Monday, July 27, 2015

Hockey: Adventures into Contracts

I've been a hockey fan for quite a while, but I've really only been a serious fan of an NHL team for slightly over a year. Last summer's project was to learn the basics of advanced stats. This summer's project? Contracts. There's a lot to them and, in this salary cap era, they're an integral part of any team's existence. I'm also very nearly clueless about them once you get past a vague sense as to what makes a contract good.

The Players

It all started out, as anything hockey-related does for me, with the Habs. This season the Habs had a number of contracts to extend, of most interest to me in terms of learning about contracts were Christian Thomas, Jarred Tinordi, Michael Bournival, and Brian Flynn (all Restricted Free Agents). I was also most anxious to find out whether or not the Habs were going to re-sign promising Swedish defenceman Magnus Nygren.

Tinordi, Thomas and Bournival were eventually signed to two-way contracts, Beaulieu and Flynn to one-way 2 year contracts at $1M and $950,000 respectively. (Galchenyuk and Nygren were both given qualifying offers, though as of the time of writing, neither have re-signed. Please get on that, oh best-est of GMs.)

My Questions

  • What is the difference between one and two-way contracts?
  • How much salary can you "bury" in the AHL?
  • Who has to be sent through waivers to play in the AHL?
  • What the heck is going on with Magnus Nygren?

The Resources

Andrew Berkshire, who until very recently, was the managing editor of one of the best Habs websites on the internet, was a huge help to me in my quest to find these answers. Through him, I was introduced to quite a number of people who provided extremely helpful summaries or websites on the information I wanted.

For anyone interested, these are the sites I found most helpful:

Beyond those, there are of course, the ever helpful and amazing sites which have stepped into the void left by Cap Geek: Hockey's CapGeneral Fanager, and Cap Friendly among others.

What I Discovered

It turns out that the differences between two-way and one-way contracts are a lot simpler than I thought and have nothing to do with waiver eligibility. Two-way contracts simply mean that in the NHL the player will receive X amount, while in the AHL he'll get Y (which is less). For example, Bournival will receive $600,000 a year if he plays in the NHL, while he'll only be paid $125,000 in the AHL. 

A one-way contract means that the player will receive X amount of money regardless of where he plays. (So if Beaulieu gets the yo-yo treatment this year, it won't have anything to do with managing the cap, as I suspect it largely did last year, since regardless of where he plays he'll get $1 million a year.)

It also turns out that the exact salary you can completely bury in the AHL is $950,000. It could prove awfully convenient that Flynn's contract is exactly that much.

Waiver eligibility is a bit more complicated, and is decided by age signed/years from signing and games played at the NHL level (whichever is reached first), as is shown in this handy chart from the reddit feed on contracts.

Flynn (26, 3 years from signing), Bournival, Thomas, and Tinordi (all 23 and 4 years from signing) would have to be sent through waivers (and potentially lost for nothing) to play in the AHL. So chances are we won't see as much yo-yoing going on with these guys as we have in the past.

As to Magnus Nygren, he got a qualifying offer, so his rights still belong to the Canadiens, but he's already signed with Färjestad so I'm not 100% sure what that all means in the long run. (If anyone wants to clarify, please feel free to do so!)

So there you have it. All the things I have learned so far this summer about NHL contracts. I hope you found it interesting and/or informative. Also if I've made a mistake anywhere please do point it out to me. I'm still learning, and have a terrible head for numbers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Hockey: Farewell Lionheart

If you asked me who my favourite Habs players are, it would take me a few names to get to Brandon Prust, but he easily makes top five: steady, dependable, ever present. He has always had a special place in my heart.

You see, I became a Habs fan in large part because my friend Jasmine told me stories about the team a few years back. Some of the stories she told me were about Subban's sizzle, Pacioretty's miraculous ability to heal, the Gallys' antics, the brick wall that is Carey Price, but the best ones were always about the lionhearted Brandon Prust. Had a bad day? Here's a story about this hockey player who looks out for our rookies. School getting you down? How about the time when this guy on the Habs went to war for his teammates. Family drama? Look at one of the veterans on our team yelling and laughing and celebrating harder than anyone because one of the kids scored their first goal.

Oh by the way, he has fantastic style, a mane of hair and a lethal pair of fists.

Now, I'm a medievalist. I have my BA and MA in Medieval Studies. Heroes and warriors are in my soul. Several friends and I used to joke that hockey is where the knights in armour went, so is it really any wonder that Jasmine's stories about a fighter with a heart of gold and a fair lady were the ones that caught my imagination and made me pay more attention?

Furthermore, Brandon Prust is a lot more than that as I eventually discovered, when my interest in hockey grew and deepened. Sadly, the mane is no more, but he's a defensive powerhouse with a pair of wheels to match those fists. He's a fighter who can score. He'll be there for his team even when he's got busted ribs and a busted shoulder, and when he's healthy? He's one of the guys you can watch go over the boards in the last seconds of a one goal game in your own zone, when the other team's pulled their goalie, and not feel like hiding behind the couch. I've seen it happen.

Maybe I'm biased, and maybe I've not seen a whole lot of fights in my short time as a hockey fan, but I don't know where I've seen another fighter like Prust. What he gives up to other guys in hight and weight and sheer brute force, he makes up for with patience and skill (and the aforementioned lethal pair of fists).

I could write whole series' worth of articles about the statistical evidence of Prust's value to the team, or the heart and soul and hilarity we've been privileged to witness in 24CH episodes, duels, get-to-know-the-team videos and elsewhere. (I will never be over "You've got to f****ing squeak squeak" or the endless sniping back and forth with anyone (especially younger teammates) foolish enough - or lucky enough - to engage on twitter, and who's gonna call people bug-eyed walruses now?) It'd take me a while to exhaust the subject. But it can also be summed up thusly: he clearly meant a lot to the team, and he meant a lot to me.

It's been a few weeks now since Brandon Prust was traded for Zach Kassian, and I finally have had some time to sit down and think about it. I can't exactly say I was shocked, but I thought we'd have one more year to say good bye. Now I'm in quiet mourning. I hope he does really well in Vancouver, but he's always going to be a Hab for me.

Good bye Pigeon Leader. Good bye Lionheart. You will be sorely missed.

Hockey: In Defence of PA Parenteau

Originally posted on my Tumblr in response to a post arguing that Parenteau was terrible and not worth his contract.

"uhhhhhhh for the amount he does and the salary he has he is not worth it. You do realize that if a player is being overpaid that isn’t a good thing…right?"
He missed a lot of games due to injuries, and stupid and inexplicable decisions by Therrien. He also suffered from utterly strange deployment, being frequently lower in the lineup than the likes of DSP and Weise (which meant he sometimes played with Eller, which makes it really hard to score, see any Eller piece ever written by myself or people at EOTP).
Saying Parenteau is over-paid based purely on his offensive output when he was under-utilized and strangely deployed is lazy, and quite frankly, wrong. He doesn’t need to go, he needs to be properly used. As the original poster said, the Habs were quantifiably better with him on the ice, and he should never have been a healthy scratch.
The Habs should definitely keep him.

Hockey: In Defence of Lars Eller

Posted originally on my Tumblr in October 2014.

The season is six games old and the Habs are a beautiful league leading 5-1. Pacioretty, Desharnais and Gallagher are buzzing, as are Galchenyuk, Plekanec and Parenteau. Malhotra is wowing the world with his skills as a phenomenal 4th liner, and Lars Eller is getting the Plekanec treatment, deployed largely in the defensive zone with meh wingers. People are already criticising his lack of offensive production and his seven goals against. I've heard that he needs to make more of an effort, that he looks terrible, and needs to step up his game. 
This is ridiculous. 
Despite being buried in the defensive zone, Eller's Corsi For was 42% in all situations, he personally had two shots on goal, was ROBBED of a goal, and had an assist. He was also part of the play that lead to the second Habs goal. (Yes he was on the ice for two goals against, the first one for sure was not a result of any play Eller could have controlled. I don't remember the second goal well enough to comment on it right now.)
Against Boston, Eller's CF was 50% (in all situations), and he started 33% of his shifts in the offensive zone. While he did not get an assist, he was part of the play that netted Sekac's first goal of the season.
Against the Flyers, in all situations his CF was 54% and he started a very cushy 75% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Only one of the game's 3  goals were scored with him on the ice, and he was absolutely ROBBED of one goal, possibly even two.
Against Toronto, his zone starts were the team low at 22% in all situations, his CF was at 50%, and he was only on the ice for ONE of the three goals scored against the Habs. As I ranted to a friend of mine, Desharnais was sheltered like a delicate flower in a storm (78% of his shifts started in the offensive zone!) and Eller wasn't -- in fact he was thrown head first into it. 
Additionally, before this Avs/Habs game, Eller was an absolute MONSTER in face off wins (54% against Toronto, 71% against Washington, 64% against the Flyers, 42% the awful game against Tampa, and 58% against Boston.) Against the Avs he was a miserable 29%, but he only TOOK nine face offs as opposed to nearly twice that amount on the previous nights (and on those nights, I remember looking at the percentages a few times and thinking oh wow... Eller's doing TERRIBLY, but then by the end of the game it had balanced out, so I'm fairly willing to bet if he'd taken more draws the numbers would have ended up looking much more like the numbers from previous games). 
In short, by and large, Eller's been buried in the defensive zone with an invisible winger who is criminally incapable of hitting the net, or sometimes of being in the right place at all, and a brand new NHLer. Like large portions of last year, his line seems to be made up of the rejects from the top six (though six games in, Sekac and Eller are showing signs of chemistry). He's been robbed of multiple goals, and had a few scored against when he was on the ice which were in no way his fault, and he trails only the big guns; Pacioretty, Gallagher, Plekanec, Subban and Parenteau in shots. Furthermore, his possession stats are amazing.
The Habs are using Eller like they used Plekanec in the past, and people are wondering why he's not scoring. (Meanwhile, Plekanec, with this year's equivalent of the EGG Line wingers is scoring quite nicely with fairly comfortable zone starts. Funny what happens when you give talented centres offensively talented wingers...) Of the TWENTY goals scored against the Habs in these six games, Eller was only on the ice for seven of them (and all but blameless in at least three). His +/- only looks so bad because his line hasn't been scoring. 
Against the Flyers and against the Avs, it took players physically hauling Eller down in front of the net and taking penalties to stop him from scoring on amazing plays. On the second Subban goal, an Avs player felt the need to stick his arm around Eller and completely block him out from any chance at taking a pass. He has the potential to be lethal, and teams know it. 
But to me, the most telling sign of Eller's value to the Habs, and their faith in him, is what happened in the last thirty seconds of the 3-2 Avs game. Roy had pulled his goalie for an extra attacker, and Therrien responded by icing his defensive guns to batten down the hatches, win the face offs and hold on to the lead. He deployed Eller, Malhotra and Prust. Malhotra, presumably to win the defensive zone face off, Eller to take the face off, should Malhotra get thrown out, and all three to be capable of holding off the Avalanche that was sure to follow. They did just that. 
The goals will come, and in the meantime, Lars Eller, like Plekanec before him, is performing a thankless and herculean task, and doing pretty damn well. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Post the First

Greetings people of the internet!

I'm gonna give this whole blogging thing another try. Generally I'm pretty terrible at such things, as proven by the spotty state of posts on my previous blog. However, I'm going to try again with a slightly different approach: shorter posts, lots of hockey, and whatever else strikes my fancy at the moment.

First a bit about me for anyone who doesn't already know me! I'm from New York, I did my undergrad at Wheaton College in Massachusetts (no, not in any way affiliated with the one in Illinois) and my masters at University of Toronto, I'm currently staying with a friend in Ottawa, and am a massive hockey fan. I read rather a lot, love tv shows and music, write a little and draw less (but love both a great deal), and have really, really long hair. I'm also really hoping to move to Montreal very soon...

The Hockey

Price breaks franchise record for most wins in a season
I'm an avid hockey fan, as will rapidly become clear from talking to me for any length of time. I am, first and foremost a Montreal Canadiens fan and a Team Canada fan (yes I'm from the States. Shhhhh!!). However I've also been dragged into rooting for teams like the Anaheim Ducks (yes there's a logic to that one which one day will be explained), the New York Islanders (they're moving within walking distance of where I grew up), the Leafs (this is all Steve Dangle's fault), and the Penguins (CROSBY), as well as the AHL affiliates of the Habs and Ducks (the Ice Caps and the Gulls respectively) and the ECHL Utah Grizzlies, where this whole hockey obsession began (one day I'll tell that story too). Somehow along the way (it's all Lars Eller's fault) I also became a huge fan of perpetual underdog worlds team, Denmark (that's gonna come up again in a few seconds).

The Studies

Hwæt we gar-dena in geardagum...
I did both my degrees in Medieval Studies (specifically focusing on England and Scandinavia from roughly the 400s to the 1200s), I studied Latin for 5 years (and am shockingly bad at it for the amount of work I've put into it...), Old English for three-ish years, and Old Norse for a bit as well. My first and greatest love in this area, though, is (and always will be) Beowulf (there's a story there too which I may get to one day). 

Denmark wins their first WJC game

The Blog

My blog's name comes from my love of Beowulf (in which at least half the characters are Danes) (and Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian history/literature in general), and also all the Danes in hockey.

That about sums it up for today!