Grab Bag: Arena, Souray, Brule, Math

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 3: Sheldon Souray #44 of the Edmonton Oilers skates on the ice in a game between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers during an NHL game on October 3, 2009 at Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Canada. The Flames defeated the Oilers 4-3. (Photo by Jimmy Jeong/Getty Images)

Since it’s been a while since I’ve put an article up, and since I have trouble focusing on one topic, I’m going to jump all over the map here.

The Edmonton Oilers aren’t going anywhere after 2014.

Despite Daryl Katz’s stance that the Oilers will not play in Rexall after 2014, it seems highly unlikely that anyone needs to be concerned about the team leaving the city.

To begin with, Katz is dedicated to making the team work in Edmonton. He paid a premium to purchase the Oilers when other teams were available for less money; the reason he did that is because he’s committed to hockey in Edmonton. The fact that he’s sunk money into a junior team and a baseball team should just confirm that: this is a guy who is powerfully motivated to making Edmonton work, or else all his moves since the purchase of the team make no sense.

Secondly, Edmonton’s a relatively good marketplace. The passion of fans is undeniable, and with the dollar sitting where it is all six Canadian franchises look like pretty good investments at the moment. Toss in the fact that the Canadian TV rights are worth a pretty penny and that the league generally frowns on team movement, and there are a lot of compelling reasons to stay.

Thirdly, the city wants the Oilers to stay. Arguing about the financial merits of a professional sports team is a fair point – as a rule, they’re overstated by sports fans by an incredible amount – but the fact is that an NHL team is a big spotlight on Edmonton, the team has a rich history and many in the city have an emotional attachment to it, and this does come down to more than dollars. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.

There are two key stakeholders, both are motivated, and the question now is more about how the model should work then if there should be a private/public partnership at all.

The Oilers might be losing money, but that’s not entirely the fault of Rexall Place.

For many NHL teams, the reality is that if they don’t make the playoffs, they don’t make money. This is particularly true for teams that spend to the maximum. A single playoff round (which more than half of NHL teams participated in) would have made a substantial difference to the Oilers’ bottom line, and whenever the team brings it up I can’t help but point out that if they were run a little more efficiently they wouldn’t be having all that red ink.

It’s a side point, really, but I think a pertinent one.

A new arena should be built, and it should be built using a model that fairly allocates risk/reward.

At times it seems like there are only two options for an arena funding model: either the City bends over and gives Katz everything he wants, or Katz goes it alone like the intrepid capitalist he is. The reality is that neither model makes sense: Katz is running a for-profit business and it would be wrong for the taxpayers to subsidize that business while letting him reap all the profits. At the same time, the Oilers are a substantial asset to the City of Edmonton (in both dollars and in other ways) and it makes sense for the City to be involved in this kind of project.

If Sheldon Souray can’t be traded, he should start next season in training camp with the Edmonton Oilers.

There has been some suggestion that the Oilers should approach sending Souray away with an ‘at any cost’ philosophy, which might mean sending him to the minors or putting him on re-entry waivers. I view both of those suggestions as non-starters, for a couple of different reasons. To begin with, nobody gets to be a millionaire by allocating $4.5 million dollars to the number one defenceman of an AHL franchise. It takes a lot of intangible benefits to add up to $4.5 million dollars of real money, and I simply can’t see whatever concerns there are about Souray ‘poisoning the room’ adding up to that kind of money.

Similarly, sending Souray to re-entry waivers hurts the Oilers cap situation for the next two seasons, the second of which they should be in playoff contention (and thus probably will need that cap space). Next year probably won’t be a contending year, so the best bet (if Souray can’t be traded) is probably to hang on to him for the season and hope for a good year – the kind of year that will lure some other manager into acquiring him.

Certainly it’s in Souray’s interests to put his head down and get to work, and it’s in the interests of the team that he do that as well, if they’re unable to find a palatable deal.

It’s been well-covered, but Gilbert Brule deserves a ton of credit for what he’s doing for Maddox Flynn.

It’s fair to say that I’m more pessimistic about Gilbert Brule’s potential as a hockey player than most, but I can’t help but be sunny about him as a person. Brule’s donation of $10,000 to help Maddox Flynn get needed surgery was an unselfish decision for a good cause, and making the time to visit Maddox and his family prior to the young boy’s second surgery was as classy as it gets.

And finally, a topic of some interest to me personally:

Shot metrics are only new and only controversial to fans; teams have been recording them for years.

I’m almost always happy to see behind-the-scenes hockey types dealing with the kind of ‘new’ statistics that I bring up a lot around these parts. In this particular case, shot metrics – Corsi, Fenwick, shots for/against, etc. – might be new to hockey fans and are certainly a controversial way to measure the game for the average fan, but NHL types have been doing this stuff for years.

In this case, the NHL type was league statistician Ron Andrews, who passed along shots at net data to Team Canada assistant coach John Ferguson at the 1972 Summit Series, along with shot locations. In other words: nearly 40 years ago, Team Canada’s coaching staff found shot attempt counts to be useful data in assessing players on their team and on the opposition.

It’s difficult to imagine a more unlikely person to possess those statistics than Ferguson, who tallied 303 points and 1214 PIM over a 500-game NHL career, and who encouraged Bobby Clarke to take out Valeri Kharlamov, but possess it he did.

Naturally, none of this tells us how the coaching staff used those metrics, and even if it did ultimately it doesn’t prove their effectiveness. What it does tell us is that professional hockey people view shots at net as useful information.

      • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

        And I was commenting on you saying:

        “So the more shots a player takes, the more valuable he is? That’s your conclusion?”

        Which is a flat out lie. Which = you trolling.

  • Yes, statistics are flawed… BUT SO IS WATCHING PLAYERS… otherwise everyone here that just watches players would have the same opinion on said players. And we all know that just isn’t the case.

    FYI: I’m more of a watcher than statistician, but stats have sometimes proven me wrong. At the same time, stats don’t always tell the whole story, so sometimes I take what my own eyes see above what the stats tell me. It works both ways, and I don’t think Jonathan or any of the heavy stats guys dispute that.

    I’ve never heard Willis say that he ONLY judges players by the stats. He uses them to either prove or disprove what his eyes tell him.

    *Remember… these eyes that we use to watch the games have deceived us you in the past – that time we you took that hot chick home & woke up with some wildebeest*

  • GSC

    Re: GlenX – his scoring rates have fallen off considerably since his 2007-08 season. He matched 2007-08’s 15 goals last year, after 13 the year before. In order to get there, he consumed 842:45 at ES, 141:58 SH and 68:34 on the PP. In 2007-08, his TOI was 645:27, 2:41 and 56:28 respectively. He wasn’t the goal scorer he appeared to be, although he’s still a good bottom sixer, something that I don’t think anyone dispiuted – the issue with him was how good and the price.

    I don’t doubt that being a high draft pick impacts on your salary throughout the period in which your rights are owned by a team. That isn’t a reason to pay them the money though or a justification for it; it’s an explanation for an observed phenomenon. The NHL is an efficiency contest. The only way paying Brule more for the same expected value as, for example, an undrafted UFA makes sense is if there’s some serious upside. I’m not really sold that there is, but I suspect we’ll find out. With the Oilers not intending to be a cap team, it doesn’t really matter one way or the other.