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Archive for July 2012

The Blue Jackets, The Rangers and Seymour Cray

In the aftermath of the Rick Nash trade yesterday, I Tweeted the following quote from Seymour Cray, father of the supercomputer:

“If you were plowing a field, which would you rather use:  two strong oxen or 1024 chickens?”

As yesterday’s trade indicates, the Blue Jackets are going with 1024 chickens, while the Rangers will have (come December, when Marian Gaborik is healthy) two strong oxen.  Though the consensus seems to be that Columbus (and GM Scott Howson in particular) got the short end of the stick in this deal, closer examination indicates otherwise.  Below is a brief look at what to expect from both teams in the 2012-13 campaign.

Columbus:  Though the Blue Jackets now lack a true sniper, they’ve added considerable depth to their forward corps.  Scoring must come by committee in the upcoming season, which means the pressure is now on Brandon Dubinsky (that’s “Dubi” to all you Columbus fans) to bounce back from a frustrating 2011-12 season, which saw his shooting percentage fall to 7.1% (from 11.9% the previous season) and goals drop to 10 (from 24).  Artem Anisimov, on the other hand, simply needs to shoot more:  last season, he scored 16 goals on just 132 shots, for a shooting percentage of 12.1%.  At that clip, 200 shots = 24 goals.  Keep in mind the fact that Anisimov is only 24 years old, and has by no means reached his ceiling – as a 20-year-old in the AHL, he put up 37-44-81 in 80 games.

Potentially, the ‘Jackets forward lines could look like this in October:

  • Anisimov-Brassard-Atkinson
  • Umberger-Dubinsky-Prospal
  • Foligno-Letestu-Johansen
  • Dorsett-MacKenzie-Boll

Realistically, those four lines should be good for about 180 goals.  Last season, Columbus blueliners contributed an additional 38 goals.  The good news is that the blueline has been significantly improved since last season.  Even if the defensive upgrades don’t translate to more than 38 goals, though, 180+38=218 goals in 2012-13, which would be 16 more than the Blue Jackets scored last season.  More significantly, the pairings of Johnson-Wisniewski, Tyutin-Nikitin and Erixon-Aucoin (with Ryan Murray, John Moore and David Savard waiting in the wings) should reduce the ‘Jackets Goals Against from last season’s conference-worst 262.

The only area of significant concern is in the Columbus crease.  Is Sergei Bobrovsky the answer?  Don’t be surprised to see Tyutin, Moore or Savard shipped to LA for goalie Jonathan Bernier.

New York:  In acquiring Rick Nash, the Rangers sacrificed forward depth for goal scoring.  The former face of the Columbus franchise will have an immediate impact on Broadway, however.  With Marian Gaborik out until (most likely) December, Nash will keep the Rangers from falling behind early in the standings.  Once Gaborik returns, it’ll be Katie-bar-the-door in the Eastern Conference.  The Blueshirts forward lines should look something like this:

  • Nash-Richards-Callahan
  • Kreider-Stepan-Gaborik
  • Hagelin-Boyle-Pyatt
  • Rupp-Halpern-Asham

Even with Gaborik out for the first two months of the season, that lineup should be good for about 215 goals.  Rangers d-men contributed 30 goals last campaign.  With the blueline corps essentially unchanged, another 30 goals is realistic.  215+30=245 goals in 2012-13, a net change of +19 over last season.  Assuming Henrik Lundqvist stays healthy and the Rangers’ committment to defense doesn’t waver, team Goals Against shouldn’t increase much over the 187 allowed in 2011-12.

Conclusion:  All things considered, I’d call this trade a win-win.  With two healthy 40-goal scorers on two different lines, the Rangers will be extremely difficult to stop.  The keyword, of course, is “healthy”.  Just a couple of injuries to New York forwards will result in significant ice time for not-ready-for-primetime players such as J.T. Miller, Christian Thomas and Chad Kolarik.  With decent goaltending, Columbus could challenge for a playoff spot.  Sound crazy?  Consider this:  The Blue Jackets are the only team in the Central Division to have improved thus far this summer.

 

The CBA-Shortened Season: One More Readjustment Point

In our earlier blog “The 2012-13 NHL Schedule: Coming Up Short“, we gave three possible Readjustment Points for how to formulate a schedule for a CBA Negotiations-shortened schedule.

I have one more option.

The number is 35.933. That is how many games on average teams have played by the end of December 2012 under the current regular season schedule. To be exact:

1. 10 teams (five in each conference) have played 36 games by the end of December.

2. 10 teams (again, five in each conference) have played more than 36 games by the end of December – CAR has 39; WSH, NSH and VAN have 38; and MTL, NYI, PIT, DAL, LAK and MIN have 37.

3. And 10 teams (once more, five in each conference) have played less than 36 games by the end of December – TOR and WPG have 33; NYR, TBL and PHX have 34; and NJD, CGY, COL, DET and SJS have 35.

If, as everyone is intimating, there will A) be a stoppage of some kind, and B) the NHL will do everything possible not to lose the exposure and revenue of the Winter Classic on 1 January, then 46 games played by all teams between New Years’ Day and the current end of the regular season in April is the goal.

To make that happen, the fourth Readjustment Point would be:

1. Ensure 23 each home and away games are on everyone’s schedule.

2. Fix the game disparities listed above.

3. With Nos. 1 and 2 above set, play out the rest of the schedule as is currently coordinated so as to minimize schedule redrafting and clearance with arena calendars woes.

4. AND THEN PUT THE TOP EIGHT FINISHERS FROM EACH CONFERENCE – NO MATTER WHICH DIVISION THEY COME FROM – INTO THE PLAYOFFS BEGINNING IN THE MIDDLE OF APRIL. Seed accordingly based on standings finish. Three rounds within Conference, and one round cross-Conference for all of the marbles.

Kinda has a bit of an old time hockey ring to it, doesn’t it? You could also ensure each division has at least one representative if you would like. But this Readjustment Point gives no regard to divisional emphasis based on playing out what is left of the schedule, so why should divisional considerations even be a subject of concern? This season, if it is shortened, why not reward those teams who gel the fastest and play the best?

We say another consideration is The Top Eights if there is a shortened season this year.

An NHL CBA Tradeoff: Player Revenue Percentage And Escrow

One of the potential sticking points of NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions will likely hinge on the percentage of revenue players receive. Currently set at 57%, many team owners want the playing field more leveled. The term “50-50″ is brought up a lot in the media.

So if the players are going to give up 7% of total revenues – or $210M of the reportedly $3B the NHL is worth – in order to split revenues with ownership 50-50, what seems to be the bargain going back the players’ way?

How about escrow withholdings from player salaries? Since the new CBA went into affect, escrow has widely ranged from as low as 8.5% to as high as 25% of total player salaries lost to escrow accounts that are held to the end of the season. (If you are Sidney Crosby, for example, your average salary has lost between $739,500 to $2.175M in a year over the term of his last contract to escrow.) This money is designed to provide a pool to ownership where player salaries have disproportionately outweighed profits. If that has not been the case, escrow has acted in effect like a player’s savings account they get to completely withdraw at season’s end.

Is fair removing the escrow clause in return for 7% of total revenue? According to Capgeek.com on 10 July, an average loss of 16.8% of contract money to escrow between the high and low mentioned above means a bit less than $290M per season in player salaries would be in their pockets verses in escrow.

So how does such a notion play out if the players would get $290M back and the owners would gain only $210M in total revenues?

For owners, if you assume the annual $3B will increase over time, they will, at some point, overtake what they gave back to players by wiping out the escrow clause. Advantage there goes to owners unless they stay stagnant at $3B in revenue over the years or lose money. As a whole, this is good for the game as it promotes ownership innovation to gain revenue.

For players, more of their negotiated salaries are in their pockets from the start of the season. Win, players. Unless revenues go up dramatically through owner innovation which could have been applied to an increase in the salary cap.

In the end, as with all other negotiations, some balance will have to be struck to keep a more even keel between percentages of revenues and escrow held for the sake of owner profitability.

The 2012 NHL Preseason Schedule: Update 3

Note 3: All teams’ 2012 Preseason schedules are now final.

Note 2: Updated 20 July for publication of FLA and NJDs’ 2012 Preseason Schedules. Still remaining is the official release confirmation for NYR (although all pre-season games for the remaining 29 teams are confirmed).

Note 1: Updated 10 July for publication of PHI’s 2012 Preseason Schedule. Still remaining for confirmation are FLA, NJD and NYR.

As you know, each year’s NHL preseason schedule is difficult to nail down. This year, although better, is no exception. But to keep us on track (and under the assumption we will play without a stoppage), below is the 2012 NHL Preseason schedule. Notes:

1. All of the Western Conference is officially released.

2. FLA, NJD, NYR and PHI are not yet officially released. Their partial schedules are indicated in black/bold/italicized font.

3. Where an abbreviated location appears in parentheses after the opponent, that game is not played in an NHL arena. (i.e. “Brookl” on 2 October at 7:30pm local is Brooklyn where NJD plays at NYI.) Remember these games do not have standard NHL connectivity so stats will be sketchy. You will do just as well finding a fan that is Tweeting the results in real-time.

4. Times listed by time are always attempted to be given in that team’s local time. We will watch for errors or changes to keep this schedule current.

5. Games listed have been confirmed through at least two, online sources. We will continue to watch for Eastern Conference updates and changes to times and locations as appropriate.

So without further ado, here is the schedule as we know it…

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