Friday, May 30, 2008

Blake Wheeler rejects 'Yotes contract offer, becomes UFA

Phoenix prospect Blake Wheeler, formerly a top 10 pick in the draft, is becoming a free agent without ever setting foot on NHL ice.

After rejecting the Coyotes' latest contract offer, the 21 year old winger is not eligible to return to the draft. Instead he gets Unrestricted Free Agent status and can sign with any team of his choosing.

He's still restricted to an entry level contract with whoever he latches on to, but that's not really the point here.

By all accounts the Coyotes offered him a maximum rookie contract or something very close to it. Plus Phoenix is a fairly weak team that could certainly find a place on its top 2 lines for a talented scoring winger. So if the issue isn't money, and it's not playing time, then by all appearances Wheeler's decision to jump the good ship Coyote is based on him not wanting to play in Phoenix.

This sets a dangerous precedent. If a prospect doesn't like the team he is drafted by, why not try and get free agency then go wherever you want? That mindset starts to invalidate the draft. Why bother having one if players are going to choose their own destination? The purpose of the draft is to let the bad teams get better, and since many players won't want to report to the teams like Phoenix or Atlanta, they'll just continue to get worse as they desperately try and find someone willing to stick with them.

The thing here is that I don't know what you could do to stop this. Use a slotted salary system where the money is 100% set for you at a given draft spot? In theory that would work, but you'd have to stipulate it with the promise that people who opt for later UFA status must take much less money wherever they do sign. That would foce players to choose between the money that the system says they deserve and the place they want to be. Unfortunately, the union would never go for this, as the player has "earned" his UFA status by forgoing several years of paid employment anyway.

I think in teh end what gets me is that it's another example of whiny "me first" culture amongst young athletes who believe that everything is owed to them as they come into their league. Players should be grateful they've been drafted, and play with whoever is willing to give them a chance.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Confirmed: R.I.P. Luc Bourdon


TSN is among the major networks now confirming that Luc Bourdon has been killed in a motorcycle accident near his home town of Shippigan New Brunswick.

Bourdon was 21 years old. The 10th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry draft by Vancouver, Bourdon was supposed to be a key part of Vancouver's blueline moving forward. He hadn't secured a spot last seaosn, and spent much of the year with the team's AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

This is tragic news for hockey and especially for Canucks fans. Bourdon showed a lot of promise, and it's always tragic when someone so young dies so senselessly.

What I do hope after this is that people remember Bourdon as he was. There's a tendency when someone famous dies to immortalize them in a larger than life fashion. The likes of James Dean or Heath Ledger went from being very good actors to being remembered as amongst the finest of their generation who had years of unquestionable superstardom ahead of themselves. Ditto for singers who die young too. Basketball player Len Bias (once drafted 2nd overall by Boston, and died several days later) is remembered as having had the ability to be better than Jordan. People said he was LeBron James before there was LeBron James, and was even better than James.

I've always felt that when you do things like this, you aren't remembering that person. It feels disrespectful to spin such legends because that legend and that person were not one and the same.

I don't mean to sound crass or disrespectful in saying that. My comments are not intended to belittle the death of anyone or say that I don't care. I do care. I'm also not saying that Bourdon is already being looked at in that fashion. But I want to remember Luc Bourdon the promising talent, not Luc Bourdon "the next great NHL defenceman who would've won several Norris trophies guaranteed".

Regardless of my thoughts above, you will be missed Luc

Unconfirmed report: Canucks prospect Luc Bourdon killed in motorcycle accident

An as-of-yet unconfirmed report is making the rounds on hockey discussion sites that 2005 1st round draft pick Luc Bourdon is dead after a motorcycle accident near his home of Shipigan, New Brunswick.

None of the major news outlets appear to have picked this up yet, but a little bit of digging found this french-language site

you can view the babelfish English translation here.

If this turns out to be true, it's tragic tragic news. If it's someone's elaborate hoax, it's a terrible thing to do to people.

When the truth is finally sorted out, I'll have a more discussion.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The BPA draft strategy

(NOTE: above is the first of my post headers. I intend to put these in to mark what a given post (or section of a post) is going to be about. Here I'm talking about the NHL in general, not specifically the Sharks, so it gets the general NHL tag)

Whenever you talk to people about sports entry drafts, the prevailing wisdom seems to be the so-called BPA (Best Player Available) approach.

On the surface, it makes sense. All things considered, the draft is supposed to be about strengthening your team's prospect pipeline. So if you want to do that, why not take the absolute best prospect you can? After all, if it's something you don't necessarily need you can always trade that prospect to fill a hole, right?

However, I wonder if that's always the best possible approach.

Let's say you're the GM of a team. You draft 13th overall. So your pick comes up and it just so happens that there's a defenceman on the board who was rated at 11th overall. However, your system is filled with d-men. Your real need is a scoring forward, and it just so happens that the guy commonly rated at 15th overall would be a good fit. Still, BPA demands you not pass up the defenceman.

Here's where I think the theory starts to fall apart.

Trades are very rarely done in a one-for-one fashion. That means if you need to address a need in your system later on, that defenceman you drafted is unlikely to be easily flipped for the scoring forward you really need. That means adding extra pieces to the trade becomes necessary. So instead of taking what you really needed in the system, you are forced to trade more than the worth of that 1st round pick to address it.

Furthermore, what if the team that has the guy you need isn't in the market for defencemen? Now what? The asset you stockpiled under the BPA mentality isn't going to be able to even help you get what you need. So then you've got something you can't necessarily use sitting in your system and stagnating.

In the end, it just seems to make more sense to take whatever will fit best into your prospect pipeline, rather than taking what you don't need and hoping you can plug the hole some other way between now and when that hole becomes a liability for your team.

With all that said, I'm not saying that you should make big reaches. Don't take a guy rated to go far beyond your pick. Crazy stuff like the Oilers taking Jesse Niinimaki is not recommended. However, if your choice is a higher rated player who would be redundant in your system or one who's a few spots back but a far better fit, that need should outweigh value. As you progress through the draft, the applicable range widens. If you're drafting 5th, maybe you don't look down the board farther than 7th or 8th. But when you get into the 30s, it doesn't hurt to take someone ranked in the mid to late 40s or even the early 50s.

And if someone has had a tremendous fall, then go ahead and pounce. A player ranked 10th overall who makes it down to 18 should be snapped up regardless of what you need, unless there's serious concerns about him. In those cases you probably are going to get enough value out of that player to be able to address something later on.

It's also worth noting that I do not advocate drafting by current needs of the team. A team currently short on good goalies at the NHL or AHL level shouldn't take a goalie just because they need one. The "needs" I talk about are within the prospect system. If you're not developing a potential starting goalie in your system, that's when you worry about picking one up in the draft. For example, a couple of years ago in my mock draft, I made a case for the Isles to take Kyle Okposo (who they did take) because their farm system had some speedy skilled forwards, some jammers, and they had a good young goalie in DiPietro. At that point I didn't see them taking a d-man, so I felt that Okposo, as a big banging powerful scoring winger, would be the best pick for them.

But Nem, you say, teams don't know what the team will need in 4 or 5 years. Yeah, that's true. But most teams plan to try and build their core through the draft. When's the last time you heard a GM say that he's drafting someone as a bargaining chip? The era of the cap means that you can't plug holes via free agency as easily as you could in the past. So does it make sense for a team with 3 good center prospects to draft yet another center? Sure they could shift one or more of them to the wing, but that's not always the best move.

So in the end I'm not so much against BPA as I am in favor of tempering the definition of "best" to include the ability to address needs of the team, rather than simply judging by talent level.

That's my take on things.

Step 1: new banner

so the title has changed and the first step in getting back up and running is done. I have a new banner. One of the first things that I plan on doing (though it somewhat violates my "no projects" rule) is a mock draft for the 2008 1st round. It is something I do every year, so it's not like I'm making work for this blog.

Before that I have a rant I want to go on about peoples' views on handicapping a draft.

Because I will from time to time be talking about non-Sharks stuff, I also wanted to make header graphics for the various topics, in order to make it clear what the content of my posts will be.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Coming soon: Bleeding Teal v2.0

I'm back. Given that there's only 1100 or so views in the 10 months that this blog existed leads me to believe that hardly anyone noticed. However, I've wiped the slate clean and hopefully I'll get back to posting again. There is a promise this time: No "projects". What screwed me over last time was that I got myself stuck on trying to do a 30 teams in 15 days preview of hte league and then it got to the point where I was too lazy to get it done, but too driven just to say "Screw it" and stop. So I ignored the blog long enough to forget about it.

This time that won't happen because I will not be doing big things like that. If there's something I can't get done in one or two posts, it won't get done. No league wide previews, no team-by-team draft analysis, no trade deadline tracker for every single team, nothing like that. It'll just be me and my rambling opinions.

So stay tuned, I might just have spiffy new banner graphics too.