Monday, July 25, 2005

Tom Benjamin's Negativity

Tom Benjamin over at Canucks Corner is a great blogger who is very popular. This post is not to say that I don't enjoy reading his blog. But he has two negative posts today that I feel the need to respond to. The first is on the shootout.

You are Oilers coach Craig Mactavish, tied playing in Philadelphia with 15 minutes left in the 3rd period. A win in regulation is worth 2 points, a loss zero. A tie at the end of regulation is worth 1.5 points, because half the time you'll get 1 point, and half the time you'll get 2.

Under the previous system, you could assign a value to Tie At End Of Regulation as about 1.2 - 40% or so of OT games ended with a goal, and you could expect that to be your team's goal about half the time.

The new system makes "surviving regulation time" that much more lucrative - instead of winning the 2nd point about one in five times, now you'll win it about one in two times.

Note: This is actually quoting Matt Fenwick's blog but Tom responds to this quote and this is the most interesting part of the post.

I find two problems with this line of thinking. First, it will not be a 50-50 chance for every team to win the shootout. Some teams will be better at shootouts and their opponents will try to avoid overtime. Second, we don't know what the NHL will look like with the new rules. I think more scoring will lead to less ties and we don't know how well teams will be able to play defensively to get into OT.

Without the two line pass and (hopefully) a lot less obstruction, the trap will be harder to implement. If teams drop back too much to cover the long pass, the opposing teams will be able to gain a lot more steam through the neutral zone and can break in for a scoring chance. This is different than in the old NHL because teams will not be able to slow down fast moving players through the zone as easily. Also (and this is a very big deal) teams will not be able to make a line change after they ice the puck. So if a team is just playing for the tie and are trying to escape an attack in their zone, they can't fire the puck down and get fresh legs on the ice.

I think with the new rules teams will need to have a good offense to hold a lead. According to JD, the NHL is actually serious this time about cracking down obstruction and without the clutch and grab, big pads and being able to change after an icing, the only way to keep a team out of your zone will be to put pressure on them.

I would like to add that Matt writes this after talking about the increased incentive to get into OT:

As I noted, I don't like to be a complainer, so I have a proposed solution.

The NHL has decided that they don't care if every game is worth the same number of points (e.g. 2). So instead of making OT/SO games 3-point games, make them 1-point games.

This is a new and interesting twist on things, and it's not one that I agree with, but thinking outside of the box is always good. I am still in the camp that if you play 60 minutes of hockey and are tied, you deserve a point. I think a 3 points for a regulation victory, 2 points for an OT/shootout victory, 1 point for an OT/shootout loss is a good system and one the NHL will consider in the future. The NHL has made a ton of changes: we should give it a year to see how it all plays out. I might be wrong and Tom/Matt might be right, but with so many changes, we can give it a little time.

I said Tom made two negative posts and I spent all this time on shootouts and overtime. The second post is about restricted free agents and compensation. Here is what Tom writes:

I never thought draft picks were worth anywhere near what conventional wisdom says they were worth under the old CBA, and I don't think they are worth squat in Gary Bettman's hockey league. I am certainly willing to spend all my draft picks on restricted free agents.

Would someone explain the draft hype around Sidney Crosby? In three years, he can be had for a whack of money and four first round picks. The Penguins got Sidney Crosby for three years. Then they get the right to match the salary any other team is prepared to pay him for four years. Then he is an unrestricted free agent. Pittsburgh won the lottery. Big fricking deal.

It's a good thing most fans claim they cheer for the laundry because that's about all we can expect to see staying constant from year to year. Why don't they just let the general managers draft a roster every year? Call it the Gary Bettman Rotissiere Hockey league.

Well it is a big deal. Draft picks might not be the holy grail but they are still important. If a team does not develop young players that can contribute, they will end up like my New York Rangers. (Note: The Rangers actually have a pretty good system, but in recent years they used too many bought players and not enough of a home-grown core. That is going to change now.)

First, regarding the Penguins, they will match anything a team offers Crosby, even if it drives their payroll up a million dollars more than they would like. Second, players can sign deals with clubs and not let other teams bid on their services. (Some players do want to stay where they are)

Third, in a salary cap environment, teams cannot just offer huge contracts to RFA's for the fun of it. If the team matches that offer, then great, you hamstrung your opponent just a little bit. But if they don't, you get stuck footing the bill and making your team worse. You overpaid for a star meaning you have less to spend on the rest of the team AND you lose several draft picks. Draft picks build a farm system and a young core of players. Teams can go after some RFA's but they might end up where they barely have any picks left and/or they inflated the market value for players, making their team worse in the long haul. In a salary cap environment, not overspending on a RFA is even more important, not less important.

I wasn't even going to respond to the shootout post, but when Tom said that drafting Crosby is no big deal, I had to write something. Note: I want to remind my readers that Tom and Matt have good blogs that I enjoy reading, but Tom seems very negative about the new NHL. Hockey is back after a whole year off and people are complaining already, before they even get a chance to see how it will all play out. I truly believe things are looking better than ever for the NHL.

And please, leave a comment if you agree/disagree. I love to hear the other side of an argument.