July 13 2011 01:12PM
After successfully not drowning or cramping up during my first triathlon sprint over the weekend, I spent Sunday and Monday catching up on the hockey world. I was shocked
not at all to see that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had once again done nothing to deter a GM from spouting off, found some interesting arbitration comparables, was perplexed at the reaction of some Oiler fans, heard that Toronto might be getting a new rink (and possibly another team) and the NHL has some realignment plans.
This past Friday, Dean Lombardi was publicly whining and acting like a jilted lover AGAIN, because he felt he got damaged goods in the Ryan Smyth trade. Veteran reporter Helene Elliott gladly tweeted Lombardi's venom Friday afternoon. It makes for a great story when a GM, coach or player speaks their mind, but there is a difference between speaking your mind and sounding like a whiner, and Lombardi was all over the latter.
"The bottom line for me, I would have rather invested my money with Bernie Madoff than invest in Edmonton's word," was my favourite Lombardi comment. Putting Steve Tambellini in the same light as one of the biggest fraudsters in recent memory was rich, but based on the NHL's non-investigation, Lombardi's accusations are off-base.
What I don't understand is Bettman's silence.
You are the commissioner. You shouldn't allow GMs to publicly spout off and question the character of opposing teams, especially when you've deemed the trade valid. I'm sure Gary is spending most of his time trying to find another "sucker" who might be interested in purchasing the money-sucking Phoenix Coyotes, but you'd think he'd have time to show some leadership and tell Lombardi to "Zip it." Sure, he might have done it behind closed doors, but rapping Lombardi's knuckles in private doesn't let the public know that the Kings' GM was out of line.
The NHL has an injury registry that teams can look at regarding a player's health. It sounds like the Kings knew Fraser was injured, they just thought he'd be ready for camp. Clearly he won't be, but the Kings knew he was coming off a broken ankle, and while there are estimated healing timelines, some players don't heal to those dates. Lombardi sounds like a guy with buyer's remorse...tsk...tsk.
Lombardi is a loose cannon. In January he was fined $50,000.00 when he questioned the integrity of Mike Murphy, the NHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations after a controversial goal by Martin Hanzal during a King's loss to Phoenix.
"When the guy in Toronto making the decisions on the goals, in Ottawa and the one tonight, wanted the G.M.'s job in L.A. and was not happy about not getting it, you have to assume you are going to get those type of calls," Lombardi was quoted as saying on the Kings' website. "However, we have put ourselves in a position where these calls have a monumental effect on our season, and we're going to have to find a way out of it ourselves."
Basically by doing nothing Bettman is saying it is okay for GMs to question the integrity of other GMs, just don't rip on NHL management or officials.
One of the best scenes in the greatest hockey movie ever, Slapshot, is when radio/TV host, Jim Carr interviews Chiefs' goalie Denis Lemieux about the finer points of hockey.
Jim: What is high-sticking?
Denis: High-sticking happen when the guy take the stick, you know, and he go like that. You don't do that. Oh, no. Never, never.
Jim: Why not?
Denis: Against the rules.You stupid when you do that, some English pig with no brains... (tripping, hooking and slashing explanations don't play out well as well in words, without seeing Lemieux acting them out.)
All bad. You do that, you go to the box, you know. Two minutes by yourself, and you feel shame, you know. And then you get free.
Some Oiler fans should be feeling shame right now, after reading how many of them automatically sided with Lombardi and felt that Tambellini's alleged lack of honesty was going to ruin the Oilers. "No one will want to trade with us," cried many of you.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but since the draft, when Lombardi first ripped the Oilers, they have signed four UFAs and have made two separate deals with the Anaheim Ducks. You remember the Ducks. Three years ago Brian Burke and his crew ripped Kevin Lowe and the Oilers, yet since that time they've made four separate deals. Ducks' GM Bob Murray was with the Ducks when the Oilers gave Penner the offer sheet, but he clearly hasn't held any grudges.
Sure the Kings are pissed now, and Lombardi and Tambellini won't be texting each other daily, but the Oilers image didn't take a hit around the NHL just because Lombardi spouted off.
If anything I'd say the fans that ripped on Tambellini are ultra-sensitive just like Lombardi.
Twenty-four NHL players filed for arbitration, but seven have already settled; Dan Sexton, Alec Martinez, Kevin Porter, Ryan Wilson, Michael Sauer, Marc Methot and Derek Joslin. Of the 17 remaining cases, Zach Parise and Shea Weber are the two most notable names and their cases will garner the most interest, especially if they don't reach an agreement prior to their hearing. Weber's case will be heard on August 2nd followed by Parise on the 3rd of August.
In the past ten years we haven't seen many high profile cases, but there have been a few. In 2004 both Joe Thornton and Scott Niedermayer went to arbitration v. the Bruins and Devils respectively.
Thornton, 25 years of age at the time, was asking for $8 million while the team countered with a $5.5 million offer. You might be surprised to learn that the four players they used as comparables were Milan Hejduk, Todd Bertuzzi, Patrik Elias and Owen Nolan. None of the players had the same unique skills and attributes as Thornton, but their stats and compensation packages were scrutinized heavily and were a major part of the ruling.
Thornton was awarded $6,750,000 for the 2004/2005 season. Of course they never played that year and his salary carried over until 2005/2006 where he was dealt to the Sharks after only 23 games. In case you were wondering here is the breakdown of those five player's stats from the 2004 season.
GP G A PTS PIM +/-
Thornton 77 23 50 73 98 18 (He had 101 points in 2003)
Elias 82 38 43 81 44 26 (He had 57 points in 2003)
Hejduk 82 35 40 75 20 19 (He had 98 points in 2003)
Bertuzzi 69 17 43 60 122 21 (He had 97 points in 2003)
Nolan 65 19 29 48 110 4 (He had 54 points in 2003)
Hejduk had his arbitration hearing on August 18th, 2004 and was awarded $5.7 million for the 2004/2005 season, while Thornton's case was heard on the 31st of August. Elias had signed a three-year deal in July of 2002 that paid him $4.25 million in 2002, $4.5 million in 2003 and $5.5 million in 2004. Bertuzzi signed a four-year extension during the 2003 season that would pay him $6.8 million, $7.133, $5,26 and $5.26 million for an average of $6.17 million over four years. Nolan signed a six-year deal prior to the 2000/2001 season that averaged $5.58 million/season.
It is interesting to compare those four to Thornton, because they were all more scorers than passers, but that is who the arbitrator used.
Niedermayer's camp asked for $9 million, while the Devils countered with an offer of $6 million. The arbitrator gave Niedermayer a one-year deal worth $7 million.
The on-ice comparables were Sergei Gonchar, Sergei Zubov and Sandis Ozolinsh, while they also used Chris Pronger's contract as a comparable. They didn't compare on-ice between Pronger and Niedermayer because of Pronger's aggressive style. (Which seems strange since Nolan and Bertuzzi were used in comparison to Thornton).
The Devils used D-men who had similar PIMs in their argument. Every team and player will bring different specifics that will support and enhance their case.
Pronger had accepted a one-year deal in July of 2004 worth $10 million, while Zubov earned $6 million in the final year of a five-year deal (AAV $5 million), Gonchar got a one-year $5.5 million deal in arbitration prior to Niedermayer's case while Ozolinsh was in the last year of a five-year deal that averaged $5.1 million.
It seems the arbitrator realized Niedermayer was better than Gonchar, Zubov and Ozolinsh, but he must have felt that the Blues had overpaid Pronger, because there is no way Pronger was worth $3 million more than Niedermayer.
It will be interesting to see who they use as comparables for Weber and Parise. Who do you think is a fair comparable when you consider production and salary?
Parise only played 13 games last year, so his camp will use this previous two seasons of 82 and 94 points as their measuring stick. His last contract was a four-year, $12.5 million deal, but he made $5 million last year. His asking price will likely be around $7 million or more.
Parise was 5th in league scoring and 3rd in goals in 2009, while he was 9th in goals and 16th in points in 2010. I'm guessing they will use Jeff Carter, Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk as comparables.
Weber was a Norris trophy finalist last year, and he was top-seven in minutes played amongst D-men. Duncan Keith would be a likely comparable, but they won't look at his $5.5 cap hit figure; instead they will use the $8 million that he makes in each of the first three years of his deal. Nick Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara could be other worthy comparables.
It sounds like the NHL will be making a major shuffle in 2012, going from six divisions down to four. Each conference will have two divisions, one with eight teams and one with seven.
Wild owner Craig Leipold confirmed the plan to KFAN Sports Radio 1130 in Minneapolis recently.
“The realignment will almost certainly take place,” Leipold told the radio station. “There aren’t any people saying ‘No, let’s not do it.’ It’s been teed up by the league and it would be a four-division league."
Jets fans might now like it. They won't be re-united with their former Smyth division foes, but instead will play in the "Central" division with Minnesota, St. Louis, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville and likely Columbus. Both the Jackets and Red Wings want to play in the East, but Detroit would likely win that battle.
The Flames, Canucks and Oilers would align with San Jose, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Colorado. Early reports are teams would play five-six games against division rivals, and as few as two against conference foes. They would still play every Eastern team at least once and likely the CDN teams would play each other twice.
There hasn't been any official word on what the Eastern divisions would look like, but you have to think the Leafs, Senators, Habs, Bruins, Sabres and Wings will be in one division. Add the Penguins and Flyers to make it the division of eight.
Then the Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Lightning, Panthers, Hurricanes and Capitals would round out the other division. The Pens and Flyers will want to be in the same division, and so will all three NY-area teams, so this would make the most sense.
I like the realignment, but I don't know if fans want half of their team's games played against six/seven teams. That would either get old, or it would re-kindle, and possibly ignite, some rivalries.
What sort of breakdown would fans want?
NEW RINK AND TEAM IN ONTARIO??
A source told me yesterday that a few different construction companies have been told they that should ensure they have the equipment available and ready to start construction on a major arena development in southern Ontario in the next few years.
I put in a call to the city of Toronto and Hamilton, but both said they knew nothing of the sort. Of course I expected that answer, and my source told me that nothing is imminent, but that the some construction companies are starting to plan for it. Allegedly this project will be funded with mostly private funds.
Many people suggest that Quebec deserves to get their team back, and that makes sense, but I think fans in southern Ontario deserve another team just as much, if not more. It is the biggest available market in North America, and while the Leafs might not like it, I'm certain there is enough money and fans to support two teams in southern Ontario.
The NHL will never comment on a possibility like this, but it sounds like there are some private investors who might use the "Build it and they will come" philosophy. It would be a risky venture to build a rink without a guarantee of securing a team, but it sounds like some people are considering it.