August 05 2012 02:43PM
Hunter is out, and with him goes half-effective Alex.
photo by Ivan Makarov, via Wikimedia Commons
As a group, NHL General Managers generally know what they're doing. Individual GMs fail, and fail mightily, and torch franchises in the process. But even the very good GMs make mistakes from time-to-time and last year Washington Capitals GM George McPhee made an enormous blunder.
The 2011-12 Capitals were an expensive team filled with superstars, but those stars weren't winning and that money was burning. In Bruce Boudreau, McPhee had a lightning rod of a head coach (thanks mainly to HBO) and chose Boudreau to take the fall for the wins. Stories surfaced about locker room discord and pouting superstars and in the end, even Boudreau agreed the dismissal was the right move. McPhee said that "the message wasn't getting through," and it was time for a change.
In reality, however, the Caps weren't suffering under Boudreau. When Boudreau was fired, the Capitals were a top five team in Fenwick Close, the sign of a dominant possession team. The difference in the team, at least on the ice, was the lack of plentiful goals, something management could count on in years past. At fault particularly was the power play, oft-cited in articles about Boudreau's firing, and Alex Ovechkin was blamed for the team's lack of success.
Thus began the Dale Hunter era.
August 05 2012 12:39PM
It's the August long weekend! Hockey may be on the back-burner for many, but that doesn't mean that Nation Radio is hurting for things to discuss. Host Allan Mitchell talks about the Oilers with Jason Gregor, the Canucks with Thomas Drance, the NHL in general with Eric T., the AHL with Jim Byers and the WHL with Guy Flaming, with a little soccer talk with Scott Francis Winder in acknowledgement of the fact that when the thermometer is pushing 30 degrees all the talk can't be about hockey.
August 04 2012 01:05PM
Does Martin St. Louis have a last hurrah in him?
By Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons
When Steve Yzerman took over as the Lightning’s GM in 2010, most hockey minds thought that he would help make this team competitive again and during the first year of his tenure, he was able to do just that. Tampa Bay made the playoffs and were able to knock off both Pittsburgh and Washington in the first two rounds before being eliminated by Boston. Their success that year appeared to be legitimate as they had the third best Fenwick close percentage in the NHL and a decent young corps to build around in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Unfortunately for Yzerman, things fell apart last year.
August 03 2012 11:41AM
Will Pavelec earn his new contract?
photo by Michael Miller, via Wikimedia Commons
The Winnipeg Jets enter 2012-13 in a good place for an organization born from the Atlanta Thrashers' scrapheap. Still one of the youngest teams in the league, the Jets have a number of their best young players already contributing at a major-league level (Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Alexander Burmistrov). Bolstered by the eager reception of Winnipeg crowds in their first season, now the team should be able to get a better sense of the market abilities of the organization this year...there have already been whispers of an internal cap, no surprise in a location like the 'Peg. It already seems pretty clear that GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is focused on making the signings he needs to make (resigning Tobias Enstrom and very likely Evander Kane) rather than the ones he might dream of making (a la the Minnesota Wild).
The fact of the matter is that the 2012-13 Jets are very similar to last year's Jets, with at least one big addition and a few more fresh faces. This should be great news for Jets fans, as the 2011-12 Jets were a solid team (11th in the NHL in Fenwick Close, AKA their percentage of shots, explained here) and, as a young team, only stand to improve. Let's have a look at a few of the more important aspects of the team.
August 02 2012 04:04PM
Does Staal have another celebration in his future?
photo by Andy, via Wikimedia Commons
By the end of September 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes had committed $14.55M in cap space to Eric Staal and Cam Ward through the 2015-16 season. For a team that doesn't generally spend to the cap, that's a lot of coin for just two players, but the Hurricanes had already won one Stanley Cup with those two players and had just made an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the three seasons since, the Hurricanes have yet to make the playoffs.
Perhaps more disconcerting is the fact that the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs because they just haven't been very good. In 2009-10, the team's Fenwick score (their percentage of shots, explained here) with the score close (definition for close can be found here) was just 47.5%; in 2010-11, it worsened to 46.3%; and in 2011-12 it climbed back to 48.0%. So in terms of territorial advantage, the team has been very poor to awful for the last three years. Worse still, Eric Staal has been in the red in all three seasons (again, with the score close), and Cam Ward has only been slightly better than average over that time (.923 save percentage on 4,835 shots).
With both Staal and Ward having back-loaded contracts (Staal's average salary over the next four seasons is $9.125M, while Ward's is $6.625M), the Hurricanes were facing an important decision at the 2012 trade deadline. Was it time to divest themselves of these expensive assets in order to build around a young core that would include Jeff Skinner, Brandon Sutter, Justin Falk, Ryan Murphy, and a top ten selection in the 2012 entry draft? Or was it time to build around those two expensive players in an effort to win now? The Hurricanes have left no doubt that they chose option number two.