It’s the second hockey season! And you know what that means … the Leather Daddy, Bobbert and I will end up pushing emails out to one another about whatever happens in the world of hockey. Sadly, for Bobby his Flyers are already out of the mix, and unfortunately for all of us, it’s really busy at work which will probably limit the response details, but as always, I’ll post them here for everyone’s enjoyment.
Mouse> And so it begins, Toronto cleaned house
Bobby> We’re next.
LD> Not a surprise at all. They’ve been a disaster for a while. If they don’t change attitude from the top none of it will make a difference. Let’s see who the brave soul who becomes GM is before anything else.
Mouse> They did try changing at the top and at the beginning of the season were supposed to be the new benchmark for the analytics crew. You know what advanced metrics told me? The same thing I already knew with standard metrics, Toronto sucks across the board and there’s probably no way out of that with the current team makeup.
Lecrappier and the Phailures
Bobby> There are no surprises here mouse… I’ll forward you this article but it’s all over talk radio here too.
Also I make the case that signing vinny wasn’t hextalls idea more a less holmgrens and he is way past his prime… But yes you guys have fun in the playoffs and when you’re out the first round again…. You’ll be in my boat… Oooo what to do…. Stock pile draft picks and start over… Oooo well…. But first let’s steal Babcock from the wings that’s first and foremost….
Mouse> I’ll let Darrin speak to the whole Babcock comment and if he’s indeed stealable. My thought is he walked into an amazing culture and already established winning franchise in Detroit and has elevated it even when it’s shown it has cracks in the foundation because everything was always in place for him to do so. The Wings are built to survive even if not every individual personelle decision makes sense. Moving to a team like Philly, or worse Toronto as the speculation rises there, would be a reclamation project. The culture isn’t good, the team isn’t good and everything would be starting from scratch with a time horizon to success well beyond a year or even three years if it’s about development. I’m not in the guys brain, but if it were me, no amount of money would be teeing me up for that kind of fiasco to be honest.
As for the Flyers otherwise. I know that there’s a lot of thought already about Hexy doing what he does to fix the ailes of the team. There’s a lot of cap space tied up in players that don’t perform up to their burden. It’s one thing to be the Penguins and have almost a third wrapped up in the Crosby-Malkin-Letang trio or to be the Hawks with Toews-Kane-Sharp or Capitals with Ovi-Backy-Nisky where you know the reward of those contracts are top flight top producing players but the Flyers have a lot wrapped up not in the absolute top (the Giroux one being alone at the top) but in that 15+ million/3.5+ cap hit range that are a number of underperformers like McDonald, Unberger, Lecavalier, Reed and maybe Grossman to name a few it’s dragging down terribly the flexibility and functionality of the team.
You know where you are lacking … you’re in the bottom third in Goals For which is a function of being in or very near the bottom third in SOG/60, Fenwick For/60 in Corsi For/60 , terrible in Corsi Close situations. All of these are representations of shooting which are functions of puck possession, thus making Philly in its current incarnation a terrible possession team at least from the offense side. Beyond Giroux, Voracek and maybe Simmonds on offense there isn’t much to the offense. There’s no middle six chipping in, apart from Streit on Defense there’s not a lot coming in there either and for special teams the Power Play can be dangerous but it’s middling at best statistically.
And on the other side of the puck believe it or not, you’re better than you are on offense, and that’s probably pretty surprising considering the perception that the D is swiss cheese and half the forwards are lazy. Philly falls n the middle third pushing bottom half for GA/60, FA/60, CA/60 even barely holding middle third on Corsi Against Close. But these aren’t standout numbers by any means, they’re wading through and probably in part a function of the more physical nature of the game that Philly plays being a checking team. The grit that Philly comes with although might not be traditionally good defensively knocks guys off the pucks and the advanced stats seem to reflect it to a degree even if there’s no real system behind how the defense overall functions. Goalie stats are what they are. You know where your problems lie in goal with streakiness and with lingering injuries. Goalies are typically the most enigamatic players and it’s quite possible to win a cup with a middling goalie as there are many examples of it. While you probably don’t land a Carey Price to save the day what you have as much as we can joke about it is more than servicable if the rest of the team around them were better.
For the goal differential and PDO and a lot of the combined stats you’re dead on even which is nothing terrible but then again, it’s nothing special either
To me, again, it comes back to more than just stock piling picks. It’s truly developing players that fill in important needs for your team and then stacking some quality talent around them to help those kids develop. Right now, I think you’re not set up for that. There’s not a single elite forward in your prospect pool and no goalie depth and very little mobility in your D-men. It’s the prototypical 70s Flyers franchise in your system of all gritty forwards and stay at home thumpers on D from everything I’ve read and seen. There might be some immediate call ups you can use to backfill the forth and maybe third lines but you’re not pulling a true top sixer out of that on forward or a Norris candidate on D and you’re stuck having to go to waivers and trades for goalies, snipers and mobile dmen. It will take several years before picks will balance out the system and then those picks can move into the NHL team.
In the meantime, Del Zotto and Emry are your big UFA and there’s a smattering of RFA to make decisions with, none of whom will probably be expensive to retain, if they’re the right players for improving things. The more pressing issue is again, those bloated contracts that will be difficult, if not impossible to move that will grind at the possession numbers again regardless of who the coaching staff is. While you’re not Buffalo or the Oilers or Phoenix even New Jersey or Carolina right now in terms of composite makeup being so dysfunctional, you’re headed in their direction with a lot less salary cap flexibility.
And, the Caps probably won’t be in your boat and starting over … actually, you’ll remember Bobby, we did our housecleaning last season when we missed the playoffs and got a new GM a whole new bench staff and a couple of new blue liners as well as bringing up three rookies.
I’m most concerned in the offseason because we have a LOT of contracts to make decisions with
UFAs in Mike Green and the injured Big John on D, forwards Joel Ward, Eric Fehr, Curtis Glencross and our #1 goalie in Holtby. Holts is my #1 concern in this case, he deserves a raise and although we have two more goalies under him in the system, I’m personally tired of the goalie merry-go-round. The three fowards are some skill with grit, there’s potential salary to shed here and enough depth in the system we can probably replace their roles if need be, but I’d like to see Fehr come back for one last contract. As for D as much as I’d dislike seeing Greeny leave for any number of reasons I can’t see paying him what he’ll be worth on the open market and I can’t see him taking a big enough home town discount to stay. Ernskine’s retiring so I don’t worry about him.
RFA fowards Johannson and Kuznetsov both should be probably resigned. I know there are Caps fans down on MoJo and who are still trying to find patience with Kuzy’s growth but they’re both big upside players that should come at a fair price and are home grown talents. For depth players we have Beagle and Wellman as well, again they could come cheep if need be but if we retain Beagle I hope we use him better. The oddball here is 23 year old Galiev who struggled with the transition to north american hockey but had a breakout year in Hershey this year and a great debut with the big team. I’d resign him too.
RFA-D the Caps have a tonne of talent to consider contractually including Gleason who we just picked up on the third pairing and under 25 year olds who are in the transition process from AHL to NHL like Schmidt, Wey, Shilling and Kundratek along with journeymen like Olesky who’s been in and out of Washington for several seasons now.
Oh, and our next-in-line goallie extraordinaire in Philip Grubauer in an RFA. In goal if we get both FAs signed we’re good, we could use an upgrade on Peters as a backup depending on what they want to do with Gruby between Hershey and the big club.
On D we’re good even if on the off chance we lost everyone which won’t happen. Our front four are good. Even if Orpik begins to fall off and slots from the first to the second or even the third pair in depth we still have a solid front three to work with. Schmidt probably resigns and he had fantastic possession numbers and looked good developing on the third pair. We should get Orlov back from injury and he also had very good possession numbers and looked good in his time before the injury in the bottom four anywhere as he was developing. In the AHL we have Carrick who played under Oates as a 19 yr old and struggled but he’s developed nice and has a big puck moving upside and Bowey and Djoos are both young kids that could develop into strong assets too regardless of what we do with Wey, Shilling and Kundratek in Hersey, though I think Wey at a minimum is also signed. While I often bitch about the Caps leaning entirely too heavy on internally developed talent on D in the past I think having Orpik and Nisky as outside voices along with Carlson’s international experience the last few years and Alzner’s now mid-20s maturity really helps a lot to allow the third pairing to be used smarter than it has been since the late 80s and 90s and we have more than enough depth of talent to fill it even losing Greeny.
On Forwards if we lose all our UFA we’re basically having to build the middle six up from scratch, but it would free up space to focus on allowing us to get a true top six winger to balance the scoring threat if there is one. It would also free up space to sign Mojo, Kuzy and Galiev and use them along with Willie and Bura and to a lesser degree Latta in better suited roles on the team immediately. My biggest problem at forwards is we currently have too many middle six guys that have too similar of roles (those three UFA plus Brower and Laich and to a degree old man Chimaira). Since I don’t think Brower or Laich are going anywhere anytime soon on their contracts the only chance we have is to let one or more of the UFA go in order to juggle roster openings for the talent we have waiting to break through (and that includes Riley Barber and Jakub Vrana in Hershey at some point soon down the road). I think the forward situation is the most interesting. While in Kuzy we might have found that elusive 2C that’s haunted us for years the makeup of the top 9 is for the first time in a long time almost complete up for grabs.
The LD> Mouse, you’re wordy. The Caps will be fine. If they go deeper than round one this year there will be free agents coming to them rather than you have to beg for them like in the past.
Just be glad you have the depth in the system and aren’t Bobby. That’s a mess and the Flyers don’t even have the excuse of the Wings who have been in the playoffs so long they haven’t had good draft positioning in what seems like decades.
Mouse> Fine, I’m longwinded, you all know that, more pressing matters at hand, the playoffs. And, I’ll leave the advanced analysis out and get to the pure opinion points
The first and foremost thing I see is that there is no runaway team this year. There are a couple of very meh teams who snuck in and a couple of really good story lines, mostly revolving around goal tending but there’s no standout team that’s dominant in a way that they could be anointed early. There’s a lot of parity among the teams on the whole with the biggest differences between them being their “one chince in the armor” so to speak. There are a few teams where the weakness isn’t all that much of a weakness while others it’s pretty glaring despite them making the playoffs. So while i think a lot of the
I could go on all day about the Caps-Islanders matchup. Being they ARE the cardiac caps I’ll just say I am really hoping for the win because despite the pace the Isles played in the first half the season I don’t think they’re as up to the playoffs as their record or some of their individual stats would have you believe on paper.
Rangers should dismantle the Pens. The lack of defensive depth and MAF in goal should do them in. While teams will probably contain either the first or the second line but allow the other line to score, the Pens aren’t going to threaten by rolling four lines effectively either. The Rags have four lines to role even if none of them materialize into a real scoring threat a deeper D and a better goalie situation even with a rusty King between the pipes. If there ever where an upset, I think this is the series that it would make a lot of noise.
That would pit the Caps Rags and as we’ve seen in the past the teams match up well against one another, there’s a lot of bad blood and whomever wins will once again probably do it on a bad bounce.
The goalie nightmare that is the Habs Ottawa series could be a coin toss. Does Price continue his historic numbers? Does the Hamburgler’s streak continue? Does Pax being injured become this year’s Habs albatross? No one thinks the Habs are as good as their record and thus too many variables but I’d like to see the Habs triumph.
The Stevie Y series I think leans in Tampa’s favor. While the Wings bring a great deal of experience with them they also bring age and a team that seems to be struggling at times with identity (maybe not the right word). While there’s oceans of talent it’s matched by a strong possession team that can score even on shut down Ds. Could come down to shrewed coaching moves and a little bit of puck luck in the creases.
If it went the way it should it would be Habs Lightening and with the Lightening’s depth it’s maybe Tampa’s series to lose and if they do it’ll be because of a goalie collapse on their side along with a magical run by Price
out west I haven’t followed as closely as I should.
St. Louis has two good goalies and doesn’t know which to use, while Minny didn’t have any goalie until recently when they suddenly had a top five/top three guy between the pipes. Minny is dangerous and loaded with possible talent but never quite seem to gel. StL seems like their talent flames up and burns out at weird times, never at once and not in a way that it’s hurt them but perceptually they feel like a team that undulates a lot. Whomever remains more consistent wins, part of me hopes that’s Minny.
Chi over Nashville. Nashville is still in the process of defining who they are beyond Rinne and there’s a lot to be had. With Kane ready to go for Chicago they already know who they are and have overcome the adversity necessary to probably get there. It could fun but I think ultimately it’s Chi’s to lose. This to me would be the other upset that people would talk a lot about.
Anaheim Jets – While I think BBs teams are way too high flying in general the Jets I don’t think have the right matchups to really slow them down. High event hockey and a lot of within-one scoring puck luck carried the Ducks to the playoffs and they should get past the first rough with a draw that lets them keep playing the wide open style. It should catch up to them, but I don’t think the Jets are who shoot them down
Nucks Fames – you got me. Nucks? Sure, why not. I almost have become a fan of them over the years if for no other reason they have a very similar dysfunctional track record to the caps hehehe.