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

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Brian Burke Week Part 1: Sleek defends three "bad" moves

Hey, everybody! Welcome to Burke Week, where I'll take a scattered look back on what I take to be Brian Burke's legacy in Anaheim. I do have a lot to say about the guy, and rather than cram it all into one post I thought I'd break it into semi-coherent parts throughout the week.

Part I: Defending three "bad" Burke moves that I don't think were that bad. For better or worse, opposing fans love to criticize Brian Burke's management style, and at times, the desire to call out Burke for a "bad" move ignores a lot of important context. Burke's first few years, of course, are now left alone because the Ducks won a cup, but since then it seems that critics are all-too-ready to point out where Burke has made his supposed mistakes.

There's really two things to keep in mind when discussing some of these debatable moves, though: (1) Thanks to salary cap mechanics, it's always going to be difficult, if not impossible, to keep a championship team together. I hold little expectation that any cup-winning roster could or should be fully retained -- there's always got to be adaptation and prioritization after a team experiences success. (2) Behind every one of these moves is the decision to allow Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne to semi-retire. I'll certainly talk more about this later, but basically if you disagree on giving players that freedom (and would rather Burke forced retirement on them), then probably you won't agree with the validity of these moves, but it is important to understand Burke's underlying motivation.

Lastly, I don't want to overstate things in this post -- I'm not saying that these moves were ideal, by any means. My main point is that they are more tolerable to me than people suggest -- I'm not angry with Burke for making them, at any rate.

1. Waiving Ilya Bryzgalov

Sleek's initial take: It seems absolutely amazing to me that a goaltender with the lowball salary and highball postseason success couldn't be traded in today's league, but I've had low expectations ever since the seemingly poor returns for Tomas Vokoun or Vesa Toskala last summer. As much as it might pain rival fans to admit it, I think the departure of Bryzgalov has very little to do with Scott and Teemu, and really has more to do with Bryzgalov trying to be a #1 and Hiller being promoted to the big leagues.

On paper this sounds horrible, because Breezy was definitely a proven playoff performer, given away to a divisional rival for free. And generally, I’m not in favor of losing assets for nothing. However, you also have to consider the Ducks were locked into J.S. Giguere for four years (including a no-movement clause), and had signed a promising netminder in Jonas Hiller as well. Not only was Breezy prevented from upward movement in the organization, but he was even in the youngster’s way, plus he was due for a raise the next summer. Burke claims that the move was done for Bryzgalov’s benefit, and it’s tough to disbelieve him on that statement, and for sure the goalie-trade market was thin (that’s the inherent irony in goalie salaries: they are no doubt the most important player on the ice, yet there are more than 60 players who could play in the NHL). So Burke ensured that Breezy gets picked up by a bottom team while publicly keeping his word to his netminder – there’s definitely payoff in being a “player first” GM like that, and while there was no trade return, you have to remember that Hiller cost the Ducks nothing either. It seems a relative wash to me, with some good PR on the side.

2. Trading Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight

Sleek's initial take: Of course, it's sort of a mistake to look at this just as a McDonald-for-Weight trade, as context is huge for this deal. In return for trading away Andy Mac, the Ducks get Doug Weight, the right to play Scott Niedermayer, the right to keep Mathieu Schneider, and the possibility to sign Teemu Selanne. Even if DeadWeight turns out to be a bust, there's still a lot of trade return there.

Yes, this was salary-necessitated, and yes, I’d rather have Andy Mac than Doug Weight on my team any day. Still, this needs context more than anything. As my quote above suggests, it wasn’t just a one-for-one trade; Andy McDonald was traded for Doug Weight + the tag space to keep Mathieu Schneider + the room to welcome back Scott Niedermayer + the room to later sign Teemu Selanne. The salary side sucked, I guess, but the Ducks by the end of that season had more than $24 million tied into three defensemen plus a goalie – a more expensive team than they could have afforded for a full season. As for success, yeah, there was no Stanley Cup, but in the 48 games after the McDonald/Weight trade (Scotty's return), the Ducks dropped nearly a full goal-against-per-game, and played on a pace that would have won them the President’s Trophy and the Jennings Trophy. Hard to be overly critical of a trade that transformed a .500 team into a top-tier contender.

3. Signing Mathieu Schneider

Sleek's initial take: Brian Burke certainly acted as if Niedermayer's retirement is a sure thing. Think about this: if Scott were to play his contract next year, that would mean that the Ducks' goalie and top four defensemen would cost roughly $26 M next year; that's more than half the salary cap. And then the logical move, oddly enough, would probably be to trade away the newly-signed Schneider.

It’s really tough for me to get angry with Burke for this signing, as it seemed a logical reaction to Scott Niedermayer’s effective retirement. It didn’t pan out, obviously, and did put the Ducks in a heck of a salary cap crunch at the end of last summer, but I think the signing made sense in its context and Schneidermayer certainly knew what a potential salary mess he was getting himself into. What clouds this issue somewhat is the poor start that Schneider has had in Atlanta -- certainly his numbers suggest that he is washed up. However, I'd guess that he's being mis-used on the Thrashers; for the past few seasons Schneider has been an extremely effective weapon in easy minutes, playing behind a Nick Lidstrom or a Chris Pronger. In Anaheim, Schneider certainly had a solid year: At even-strength in the regular season, Schneider was on the ice for 50 GF, 23 GA, a better than 2-to-1 ratio. On the power play, he was on the ice for 34 GF, 5 GA. While certainly the team would have been easier to manage last season without Schneider's salary on the books, Burke saw a gaping hole on his blueline and reacted to it. In retrospect, the signing proved excessive, but at the time when Niedermayer's retirement seemed believable enough, I think Burke got a decent replacement option off the UFA market, and that's not something I'll spend too much time criticizing.

So there you have it, three moves that I don't criticize Burke for (at least, not to the extent that others do). Agree or disagree with my assessments, or do you have another example of your own? Feel free to leave it in the comments. Then stay tuned for Burke Week Part II (possibly tomorrow?), where I'll point out some moves where I am more critical on Burke's decision-making.

Go Ducks.

36 comments:

RudyKelly said...

"My Schneidy sense?" Jesus, dude.

Mike in OC said...

I agree 100%.

The one that I hated the most was a Andy Mac. trade, but I know it needed to be done. Andy Mac on the line with Teemu and Kuntz was very entertaining, but once Teemu was gone, that line was a zero threat. If Teemu never comes out of retirement Andy Mac is ussless IMO, and every game he played with out Teemu he lost a little trade value. But I still hate to see him as a Blue to this day.

The one I really liked was Schneider. It is the one that probably hurt us the most in the long run with the cap, but in addition to all the positive things Sleek points out above about his signing another bonus was who we signed him from. Addition through subtraction. The idea is to make Detroit a little worse, while you improve.

Burke did that same thing with Edmonton after they eliminated us in the WCF in 2006 and Scott after NJ beat us in the SCF in 2003.

I do not know if it's by design, but I loved it.

Earl Sleek said...

"My Schneidy sense?" Jesus, dude.

Isn't my hockey blogging legacy going to be the preponderance of bad puns? I could do worse, I suppose.

Burke did that same thing with Edmonton after they eliminated us in the WCF in 2006 and Scott after NJ beat us in the SCF in 2003.

Right -- good point. I don't think it was by some coherent design, of course, but it is true that Burke never committed serious money to a good player from a bad team (let's say like Bouwmeester). He acquired star players from top-performing teams, and worked his existing roster around those newcomers very well.

spade-in-victorhell said...

hehe i love any braveheart reference..

I already know what no. 1 on the burke disagreements...it rhymes with gertuzzi

im hoping the new gm somtime in the future or present will get us some guys with some actual skill (maybe a euro)...we need another selanne....just one more of those types of guys i think could make a big difference

p.s.

mr elite "sits 2 rows back usually" sleek get drunk with common folk up in the nosebleeds? if so what your drink of choice?

Bryan said...

Take away the Bertuzzi signing and all of these questionable issues go away. No need to deal Andy or Bryzgalov. The major cap problems cause by Schneider as far as giving Perry a pay raise and such are pretty non existent.

I still have issue with the Bryzgalov situation. I just feel that Burke went with the wrong goalie. I feel that Bryzgalov is a better goalie. Of course I realize it was bad timing, that Giguere's contract was expiring and that Burke was forced to make the decision right then and there after winning the cup. I just feel that Burke made the wrong choice.

I realize that Burke during the season tried to deal Bryzgalov to lots of teams. I heard that Kings didn't want tp give up a 4th round pick for him. But to give Bryzgalov to a team that the Ducks relied on for 13-16 points every year and last year I don't even know if the Ducks got 8 against Phoenix. I just feel like it could have been handled better.

Earl Sleek said...

I already know what no. 1 on the burke disagreements...it rhymes with gertuzzi.

Well, I'll be picking on things that aren't usually that criticized. Bertuzzi will certainly get a mention, but frankly his signing is way too easy to pick on. I haven't written it yet, but I think I have another #1 in mind.

mr elite "sits 2 rows back usually" sleek get drunk with common folk up in the nosebleeds? if so what your drink of choice?

Well, I still blew a lot of money up in the upper deck. I bought double-shots of Jack and Coke, at some mean price like $17.50 apiece. I was told the proceeds were going to fire relief, though (or at least that's what I told myself), so I feel a little bit like a hero.

spade-in-victorhell said...

im surprised you havent blogged on penner getting bitched up in oilerland..."hes never been fit to play with us" ouch!!

ya gotta read the rest of the comments by mctavish...i see a cartoon there somewhere

Bryan said...

And Detroit was happy to upgrade from Schneider to Rafalski

Earl Sleek said...

Take away the Bertuzzi signing and all of these questionable issues go away.

That's true, but I don't know if that's a fair way to assess the moves we're talking about today. Bertuzzi was a reality in all these cases that had to be considered rather than un-wished.

I just feel that Burke went with the wrong goalie.

Ah, now you're getting closer to tomorrow's post topic!

And Detroit was happy to upgrade from Schneider to Rafalski.

That's fine, and a separate topic, frankly. My point on Schneider isn't really that it was a crushing blow to Detroit, but it did help the Ducks' situation, best as it could be figured.

spade-in-victorville said...

haha double jack shots reminds me of the day i met you...i was going down that road also that day...maybe the nosebleeds makes u ask for double shots..

shit i dont remember them being that much

your my hero sleek :-( sniffle sniffle

p.s.
heyward almost jizzed in his pants talking about how excited he is to see ovechkin on wensday

Bryan said...

True, but it just shows how incredibly bad that the Bertuzzi signing was. Trickle down theory you could say.

And as far as the Rafalski comment, I was replying to someone's comment about Schneider being a good move because it made Detroit worse.

Hmmm, my Burke's aversion to Euros sense is tingling.

Earl Sleek said...

im surprised you havent blogged on penner getting bitched up in oilerland..."hes never been fit to play with us" ouch!!

Oh, and as for Dustin Penner, I still stand by the statement that it's unfair to really judge that deal until we're three years into the contract (though yeah, things certainly got ugly fast up in Oiltown).

There's definitely some moves that Burke doesn't need that much defending on (Fedorov to Columbus, trading for Pronger, not overpaying Penner) -- I guess I won't be focusing so much on those moves, though, because people generally agree with Burke's maneuvering there.

Earl Sleek said...

True, but it just shows how incredibly bad that the Bertuzzi signing was.

I guess the only thing I'll say about Bertuzzi now is that we all certainly have the benefit of hindsight -- we know exactly how bad Bertuzzi turned out to be.

However, at the time of the signing that wasn't so apparent -- at least there was some unknown possibility about how good or bad Big Bert could be.

So certainly it was an overpayment and certainly it was an overcommitment, but the extent of the failed gamble wasn't that predictable. I didn't expect Bertuzzi to be as awful as he was; I think that caught us all off-guard.

Mike in OC said...

and as far as the Rafalski comment, I was replying to someone's comment about Schneider being a good move because it made Detroit worse.

Well I guess you can say that it made Detroit worse "in theory". Burke has no way to know if they replace him or not, and if the replacement works better or not. But the action pays off more than not I think, and that's what I liked about it.

It had an immediate effect on Edmonton.

NJ has never been close to the same team without Scott.

Detroit is a bad example I guess because they always seem to come out smelling like roses after they step in crap.

Earl Sleek said...

It had an immediate effect on Edmonton. NJ has never been close to the same team without Scott.

Yeah, and what probably separates Detroit from these two is that they actively went to replace their missing part, rather than attempt to fix the problem internally.

And that may be the main point of supporting the Schneider acquisition: Burke also went for the replacement route rather than the "suck it up, boys" route, and I think generally that's the right approach.

Mike in OC said...

hes never been fit to play with us" ouch!!

Poor Dustin, Edmonton brings him in to slow down their transition game (and improve the cycle down low) and things go south.

Majority of his goals last season came on 1st line and PPL minutes, but he has been on the 3rd line most of this season, and they are not happy with his production.

That whole situation might get ugly.

BTW. Pens response to MacT’s comments were pretty classy. Maybe he is loafing, he did not seem to offended.

Earl Sleek said...

Majority of his goals last season came on 1st line and PPL minutes, but he has been on the 3rd line most of this season, and they are not happy with his production.

Yeah, for whatever reason Penner has always been a product of his environment -- he's a unique talent, no doubt, but he's more a passenger on a good line than a guy who carries the offensive load.

Why this comes as a surprise to Edmonton is a bit of a mystery, though. It may end up being one of the lesser positives about Burke -- that Lowe so badly wanted to screw Burkie over that he threw twice as much money as he should have at Penner.

But yeah, we've been calling that a questionable move since day one. Nothing terribly surprising in his performance thus far, at least from my perspective.

MF37 said...

...the seemingly poor returns for Tomas Vokoun or Vesa Toskala last summe...

Toskala went for a 1, 2 and 4th round pick (plus the salary dump that was Mark "AHL" Bell) which seems like a helluva lot for a career backup who can't get his save percentage to hit .900 in Toronto.

Not sure what the market should be for a guy like Bryzgalov, but it certainly shouldn't require the waiver wire to get him moved.

cristobal said...

If I were Kings GM I'd take Penner and give them Greene AND Preissing.

Earl: $17.50 a shot? You need a flask, mate! I used to be able to get 2or3 16 oz. Old English's into the forum. Ah, the memories.

Great article. I'm not a Ducks fan until the playoffs because that's when the Kings are out of the league, but the McDonald trade will ALWAYS seem unnecessary to me. It's the result of a perfect storm of bad decisions. I get your reasoning, but losing a player for nothing of this caliber is an error.
If the Kings really turned down a trade for Bryzgalov that didn't include No. 1 picks or good players, it makes me shake my head even more at what Lombardi is doing. Lombardi also should have been breathing down Burkes neck for a Bobby Ryan trade because Burke was hinting at trading him just before resigning.

cheers.

Earl Sleek said...

Toskala went for a 1, 2 and 4th round pick (plus the salary dump that was Mark "AHL" Bell) which seems like a helluva lot for a career backup who can't get his save percentage to hit .900 in Toronto.

Well, I'm not sure if I'd call Toskala a career backup -- he did take the starter's role from Nabokov mid-year following the lockout, and propelled the Sharks to a 20-6-3 finish to the 05-06 regular season. And yeah, the trade return was horrible -- the Sharks essentially had to take back a terrible contract to move a not-terrible, not-expensive goaltender. The Ducks weren't in a position to take on a crappy contract, so thus the waiver seems at least one alternative to that.

Could it have been better? Sure, but I don't think a whole lot better. There hasn't been a great trade return on any goalie that I can think of in the past couple of years.

Lombardi also should have been breathing down Burkes neck for a Bobby Ryan trade because Burke was hinting at trading him just before resigning.

Yeah, I think Ryan's not going anywhere, especially now that he can fit on the big club's books. Besides, I would have been pissed if Burke made Ryan available to Lombardi. Dean didn't help out Burke with an obvious Schneider trade crisis, and thus I think Burke should have shut the door on Dean's prospect inquiries.

The Ducks and Kings have definitely become closer trade partners under Burke's regime, but not that close.

Morbo said...

but once Teemu was gone, that line was a zero threat. If Teemu never comes out of retirement Andy Mac is ussless IMO

I think McDonald has proved that's not true this year. Prior to fracturing his ankle last weekend, he was on fire playing with Brad Boyes in St Louis. The problem wasn't McDonald, it was the players the Ducks put on his line. McDonald is a playmaker, he needs someone who can finish on his line.

If Burke hadn't wasted all that money on that meat bag of human excrement bertuzzi, then we would have been able to keep both McDonald and Schneider.

The crux of all of Burke's "bad moves" can be traced back to that colossal brain fart. I don't remember what other free agents were out there at the time, but I still think it a travesty that Burke signed him for 4 million dollars a year.

fucking lazy ass douche nozzle should be in jail.

cristobal said...

Is that Sarah Palin next to Breezy popping the champagne?

I wonder what GM's really think of Lombardi. There's a lot of brown-nosing going on in the press even though he's accomplished zero. For me, I think Lombo got stuck with that 4th overall Hickey-pick in a year when he probably would have liked to trade it. Very weak draft year. Lumbo should have been going after Ryan AND Schneider before the season, yes. Cammalleri should have gotten it done.
Ah hell, I hate playing mental-gm. It's such a waste of time.

What'd'ya think of my Penner to LA trade?

Bryan said...

Thank you morbo.

If I remember correctly, McDonald played generally with Marchant and Kunitz alot before he was traded. That's a huge change, since Kunitz's main role has always been to create space for McDonald and Selanne. And Marchant defnitely ain't no Selanne. No one really is. I still think Selanne is one of the best finishers I've ever seen.

Earl Sleek said...

If I remember correctly, McDonald played generally with Marchant and Kunitz alot before he was traded.

Don't forget that awful month of Mark Mowers, who would ruin anybody's numbers. The drop from Selanne to Mowers, talent-wise, is ginormous.

Bryan said...

Aww crap, Hedican turned down my offer in NHL 09. I hate being a realistic roster whore.

RudyKelly said...

We already have a big, slow, soft "power forward," Cristobal, so I don't see why we should trade for another one. Put Brian Boyle up with Kopitar and Brown and see what happens, I say.

cristobal said...

Well, we'd get rid of a big, slow defenseman and a unoffensive defenseman that total almost 6 million a year. Penner has good hands, don't forget that.
I'd center Boyle with O'Sullivan and Brown. Let Kop play with Frolov and, mmmmm???, Purcell/Moller/Simmonds, oh yeah.....Penner, on the first line.

Geez, I impressed myself. I like those lines.

Calder-Stoll-Simmonds = great grind line.
Moller-Handzus-Richardson = Speed and defensively solid. Can Richardson play in front of net? Purcell?

I'm not a Gauthier hater. I like what he brings to the table. Defense goes like this:
Quincey - Doughty
O'Donnell- harrold
McLaren-J. Johnson when he's back.

the d needs better offensive punch.

cristobal said...

oops. I meant McLaren - Gauthier - JJohnson. Wink.

Earl Sleek said...

Penner has good hands, don't forget that.

Yeah, but the biggest issue with Penner isn't his attitude, or his hands, or his size. Thanks to two summers ago, it's always going to be his salary.

He can definitely serve as a complementary player, but for that price I think there's plenty of better options out there. Guys who don't need the "sweet" minutes and teammates to succeed.

cristobal said...

Penner, if had for Greene and Preissing, is 2 million in savings next season. I don't know why in the world Edmonton would want Preissing, though. Maybe Labs could go, too and get moved on to Ottawa or something as a 3rd party agreement and Edmonton could get some picks or something. Penner's salary is high, but he's justified in making it, really. He scored more goals than O'Sullivan last year and the season prior he was a big cog in a Cup. Before that he helped the Ducks get to game 7 with Edmonton.
He may be a good complimentary player, but if he compliments Frolov and Kopitar playing on the same line, he's going to get at least 30 goals, right?

The extra 2 million saved on Greene/Preissing could be used for McLaren if need be if we want another big one-dimensional defenseman.

Earl Sleek said...

Time to battle some misconceptions!

and the season prior [Penner] was a big cog in a Cup.

I don't know if we should get too carried away with this "big cog" notion. Yes, Penner scored some big goals, including a Finals game-winner, but did you know that Dustin Penner scored zero points in the entire month of May of that Cup Run? That means zero points in the entire Detroit series, plus some of the Vancouver and Ottawa series as well. He didn't end up costing the Ducks, but I'm not sure I'd say he helped that much either.

Before that he helped the Ducks get to game 7 with Edmonton.

I'll slam you on this before others will. The Ducks lost in 5 that series. :)

And while Penner did get his points that playoff run, nearly all of them were by passing to Lupul back when everything Lupul shot went into the back of the net.

He may be a good complementary player, but if he complements Frolov and Kopitar playing on the same line, he's going to get at least 30 goals, right?

Yeah, and no doubt it's useful to have a good line player in that role. Problem that Edmonton's having, though, is that they also have some kids who'd benefit from playing on that top line with Hemsky and Horcoff, and if Penner's there just to fit in then you lose that option.

So I don't want to kill your dream or anything, but I still think there's better options than Penner (unless he can somehow get back to that league minimum salary we used to love).

cristobal said...

Yikes, can you tell I'm not a Ducks fan? My memory is clouded with Kings disappointments. Was it really only a 5 game series? Ouch. They were playing so well that playoffs.

I think you might be right about Penner not being the Hub of what was going on, but I do think he's a big Cog when speaking of the Ducks success. Having not seen Penner since he's been in Edmonton, I'd be basing my trade on his raw talent that I saw with the Ducks. He's more than just a 1 dimensional guy, even though he doesn't seem to understand what assets he has. He's only 26 and I think he could be a real monster if the right situation found him. If he were to realize half of his true potential, is he a dim-bulb?, he'd be worth the 4 million. If the Kings really are building something, he could be scoring 50 in a year or two.
Plus, it's a lot better than wasting money on over-the-hill-injured-free-agents-who-are-really-grind-line-guys.

MF37 said...

Earl, maybe I'm mis-reading your reply, but the Leafs didn't send any contracts San Jose's way in the Toskala deal.

The trade was a straight up three picks (1, 2, 4) for Toskala (at $2M/year) and Bell.

It cleared over $4M in cap space for San Jose, got rid of a headache (and near permanent scratch) in Mark Bell and gave them a nice collection of picks. I'd say that's a pretty solid return on a goalie.

FWIW, Bell is now in the AHL and Toskala is playing as though he should be.

Earl Sleek said...

The trade was a straight up three picks (1, 2, 4) for Toskala (at $2M/year) and Bell.

Ah, that's right. I mis-remembered the pieces. Still, it seems like a mixed bag. Yes, it sent away a bad contract (Bell), but it had to be mixed with a good contract (Toskala), too.

You're right, though. Not a bad pickup for the Sharks, it's just that I would have figured that a guy like Toskala (or Vokoun) could have netted more. It was primarily those deals that severely lowered my expected return for Bryzgalov.

Was it really only a 5 game series? Ouch. They were playing so well that playoffs.

Well, if it's any consolation (and this is pretty funny), you're not the only person who mis-remembered that series length. And at least you didn't put that bad memory in the Hockey News to justify your Stanley Cup pick.

cristobal said...

Brilliant!
Where do I order my Dunce-Cap?

Hostpph said...

So we can expect a lot of these posts related to Burke. I can wait to read every one of them.