10 Points: Mandel, Jones, Burke's hilarity and Ovechkin

Jonathan Willis
September 19 2012 04:36PM

1. David Ling. There’s been lots of actual news the last few days, but as I wrote this I found my mind was on David Ling, currently a member of the Nottingham Panthers of the U.K.’s Elite Ice Hockey League. Why?

Ling played 85 games for Columbus between 2002 and 2004. He picked up eight points. But during the 2004-05 NHL lockout, the then 29-year old recorded 88 points in 80 contests (along with 152 PIM) for the St. John’s Maple Leafs. He narrowly beat out Kyle Wellwood for the team scoring title, and outpaced Matt Stajan by a mile, but he also surpassed a long list of other players. Eric Staal would score 100 points in the NHL in 2005-06; he finished 11 back of Ling that year. Thomas Vanek, Zach Parise and a long, long list of other notables also finished behind Ling. Ultimately, Ling finished third in AHL scoring, behind Jason Spezza and Mike Cammalleri.

The point is just that the AHL is a very good league, and while Ling might laughingly be dismissed as expansion era filler and a career minor-leaguer, he bested a lot of guys with brighter futures that year. I don’t know who the 2012-13 equivalent of David Ling is, but the Oklahoma City Barons have a few guys – players like Josh Green and Dane Byers – who might just give some of the younger hotshots a run for their money this season.

2. Stephen Mandel’s statement. Edmonton’s mayor put out a statement yesterday ,seemingly in response to last week’s meetings and yesterday’s emergence of Daryl Katz in local media. There’s a lot of room for disagreement on the arena deal, but at least one paragraph of the release should have broad appeal.

I would openly ask the Katz Group to release their full position to the public – based on the itemized list which was prepared with both the negotiating teams, so that all items and their economic rationale can be fully understood by the people of Edmonton.

In his interview with Edmonton Journal reporters David Staples and John MacKinnon, Katz repeatedly stressed that he would not go into details because he wasn’t going to negotiate through the public. With the mayor’s request, it would seem that the only thing now standing between in the way of the Katz group explaining itself publicly is the Katz group.

3. Ryan Jones started 2011-12 on the fourth line. The NHL isn’t really a true meritocracy. Things like contract status, age, and personality effect where guys slot into the lineup. With that said, it’s worth remembering that Ryan Jones opened last season on the fourth line – behind both Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi. He passed them as the season went on.

I’m not the world’s biggest Jones aficionado, but he did find a way to make the best of a bad situation, by doing what the coaching staff demanded. He didn’t have a perfect record in that department – Ralph Krueger scratching him last year stands out – but he did enough to get a stint with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle, something that eluded Omark and Paajarvi.

4. Brian Burke is hilarious. I don’t even need to add any other comment. I’m just going to quote two pieces. From CBC.ca on March 3, 2012:

Burke confirmed that Francois Allaire, who also worked with Burke, Carlyle and Farrish in Anaheim, would remain in his position as goaltending coach in Toronto. "I think we have the best goalie coach on the planet," he said.

From mapleleafs.com, September 18, 2012: 

“I regret that I have to deal with this matter publicly but I feel the need to respond. Was there interference from the staff as he said there was? Yes. But it was done reluctantly and it was done to change elements of our goaltending that was sub-par.” Burke, who hired Allaire away from his former team in Anaheim three years ago, said Allaire wasn’t going to be asked back after the club finished 29th in goals against with a bloated 3.16 average.

5. A rebel league? People like Cam Charron and Derek Zona have suggested a rebel league, similar to the WHA, as a good way of curbing the NHL’s tendency to have labour stoppages. I’d love to see it – if for no other reason than I really want to watch high-level hockey – but I can’t imagine one being viable in the long-term and it’s hard to imagine men with serious money being willing to fund something destined to die in the not too distant future.

6. “BIG BANG Night in Canada.” A press release from CTV landed in my inbox yesterday, announcing the creation of a new two-hour block of television programming on Saturday nights to help compensate for the absence of hockey. The network will feature four episodes of The Big Bang Theory in the same timeslot that Hockey Night in Canada normally runs. Senior V.P. of Programming Mike Cosentino:

If anything can fill the void felt today by every hockey fan in Canada, it’s humour from Canada’s most-watched series. From a scheduling perspective, this weekly stunt is an unmissable opportunity to bring even more viewers and advertisers to CTV on Saturday nights in primetime. Like hockey, THE BIG BANG THEORY has mass appeal with viewers whose statistics are similar when it comes to age, demographics, and loyalty, so there is natural synergy in this scheduling move.

Uh-huh. I included this rather blatant advertising because I do love the show (this is *probably* my favourite clip, though it’s hard to choose) but I know the only thing that gets me in front of a television on Saturday night is hockey. In other words: if CBC ends up airing AHL or CHL games, I’ll still be watching those. If they don't, the odds are very good I won't be watching TV on Saturday nights.

7. The Community Revitalization Levy isn’t made of magic. Daryl Katz’s interview with Staples and MacKinnon saw the CRL take on a starring role, with Katz implying several times that the projected tax revenue from it represented a pure windfall to the City of Edmonton. The CRL is an example of what’s known as “tax-increment financing” in the United States where tax revenues from big projects pay the cost of those projects.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, for a variety of reasons. An article from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis does a good job of explaining some of the pitfalls in arguments for spending public money on arenas. A big one is what’s known as substitution; to quote the article:

Economic impact studies also tend to focus on the increased tax revenues cities expect to receive in return for their investments. The studies, however, often gloss over, or outright ignore, that these facilities usually do not bring new revenues into a city or metropolitan area. Instead, the revenues raised are usually just substitutes for those that would have been raised by other activities.

In the case of Edmonton, the 2010 Zimbalist report points out the difficulties in greater and more local detail. Basically, there’s certainly value to using a CRL, but the old adage that “there is no such thing as a free lunch” applies.

8. Scotty Bowman on former Canadiens’ general manager Sam Pollock. Anyone who knows anything about NHL hockey knows that Sam Pollock was a vicious general manager who bent every rule (or, as Lowetide points out, rewrote them when necessary) and ended up with nine Stanley Cups in 14 seasons as Canadiens general manager (his name would end up on the Cup 12 times in all). Scotty Bowman, a part of those successful Montreal organizations, tells us a bit about Pollock’s management style in Behind the Moves:

Sam was very prepared, ultra-prepared. He was a hard worker, all hockey. Traveled a lot. He had good insight into his present time, but also into the future. The Canadiens’ slogan was ‘Kids go marching on,’ which meant that he liked players coming up, adding to the team. Frank Selke was like that too, and always had lots of players in the pipeline…. Sam was never a one man show. He was very prepared and always researched everything. He was very analytical. Before he made a trade, everybody had to be onside. I mean, he was a very strong man, but he would make sure that the people who were working for him were all in agreement. He didn’t fly by the seat of his pants.

There’s a lot to like there, but the importance of always having a crop of young talent pushing for work is hard to understate.

9. A slight change. Earlier this week, I took over from Kent Wilson as the managing editor here at the Nations. Kent’s been increasingly involved on the business side of things, so I’ll step in and handle more stuff like NationRadio and editing/formatting content for the website. In unrelated news, expect more glitches in everybody’s work. Aside from that and the fact that you’ll all now think fondly back to the days when NationRadio was posted on Sunday night, this should not be a significant change.

10. Ovechkin’s comments. I couldn’t resist including Alex Ovechkin’s comments on possibly staying in Russia post-lockout:

As to the future, it will depend on what kind of conditions there will be in the NHL with the new CBA. If our contracts get slashed, I will have to think whether to return there or not. I won’t rule out staying in the KHL, even past this season.

Two things. The first is that any NHLPA member with any sense is going to play up the possibility of playing somewhere other than the NHL; it’s a good bargaining tactic, and one I’d certainly make use of in Ovechkin’s shoes. Second: that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth to it. Depending on the exact conditions, there’s a real possibility that the NHL’s European content drops in coming years as KHL money becomes more competitive (and also allowing for the favourable tax situation in Russia). This is a threat with merit precisely because the KHL can be a real alternative in some situations.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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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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#51 druds
September 20 2012, 12:01PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

You mean besides the NFLPA decertification just last year?

and where did that get them....?

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#54 Oilers Al
September 20 2012, 12:30PM
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Good work Jonathan... you got stuff and stories even on slow days. Keep up the good job.

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#55 Walter Sobchak
September 20 2012, 12:33PM
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@Jonathan Willis

Even though the NFLPA used it once before and called it a *win* it really only did a few of the things the players actually wanted.

If the league offices are in NY, I can almost guarantee that's we're the fight will be held in court, not sure if the Canadian non-unionized players (if they go that route) will have any sort of effect, that's the bad part, you just broke your own union.

I also believe for that to also happen they would need to prove and get a ruling of the courts that the NHL bargained in bad faith. That to is not going to happen. IMO

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@Jonathan Willis

Interesting.

I still prefer the oversimplified and unintelligent argument that goes like this:

League revenue last year was $3.3B. Of that, the players' share (total league 2011-12 salary cap for simplicity) was roughly $1.8B.

That's roughly 55/45 split in the players' favor. The numbers aren't exact but still. HRR deductions by teams, before the players are given their share, accounts for low, single digit percentage of league revenue.

Players' salaries have ZERO cost, while the owners are left with less than half the revenue, and completely real and significant costs.

What am I missing?

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#57 DDP
September 20 2012, 01:34PM
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@Jonathan Willis

I'm loving the 10 Points articles. Keep them coming!

Good luck with the new role!

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#58 Rogue
September 20 2012, 02:01PM
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Oilers Al wrote:

Good work Jonathan... you got stuff and stories even on slow days. Keep up the good job.

Props

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#59 Rogue
September 20 2012, 02:22PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Peter, The Great. Potter, the Goat. wrote:

Interesting.

I still prefer the oversimplified and unintelligent argument that goes like this:

League revenue last year was $3.3B. Of that, the players' share (total league 2011-12 salary cap for simplicity) was roughly $1.8B.

That's roughly 55/45 split in the players' favor. The numbers aren't exact but still. HRR deductions by teams, before the players are given their share, accounts for low, single digit percentage of league revenue.

Players' salaries have ZERO cost, while the owners are left with less than half the revenue, and completely real and significant costs.

What am I missing?

Double Props. The owners are in it for a profit,like ANY other business. What the players forget, it seems, is that they are in a great position. The owners hand out ridiculous contracts and drive the prices and salary cap up.

~Maybe the players should buy out the owners and run the league themselves~

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#60 druds
September 20 2012, 02:24PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Decertification is an interesting option, and I don't think anyone really knows what would happen if the NHLPA went that route.

For one thing, the NHL has a much more significant Canadian presence than other major league sports - which means that predicting the outcome of court decisions is complicated in the extreme.

The other thing is that items like guaranteed contracts would very much be on the table. Of course, the New York Rangers would also be allowed to have a $200 million payroll if they wanted.

All we know for sure is that it would be a paradigm shift, a massive re-ordering of the league. Beyond that, prediction is close to impossible.

If it came down that I would suggest that the League would be a lot smaller as very few teams would be able to play in New York's sandbox and the resultant loss of jobs would not make the players very happy and I suggest its a Pandora's box that neither side would want to open. Also when considering how long court proceedings take we could kiss the NHL goodbye.

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#61 G Money
September 20 2012, 02:33PM
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druds wrote:

If it came down that I would suggest that the League would be a lot smaller as very few teams would be able to play in New York's sandbox and the resultant loss of jobs would not make the players very happy and I suggest its a Pandora's box that neither side would want to open. Also when considering how long court proceedings take we could kiss the NHL goodbye.

Well said. This is the ultimate reason why decertification -> anti-trust -> force the league to operate without a CBA is not the hammer some think it is.

Not only would there be considerably fewer teams in such a situation, and those few teams would be unable to play in Toronto and New York's sandbox, but also the resulting change in economic situation, with fewer buyers (teams), means in fact that the overall salary structure would only differ for a handful of wildly wealthy elite players, while the regular schmuck would probably not see much of a difference.

The only question is whether the players are smart enough to realize this, accept that their current situation is wildly in their favour while their bargaining position is as weak as Khabibulin's save percentage, and just sign the deal offered.

I can say with near certainty that it's as good or better than what they're going to end up with post-lockout.

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#63 vetinari
September 20 2012, 03:16PM
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I think the bigger problem with this CBA negotiation is not necessarily how teams divide the money with the players but rather how teams deal with guaranteed minimum floor levels in a salary cap system where not all teams are equally profitable.

So what if the players get 55%, 50% or 45% of the league's HRR (however that gets defined), if the bottom 4-6 teams can't make enough money (even through revenue sharing) to be profitable even while paying players at the salary floor?

The solution may be a highbred luxury tax system of some sort. Maybe let teams purchase an extra few million dollars of salary cap room for a given season, and let those dollars get redistributed to the "have not" teams of the league. To make sure everyone doesn't abuse it, make it a 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 dollar value exchange (in other words, team A can spend an extra $10,000,000 into this pool to get an extra $5,000,000 of salary cap room for that season) and cap it at a certain level (a team can't get more than an extra $5 million dollars of salary cap room in a season). I could easily see a few teams like Toronto, Boston, NYR, Philly and Pittsburg taking advantage of a system like this and generating an extra $10M to $20M per year to the have not teams who would turn around and use it to pay their players and cover their operating costs.

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Rogue wrote:

Double Props. The owners are in it for a profit,like ANY other business. What the players forget, it seems, is that they are in a great position. The owners hand out ridiculous contracts and drive the prices and salary cap up.

~Maybe the players should buy out the owners and run the league themselves~

Thank you!

Unions and associations were historically formed to protect workers from poor working conditions and low wages. They naturally evolved into more.

But demanding something that doesn't belong to you, or you don't deserve, is where unions and associations get a bad rep.

NHL Players Associations is headed in that direction.

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#65 mayorpoop
September 20 2012, 03:44PM
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Bicepus Maximus - Peter, The Great. Potter, the Goat. wrote:

Thank you!

Unions and associations were historically formed to protect workers from poor working conditions and low wages. They naturally evolved into more.

But demanding something that doesn't belong to you, or you don't deserve, is where unions and associations get a bad rep.

NHL Players Associations is headed in that direction.

well put. i'd props you if i could. f'n nation*.

*still like you just the same nation network.

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#66 B S
September 20 2012, 05:35PM
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Rogue wrote:

Double Props. The owners are in it for a profit,like ANY other business. What the players forget, it seems, is that they are in a great position. The owners hand out ridiculous contracts and drive the prices and salary cap up.

~Maybe the players should buy out the owners and run the league themselves~

What people seem to forget is that the NHL isn't arguing for the status quo. The players are in a great position based on the last CBA, not the proposed ones. The NHL is after a bigger piece of the pie, while the players realize that if they give in now what happens at the next CBA? and the one after that? and why is it even necessary? The league as a whole isn't in the same financial crisis it was before the last lockout, yet it is currently asking for the same amount of concessions. I'm not saying the players are in the moral right to earn gobs of cash, it's just that you have company (NHL) bragging about record revenues year over year with the salary cap suddenly turn to its employees (the players) and ask for a 24% salary rollback. Based on Friedmann's breakdown of HRR the percentage that goes to the players is determined after cost anyway, so claiming it's cost problems doesn't hold water.

Also, I want to see that 5 year ELC off the table, if anything will kill the NHL it's that. Yakupov is way better off playing in Russia for way more money before signing an FA deal in the NHL, rather than playing for a fraction of the salary (and his value).

Personally I think the NHL should simply implement the reduced salary growth model the NHLPA proposed with perhaps a stationary cap for the next couple of years. The majority of teams are either making money hand over fist, or breaking roughly even, a rollback hardly seems necessary

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#67 Harlie
September 20 2012, 08:25PM
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I like these 10 topic style of posts. Nice work Jdub! More please.

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#68 The Beaker
September 21 2012, 07:20AM
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Seriously, I still am not getting this emotional stance people are taking about "it's a business they deserve to make money! How Dare the players ask for _____?! They don't deserve it"

It's so silly for a number of reasons. All of which I dont have time for now. All I can say is that if we didnt have a CBA the owners would for the most part end up spending a lot more money. They feel players are worth it for the most part.

What the heck is the point of taking sides? Both are wrong really. Taking some emotional or moral stance is just silly.

Also, my first post was not directed at you JW

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#69 NewAgeSys
September 21 2012, 09:18PM
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uFeelShame wrote:

We keep hearing about 3.3 billion gross revenues, but what are the expenses after player's salaries are paid out? What I would like to see is a breakdown by team what their NET revenues are. Who's making money and who's losing it. The league has increased revenue by a billion since the last lockout, but it seems more teams are in financial trouble now. Doesn't make sense. Something in the system is costing too much $'s. In a perfect world, the league would contract around 4 teams right off the hop.

Winner,Winner----Chicken Dinner!!!

Artificially overinflated player salarys,enabled through a co-operative and stakeholder motivated dynamic created and maintained by the NHL,the NHLOwners,and NHL players.

Players performances are valued vs dollars in a negotiating salary dynamic based on a system value generated from statistics achieved within a single teams system or method of play,however after that"in-house value"has been determined as per that team and systems salary cap distribution has been defined as per that system performance statisticlly ,said player may be traded to another team and salary cap delegation based on system production{achieved within the first teams system}----but the production might based on performance not warrant the salary commanded by the already existing contract---hence an artificially created and maintained player value that negatively affects the next team down the road--when they try to realisticlly distribute their salary cap as per system generated value by individual players--while juggleing overvalued artificially inflated contracts.

Just sayin.

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