Around the Blogosphere: April 6th

Jonathan Willis
April 06 2009 03:00PM

Harding/Backstrom

Below, you’re going to see a link that takes you to an article arguing that the Oilers should sign Josh Harding to an offer sheet. The article argues that this is in the best interest of the Oilers, but what about Josh Harding? Is it fair that he continue to toil behind Nik Backstrom despite his own exceptional talents? Look how crushed he is in this picture. I’m sure it’s all he can do to put on a smile and congratulate Backstrom – all while carefully hiding his eyes from the camera, lest someone should see his real feelings.

Alright, so that’s probably out to lunch, but the article isn’t:

- Tyler argues, and argues well, that the Oilers should sign Josh Harding to an RFA offer sheet. I’ve pointed to Harding’s availability before (as have commenters here) and I don’t disagree with Tyler in the slightest. This would be a relatively cheap way to address the Oilers goaltending problems for the foreseeable future.

- David Staples has an excellent article out this morning; a long look at a single photograph from the Rick Rypien/Zack Stortini fight the other night. It’s a piece that only David Staples could have written – whether you agree or disagree with him, few people ennoble the game like he does.

- Sam Gagner continues to close in on his numbers from last season, and for the second year in a row looks like a very different player over the back half of the season.

- Relatively new blog The Church of Kurri has a strategy for NHL GM’s that he’s surprised hasn’t been used yet – dual offer sheets. I’m not going to get into it (read the full article) except to say that it’s a really good idea as far as offer sheets go, as long as you aren’t worried about the possible reprisals (like, say, if you have two hot-shot rookies who become RFA’s in a year where the cap is supposed to fall and you already have too many players under contract for too much money).

- On the other hand, it’s possible that the salary cap may not drop as much as expected (or at all!), and if so there are few teams that will benefit as much as the Oilers.

- Linus Omark has absolutely no interest in “farmarhockey”. While online Swedish to English translators produce some funny results, I’m pretty sure that means he’s not willing to sign anything other than a one-way NHL contract. Is that a good idea for the Oilers?

eberle

- Oilers prospects currently in the CHL, and where Alex Plante and Jordan Eberle project going forward. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the upside to Eberle is probably not as high as Oilers fans (or for that matter, The Hockey News) seem to believe.

- The good folks at Oilverse still believe that there’s a glimmer of hope. Just embrace the end already, you poor optimists.

- More debate on what the Craig MacTavish stick call means for his future. I can’t disagree that the stick call is probably not the right reason to fire MacTavish, but on the other hand it’s the kind of obvious symbol that’s easy to point to. Meanwhile, BDHS is another who feels that the coach will resign.

- The Oilers latest win (and some losses by a few other teams) mean that their best possible slot at the draft this summer is 8th overall.

- There’s been a lot of talk about the possible divide in the Oilers’ dressing room, and Bruce takes a look at the demographics of it. There’s a very clear divide; clearer than I expected.

- The Edmonton Oilers have been named a 2009 Great Place to Work. Quick, somebody pass the word along to Marian Hossa.

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Jonathan Willis is Managing Editor of the Nation Network. He also currently writes for the Edmonton Journal's Cult of Hockey, Grantland, and Hockey Prospectus. His work has appeared at theScore, ESPN and Puck Daddy. He was previously founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue. Contact him at jonathan (dot) willis (at) live (dot) ca.
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#101 Ogden Brother
April 07 2009, 03:11PM
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offside wrote:

Out of all of the Oilers prospects, who gets a spot next year? I don’t see any making an impact next year. I hope someone can step in but I’m not putting my hopes on Eberle or Omark. It would be nice to see both of them succeed but I think the AHL would be a good place for both of them to start.

I'd like to see Brule in a 3rd/4th line energy role...hopefully with 15 goals to boot.

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#102 Jonathan Willis
April 07 2009, 03:18PM
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Chris wrote:

Jonathan Willis wrote: That will be determined in training camp TOOO SHORT A TIME!!!!! GAWD! Is there a total committment accross all fandom AND management alike to circumvent proper asset management/ development? Are we so down on ourselves we look to a 5′9″ CHILD to lead us back to glory? CAMP IS TOO SHORT! CAMP IS TOO SHORT! CAMP IS TOO SHORT! Are the Oilers such a crappy squad we give out top six roster spots in just a few short weeks? AAAGGUUHHGGG!!! Maybe we should just hold city wide open try-outs!

By your reckoning then, Detroit was wrong to insert Dmitry Bykov, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk directly into their NHL lineup after training camp because they'd only played in Europe?

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#103 offside
April 07 2009, 03:41PM
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@ Ogden Brother: I'm shocked Brule isn't up right now

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#104 Robin Brownlee
April 07 2009, 04:35PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Roberto Luongo played five seasons before the lockout. Not once did he have a winning record.

With Luongo, you're referring to that powerhouse Islanders team in 99-2000 that won 24 games? Or his next three years with the mighty Florida team that won 22, 22, and 24 games? Both of them pathetic teams with no sniff of playoffs.

Tyler wrote:

Just to add some other names who had losing records through age 24: Bernie Parent, Billy Smith, JS Giguere and Tomas Vokoun.

With Vokoun, you're talking about the expansion team in Nashville? The juggernauts that won 28, 28 and 34 games in Vokoun's first three years with them? There's some low-hanging fruit.

Giguere? A back-up with a Calgary team that had 30 wins in 98-99? The team that had 31 wins the next season and 25 the season after that?

What does citing examples of goaltenders who had losing records with bottom-feeders have to do with Harding? In Harding's first three seasons with Minnesota the Wild won 38, 48 and 44 games and have 37 as of right now in his fourth season. Minnesota has been a decent-to-good middle of the pack team, not a bunch of stiffs like the outfits that fit your agrument.

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#105 Jonathan Willis
April 07 2009, 04:48PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

So you are arguing that Harding's win-loss record is significant. I've heard +/- talked about as a poor statistic because 5 guys are on the ice for each side and not all of them have an impact on the play. Well, win-loss is far worse; the goaltender is only one of 19 players that see the ice for each team on any given night.

You don't think he's a good candidate for the Oilers next year? Fine. But win-loss is a poor way to support it.

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#106 Robin Brownlee
April 07 2009, 05:08PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: I said I had my doubts about Harding for reasons I mentioned -- his losing record being one aspect of it -- before you and Tyler waded in with paragraph after paragraph.

You guys raised the point, "But these guys had losing records before age 24 as well, so . . ." not me, so let's not get it turned around.

And citing guys like Luongo and Vokoun? Can you tell me why you did that and what relevance it has when they played on piss poor teams that Terry Sawchuk couldn't have posted a winning record with, while Harding has failed to get close to .500 overall with a decent team?

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#107 Tyler
April 07 2009, 05:43PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

I said I had my doubts about Harding for reasons I mentioned — his losing record being one aspect of it — before you and Tyler waded in with paragraph after paragraph.

I virtually never say this but arguing that he shouldn't be acquired on the basis of his won/loss record is the strongest point of your argument against him. The other points aren't really worth anything. In any event if you look closely, Harding's bad record is explained by him having taken some ridiculous losses because of the way in which the NHL hands out losses (ie. comes into a game the Wild are losing, plays 1-1 the rest of the way and gets the L; he had one last year against Edmonton where the Oilers went up 3-0 five minutes in, Harding came in, the Wild won 3-2 the rest of the way and Harding got the L) and he's had a poor record in one goal games this year - 1-6-1. Making bets based on extreme records in one goal games has a notoriously poor track record.

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#108 Robin Brownlee
April 07 2009, 06:11PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

And citing guys like Luongo and Vokoun? Can you tell me why you did that and what relevance it has when they played on piss poor teams that Terry Sawchuk couldn’t have posted a winning record with, while Harding has failed to get close to .500 overall with a decent team?

If you're going to tag-team, at least address my last point.

One other thing: you and Jon ran the numbers and both came to the conclusion making on offer sheet on Harding is a good idea. You both wrote it. But your conclusion is solely stats based, and numbers don't tell the whole story. And, yes, I use numbers, too, and am not so dim I don't know how to factor in wins and losses, GAA and saves percentage etc while giving appropriate and varying weights to each.

But what about the rest of the picture? Is it still a good idea if Harding is a self-centred jerk who alienates teammates? If he's one step from being the Sean Avery of the goal crease? Is it still a good idea if he's been hitting the bottle hard and letting his game preparation and conditioning slide because his wife left him last month? If he has other substance abuse issues? Is it still a good idea if he's been playing through chronic health issues that are only now catching up to him?

What do you know about Jash Harding aside from the numbers? Do you have the complete picture? I don't, but what I don't know I can find out, and would, before I deemed it a slam dunk.

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#109 Tyler
April 07 2009, 06:24PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

If you’re going to tag-team, at least address my last point.

The point that I was making (and I assume the one that Jonathan was driving at) is that good goalies sometimes have bad records because of other factors outside their control. We provided some examples of guys. You're taking issue with that on the basis that they played for horrible teams. Fair enough.

Like I say, I think that the NHL W-L rules are slanted against backups and that Harding's had some bad luck with the one goal games. Your mileage may vary on the last point but the idea that one's record in one goal games is pretty luck soaked is pretty uncontroversial.

Robin Brownlee wrote:

Is it still a good idea if Harding is a self-centred jerk who alienates teammates? If he’s one step from being the Sean Avery of the goal crease? Is it still a good idea if he’s been hitting the bottle hard and letting his game preparation and conditioning slide because his wife left him last month? If he has other substance abuse issues? Is it still a good idea if he’s been playing through chronic health issues that are only now catching up to him? What do you know about Jash Harding aside from the numbers? Do you have the complete picture? I don’t, but what I don’t know I can find out, and would, before I deemed it a slam dunk.

Now this is an argument against it. Yeah, if this stuff is true, that would make me think twice. If there's some evidence of the above, then certainly you re-think things. My point is purely that the rest of the case is there for an offer sheet. If you know something the rest of us don't know, then maybe it's a bad idea but it's not because of his salary quadrupling.

FWIW, I checked with the google and learned the following:

Josh Harding is a sweet guy, he had a helmet made to support his sister with breast cancer.

I saw Josh at Twins game last year with a blond chick, she looked really nice, I'm not sure if they still are together or not but that's his business. But I've met him a few times before and he is REALLY nice, so people just let it go, its his business who he is dating.

Sounds like a good guy without any lady problems.

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#110 Chris
April 07 2009, 06:30PM
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Ogden Brother wrote:

That said, if the team finished in the bottom 7 last year with a 40 million payroll, all the whining from the fans would have been about how the team still refuses to spend, how nothings changed and how we’d be a top 4 team if only they’d spend the money.

Could have spent the money on short term contracts with established NHL'ers... Iced a competative lineup, and taken a slower more measured approach to developing our young talent. It's about not paying NHL wages, to develop teenage players. Why put your young talent on the fast track to free agency....wasting their inexpensive first few seasons for limited production in return?

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#111 Chris
April 07 2009, 06:41PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

By your reckoning then, Detroit was wrong to insert Dmitry Bykov, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk directly into their NHL lineup after training camp because they’d only played in Europe?

Detroit has a handle on their salary cap... and they don't have to overcome a culture of losing that has plagued the Oiler franchise since the early 90's. We are looking at a total rebuild... and Lowe has already wasted another three seasons... It's time to commit to winning at every level, from the farm on up. Let young talent EARN their spot on the big club by proving consistancy night in, and night out at the AHL level. Detroit can afford to take chances with their prospects because they have a high degree of organizational depth.

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#112 Chris
April 07 2009, 07:09PM
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(Oh and it didn't hurt Datsyuk to be mentored by Larionov, Federov, and Yzerman)

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#113 Robin Brownlee
April 07 2009, 08:04PM
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@ Tyler: From all I know, like the point you raised about his sister and breast cancer -- the story has been done several times -- Harding doesn't bring baggage. I haven't really looked into the guy, but I have no reason to doubt his character.

My point, with Harding and beyond in relation to assessing players and the ongoing debate between non-MSM people like you and Willis and people like me is this:

Relying only on first-hand interviews, comments from teammates and information from hockey people -- the stuff we accredited types have access to -- without any use of at least some statistical information does not provide a complete picture.

Likewise, relying solely on statistical information without any insight to a player's character, personal life and background, both on the ice and off it, doesn't provide the whole story either.

I use stats, and have written as much, more than I let on. I also have the ability to assess based on the other aspects. The vast majority of the arguments I see you and Willis making are based almost entirely on the numbers. I don't think you have as complete a picture.

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#114 Ogden Brother
April 07 2009, 08:20PM
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Chris wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: That said, if the team finished in the bottom 7 last year with a 40 million payroll, all the whining from the fans would have been about how the team still refuses to spend, how nothings changed and how we’d be a top 4 team if only they’d spend the money. Could have spent the money on short term contracts with established NHL’ers… Iced a competative lineup, and taken a slower more measured approach to developing our young talent. It’s about not paying NHL wages, to develop teenage players. Why put your young talent on the fast track to free agency….wasting their inexpensive first few seasons for limited production in return?

People seem to forget their is two sides to negotiations.

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#115 Chris
April 07 2009, 08:21PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

What do you think about signing top notch prospects in their early twenties and pushing them over 160 NHL games before they are fully developed physically; before they are as fast or strong on the puck as they can be? How do you balance cap management and that all important first contract with the need to develop talent quickly?

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