Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
There was a time not so long ago when NHL executives thought a player’s worth could only be evaluated by two eyeballs at the rink in the form of a scout whose belly was full of coffee and cold pizza. When the Buffalo Sabres scaled back their scouting staff and decided to do more video scouting, they were scoffed at by old-time hockey guys.
Now, though, video is as important a tool to NHL teams as a composite stick or a skate-sharpening machine. Every team employs video on a daily basis to the point where some coaches have iPads on hand to show a player what he did wrong during his most recent shift. If a team wants to sign a prospective free agent, there are companies out there that provide them with footage of every shift he took the previous season.
And that’s about where we are right now in the evolution of advanced statistics in hockey. Those who run NHL teams, generally speaking, see value in them, but there’s still some skepticism. Most GMs are smart enough to know any tool that gives them more information is a good thing, but they’re all still feeling their way around this new phenomenon. Read more
The NHL draft, as we all know, is a reverse meritocracy. The worse you do the previous season, the closer you get to sit to the podium and stage. And with 30 teams, things are always arranged so nicely: five rows of six teams each, with the teams finishing 25 through 30 having the best seats in the house and the highest picks in the first round. Picking in those spots is kind of like being declared the winner of The Biggest Loser. The prize is great, but you’re only up for it because you really let yourself go.
Newly minted Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was up close to the action at this year’s draft. And he figures to be in the front row in 2015 when the draft is held at the home of the Florida Panthers. (A team that will probably be right there with the Sabres.) It’s a badge of honor for those who run drafts to move out of the front row, and Murray, 50, figures to be a little deeper into the queue by 2016.
To be sure, he doesn’t want any part of being a permanent fixture on the draft lottery show – previously known as Fireside Chats with Steve Tambellini – for an extended period of time.
“I don’t want to be going back to the draft lottery in four years. I just don’t want that,” says Murray. “I’m going to work extremely hard not to be there. We know we need a couple of drafts under our belt, but after that I want to be competitive. I want to be a hard team to play against and I don’t want it to be an automatic two points (when a team plays us). And I do not want to go back to the draft lottery.” Read more
Sometimes change trickles up and other times, it trickles down. In the case of the rule changes recently adopted by the American League, it will be interesting to see whether or not those holding the levers of the NHL take notice.
At its board of governors meetings this week, the AHL passed what can only be described as radical rule alterations. And I use the term “radical” keeping in mind that significant change sometimes moves at a glacial pace in this sport. But give the AHL credit. It made positive moves on two of the most controversial, debated and polarizing issues facing the game today: fighting and shootouts. Read more
At one point during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement during the 2012 lockout, a juncture during which things weren’t looking particularly good, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly outlined the league’s insistence on limiting contracts to five years and called it, “the hill we will die on.”
Everyone knows you never end a sentence in a preposition – the correct way to say it would have been, “It’s the hill on which we will die” – and you don’t make extreme statements during negotiations that you’re going to later have to retract. The NHL did not get its five-year contract limit and it didn’t die on any hill. Read more
Bobby Hull has a statue outside the United Center in Chicago and he won only one Stanley Cup for 15 years with the franchise. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane have won two each in less than half the time. And by signing identical eight-year, $84 million deals, there’s a good chance they’ll be adding more silverware to their portfolios in the coming years.
So logic would dictate that both Kane and Toews will be bronzed themselves someday. And if they don’t get their own likenesses on Madison Avenue, they can take comfort in the fact that they’ll have enough money to buy a plot of land outside the arena and erect their own statues. Read more
The men who run major junior hockey have had it their way for decades and even though the involvement of Canada’s largest private-sector union in an effort to protect the best teenage hockey players in the world has raised a host of red flags, these guys had better continue taking notice.
News that Unifor, a 300,000-member behemoth that represents workers in trades ranging from auto assembly to the media, was getting involved in a potential CHL players’ union is not good news for the Canadian Hockey League any way you look at it. Yes, its leader Jerry Dias denied having any association with Glenn Gumbley, which “changed after the (Toronto) Star presented email correspondence and invoices obtained by the newspaper and a lengthy interview with Gumbley that establish Gumbley at the centre of Unifor’s campaign.” Gumbley led the charge for the ill-fated Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association two years ago and didn’t appear to know much about the inner-workings of the players he’s trying to protect. Read more
The list of players going to salary arbitration this summer came out over the weekend and a total of 23 either filed to go through the process or had their teams take them to arbitration. It’s an interesting process that, if nothing else, provides the motivation necessary to one or both sides to start negotiating seriously. That’s why only a handful of the 23 will actually end up going to the hearing process and even fewer, if any, will actually result in a decision being handed down by the arbitrator.
Some of the more interesting tidbits to come out of the filings – 20 of which were players taking their teams to arbitration and three teams taking the players to arbitration: Read more
The Montreal Canadiens and star defenseman P.K. Subban will live in contractual harmony for at least one more season, probably two. That was guaranteed when Subban filed for salary arbitration before the Saturday deadline.
And while the league has long been opposed to the arbitration process, this is not necessarily a bad thing for either Subban or the Canadiens on a couple of fronts. First, it is certain Subban will not be embroiled in a contract dispute with the Canadiens and will be in training camp the day it opens in September. Second, it protects the Canadiens from having another team submit an offer sheet on Subban. And finally, if it goes all the way to arbitration, it ensures that Subban will be neither overpaid nor underpaid. Read more