Right Wing Conspiracy – 31 OCT 2013
Right Wing Conspiracy is a weekly column about hockey, with the odd hockey-related conspiracy theory thrown in for good measure.
It’s Good To Be An NHL GM…In America
This is all Paul Holmgren’s fault…well, and maybe Jay Feaster’s, too. I’ve been wondering of late about the average tenure of NHL General Managers, compared to that of Head Coaches. It began with a question: How does Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren still have a job? For that matter, why hasn’t Jay Feaster been run out of Calgary on a rail? It seems that NHL coaches are on an increasingly short leash, while GMs have a remarkable degree of immunity from the on-ice woes of their respective teams. Not content to simply throw my uninformed opinion on the table, I decided to look at the numbers. What I found was very interesting, if unsurprising:
So just 7 of 30 General Managers have won the Cup with their current team, compared to 5 of 30 coaches, but the average tenure of a GM is exactly twice that of a coach. Why the disparity? Simply put, coaches can be fired for many reasons, some of which are listed below:
Note that several of the aforementioned “fire-able” offenses are based on circumstances beyond the control of a coach; such is the nature of the beast. On the other hand, the career path of a General Manager seems to have far fewer potholes. For the GM of an American NHL franchise to earn a pink slip, he must:
While the average tenure of an NHL GM is 7.2 seasons, the difference between American and Canadian GMs is eye-opening:
Because hockey is “Canada’s Game,” the seven Canadian General Managers are under intense pressure from fans, the media and team owners to compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Since the last Canadian Cup victory came back in 1993, the pressure continues to build. Thus, Ottawa’s Bryan Murray, currently in his 7th season, is the senior GM in Canada. In the Great White North, team owners must demonstrate to the fans their desire to win, which means GMs, like coaches, operate on a short leash.
In many American markets, though winning is always the ultimate goal, fan and media pressure are (compared to Canada) almost negligible. Some owners undoubtedly view their NHL franchise as part of a package, in some cases a tool which allows them to manage a highly profitable arena. In those instances, the team becomes a “loss-leader” of sorts, similar to the way Las Vegas casinos used to view their lavish buffets. In other cases, a cynic would say, owners are more concerned with turning a profit than with winning the Cup (I remember a certain GM back in the early 90s – though I can’t find the exact quote – who said his goal was not to win the Cup every year, but to simply ice a playoff-caliber team and hope for the best, thus ensuring a profit for the owner without spending too much money). In many American markets, it would seem, the GMs relationship with the owner can trump on-ice success.
While the desire to win is the same for GMs on both sides of the border, the pressure to win increases exponentially with each added degree of North latitude. Will the pressure on General Managers south of the border increase now that Canadians are buying American franchises (Dallas and Phoenix)? Time will tell. For now, though, it’s good to be an NHL GM…in America.
Follow Matt Pryor on Twitter: @BigTex1926
(If you regularly read this NHL analysis, start under the title “The Chart,” and don’t miss the ending section “What Do We Already Know?”. And note – changes are in bold font except for previous Chasing Stanley or Tee Time Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) calls.)
Below is your NHL Point Predictor and PQC update for NHL games ending Saturday, 12 April. What are we showing here? Where the NHL is going, not where they are after the last game played.
How Will We Do It? Check back here daily as we provide you the simple chart below where you can follow the NHL’s projected standings leading up to the Playoffs. The chart tells you two things: each team’s finishing points based on current play projected over the 48 game season; and our PQC calls as every team reaches each 10-game marker (i.e. Game 10, 20, 30, etc.). As teams’ PQC calls change, their standings’ line color changes to the appropriate PQC designation as explained below.
The 14 April Chart
Here are the two Conferences’ projected, final standings points after games completed on 14 April:
From or current chart, it looks like it will take at least 27 wins / 54 points in the Eastern Conference and 26.5 wins / 53 points in the Western Conference to qualify for the playoffs. The estimated difference between projected 8th and 9th place in the Eastern Conference is 1.5 wins. That same estimated difference in the Western Conference comes down to tie-breakers. In addition the daily difference in projected standings included 10 positional adjustments from our last update.
We said way back right after the G10 mark that we would likely have about 40% of the IN or OUT calls made by G40. At G40 we actually have six IN and 12 OUT for 60%. If, as we state below in Conference breakdowns, three calls ring as Shots Off the Post (SotP), then we still correctly made the 50% mark by G40. The rest is going to come down to fast-paced mathematics as losses are worth more due to fewer games left to make up for each one.
Here are notes to explain the chart:
1. NHL Conferences are shown Western and Eastern from left to right as they would be on a map. The far left column in each chart titled ‘NHL Stnd’ indicates current team NHL standings as of the posted date. And teams use standard NHL abbreviations and color schemes.
2. ‘GP’ = Games Played.
3. ‘eW’ = Estimated Wins, our own formulary as the season progresses.
4. ‘eL’ = Estimated Losses
5. ‘eOTL’ = Estimated Overtime Losses, the third point in three-point games
6. ‘ePts’ = Estimated Points
7. ‘ePt Rnk’ = Estimated Points Rank, our order of how they will fare overall
8. ‘eTrend’ = Difference in the estimated, final standings position from the previous day
9. And the ‘PQC Code’: ‘CS’ = Chasing Stanley, or IN the Playoffs; ‘SS’ = Sharpening Skates, or just shy of IN the Playoffs; ‘ITC’ = In The Curve, or playing right about on average; ‘DoC’ = Dusting Off Clubs, or almost OUT of the Playoffs; ‘T2’ = Tee Time, or OUT of the Playoffs; and ‘SotP’ = Shot Off The Post, or a bad call of CC or T2. Remember, the PQC Codes get called every 10 games.
“What Do We Already Know?”
Looking ahead to G48 across the NHL, 15 teams can reach a call of Chasing Stanley (CS). Right now, one more who would fall in an In the Curve (ITC) status could receive a CS call and round out the playoff picture due to mathematical elimination. We also have 12 called at Tee Time (T2), leaving two more who will fall in an ITC status or lower and not see post-season play.
Eastern Conference PQC
For G48 Boston, Montreal and Pittsburgh will remain the East’s CS teams. They could potentially be joined by another three teams per the model. And Washington and the Islanders are on track as Shots Off The Post (SotP), or making it into the Playoffs after a wrong, early call of T2. Winnipeg flat-out needs Washington to start losing now or they run out of hope for this season. Two other teams cannot top ITC. And we have seven teams already called out who are ripe for the adjustments mentioned above with Winnipeg and New Jersey likely to replace Washington and the Islanders on the outside looking in.
Western Conference PQC
Looking ahead to G48, Vancouver, Chicago and Anaheim are the West’s CS teams. Six more can potentially reach a CS level, although one of those six will drop by the wayside before G48. There is also still the possibility Columbus can earn a SotP call which would displace another of those six. One more can already not top an ITC call. And Calgary, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton and Nashville will remain the West’s T2 calls with the Columbus adjustment still possibly there.
G40 (IN or OUT calls):
Thursday, 11 April 2013, Verizon Center, Washington, D.C. – Based on their play through G40, the the Carolina Hurricanes are the twelfth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Wednesday, 10 April 2013, Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary, AB – Based on their play through G40, the Vancouver Canucks are the sixth team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
G30 (IN or OUT calls):
Sunday, 24 March 2013, American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX – Based on their play through G30, the the Calgary Flames are the eleventh NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Saturday, 23 March 2013, Rexall Place, Edmonton, AB – Based on their play through G30, the Edmonton Oilers are the tenth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Saturday, 23 March 2013, American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX – Based on their play through G30, the the Colorado Avalanche are the ninth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Wednesday, 20 March 2013, Air Canada Center, Toronto, ON – Based on their play through G30, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the eighth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Tuesday, 19 March 2013, RSBC Center, Raleigh, NC – Based on their play through G30, the Nashville Predators are the seventh NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the
2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Monday, 18 March 2013, Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FL – Based on their play through G30, the Philadelphia Flyers are the sixth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Sunday, 17 March 2013, Consol Energy Center, Pittsburgh, PA – Based on their play through G30, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the fifth team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
G20 (IN or OUT calls):
Saturday, 2 March 2013, Jobbing.com Arena, Glendale, AZ – Based on their play through G20, the Anaheim Ducks are the fourth team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Thursday, 28 February 2013, BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL – Based on their play through G20, the Florida Panthers are the fifth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Wednesday, 27 February 2013, The Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON – Based on their play through G20, the Montreal Canadiens are the third team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Tuesday, 26 February 2013, Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, FL – Based on their play through G20, the Buffalo Sabres are the fourth NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Tuesday, 26 February 2013, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY – Based on their play through G20, the New York Islanders are the third NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Tuesday, 26 February 2013, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH – Based on their play through G20, the Columbus Blue Jackets are the second NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
G10 (IN or OUT calls):
Sunday, 10 February 2013, HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY – Based on their play through G10, the Boston Bruins are the second team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
Tuesday, 5 February 2013, HP Pavilion, San Jose, CA – Based on their play through G10, the Chicago Blackhawks are the first team designated as Chasing Stanley, or IN the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Tuesday, 5 February 2013, Verizon Center, Washington, DC – Based on their play through G10, the Washington Capitals are the first NHL team designated at Tee Time (T2), or ELIMINATED from the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs
This is the updated NHL Point Predictor and PQC Standings based on games ending 14 April.
Heading toward Game 48, 15 teams could rate a CS call. Three others’ maximums are between a SS and a DoC call. And 12 are currently eliminated from Playoff contention at T2.
All CS and T2 calls will now come game by game as teams show they are warranted.
Your next update will be posted after games played on Sunday, 14 April.
Go to the bottom of the right hand column, load in your email address and click on the ‘Sign Me Up!’ button to subscribe to the OGA Blogs and you will not miss an NHL update (and the NHL ones when/if they come to an agreement.)
Three Periods is a weekly column touching on hockey’s past, present and future.
In today’s edition of Three Periods, the normal format has been set aside to discuss one subject: the NHL’s pending realignment. As Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada stated over the weekend, the NHL may very well look like this next season:
Conference 1: CAR, CBJ, NJD, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT, WSH
Conference 2: BOS, BUF, DET, FLA, MTL, OTT, TBL, TOR
Conference 3: CHI, COL, DAL, MIN, NSH, STL, WPG
Conference 4: ANA, CGY, EDM, LAK, PHX, SJS, VAN
In a word, this proposed realignment is brilliant. Not only does it move Columbus and Detroit back east, but it gets Dallas out of the Pacific Division. As icing on the cake, these necessary changes are made without breaking up most longstanding rivalries (Chicago – Detroit being one notable exception).
Another major benefit of this change is the inherent flexibility of the new format. With the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Coyotes and talk of expansion in Quebec and the Greater Toronto area, any alignment is subject to change. The proposed format seems well-equipped to handle such changes. Let’s walk through two scenarios:
1. Coyotes relocate. In this scenario, one consideration reigns above all others: the Coyotes will NOT relocate to Canada. Why not? Because the NHL will have no trouble finding Canadian investors willing to pony up obscene expansion fees for clubs in Quebec and/or Markham, Ontario. The same cannot be said for American cities at this time. In addition, moving the Coyotes from Phoenix to Canada will shrink the NHL’s American footprint, decreasing the value of their (American) TV contract. With that in mind, where might the Coyotes go? Best bets are Seattle, Houston or Kansas City.
If the ‘Yotes move to Seattle, no conference change is necessary. If either Houston or KC is their destination, they would move into Conference 3, with either Winnipeg or Colorado coming back to Conference 4.
2. NHL expands to Quebec City and Markham. This scenario gets a bit convoluted, but here’s what makes the most sense: QUE and MKH go into Conference 2 with the other eastern Canadian clubs. To make room for them, Florida and Tampa Bay move to Conference 1, with Washington coming back in return. Detroit and Columbus would both go west again, shifting to Conference 3. Last, but not least, either Winnipeg or Colorado would slide into Conference 4, giving the NHL four eight-team conferences. In case that’s confusing, here’s what it would look like:
Conference 1: CAR, FLA, NJD, NYI, NYR, PHI, PIT, TBL
Conference 2: BOS, BUF, MKH, MTL, OTT, QUE, TOR, WSH
Conference 3: CBJ, CHI, COL, DAL, DET, MIN, NSH, STL
Conference 4: ANA, CGY, EDM, LAK, PHX, SJS, VAN, WPG
As in Scenario 1, if the Coyotes relocate to Seattle, they’ll remain in Conference 4. If they move to Houston or KC, they’ll swap with Colorado.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Until expansion brings the NHL up to 32 clubs, two conferences will have seven teams while two have eight. The primary complaint is that teams in the smaller conferences will have an easier road to the playoffs, under the proposed format of teams 1-4 in each conference making it in. To offset the disparity, the league is discussing some sort of wild card playoff for the eight-team conferences. In short, this would attempt to fix one mistake with another. Here’s where the NHL is wrong on realignment: conference playoffs.
The very idea of conference playoffs, with the potential of, say, Boston vs. Toronto year-after-year-after-year, is just plain terrible. As I suggested last week, the four regular-season conference champs (which should be decided by conference record – not overall points – by the way) should be seeded 1-4, with the next-best twelve teams seeded 5-16. Rather than a simple 1 vs 16, 2 vs 15, etc. format, the conference champs should get the benefit of choosing their first-round opponent. Thus, the top four clubs have the option of minimizing travel and/or selecting an opponent whom they dominated in the regular season. Once the conference champs have selected their opponents, the remaining matchups would be determined through normal seeding, i.e., 5 vs 12, 6 vs 11, and so on.
Though many will no doubt complain that this proposed format could result in increased playoff travel for many clubs, that is precisely the point: Eastern teams currently have a distinct travel advantage through the first three playoff rounds, which this system would eliminate. Of equal importance, this system is the only way to ensure the sixteen best teams make the playoffs every year. Gone will be the almost-annual complaint of inferior teams in one conference making the playoffs while better teams in the other conference hit the links.
Since the latest NHL lockout began, many fans and journalists alike have sided with #theplayers, appalled by the notion that the owners – “greedy, stupid billionaires” all – would demand their employees take an immediate pay cut. After all, the NHL made $3.3 BILLION last season. Also, the players have contracts – written agreements, signed by the owners, promising to pay x amount over the life of the deal. Now the owners don’t want to pay the agreed-upon amount? How dare they! To the NHLPA and their supporters I say: get over yourselves. Set aside your histrionics and your talking points and take a cold, hard look at reality. Here’s why the owners are (mostly) right, and you are (mostly) wrong:
The Nature of the Beast
The NHL is a unique industry, in that 30 separate businesses simultaneously work in conjunction to produce a single product (an NHL season) and compete fiercely against one another (to win the Stanley Cup). The battle between teams isn’t confined to the ice, either: GMs compete with each other for scarce resources (NHL-caliber players). The level of competition is such that, were 30 Sidney Crosby clones available, each team would attempt to acquire as many Sidney Crosbys as possible.
To continue that analogy, as a fan, you would be upset if your team made no attempt to acquire at least one Crosby (or at least one more Crosby than your biggest rival). Fans pay good money for tickets, concessions, parking and souvenirs, and as such, they (rightfully) expect, even demand, management/ownership do whatever it takes to ice the best possible team. Fan expectations, which translate directly to revenue, are a significant driver of off-ice competition.
This “Battle of the GMs” is not just driven by fan expectations – it’s also required by law. If they didn’t compete – if the 30 GMs got together and said, “Okay, guys…from now on, nobody offers UFAs more than $2mil/year. Agreed? Agreed!” – that would be collusion, and the NHLPA would sue…and win. Thus, player salaries continue to grow (from an average of $1.4mil in 2005 to $2.4mil today), held in check only by the salary cap and the self-imposed spending limits of individual owners.
Why the Players are Locked Out
Over the life of the now-expired CBA, the players received 57% of Hockey-Related Revenues (HRR). Despite the fact that HRR has grown to record levels, at least half of all NHL franchises lost money last season. Why? Because 43% of HRR is not enough for many franchises to cover their operating expenses.
In truth, the NHL erred back in 2005, when they agreed to give the players 57%. It was intended as “a spoonful of sugar” to make the medicine – a salary cap – go down, but the financial struggles of at least half the league’s franchises have proven the short-sightedness of that deal. Now, for the stability and financial health of the NHL as a whole, a correction must be made.
Why We Wait
If you’re reading this, you know the NHL’s latest offer called for an immediate 50/50 revenue split, with a “make whole” provision for existing player contracts. In short, players would have some of the money due them this season and next deferred to Year 3 or to the end of their current contract, whichever comes first. The NHLPA objects to those “make whole” payments coming out of the players share of HRR, saying it would mean “players paying players”, which they find highly offensive.
At the same time, the NHLPA has called repeatedly for increased revenue sharing to help the struggling franchises. By this, of course, they mean moving money from profitable franchises to unprofitable ones…in other words, they’re all for “owners paying owners”. Though revenue sharing among franchises is a necessity, the NHLPA stance reeks of hypocrisy.
The players made three counter-proposals to the NHL last week, none of which would bring the HRR split down to 50/50 before Year 5. In other words, the NHLPA proposals call for roughly half of all franchises to continue to bleed cash for at least four more years. What will the players sacrifice in return? Well, they’ll get smaller raises each year…but make no mistake, they will get raises.
Truthfully, there’s no guarantee a 50/50 HRR split will put all 30 NHL franchises in the black; in fact, some franchises will still lose money, at least in the short-term. Lowering the players share of HRR will reduce the number of teams in need of revenue sharing $$$, which will increase the stability of the league as a whole…and thinking long-term, at the end of the next CBA, if only three or four clubs are still losing money, it will be exceedingly difficult for the NHL to make a case for a greater share of HRR.
It’s obvious, even to the NHLPA, that the HRR split must come down to 50/50. Now, the players must set aside their personal animosity toward Gary Bettman, their ridiculous indignation at the NHL’s original offer (43% of HRR) and their unrealistic expectation of uninterrupted (though reduced) raises year-over-year, and work with the league to tweak the NHL’s last offer and get a deal done. In the current economic climate, many people in the ”real” world are either unemployed or have taken significant pay cuts in order to keep their jobs. A 20% pay cut when you’re making $50k hurts much more than 20% of $525k, believe me. If the rest of us can do it, the NHLPA can, too.
So there we were in the On Goal Analysis (OGA) offices, sitting like all other Hockey fans, twiddling our thumbs due to no NHL play.
And then it hit us. We have been producing the NHL Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC) since the last Lockout (or, ‘The Last One’) at right about 90% accuracy. That is, determining the teams that would and would not make the playoffs as far out as possible from the actual playoffs, to the tune of 28-of-30 and approximately 100 days (in the Game 40 – 50 span) before the mathematical call each year.
We have never ventured off into another league. So what the heck? We’re going to give it a go with the professional League we know will play an entire season and work that PQC magic for the American Hockey League (AHL).
How do we do it? Well, we cannot exactly divulge what the secret ingredients are to our pick ‘em recipe. But suffice it to say we are going to expand the experiment and bring you the AHL PQC this season right here in the OGA Blogs.
How Will We Do It?
Check back here several times a week as we provide you the simple chart you will see below to follow the AHL’s march to the Playoffs. We will give you the PQC calls explained below as each team reaches another 10-game marker (i.e. Game 10, 20, 30, etc.). As they do so, you will see the standings line color change to the appropriate PQC designation. And once we make a call of IN (Chasing Calder) or OUT (Tee Time), we will stick by that call unless a BAD CALL (Shot Off The Post) notification is made.
Additionally, we also give you the projected standings based on team play. Note here that the chart below is through the first weekend only. Projected standings for one or two games are not really an indicator of how things are going to go. That is why, for instance, you see Hamilton in the Western Conference with a estimated Win (eW) number of 76.00 games. Take a look conversely at Lake Erie in the same Conference who went 2-1-0 on the weekend and the numbers begin to alter more. In fact, we will not gain true clarity until every team has at least one OT/SO loss and/or beginning around the Game 20 mark, but you should know we are striving to bring you the end result long before its actual arrival.
The 14 October Chart
Here are the two Conferences after games completed on 14 October:
Here are notes to explain the chart:
1. AHL Conferences are shown Western and Eastern from left to right as they would be on a map. The far left column in each chart titled ‘AHL Stnd’ indicates current team AHL standings as of the posted date. And teams use standard AHL abbreviations and color schemes.
2. ‘GP’ = Games Played.
3. ‘eW’ = Estimated Wins, our own formulary as the season progresses.
4. ‘eL’ = Estimated Losses
5. ‘eOTL’ = Estimated Overtime Losses, the third point in three-point games
6. ‘ePts’ = Estimated Points
7. ‘ePt Rnk’ = Estimated Points Rank, our call in how they will fare overall
8. And the ‘PQC Code’: ‘CC’ = Chasing Calder, or IN the Playoffs; ‘SS’ = Sharpening Skates, or just shy of IN the Playoffs; ‘ITC’ = In The Curve, or playing right about on average; ‘DoC’ = Dusting Off Clubs, or almost OUT of the Playoffs; ‘TT’ = Tee Time, or OUT of the Playoffs; and ‘SotP’ = Shot Off The Post, or a bad call of CC or TT. Again, the PQC Codes get called every 10 games. (For example, my hometown Houston Aeros’ first PQC call will come after the game they play on 4 November, their Game 10.) Note here that in the NHL it was tradition to get some early ‘Chasing Stanley’ and/or TT calls each year until the last year season. In 2011-12, it took until the Game 30 mark to start calling CS’ due to the competitiveness of the League. We will see how the AHL works out.
So above you have it – the first AHL Point Predictor and PQC Standings chart based on games ending 14 October. The next one posted will be after the Peoria at Chicago game on 17 October as there is only one game each scheduled on 16 and 17 October. Go to the bottom of the right hand column, load in your email address and click on the ‘Sign Me Up!’ button to subscribe to the OGA Blogs and you will not miss an AHL update (and the NHL ones when/if they come to an agreement.)