Monday, October 30, 2006

Having his cake and whining about it, too

The more I hear from Dave Nonis, the more I hope he gets into a comical-yet-lethal accident involving rubber boots, six pounds of icing sugar and the corpse of Harold Ballard. His latest diatribe is covered here, though it can be summed up roughly as thus: "Make it easier for me to do my job!" (pout, stomp, stomp, slam).

A better summation is this: Nonis doesn't like the fact that teams won't be able to hold on to young players, what with the free agent age potentially dipping as low as 25, depending on years played (it will be age 27 or seven years played in the league by 2008-09, meaning players who start at 18 or 19 will get out a bit early). He pointed specifically to the Penguins, with Crosby and Jordan Staal, as an example of a team that's going to get screwed.

"Pittsburgh is going to put seven years of development money into [Crosby] and he can leave when he's 25. I think if you assemble a good team, fans want to see that team stick together for more than one or two years. Our current agreement does not lend itself to that."

This in itself isn't so bad, but he also had this to say about the rest of the CBA:

"I think the (salary) cap is necessary to keep some teams from spending wildly. It has levelled the playing field."

Both are certainly agreeable, just somewhat, you know, mutually exclusive: if you're going to tell players that they cannot make as much money as they were before (salary cap), it seems only logical that you have to compensate them somehow, namely through increasing the potential number of years for them to have unfettered access to free market value. This is especially true when you consider the fact that essentially the only players who are really going to be getting earlier free agency are superstar-level talents like Crosby, who could have potentially made more than the $8mil player cap imposed by the CBA in the earlier system.

It's a pretty necessary evil of the salary cap, though I don't think it's even all that evil. Does it lend itself to breaking up contenders? Meh, only if GMs are stupid (oh god—say goodbye to dynasties). Teams like Tampa managed to hold on to all three of their superstars (how successful a strategy that is—and I don't think it's a very good one—is certainly debateable, but that's neither here nor there at this point) by overpaying for a short period of time or offering long-term contracts, and should that fail, you can always trade a soon-to-be free agent to someone willing/able to pay him, which isn't lost money in development unless you make a bad trade. Maybe it's not the exact same roster, but there's no reason why you can't keep large chunks of it and stay competitive for as long as you're shrewd. Younger free agency and a salary cap just makes the GMs job harder, because he can't focus solely on drafting or buying talent to make a team, and instead has to learn how to manage his assets. Sorry for making you earn your salary, Nonis.

One thing I did like about what he had to say: the current schedule has got to go. Cosh, Grabia and I were talking about this on Saturday, and I agree fully that, at the very least, teams should play each other once a year, and ideally everyone should visit everyone else at least one. Nonis is dead-on when he points out it's a move to save Eastern Conference teams money, though there are a lot more problems with it than just an eastern bias: to point out the most obvious, how does the league expect to market its stars when Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin only see LA once every three years, or the best team in the league in a particular year never visits New York (last year with the Wings, maybe this year with SJ or Anaheim)? It's a short-sighted money-saving venture, and the league should scrap it post-haste.

But the young free agency thing: bah.

Postscript: Supposedly Nonis got fined for what he said, though I can't find something online to confirm that. While I disagree with him, obviously he shouldn't be getting fined just for being dumb, if that is indeed the case.


Doogie said...

Dissent from the Party will not be tolerated. Regardless of your opinion of the various other facets of the "new NHL," the most retarded one has to be fining people who don't toe the party line. What the fuck is this, Pacifica?

SweatyO said...

In terms of the schedule, you could still encourage divisional rivalries AND make sure everyone plays everyone once, why not play your divisional teams eight times each and every other team twice (both non-divisional, same conference AND non-conference foes).

Would that fly? Probably about as well as my "three points for a regulation win so all games are worth the same in the standings" crusade.

Lowetide said...

Great post. I can imagine the call from Bettman:

Nonis: "Geez sorry Gary, I didn't think it would make the mass media."

Bettman: "It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again."

Coluch said...

"THIS.... is Sparta!"

Randy in the Med Hizzo said...

Yes! Increased cross conference games! I crave the New York Islanders!
Get them here now!
And in the East, you'll certainly get your money's worth out of that Columbus-Los Angeles-Phoenix three game ticket pack.
I'd say the schedule is a sort of NHL-standard half-way approach to both pandering to American crowds as a regional sport while still trying to be a continental league.
And point B) They've always fined GM's who criticize the league/refs.

Colby Cosh said...

Well, jeez, Randy, you do realize the schedule has to be filled somehow? If you sit down and work it out carefully with a pencil (like the constipated mathematician in the old joke), you'll see that the consequence of having your precious eyes protected from an extra Islanders game at home every two years is MANY, MANY MORE GAMES AGAINST COLUMBUS, LOS ANGELES, AND PHOENIX. No possible arrangement of interconference play can hurt the quality of play in both conferences at the same time.

Matt said...

The biggest bollocks here is the bit about Pitt putting "development money" into Sidney Crosby? Not one dollar of Crosby's wages has or ever will be an investment in the future; it's a screaming awesome deal for the Penguins right now.

Rod said...

I'm getting sick of this lament over young UFA status. Usually it's TV talking heads that somehow figure teams used to be able to keep a player for 13 years. Now Nonis is spouting the same drivel. There was nothing in the old system that guaranteed a team could keep anybody for 13 years. As we know all too well in Edmonton, 13 years was a farce. About the only guarantee was three years (entry level deal). Beyond that, a player could hold out, demanding a trade. See Comrie, who toiled a whopping two and half years before bolting. Wow. In the long run that's worked for the Oil as Comrie hasn't developed much. Nevertheless, it's a good illustration of the fallacy of 13 years.

As for Comrie, I submit the reason he signed a the first deal with Edmonton right at the deadline is that he was past the entry level limitations a calendar year earlier than going back in the draft. Strachan, with his usual sense of logic (meaning none), basically called Comrie's agent an idiot and that signing in Edmonton was a mistake. Somehow Strachan missed the point that regardless of where Comrie signed, the first three years would be practically identical dollar wise. Then again, maybe he believed Edmonton would have Comrie for 13 years... Lucky for Oil fans, Strachan was wrong yet again.

Mike The Sieve said...

Fuck. I miss Brian Burke.

Randy in the Med Hazzo said...

That's why Al Strachan won't be writing for anyone after Christmas (contract not picked up).
And I think my original point was that the New York Islanders shouldn't travel at all.
Actually... while everybody is all, like, boo-hoo, I want to see Sidney Crosby, they don't realize that a balanced schedule means that you get all the shit-bag teams from the other conference as well. (i put in a lot of exclamation points to high-light the sarcasm).

mike the sieve said...

Yeah, we all got the sarcasm, Randy. What you're missing, as cosh points out above, is that you either get a variety of shit-bag teams from the Eastern Conference (with a balanced schedule), or the same shit-bag teams from the West over and over and over (with the schedule the way it is now).

Personally, I'd rather see the East's shit-bag teams every once in a while than see the Coyotes and the Flames a hundred times a season.

Randy in... said...

But then you'd missed the reminders that Gretzky used to play in Edmonton and the salty tango between Laraque and his man-crushes at the Sun. You'd throw all that away to see the Florida Panthers on a regular basis?

mike the sieve said...

Hmm. Good point, but it works both ways for me. As a 'Nucklehead, I'd relish the chance to see Bertuzzi, Auld and Allen take a lickin' at the hands of Bobby Lou and Co. more often, while holding dear the memories of days past.

Anyway, I see your point. I just think once every three years is silly. There must be a better way.

Colby Cosh said...

The current system is certainly sustainable, but there's a fatal contradiction between trying to market the shit out of your young hot future talent and hiding that talent from half the league for three years at a time. "The NHL--come see the great Sidney Crosby! Er, in 2009."

Then again, maybe in the era of NHL Center Ice and streaming webcasts of games it doesn't make any serious difference--Oiler tickets are becoming nigh impossible to come by anyhow unless you want to sell your kidneys or you work for a sponsor anyway....