London, Ontario, to be precise.
Canoe has an article on the former Cornell Big Red forward and Devils' prospect Tony Romano.
As indicated very early in the article (and in my subject), Romano has jumped from the ECAC to the OHL to play for the London Knights. The article discusses the reasons why he's made the switch, why he'll be a good fit for London, and about Aleksey Nikiforov, the trainer who's helped Romano a lot with his game since he was a youth.
However, while it's good to read an article about a prospect that has positive quotes about his talents - he's slick, he's a playmaker, he can dangle, et al. - but there is part of the article I want to highlight. Perhaps some insight as to why he's not really a highly touted prospect in the Devils' system:
"I very definitely looked at that before deciding to come here," he said. "The Knights had a similar style of play to mine. At Cornell, the style of play is very different, a lot of dump and chase, a lot of defence, a lot of systems, maybe too many systems.
"My coach says hockey is still a thinking man's game. It's like chess on ice. You need some structure and some systems, but you still have to be able to think for yourself. You have to be able to make decisions and create plays."
This is a telling sign. Now, to be fair, he recognizes the need for some systems - but this is telling. The article does go on to state that Romano wants to be in an environment where the main focus is hockey. While that is his preference and playing in a 68 game season for London may help his overall game. Hopefully it will change his perspective since pretty much most, if not all, of the teams in the NHL do focus on defense to a degree and have their own systems. Nobody is running free-wheeling hockey where the players have the creativity. Much less the New Jersey Devils, a team who has used defensive systems to thrive and succeed. Now, it is the off season and there's not much going on, but I wanted to point this out as a reason why Romano is a long-term prospect who is a bit of a risk - as suggested by Jared Ramsden's ratings at Hockey's Future.
Yes, he's offensively gifted and he could definitely step it up in the OHL; but he should not be annointed to be a future Devil forward. If he's not interested about playing defense or getting in complex systems, he may not get a chance to get into the NHL much less the Devils unless he's incredibly talented.
To be fair, he's still young and he can change for sure. My intent is not to browbeat a young man looking to further his career. But given that this is from one of the more talented offensive players in the system, it speaks loudly about the Devils prospect depth. Because there really isn't anyone else right now - I want him to succeed. Therefore, I encourage him to pick up some defensive habits while lighting it up in London in the coming season. If he does, I would guess his chances of making the NHL will dramatically increase.
(Hat tip to the Devils message board at Hockey's Future
, specifically Belizarius
Labels: 2007 Offseason, Devils Issues
As the offseason is coming to a close and pre-season starting in a few weeks, Devils-related news and analysis has dried up to say the least. There are a few things you may want to check out:
Jared Ramsden at Hockey's Future has compiled the top 20 prospects in the Devils' organization.
Ramsden is quite high on Matthew Corrente and Tony Romano, two players who have great years last year in development. Personally, I think Barry Tallackson is rated too high. Despite a number of call ups to the Devils, he hasn't established himself as a future regular like David Clarkson did nor has he really set the world afire in Albany/Lowell. I really think his window of opportunity is getting narrow whereas others ranked below him - Mark Fraser, Clarkson, and Rod Pelley for example - have better shots at making the team. I understand the list is ranked considering the player's potential as the primary focus - but I don't understand what could cause one to consider that he has the upside of a second-line player. I admit I have only seen Tallackson when he was up with the Devils; so perhaps Ramsden or someone else has seen flashes of brilliance in the minors or in college that lead some to believe he has such potential.
That said, I largely agree with Ramsden's overall point that the Devils have plenty of depth and possibly good prospects; but they are short on players who are sure bets to be impact players. Given the recent emergence of Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, it's not a glaring weakness for now. Furthermore, it's not really a surprising issue given that the Devils normally draft late and that they aren't above signing players to fill in roles or give young players a shot (e.g. Zajac and Johnny Oduya from last season).
For all of you who are into junior/U-20 teams, this coming week should give you some action. It's the Canada-Russia Super Series and this time Russia is bringing a full squad. It's a 8 game series with 4 games played in Russia and 4 games played in Canada taking place from August 27 through September 8. In the bigger picture, it is not a meaningful competition like the World Junior Championships. But I expect both teams to take it seriously as it is definitely a good test for both teams to get ready for the aforementioned tournament.Canada's roster can be found at TSN
, complete with full news of the series from Canada's point of view. While the Devils do not have any prospects on the Canadian team, they have a coaching interest: Brent Sutter will be behind the bench for Canada. Eugene Belashchenko has an in depth preview of Russia's squad at Hockey's Future, complete with an explanation as to why Russia is bringing a talented team.
Two Devils prospects have been named to the team: Kirill Tulupov and Alexander Vasyunov - but only Vasyunov will be the only one playing. Tulupov was dropped due to poor conditioning, according to an interview with Sergei Nemichinov - translated at the Russian Hockey Digest.
This series will likely be only aired in Canada and Russia, but if you do have access to Canadian television, TSN has a broadcast schedule.
If you want a more analytical coverage, Aaron Vickers at Future Considerations will blog the event. He thinks Canada is still the team to beat
; but with a better-than-usual Russian squad, I think it'll be closer than he thinks.
Congratulations to 2 Man Advantage
for their nominations at the Blogger's Choice Awards
TRAINING CAMP UPDATE: I just found this very useful list of start date and venues for training camp for all 30 NHL teams at TSN.
The New Jersey Devils' training camp will begin on September 13 at the Codey Arena at South Mountain in West Orange, New Jersey.
Labels: 2007 Offseason, Devils Issues, Hockey - General
No, the Devils didn't do anything. However, a number of things in the hockey world are worthy of noting and reading about while stroking your chin and going "Hmmmm." Therefore, let's, uh, note it and read about while mulling.
First and foremost, the NHL has announced it's national television schedule set-up for the upcoming season.
VERSUS, NBC, HDNet, and the CBC will all remain as the providers of national coverage of the greatest sport on Earth. While VERSUS seems to have a set schedule to start the season, the NHL on NBC will run on a flexible schedule for the 9 dates the channel will air hockey. The best part about this flexible schedule is that the decision for what will be carried nationally will be made 13 days before the date - giving the teams plenty of time to prepare and the league to make any other changes to the schedule. HDNet will remain on a flexible schedule, but will update it twice a month to keep track on trends in the league. Personally, as a viewer, a flexible schedule is a good way to ensure that the better teams or the better matchups get the proper coverage. Especially considering past national coverage deals where it seemed like the Rangers or the Detroit Red Wings were getting national coverage every other date.
Second, guess what these three people have in common: Aaron Broten, Bobby Carpenter, John Vanbiesbrouck. Yes, all three played for the New Jersey Devils at one point or another (for a considerable amount of time in the cases of Broten and Carpenter). Those three, along with John MacInnis, will be enshrined into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame this fall. The New Jersey Devils' official website has a summary of this information, giving you ample reasons as to why these three were selected for induction. NHL.com staff writer Evan Grossman also has a more general and complete article about the four selections.
Congratulations to Broten, Carpenter, MacInnis, and Vanbiesbrouck for being honored.
Third, it is a sad day in the world of hockey. A legendary member of the Montreal Canadiens, Sam Pollock, passed away at the age of 81.
Pollock will be most remembered for being the most accomplished general manager in hockey and in all of sports. He was the architect of the dominant Montreal teams of the 1960s and 1970s, winning 9 Stanley Cups in his tenure as a general manager. Condolences to the Canadiens organization and Pollock's friends and family.
"The integrity of the games is at risk"
What a crock! How, exactly, can Tocchet influence the game enough to profit as a gambler or bookie? He's an assistant coach, and holds very little power over what happens on the ice. If he was making such terrible on-ice decisions, you know Gretzky would either fire him, or the mainstream media would be all over him. The players on the ice, and the refs, hold a great deal of control over the game. An assistant coach does not.
Need I remind you that 1. nobody was gambling on NHL games in this ring, nor do they tend to in general, and 2. Tocchet, himself, never bet on any games. Tocchet profited on OTHER people betting on OTHER sports. How, then, does this affect the integrity of ye olde NHL tilt?
Now that Tocchet is under such scrutiny, do you really think he could ever get away with any activity to 'fix' a game? If he makes ONE questionable line change, you can be sure the media will be all over him like lawyers at an accident scene.
Now, I can't agree with this at all. For starters, it is possible for the assistant head coach to have quite a bit of power behind the bench. Lou Lamoriello may have stepped in to be the head coach after Claude Julien was fired, but assistant coach John MacLean was controlling the line-changes and match-ups among other tasks. I don't know the coaching situation in Phoenix too well, but it is most definitely possible that the assistant coach can have some control. Even in an advisory role, it's entirely possible Tocchet could persuade Wayne Gretzky to play a different match-up or a different line or a lesser player when it is really for his own - or someone else's - benefit. Furthermore, it's entirely possible that while the betting ring Tocchet was involved in didn't bet on hockey, some people in that ring may know some people in other similar set-ups who do bet on hockey. And it's entirely possible that a friend of a friend of someone in said ring could just ask Tocchet to provide some information, to get a little inside knowledge just for knowing's sake that could be passed on for betting purposes. I don't know how plausible that is - for all I know, betting rings are exclusive as exclusive gets - but one doesn't need to bet on hockey to risk the game's integrity. Just providing asymmetrical information or being in a position inside the game can do a significant amount of damage.
Integrity, in general, is very fragile and even the appearance of malfeasance can ruin it. This isn't like soccer in Italy where match-fixing can be uncovered and people would still go to games
or like baseball where a manager can be caught betting on baseball games and people would still follow it like it was a great sport
. Hockey isn't that popular here and something like this could do a lot to hammer nails into the proverbial coffin (or more nails, depending on how you feel about the sport in this country). The NHL does not need this and they are in a position to do something about it now before it gets worse.
That said, I agree with the main thesis of Greg Wyshynski's post - something Golbez was (sort of) responding to in his post - at the NHL Fanhouse. Because of what's has happened to the NBA now, the NHL needs to nip a similar situation in the bud by barring Rick Tocchet from hockey.
Wyshynski is entirely correct that the fact that Tocchet was in a situation where he could provide inside information or be in a position to try and affect a game for his or someone else's benefit - not betting on hockey at all - puts the game and the league at a great risk. Where I disagree with Wyshynski is how long should Tocchet be barred: he thinks at least season would suffice. If the NHL really wants to make an example out of Tocchet, they should bar him for life. That may be too harsh, but so is discrediting the NHL. Personally, I think a five year ban will do just as well as a punishment - five years in that is the maximum amount of jail time Tocchet could serve.
Labels: 2007 Offseason, Devils Issues, Hockey - General
In the meantime, I'd like to air my own thoughts about fighting in hockey. Now, before I get into them, I want to make the following clear: these are just thoughts based on what I've seen in hockey. This isn't based on some kind of serious analysis; I didn't employ a metric and then watched all of last season to see how it measures up. These are just some thoughts. Furthermore, since I primarily watch the New Jersey Devils, I will remain in that perspective instead of trying to consider all 30 teams in these thoughts. Lastly, before you sit down and type dismissive messages saying that I don't like hitting or toughness, please read why I love hockey.
I do like hitting in hockey, I would never suggest to get rid of body checks; it's part of what I think makes the sport so great. Just like professional football would suffer should it switch to two-hand touch over tackling, hockey wouldn't be the same without body checks and it would most likely be worse off for it.
That being said, I am of the opinion that I wouldn't miss fighting were it to be eliminated from the NHL.
In the past, I didn't think anything of it - two guys who are really angry or upset throwing down the gloves and duking it out got rid of the pressure of the game, it protected star players, it was part of "the code," and hey, no one sits down during a fight. But the more I think about it, the more I started feeling otherwise. Remember, I primarily watch the New Jersey Devils - one of the most disciplined teams in recent years. They never had a reputation for beating up people on a nightly basis, but they have had their share of enforcers in recent years from all the way back to Mike Peluso to Kryzystof Oliwa to Jim McKenzie to Rob Skrlac (for a short while) to Cam Janssen. Not that nobody else ever thrown down (e.g. Grant Marshall); but the odd thing is that the Devils don't often fight and when they do it's just...just...
As an anecdotal example, the first game that Fox Sports NY aired for the Devils' 15 to Remember series running this summer was the Devils' 4-0 rout of the Carolina Hurricanes.
After goal #4, Kevyn Adams decided to throw down with Dan LaCouture after the ensuing faceoff. The home crowd - the game was in Carolina - got real excited as the two fought. All I could keep thinking was why Adams decided to do this. His team is down by 4 even before the halfway point of the game. Granted, you don't hear much about 4 goal comebacks, but if Carolina wanted to make a game of it there was plenty of time available. It doesn't hurt to try, but clearly Kevyn Adams felt otherwise. I still tried to think of a reasonable reason for this act.
Was this a response to something? Did the Devils do something wrong, something that crossed an unwritten rule in the NHL? What transgression against "the code" did the Devils commit to prompt Adams to drop the gloves? That they are routing the Hurricanes are their own ice - that they are outplaying
them? And somehow fighting LaCouture would salvage some of their pride or make things right or somehow get his team to play better? What nonsense, I nor many others could tell you who won the fight and it really doesn't matter given that the Devils won the game 4-0. The fight had ultimately no effect on the game as a whole. The Hurricanes didn't play any better after the fight aside from the team not conceding anymore goals. If a Devil were to drop the gloves to salvage their pride when a bad loss seems inevitable; I as a fan could not possibly care about that pride. I would much rather have the Devils try to score a goal - something that means something within the game, something that is indicative that the Devils have indeed played successful hockey for some stretch of time - than to send any kind of message to the other team. I am not more proud of the Devils if a player beats someone up, I am more proud of them when they succeed.
Therefore, I think fighting for the most part is an unnecessary thing to do in hockey. Nothing of productive value comes out of it unless you figure a player sitting in the box for 5 minutes (and an extra power play to the other team should your team's player instigate the fight) is somehow productive. The same applies to fights in the middle of a game where it seems both teams do nothing. Yes, the fight may draw out the adrenaline and motivate one or the other team to play harder - not to mention the crowd - but this isn't anything a big hit or big save or a goal or a coach giving their team the business couldn't do. (Aside: For the amount of money these players get paid to play, I don't think they should need other people throwing haymakers to "wake up" for a game.) It's simply unnecessary.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think there is no "code" at work. There is (and even an entire book devoted to the subject
), and Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion has a good summary here explaining that all sports have a "code" of sorts.
I'm not suggesting that such a code be eliminated, but as a fan I couldn't care any less about the code. One argument is that fighting protects the stars - that Dave Semenko was on the ice so Wayne Gretzky didn't get messed with. As I understand it that's, "the code" in action. Fair enough, but consider Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh. Georges Laraque, an enforcer, was traded to Pittsburgh at (or around) the trade deadline last season. The logic being that he'll be to Crosby what Semenko was to Gretzky. However, a quick look at Crosby's stats indicate that he was a scoring machine,
embarrassing opposition defenses on a regular basis without someone stopping him both legally and illegally. I question how necessary Laraque's presence is as a tough guy. As a player he's good, he has some skill, he can throw the big hits which is good; but with only 2 fights in the 17 regular season games he's played with the team I really question how badly Pittsburgh needed someone to do some fighting. Another example would be the Devils squad as a whole. While Janssen does drop the gloves quite a bit (16 major penalties in this past season), his fists didn't score many goals (only 1 goal in 48 games). I understand that some fans love him - it's difficult to assess how much he's really helped the team on the ice. Personally, I'd prefer to have a David Clarkson or a Rod Pelley on that fourth line earning some minutes and further their development than put on someone who tends to sit in the penalty box almost as much as he's on the ice. I have nothing personal against Janssen, I just think there are other, more production options than having an enforcer out on the ice.
I'm sure if someone thinks about taking a run at Crosby, they'll eliminate that thought at the resulting beatdown from Laraque. However, even in that scenario, I'm not convinced. Tie Domi infamously elbowed Scott Neidermayer in the face without any provocation at the end of Game 4 in the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs. I think it was Grant Marshall who beat the holy hell out of Domi for causing Niedermayer to be injured for the rest of the playoffs; but my point is that Domi committed this horrible act regardless of the code. So what if he took a beatdown, Toronto didn't see Scott Niedermayer for the rest of that series. So what if Tie Domi is seen as a heartless jerk and has a horrible reputation. So what if the code damns him, Domi and his elbow wasn't prevented by anything - much less "the code." The players can't police jackasses like Domi or Bryan Marchment
out of the game now matter how hard they throw their fists.
If anything, these problems with policing the game are compounded by the National Hockey League's inability to properly discipline players. Referees stand back and let two guys - usually marginal players - stop the hockey we were enjoying to have a little fight. Decisions for suspensions for match penalties are all over the place with little reason as to what is deserving of one or three or X (where X is a positive integer) game suspensions. After the infamous Steve Moore incident, the NHL Disciplinary Committee showed that, yes, they can come down on a player like a ton of bricks - but for lesser incidents, you wonder whether Colin Campbell actually has a spine. That being said, if fighting can be eliminated at the U.S. college level and essentially be eliminated (or made rare) during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it's certainly possible.
But again, I'm not so naive to think that fighting will be eliminated in the near future. The logistics and the strong feelings by many other fans make it far too difficult for now. I just think that if it were to be eliminated, I would say good riddance. With respect to the Devils, they don't fight often and when they do the majority of those fights seem to be the unnecessary kind - the ones at the end of the game that serve no real purpose or the ones that happen earlier in the game. As far as protecting players go, that should be a primary function of the league and it's officials - there are examples where the players failed in that regard and where the worth of enforcers are overrated. As I stated in my last post, I love the sport of hockey because of what goes on in hockey. Fighting just interrupts that and I feel that it is simply stupid because it is unnecessary, because enforcers tend to be overrated, and because it does not yield many benefits (the "protection").
Lastly, after a number of ugly incidents - fighting-related injuries in this case - that spoke ill of the sport (and fighting) during last season, NHL Comissioner Gary Bettman held a press conference covered by the CBC.
Bettman made one very clear statement:
"From a player safety standpoint, what happens in fighting is something we need to look at just as we need to look at hits to the head," Bettman told reporters after a news conference in Toronto to announce the NHL had reached a new six-year broadcast deal with the CBC. But we're not looking to have a debate on whether fighting is good or bad or should be part of the game."
If it were up to me, I think that debate should occur before discussing other means of modifying, changing, and improving the NHL and the sport of hockey as a whole.
I apologize for any ranting or rambling I have committed in this post. Feel free to disagree or correct me, as these are simply thoughts I have about fighting in hockey.
Labels: Devils Issues, Hockey - General
One thing that is quite obvious to most people who know me is that I really enjoy sports. I like soccer (namely the NY Red Bulls, Fulham, and the U.S. men's national team). I like football – both the pro game and the college version (thanks to Rutgers stepping it up). I even like playing basketball (though watching it has gotten difficult in recent years). However, one sport rules above them all: hockey. That should come as no surprise, as I spend quite a bit of time looking forward to New Jersey Devils games, other hockey events (e.g. playoffs, NHL Draft), and blogging about the best team in the tri-state area (which you know because you're, well, here).
However, a valid question that you can ask me is why hockey? Why is hockey #1 in your heart, why do you say you “bleed Devils red” and so proudly? Why not, say, the classical works of Jean Sebastian Bach or literary works of contemporary authors of the mid-1800s?
In my opinion, J.S. Bach, the contemporary authors of the mid-1800s, or any supposed “proper” and “cultured” interest cannot compete with the excitement, energy, skill, and most importantly the passion that we see in sports. Where else can you see people devoted to a task to achieve success (note: a larger contract would be a success of sorts, but victory is more of what I’m talking about), where it is not only accepted but encouraged to literally put a majority of effort in competition at a physical, emotional, and mental cost. While I am not naïve enough to believe this happens in every game in every sport, it happens a lot more than anything else, in my opinion.
So that’s why I’m into sports, in a nutshell; but it relates to why I love hockey. The game of hockey, in my opinion, is simply the most exciting sport around. Namely, I am focusing on the NHL, which is the highest level of hockey, featuring the most talented hockey players in the entire world. The game is constantly flowing, only stopping if an infraction occurs, a goal occurs, or if the goaltender wills it. When it is flowing, it is fast and those who look away for only a brief moment could be robbed of seeing the glory of a goal. What’s more is the scoring itself. The vast majority of goals are all earned, even garbage goals resulting from a scrum. Goaltenders and defenders go to great lengths to stop the other team from scoring; risking their bodies at times just to rob the other team from going ahead in the score. When a goaltender gets hot and just starts making great saves, it is equally worthy of praise and respect similar to a forward just burning the opposition to bury a puck into the net. Not only is the game fast and comprised of players whose positions dictate and result in an entertaining struggle in competition, it is quite physical. Lowering the proverbial boom on an opposing player with the puck is gratifying and never boring. It’s not just a game that favors only the skilled, but also the toughness – be it by someone who provides the checks or who receives them. Hockey has it all and plenty of it: skill, toughness, excitement, and passion.
While I’m exaggerating a bit in my description and while I’m aware not every game is an epic struggle as the prior description may indicate, this is how I feel about hockey. To illustrate what I’m going on about, some examples from the prior season come to my mind. I see it when Zach Parise back-checks into his zone, shoves Petr Prucha down in the slot to prevent him from even thinking of scoring, picking up the loose puck, dishing it off, skating as fast as he can down the ice the other way, collecting a future pass while continuing to fly into the Rangers’ zone, and beats Henrik Lundqvist cleaner than a new car for a goal. I see it when Colin White gloriously dropped jerk extraordinaire Sean Avery in the corner with a brutal hit. I see it when Jay Pandolfo, a superstar only within his own family and IPB Manor, shuts down opposing star forwards such as Jaromir Jagr. I see it when Martin Brodeur makes a save so brilliant that it requires me to rewind the DVR just to get another look at it. And I always, always see it whenever a team has battled hard for 16 wins in the post season to earn the right to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup – regardless of who it is.
Those sorts of moments happen more often than I can count. OK, not all moments are the same, but these are examples of what I am talking about. It’s why I make a point of it to watch it on television, spend countless hours on the Internet reading or writing about it, and why I talk about it quite a bit – having all kinds of analogies to the sport pop up in my head.
To put it simply, the game of hockey played at its highest level is why I love hockey. I wish I could articulate my reasoning better, but for now this explanation will do.
Labels: Hockey - General
While he's not a big winger, he's definitely feisty and gritty. I generally agree with Patricia at 2MA that this is a signing for the fourth line, given what Asham does on the ice - being feisty and gritty. Looking at his career stats at NHL.com, he may provide some offense from the fourth line (something that didn't really exist all that well last season).
Erik Rasmussen has not been signed, and with the signing of this fourth line left winger, Rasmussen's tenure with the Devils it's not looking good at this point. I'd like to point out that there's plenty of competition, however, between Jari Vihukola, Asham, Mike Rupp, Cam Janssen, Rod Pelley, and David Clarkson for those fourth line spots (though Clarkson may fight for a higher spot). Training camp is going to be interesting.
Labels: 2007 Offseason
Well, Paul Martin remains as the only restricted free agent left for the Devils to sign. In the comments in a prior post, someone took exception to my thinking that Paul Martin can command a $4 million/year salary. Since nothing else of importance is going on with the Devils, let's take a closer look at who Paul Martin is and what kind of money he can command.
Paul Martin is a 26 year old two-way defenseman who has just completed his third season with the New Jersey Devils. Let's look at some of his more meaningful stats at NHL.com. He was second on the team in average time on the ice with 25:13 a night, 16 seconds below Brian Rafalski's average and 16th highest in the NHL last season. He did lead the team in average shifts per game last season (yes, I have finally taken notice of that stat) with 29.6 (20th most in the NHL).
He has seen time on both the power play and penalty killing units and it's fair to say that while he may not have been technically on the top defensive pairing, he plays top pairing minutes. His point totals from this past season (3-23-26) dipped from the season prior (5-32-37) by 11
; but it's clear his responsibilities on defense has increased as his career progresses in New Jersey. He's well-disciplined (only 18 penalty minutes last year) and despite a slow start last season; I believe he has definitely blossomed into being a defenseman who can play solid defense for 24-26 minutes a night. With Rafalski now in Detroit, Martin is pretty much the de facto #1 defenseman in New Jersey due to his time on the ice and the number of shifts he (already) gets.
Now, you may disagree that Martin is not a true #1; and I would agree that he is not to a point due to his lack of experience and production. That's not to say he never will become one, it's just that he is not a #1 defenseman right now. He'll likely play in that role with the Devils in the coming season, so we'll have a better understanding of whether he can thrive in that role or show that he is really a #2/#3 defenseman. However, because he'll likely be on the first defensive pairing and be a #1, I think we should accept that he is a #1 for the sake of the argument. That argument being how much is a #1 defenseman worth in today's market. (Note: I am using NHLSCAP.com for all salary information.
In general, there are three kinds of defensemen that most people would recognize as classifications for the position: offensive (e.g. Sheldon Souray), defensive (e.g. Adam Foote), and two-way (e.g. Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Neidermayer). If you take a look at the league leaders in average time on ice from last season
, you'll get an idea of which defensemen are considered to be the #1 defensemen on their team. Not necessarily their best (though they should be and they usually are), but the ones who play the most minutes and generally lead the unit. Notice that most of them not only are on the ice, but also have a good level of point production. Since they are the #1 defensemen, you usually will find them on the power play at the point and contribute on offense in even-strength situations. To me, this makes sense - why have a guy play upwards of 25 minutes a night to give you nothing on offense or defense unless he's exceptional at either. Therefore, for comparison purposes, it's important that we compare the proper defensemen types - two-ways versus two-ways, since Martin plays like and is a two-way defenseman.
Let's look at the salaries of some of these two-way defensemen (some are better than others) who are #1 defensemen on their own team and see what they will earn next season:
Nicklas Lidstrom - $7.6 million
Scott Niedermayer - $6.75 million (should he play next year)
Bryan McCabe - $7.15 million (yeah, that's not a typo)
Jay Bouwmeester - $2.25 million
Sergei Zubov - $4 million
Dion Phaneuf - $942,000 (still on his rookie deal, I believe)
Brian Rafalski - $6 million (now with Detroit, former #1 on NJ)
Mattias Ohlund - $3.5 million
Eric Brewer - $3.5 million
Robert Blake - $6 million
Wade Redden - $6.5 million
These aren't completely perfect comparisons (some are young, some are legendary, some are living on prior successes in their careers), but they play similar styles and a lot of minutes for their team. Notice that most of the people on that list are veterans and have averaged more ice time than Martin last season (Ohlund, Brewer, Blake, Redden are the exceptions). This makes comparisons tough since most of the high-minute players are older than Martin and are either in the primes of their careers or near the end of them - exceptions being Phaneuf and Bouwmeester who are both younger than Martin (and play more minutes and have got more points). But my point is that being a #1 defenseman who plays a lot of minutes on average for a team generally leads to some high-paying contracts - Bouwmeester and Phaneuf will likely get some sweet contracts after this season.
To bring some sort of conclusion to all of this, if I'm in Paul Martin's shoes, I would look at this list and note that - the younger Bouwmeester and Phaneuf - these guys get paid at least $3.5 million with the elite defensemen (McCabe aside, seriously, how does he deserve that much??) earning at least $6 million. I'd shoot pretty high in terms of a salary with the fact that only 15 people have played more on average than me and almost all of them are making at least Colin White-level money. If I were on management's side - Lou's side - I'd note that all of these players were more productive on offense, and since point-earning defensemen are at a premium in this league, that is why most of them get paid so much in addition to the amount of ice time they are called upon to play. Therefore, the team would likely negotiate with Martin to a range around $3.5 million to $4 million. Because Martin has yet to assert himself as a productive player on offense, he won't make elite-level money (after all, he's not an elite defenseman). The amount of defensive responsiblities he has and his average ice time, however, compared to similar players who play similar roles for their teams should have him get that much.
Hence, my conclusion that Paul Martin can command about $4 million in salary - which is no problem as the Devils clearly have the salary cap space. A long-term deal for that much will become a bargain should Martin continue to improve in that #1 role. If Lou can get Martin to agree to less, that would be fantastic. Nevertheless, I just wanted to point out that I didn't pull that figure from out of nowhere.
Labels: Devils Issues
The most interesting thing, and the only aspect where I have a complaint, about this re-signing is it's length. Parise just turned 23 a few days ago (July 28th, happy birthday Zach), so a 4 year contract should take him to 27 which will make him eligible for unrestricted free agency should the UFA status under the current contract bargaining agreement still holds (27 years old or 7 pro seasons, whichever comes first). This is my only caveat about this contract. Should Parise continue to grow and develop, he can simply sign with any other team he wants just as he will hit the prime of his career. So unless the Devils plan to sign him to a sweet extension in 3 or 4 years from now, the possibility of Parise leaving New Jersey as he approaches the peak of his playing years is quite real. I wish the contract was for 5 or 6 years, tie him up with New Jersey a little more. That said, that is more of a future problem than it is a current problem. Right now, holding onto a potential future star in the NHL for a salary as low as this is absolutely solid. Great job, Lou.
The only remaining thing the Devils have to do now is to re-sign Paul Martin. With roughly $7 million in cap space, money should not be an issue. From what I see and understand, I can see Martin getting $4 million/year - he is pretty much a top-pairing defenseman now, he can command that much money - but maybe not much more than that for now. If the contract is in that range or a little higher, the Devils will actually have some cap space during the upcoming season. This means New Jersey can call up players from Lowell to fill in open slots from injuries and perhaps more breathing room at the trade deadline.
Labels: 2007 Offseason