NHL Notebook– May 13th

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 3:01 am by Anthony Petrielli

Peter Chiarelli

NHL teams getting compensated for rival clubs poaching their
management members is not new, but similar issues are already arising since the last time they decided to get rid of this rule.

When the league moved away from compensating teams for hiring management personnel, it was because everyone felt this was restricting candidates from getting
hired. A team would rather mine through the minor ranks and hire someone for
free than give up assets to bring in someone at a price.

In theory that held true, but it didn’t always hold up though in
reality. For example, the Boston Bruins almost hired Ray Shero instead of Peter Chiarelli in 2006 because they didn’t want to give Ottawa draft compensation to
hire their Assistant General Manager away, even though he was their first
choice. Ultimately, they sacrificed a pick and hired him. He guided them to a Cup
victory and got them to another final. Not bad.

That was the last compensation for a manager before they got
rid of the rule.

One of the other final management-team compensation swaps?
Dean Lombardi going from the Flyers to the Kings for a second round draft
choice. That worked out okay too.

Now the issue is directly related to compensation still
potentially being on the hook for fired employees that are still under payroll.
The terms have been set for what compensation will be, so there’s no real
negotiation there. The one sticking point is whether a team will waive the
compensation right. This essentially comes into play when a team is simply
happy to get the money off the books for a fired employee, rather than holding
out for a draft pick.

Good, intelligent candidates will always get hired as we saw
previously with Chiarelli and Lombardi, but the hurdle of draft pick
compensation for a fired employee is unnecessary. For a team to dismiss an
employee then turn around and demand compensation for him, potentially
hindering a hiring, is unfair. Recently Mike Babcock has talked about wanting
to raise the salary of all coaches with his new deal being the benchmark, but
this is another obstacle in the way of management and coaches when it
comes to their ability to gain work.

When Detroit lost executives such as Steve Yzerman and Jim
Nill, they absolutely should have been compensated. Eventually Holland noted he
didn’t want to be a farm team for the rest of the NHL –and his finger prints
are all over league offices—culminating in an extension and blocking of
negotiations for their AHL coach Jeff Blashill. Lombardi has done something
similar with John Stevens, extending his salary and role. However, when a fired
coach or executive is signed by a new team, their old contract should be voided
automatically and they should be free to move forward with their lives.

It’s a simple fix to a rule that has the right idea in mind.
It just needs some tweaking to get it absolutely right.

Notes

1-     
There have been a lot of good stories out of
Calgary such as Johnny Hockey, Sean Monahan, making the playoffs after losing
Mark Giordano, Jonas Hiller’s redemption, Bob Hartley’s return to relevance and
more. One of the biggest factors that is hardly getting the attention it deserves
is Jiri Hudler and the year he had. He finished top ten in NHL scoring and tied
for 12th in goals. He had never surpassed 25 goals or 57 points in a
season before notching 31 goals and 76 points this year (and it’s a down year
league wide in goals). In this Brad Treliving interview of the top five reasons Calgary is surprising, he’s not even mentioned. Of all things that were unlikely, such as strong play from the kids, or goaltending, Jiri Hudler finishing top 10 in NHL scoring was by far the least likely.

2-     
Edmonton trading a disgruntled David Perron to
Pittsburgh for what ended up being the 15th overall pick and Rob Klinkhammer, an effective bottom six forward that they
have already retained, is looking pretty good for the Oilers right about now. Perron
is turning 27 and has one year left on his contract before turning UFA. A first
round pick even in the middle range doesn’t guarantee anything and a talented
winger struggling his first year only to figure it out afterward isn’t unheard
of Pittsburgh (see James Neal, and Pascal Dupuis to an extent). But the asset of
a middle of the pack first round pick might already have more value than
pending UFA Perron simply due to circumstance. Remember when the Bruins had the
Leafs pick and drafted Tyler Seguin? They also traded their own first round
pick, in a package, to bring in Nathan Horton. Funnily enough, the guy that was
in charge of that is now leading the Oilers.

3-     
Other deals made before the trade deadline day where
a first round pick was exchanged was the Nashville-Toronto swap with Cody Franson
and Mike Santorelli, LA acquiring Andrej Sekera, Chicago acquiring Antoine
Vermette, Buffalo giving up a first in their blockbuster with the Jets, and
Arizona netting one in the big Yandle trade. On trade deadline day only one
first rounder was moved, and it was at 2:41am for Braydon Coburn. The season before, only three
first round picks were traded, with one being on deadline (the Martin St. Louis
trade). With the standings so tight teams hold off on trading players until
they have no choice, but it appears there is some value to be gained in the
form of over payments for selling early. It makes sense, because teams giving up the assets are getting more games out of the player(s) they are acquiring.

4-     
There are a lot of calls for Ken Hitchcock’s
head, and maybe rightfully so, but eventually St. Louis has to look at their
core and say they haven’t won a single playoff series. That core being David
Backes, TJ Oshie, Alex Steen, Patrick Berglund, Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin
Shattenkirk and Barrett Jackman. The team has continually added, be it through
trade with Jay Bouwmeester and Ryan Miller, free agency with Paul Stastny, or
the draft with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. You don’t want to see the
Blues pull a San Jose Sharks, and the West is incredibly difficult, but there
will be a lot of eyes on Armstrong to address more than just the coaching
situation. He has bought for a few years in a row now and has zero to show for
it.

5-     
In Ron MacLean’s book he has a quick story about
refereeing an NHL exhibition game before the 2006-2007 season about how John LeClair played amazing. He says he remembered thinking
LeClair would have a really good season but a scout told him with his age, the
issue was that he could only play like he did that night once every couple of weeks now.
LeClair played 21 games that year before being released by the team in December
and later retiring. Great story that rings true about a lot of older players.

6-     
In particular, that story reminded me of the
Detroit Red Wings core. They gave Tampa Bay a (somewhat unexpectedly) good run
for their money despite being heavy underdogs. Ultimately they were up 3-2 in
the series, and lost the final two games. Ben Bishop played well down the stretch and they arguably deserved a better fate considering Nik Kronwall and Marek Zidlicky were missing game 7, but they struggled to manage much of a push in the third period in terms of creating anything dangerous. Credit goes to the Lightning, who are a deep team ready to make a run, but the Wings are getting old and Babcock knows it. 

7-     
Ray Shero is an interesting choice for Devils
GM. In the book Behind The Moves he had a very interesting quote that always
stuck out in my mind about his tenure (to date at that time), saying “People
always say, ‘Well how do you build a Stanley Cup team?’ Every situation is
different. If you walk into Tampa Bay, it is different than walking into St.
Louis or walking Pittsburgh… This team had [Sidney] Crosby, [Evgeni] Malkin and
[Marc-Andre] Fleury before I got here. Well, someone was getting the [GM] job.
Fortunately, it was me. I’m not going to apologize for it, but you have to
build around it and do the right things.” The Penguins one won Cup
with arguably the two centers of the decade, or at worst two of the top five or
six centers. You can’t take away his Cup as it is incredibly challenging to win
one (think of all the breaks you need to go your way—health, matchups, etc.),
but Shero will have something to prove. This is a clean slate in New Jersey to
really build the team his way, because although they have a goalie and a few
good young defensemen, there isn’t a whole lot.

8-     
Everyone is quick to bring up the Penguins’
draft record under Shero (the best forward picked to this point is Beau Bennett
other than second overall Jordan Staal, but they drafted Letang, Robert
Bortuzzo, Jake Muzzin, Simon Despres, and much more on defense), however I’m always
hesitant to associate a draft record with a GM. Generally speaking teams allow
their scouting staff to do their job save for maybe the first round pick because GMs simply haven’t seen the players play enough to make educated decisions. One
trend under Shero that I am curious to follow is his propensity to acquire
veteran forwards—Petr Sykora, Gary Roberts, Billy Guerin, Jarkko Ruutu, Matt
Cooke, Aaron Asham, etc. That is one thing the Devils have done a lot of lately
as well, so do Shero and Lou Lamoriello share and continue that vision, or will
they tear it down and play kids?

9-     
Also in Behind The Moves, Lou Lamoriello outlines
some self-evaluation questions he has at all times, and in no particular order
they are:
“What went wrong? Or did something go wrong?”
“Where was my negligence?”
“What was my attitude?”
Was I who I know myself to be? If not, why or why not?
The Devils have spent a lot of money on veteran free agents the last few
summers and have nothing to show for it. Can’t help but think he realized the
answers to those questions and decided it was time to, not move on, but bring in
more help.

10-  
The thing I will always respect about Lamoriello
is the tight ship he ran. If you were ten minutes early, you were late. You
never heard a rumour leaked out under him. Heck, he went out and got an
injunction once against the league National Hockey League for suspending Jim
Schoenfeld for supposedly hitting referee Don Koharski (which he didn’t). It
was his way or the highway. I always thought that structure and discipline he
instilled was part of the reason veteran journeymen usually succeeded in New
Jersey, because he restored order. It definitely came to mind reading Scott Gomez’s Players Tribune article.

Quotes

“The easiest thing to
do in evaluating and scouting and just having an opinion in general is pointing
out the negatives and what they can’t do. You can stay in this league for a
long time telling everybody what people can’t do.”

–         
Seahawks GM John Schneider

Great quote, and it rings true across all sports. We have a
propensity to point out player flaws rather than build up and utilize what they
are good at.

“That was probably the turning point individually for me
this year was spending that weekend with my father and hearing some of the
things he had to say, talking about life away from hockey,” Sharp said. “You
realize there’s things more important than the game. Once you do that, it
clears your mind and you come back and focus on hockey and play that much
better.”

–         
Patrick Sharp, on turning his season around amid
nasty rumours and injury.

Sharp had 11 points in 15 games since that trip, followed by
eight in eight playoff games to date. Before that he had 32 points in 53 games.
Sharp was injured this season and his numbers were bound to bounce back up, but
nice story and another testament that we don’t always know what is happening in
these human being’s lives.

“I was a [baseball] player in the Cape League, which is
where all college players who had aspirations of playing pro ball went. I was
17 and my manager had a personal problem. I was a catcher and I had to take
over the team, and I was the youngest player on the team. So I was running the
team, and that was my first indication that I enjoyed it. It was fun, we had
success, and the older people responded. So that was where I had that epiphany.
As far as when did I start preparing for this job? Never did. What I did was
when I was coaching in college, I looked at organizations that had success, and
analyzed why. I looked at the Boston Celtics, Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay
Packers. I also studied history books—generals and the decisions they had to
make. I used to look at a lot of that stuff, because they’re on the firing line
more than anyone. You’re dealing with lives of people. You don’t deal with wins
and losses.”

–         
Lou Lamoriello, on the start of his career in
Behind The Moves.

One of the all-time greats.