Ten Points: Petry, Hemsky, Smid, Lou Lamoriello, and a change for Hockey Night in Canada

Jeff Petry (5of7/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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1. Jeff Petry’s offensive game. It’s hard to believe, given the player he looked like on the ice in 2011-12, but the last time Petry scored 10 goals was 2006-07 in the USHL. He’s a heck of a player, and there’s a lot of value there that doesn’t show up in the point totals but I just don’t see him as a big-time offensive defender – his numbers in college and the AHL scream that he’s a 30-point defender. I do think he’ll be a big part of the team for a long time, but I doubt he’ll be the straw that stirs the drink offensively.

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2. Hope and Ales Hemsky. I don’t have the same level of institutional memory that older fans and writers do, but I’ve been around long enough to see what can happen to hope. In the summer of 2006, the Oilers signed Ales Hemsky to a six-year contract extension. It was a good deal at the time, and it was a good deal when it ended, but it didn’t turn out as imagined. When Hemsky signed the deal he was a 22-year old with no history of serious injury coming off a breakthrough 77-point campaign and 17 points in 24 playoff games. If the world ended today that 77-point mark would be the best of his career; he hasn’t seen the post-season since. Injuries and plateaus happen, and it’s a lesson worth remembering.

3. Lou Lamoriello’s take on mistakes. One of my favourite sections in the book Behind the Moves were the conversations with Lou Lamoriello. Lamoriello’s not perfect, but he’s been an excellent general manager for a very long time – based on track record, the only guy in the league in the same category in my opinion is Ken Holland. Anyway, Lamoriello had this to say about mistakes and players that don’t work out:

We acquired players that people never expected we would take here because we considered the character of our team and which people would help. Some have worked and some certainly haven’t, but I don’t look at the ones that haven’t as mistakes. I look at them as not working out. Mistakes are when you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing. Mistakes come from not doing your homework.

The player I thought of, reading that again today, was Eric Belanger. A year into his deal, he hasn’t worked out the way Edmonton hoped he would. That doesn’t mean Tambellini et al. made a mistake in signing him – his skillset was a good fit for the team and he’d been a solid 35-point man for nearly a decade before the Oilers signed him. The reasoning behind the acquisition was good. He hasn’t worked out so far. It happens.

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4. Ladislav Smid might once again be a restricted free agent. Here’s one interesting quirk to the NHL’s CBA proposal: if the league gets its way and expands the length of restricted free agency to 10 years, a bunch of players are going to lose their access to unrestricted free agency. Smid is one possible victim/the Oilers one possible beneficiary. The then-27 year old will have seven accrued seasons in the summer of 2013 when his contract expires; under the current arrangement he is eligible for unrestricted free agency but not under the league’s proposal. Then again, it’s more likely that any changes to the system will be grandfathered in, meaning that Smid will hit the open market unless re-signed.

5. Hockey Night in Canada could be without both Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury when hockey resumes. This as per Bruce Dowbiggin of the Globe and Mail. Apparently Healy is “being courted by the competition” and is free to leave while Milbury will be turning to his NBC work. For my part, I’m thrilled – this is an opportunity to get some fresh voices on the program, and hopefully will up the quality of analysis done on the show. Kelly Hrudey and Elliotte Friedman are both excellent while I’ve always liked MacLean; with any luck the program can find a complementary voice or two that will improve the quality of the broadcast.

6. The Hockey News picks the Oilers to finish 13th in the West. In their preview, they cite question marks in net and on the blueline in justifying the prediction, as well as the need for modest expectations for the incoming rookies. That sounds sensible to me.

7. Gary Bettman’s sort of a jerk. Asked why the league needed to change its core economics if it was doing well, Bettman responded, “Well, we believe that we’re paying out more than we should be. It’s as simple as that.” He then declined to explain the reasoning behind that belief, and when asked if the recovery after the last lockout made it easier to contemplate another work stoppage unctuously replied that the league had “the world’s greatest fans.” I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the owner’s logical belief that they may as well use the leverage they have in a money grab, but the commissioner’s obvious contempt for the fans was hard to watch. I mean sure, they boo him, but they’ve also supported the NHL in record numbers after the league took a year off to institute a salary cap.

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8. What if the league had accepted the players’ final offer last time around? It’s interesting to look back in history and see how things might have turned out. In February of 2005, the NHLPA made its “final offer” to owners to save the season: a $49 million salary cap with a luxury tax between $40 and $49 million. The NHLPA really wanted to avoid a salary cap linked to NHL revenue, while the NHL was unwilling to go above a $42.5 million cap. Even ignoring the luxury tax and looking at that $49 million alone, with the advantage of hindsight we can see that the NHLPA’s offer would have been worse for the players than the deal they eventually inked with the league. By 2007-08, the salary cap was north of $50 million, and last season’s cap of $64.3 million was $15 million more than the NHLPA proposal. It’s a good reminder that for all the thinkers on both sides calculating what a deal should look like, in the end the assumptions of both can look foolish in retrospect. Not only would the league have made more money with that deal, and be less likely to be clamouring for a lockout now, but a shortened 2004-05 season would have been possible.

Edit – Silly of me. I didn’t do enough homework on this; as was pointed out in the comments, Goodenow’s proposal was that the cap would be in place for two years before rising indexed to HRR. Assuming that HRR rebounded faster because the NHL had been able to save the 2004-05 season, this deal might have been close to what ended up happening in the end, but it likely wouldn’t have been better. My apologies for the mistake. – jw

9. This lockout isn’t about small-market teams. It’s really not. The NHL sees an opportunity to grab a huge stack of money from the players – using last year’s revenue numbers, the league is looking at adding $462 million per season to their coffers under their proposal, and $231 million per season under an imagined 50/50 split in hockey-related revenue. Most of that will go to big-market teams. It’s entirely understandable that really rich businessmen are looking to use the leverage they have to extract money from the players, though it doesn’t have the same sort of ethical clout that arguments behind the last lockout did.

10. Alternatives to the NHL. When the lockout comes – it seems everyone is convinced it will and I can’t disagree – the good news is that there are alternatives to NHL hockey. Last time around, I paid more attention to the CFL than I ever had before or since, but this time I’ll probably end up watching the Oklahoma City Barons and as much junior hockey as I can. The lockout’s bad news for fans, but it will be great news for leagues that compete for the attention of fans.

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  • paul wodehouse

    Interesting point on #10…while I’ll definitely up my intake of football should the NHL lock out, I also expect North American Soccer to take a rather large bite out of viewership. It’s the most watched sport in the world, and it’s popularity is already growing considerably in the last 5-10 years.

  • Wax Man Riley

    1. I think that Petry’s offensive production will be directly linked to his PP time. He is likely a second unit option right now but if he gets any time with the top unit then it would be hard to imagine him not producing more. That said, his all around game is very solid and as long as he gets the puck moving in the right direction, we have the scorers to do the rest.

    2. I think that anybody who has been an Oilers fan since the cup run in 2006 knows what you mean by false hope. I know personally that I have let myself believe that we have had a better team than we actually have. The only positive is that now other people outside the organization seem to see what we are building right now.

    3. Mistakes happen. I was in favour of a lot of our moves last off-season. It just hasn’t worked out. That said, the Oilers have had some big goofs where due diligence did not seem to get done like the Khabby signing.

    4. Ladi Smid getting one more year before becoming a UFA would be helpful but I am with you that any eligibility changes will likely be grandfathered in.

    5. I personally can’t stand CBC’s coverage of hockey. Healy and Milbury are brutal so I wouldn’t miss them but the whole telecast is brutal these days in my opinion.

    6. 13th is about right. The Oilers are banking on a lot of internal improvement. That and no regressions from key players like Eberle or Petry.

  • Wax Man Riley

    7. Gary Bettman is a jerk. This could be the second lockout of his tenure as commissioner. He couldn’t care less about the fans. Nobody pays to watch the owners. They pay to watch the players.

    8. That’s one of the most frustrating things about the last lockout. We lost an entire season and the owners still didn’t get the best deal.

    9. This league, like most, is driven by the big-market teams. Unfortunately that is just the way things are.

    10. As much as I want to see the Oilers play again, I won’t cry any crocodile tears if there is a lockout. I will watch football and junior hockey for the most part. Junior hockey might not have the big names, but the hockey is still good and there’s none of this lockout crap going on. I don’t think the lockout will be too long but if it extends into lacrosse season then I would love to see more NLL on TV as well.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Re #5:

    Thought no one would mention the need for the large over dressed gorilla in/on the tube that was obviosly not addressed in the article.
    As in we don’t need to start that debate any time soon. Matches up with the need for fighting
    in hockey somewhat, I guess. Just sayin’.

  • paul wodehouse

    Hemsky – not his biggest fan, but hope this is turn around year for him.Injuries aside, I often wonder [last four seasons] if he was on skilled winning team , would we have seen a different player. He certainly has the skill.

    I like a soft cap, with a Lux-tax. All tax monies go to an equalization fund.[ teasms not meeting the Lower-cap or perhaps not generating X-dollars in gate revenue would not be eligible.

    HNIC… honestly the worst Canadian hockey panel in the NHL. McClean is ok enough host, the Hot STove segment is OK. However, get rid of J P Stock and Kelley Hrudy.Kelly reminds me of Howie Meeker,with his “golly gee” replays, and Stock is totally irrelevant. Friedman is good.TSN and Sportsnet even with Kipper and McClean are miles ahead of the CBC, who are stuck in the 80s.
    I have stopped watching Cherry years ago.

  • Reg Dunlop

    To all who question the adequacy of the line-up of HNIC broadcasters; no doubt there are better voices out there but it could be worse. As a kid I watched a Habs/Bruins game with Rocket Richard as guest commentator. Bruins won 3-0 and Rocket picked his brother Henri as ‘premier etoile’ followed by 2 other Habs, and then gave an honorable mention to Bobby Orr who scored 2 goals. Even Cherry isn’t that bad(for a good Kingston boy).

  • Czar

    If the Oilers had a little more muscle in the line up Hemsky wouldn’t have taken the beating he did. How many times did he take a late or questionable hit with no retaliation? Now you can’t even throw a clean hit without being challenged or jumped!As ill advised as it was,he kept going to those tough areas and didn’t shy away from contact.If he would shoot more I’d be happier and with better linemates the points will come,look what he did for Smyth and Horcoff.

  • Czar

    Personally I would rather see Healy and Milbury fired, but I will settle for their departures. Let’s face it HNIC is at an all-time low. Yes, Hrudey is good and once made a superb team with Simpson. I like PJ, but he is really substandard. As for Cherry’s lapdog, his deference to Don is pathetic and his authority-revering persona is the exact opposite of what a journalist is supposed to be.

    TSN has totally passed HNIC and I would love to see them broadcasting the finals. Bob MacKenzie is so much better than every other hockey analyst on TV that it is a joke, and he and his compatriots are also way better connected.

    As for Cherry, the healthy and highly entertaining gust of brash frankness he originally brought to HNIC has degenerated into stubborn, out-of-touch bullying and needs to be euthanized, metaphorically of course.

    On Bettman, everything you say is true but I would remind everyone that he is only a front man for the owners. They make the policy. He takes all the heat and the hate while they remain behind the scene, counting their profits. If you don’t like Obama’s policies don’t blame his spokes folks. Same with the owners.

  • Czar

    2 1/2 things came to mind while reading the article and watchingthe movies.

    1. Rick Mercer is awesome

    2. Kelly Hrudey is one of the best analysts in the game certainly on CBC. He is for sure better then Glenn Healy and mike kilbury combined. (jerks)

    2 1/2. The more i thought about it i would really much rather watch more Elliot Freidman and Kelly Hrudey then Mike Milbury or Glenn Healy once a week.

  • Czar

    Willis great article (and honest edit!)

    On Hemsky i think if you did not have instigator rule and Oil had someone “Dave Brownish” – he’d have 80 pts by January! With the rules the what they are I agree with the earlier comment that his injuries could have been preventable and think that he took some of the unwarranted punishment (the Boogard hit in the corner was the worst)

    On HNIC – I like Milbury’s takes when sober and when a guest comes on and says something stupid he calls them out and tells them why. I think CBC was thinking he may have been the heir to Coaches Corner – not so sure anymore now. As long as the the replacement isn’t Eric Francis – the guy doesn’t know a goal post from the Canada Post. We might as well get Ryan Seacrest to do the insightful hockey bits. Brutal.