Ten Points: This is no time to panic!

1. OMG! Two games, no points! Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have no points through the Oklahoma City Barons’ first two games… but it’s two games. The only people who have serious concerns about this are the folks who expected the young stars to cut through the AHL like a hot knife through butter and start racking up five-point games out of the gate. The AHL is a good league, and Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle didn’t get into any pre-season action. They’ll be fine.

2. OMG! Two games, two points! Watching the Barons, I’ve been very impressed with Mark Arcobello. The 24-year old, 5’9” forward faces long odds of an impactful NHL career, but it’s easy to see why he was Oklahoma’s second-leading scorer last year. The influx of talent from the NHL has him on Oklahoma’s third line (with Anton Lander and Teemu Hartikainen) but he’s out-shone both of his linemates and a lot of the guys a little further up the lineup. 

3. Nail Yakupov’s NHL role: soft minutes, at least at first. Watching Nail Yakupov in the KHL has been an interesting experience – it’s a very different game over there, but the talent level is quite high and there’s no question in my mind that Yakupov’s ready for NHL work. With that said, while I eventually picture him as a first line guy (aside from being a pure goal scorer, his possession game is excellent) for now he really looks like a guy who would do better in a second line role. His defensive game is erratic and he tends to cheat for offence so it would probably be a mistake to throw him to the wolves off the bat. Fortunately for Edmonton, between Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky there’s no need to drop Yakupov in the deep end.

4. The lockout and Andy Sutton. At the 2012 trade deadline, the Oilers had the option to retain Andy Sutton or to try and move him. Given the value of veteran defenders to playoff teams, Sutton likely would have been worth a mid-range draft pick or middling prospect. Instead, the Oilers chose to hang on to him and sign him for another season.

One of the side effects of a full season lockout would be to make that, by default, a bad decision. We’ve already touched on why Sutton’s place in the Oilers’ lineup in 2013-14 is in danger; the primary point of keeping him was the value he would provide to the team in 2012-13. If there’s no season, there’s no value. That’s not a reason to beat up on Oilers’ management of course – they needed to be prepared to play in 2012-13; it’s just a side effect worth noting.

5. The team-employed beat reporter. Something interesting’s been happening in Los Angeles for a few years now. When the local papers opted to stop sending reporters on the road with the Kings, the team hired a reporter to cover the club. Naturally, there were all sorts of questions about Rich Hammond’s independence, but that’s not an issue any more because thanks to the NHL, Hammond’s now out of a job.

Hammond, like any other reporter, opted to talk to hockey players about the lockout – in this case Kevin Westgarth. He posted the interview. The NHL demanded that it be removed, as team employees are to have no contact with players. The Kings stood by Hammond, but the NHL was firm. So now Hammond covers football, a choice he made to avoid editorial interference.

Meanwhile the Kings need to find a new beat reporter.

6. A big difference between 2012-13 and 2004-05. The last time around, there were no discussions between a week before the end of the collective bargaining agreement and the middle of October. The discussions this time around have been nearly constant. While those constant discussions haven’t gone anywhere, the fact that both sides are still talking is a lot better than both sides ignoring each other. If they talk long enough, one party or the other might accidentally say something that both sides can live with.

7. Dean Lombardi and the plan. There was an interesting interview with Dean Lombardi on the NHL website this week. While some of it was fluff, I thought one answer in particular – Lombardi responding to what the hardest thing about being a G.M. is – was intriguing:

So I would say the hardest part of the job, particularly when you’re building, the way we had to do it, is keeping everybody on the same page. This was Lamoriello’s huge thing. There is a plan in place, and I don’t care if you’re building a business, conducting a war or building a hockey team, that plan is going to have ups and downs and it’s going to waver, but it’s not going to require you to change course. If you do change course you’re going to fail, and that’s why franchises go a long time without winning anything.

It’s worth noting that had the Kings finished one spot lower in the West, we might be talking about Lombardi as the team’s ex-manager. On the other hand, it’s hard to argue his primary point: teams need a given course, and trying to run madly off in all directions leads to teams like the New York Islanders of the last two decades.

8. Minnesota’s unparalleled depth at center. If you’ve spent any time at all in the comments section here, you’ll have run into DSF. Personally, I enjoy his comments – and I think from time to time he makes excellent points. He’s highly critical of the Oilers (which is valuable because it’s a rarity on this site; different perspectives are useful) but it seems like every year he picks a few teams to go the other way on – optimism to the point of blindness.

His latest crush is the Minnesota Wild, specifically their depth at center. The other day DSF laid out Minnesota’s center depth chart as follows:

  • Mikko Koivu
  • Mikael Granlund
  • Kyle Brodziak
  • Torrey Mitchell
  • Zenon Konopka
  • Charlie Coyle
  • Zack Phillips
  • Darroll Powe
  • Matt Cullen

It looks pretty frightening. I mean, when Matt Cullen is your ninth-best center, LOOK OUT, right?

Of course, it’s also crazy. Torrey Mitchell and Darroll Powe aren’t centers, for starters. They primarily play on the wing and fill in as needed. Ryan Smyth took more faceoffs than either last year and Taylor Hall was in the ballpark so unless one has a very unorthodox view of what constitutes a center, they don’t.

Granlund’s an excellent prospect, while Coyle and Phillips are both good ones. None of that group has played an NHL game yet, though. While that trio should help the Wild in their eventual rise from the basement, and perhaps even form the nucleus of an eventual contender, aside from Granlund they aren’t especially dangerous this season. And even in Granlund’s case we’re talking about a guy who might be 5’10” and who could well struggle with the physical nature of the North American game, at least in his rookie year.

A more accurate picture is probably something like this:

  • Koivu
  • Granlund
  • Brodziak
  • Konopka

Matt Cullen would likely start out on the wing and shift to center if needed. That’s not because he’s worse than Konopka, either; he’s simply wasted on the fourth line.

Put shortly: we can all relax. It’s the Minnesota Wild, not the 1970’s era Montreal Canadiens.

9. NHL’ers in Europe damage union solidarity? Really? It’s a favourite talking point of the league and the overtly pro-ownership members of the media, but I’m really not convinced that players jumping ship for Europe hurt the union. They do bump fringe guys out of jobs – much like the demotion of Hall, Eberle and the rest knocked Philippe Cornet down to the ECHL – but that’s an ethical issue, not a union one.

Sure, it reduces the number of NHLPA members actively available to work on negotiating the lockout, and it means that some guys are making money while others aren’t. But it also means that the guys antsiest to play hockey are playing hockey. I don’t see that as a negative from the NHLPA’s perspective. Besides which, some NHLPA members are already making money – some guys are earning up to eight figures off their signing bonuses even if they don’t play hockey.

10. Be careful when using “Night in Canada.” Here’s some fun television news that’s hockey related. CTV planned to compensate for the NHL lockout by offering “Big Bang Night in Canada” – a Saturday night block of The Big Bang Theory re-runs. CBC responded by sending an angry letter to CTV, protesting the use of “Night in Canada” and describing such usage as “confusing.” CTV followed that up on Friday with a sarcastic press release (sample line: “Apparently, reasonable viewers could consider encore hockey broadcasts “confusing” with the widely popular comedy series about four socially awkward scientists and their friends”). CBC quickly retracted their letter.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • 24% body fat

    anyone else thrilled about how far ahead yakupovs rookie year is ahead of ovechkins. not 100 percent sure but ovechkin may have started one year younger.

  • Glad to see someone else has noticed Arcobello. I hope if things continue he’ll get a chance on the first or second line. He’s definitely capable at this level, and since he has never played an NHL game, we realistically have no idea if he is capable at an NHL level–all players can do is perform well at the level they’re at, and I suppose, force the issue to give them a look at the next level. I’d suggest that if Arcobello continues his strong play and especially if he finds another gear that it would be foolish not to at least give him a look at a higher level to see if he can still be an effective player. The guy’s small and size is important in the NHL, but it’s not like it’s impossible for a guy his size to be a good player.

    • OilLeak

      I’ve trumpeted Arcobello in the several OKC games I saw last season, his playoff performance was superb. Again this year, he has looked like one of the best players on the ice. Arcobello is a legit prospect and has the potential to be a NHL regular (IMO) down the road. It remains to be seen if he’ll get a chance with the Oilers, however.

      Potential: a solid 2 way player that can contribute some offense on the third line.

      The Oilers need a player like this, lets see if they’re smart enough to recognize what they have.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    All those players DSF mentioned have spent extended periods of time playing center at one point in their career. Can’t lay that on him, many forwards have duel citizenship (RW,C-C,LW) when it comes to forward positions.

    Not guilty.

  • OilClog

    Minnesota’s starting 4 centers, don’t really scream dominance to this guy

    RNH or Koivu? hmmm

    Gagner or a kid that hasn’t played a game yet?

    Horcoff or Brodziak? Toss up most nights,
    Brodz isn’t that consistent, wouldn’t post
    better numbers then Horcoff does in his position, on a injury decimated team.

    Belanger or Konopka? Other then Belanger’s horrible season, his track record wins.

    How about we talk about a team that actually has a “Dominating” feature down the middle. DSF’s continously negative Oiler bashing posts aren’t in need around here. Maybe if he could actually look at it without being bias. Then yes, his opinion might mean more.

    • DSF

      On the one hand you say “Gagner or a kid who hasn’t played a game yet”, although Granlund was the top scorer in the SM LIga last season as a 19 year old and, on the other hand you’re not sure who is a better player right now…Koivu or Hopkins?

      Koivu may not be the highest scoring centre after playng in Lemaire’s system for years, but he is one of the best defensive centres in the league as well as having tons of experience in the WC’s and the Olympics.

      It would likely be more apt to compare Granlund to Hopkins since both are likely to be prolific scorers and compare Koivu to Gagner. Yikes

      Brodziak or Horcoff? Surely you jest.

      Brodziak was forced to move up the ladder last season during the Wild’s “injury decimated season” (Koivu only played 55 games) and Brodziak managed to outscore Horcoff by 9 goals and 10 points. Brodziak just turned 28 and Horcoff just turned 34. No contest.

      By the way, Belanger will be turning 35 shortly while Konopka is 31 and is not only one the best faceoff men in the game but is as tough as nails.

      And, of course, you are completely ignoring Cullen, Powe, Mitchell, Coyle and Phillips who any sane person would rank ahead of any centre on the OKC Barons.

      • Personally, I’d take Mikko Koivu over Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this season, because the former has a more complete game. I don’t expect that to be the case in two years; perhaps not even next season.

        At the same time, for this season, I think I’d rather have Gagner than Granlund. Granlund could surprise, but based on scouting reports and the ~12 times I’ve seen him play the last few years, I really wonder if he’ll be a plug-and-play #2 center this season. I think he’ll need some time to adjust his game to the small ice.

        In three years, I’d rather have Brodziak than Horcoff. In the here and now, Brodziak’s a much better bargain for his salary but I don’t think he’s a significantly better player than Horcoff.

        As for Konopka vs. Belanger, it really depends on whether Belanger can bounce back or not. If he does, Belanger’s the superior player by a hefty margin; if he doesn’t, than Konopka’s edge and nastiness put him in front, IMO.

        Put it all together and I’d give the Wild a slight edge up the middle in the here and now because of the respect I have for Koivu, and their option of moving Cullen over if needed. But I don’t see it as a run-away win, quality-wise.

        • What are you doing with Koivu in three years? Or you’d take RNH then?

          Give Granlund three years, he could be better than Gagner and cheaper.

          Give me Brodziak anyday over Horcoff.

          Whats Konopka to do while Belanger is bouncing back? Freezing time?

          In the here and now; RNH over Koivu, Gagner over Granlund, Brodziak over Horcoff, Konopka over Belanger. Give me Oilers top two, Wild bottom two. Since better 1-2 centres are a lot harded to come by then 3-4, Oilers win.

          • I don’t think that’s true.

            When evaluating players for the coming year I try to look at their three prior seasons, age and injury situation.

            Belanger, at his best, isn’t even in the same category as Konopka; he’s a far, far better player. The problem is that he was well below his best last season and we don’t know how much he’ll recover next year.

            Horcoff and Brodziak? If I’m coaching game seven and need one of them right now, I’d need to think over which guy I’d take. I’d probably take Brodziak but I don’t think it’s a no-brainer.

        • DSF

          Oh, I agree…long term Hopkins ifs likely the choice.

          It’s always an adventure when Europeans come to North America. For every Erik Karlsson there is a Magnus Paajarvi so who knows how Granlund will fare. However, he did have a 4 goal 5 point night in an Aeros exhibition game. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fly past Gagner in a year or two.

          Based on how poorly Horcoff played last season, especially offensively, I think it’s quite likely he has not only lost a step but will continue to decline. If you consider salary at all…no brainer.

          I agree Konopka vs. Belanger is fish vs. fowl but, as you say, it all depends on Belanger going forward. That he is 35 leaves me less than optimistic about his chances.

          The real advantage the Wild have is depth with Cullen, Mitchell and Powe already available.

          And then, of course they have the two highly touted first round draft choices in Coyle and Phillips already playing in the AHL.

          Lander, VandeVelde and Martindale are not in their league at all.

          • I agree with you on Cullen, but I see Mitchell and Powe as center depth in basically the same way as Ryan Smyth is center depth. Sure, it’s conceivable, but that’s not really their position.

            I’m not wild about Powe anyway; he’s probably better than Petrell (who can also play center) but he’s a fourth-line guy.

            Edit to add: But I guess the larger point I’m getting at is that the Oilers don’t exactly set the bar for strength up the middle in the NHL, and if the Wild are in the ballpark (which I’ve argued they are)… then there’s not much to get excited about there in the here and now.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            well, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts we would all have a damn fine christmas.

            if if if if if. if.

            if DSF found a new schtick, would anyone still point and laugh?

          • DSF

            well, if ifs and buts were candies nuts the Oilers would have a damn fine hockey team.

            If Hall stays healthy, if Eberle can sustain his shooting percentage, if Hopkins can learn to play defense, if Shultz isn’t a turnover machine.

            if if if if if

            See how that works?

  • vetinari

    Andy Sutton – yeah, I wondered why the Oil didn’t move him at the deadline to give Stu another bullet to fire at the draft. Also, Sutton’s contract only makes sense if the team counted on a big salary rollback with the next CBA…

    Hammond (formerly) of the Kings- good for Hammond and good for LA in sticking up for his article but if there is one thing we know about Bettman, he’s the closest thing to a dictator in professional sports…

    The OKC Barons- relax, the parade is still planned for the summer of 2013 unless the lockout ends early enough for some type of NHL season… the real challenge will be if the NHL resumes play because OKC is going to suddenly lose 3 to 6 of their top players to the parent club and will quickly have to fill those positions from within…

  • book¡e

    Burn your sweaters, they can’t even score on AHL goalies, its like the lie that was Cogs, Gags, and Nilsson, but twice as lager and three times as painful. They will never amount to anything in this league and the Oilers will be in 30th place until they expand the league.

    I will never believe in anything ever again…

  • yawto

    The only thing I find funny about Players jetting to Europe is that they will not play for 10% less here but will play for up to a 1/10th of what they make here over there.

    Makes no Sense.

    If I tell my boss I will not take a pay cut from $50,000 to $45,000 but then take another job while I am locked out making $30,000 am I not actually contradicting what I am fighting for? Seems looney. Take the pay cut. Suck it up. Your still F*&%ing millionaires. Sorry to hear your billionaire bosses are the same as our billionaire bosses who are just worried about making money themselves.

    Get over it. Dance Monkey’s!!!! Dance!!!! I have good money to throw at you!!! Asses.

      • Roid
        Apparently you don’t know what a scab is. A scab is someone who is willing to work for less pay in place of someone who is locked out or on strike. 1. No European league has a strike or lockout. 2. The NHL players are being paid more than the European players they are replacing. By your logic Justin Schultz is a scab because he signed as a free agent and that will cost someone a job on the Oilers. Sports are based on talent and it is understood that a BETTER player can take your place at any time.

        Yawto -As for why NHL players are willing to play in Europe for far less, have you heard of having principles? They believe, rightly of wrongly, that the league is treating them unfairly by asking for a second consecutive 24% reduction in their share of revenues, reneging on signed contracts and for the second time in a row demanding rollbacks directly through pay cuts or indirectly through escrow, and asking them to give up all leverage for the first 10 years of their careers, which except for a small minority means their entire career. 5 year entry level contracts followed by years as an RFA with no arbitration rights, which means take what we offer or suck on it.

        Since the owners have most of the leverage it is likely the players will eventually lose, but as the French philosopher-novelist Albert Camus has said, sometimes it is necessary to revolt against what we perceive to be injustice even when there is little or no chance of success, for the sake of our own human dignity. They would rather pay for less then play for people they despise for more. Easier to do when you are a millionaire of course.

        If the NHL agrees to honour all current contracts and to take 3 or 4 years to get to a 50-50 revenue split the deal would be equivalent to that in other NA pro leagues. What they are currently offering is far worse than any other pro league. I will condemn the players when the owners offer something fair like that and they turn it down. Until then I condemn the owners.

        • They are scabs becasue they are taking other peoples jobs/salaries with full knowledge and intention of not honouring them. They are also scabs because they are not properly participating in their union strike/protest.
          I dont know how you gathered that Schultz logic, but who cares. It is ok to take a worse players job, if you intend to keep it. It is not ok to take a worse players job because you are protesting and want to stay in shape. Thats just sad.

          Human dingity?????????? C’mon Son! The same hockey players that have no respect for eachother on the ice and keep smashing eachothers heads into boards. That human dignity?

          Where have you seen what the NHL has offered them yet? Can I see that document too? Please link it here, Im sure the rest of the nationalist would enjoy the read.

  • BK

    JW, I think playing oversees may strengthen the resolve of some players as they are getting a check, but it does fracture the PR argument of players deserving or earning more money. Why then are they accepting significantly less to play somewhere else?

    In the end, the PR battle will be irrelevant anyways, so take what you can get I guess, but it is a bit of a head scratcher for fans.

  • 24% body fat

    are you guys basing your picks on nhl accomplishments, how they played last year or potential,

    if it is nhl accomplishments that only RNH has not accomplished as much as his counterpart on the other team. Horoff salary aside has always produced at a better rate than brodziak and likely playing tougher minutes and on a worse team. Konopka production is no where near belanger and Granlund has got a point in the NHL.

    If you are going on potential than RNH beats koivu
    granlund and Gagner are comparable as they were both highly touted and just because Gagner hasnt become elite there are no guarentees that Granlund will either. Go read gagner scouting reports, the hype just as much as granlund. The other two are not about potential.

    If you are going on an all around basis, salary aside I still take the oilers centers. Maybe this year the edge goes to minnesota but the year after the same group should go to the oilers.

  • You guys might not agree, but I find DSF adds balance to a group that often considers us two or three pieces away from a cup run. “Those D prospects down in OKC who haven’t played a minute of NHL hockey? Easy peasy, they’ll fit in nicely here once the lockout is over.”

    Nevermind getting to the point of being a consistent playoff performer, it’s all about winning the cup NEXT YEAR! *Slaps self*

  • DSF

    That was the initial offer made months ago Roid. It is about as top secret as today’s paper. If you aren’t aware of it you haven’t been following the lockout very closely. The 24 per cent drop in the the players’ share of revenue is now down to a little over 16%, the rest remains unchanged. Why is it asking so much to have signed contracts honoured and a 50-50 split, which is standard for the NA pro sports industry?

    You obviously don’t have a clue what a scab is. You have every right to dislike the players signing contracts to play in Europe, but that does not make them scabs. Look up the definition online if you don’t believe me. In addition it is part of their contracts that they will leave in the unlikely event the NHL season starts up again this year, so they won’t be violating their contracts. It is the owners who have been signing contracts which they had no intention of fulfilling. Why doesn’t that bother you?

    The problem is people here keep making the false analogy between their job in a widget factory, a car wash or somewhere else where everyone is easily replaceable and the job of a top professional athlete. These players have leverage you could never dream of because they have elite talent you, or I, do not possess. That does not make them better people, but it does enable them to demand a great deal more. Just because you have to kiss your boss’s feet doesn’t mean everyone has to. Why any working stiff would take the side of the owners is beyond my understanding. For a lot I think it is jealousy.

    • Who you trying to impress on here? Quit trying so hard, youre all over the place.

      First of all, the word current is something in the now, something new, something in the present. That offer you mentioned is not current, that is old news.

      The honoured contracts? Name me a few other NA pro leagues that are obligated to honour the contracts the way you say NHL does and should. The NHL players knew and know that their contracts are subject to change due to the CBA.

      Why do they deserve a 50/50 split? Why do you feel they deserve a 50/50 split?

      Why dont you look up the word scab yourself and then we can argue about it. Ok?

      So the same NHL players that sign contracts in NA that most dont live up to are signing contracts in Europe that dont plan on seeing through and through.

      What owners are you talking about? The NHL owners cant honour their contracts because the players arent showing up to work for them to be honoured.

      What analogies are you talking about?

      To me it looks like that their “elite” talent got them jobs elsewheres and nothing so far on the negotiations end. Hockey talent is usefull on the ice, not in the boardrooms.

      Who’s boss? Working stiff? What does ones occupation have to do with an opinion on any matter?

      If we’re making assumsions, I would assume that you have alot of insecurities you dont know how to deal with and are still looking for ways to rid yourself of. Projecting your insecurities on other people is not the way.

  • OilClog

    What do you mean if’s?

    You’re stating the same if’s all over the board aswell.

    If RNH continues to play like last season, there won’t be any if’s. It’s over, #1 draft pick turns out and dominates. Good night.

    How does the Wilds potential exceed a team that can place a entire line of #1’s overall on the ice together.. You can’t, try any arguement you want. It hasn’t been done yet, it’s going to be special.

    Granlund could turn out to be a player in the NHL or he could turn out to be a 5’10 small center that scores 50pts in a good season.

    How can any body really say with conviction, that a guy that has never played a day in the NHL is already better then Mr. 8 point Sam Gagner. He’s what? 22? 8pt game in the bag. Sounds pretty dece.

    Regardless, centers will naturally get a bit better aswell when playing with outrageous talent on the wings. Opposing teams Centers will be naturally on the defense against the likes of Hall, Hemsky, Eberle, Yakupov always being shoved down their throat.

  • Czar

    You mentioned how Granlund had “a 4 goal 5 point night in an Aeros exhibition game”
    Granlund hasn’t played an NHL game and you have him at #2 depth wise? I like this Granlund kid but,as others have stated, until he plays in the NHL he’s just a prospect.

    Linus Omark had 5 goals against the Marlies and another in the shootout and looked like a good prospect too!