Ten Points: Petry, Hemsky, Smid, Lou Lamoriello, and a change for Hockey Night in Canada

Jonathan Willis
August 28 2012 09:39AM

Jeff Petry (5of7/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. Jeff Petry’s offensive game. It’s hard to believe, given the player he looked like on the ice in 2011-12, but the last time Petry scored 10 goals was 2006-07 in the USHL. He’s a heck of a player, and there’s a lot of value there that doesn’t show up in the point totals but I just don’t see him as a big-time offensive defender – his numbers in college and the AHL scream that he’s a 30-point defender. I do think he’ll be a big part of the team for a long time, but I doubt he’ll be the straw that stirs the drink offensively.

2. Hope and Ales Hemsky. I don’t have the same level of institutional memory that older fans and writers do, but I’ve been around long enough to see what can happen to hope. In the summer of 2006, the Oilers signed Ales Hemsky to a six-year contract extension. It was a good deal at the time, and it was a good deal when it ended, but it didn’t turn out as imagined. When Hemsky signed the deal he was a 22-year old with no history of serious injury coming off a breakthrough 77-point campaign and 17 points in 24 playoff games. If the world ended today that 77-point mark would be the best of his career; he hasn’t seen the post-season since. Injuries and plateaus happen, and it’s a lesson worth remembering.

3. Lou Lamoriello’s take on mistakes. One of my favourite sections in the book Behind the Moves were the conversations with Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello’s not perfect, but he’s been an excellent general manager for a very long time – based on track record, the only guy in the league in the same category in my opinion is Ken Holland. Anyway, Lamoriello had this to say about mistakes and players that don’t work out:

We acquired players that people never expected we would take here because we considered the character of our team and which people would help. Some have worked and some certainly haven’t, but I don’t look at the ones that haven’t as mistakes. I look at them as not working out. Mistakes are when you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. Mistakes come from not doing your homework.

The player I thought of, reading that again today, was Eric Belanger. A year into his deal, he hasn’t worked out the way Edmonton hoped he would. That doesn’t mean Tambellini et al. made a mistake in signing him – his skillset was a good fit for the team and he’d been a solid 35-point man for nearly a decade before the Oilers signed him. The reasoning behind the acquisition was good. He hasn’t worked out so far. It happens.

4. Ladislav Smid might once again be a restricted free agent. Here’s one interesting quirk to the NHL’s CBA proposal: if the league gets its way and expands the length of restricted free agency to 10 years, a bunch of players are going to lose their access to unrestricted free agency. Smid is one possible victim/the Oilers one possible beneficiary. The then-27 year old will have seven accrued seasons in the summer of 2013 when his contract expires; under the current arrangement he is eligible for unrestricted free agency but not under the league’s proposal. Then again, it’s more likely that any changes to the system will be grandfathered in, meaning that Smid will hit the open market unless re-signed.

5. Hockey Night in Canada could be without both Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury when hockey resumes. This as per Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail. Apparently Healy is “being courted by the competition” and is free to leave while Milbury will be turning to his NBC work. For my part, I’m thrilled – this is an opportunity to get some fresh voices on the program, and hopefully will up the quality of analysis done on the show. Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman are both excellent while I’ve always liked MacLean; with any luck the program can find a complementary voice or two that will improve the quality of the broadcast.

6. The Hockey News picks the Oilers to finish 13th in the West. In their preview, they cite question marks in net and on the blueline in justifying the prediction, as well as the need for modest expectations for the incoming rookies. That sounds sensible to me.

7. Gary Bettman’s sort of a jerk. Asked why the league needed to change its core economics if it was doing well, Bettman responded, “Well, we believe that we’re paying out more than we should be. It’s as simple as that.” He then declined to explain the reasoning behind that belief, and when asked if the recovery after the last lockout made it easier to contemplate another work stoppage unctuously replied that the league had “the world’s greatest fans.” I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the owner’s logical belief that they may as well use the leverage they have in a money grab, but the commissioner’s obvious contempt for the fans was hard to watch. I mean sure, they boo him, but they’ve also supported the NHL in record numbers after the league took a year off to institute a salary cap.

8. What if the league had accepted the players’ final offer last time around? It’s interesting to look back in history and see how things might have turned out. In February of 2005, the NHLPA made its “final offer” to owners to save the season: a $49 million salary cap with a luxury tax between $40 and $49 million. The NHLPA really wanted to avoid a salary cap linked to NHL revenue, while the NHL was unwilling to go above a $42.5 million cap. Even ignoring the luxury tax and looking at that $49 million alone, with the advantage of hindsight we can see that the NHLPA’s offer would have been worse for the players than the deal they eventually inked with the league. By 2007-08, the salary cap was north of $50 million, and last season’s cap of $64.3 million was $15 million more than the NHLPA proposal. It’s a good reminder that for all the thinkers on both sides calculating what a deal should look like, in the end the assumptions of both can look foolish in retrospect. Not only would the league have made more money with that deal, and be less likely to be clamouring for a lockout now, but a shortened 2004-05 season would have been possible.

Edit - Silly of me. I didn't do enough homework on this; as was pointed out in the comments, Goodenow's proposal was that the cap would be in place for two years before rising indexed to HRR. Assuming that HRR rebounded faster because the NHL had been able to save the 2004-05 season, this deal might have been close to what ended up happening in the end, but it likely wouldn't have been better. My apologies for the mistake. - jw

9. This lockout isn’t about small-market teams. It’s really not. The NHL sees an opportunity to grab a huge stack of money from the players – using last year’s revenue numbers, the league is looking at adding $462 million per season to their coffers under their proposal, and $231 million per season under an imagined 50/50 split in hockey-related revenue. Most of that will go to big-market teams. It’s entirely understandable that really rich businessmen are looking to use the leverage they have to extract money from the players, though it doesn’t have the same sort of ethical clout that arguments behind the last lockout did.

10. Alternatives to the NHL. When the lockout comes – it seems everyone is convinced it will and I can’t disagree – the good news is that there are alternatives to NHL hockey. Last time around, I paid more attention to the CFL than I ever had before or since, but this time I’ll probably end up watching the Oklahoma City Barons and as much junior hockey as I can. The lockout’s bad news for fans, but it will be great news for leagues that compete for the attention of fans.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.