Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Consistency and Fairness

I was a bit disappointed today to see Jeff Petry assigned to the AHL. Just my opinion, but I thought he's played well enough to deserve regular time in the top 6D for the Oilers, at this point.

That said, I also have no problem understanding the argument that playing 25 min per game in the minors, with significant PP and PK time, does more to develop his long term potential than does 12-14 minutes per game at the NHL level, with little special teams time. I don't know if that is the case, but if it is, it seems like a sensible approach to developing your players.

The problem comes if and when you handle different players differently, because I'm sure players want to feel the organization is being fair, and not playing favorites. If you are looking more towards development than you are to wins, is there just as good an argument for demoting Lander and Paajarvi as there is for Petry? Could both of those players see their long term development assisted by first line PP and PK minutes at the AHL level?

I have a similar position when it comes to the "RNH back to junior" debate. I was of the opinion last year that Hall should probably have been sent back to junior at the 9 game mark, and maybe I was right, maybe I was wrong, who knows? But to me the team has to be consistent, in that if you gave Hall a chance to make the team, provided he can contribute, it's only fair to do the same with Nugent Hopkins. That isn't to say that if the team goals change, the decision can't change; I wouldn't have found it indefensible to have sent Hall back to junior last year, even if he was one of the 12 best forwards, provided you thought development was paramount*, and then keep RNH the following season if the overriding goal that year was to make the playoffs and you were of the opinion that keeping RNH helped you do that.

Obviously there are a lot of different variables in play here, and that makes comparing Petry's situation to that of Lander/Omark/Paajarvi somewhat difficult, but if you were Jeff Petry, might you wonder just why you were sent down and those guys weren't? If the argument is that Petry simply was the 8th best D, well, that's a different story, but I'm not sure that's the argument here.

* And assuming you thought development would have been better served by another season in the OHL.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Managing Martindale

While it's true that Edmonton's selections from the 2010 draft class are looking promising at the moment, that promise loses its meaning if you are unable to get the players under contract. So far the Oilers have signed Hall, Pitlick, Marincin, and Hamilton, the first four picks from the 2010 Oilers draft class - no small feat. However, there are still a few players the Oilers will probably look to keep within the organization, and most of them need to be signed by June 1, 2012 for the Oilers to retain them. Of those players, and for a few reasons, Ryan Martindale is probably the one most important to sign at this moment. The Oilers might really like to have Bunz and Blain under contract, but since neither is AHL eligible nor is either going to play in the NHL to start the season, there is no pressing need to sign the player.

Based on his age, Martindale is AHL eligible, and based on his performance (both last season and thus far at camp) I think one could make a case he's worth serious consideration at the AHL level this season, as opposed to a fifth season in the OHL. The carrot the Oilers can dangle to Martindale, to convince him to sign, is to have him play in the AHL in 2011/12, making 60-70K, instead of nearly nothing in junior, along with burning a year from his entry level contract. If he’s assigned to junior, unsigned, those carrots are gone, and the Oilers lose some leverage because they can offer no immediately tangible reason for Martindale as it affects his play for the 11/12 season. The fact that they didn’t sign him in the fall would have demonstrated to him that he’s a ways down the depth chart, so why would he sign with EDM when he could go back into the draft, potentially go higher, and hopefully go to a team with less forward prospect depth that he’d have to battle for future NHL employment?

It's true that the Oilers could sign Martindale even after they assign him to the OHL, but I think the Oilers would be taking a pretty serious risk by allowing him to return, unsigned, to junior.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Entry Level Contracts and the "Arbitrary" Slide Rule

One of the more unusual items from Edmonton's 2010 draft class was the number of players eligible to play in the AHL for the 2011/12 season. Ordinarily a team might have 3 or 4 of their 9 players eligible for the AHL the second year after the draft. As it happens, the Oilers have 8 (Hall, Pitlick, Hamilton, Marincin, Martindale, Davidson, Pelss, and Jones) of their 11 2010 draft picks eligible to play in the AHL this coming season. We can be pretty certain that each ofPelss and Jones will be heading back to their teams from last season, and even more certain that Hall will be dressing for the Oilers this coming season.

Early indications would seem to be that Pitlick, Hamilton, and Marincin are, at least tentatively, slated for the AHL next season, based on the fact that they have been signed to their Entry Level Contracts. However, due to the following paragraph, Article 9.1.(d).(i) of the CBA, the "slide rule" appears to only apply to Marincin:

Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Top 31: 1 - 9

I don't think I actually look at this tier as 9 more or less equal talents, but it does look murky in the middle. I'd be surprised to see Zibanejad, Hamilton, or Murphy go top 3, or Nugent Hopkins, Landeskog, or Larsson go 7-9, but other than that, I don't know where to break this group into tiers.

9 Zibanejad: Sure sounds like he'll go higher than this, I would like to see a bit more offence but if he had it he'd probably jump way up the list, as close as it seems these top 9 are grouped.

8 Murphy: The ultimate high risk/high reward. Craig Button says he sees a Zubov like player. That would work.

7 Hamilton: Very complete sounding player, with more than enough offensive to potentially play on a top pair at some point down the road.

6 Landeskog: I have him sliding just a little bit because I think his offence might be a little shy of the other forwards.

5 Strome: Not much to say here, I don't really understand why he's not generally ranked a little bit higher, but it's so tight I guess it's not that surprising. Very good numbers, young player for the draft, I think he's a bit underrated.

4 Larsson: I sure wish he'd brought more offence this year. I know he's in a men's league,and apparently moved up the depth chart, but it's still a little bit disconcerting.

3 Huberdeau: He had a fantastic season. I'm not sure how much The Memorial Cup plays into a team's evaluation, but it can't have hurt his ranking in this draft.

2 Couturier: I decided there were just too many scouting reports in favour of RNH to ignore. I don't mind abandoning consensus a little bit when it comes to defencemen like Gudbranson since I think those types of D are generally overrated by NHL teams. But, NHL teams are generally pretty good at assessing forwards. Given that, it's fair to ask why I still have Couturier as high as I do. I think his offensive upside is under-appreciated, and if it's really close between the 4 forwards after RNH, he has the best track record.

1 Nugent Hopkins: Interested to see what he looks like in EDM, I will be more surprised if the Oilers pass on Nugent Hopkins than I would have been last year if the Oilers selected Seguin. Fantastic hockey sense.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

2011 Top 31: 10 - 24

I have this tier a little bit bigger than most pundits, who generally say the draft drops off around 20. I must say, I'm more comfortable with that assessment having read Dave Shoalts's article, in which Brian Burke suggests he sees it much the same way.

24 Morrow

23 Rattie: Which Rattie is the real one, the guy who seemingly struggled after the arrival of Johansen and Niederreiter, or the guy scoring at a torrid pace before they returned? If Rattie's stats took a dip because the returning players started to receive the PP ice-time that Rattie had been using, he might be undervalued even at this spot.

22 Phillips

21 Beaulieu: I have him a bit lower than most, but within this tier I'm not sure it means all this much. His hockey sense has been questioned, and for me that's a big factor.

20 Siemens*: The perfect argument for a 19 year old draft. How much of his success is due to playing on a powerhouse team with one of the best D in the WHL? I'm not sure, and that's why he's a little lower down the list.

19 Klefbom*

18 Brodin*: Love hockey sense in players, if I rated D as highly as many seem to he'd be higher in my rankings.

17 Puempel

16 Grimaldi: Talk about a tough guy to rank. By the time you get to this point in the draft, you start to have to decide between high risk/high reward vs. lower risk/smaller reward. Grimaldi sounds like he'd be on the higher risk side of the ledger.

15 Scheifele

14 McNeill: Not too much separates McNeill from Scheifele in my rankings. I rate Scheifele just below because I think teams tend to overvalue the U-18's.

13 Oleksiak: This represents a bit of a gamble, but his offensive production in the NCAA is better than one would normally imagine for a 6'7" D.

12 Khokhlachev*: My guess is Khokhlachev won't go this high, and there are sensible reasons to have him lower than this. I'm not sure how relevant the "Russian" factor is, so I'll give it less weight than I'm sure the teams do. He did come over to play in the CHL, so that would seem to suggest he's willing to give the NHL a better chance than some, but one does wonder what his options might look like in two years if he hasn't yet cracked the NHL.

11 Armia

10 Bartschi

2011 Top 31: 25 - 31

One of the problems with doing these lists annually is that I know I'm doing so missing some pieces of information that could cause players to move a fair bit. Player X isn't coach-able, Y will do whatever it takes to make it, Z has some personal problem. I think, for the most part, this stuff doesn't make a big difference as to where each player is ranked, but in the cases where it makes a sizable difference, I'm out of the loop and that's going to hurt the quality of the list. I hope that by nicking the types of players I think NHL organizations generally overvalue, I can post a list that at least makes for interesting conversation, but I do so knowing it's not without its drawbacks.

This year, I'm not going to bother with too many comments on the player's game and style. There are a number of lists detailing that information and I'm sure they do a better job than I would. Instead, I'll write some comments regarding particular players of interest and/or players where my ranking is a little different than the general consensus.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The "Late Birthday" Advantage

I have been meaning to post something about the late birthday advantage for awhile, but I had kind of forgotten about that idea until I read this interesting article over at Oilersnation. Cam Charron's piece looks at the July 1st - Sept 15th players from a slightly different perspective than mine, but it's well worth the read for anyone who's interested in the minutia of draft decision making.

The advantage I'm speaking of doesn't refer to the "more upside" angle*, it refers to an edge which is a result of the current CBA. Currently, teams hold the rights to a drafted player for 7 accrued seasons, or until age 27, whichever comes first. The interesting part, as it relates to the draft, is that "Age" is calculated based on a player's age as of June 30th. What this means for 2011 draftees (any year, really) is that two players who reach the NHL 3 years after their draft could be treated differently with respect to UFA age, depending on their birthday. If Connor Murphy (DOB: March 26, 1993) plays 2 years of college hockey followed by one year in the AHL before joining the NHL at the start of the 2014/15 season, he will be eligible for UFA status July 1, 2020. However, should Duncan Siemens (DOB: September 7, 1993) play 2 years of in the WHL followed by one year in the AHL before joining the NHL at the start of the 2014/15 season, he will be eligible for UFA status July 1, 2021.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Need for Defensive Depth

Many fans seem to be of the opinion that the Oilers should, or will, draft a defenseman with their 2nd first round pick should they select Nugent Hopkins. I don't share that sentiment, but I thought I would explore the idea that the Oilers "need" to add to their defensive depth chart in this year's draft.

Before the 2010 draft, the defensive depth chart looked something like:

  1. Peckham
  2. Plante
  3. Petry
  4. Motin
  5. Chorney
  6. Hesketh
  7. Bigos

Thursday, June 09, 2011

How Much Rebuilding is Too Much?

In the old CBA, I was a big proponent of the Oilers rebuilding. I believed the Oilers were stuck in a cycle of finishing 7th-10th in the West and weren't likely to have future success without dropping to the bottom for a couple of seasons. Even with that background, I have not been the most vocal fan of the Edmonton rebuild over the past year and a half. I don't doubt that rebuilding can work in this CBA, but I'm less sure it's worth* all the on-ice losing in a CBA that makes it very difficult for a team to keep its core together over the long term.

Daryl Katz was on "Oilers Lunch" a week or two ago and suggested it's a luxury to own a team in such a sophisticated hockey market. As mentioned, I'm generally not an advocate for rebuilding in this CBA, but if a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing "right". Especially if your market is as savvy as Daryl Katz believes, and will continue to support a 30th place team as long as there is the promise of a future contender.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Early 2011 Top 30

With as little as there is to choose between some players, don't be too surprised to see some significant movement between this and my final list. I wouldn't find it terribly surprising if more research between now and the time of the draft sees some players move up and down, especially the players I'm less familiar with.

I have not included any detailed comments here, I'll be saving those for posts leading up to my final list and to the draft itself. That said, if you are curious why I have some players ranked in the positions I do (at this time), ask away and I'll do my best to answer!

Top 30:
  1. Couturier
  2. Nugent-Hopkins
  3. Huberdeau
  4. Strome
  5. Larsson
  6. Landeskog
  7. Hamilton
  8. Ryan Murphy
  9. Bartschi
  10. Zibanejad
  11. Khokhlachev
  12. Grimaldi
  13. Phillips
  14. Armia
  15. Puempel
  16. Rattie
  17. Beaulieu
  18. Scheifele
  19. McNeil
  20. Morrow
  21. Oleksiak
  22. Miller
  23. Brodin
  24. Namestnikov
  25. Siemens
  26. Rask
  27. Prince
  28. St. Croix
  29. Klefbom
  30. Noesen

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Leverage, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the Edmonton Oil Kings

While it’s yet to be revealed who the Oilers will select with the 1st overall pick, the name most frequently hinted has been Ryan Nugent Hopkins. Many have suggested that Nugent Hopkins would benefit from another year in the WHL, both to add some size and continue to round out his game before plying his trade in the NHL. I wonder if the Oilers would agree that it's probably in their best interest, should they be planning on selecting and returning Hopkins to the WHL, to find a way to orchestrate a trade of Nugent Hopkins to the Oil Kings from the Rebels? But why would Red Deer entertain the idea of moving their best and most marketable player?

Due to the NHL/CHL agreement, a player Nugent Hopkins's age is not eligible to play in the AHL; he must either be returned to his junior team or stay in the NHL. The Oilers have shown they have no problem with keeping an 18 year old player on the NHL roster, so the idea that Nugent Hopkins won't be returned to junior has surely crossed the minds of Red Deer’s management. Given that information, and assuming the Oilers would ideally like to see Nugent Hopkins playing for the Oil Kings*, I wonder if the Oilers (and Oil Kings) might consider approaching Red Deer management and saying something like:

"We want to control the development of our prospect. We are likely to prefer developing him either at the NHL level, or if we send him back to the WHL, with the Oil Kings as opposed to with the Rebels. That is not us taking a shot at your developmental skills, we just want to do things our way if we can, have more control than we would if he were in Red Deer. So, your can either trade him to the Oil Kings, for something, or take your chances that we'll send him back to Red Deer with the understanding that you are likely to lose him to the NHL for nothing. Your call..."