The Connor McDavid Award: A Proposal

The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”.

There has been some debate over who should qualify to receive this award in recent years. Some argue only players on playoff teams should be eligible. However, Connor McDavid, arguably the best player in the National Hockey League, plays for the Edmonton Oilers. The inept Oilers once again find themselves out of the playoff picture, for the third time in the four years of the Connor McDavid era. Fans deserve better. Connor McDavid deserves better. The Edmonton Oilers organisation deserves less. And my proposal aims to give it to them.

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I propose a new award, let’s call it “The Connor McDavid Award” for convenience sake. The player adjudged to be the best player on a non-playoff team would be it’s recipient. Now the winner doesn’t get some ego-stroking trophy to place on their mantle, but rather, the award they receive is in the form of a fascinating opportunity. As a reward for their outstanding play, they can choose to make their contract null and void with immediate effect, and become a free-agent, free to sign with whichever team they so choose. So, using the example of Connor McDavid, he would have the ability to walk away from the Edmonton Oilers, and sign with a new team on July 1.

How Would it Work?

Is there precedent for such an event? Recall after the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed in 2013 that General Managers were given two compliance buyouts. This enabled them to buyout the contracts of two players on their team to assist them in becoming salary-cap compliant. The player received money from the team, became a free-agent, and then was able to sign a contract with another team at a more reasonable amount. A double pay-day if you will. So has there been precedence for a contract being made null and void? Absolutely. And the other party received compensation.

For our scenario, an extra draft pick will be inserted into the first round of the NHL Entry Draft as compensation. Using our example, the Edmonton Oilers would receive the first non-lottery pick in the draft, the fourth overall pick. That would be in addition to their own first round pick. Now is Connor McDavid worth more than the fourth overall pick? Absolutely. But it’s better than nothing, which, frankly, is what Edmonton deserves for their incompetence.

Risks and Benefits

The risk for McDavid, or whomever is the recipient of the award, is that they may not be offered as much money as they are currently if they choose to sign with a contender. Most contending teams in the NHL don’t have much salary cap room. However, if for example the Toronto Maple Leafs thought they had a realistic chance of signing McDavid, General Manager Kyle Dubas is unhesitatingly doing whatever it takes to free up the requisite room. So, one side benefit of such an award is incentivizing General Managers to make trades.

And this goes both ways. For example, what if Edmonton is out of a playoff spot a week prior to the trade deadline? Knowing that their star player has a realistic chance of receiving the Connor McDavid award, what do they do? They have two clear options. First, double down like the Columbus Blue Jackets did at the deadline this year, trading away future draft picks for rental players to help them make the playoffs, or, investigate trading Connor McDavid for a return greater than they would otherwise be compensated should he win the award. For fans who love trades, this would be Nirvana.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, or via twitter @CanberrasCanuck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets: Intriguing Offer Extended To Artemi Panarin

It is no secret that the contract of Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin is set to expire this coming offseason.

Since the 27-year-old Russian Left Winger entered the league in 2015, he has been one of the most prolific scorers, recording point totals of 77, 74, 82, and is currently on pace for a career-high 90-point season. The talent of this young man is not in question. What is in question is his desire to play in Columbus past this season, a scenario that must provide Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen with alarming night terrors.

Ottawa Senators v Columbus Blue Jackets : News Photo

Leading up to July 1, 2018, the date that both parties would be able to begin negotiations on an extension, Artemi Panarin informed the club through his agent that he had no interest in signing a new contract at that time but was instead happy to play through the season. This is by no means unusual when it comes to a star player entering the final year of his contract, and generally both sides come to an agreement later in the season. What was unusual were rumours that circulated at the time that Panarin wanted to play in a large market, near a beach, and preferably in a location with no state taxes.

So how does Columbus match up to this wish list? A perfect zero for three. One can only imagine the anguish of fans and ownership of the team as they face the very real prospect of losing their star forward for nothing at the end of the season. In the midst of this dense cauldron of uncertainty, a hero has arisen, living proof that not all heroes wear capes.

High Bank Distillery, located in Grandview, is offering free vodka for life to Artemi Panarin if he re-signs with the Blue Jackets. This is officially the first offer that Columbus has extended to Artemi Panarin. Granted the offer is not officially from the team itself, but let’s not get bogged down in semantics.

How lucrative could this contract potentially be? According to Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University, the average Russian adult drinks 20 liters of Vodka per year. The current life expectancy of a male born in the USA in 1991 is 72-years of age, markedly higher than the 63.45-year life expectancy for a male born in the Russian federation in the same year. It’s certainly not unrealistic to assume that Panarin, due to his higher economic status, athletic physique, and the improvement of modern medicine, is able to live to the age of 75. So that means he potentially would have access to 48-years’ worth of free vodka. At the rate of 20 liters per year, Artemi Panarin would thus consume 960 liters of High Bank Vodka, or 1,280 bottles.

Further, if we assume a rather generous estimate of $50 per bottle of vodka, the value over the course of a lifetime would be $64,000. So, the $64,000 question is, does Artemi Panarin accept this offer and remain in Columbus, or sign for a team with no state tax and save hundreds of thousands each season?

featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals

Los Angeles Kings: Putting Leipsic on a Pig

On December 2, 2018, the Los Angeles Kings made a minor roster adjustment by claiming winger Brendan Leipsic off of waivers from Vancouver.

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This was the second waiver claim made by the Los Angeles Kings in two days, coming a day after Los Angeles General Manager Rob Blake claimed another winger, Nikita Scherbak, off waivers from Montreal. Considering the Kings are sitting last in the entire National Hockey League standings, it’s hard to see these moves as much more than just cosmetic.

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Last season Los Angeles found itself with 98 points to end the regular season, and comfortably in a playoff position. Despite being the lower seed in the playoffs, they were the favourites of many to beat the upstart Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. A team that averaged nearly three goals a game in the regular season (2.9 according to NHL.com), the Los Angeles Kings could only muster three total goals in a four game series that saw them swept out of the playoffs by the expansion Golden Knights.
To say this season has gone poorly for the Kings would be like describing the Hindenburg disaster as “a bit of a rough landing”. This season, the Kings are barely averaging 2 goals per game (2.1 according to NHL.com), are conceding over 3 goals per game (3.1 according to NHL.com). And whereas last year they finished the season with 98 points, they are currently on pace to finish with 59 points. A difference of 39 points! To put that into context, the Buffalo Sabres were just a horrible team last season, finishing last in the entire league, and yet they still finished with 62 points. To go from a playoff team to last in the league within just a few months, is just stunning. Oh the humanity!

So what have the Los Angeles Kings done to try to right this sinking ship? Well, Rob Blake made every General Manager’s favourite move on November 4 by firing coach John Stevens, and naming Willie Desjardins as interim coach. At that stage the Kings were 4-8-1. That move has largely been equivalent to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the Kings having gone 6-10-0 since then, still firmly holding onto last place.

So what’s gone wrong? The season started with optimism when Los Angeles won the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes, signing the former all-star forward to a three-year contract in the off-season. Additionally, they managed to sign their Norris-trophy winning defenseman Drew Doughty to a long-term contract, ensuring they wouldn’t have to risk losing him for nothing in free agency in 2019. It would be easy to point to the injuries of starting goaltender Jonathan Quick, and back-up goaltender Jack Campbell as reasons for their decline, and that is fair to a certain extent. After all, last season they conceded less than 2.5 goals per game, and as mentioned earlier they are now conceding more than 3.1. However, that doesn’t explain the even greater drop in offensive production.

A primary point of concern would be the aging core of the team. Here is a list of players who earn more than 4 million dollars against the salary cap that have contracts that expire well into their thirties. (Courtesy of capfriendly.com)

  • 28-year-old Defenseman Drew Doughty – 11 million until 2027 – 37 upon expiry
  • 31-year-old Centre Anze Kopitar – 10 million until 2024 – 37 upon expiry
  • 35-year-old Winger Ilya Kovalchuk – 6.25 million until 2021 – 38 upon expiry
  • 34-year-old Winger Dustin Brown – 5.875 million until 2022 – 37 upon expiry
  • 32-year-old Goaltender Jonathan Quick – 5.8 million until 2023 – 37 upon expiry
  • 33-year-old Centre Jeff Carter – 5.273 million until 2022 – 37 upon expiry
  • 33-year-old Defenseman Dion Phaneuf – 5.25 million until 2021 – 36 upon expiry
  • 31-year-old Defenseman Alec Martinez – 4 million until 2021 – 33 upon expiry

That’s a problem. The only player on their team earning more than 4 million per year that will be under the age of thirty when his contract expires is the underperforming 26-year-old Tyler Toffoli. This is a huge problem for the Kings. The team is up against the salary cap roof, and those aforementioned contracts are becoming increasingly difficult to move as their productivity declines.

Consider, for example, star free-agent signing Ilya Kovalchuk. Nine times the 35-year-old winger has scored 30 or more goals, including two fifty-goal seasons. In a season that is one-third completed, he has scored five. Five goals. That’s it. He would need to slightly improve to score even 15 for the season. What about 10-time 20 goal scorer Jeff Carter? This season he is on pace to collect less than 15 goals. Last season Anze Kopitar scored 35 goals. This season he is on pace to collect 20. Cast your eye up and down the line-up, and the regression from last season to this season is ubiquitous and severe.

So what needs to be done? The Kings recognize that they need to get younger and faster, anticipating that such changes will lead to them becoming better. But they haven’t done anything to make themselves younger and faster. As much as I love Brendan Leipsic, he has shown himself to be little more than a depth player. I mean if the Vancouver Canucks felt that Leipsic couldn’t help their pitiable forward group, that tells you something. Rob Blake needs to make a bigger move than just waiver wire pickups.

Hockey analyst and insider Elliotte Friedman quotes one NHL executive as saying that “when a General Manager needs a lifeline, there’s thirty others throwing you anchors”. I acknowledge that being a General Manager isn’t easy. Improving your team isn’t easy. Taking risks isn’t easy. We hear that all the time. Well guess what? My job isn’t easy all the time. Your job isn’t easy all the time. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we can sit on our hands and do nothing, complaining to everyone who will listen that our job is so hard. General Managers are paid to do a job, and they are paid well. I’m sick of hearing excuses from them and sections of their fan base telling us that it’s too hard for them to make the necessary changes. Until GM Rob Blake makes a big move, shaking up the core of this team, any other changes are just lipstick, or rather, Leipsic, on a pig.

Thanks for reading. How would you address the issues surrounding the Kings? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to yell at me on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com

salary research from capfriendly.com

Don’t Sleep on Pacioretty and the Vegas Golden Knights

After a rough start to the season, Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights has been on a hot streak as of late.

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On the morning of November 18, 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights were preparing to face their Pacific Division rival, the Edmonton Oilers. Things did not look good for Vegas, last season’s Stanley Cup finalist. An ugly 8-12-1 record had them sitting in second last place in the entire league. Only their division companions and first round playoff victims from the previous season, the Los Angeles Kings, were below them in the standings. A key cause for concern: their marquee trade acquisition, Max Pacioretty, had been about as effective as an umbrella in a hurricane. The performance, or lack thereof, of the former Montreal Canadiens captain was even more concerning given the price Vegas paid to acquire him. Vegas had dealt forward Tomas Tatar, blue chip prospect Nick Suzuki, and a second round pick in the 2019 draft in an effort to bolster up their top six.

Through 16 games the joke could be used “what do Max Pacioretty and a square have in common? Both only have four points…” Yes, the five-time thirty goal scorer had a mere four points on the morning of November 18, comprising of two goals and two assists, and was on track to record the lowest point per game totals of his entire career. That night in Edmonton, Pacioretty would score the go-ahead goal to give the Golden Knights a 3-2 lead, and they wouldn’t look back, eventually finishing the game 6-3 victors. After that point, Pacioretty has been on one of the hottest stretches of the scoring forward’s decade-long career. In a current seven game point streak, which began with that game against the Oilers, Pacioretty has recorded 8 goals and 3 assists for 11 total points, quadrupling his goal scoring production from the previous sixteen games.

Pacioretty’s hot-streak has coincided with success for his team. Since that game in Edmonton, Vegas has a record of 6-1-0, including a current five-game winning streak. Vegas now finds themselves right in the playoff race, level on points with third-place San Jose who owns the tiebreaker. If Pacioretty can continue to find chemistry with line mates Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch (the trio have combined for 17 goals and 32 points in the last 10 games), Vegas should be able to seize a playoff spot in an embarrassingly weak Pacific Division.

Causes for optimism include the recent return of defenseman Nate Schmidt to the line-up after a 20 game suspension for violating the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The 27-year-old’s value to the team is undeniable, he’s able to chip in some offense, and can give the team 20-25 minutes of reliable defensive play each night. Last season his +/- rating was +19, and in seven games this season he is already +4.

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An additional cause for optimism is the fact that star free-agent acquisition Paul Stastny should return to the line-up in January after suffering a knee injury in the third game of the season. The veteran centre will certainly provide a needed boost to the top-nine forward group for the Golden Knights upon his return. For a team desperate for secondary scoring, Stastny will be welcomed by fans more enthusiastically than a piñata at a children’s birthday party.

One cause for concern for the Golden Knights would be their goaltending. Last season, Vegas claimed backup goaltender Malcolm Subban after he was put on waivers by the Boston Bruins. He had never won a game in the NHL up to that point. His first game in goal for the Golden Knights was against … the same Boston Bruins, the team that had essentially given up on him. In a feel good story, particularly if you hate the Bruins as much as yours truly, Subban allowed a single goal on 23 shots to collect his first career win. Despite an injury shortened season, Subban compiled a 13-4-2 record in 19 starts for the Golden Knights.

This season, he has been nowhere near as dominant. He hasn’t even been average. Instead, he’s been downright terrible. In four starts, he has four regulation losses, and sports an ugly 4.03 GAA (Goals Against Average) and .859 Sv% (Save Percentage). It’s a huge step backwards from last season in which he had a 2.68 GAA and a .910 Sv%. Marc-Andre Fleury has been his usual dominant self in net, but the veteran net-minder can’t start every game. If Subban does not find his game soon, Vegas will need to hope that their offense can outscore their problems, and that Fleury can continue to carry this team to the playoffs.

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At the trade deadline last year, General Manager George McPhee signaled his intent to win now, and that continued in the off-season as previously mentioned with the acquisition via trade of Max Pacioretty. For a team that was three wins away from winning the Stanley Cup last season, I would expect to see more moves from Vegas leading up to the trade deadline (February 25, 3:00 pm ET). With centre Erik Haula listed as month-to-month after injuring his right leg in a collision with Leafs’ forward Patrick Marleau on November 6, and Paul Stastny not expected to return until early 2019, I could see McPhee making a deal for a top-nine centre. Additionally, if Malcolm Subban continues to impersonate Swiss Cheese in goal, McPhee may also be in the market for a veteran backup goaltender.

Last season Vegas essentially took the NHL by storm, leading the Pacific Division seemingly from start to finish. This season due to a slow start, they have flown under the collective radar. But don’t sleep on the Vegas Golden Knights. In a fortnight, this is a team that has jumped from 30th in the league to 15th, and are a mere three points behind the division leading Calgary Flames. Many doubted Vegas last year, including yours truly. I am determined not to make the same mistake again.

Thanks for reading. Also, you’re welcome for not including any gambling references or puns in an article focusing in on a Vegas team. It wasn’t easy, but I did it just for you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck

Stats from NHL.com, hockey-reference.com and dropyourgloves.com

Reasons to be Unthankful: Pacific Division

This is the final part of a four-part series. You can find the Metropolitan Division here, the Atlantic Division here, and the Central Division here.

Anaheim Ducks

Starting goaltender John Gibson and backup Ryan Miller have been sensational in-goal for the Ducks, which has been necessary as the team in front of them has created a guard of honour for opposing players to the net. It may not be a popular opinion, but Anaheim fans should actually be unthankful for the superb goaltending. Why? A quick glance at the standings shows a team tied with Vegas for the final playoff spot in the Pacific. However, glance at any other statistical category and you will find them towards the bottom of the league. The most glaring issue is shot totals. Anaheim averages 26.7 shots per game, worst in the league, and gives up 35.6 shots per game. Only Ottawa gives up more. That’s a 33% difference. This has long been an issue with Randy Carlyle coached teams. If Anaheim was getting merely league average goaltending, they would be further down the standings, but Randy Carlyle would either be forced to change his systems, or be out of a job, which quite honestly may be the best thing for the franchise.

Arizona Coyotes

With 52 goals in 22 games, only one other team in the league has been more inept at putting the puck in the net. Thankfully that team is in their division (looking at you, Los Angeles). A look at the player stats must be depressing. Max Domi was traded to Montreal for Alex Galchenyuk in the off-season, and Domi has been averaging over a point per game. Galchenyuk has nine points. Goaltending has been fine, they are fairly even in shot share, but they just cannot score. If they don’t fix it quickly, the Coyotes could be in the draft lottery race yet again. General Manager John Chayka’s seat must be getting warmer. Speaking of flames…

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Calgary Flames

Top of the division? Check. Top five in the league in goals? Check. Marquee free agent signing James Neal producing as expected? Not so much. The 31-year-old winger signed a 5 year contract in the off-season that pays 5.75 million per year. It seemed like a fairly safe bet at the time, after all Neal had scored at least 20 goals each season since 2011. This season he is on pace to score 10. That’s nowhere near good enough. Head Coach Bill Peters has tried to find a fit for him in the line-up, but nothing seems to be working thus far. This contract could become an expensive mistake. A quote from Bill Veck comes to mind. “It’s not the high price of stars that is expensive, it’s the high price of mediocrity.”

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Edmonton Oilers

Like the Titanic and an iceberg, Edmonton General Manager Peter Chiarelli and bad decisions come together with spectacular results. Chiarelli took a team with the greatest player of his generation, and has carefully and methodically made the team worse around him. Whether it’s giving out anchor contracts to Milan Lucic and Kris Russell, or trading away talented players for mediocrity, there is nothing Peter Chiarelli will not do to make this franchise worse. He has already pulled every GM’s get out of jail free card in firing the Head Coach, one has to think that if things do not improve quickly in Edmonton, Chiarelli is toast.

Los Angeles Kings

Last year Anze Kopitar recorded 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists) to lead my fantasy team to victory, and less importantly his team to the playoffs. This season he is on pace to score only 48 points, just over half his total from last season. Lack of offensive production has plagued the Kings, and it has resulted in them currently sitting in last place in the entire league. Kings fans will have expected much more from their captain.

San Jose Sharks

San Jose will make the playoffs, that’s pretty much guaranteed in a division as weak as the Pacific. However fans will likely be disappointed with the performance of two players in particular. Goaltender Martin Jones, and star defenseman Erik Karlsson. Jones has a GAA of 3.00, and a save percentage of .892. Both numbers are worse than the league averages of 2.87 and .909 respectively. Meanwhile, Karlsson has 15 points so far this season (0.63 points per game), far from terrible, but well below his career point per game average of 0.83 points per game. If San Jose wants to beat the likes of Winnipeg and Nashville to advance to the Stanley Cup final, they need better play from their star players, particularly this duo.

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Vancouver Canucks

To say Vancouver’s defense has been terrible is kind of like saying that invading Russia in the winter is a bad idea. It’s obvious to any casual fan. Starting goaltender Jacob Markstrom has to apply sunscreen prior to each start, as his defense has left him hanging out to dry way too often. Vancouver fans will no doubt be pleased with the play of their young offensive superstars Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, but when the only team letting in more goals than you is Ottawa, there’s a serious problem.

Vegas Golden Knights

After a slow start to the season, the Golden Knights are back in a playoff spot. It’s hard to put the blame on any one player. Whereas last season it seemed like every player had a career best season, every player this season seems to be struggling. They’re not terrible by any means, but just slightly worse. Backup goaltender Malcolm Subban has struggled when given the start, yet to pick up a win all season, and sporting an ugly GAA of 4.03. William Karlsson scored 43 goals last season, but he’s on pace to record about half that total. Anywhere you look in the line-up you find a similar narrative. Vegas can be ungrateful for team wide regression.

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That concludes our unthankfulness series, for which you can be immensely thankful. Thanks for reading. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section. Also feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter. @CanberrasCanuck

stats from NHL.com and hockey-reference.com