(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)
6 – Extending John Tortorella
Okay, so let’s say you think John Tortorella is a good coach that will take your team to the next level. You’re objectively wrong about that, but let’s say you think so.
He’s entering the last year of his deal. And you extend him… one year?
That’s weird, right?
I think maybe, and there’s no way to be sure because this is the kind of thing no one would admit, this is basically a bridge contract. “We think you could be good but let’s see what you’ve got when the power play doesn’t shoot 25 percent for two months.”
I mean look, this team is gonna take a step back this season. That’s basically guaranteed. Anyone who thinks the kids collectively improve enough to manufacture enough points to cover a 16-game winning streak and a couple other white-hot runs may want to see a doctor about a potential head injury.
So if you’re anticipating a step back — and you should be — then you can also determine, ah hey, we don’t really like this coach after all. And then you cut bait in, say, January or something, and you only owe him whatever next year costs you, versus if you sign him to a three-year extension and you’re on the hook for all that money.
I think it’s smart. If you’re going to extend him. Which you shouldn’t.
5 – Facing reality
Just yesterday, John Tavares reaffirmed to TSN that he is committed to returning to the New York Islanders and staying there and blah blah blah. Great place to play, hope we can get something done. That whole thing.
I’m starting to worry this is going to be the big league-wide storyline for the huge bulk of the season, until Tavares either re-signs or gets traded. And god help us if the Islanders inexplicably choose to go the Steven Stamkos route and both not-re-sign and not-trade him. I can’t handle that and I’m not even close to being an Islanders fan. Bemused observer, maybe. I try to not-watch their games. Not a fun team.
Anyway, if you’re the Islanders and you’re not sure you can get him re-upped by, like, U.S. Thanksgiving, I think you gotta pull the trigger on a trade. It’s a trade you’re basically guaranteed to lose, since Tavares is like the seventh- or eighth-best center in the league and no one would even be able to give you fair value if they wanted to. But if it’s “Take the ‘L’ and make a trade that basically engenders a blow-it-up philosophy” or “Take the ‘L’ when he signs somewhere else on July 1 and get nothing back,” there’s no way to justify the decision.
The closer you get to the deadline — hell, if it’s even the Christmas roster freeze and the trade hasn’t happened — you’re not getting as much back. Period. History bears that out.
Obviously the team’s preference should be to not-trade him. I’m not saying they should just be done with it. They need a goalie, probably. Another middle-pairing defenseman. Some help up the middle. But those are addressable problems. Not having John Tavares is not an addressable problem unless you just say, “Looks like we’re tanking for the next five years.”
Frankly, if he wants a Kane-and-Toews-level contract, you have to give it to him. It should basically be a blank check, not because he’s necessarily worth $10.5 million, but because he’s worth $10.5 million to that team in particular.
It’s a tough situation. Tavares might just want to go, and he’s obviously not gonna say that to TSN on Aug. 1. But the Islanders need to be exploring all options right now, and the second they have a firm idea one way or the other, they gotta smash either the button marked “sign” or “trade” because goofing around in the in-between might work out for a good organization like Tampa, but the Islanders don’t even have a rink, let alone a clear path to being reasonably competitive.
4 – The national NHL audience
Proof the league does not care about you unless you’re a fan in one of two divisions came in the form of the latest national TV lineup, which is extremely bad even by the NHL’s criminally diminished standards.
Like how much must the NHL disdain its fans when, in its 99 games on NBC Sports, it will put the Detroit Red Wings — a team both horrible at hockey and awful to watch — in 12 of them? Another eight for the Sabres. Seventeen for a Chicago team that really might be pretty rotten. A whopping 16 for a Flyers team that honestly I don’t think their fans even want to watch that often.
Meanwhile, three Leafs games and three Oilers games. That’s it.
As always: Just invest in Center Ice so you don’t have to watch Milbury grouse his way through another tedious intermission shoutfest. Watch the games you want.
3 – No-trades
A big hullabaloo came up last week when someone pointed out how many mediocre, late-20s/early-30s Red Wings are on no-trade clauses right now. “Can you believe it?”
Can I believe that Ken Holland thinks The Culture is what made the Red Wings successful and believes his own hype and doesn’t know how to properly manage a roster? Yeah, I guess I can.
But because of all those no-trade clauses, I started to remember something. Wasn’t there some other mediocre team a few years ago that had like half the roster on no-trades and effectively ensured they’d be rotten for a lot longer than they otherwise would have been?
Ah yes, it was the Calgary Flames. In the handful of years before they finally wised up and traded Jarome Iginla two years too late. And it wasn’t just Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff who got these kinds of deals. Something like nine or 10 Flames ended up with some form of NMC or NTC in their contract. Curtis Glencross had a no-movement clause! I couldn’t tell you why. And we know how all that turned out.
For the record, Detroit currently has 10 players with some kind of no-trade clauses: Frans Nielsen, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm(???), Mike Green, Danny DeKeyser, Nik Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson(???), Trevor Daley, and Jimmy Howard.
So yeah: The Red Wings are the late-Darryl Sutter/early-Jay Feaster Calgary Flames. Good luck with that.
2 – Alternate histories
Speaking of, I gotta tell ya: I feel like a real dumbo.
Last week Greg sends me a text like, “Do you want to do an alternate history ‘What if’ kind of thing about the Flames?” I couldn’t think of a good one in the first 10 minutes that wasn’t totally obvious (“What if they never traded for Kiprusoff?” “What if the Gelinas goal counted?”) so I passed. Not that subterfuge is necessarily the point of the exercise, but I just didn’t think there was a lot there for that particular team on the surface.
And immediately thereafter, I thought of about 10 good what-if alternate-history scenarios for other teams, as well as the Flames, and now I have serious regrets about saying “No thanks.” I want to do one for every damn team in the league. I want this to be my summer project.
Instead, I blew it. And I came up with 31 — that’s right, I have a Vegas one — anyway. You can email me and I could tell you all of them. Don’t actually email me, of course. Not the point. But what I’m saying is I have them in the chamber.
What a dope!
1 – Brett Pesce
The Hurricanes locked up another very good young defenseman for a long time yesterday, nailing down Brett Pesce for six years at $4.025 million per, on a contract that starts after 2017-18. For those scoring at home, that means they have Pesce and Jaccob Slavin signed for a combined $9.325 million through 2024.
Add in Justin Faulk getting just $4.833 million through 2020, and whatever Noah Hanifin ends up signing for, that’s a really really solid top-four that maxes out at just 27 years old and probably costs you about $18 million. Come on!
Hopefully Scott Darling works out better than Cam Ward and Eddie Lack. If so, look out for the damn Hurricanes over the next two or three years.
(Not ranked this week: Not signing Jagr.
Okay I get it. It’s a speed thing. He’s slow, the Penguins are fast, and the Penguins just won the Cup twice in a row. So now that means Jagr isn’t a player or something.
What a silly argument. Not that I don’t see where it’s coming from, but the league didn’t become Fast Now in the playoffs. It was Fast all last season and the few before it too. Jagr, despite being slow and old, finished among the top 20-something players at his position in scoring, and that was with his key linemates missing decent chunks of last season. Aleksander Barkov missed 21 games. Jonathan Huberdeau missed 51. Jagr still finished with 46 points and huge possession numbers.
This is a crazy theory I’m working on, but it’s almost like….. he’s good no matter what speed he plays at. I dunno, folks!)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)
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