1. Would the Oilers have been better off signing Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in the new CBA? This is a question I ask myself all the time, and we won’t really have an answer for it until we see the new agreement and players comparable to Hall and Eberle start signing new deals.
As talks have gone on, however, we’ve seen two items emerge that we can be relatively certain about:
- The player’s share of revenue is going down, and consequently the cap is likely to drop in the short- to mid-term.
- There will be no rollback.
Early in August, I highlighted both of those points in a piece that argued the Oilers would be better off financially if they waited until after the CBA was resolved to get Eberle and Hall under contract.
I still think that’s likely the case. My guess is that the Oilers end up having paid a bit of a premium for their young stars in exchange for the certainty of getting them under contract under the old system.
2. Albertans tend to link hockey to national pride more than any other group in the country. There was an interesting report in the National Post on Monday that quoted a Leger Marketing poll on how Canadians perceive hockey. From the article:
The survey, which also probed the levels of pride Canadians feel when it comes to hockey, showed Albertans are most likely to consider the sport a “very important” source of that heart-swelling emotion. More than one-quarter of residents from the stomping grounds of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers conveyed a strong sense of attachment to the game, while respondents from Quebec — home of the Montreal Canadiens and, perhaps someday again soon, the Quebec Nordiques — were at the low end of the pride scale.
Just 16% of Quebecers surveyed considered hockey a “very important” source of national pride, with another 21% calling it “somewhat important” for a total of 37%. Along with the 26% of Albertans who consider the sport a “very important” source of pride, another 24 said it was “somewhat important,” for a total of 50%.
I wouldn’t read too much into the Quebec numbers without knowing exactly how the question was phrased – polling for “national pride” in a province where a significant minority is in favour of secession is pretty difficult, after all – but it is interesting to see how closely Albertans connect hockey to national pride.
3. The NHL is just trying to pin down Donald Fehr. It is by now common knowledge that the NHL is asking the NHLPA to offer a complete, written CBA proposal for their next meeting, and it’s interesting to see the explanation for that provided by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman:
There are a few reasons for this. The obvious one is it will allow the league to know where Fehr and the players stand on each of these critical areas. It also gives the NHL a better idea of where it is willing to concede to bridge the gaps. (Despite what it says, there is some room for compromise. How much is the question.) And finally, Fehr has kept his written proposals limited in scope at various points in the process — in at least one case, just a few written lines.
Whether one agrees with Donald Fehr’s tactics or not, it’s hard to argue the point that he’s managed to get the league to move off their rather draconian initial offers and into the realm of possibility without letting them know exactly where the player’s bottom line is. The time for such things is now in the past (and arguably has been for some time) and if the NHLPA brings a solid proposal to the next meeting maybe that’s the key to getting down to the final dickering that will close the gaps between the league and the players. It’s worth hoping, anyway.
4. The matchup game in Oklahoma. Todd Nelson was on Oilers Now yesterday, and made no secret of what the opposition was trying to do. “Other teams are basically getting the matchup against Nugent-Hopkins,” he told Bob Stauffer.
Now, the related point is that with Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins drawing tough opposition, the opponents facing secondary players will be lesser ones – in this case the second line is Paajarvi, Lander and Hartikainen. That’s true to an extent, but it’s worth remembering that the AHL is a much tougher league this year than it normally is. I’d guess that facing second-tier opposition this season is probably pretty comparable to facing top opposition in a non-lockout year.
5. Toni Rajala to play with Mark Arcobello, Curtis Hamilton. While I have some concerns about combining the pint-sized Rajala with the pint-sized Arcobello, Barons head coach Todd Nelson revealed yesterday that these guys would form the third line for Oklahoma early, allowing Anton Lander to keep playing with Paajarvi and Hartikainen, where he’s finally starting to have some success. Apparently Philippe Cornet is also a little under the weather and is thus doubtful for Wednesday’s game.
6. Does Stu MacGregor like Ryan Pulock? It was interesting listening to Stu MacGregor on Oilers Now yesterday for a bunch of reasons, but one in particular was his take on the gap between Seth Jones (widely seen as the 2013 Draft’s second-best prospect) and Ryan Pulock, one of the draft’s top eligible defenders (the NHL Numbers consensus list has him currently slated for the seventh overall slot). Host Bob Stauffer mentioned that ISS has Pulock ranked 15th and Jones ranked second, and while MacGregor acknowledged Jones’ size and skating he seemed to express doubt that the gap was that large. The 6’1” Pulock is currently scoring at a point-per-game pace in the WHL and is coming off a 60-point, plus-33 season a year ago.
7. More MacGregor, this time on Nathan MacKinnon. MacGregor was also asked about the greatest strength of Nathan MacKinnon, widely seen as the best available prospect in this year’s draft:
He’s ultra-competitive. He’s a guy who almost engages too much and gets him into these situations where he’s battling back physically. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, he’s about 5’11”, 185lbs or so, but he plays so hard, he’s in your face. If somebody goes and does something to him he’s going back to get them. He’s got the long memory like an elephant. He doesn’t forget and he pays back. I think that’s the biggest thing. That and he’s just an unbelievable skater, great balance and power. That combination, his pace of the game is very high and it’s difficult to defend players who play at that pace.
8. ”Puck Gary” hats. In Montreal players have been wearing “Puck Gary” hats, the latest in a slew of recent juvenile commentary from NHL players on the commissioner. While I understand the anger, expressing it that way is childish, does not help make the players sympathetic to the public in general, and if it has any impact on negotiations it’s likely a negative one. One of the things the NHL has the ability to do is fine its executives when they do things like, say, comparing players to cattle. That is not practical for the NHLPA, so the leadership basically has to sit idly by while individual players make their side of the negotiation look foolish.
9. I had the pleasure of going on Hockey Night in Canada radio yesterday. It was fun to get on the show – even if the topic of conversation had more to do with the lack of NHL hockey than NHL hockey – and I have great respect for all of the show’s hosts. But I have to admit it felt a little strange talking to Kelly Hrudey. The first playoff series I can vividly remember watching was Los Angeles vs. Toronto in the Conference Finals in 1993, when Hrudey was tending net for the Kings. I was in Grade Two at the time and we played ball hockey in the halls of my elementary school; I would pretend to be Hrudey while my classmate down the hall would be Felix “the Cat” Potvin. Good times.
10. Shameless self-promotion! And since we’re on me… I wanted to mention that the second book I’ve co-authored is now in print and available to be ordered. Hockey Prospectus 2012-13 has a bunch of general interest articles, great prospect breakdowns (including a top-100 prospects list, complete with scouting reports) and comprehensive coverage of every team. I wrote a bunch of chapters, including the one on the Edmonton Oilers, and the digital download of the monstrosity (this year’s copy came in at just under 500 pages) is less than $10.00. The book is available for order here.
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