RFAs Qualified

According to the Gazette, the following RFAs were qualified:
"...David Aebischer, Christopher Higgins, Mike Komisarek, Mike Ribeiro, Alexander Perezhogin and Michael Ryder, as well as minor-leaguers Andrew Archer, Jean-Philippe Cote, Yann Danis, Jonathan Ferland and Duncan Milroy."
If all of the roster players accept their QOs, the cap hit will be ~$7M. Fat chance of that, though. Ryder in particular will be seeking a raise.

Not Qualified (unqualified?): Olivier Michaud, Peter Vandermeer, Raitis Ivanans, Pierre Dagenais.


Saving me the work of correcting the numerous errors on my own table as well as keeping it up-to-date, David Johnson at hockeyanalysis.com has put together this chart of the Canadiens' cap commitments. Sweet!


Some guy at Sportsnet named Louis Jean says:
"...you could make an argument Bouillon had as much an impact on the team as did the French netminder last season."
Yeah, you could make a lot of silly arguments. After all, this is the Internet. I agree that Cube is underappreciated league-wide and that Gainey should get him signed, but let's try to keep a bit of perspective.

To keep the internal pay scale intact, Bouillon should be signable for slightly more than $1M over two or three years.


Draft Copy

Montreal selected the following four defensemen and two centres:

Where available, I included the Central Scouting ranks (NA = North American skater, E = European skater rank), the International Scouting Services ranks (S = skater), and the Hockey News draft preview issue ranking. Positive spin: Habs nabbed three players in THN's top 30.

Valentenko was Central Scouting's 138th ranked skater in Europe?? That's not a sleeper. That's Rip Van Frickin' Winkle.

For more detailed info on these players, check out Pat Hickey's two columns, and this excellent recap at HockeysFuture.com.

There are some similarities to last summer's draft with Gainey choosing a consensus lower-rated player with the first round pick, then making a move to grab a higher rated players that slipped to a later round. I liked Gainey's tactical moves. He traded down and still got his man with Fischer in R1, then traded up to get Ryan White who slipped all the way to 66th. I'm not as pleased with Gainey's drafting at a strategic level.

Gainey selected goaltender Carey Price last year with the #5 overall pick. This year, he went with a defenseman. Everyone knows defensemen and goalies take longer to develop. By the time these guys are mature players, the UFA age will be down to 27 or less (assuming the free agency aspect of the current CBA remains in the next one). Why bother going through the growing pains of developing goalies and defensemen just to lose them in their prime? Why not draft reams of forwards who, generally speaking, develop into productive players at a younger age? Pay them as little as possible and let them go when they hit 27. Take the money you save on your forwards and buy older-than-27 defense and goaltending. Let someone else pay to train NHL-calibre defensemen and focus your player development entirely on your forwards. If the New NHL style of officiating is here to stay, forwards have increased value anyway.

It doesn't make sense to blindly draft "the best player available." GMs should be drafting the players who will provide the greatest return to the drafting team. Why bother drafting the Next Chris Pronger when you know he won't peak until he's over 30? Stick to trying to draft the Next Patrice Bergeron. Obviously, it's not wise to put all your eggs in one basket, and this approach doesn't take into account things like loyalty or home-town discounts for FAs. Still, I can't think of an obvious reason not to draft with this tendency at the very least.


A lingering effect of the lockout is was the absence of a transfer agreement with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation. The '04-'05 season strengthened the Superleague, giving them more bargaining clout for top-level players. This may cost the Habs the services of standout prospect Alexei (Y)Emelin as he may be under contract for two more years, Hickey says.


More handwringing about the Roster

1) The total salary seems awfully high for this group of players.

2) I don't have a whole lot of optimism for the near future. There are no real stars on the horizon. Price may be, but you (OK, I) just can't tell with goalies, and Montreal doesn't have a history of turning up diamonds in the rough like Svatos or Zetterberg.

If this team is going to contend soon, it will have to be with a committee effort, like the Sabres. The current collection of young forwards is a step in that direction.


Captain Kirk

As a player, Muller was one of those 'good guys.' You were glad to see him on your team. I recall reading that he was crushed in '95 when he was dealt to Long Island for Turgeon. It's good to see he hasn't carried a grudge.

Nevertheless, hiring Muller makes me nervous. Is he a good coach, or just a crony of Carbo? He was a fine player - a grinder with hands and a renowned leader. But he has never really seemed like the sharpest tack in the drawer. Watching him play, you didn't think "That guy is coaching material." Then again, you could say the same about Gretzky.

This hiring just smacks a bit too much of Mario Tremblay. A former player, not a lot of coaching experience... Then again, maybe it's just my anti-Queens bias, being a Western grad.


Bad Timing

Well, I spoke too soon. Gainey just signed Huet to a 2-year, $5.75M deal. I think the price is too high for a goalie who has performed well for half of one season, given the glut of netminders available this summer.

This should also spell the end for Aebischer's time in Montreal.


Coming soon: Draught Draft notes

Habs Contractual Outlook

Here's the requisite salary cap chart:

I based it on the numbers from the Habsworld.net chart, and filled in my estimates for newly signed contracts with unknown terms, and anticipated/expected RFA and UFA signings.

Signed guys

Dandenault - A lot was expected from the Habs major Quebecois signing last summer. Crazylegs has size, wheels and experience with a winner. I was afraid he would turn out to be a bust - one of those players who looks great when playing twelve minutes a night paired with a HOFer, but whose warts show when placed on a lesser team. Sure enough, he struggled through 60 games and was collecting an incredible number of New NHL minor penalties. Late in the season when a playoff spot appeared to be in doubt, Dandenault looked around the dressing room, saw no Lidstrom or Chelios to carry the club into the postseason, and decided he had better pick up his game. Dandy's play drastically improved down the stretch and in the playoffs, which should bode well for next year. His pay isn't completely out of whack given that of some comparables. $1.7M per for the next three years looks A-OK.

Markov - Unquestionably the #1 d-man. He's built for the new NHL with quick feet, a quick stick, and fine diving skills. The Habs struggled mightily when he was out of the lineup. Speaking of which, his back spasms raise questions about either his conditioning or his ability to play big minutes. That said, he's still one of the league's best-kept secrets. Let's hope his low profile continues through next season, because it would be sweet to get him signed long-term.

Rivet - Last Fall, he appeared to be overpaid due to his vestigial pre-New NHL contract and observers were worried about his ability to adapt to the New NHL. He did struggle with the stricter officiating, but also showed a knack for putting the puck on the net on the PP and put up 34 points - good for 41st among defensemen. What Jason Smith is to the Oilers, Craig Rivet is to the Habs: imperfect, but a popular guy and the leader on the blueline.

Souray - As some of the more analytical bloggers say, it is easier to go from bad to average than from average to good. The Montreal defense is, in my estimation, average or slightly better. Any new acquisition would likely replace Bouillon - one of the best bang-for-the-buck guys in the league. Is, say, Kubina at $3.5M going to make the team much better than Bouillon at $1M plus $2.5M to spend elsewhere? Obviously, to get this bunch up to 'Good' status, other changes will have to take place. Which brings us to Souray. It saddens me to say it, but to see a significant improvement on D, Souray would be a good candidate to move. He's a movable asset. An entertaining player, tough as nails, and his killer shot seemed to be the Habs' only offensive weapon in the playoffs. He also got beat 1-on-1 several times last season - something that should not happen to an NHL defenseman. He just doesn't seem to have the feet to stay with a skilled forward, especially when backpedaling. Surely, his tools will intrigue Doug MacLean or whoever is GM of the Islanders these days. Given the rest of the Habs defense, Souray might be the best option to parlay into another asset.

Streit - Signed for two years this spring. He looked much better in international competition than he did in the NHL. Maybe his first year in the league was just a warm-up. At worst, he'll be a #7 with PP potential.

Begin - This Greg Graffin lookalike recently signed for three years at just over $1M per. Steep, as expected for a deal that reaches beyond a player's UFA trigger year. Begin is probably worth it. He said all the right things too ("It's never been about the money... The important thing is that I'm going to be here for at least three more seasons. I love this team. I love this city. I love the fans.").

Bonk - One more year at $2.4M. Then Gainey can make room for someone who actually wants to play centre ice for the Habs. I would suggest he might be a candidate to move because he's not a terrible player, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to squeeze this contract into their plans without sending a similar problem the other way.

Downey - Signed, it seems, for $475k (I thought the minimum wage was going to be bumped up to $500k this year). I would prefer a better skater in this role, but Gainey seems to have a toughness fetish.

Koivu - Three more years at $4.75M. Koivu's production slowed considerably over the final quarter of last season - disconcerting, given the softer opposition Montreal faced over that stretch. He's pretty high mileage for a 31-year-old with fewer than 600 games played. So his contract gives me some jitters. So does the eye situation. At least we're not talking about some $6M or $7M+ guy.

Kovalev - Three more years at $4.5M. Given Kovy's habit of completely losing interest with a couple of other franchises, this deal scares me more than Koivu's. Comparables universally earned less than Kovalev last year. This contract will look even worse if the parade to the penalty box ceases next year, as Kovy is becoming a bit of a PP specialist.

Murray - Garth signed for two years, probably at a modest raise from his $502k salary last season. Gainey loves his grinders...

Plekanec - One of the bright spots for next year. The Habs best hope for team improvement is to see their young forwards continue to improve individually. None of them appear to have that standout star potential, but they could be on their way to a balanced attack like that of the Sabres or Hurricanes. Plekanec's skating and solid, smart play at centre should provide quality icetime at a good price ($690k next year).

Ribeiro - Frustration, thy name is Ribeiro. So. We have a new NHL that rewards skill. Offense is the word of the day. Smaller forwards can no longer be grappled into submission by ogreish defensemen. This should be perfect for Ribsy, right? Wrong. He had a far worse season than '03-04. The bugger just can't skate. For a team that competes by skating, Ribeiro is a square peg in a round hole. The team already has enough slow PP specialists in Kovalev and Ryder. It's time to move Plex into the #2 centre role and find a new home for Ribs.

Zednik - Everyone points out the marginal clutch&grab defensemen as the biggest losers in the New NHL. There are also forwards who were less successful. Iginla, St. Louis and Zednik suffered surprising drops in production. In Zednik's case, he has been a good even-strength scorer. The stand-still attack of the PP doesn't suit him - he's at his best when skating full speed with the puck, draped in defenders. An early groin injury also hampered his skating game. I'd like to see Zed have another kick at the can next year. Obviously, he has to score more than 16 goals to earn his $2M.


Komisarek - He didn't take the anticipated leap forward last year. Not being an undersized pacifist, he isn't built to play defense in the New NHL. These big rangy defensemen often take time to develop (see Pronger, Chris), so we might still see a solid NHLer emerge. He will be qualified, and his salary should be under $1M.

Higgins - The title of 'Habs top rookie of '05-'06' was a horse race with many lead changes. After game #82, consensus was that Higgins was the winner. Ryder inked a $1M contract after his Calder-nominee effort in '03-'04, so I highly doubt Higgins would ask for more. His agent, on the other hand...

Perezhogin - The third member of the Canadiens' trio of greenhorn forwards, and the one with the most potential to produce a dazzling individual effort on any given shift. Unfortunately, his individualistic game is at odds with what the Habs were trying to achieve and his minutes suffered. There are clubs in the NHL that encourage freedom of on-ice expression, and give players the freedom to play a wide-open game. The Montreal Canadiens are not one of them, and haven't been for twenty years. It makes you wonder why they draft guys like Perezhogin. Obviously, the kid is going to have to change his game. If he's not ripping up defenders by the time he's 22, he's never going to in the NHL. Should be another sub-$1M signing.

Ryder - He signed for $1M after his superb rookie year, and led the team with 30 goals last year to prove it wasn't a fluke. I would expect his upper limit for this season would be Mark Parrish-type money ($1.9M). The fact that Ryder is by far the Habs' top finisher underscores the teams' biggest weakness. Gainey has to get this guy signed.

Aebischer - I haven't seen anything from him to suggest he's worth $1.9M, but the rules say RFAs have to be qualified at their previous year's salary. Qualify him, and he better be happy just to get that.


Bouillon - As stated earlier, one of the best bang-for-the-buck players around. Now Cube will be trying to cash in that bang for a few more bucks. If you look at the team's internal salary structure, he should be worth over a million. He's not exactly a high profile UFA, so there shouldn't be a heated bidding war. $1.25M would be fair, but I can see him going for up to $1.5M if other GMs badly need to fill a hole.

Huet - The big UFA. If he asks for or is offered more than $2M, I say let him walk. The Habs don't need to spend $4M on a pair of starting goalies. There are a few options out there, so the bidding shouldn't get too outrageous.


Overall, the complexion of the team will not change much. That may not be good, if you prescribe to the adage that if you're not getting better, you're getting worse. The improvement next year must come from the youth. There are some attractive big-name FAs out there (Chara, Redden, Kubina, Matt Cullen, Arnott, Elias), but I think a) GMs will overpay for them and b) most high-profile acquisitions would only stunt the growth of the Habs' youth and will not offer a huge improvement. Wait 'til next year before throwing money at a gamebreaker, Bob.

The kids should step into more prominent roles, but the team will need a couple of forwards to replace Sunny and Bulis. There are some interesting depth players available. During round 2 of the playoffs, Carbo said he was going to give Gainey a 'want list' of players. He didn't name names (I think that would have been tampering) but did say that some were "still competing in the playoffs." Hmmm. Think Georges Laraque is a popular player now? Imagine if he were playing for his hometown Canadiens.


Sober Second Thoughts

- The Habs are Rabbits' feet: That's two seasons in a row that Montreal has lost in the playoffs to the eventual Cup winners.

- Covered in Oil: Even in defeat, these chaps and their commenters are always good for a belly laugh.

- An obviously tipsy Kid Rock was interviewed on CBC after the game last night:

KR: "I love the South. I love Carolina. 'Nuff said."
CBC: "Early on, when Cam Ward replaced Martin Gerber in the nets, were you nervous? What did you think?"
KR: (long pause) "More beer!"
CBC: (laughs) "Did that fix it?"
KR: "That fixes everything!"

- Family cat cares not for Brindy: Right at the stroke of midnight when the Cup was presented, the critter coughed up a monster hairball. I wish I had taken a picture...

- Karmanos: "We're gonna win several more!"

Um, yeah. That's a bold statement. He might be right, but the safe bet is this will be the last one for a while. The toll of 107-108 meaningful games (>110 for their Olympians) will carry over into next season. That goes for the Oilers, too. I don't think I would be going out on a limb if I were to predict that at least one of these two teams will not make the playoffs next year.

- Justin Williams scoring the clinching ENG: That could make a Habs fan, one secretly hoping Williams would get his just deserts, quite bitter. Yeah, yeah, it was accidental. 'Accidental' does not equal 'immediately forgivable' or 'tolerable.' 'Accidental' does not relieve responsibility.

- Unrelated to the Cup, but worth mentioning: Jose Theodore has stolen Darcy Tucker's moniker of "Sideshow Bob." I wish you Happy Headlines in Denver, Theo.


I took notes, and here they are:

- Pre-game show on CBC: The Edmonton building was filled half an hour before the game. The rink in Raleigh appeared less than one-quarter full at the same time.

- Cherry is wearing a tame suit. For some reason, this suggests to me a 'Canes win.


- 1st shift: Oilers look tense, unprepared.

- 1st goal is scored. Very predictably, the Oilers' deer-in-the-headlights game plan backfires. 'Canes are up 1-0.

- Oil have had a clear edge in officiating. Looks like Watson/McCreary are letting 'em play.

- Hits graphic displayed on CBC: 15-2 for CAR. Ummm... How the heck does this thing work? Home-crowd Decibels?? CAR might be matching EDM on physical play, but 7.5-to-1? Absurd.

- Bob Cole: "These two referees are showing us a great game tonight!" So true. Is this is what we have come to? Must the play-by-play guy recognize an adeptly officiated game??

- Cole describes Peca as 'Ol reliable. There is no greater compliment to a Selke winner than to be likened to a geyser.

- 4.1 seconds left in 1st, we have one of those "what's the call?" scenarios, as Staios appears to cover up a puck in the crease after a delayed call on Moreau. Will this be one of those "this game had everything" games?

First Intermission
- Cherry reiterates his rant on short-cuffed gloves: "Look at this shot-block kids! Make sure you get gloves with proper cuffs!" My reply: Look in a f***ing store, Grapes! The only gloves you can find have those puny little 1" cuffs! You can't get gloves like the old ones anymore!


- So far, I'm wrong (again). It looks like a great game!

- Early on in the 2nd during a CAR PP, Pisani walks around point-man Staal for a semi-breakaway. I warned you about forwards on the point, Lavi. I warned you. This time the Pisani magic encounters a counter-hex, as the save is made by Ward. Who I will now call CamWa. Nowadays, everyone needs a simple two-syllable name based on the first part of their first and last names. K-Lo has assembled an excellent Oiler team and C-Mac coaches with skillz.

- B-Co has just now accumulated enough experience to eliminate all his rookie mistakes. This has been a finely called game.

- Erik Cole's (E-Co) outside move works great vs. Spacek (Jar-Spa??), and produces a PP.

- PPG 'Canes. Score is 2-0. Game is over, methinks.

- I have never seen a failed drop pass cheered so much as Samsonov's.

- Holy crap. I jinxed the game (see prevous post). We are going to have a 5-on-3, because of a puck over the glass.

- Whew... although I'm pulling for Oil, a goal there that would have been catastrophic.

Second Intermission
MacLean and Hrudey chat with 'Canes broadcaster Tripp Tracy.
Tripp Tracy. I'm sorry, I just can't bite my tongue any longer: That is a NASCAR name if I have ever heard one.

Among Tracy's comments:

"You saw the sequel to Silence of the lambs? Where the guy did the lobotomy on that guy? If you were doing a lobotomy on Staal, you would find a brain that thinks the game so well."
Now that's what a public broadcaster is all about.


- Thunderstorms are threatening my electricity. This is so reminiscent of the '96 World Cup, which I watched in Halifax in the midst of Hurricane Hortense...

- B. Cole: "It's a goal for Edmonton..."

Fernando, from Torres. Whoa.

- Just like injury time during a World Cup football match, you never know when power will disappear, ending the festivities. There is a downour outside, and lightning filling the sky.

- After a bottle of this stuff, I'm surprised I still have the manual dexterity to type, much less hook up the USB cable for this pic...

It is my toast to the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes. If you can't make out the label, that is a bottle of La Terrible. It is a beautiful Belgian-style strong dark ale. The flavour is fruity with hints of licorice and figs. The colour is a deep, dark brown, just like northern Albertan crude, and the name on the label surely fits the feelings of Edmonton's fans.

Congrats, 2006 Hurricanes!


Conflict of Interest

- Beckett Hockey Magazine, the authority on the dollar value of hockey cards, has a clear interest in having the 'Canes win G7. Bill McCreary, one of the two refs of tonight's contest, has his own hockey card.


- Hot unrelated tip: stock up on Bill McCreary hockey cards. I have a gut feeling their value is going to go through the roof in Beckett Hockey magazine.

- Feeling confident, Oil fans? After all, that was quite a whipping in G6 Saturday night. It might have been the biggest whipping the 'Canes have suffered since... oh, perhaps since the Habs handed them a 6-1 loss in their first game of these playoffs. History will show that Carolina did not lie down afterward.

I'm sure that, prior to tonight's opening faceoff, we will all be innundated with the home teams' gaudy record in G7s. If I had two bits, I'd plunk 'em down for the squad in red.

- The news wasn't all bad for Caniacs in G6, as Cole (Erik) finally stepped out of the press box and made a strong return. The news wasn't all good for Oiler fans watching the CBC broadcast of G6, as Cole (Bob) did not step out of the press box. Both Coles should be doing their respective jobs to the best of their severely disparate abilities tonight in G7.

- I hope we see a beauty, but fear we will experience a relative dud of a game. A la G7 in '04. Whether it's due to nerves, fatigue, or the sheer terror of screwing up and becoming the goat, I expect to see the game slow down tonight. But please, please, PLEASE do not end with a 5-on-3 PPG with the second guy off for the puck-over-the-glass penalty! Please!


Oilers Break Wind in G5

That's justice after a travesty of a call on Steve Staios. The 'Canes affinity for forwards on the point on the PP finally caught up to them, as Pisani picked Staal's pocket for the OT winner.

Random (and brief) notes:

- Oil fans can rationalize all they want to justify calling the 'Canes PP 'average.' Edmonton is still getting creamed on the special teams play. Yes, the Edmonton PP has resembled nothing more than a bag full of dead kittens, but to describe the CAR PP as average is inaccurate and insulting. They're up to 24 for 76 at home. The Oilers can thank their lucky stars that the 'Canes have uncharacteristically taken just as many penalties as their opponents in the final series.

- Commentators refer to some events as 'veteran plays.' You know the occasion: when Dwayne Roloson would leisurely adjust his equipment before an important defensive zone faceoff, giving his team some additional rest. On these occasions, Greg Millen will interject, "That's a Veteran Play by Roloson, Bob!" (Even if it's Jim Hughson boing the play-by-play.) IMO, these situations are more likely due to veteran leeway doled out by the refs. Chatting up Kerry Fraser during TV timeouts over a 12-year career must be worth something. The old guys can get away with crap that the rookies can't. This is the situation for poor Matt Greene and other rookies. He gets called when the refs feel they have to make a call but can't find anything else worthwhile. Time for an even-up call? Can't find anything legit? Chuck the rookie in the box for 2 or less.

- Why is it that defensemen never have 'hustle?' Forwards often do (usually unskilled or average-skilled ones). Blueliners? Never.

- I was thinking prior to G5 that there have been fewer catastrophic broken sticks lately, which made me wonder just what Pierre McGuire would be yelping about on NBC. Since that's, you know, "his thing." A couple by Pronger tonight brought us back up to speed.

- Cosh (Oilogosphere ringer) put up a
brilliant post with a focus on Ryan Smyth.

- Mark Your Calendars: Bucci says Thrash in '08:

"Atlanta Thrashers
This team will win the 2008 Stanley Cup."

Yeah, right.

- More Bucci, this time on Pearl Jam (Vedder and the Thrash being the Hot Topic during the SCFs, I guess):
"...I haven't heard enough of them talk. They obviously have had a bit of an aversion to fame and being in public eye... that will effect CD sales and the casual fan from becoming a dedicated one..."


"I think if they had to do it over again, they would have approached things differently. If they did, more people could have heard their thoughts and they could have made a bigger impact in terms of communicating their ideals. I think it might be too late now in terms of taking the band to a level they should probably be at. They kind of remind me of the NHL in some respects."

Man... you just don't get it.



Random Comments after game 3:

- A spectator had one of those "CBC" signs that read: "Crappy Bob Cole."

- Early on, the Oilers have once again brought their physical game. When Edmonton did this in game 1 the 'Canes responded nicely, but I don't think that was wise on their part. They may be able to match the Oilers physically, but doing so takes them away from their game. They didn't take over until the serious physical play disappeared in the 3rd. All season long this Carolina team has done well, like good Southern Baptists, by turning the other cheek then ringing up the score.

- Edmonton's 5-on-3 in the 1st: Throughout the playoffs, the Oilers were one team that, early on, grasped the fact that an elevated proportion of playoff goals are scored on shots from the point and the subsequent chaos (rebounds, screens, deflections). Why have they abandoned this tactic now? The 'Canes appear to understand it well, and they kill penalties accordingly.

- If Doug Weight and Mark Recchi are the 'weak links' of the Carolina offense, you have a damned good group of forwards.

- I wrote a note saying that the 'Canes PK is incredibly aggressive. As an example, I noted that there were three Hurricane penalty killers below the goal line. Seconds later, Harry Neale said the very same thing (only he inaccurately called it the "icing" line).

- Mark Messier was occupying one of the expensive boxes tonight. I briefly wondered why Mess isn't blogging like
Ronnie Francis is. Then I logically concluded that Mess could never make a PG-13 rating in written composition.

- Carolina continues to have more "legs" than their opponent in the 3rd period. One might attribute this to their team composition. This is the advantage of having 1A, 1B, and 1C lines. The only other team I can think of that was composed similarly: the Sabres.

- Where was Mess going in such a hurry with only two minutes left in the game? Was section 14 out of Salt & Vinegar Lays?

- The NBC broadcast is hockey impaired. Fortunately for NBC, John Davidson will be taking his hockey-impaired POV with him to St. Louis this Fall.

- More of an overall playoff comment: Laviolette gets a feather in his cap for this - The 'Canes get a lot of chances off pinches. They are very tough along the boards. Clearing attempts have to get past 1) the deep forechecker, 2) the forward at the "half boards" (I use the Bowen term, for want of a better descriptor) and 3) the d-man at the point, who pinches way, WAY more often than you would expect given the 'Canes' blueline corps. One has to wonder how they get away with it. After several moments of contemplation, I concluded that it is due to the puck-over-glass rule. Clearing attempts are less frequently over the heads of the men at the point. Therefore, they are easier to intercept, which improves the cost/benefit of pinching. I have no supporting evidence whatsoever - the statement it is strictly anecdotal.

- The game ends, appropriately, to the sounds of Blur's "Whew! Whew!" as the Oilers' faithful wipe sweat from their furrowed brows.


Other stuff:

- #$*!ing Oiloggers. You have to appreciate them in the same way you ‘appreciate’ Ken Linesman. Yeah, there is some sh*t disturbing, but that's some of the best sh*t disturbing I've ever seen. You can't help but chortle.

- Ammo for said Oiloggers: The rafters of the rink in Raleigh are full of... basketball jerseys???

- Ya know, an Oiler win would promote the greater good. Post game 2, Aaron Ward says on CBC: "I'm Canadian. If I was in Canada, I'd be going for Edmonton too."

- "In the four game winning streak vs. the Habs, Ward got help from the posts and crossbar 5 times, Huet only once."

Those were four one-goal games, and two ended in OT. I didn't need to hear that. Sigh.

- CBC has been playing Oilers' Cup-winning games after hours. It's fun to compare the differences between then and now. The biggest difference? The goalie skills. And lax security. Tonight, in the 3rd period of game 5 in 1988... is that a f'ing BEACH BALL lying on the ice for a minute or two in the 3rd???


Oilers Chocolaty Shell Cracked
Creamy Centre Exposed

A message for M.-A. Bergeron: Think twice about what you do with your last Rolo.

Twenty-four hours ago, if you were to imagine the worst possible outcome of Game 1 from the Edmonton Oilers' perspective, what would it be? How about this series of events:

- Oilers amass a considerable lead
- Oilers surrender entire lead
- Oilers lose Dwayne Roloson to series-ending knee injury
- Oilers backup goalie commits a confidence-shattering error to lose the game

Save bus accidents and game-throwing scandals, it just doesn't get any worse than that.

On the other side, the Hurricanes did what they do. Throughout the playoffs the Hurricanes have had a knack for 1) dramatic comebacks, and 2) taking advantage of injured opponents. Should they go on to win the Cup (and that is looking like a gimme right now), I really can't think of another recent champion who was this fortunate with injuries to opponents. It's uncanny.


Added blogs: A couple of warmongers and Steve's cousin, Alberto Yzerman.


The Perfect Storm

Conditions have combined as well as we could possibly have hoped. The road to the Stanley Cup final has led us into a perfect storm of blog sniping. Over the next two weeks or less we shall be treated to a sustained fireworks display of a magnitude never before seen as the two powerhouse blogging tribes - the Oilers and Hurricanes - rain vitriol and vituperation upon each other and from afar. Nastiness is already swelling to new and glorious heights, and we're still in the pre-game-1 feeling-out phase of the series.

Early MVB favourites:

The Acid Queen strikes pre-emptively, and mudcrutch retorts, "My slide rule says Oil in 5!"


My earliest clear memory of Hockey Night in Canada is from the Spring of 1984, counting down the final seconds of the last game of the Stanley Cup finals. Our substantial extended family was gathered at my grandparents' house. The Finals featured the old, battle-worn New York Islanders and the new and exciting Edmonton Oilers.

The older folks universally backed the Isles in their drive for five. I'm not sure why this was; perhaps there was still some residual derision for the WHA. According to the 'ol fogies, Edmonton was just a 'one-man team.' That Gretzky kid was widely castigated as a puck-hog, while the Long Island squad had 'guts.'

Of course, the young 'uns favoured the Oilers. When we saw that #99 sweater, tucked in on one side, we saw something bold and thrilling. The adults saw an impudent hot-dogger. We preferred the flashy white&red (or red&white) Titans over Dad's bland, unfinished Sher-Wood. At the impressionable age of 10, I loved those Oilers.

We all know how that series - and the next several seasons - turned out. Gretzky & co. eventually won over the hearts of many (although my old man still carries a grudge. He blames the 2-3-2 format). In the following years, I was gradually turned by the constant broadcasts of Montreal Canadiens games on Saturday nights (oh, what I would give to have that again). But, I must admit, I still harbour some warm & fuzzy feelings toward the Western Conference's entry in this year's Stanley Cup Final.

Nostalgia aside, I'm picking Carolina if we see a New NHL final and Edmonton if we have an Old NHL final. Yes, you're damned right that's a cop-out.


Buffalo Screwed

Bob MacKenzie just said on TV that there will be a "great debate in the offseason" about the puck-over-glass delay-of-game rule.

I disagree. There will be no debate. This asinine rule will be tossed in the bin. Swept under the rug. It will disappear completely from the NHL vernacular. Let us never speak of it again.


Po-tay-toe, po-tah-to. They are one and the same, and the word you choose depends on which way you want to spin it. But how do you measure it?

Darryl Shilling's
Hockey Project introduced the Competitive Balance to compare the league from one year to the next. It is simply the standard deviation of the win% of all the teams. The lower the CB, the greater the parity.

I cobbled together this chart of the CB from 1980 to present (click for full size).

Because of the new OT format, I used the pyth. win% rather than the actual win%. It's easier that way, and the pyth. win% is supposed to be a better measure of team strengths anyway.

The dashed line is a linear trend - the league has been drifting toward more parity. The solid line is a 3rd order polynomial. It nicely illustrates the drop in CB in the years following the WHA merger, then the gradual rise over the 90s expansion, and finally the drop since the most recent expansion in 2000.

The 2006 season has been a little tighter than most recent years, but it's not exactly off the charts in terms of parity/mediocrity. And I don't recall anyone complaining about how sucky the '87, '90 or '97 seasons were.


Now that I've put all this work into using the CB to evaluate league parity, I'm going to pick the theory apart.

The CB does tell us that the pre-expansion NHL is more competitive than the (immediately) post-expansion NHL. That's fine - we all agree that expansion fodder reduces league-wide competitiveness for a few seasons. Now, THP uses CB to measure teams against one another across seasons. I will agree that this works if the league is zero-sum. That is, a trade can affect the competitiveness of the league, but does not change the overall quality. However, player transactions are not zero-sum.

I.e. Imagine a league where there are three great teams (.750 win%), three terrible ones (.250), and 24 mediocre (.500) ones. This league has a CB of .114. Now, say two top teams make a trade with each other, and it backfires badly for both. Say the trade makes them equal to the 24 mediocre teams. Since win% is zero sum (the top team is still 3x better than a bottom-feeder, and 1.5x better than a middling team), the top team will now be .776, the mediocre teams will be .517 (twice as good as a bottom feeder) and the bottom teams are .259. This league has a CB of .094.

Two teams got worse and the other 28 stayed the same. Clearly, the post-trade league is of less overall quality than the pre-trade league, although it is more competitive according to the CB. The
Pythagorean Dominance of the top teams pre-trade is 2.198. Post-trade, the exact same team is rated at 2.921. That's a huge difference.

Of course, some player transactions are mutually beneficial. If you want to assume that player movement washes out in the end - the mutually beneficial transactions balance the number of mutually destructive transactions - I'm fine with that. Still, it should be apparent that the CB measure is not perfect. Leagues with the same collection of players can be better or worse, depending on their distribution, because team building is a

Real stats pros out there, please criticize.