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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

  • Good points Mr. Willis, some additions.

    1. Petry is a very good skater and a good passer. Not sure his shot is going to overpower most NHL goalies though. He will get a lot of points, but as assists. I’m fine with that too.

    2. I hope Hemsky has found the promised land with this top six. He is rough on a defense when there is a fluid cycle going with his teammates. A static setup doesn’t play to his strength. The personnel he has with him now should mean a big year.

    3. I hope Belanger didn’t just take the year off, but it looked like it. Kruger’s statements about expectations and accountability should start here.

    4. Smid should be extended this summer. He was sweating bricks at the 2011 deadline about the thought of being traded from the worst team in the NHL to Chicago. He wants to be here and is a good player and teammate.

    7. Bettman should have a petition with signatures from 400,000 season ticket holders saying this:

    For every game lost due to a lockout to satisfy the owner’s greed, I and my family will not buy from any concession for three games. No $10 flat beer, no $6 stale hot dog, nothing. My improved belly fat situation will be your (nonhockey related) lost revenue.

    10. Every added NHL player on an AHL roster means some other scrub making $50 K playing in the A is out of work.

  • The Soup Fascist

    What’s the deal with Hemsky???

    No, not a Seinfeld bit, but he really has been a puzzle. Obviously, the injuries are a large reason for his “under-achieving” compared to what many thought he would become – a solid PPG player with world class skill. But there are other contributing factors.

    The lack of a supporting cast throughout his career has to be considered. I also think his decision making is poor. His skill with the puck is stupid good. Problem is for every highlight reel dangle he puts on some hapless defenseman, there are a bunch of give-aways that kill the play. I also think he is miscast on the half boards on the PP. Nuge plays that spot better than anyone on the team. Hemsky’s decision making is not as quick, plus he does not shoot enough to keep the PK defender and goalie honest and buy himself some space.

    Hemsky is a microcosm (I apologize in advance for this douchey word, but I can’t find another) for the Oilers, as a team. He could have a very good year IF a lot of things come together. IF, he is healthy and confident and IF he plays with complimentary offensive players, and IF he finds a spot on the PP, and IF he improves his decision making, blah, blah, blah …

    A lot of IFs have to happen for the Oilers to challenge for a playoff spot and Hemsky has to have a lot of IFs happen for him to warrant the $5 million he is earning. Would love to see it happen, but as Grandpa used to say, “if “ifs” and “buts” were candies and nuts ….” *

    *He died before he finished the sentence. Apparently candies and nuts are not staples in a healthy diet.

    • Wax Man Riley

      “If onlys and justs were candies and nuts, then every day would be Erntedankfest!”

      or… as my father used to say:

      “If? You know the power of if? If my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle.”

  • Fehr should stick it to them if they don’t give at least 50/50 split and not agree untill January . Then Bettman looses face over the “winter classic” in the states . As for other sports there are lots of soccer games on Sportsnet as well as CFL & NFL . I allready follow OKL Barons so I won’t be to disapointed.One last thing Why isn’t Tambellini working on the Smid extension ?

    • BUT, last year on one of the talking head Canadian Sports shows Healy stuck his neck out and predicted an Oiler playoff berth.

      I will ignore the total failure of the prediction and place that in the positive category.

      That said, I could do without his commentary most nights.

  • Negotiations start in earnest today with top 2 from each side looking for a breakthough . The lines are being drawn today in New York , and we should have an indicator as to which way things can/will go . The postering round is pretty much over . Necessity for lockout or strike still seems remote to me at current stage . Either action this time around will be counteractive to the future of NHL , as most fans feel neither side is warranted in their actions to squash season or portion thereof . Will they allow GREED to dictate their actions over the will and lack of support of the fans – i hope not for their sakes and the fans . Fans frusrated with Bettman and entourage constantly using lockout as a negotiation ploy and doing little to actually address real negotiations so far .

    If Bettman was serious about negotiating in good faith , then their is little reason not to keep season in tact and work toward a new CBA , and scrap his negotiating ploy of self imposed deadline. Unions and management do this regularly working under old contract till new one is in place . Should the deadline be scrapped ? Absolutely , if they want a settlement .

  • JW,

    Great article and I especially liked points #3 (from an Oilers fan standpoint) and #5 (from a hockey fan standpoint).

    I thought the Belanger signing, based on career numbers and what he brought to the table, was a very good one. He had a tough year as many players do and a return to form for him would really help our bottom 6.

    For point #5, I find myself cringing when Milbury and Healy speak (as I do when Monster McGuire does). Although they know the game, I am tired of the weird looks from the other patrons at the local sports bar when I yell back at the prone TV refuting their “opinions”.

    • I think Healy’s come quite a ways since he started out but he’s still not my favourite broadcaster. I remember watching him during the playoffs this spring and thinking ‘that’s a good point’ right before ‘so now you’re ripping on Ovechkin for trying to block a shot? Are you crazy?’

      As for Milbury, the less said the better.

      • Well stated.
        Yup, NBC really cares about correctly educating it’s veiwers by employing these two zeros. Then again it’s all about the show. The more bombastic the better. After all we have a zero of our own……Donald S. Cherry.
        Healey & Milbury….buh bye.

  • Spydyr

    NFL starts next week…. Might not be a bad thing for the Oil if the kids get a year older, a year stronger, a year more mature.One more ELC year.Play some hockey in a lower league build some confidence.Maybe the game slows down for them a bit.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Hey JW… regarding the Hockey News prediction of the oil’s fate, I see they may have problems in net AND in goal. Sounds serious. Like when Bobby Hull ripped a slapper over the crowd and into the fans.

  • justDOit

    If they go to a lockout, my only option is to cancel my cable package. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Lower viewer numbers, lower ad revenue. I know it’s not kicking the NHL or NHLPA in the pocketbook, but it’s the only thing within my control.

    I remember during the last lockout, it seemed there were more people at the UofC games than years previous, and that’s where I’ll get my hockey fix.

    • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

      I cancelled my cable last fall when the blackout rules changed (preventing me from watching over half of the regular season games) and they told me to buy CentreIce.

  • If you want some alternative hockey action this weekend the AIHL (Australian Ice Hockey Leage, yes believe it) is having their finals series.

    Games are being streamed online for free if anyone is interested. Stream info is on their Facebook page facebook.com/theAIHL

    p.s. Fist ever post here, long time reader and proud Australian Oilers fan

  • Oil Fan in Ottawa

    A comment on point #7. The players get 57% of league revenues, FAR more than other North American sports leagues. They need to accept that it is going to be a 50/50 split and request concessions elsewhere. Just like the salary cap, 50/50 revenue sharing is GOING to happen. The players need to realize that.

    • Oh, I don’t disagree that we’re almost certainly headed in that direction.

      Bettman’s just kind of jerk, and that snide assertion that the fans would always come back – though probably true – showed the way he and the league view fans.

  • The problem I see with the owners proposition is that we will be looking at a lock out and a missed season to claw back more every time the CBA runs out. This is not right. they should be looking at a long term fix. The only one proposed so far is by the players. Either introducing a luxury tax or some type of profit sharing that will help keep the small market teams profitable and competitive.

    The amount you pay the players should not matter as long as everyone is doing well financially. The poor teams will never do well if the players salaries are based on how much the rich teams make and their is no type of profit sharing to help them out.

    I bet the players would be willing to do a 50/50 split as long as the system was fixed so they are not just giving up money for the sake of giving up money. They should have an unbiased accountant or financial advisor sitting in on these meetings and reviewing the financials to make unbiased recomendations.

    • justDOit

      Yes, that’s another side effect of the last lockout – rumpus room games filling time on a sports network. Man, those dartser guys are really in tip-top shape, aren’t they?

      • Wax Man Riley

        Phil “The Power” Taylor’s two 9-darters, in the Premier Dart League final in 2010 against Dennis “The Menace” Wade ranks as one of my favorite sporting moments. As the announcer said, ” a moment of sporting majesty”. Wouldn’t have got into televised darts without the lockout. How bad is that?

  • I’m angrier at the fact that the owners will come out of this lockout with fans as loyal as ever, while it would be nice if we all went away (no games, jerseys, etc) for a couple years. Won’t happen though.

    • Randaman

      I honestly can’t believe that you think Hrudey is excellent!! He is an arrogant jerk that has nothing good to say about any player. He constantly points out negatives. As for Mclean, he has been on his soap box for far too long now. I believe a new fresh face is required. His puns are getting a little sickening as well the last couple years. As for Don Cherry, don’t get me started…
      P.S Elliot is excellent, P.J is tolerable and the new girl on the I desk last year seemed knowledgeable. Good looking too

      • The Soup Fascist

        Met Hrudey a couple times and he was one of the most down to earth guys I have met. “Arrogant jerk” were not words that leapt to mind.

        But, not surprising we disagree, because we are obviously on different wavelengths if you are a PJ Stock supporter. The “common man” schtick gets old for me in a hurry, especially when he tries to add technical analysis. To me, he is waaay out of his element.

        To each his own, I suppose.

        • Ben

          I find it funny when PJ Stock is talking about what players like Taylor Hall, Sidney Crosby and other high skill top line players should be doing or how they should be acting.

          He was a 4th line scrapper who spent more time in the penalty box than he ever did on the ice.

          The one that really got me was when he was commenting about how Hall swore about Renney pulling the goalie in the 6-2 lose to the Flames when Stempniak scored his hattrick goal into the empty net.

          Stock went off and was saying how he would never question the coach in such a manner. Now I’m not saying Hall was right or wrong in it, but all I could think is that “Of course you wouldn’t Stock, you’d be warming the bench next to the backup goalie”.

        • paul wodehouse

          Randaman

          did you read much of this site before you decided to post a comment? i’m betting you didn’t…your take above is distractive and disruptive…to express your thoughts in this manner isn’t how we roll … you could start by reading more here and staying away from clicking send until you can assure us all that you understand that your name calling nature has no place here …read more say less please