, one of which would have been his first eligible UFA season. Fisher is an interesting case to look at should the Oilers go the longer term contract route.

Other comparables, probably more applicable to a one or two year arbitration award:

Mark Bell - also from the 1998 draft class, Bell has within the last couple of days signed for one year, at 1.06 mil.

Henrik Sedin - from the 1999 draft class, he is 2 years younger than Horcoff, but also has slightly better career numbers. It will be interesting to see how Horcoff's age is accounted for by the arbitrator (if it gets that far), but he's been in the NHL for 4 seasons as has Sedin. Sedin just signed for 1.25 mil.

Patrik Stefan - he has an extra year played on Horcoff, but is two years younger as well. His counting nubers are very similar to Horcoff's, and Stefan is scheduled to make 1.064 mil this season.

Justin Williams - 1.225 mil per year, he has consistently outpointed Horcoff, and has played the same 4 NHL seasons as Horcoff. 2 years younger as well.

Kyle Calder - 1.331 mil. He has definitely scored more points over the last 3 NHL seasons than has Horcoff, I'm not sure they are great comparables other than their numbers were somewhat similar last year. Ordinarily arbitration seems to value the counting numbers somewhat higher than perhaps they should, so I would think this Calder contract would set a cap to what Horcoff could receive in arbitration.

In looking at all of these players it will be interesting to see how the arbitrator factors in Horcoff ony having the one 40 point season. I would think that would help the Oilers, had he done it twice in a row he'd be worth more I think.

On a one year arbitration award I would expect Horcoff to get something like 1.1 mil, Bell is a pretty close comparable it looks like, and his contract is signed in the new CBA era, that might weigh more heavily in the arbitraotr's mind. But I think EDM will probaly try to get him to a deal similar to Fisher's, perhaps cheaper. Horcoff may well be willing to take that path; he could be leaving some money on the table, but it woud also be a rich enough contract to set himself up for life - that is pretty nice security to me, who knows he it factors to him but you never know when that career ending injury might occur.

So, I'd expect something like the following:

One year deal - 1.1 mil
two year deal - 1.1 mil, 1.3 mil

3 year deal - 1.2 - 1.4 - 1.5
4 year deal - 1.2 - 1.5 - 1.5 - 1.5

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Peca as well? My my...

I must say, I'm pretty surprised by this deal, but it's tough to see how it doesn't help the Oilers for next year. With the additions of Pronger and Peca the Oilers are fast becoming a difficult team to play against. I would imagine they'll be better at ES, and on the PK. For that matter, how can the PP be worse with Pronger replacing Brewer?

One might argue that the offense isn't improved, and it may not be. Did it need to be? They were 9th in the NHL for goals scored in 03/4. York to Peca may be a slight offensive downgrade, maybe not. Brewer to Pronger should clearly be an improvement offensively. But it would seem unlikely that the combination of Peca, Pronger, and Conklin/Markkanen all year will see the goals against rise (relative to last year, who knows where the rules will take league-wide GF)

Who knows how good the Oilers will be next year, maybe I'm a pie-eyed optimist but I think they're looking pretty good for a playoff spot, and with some "luck" is home ice out of the question? Maybe not.

I can't deny wondering if the team would have been better off having signed Holik and Gonchar instead, but it's hard to know just how good those guys will be in 2 years when you're still on the hook for their contracts. Pronger as well, for that matter, though as long as his wrist hold up he seems like more of a sure bet - or am I just hoping for that to be the case?

If we assume that the Oilers currently line-up something like:

Smyth Horcoff Hemsky
Torres Peca Dvorak
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Harvey Stoll Laraque

Pronger Semenov
Smith Staios
Cross Bergeron

I wonder, how does that compare to:

Smyth Horcoff Hemsky
York Holik Dvorak
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Torres Stoll Laraque

Gonchar Smith
Staios Brewer
Semenov Bergeron

The second team is about 3-4 mil more expensive; is it that much better so as to be worth it? If that blew the budget then I guess it was always impossible. Also, I'm assuming both Holik and Gonchar would sign for the same amounts they signed for, respectively, in ATL and BOS, which may not be the case.

I suppose the first lineup - the current lineup - still would have 3 or 4 mil in spending room to get on par with the 2nd lineup, theoretically. If so, maybe that is the better way to go, depending what 3 mil buys on the UFA market.

Speaking of, how much money will Lowe have left after signing his RFA's? Doesn't look like much, but it sure would be nice to see Lowe take a run at Clarke while he's a bit vulnerable to an RFA offer sheet, on a player like Johnsson or Gagne, if that extra 3-4 mil is available.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Pronger an Oiler!!!

I decided to hold off commenting on this trade until the terms of the contract had come in, which are now reported as 6.25 per for 5 years.

Hmmm, how to feel about this deal?

On the one hand, they got Chris Pronger.

On the other, one imagines that they might have been able to sign Niedermayer for around the same kind of money, and used Brewer, Lynch , and Woywitka to help out in other areas.

For the moment, I'm glad they have Pronger, because he's clearly one of the best 5 defnesemen in the NHL, a "true #1" D, whatever that is.

He'll take over Brewer's minutes, perform better offensively on the PP, and be more competant as a shut down guy. He will improve the Oilers, unless he gets injured.

Will he help them more than if they had signed Niedermayer and traded Brewer etc for other help? I guess it's irrelevant at this point.

As for the pieces traded away, it's no secret that I am not the biggest fan of Brewer. But he's clearly not a garbage defenceman either. He was unsigned, and historically Lowe has been willing to overpay him. He was probalby going to get something like 2.1 mil this upcoming year, and would be unrestricted next summer. So losing him isn't nice, but it's unlikely they had him for a long time anyways. Even if they had been able to sign him longer term, I can't think of much reason to think he'd have signed for less than 3.5 mil, in EDM or elsewhere, come next summer when he's a UFA.

I have never been a big fan of Woywitka, but everyone always said he'd turn out so I was hoping. Lynch on the other hand I like more to become a regular top 4 guy. I don't know that EDM will regret trading him, but I could see him playing on STL's 2nd pair for a long while. Obviously the Oilers felt comfortable moving the three D; they must like some of the other D in the system (Gilbert, Tesliuk, Greene, Chorney, Syvret, Roy).

I think Pronger's acquisition signifies an attempt to win now, which is fine by me as I think now is as good a time as any as well. Overall, I like the deal, probably mostly because it's interesting to have an elite player playing for the Oilers, but I'm not convinced I'll like it so much in 2-3 years.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Oilers move Isbister

Isbister has been traded to Boston for a 4th round pick.

The return seems low to me, but I'm sure Lowe shopped around and this was the best he could do.

I think they can use his 1.1 mil better on the UFA market to fill some holes, so I like the move. It's unlikely he would have been playing on the top 2 lines in Edmonton, and at that money I don't think he's enough of an upgrade to be worth keeping on the 3rd/4th lines, not when his roster spot can be filled for a half a million bucks less.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Oilers Draft Review

Definitely a different draft for the Oilers than we’ve seen the past couple of years; one suspects there was some sort of shift in organizational philosophy with regards to the draft, but we’ll need to see future results to be sure. It could be a coincidence that EDM drafted mostly college bound players, at the same time that the new CBA allows the rights to collegiate players to be held for far longer than either CHL or European players. One can only hope that the Oilers weren’t passing up a chance to draft "better" players just so they could draft NCAA players. It’s worth noting however that "better" means better in the minds of the EDM scouting staff, and not better in any objective sense. Edmonton went with college bound players for their 1st 2 picks, but these were the picks with which Edmonton should be drafting purely based on BPA with less factoring of issues such as duration of player rights. Of course, if you have 2 guys roughly equal it still probably makes sense to take the college player, but in the earlier picks of the draft you are less likely to have players equal to each other than you are later in the draft.

In creating my top 50 list it’s clear that I had undersold players about to enter college, and I must confess to ignorance as the reason. I had thought, for some reason, that Europeans rights were to be held for 4 years post-draft, not the 2 years that I am now hearing. Obviously that can’t help but hurt the value of Europeans, relative to the old CBA when their rights could be held indefinitely, and even to the 4 years I had thought they could be held when creating my top 50 list.

I’m not going to comment too much on the style and player comparisions for the Oilers draftess, but here are a couple thoughts anyways:

#25 – Andrew Colgiano – this is a player I do like, and can’t complain about Edmonton selecting. I had wondered if teams might be willing to draft smaller players in anticipation of the rule changes, this could answer that the Oilers certainly are willing to especially when one looks at the last 2 years of Oilers draft picks in comparison to the size of the guys drafted this year. It appears as though the Oilers went for skill this year, a bunch of boom/bust players that will get time to develop in college, Cogliano being the first.

My pick: Having said that, were I in charge I wouldn’t have taken Cogliano, though he was close to the top of my list. I’d have taken Guillaume Latendresse, but thought seriously about Bertram. I think I would have gone with Latendresse in believing there to be a better chance Bertram would still be around at 36. Again though, no real complaint in Cogliano.

#36 – Taylor Chorney – at first I didn’t much like this pick, I thought there were better guys on board. And maybe there were. But I do like him much more now that I’ve read more about him.

My pick: I guess it wouldn’t have mattered which one I’d have taken at 25, since I’d have taken the other here at 36, in this case Dan Bertram (note – I know the entire path of the draft changes if EDM doesn’t take Cogliano at 25 etc, but this is just as a rough guide for comparison)

#81 – Danny Syvret – an overager who will likely step into the AHL, complicating matters for a player like Mathieu Roy who seemingly stepped up last year but may see his minutes taken by Syvret. If Syvret produces, and is big enough for the NHL game, then no complaints. Obviously he had an exceptional season with London, I’m unsure what his ultimate upside will be as a pro, but clearly Edmonton thinks he can adapt.

My pick: I would have selected Jakub Vojta. Istomin was the highest on my list, but I would have decided the odds of Istomin, Mikus, or Trunkho sliding until my next pick at 86 were good enough that I should take Vojta at 81.

#86 – Robby Dee – haven’t heard barely anything about this player, but I like his pick for a couple reasons. First, he’s a draft and follow type, who EDM will have the rights to for a little bit longer than an equivalent CHL or European prospect. Second, he has great stats. I know, I know, "you can’t judge a prospect by his scoring numbers", but I still say it’s better to have numbers in your corner than not, and I like the idea of going boom/bust once you get to this point in the draft.

My pick: Denis Istomin.

#97 – Chris Vande Velde – see comments on Dee.

My pick: I’d have selected Slava Trukhno. Mikus was one spot higher on the list I had posted earlier, but I had re-adjusted my rankings again since I posted my first set of "top 50" rankings, with Trukhno moving ahead, slightly, of Mikus. Though Mikus was still the next available player on my list, so it was pretty close in my mind.

#120 – Slava Trukhno – I think of this player as somewhat of an oddball in Edmonton’s day. He’s pretty much the only player one might say Edmont took after having a big slide, he’s 18 and from the CHL so his rights will only be held for 2 years, he’s Russian, I don’t think the Oilers like any of those things about him. I think they thought his skill and talent was simply too good to pass on, even though he doesn’t fit what they were trying to do.

My pick: Juraj Mikus

#157 – Fredrik Pettersson – I hadn’t heard much about him before the draft, but liked the little I had heard. I like the pick.

My pick: Risto Korhonen sure tumbled down the rankings, I like the sounds of him though and would have taken a shot.

#220 – Matthew Glasser – I know nothing about this guy, his numbers aren’t very impressive for a player his size coming from the AJHL, but it sounds like he’s a project, and he’ll have time to either develop or not at low cost. Another draft and follow, for a7th rounder that’s probalby just good sense.

My pick: I liked Mathieu Roy, he put up good numbers on a bad team in the Q, I’d have preferred him.

I actually like the idea behind the strategy of the Oilers, provided it doesn’t mean they are passing on clearly better players just to get college guys – if indeed a strategic shift has occurred, it could theoretically be a coincidence. It looks they they tried to stay away from Europe on the surface, but it’s hard to know for sure given that it was a weak year for Europeans. With the possibiity of losing Europeans after 2 years perhaps shying away from Europeans makes sense. On the other hand, one team who has a reputation of draft success, the Senators, selected 5 of their 8 players from Europe, obviously a sign that they aren’t too concerned about getting those players signed going forward.

Final comparison:

EDM’s picks:
Vande Velde

My picks:


I like my list better, no surprise of course as it’s my list. Though I must say when I look at the final shape I’m somewhat concerned to see so many Europeans that I could lose in 2 years.
Overall I think Edmonton had a pretty solid draft, though I’d have made a bunch of different picks I don’t much mind the direction Edmonton ended up going. It’s too early to judge, but at the moment I give the EDM draft a B.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Potential RFA targets for the Oilers

Here are some players that it might make sense for EDM to go after with RFA offer sheets, assuming the compensation reported by Tom Benjamin is indeed accurate (which I have no reason to doubt). Deciding which players to go after will likely depend upon which teams have cap room, which don't, which are against their self imposed budgets, and how much better the player you would sign to an offer sheet is than whatever UFA you can sign in his place.

All of the following are players that I believe Edmonton could use, but it's not going to be easy to get any of them unless they play on a team that will be pressed up against the cap and forced to make a difficult decision on which players to trade if they match, or whether they should simply let the player go. Additionally, any team that is close to their self imposed budget and not willing to spend above could be at risk to an offer sheet. One team in particular worth considering will be Ottawa with Spezza, Hossa, Havlat and potentially Vermette as notable RFA's. It wouldn't be surprising to see some team be able to pluck one of these players away from the Senators.

Jason Spezza - He is on the upswing, he's likely to be better than anything EDM can get on the UFA market unless for some reason they can sign Demitra or Forsberg. In either case, having Spezza as well wouldn't hurt either, if there's budget room. OTT appears to be close to the cap, that should help EDM in trying to sign Spezza away. Perhaps something like a 4 year deal averaging 4.99 mil - cost in compensation 2-1sts, 1-2nd, and 1-3rd.

In particular I think teams might look to target players in the 1.99-2.99 mil range, because teams close to the cap may not be able to match with these guys and the compensation isn't enough to stop a team from poaching these players with offer sheets. Any successful player who has finished his entry level contract would seem to make sense for GM's to contemplate signing, in particular those who play for teams close to the cap. One example might be a guy like Havlat, but it's hard to know how far OTT would be willing to go to keep him? At 1.99 mil, for sure they match. 2.99 mil? Yeah, if they have cap room? 3.99? I don't know if they have that kind of cap room.

Another example could be Mark Bell, who would seem to suit the Oilers well. Unfortunately, I don't think CHI would let him go, but it couldn't hurt to throw an offer sheet at him for 1.99 mil, compensation cost is merely a 2nd rounder. It would probably take more like 2.99 mil, with comp of a 1st + a 3rd to even get CHI to consider not matching. Is he worth it, even at that price? Would CHI still match?

Ideally one would like to "attack" tems within the division, because you play them so often and are competing directly with them for the division crown. For the Oilers that means looking to sign players from CAL, COL, VAN or MIN in particular.

Minnesota will be a particularly invulnerable team as they have tons of cap room and enough revenue to match any offer EDM might make. Nonetheless, maybe it wouldn't hurt to force them to match an offer to PM Bouchard, instead of allowing them to spend the money they'd save from a cheaper Bouchard on UFA's that EDM might be competing for with the Wild. It is worth noting that MIN, or any team, might "retaliate" and try to sign the Oilers players, and perhaps that's a reason not to try to sign RFA's. On the other hand, you can respect the previous convention of not signing offer sheets and STILL have someone else attack yours, so maybe it's prudent to just make whatever decisions make sense for you and worry about the retribution when it comes, and not before?

CAL might be easier to steal from as they reportedly won't stray very far from their budget, whatever it is. Perhaps Langkow is a decent target? Kobasew? Iginla?

VAN could be near the cap. What about guys like D.Sedin, H.Sedin?

COL will be near the cap. The Oilers want to add a puckmover. JM Liles to a 1.99 mil offer sheet? Would COL match that? Would they have the necessary cap room? What about Tanguay - can you make offer he would accept? Hejduk might be too close to UFA age to convince him to sign an offer sheet, but Tanguay might be a chance to hurt the Avalanche while improving the Oilers.

Some other possibilities, league wide:

Datsyuk and Zetterburg in Detroit - have they opened enough cap room to be able to match your offer sheets?

Luongo, VanRyn, and Weiss in FLA - they would seem to be longshots, as one might expect FLA to match. Maybe not with Weiss, depending on cost and projection?

Legwand, Hartnell, and Hamhuis in NSH- Edmonton could definitely use Legwand, what kind of offer might he take for NSH to let him go?

Mara in PHX - puckmoving defenceman, how much cap room does PHX have available? Would a 1.9 mil offer sheet do the trick with Mara? What about 2.9 mil? Is he even worth that, financially?

Tons of intriguing possibilities, all of which also make a guy ask "Which Oilers could be signed away?"


And what about Hemsky? Edmonton probably had planned on getting him signed for 1.0 mil, or thereabouts. Under these RFA rules, it wouldn't be that hard to believe Hemsky's agent can find a team willing to bid 1.99 mil in an attempt to win Hemsky's services, at a compensation cost of a 2nd rounder. Even though EDM would match it would still take 1 mil out of their UFA spending money. Would they match at 2.99 mil, or take the 1st and 3rd, thinking that 2.99 mil can be better spent on UFA's? How about at 3.99 mil, or take the 1st and 2nd and 3rd?

I had predicted Edmonton could sign their remaining RFA's for ~12 mil before the news of these RFA compensation levels, leaving them something like 8 mil to spend on UFA's (assuming a 33 mil budget). Maybe it will cost them more like 16 mil if teams start to throw a couple RFA offer sheets at EDM RFA's, cutting EDM's UFA budget in half.

I can't wait for August 1st to arrive, just to see how this new CBA initially pans out...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Top 50 draft prospects

It's hard to know what impact the changes in draft rules and UFA age will have on the way teams operate at the draft, but here's my draft list nonetheless. I reserve the right to revise this list, and probably will, just in case I feel like changing my mind but also because of any potential draft re-entries.

Top 50

Sidney Crosby
Jack Johnson
Benoit Pouliot
Bobby Ryan
Gilbert Brule
Anze Kopitar
Ryan O’Marra
Alex Bourret
Marek Zagrapan
Martin Hanzal

Jack Skille
Marc Staal
Guillaume Latendresse
Nicklas Bergfors
Carey Price
Dan Bertram
Ryan Stoa
Devin Setoguchi
Kenndal McArdle
Tuukka Rask

Radek Smolenak
Ryan Parent
Chris Durand
Andrew Cogliano
Luc Bourdon
Dennis Istomin
Jakub Kindl
Jakub Vojta
Juraj Mikus
Slava Trukhno

Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Lee
Michael Blunden
Matt Lashoff
Risto Korhonen
Ondrej Pavelec
Justin Abdelkader
Paul Stastny
Mathieu Roy
Patrick Davis

Mikko Lehtonen
Daniel Ryder
Mathieu Aubin
Vyacheslav Buravchikov
Blair Jones
Matt Niskanen
TJ Hensick
Petr Kalus
Ilja Zubov
Mason Raymond


Matt Pelech
Evan Brophey
James Neal
Sasha Pokulok
Dustin Kohn
Chris Lawrence
Scott Jackson
Vitaly Anikeenko
Adam McQuaid
Vladimir Karpov
Joe Barnes

Thursday, July 21, 2005

On the off chance the Oilers win the lottery...

I wonder how it might affect their decisions regarding which UFA's to sign?

IF they win the lottery, I suppose they might line up their forwards something like:

Smyth Horcoff Dvorak
York Crosby Hemsky
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Isbister Stoll Laraque

- Torres, Harvey, and maybe Rita could be candidates for the pressbox, though instead I'd imagine Lowe to trade someone and make room for Torres

In that case I think it would be hard to argue that whatever UFA money they spend will likely go towards defence, getting the puckmover they seem to desire. Who knows exactly what they mean by "puckmover", maybe it's not the same as "offensive defenceman"? I'm not particularly sure they need to come up with an offensive defenceman, but since MacT ices 2 D on the PP more than most it only makes sense for Lowe to acquire a D, of whatever type, that can perform on the powerplay. For example, not Brewer.

There have been rumors about Niedermayer. In order to sign him I think it will cost more than he's worth, and they'll probably have to sign him for a longer term than is advisable, given how many teams will likely be trying to sign him. For the 7+ mil you'd have to spend on Niedermayer I think the Oilers would be better off trying to sign 2 defenceman (I'm specifically thinking of Hamrlik and Rathje, but I'm sure there are other guys who would fit as well) coupled with trading Brewer - a player I feel is overrated, not to mention close to UFA (isn't everyone now, maybe it's unimportant that he's only got 2 RFA years left with the Oilers) and not really a guy that seems like he'd like to stick around (my uninformed gut feeling, and nothing more. I could well be mistaken) - for another C. I'm not sure what kind of C the Oilers could get for Brewer, would Handzus be setting the bar too high? Low? No matter, I'll use him as an example for the purposes of this hypothetical lineup:

Smyth Handzus Dvorak
Horcoff Crosby York
Moreau Reasoner Pisani
Isbister Stoll Hemsky

Torres, Harvey, Laraque

Hamrlik Smith
Rathje Staios
Bergeron Semenov

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lowered UFA age as it relates to the draft

Even before the old CBA had expired I had some questions about how teams approached the entry draft. I had wondered if having amateur scouts was truly any more productive that taking an average of whatever publicly ranking sources one could find available, Central Scouting, Redline, and ISS. And whether the investment in amateur scouting could be better spent elsewhere within an orgainzation.

Those questions become more pointed with the drop in UFA age from 31 to 27. Any investment in a draft pick will now result in, at most, 7 years of service before UFA , as opposed to the potential for 13 under the old CBA. As a practical matter few draft picks cracked the NHL before 22 under the old CBA, meaning that most successful draft picks had their rights held by the team who drafted them for 9-11 years before UFA; under the new CBA that would change to 5-7 years. It's hard to see how this could increase the value of any given draft pick, pre-draft. I suppose one could argue that when you are successful in drafting a player, given the draconian entry level cap, the player is worth more now than under the old CBA. I don't know how one would go about testing such a scenario, I can't imagine how it could be true, but I haven't tested it or seen anyone do such an examiniation (how could anyone at this point?).

But what about when you draft a player in the 2nd round, he joins the NHL at age 21, plays on your 3rd/4th line until UFA age? Under the old CBA this player still had good value to you, because you couldn't find a replacement on the UFA market for anything close to the rookie's salary. Will this be true in the new CBA? It's still unknown how teams will structure their payroll. Personally, I imagine the top players to still continue to get their money, and the 7-14th forwards squeezed, along with the 4th-7th D, will be squeezed. What if his replacement, as a UFA, costs 800-900K? Does that change your approach to the draft ? Is the home run swing now more viable in the first 3 rounds of the draft than before, given how much easier it would be (under those assumptions) to replace 3rd/4th line players?

And in the scenario where a team evaluates a player pre-draft and is "convinced" this guy will, in 3 or 4 years, be a solid 3rd line guy who can maybe play 2nd line, what round is he worth a pick? That player used to easily be worth a 2nd round pick, in the new CBA he will cost you at least 450K no matter where you select him, probably something like 600K in the 2nd round. If a capable 3rd line equivalent only costs 800K-900K mil as a UFA, where do you take him?

What about F vs. D vs. G? Most would agree that, on average, a forward will enter the NHL earlier than a defenceman or goalie, and will play to his peak potential earlier. If you have a forward and defenceman ranked evenly in the first round, how can you take the defenceman higher if you project him to be a year or two behind an equivalent forward in both reaching the NHL and playing up to his potential? When deciding between 9 years of a D and 10-11 of a forward under the old CBA one might have been more willing to look past "projected years played before UFA", but if the trade-off is between 4 years of a D and 5-6 of a forward one might imagine you will be leaning towards taking the forward more so than before.

RFA offer sheets

One aspect of the new CBA that we haven't heard anything from the media about has been RFA compensation if there is an offer sheet? Will offer sheets be a part of the new CBA, and if so are there any changes to RFA compensation? Will those changes, combined with the rest of the changes to the CBA, either increase the number of offer sheets we will see going forward?

If teams value their 1st round draft picks less than before perhaps we will see an rash of RFA offer sheets, assuming compensation rates remain the same as under the previous CBA? Might there be a team that evaluates the worth of first round draft picks and decides that, unless they project their team to the bottom 5 within the next year or two, there is no reason to use their1st round picks selecting players in the draft again? That they would receive better value finding teams pressed to the cap, or unable/unwilling to spend, with high quality RFA talent and using their first rounders to acquire them instead of selecting players in the draft. Alternatively, perhaps RFA offer sheets will still be infrequent/non-existent given the drop in UFA age? Not only would you be giving up 5 1st rounders to sign, say, Spezza, away from OTT, but you'd also have to pay him enough so that OTT wouldn't match (I've picked them as an example given that they look to be pressed against the cap). Meaning that Spezza costs you 5 first rounders in addition to his salary which could be spent on UFA's. Given what Spezza would cost, perhaps teams would decide that yes he is incrementally better than the UFA they can get for the same 5 or so mil, but not so much so that he's worth 5 - 1st round picks in addition to his salary.

Under the old CBA some said the reason teams didn't offer more offer sheets was that it wasn't worth 5 1sts in addition to what you'd have to pay the player (when you could sign someone else for the same money from the UFA market). Others said it was because teams would always match your offer, meaning that 5 1sts wasn't enough. These don't seem to mesh very well, but I suppose when teams hold different goals they will act differently, and not unreasonably, even if both were faced having to match identical offer sheets.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Budgeting with Escrow

Let's pretend the Oilers plan on spending 33 mil over the year. Let's also imagine they have some opinion about how much league revenues will be, and how much teams will spend on players. Perhaps they project Revenues of 1.7 B, as the league does, meaning that teams will collective spend 918 mil, after escrow adjustment.

Suppose the Oilers actually believe team spending around the NHL will total 968 mil (before the escrow adjustment dropping salaries to 918mil) . That means that 50 mil will be returned, collectively, to the owners. The Oilers portion would likely be their payroll divided by the total league payroll, multiplid by the total amount overspent. (33mil/968mil)*50 mil, or 1.7 mil.

Under those circumstances, if the Oilers could forecast them, the Oilers could budget and spend about 34.7 mil on salaries during the year, and receive enough back at the end of the year through escrow redistribution to bring their true budget in line at 33 mil.

That all leads to a question, which is:

In the case of the upcoming season specifically, can the Oilers, actually go ahead and spend 35 mil or so and REASONABLY assume they'll get a 2 mil check at the end of the year so that they'll have spent their budgeted 33 mil? That would require as mentioned above an escrow check returning about 5% of their payroll at the end of the year.

I can already hear the objection that this would be too "risky". "Why should we risk projecting, let's just play it conservative, spend what we spend and if we get money back at the end of the year, great. "

The problem with this approach is you are implicitly making a projection, by not projecting. You would be speculating that, league wide, teams will spend exactly 54% of revenue on player salaries. To relate it to the forecast above, not factoring escrow into your budget calculations would be exactly the same as saying " I believe revenues will be 1.7 B, and teams will spend 918 mil. This means that my 33 mil actually spent on players will be corrected via escrow to 33 mil. Another way of saying no escrow alteration is required, and the players get all their money back".

Furthermore, how conservative would it be to spend your budget without concern for how others are spending in a linked world? What happens if all teams combined pay 53% of league revenue to the players? Wouldn't that would mean (with the caveat that I don't know the exact details of the linkage at this point) that the owners still owe the players money, forcing Edmonton over their 33 mil budget?

I am not saying that projecting both league revenues and league wide salaries would be easy. But just because it's hard to predict doesn't mean one shoud bury his head in the sand and ignore the problem. For revenues the team might well be best off by simply using the league's revenue forecast. Player salaries shouldn't be as hard for a GM to forecast. It might be hard to forecast particularly accurately in July, before UFA season, but come January it should be fairly clear what teams will spend, collectively, on players. This will allow an astute GM to factor escrow into his budget, and affect his decisions with regards to adding/removing salary from his payroll as the season progresses, and as his team's place in the standings and chances of winning the Cup become more apparent.

I stand corrected

Edmonton Sun article

"We'll have every opportunity to compete for the $7.8-million player," Nichols said, talking about the maximum salary under the cap.

Proves me wrong. Brownlee states that the Oilers wil have a 33-35 mil budget, but I notice that isn't a direct quote from Nichols. One might assume that's where Brownlee got the budget information, but perhaps not.

In any case, I still don't like the artificiality of the 20% cap on an individual salary; I don't really like the idea of a salary cap either.

But if the Oilers are wiling to go far enough to spend the cap on a player then the 20% rule will not harm them. In fact it could well help them. Suppose there is a player who would, in the case of equal offers, choose Edmonton. If he were able to be offered 10 mil by some other team while EDM wouldn't go past 7.8 mil, Edmonton might be out of luck. In that case, the artificial cap would probably deliver said player to the Oilers.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

20% cap on individual player salary? Why?

How can this sort of restriction help the Oilers, or any lower payroll team, that can't (won't) spend up to the 20% cap maximum on a single player?

Toronto Star Article

According to the above link, Joe Thornton will be unrestricted next summer, I'll use him as an example to illustrate.

If EDM can't afford to sign Thornton next summer for 8.3 mil (I will assume that to be the 20% cap figure) it would be better for the Oilers if there were no limit on what an individual player can be paid. If the team who successfully lands Thornton was willing to go to 10 mil, but is capped at 8.3 mil, that will open 1.7 mil in payroll/cap room to spend on other players they would not have available without that artificial restriction of 20%.

They will offer that "extra" money to players the Oilers can afford, and need, like Pisani, Dvorak, Markkanen, etc, perhaps poaching these players when the Oilers would otherwise be able to sign them.


With a new CBA seemingly (hopefully? begrudgingly?) to be signed by Friday, now appears to be a great time to start my blog, given that it will primarily relate to the Edmonton Oilers and the National Hockey League. But when other topics arise in my mind I'm not sure I'll be afraid to post them as well.