Takes and trash talk from both ALL sides of the NHL's most obscure PATHETIC* rivalry

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sleek's 2nd Annual Anti-Retirement Plea

Well, it's time I got down to business: Just like last summer, Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne stand undecided as to whether they will retire or not. Just like last summer, Scott is under contract while Teemu is an unrestricted free agent. Unlike last summer, though, Brian Burke has given them a draft-day deadline to make their commitments.

Let's open this discussion with a statsy look at the 2007-08 Ducks season, broken down into four segments, with explanations below:

Segment

GPRecordWin%GF - GA = GDPP - PK

1

34

15-15-4

.500

2.4 - 2.8 = -0.4

15.5% - 78.8%

2

22

12-7-3

.614

2.3 - 2.0 = +0.3

17.2% - 87.4%

3

17

13-3-1

.794

2.7 - 1.6 = +1.1

17.3% - 86.4%

4

15

9-6-0

.600

2.2 - 2.5 = -0.3

20.3% - 79.5%


Segment 1 is the first 34 games of the season played without Niedermayer or Selanne. It is a bit skewed by travel, however, as it opens with a six games in five cities in twelve nights stretch where the Ducks flew 11,667 miles, which is pretty far even for an actual duck. It is also skewed because it featured 17 games of Mark Mowers in a scoring role, which was predictably awful (and frankly, contributed to the trading of Andy Mac). The Segment 1 team was fairly mediocre, with some obvious excuses. The penalty kill was atrocious, with no real excuses.

Segment 2 marks the return of Scott Niedermayer, which sparked a phenomenal turnaround for the Ducks. This segment is a bit skewed because it ends with the infamous "Six Games of Suck", when the Ducks scored only five goals in six straight losses after starting the new Niedermayer era 12-2-2. Still, for the most part the team stats were vastly improved, especially the defense and the penalty-killing.

Segment 3 marks the return of Teemu Selanne, who at least saw an end to that offensive drought. This is the stretch that I really turn to when I want to defend against naysayers who think that the moves Brian Burke made last year were shit. If you look at Segments 2 and 3, it's a top-notch team, and Scott and Teemu were probably the two best players over that stretch. Burke certainly had to jump through hoops to enable their returns, but it’s tough to argue with these results, at least.

Segment 4 begins with the first game of Chris Pronger's suspension, and includes the short postseason. This is a sort of sloppy cut, because the Ducks were able to go 7-2 to end the regular season, but Pronger's absence did I think sort of derail the team in preparing for its cup defense. This segment also signifies the injury to Corey Perry, which was also a huge factor and occurred just a few games before. I probably shouldn't have included the playoff games, but they did feature both Niedermayer and Selanne.

I apologize if I've over-explained these segments, but it was a complicated year. Last season's Ducks had lots of lineup variations and strange storylines, which is a far cry from the cup-winning year. That year, stability was the norm: eight of the top ten Ducks forwards played in all 103 games. Still, I did want to break out these segments to make a few quick points regarding Scott, Teemu, their importance to the Ducks, and the ugly monster known as retirement.

1. Scott and Teemu certainly can still play, contribute, and win. They were probably the two most impressive Ducks to me last year, both in sheer talent and in their ability to fix a bleeding lineup. I think I’m going to do a separate post about the contributions of each of them, but here’s the gist: by inserting talent at the top of the lineup, defensemen and forwards were able to fall into more logical roles, and the Ducks’ performance improved dramatically.

Even more so, I'd add that their delayed seasons weren't the problem at all with the Ducks’ early exit last year. It certainly hurt when Andy Mac and Breezy were squeezed out, but I'd argue that the delayed seasons by Niedermayer and Selanne helped the Ducks' chances of repeating. It enabled a roster to be assembled by the postseason that probably wasn't affordable for a full 82-game schedule.

Of the two, I’d argue that just like last summer, the retirement decision of Niedermayer means more to the success of next year’s team. You can read through my Mr. Incredible post to see some of the statistical impact of his return, but the difference between a one-Norris team and a two-Norris team is incredible; two years ago Pronger vastly improved a Niedermayer-led blueline, and last year Scott returned the favor. I don’t mean to undersell the importance of Teemu, a master in the offensive end and on the power play, but if I had to pick one player to return, it’d be Scott.

2. I don’t think either player retires this week, but I’m an optimist. I have no insider information, and I know a lot of Ducks fans have different theories, but I just keep coming back to this fact: here are two guys who had something like six months to get off the retirement fence last year, and neither one could make the call to end their careers early. Why should I expect that their inability to retire has changed, especially given their excellent play last season?

I know that squeezing them into this year’s budget will be a hurdle, but I think both players have a strong sense of their on-ice importance to the Ducks, and I suspect we’ll see both re-assume their roles for training camp.

3. If Scott does not retire, it’s time to move Schneider. He was my first choice to be shipped out when Scott unretired last year, as it didn’t really make sense to keep both Scott and his apparent replacement, especially at their salary levels. I don’t want to overly knock “Schneidermayer”, who even took home some wayward Norris Trophy votes for his easy-minute dominance, but here’s the reality:

Giguere is making $6M, and Pronger and Niedermayer combine for another $13M, and assuming they’re all willing to play, none of them are going anywhere. Schneider’s additional $5.625M salary commitment becomes excessive at that point, because frankly, there’s not that many more minutes available for him to earn or exceed his dollar value. Instead, that money is needed to shore up the forward ranks, both in paying Getzlaf and Perry’s raises, as well as finding some scratch to pay UFA Selanne.

In a lot of ways, the Ducks are painted into a corner in what they can do this offseason—if Niedermayer and Selanne are in next year’s plans, there are more salary commitments than the Ducks can afford, and we may see Brian Burke get trade-active on draft day (“I’ll trade you the rest of that sandwich for Todd Bertuzzi.”). Still, I’m pretty excited for what next year’s squad can do, in what might be the swan song for the Niedermayer-and-Pronger Ducks. I still can’t believe how fortunate we’ve been to see these two different-style all-stars patrol the blue line the last couple of years, and if there’s one more shot at seeing it, I’m fully aboard.

More stats-crunching and salary-talking to come as these retirement decisions become known, but for now, Go Ducks.

20 comments:

Mike said...

Two ideas:

1. Why should SN abide by the deadline? It's not like he's going to get benched if he decides to come back. Sure, he could get traded or something, but then he'll just retire. I don't see how the Ducks management has any leverage there.

2. Is it really better for the Ducks organization long-term to have those guys come back? An argument could be made that the Ducks will be legitimate Cup contenders again with those two back in the fold, but a counter argument exists: there aren't enough roster spots/playing time for young player development.

Earl Sleek said...

1. Why should SN abide by the deadline?

This is a really good question, in fact one I thought of last night when hastily throwing this post together. I think it applies to Teemu, also. They're probably gentlemanly enough to abide by the "deadline", but I would still take them whenever they wanted to play.

Of course, if they can't decide by this week, I think that they should throw the retirement idea out the window. If you can't retire and still have the talent, then don't.

2. Is it really better for the Ducks organization long-term to have those guys come back?

Oh, I'd definitely say it's a good thing. Player development is a tricky notion, for sure, but I'm definitely of the mindset to shelter kids until you need them.

Not only does this enable more development in less important minutes (Getzlaf/Perry on the 4th line in 05-06), but it also probably means that their first raise will be very stomachable. I don't see Bobby Ryan breaking the bank when his rookie contract is up, whereas had he played a bigger role up until now I'd worry more about his future cap hit.

Let the veterans work with the critical minutes; kids will have their day, and I think patience will pay off. Besides, who's thinking long-term when Burke's got one foot out the door? :)

RudyKelly said...

1) He should abide by it because it's the right thing to do.

2) I'd say it's never a bad thing to let a young player watch how 2 hall of famers go about their business. ...Well, maybe not Niedermayer, because then they'll get the idea that they can never work out and go behind the opposition's net.

Mike said...

The right thing to do? You mean like last season, when he left his team in the lurch, practically forcing them to make two overpriced free agent signings and a bad trade?

And now to play both sides against the middle, why should SN just bow to management's whim?

Mr. Plank said...

Is there any team in the NHL (who may or not be in the same state, division, and/or an hour plane ride up the coast) who would be interested in taking Schneider off your hands in the likely situation that a rental player pursues the greener pastures of free agency?

Earl Sleek said...

You mean like last season, when he left his team in the lurch, practically forcing them to make two overpriced free agent signings and a bad trade?

Hey, Burke made these trades and signings willingly. Sure it was in response to Scott's wavering, but I don't begrudge the guy.

Remember in '05-'06, this is the same Scott Niedermayer who blew off his country in the Olympics so that he could get his knee scoped (or something) and managed to not even miss a game for the Ducks--and this was back when we really needed him.

I dunno--I think Scott genuinely needed a break, and Burke did what was needed to accommodate. It wasn't ideal for sure, but I'm still heavily in Scott's corner. This guy prioritized team over country, and that impresses me a bunch.

Is there any team in the NHL (who may or not be in the same state, division, and/or an hour plane ride up the coast) who would be interested in taking Schneider off your hands in the likely situation that a rental player pursues the greener pastures of free agency?

I think Schneider would be a great fit on the Sharks, or really any team that has less than two $6M defenders. He had an impressive year, but it definitely wasn't the same bang-for-buck after Scott returned.

Mr. Plank said...

The only problem would be who would be given up in exchange. If Selanne and Niedermayer come back the Ducks cap space would be limited, so San Jose might be able to trade a few prospects. I'm always wary of trading for players in your division though, and I think Burke and Wilson feel the same way- although with Burke's bobblehead doll hanging out in Toronto (probably Ron MacLean's only semi-decent joke at the NHL Awards) who knows? Maybe a sandwich could be in the cards.

Earl Sleek said...

Oh, I don't even know if the Ducks want much in exchange for Schneider. Do the Sharks have a kid that's not in their plans that has potential to be a replacement GM next year?

Mike said...

Hey, Burke made these trades and signings willingly. Sure it was in response to Scott's wavering, but I don't begrudge the guy.

If you use the word 'willing' in the broadest possible sense. Burke HAD to trade somebody, and the weak Doug Weight deal was the best he could scare up. Every GM in the league knew Burke was over a barrel.

And I begrudge him, because it's a bush-league selfish move. I don't begrudge him the desire to take a few extra months off- far from it. But you let your team know, so they don't make ill-advised decisions. If they knew SN was coming back in December or January, there's no way they would have signed Schneider, and thus had to trade McDonald. Every other hockey player has to make up his mind if he's playing by September, and I don't think you get excused from professional courtesy just because you're a superstar. He's a hell of a dominant player, and I wish the Sharks could have gotten him instead of you guys, but he lost a lot of points in my book over that.

This guy prioritized team over country, and that impresses me a bunch.

I don't know how I feel about this. It's not like the American (or Canadian) Way is jeopardized if we don't ice the best team at the Olympics, but I think there's something to be said for players that donate their time to play for their country.

Earl Sleek said...

But you let your team know, so they don't make ill-advised decisions.

I think we may agree on this in principle, but the CBA made very clear that Scott and Burke were not allowed to have any wink-wink understanding. I can't vouch that this was sincerely done, but I think that Burke had to act in a way that didn't let on that he knew Scott's return date (which honestly, I think he didn't).

Burke HAD to trade somebody, and the weak Doug Weight deal was the best he could scare up.

Well, this was because of "tagging", not traditional salary-cap math, and I don't know who saw it coming. Still, I'm OK with the Weight trade. Essentially it was trading Andy McDonald for Scott Niedermayer, Doug Weight, Matthieu Schneider, and Teemu Selanne.

Even with Weight sucking balls, I call that trade a win.

Ken said...

Although its slightly off topic i like how the Ducks trade Andy Mac, then proceed to bitch about goal scoring. I understand the cap room, but yea lets trade one guy having an off year for an old timer who never skates hard.

Earl Sleek said...

Well, if Andy Mac wasn't scoring I don't know how much sense it makes sense to blame Weight's ineffectiveness. Last year's problem was that too much money was tied up in ANA's third-best defenseman; the money was needed to boost the second line instead.

I'm hoping we don't go through the same thing again this year, whoever the 2nd line pivot is.

Earl Sleek said...

By the way, speaking of getting results, I may have just bought myself a townhouse in Irvine, pending escrow and a whole bunch of shit I barely understand.

Holy fuck.

brokeyard said...

A) Great post, I love the breakdown

B) I remember the Six Games of Suck, it was an extremely painful time.

C) finding some scratch to pay UFA Selanne.

I don't know exactly how it works, but isn't Selanne always pretty easily signable, because of some "Over 35" rule that separates him?

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, here's loosely the rule: any UFA who's over 35 who signs a one year deal can have incentives built in that are somehow cap-friendly.

Even saying that, I'm not sure how it works, because it's also my understanding that bonuses do count against the cap until the point that they are no longer reasonably attainable.

So yeah, Teemu will fit in (really because he's a swell team-centric guy), but he's hit most of his bonuses every year, I think, so it will require some money set aside, at least.

If anyone can clarify further, please do.

Sarah said...

As a long time Mathieu follower, I have this to add:

Mathieu wasn't traded when Niedermayer came back because to do so would make Anaheim the last place any big name free agent would ever sign with. Free agents with as much experience (and success) as Schneider don't leave a good team to sign with a team that will trade them a few months later. Burke really had no choice but to keep him (and he said as much then). Even trading him now has some danger.

This is a no win situation. Obviously, fans want Scott back. If he retires, people will be bummed. But if he comes back, the team has to "get rid" of Schneider. And that "dumping" of a veteran as respected as Schneider because Scott Niedermayer pulled a prima donna move (even if he is a legitimate prima donna) will not sit well with many around the league.

Schneider has made SoCal home and fully intended to play out his final seasons there. And it would stink for he and family, should he get moved again.

That said, as a Sharks fan, I would piss myself if he came to my team. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Earl Sleek said...

Really good points, Sarah.

Still, Schneider knew exactly the situation he was signing into: holding the fort while Scott considered his life (or whatever). Sure, it's not ideal, and probably makes Scott's decision-making tougher, but it's a pretty unique situation, also. Schneider had to know that the situation today was a very distinct possibility, yet he signed anyway.

Besides, we're losing B. Burke in a year anyway. If he dumps Schneider and then leaves, we'll just throw the blame at our jerk of a former GM. :)

Sarah said...

Dude, I was soooo going to make the point you made in the second paragraph. He'll make those nasty decisions and leave Anaheim with the bad rep while he'd chillin' in Toronto.

Want Patrick Marleau? You can have him if SJ can have Schneider. I'm not saying it would be a good move for either team. I'd just like it because I'm selfish.

Morbo said...

Congrats on the new pad Earl. Let me guess, is it Avenue One down by Jamboree/405 or CPW right up the street? Those are some nice condos/townhouses. They've been firesalling those because they raised the prices too high during the craziness last year.

My only beef with Burke was from the whole shenanigans last year was the McDonald deal. I understand that to move Schneider after signing him to a big contract would have been bad on a PR stand point, but realistically, everyone in hockey knew what was happening with Scott and tagging room.

I find it hard to believe that UFA would all of a sudden take that as a sign that Burke is some sort of backstabber.

Let's not over analyze NHL players. They are human, just like the rest of us, with families to feed, and mortgages to pay. If Burke had traded Schneider, i'm willing to bet it wouldn't have made a difference to any UFA looking to sign with the Ducks. There are only 2 things that matter to UFAs:
1. $$$$$
2. Do I want my wife and kids to freeze to death in Alberta, or sit on Newport Beach and get a tan? (note: that was a tongue in cheek joke, if you are an edmonton fan, please hold onto your panties and don't go off on a flame ridden rant) :P

Earl Sleek said...

Well, I'm near the cross streets of Barranca and Culver, but beyond that, stalkers will need to do their own detective work :)

There are only 2 things that matter to UFAs:

Don't forget winning. That seems to matter quite a bit, especially when UFAs swallow some salary to play in Detroit, for example.