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

* Thanks, Kevin Lowe!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ducks Gameday—Burke Week #2: Let's get critical!

Washington Capitals (10-4-3, 4th in east) at Anaheim Ducks (10-7-2, t-4th in west)
NHL's other poster child is in town.

Welcome to the second installment of Brian Burke Week, as I ponder back on the Anaheim yester-legacy of the mouthy one. Yesterday I made a case for three moves that I think Burke gets too much flak for; today it's time for Part II: Criticizing three Burke moves that I don't think get enough flak.

A few things (1) I'm not going to include the Todd Bertuzzi signing; that one's so obviously bad that I don't know if it's worth discussing. Just know that my list has these three things plus signing Todd Bertuzzi. I'm still not passing judgment on Brendan Morrison, either (he gets a free pass for a while because two knowledgeable Canucks fans I talked to were shocked that B-Mo was even playing already). (2) I am not saying that any of these moves are guaranteed to fail -- there's still judgment to be made on all of them. It's just that we should keep all these things in mind when remembering Brian Burke. (3) I am not talking about his draft record until later this week.

1. The J.S. Giguere Contract

Sleek's initial reaction: Thanks, Giguere. We may never know what he passed up by signing this contract today and not waiting for a desperate team on July 1st, but I gotta think he would have landed somewhere upwards of $7 M per year, and he probably could have landed something in the 6-year range. Hooray for ambiguous savings!

Now don't get me wrong; I'm quite a fan of J.S. Giguere, and he's still going to be my #1 goalie whenever I get around to posting Anaheim's All-Time Team (a shout-out to my fellow slackers!). But still, not a week goes by that I don't worry about that no movement contract -- $6 million against the cap for two years beyond this one. Now I fully understand why Giguere earned the raise, coming off a Stanley Cup and all, and I have to guess he turned down bigger money to stay in Anaheim. And I know that there's good reasons for the no-movement clause (Burke looked good there because Giguere's newborn child was under local medical care). But still, we're four years into this salary cap and I'm still unsure what the value of goaltenders really should be -- it's not just a question of value on the ice (demand), but also a function of the players available that can do it (supply). And for a team that's invested so heavily in its blueline, was a $6 M goaltender even that necessary?

For the record, I was very happy with Giguere's play last year; I thought he certainly was a $6M goaltender, or at least close enough, but that's the thing -- almost at best, this contract works out. If Giguere becomes average or worse (coughTurco!cough), that can quickly become a handicap, especially for a netminder's contract. If good goalie contracts have to be given away, then bad goalie contracts have to be swallowed. Also, the contract probably means that Jonas Hiller will be goaltending elsewhere in the coming years. One really has to ask the question, though -- if the Ducks really had cheaper alternatives in Ilya Bryzgalov and Jonas Hiller that could sit behind the "best blueline in history", should Burke have let Giguere sign elsewhere the summer after the cup win? Could he have used an extra couple million on his forwards?

I'm honestly not sure here -- there's certainly a playoff monster in J.S. Giguere that I've never seen anything like, and if that ever shows itself again, Brian Burke will be a god for the contract. I really only bring it up because it's a pretty big risk, especially if a team like Detroit can spend significantly less on its netminding and more on its skill players. I probably would have preferred a shorter contract (the Ducks' two most successful postseasons have come in J.S. Giguere's last two contract years, I think). We shall see how we feel about it later; it's all up to Giguere now.

2. Buying Out Todd Bertuzzi's Contract

Sleek's initial take: I didn't say anything useful on this one. But doesn't it look like Todd Bertuzzi is telling some fans to "suck on this"?

Yeah, I know I wasn't going to bring up the Bertuzzi signing, but this is a different matter entirely -- once that contract was signed and a year in, should Burke have bought it out? For those not tuned in to cap math, basically what it amounts to is instead of paying Bertuzzi $4M this year, the Ducks will pay him $1.33M this year and next to not play for them, plus of course paying some player to fill in on a top-six role (Brendan Morrison, give or take).

Now again, I don't want to be misunderstood here -- I am thrilled that the Ducks are playing without Bertuzzi. It's so nice to know that everyone backchecks again, or at least pretends to. And while Morrison has been an offensive letdown early, I'd still take him over Bert anytime. But still, I'm not sure I like that Burke went the buyout route -- it's always struck me that buyouts are what rich teams do, and SoCal's Anaheim is not one of those teams. Burke has effectively spent some of next year's money on a player not in a Duck uniform, and that sort of future-spending should be off-limits for a departing GM.

I really expected the Ducks to suck it up and carry Bertuzzi through his contract year, and I'm not sure it would have been that terrible. Part of what hurt the Ducks last spring, in my opinion, was that they had to carry around both Bertuzzi and Weight among their top six, and couldn't even play them together effectively -- neither guy wanted to shoot the puck or skate, and they were essentially passengers. With Weight departed and Bertuzzi finding a potential center in Ryan Carter (who made Bertuzzi stomachable by backchecking for two), I thought that the Ducks could carry one passenger on a scoring line and just not worry about the sunk cost. I reasoned that a one-year $4M gamble was more stomachable than the original two year gamble -- plus it's a contract year, why not?

Again, we shall see. It may turn out that I'm way wrong on this, and the $1.33M pre-spent next year doesn't impact next year's team much at all. Or perhaps Brendan Morrison could awaken and the Ducks could roll four dangerous lines, and I'll gladly rescind. But still, I probably would have just sucked it up and hid Bertuzzi in the lineup, or found another way to be rid of him (his contract, theoretically, gets more tradeable by the day). Buyouts probably shouldn't have been an option.

3. Becoming a Salary Cap Ceiling Team

This all is related to the notion that not that long ago, the Ducks were an incredibly cheap team. Remember the days when the top line of Kunitz-McDonald-Selanne was playing for about $2.5 million total and the Ducks were millions away from the cap ceiling? Of courses, raises had to happen, especially with the cup win, and I certainly do support most of Burke's maneuvering around Niedemayer and Selanne's semi-retirements. Still, as a result of all that reactionary GMing was that the Ducks quickly became a cap-ceiling team.

The sweet irony, of course, is that they have no business whatsoever being a cap-ceiling team. Playing in Southern California is a double-edged sword, revenue-wise (note: best I understand). For one, there's a pretty tepid fanbase -- ticket prices must remain low enough to keep fans coming. But also, because there are so many people in Southern California, neither the Ducks or Kings can ever collect on revenue sharing, even if needed. That's not a huge deal, but it does mean that on paper, the Ducks should be more near the salary midpoint than the ceiling. Burke got to spend up to the ceiling, but the real question is: What will Bob Murray be allowed to spend?

That's why the $1.33 M to Bertuzzi next year might not matter -- it prevents Anaheim from approaching the ceiling but that's probably going to happen anyway. Should Selanne for some reason retire, his unpaid salary would count against the cap, too, but that might be unspent cushion also. Overall, I'm not too worried -- I do mostly like the contracts that Burke has set up for next year -- Murray may fill in some spots cheap, but I think there's plenty of talent to work around. But it should be understood, Ducks fans and Burke fans -- there will be some natural letdown once payroll returns to a more rational level. To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to those middling-spending ways -- it's only been one year, but serious cap math makes my head hurt; I'm much more comfortable "sort of" knowing what players' salaries are (you know, without having to know how many days they spend in Bakersfield).


So that's Part II -- sorry it got so long-winded. Feel free to agree, disagree, add your Burke criticisms, or insert your own randomness in the comments. Part III is more positive, possibly tomorrow: What we can all learn from Burke the GM.

Prediction: As for this game tonight, oh yeah, some guy named Ovechkin's coming to town. I do feel obligated to report that I was in Anaheim to see Ovechkin's first career hat trick, so just to avoid any suspicion I'm staying home tonight. Anyways, visit your Japers Rink for all things Cap-related (Capitals, not salary cap). Ducks 4, Caps 3, Anaheim channels the spirit of Joffrey Lupul and puts four pucks past Jose Theodore. Goals by Selanne, Marchant, Pahlsson, and Festerling.

Go Ducks.


Earl Sleek said...

Man, I either got this post so right that everyone's speechless, or nobody has anything critical to say about Burke the GM.

I don't believe either option.

RudyKelly said...

The first time I saw Ovechkin play an entire game was that game against Anaheim. I remember telling my roommate, "Ovechkin 3, Anaheim 2."

The Giguere contract is a good point, but I don't think anyone knew Hiller was going to be as good as he's been. Plus, do you really want to rely on some loon like Bryz?

Earl Sleek said...

The Giguere contract is a good point, but I don't think anyone knew Hiller was going to be as good as he's been. Plus, do you really want to rely on some loon like Bryz?

No, those are totally valid points, and I am pretty wishy-washy on how good or bad that whole Giguere contract is.

I'd never heard of Jonas Hiller until just days before Giguere's re-signing, so totally he was an unknown commodity, but I was a believer in Ilya Bryzgalov -- he even has stronger career postseason numbers than J.S.

It's perfectly possible that Giguere earns all his dollars and I'm just too much of a worrywart. And if I were GM, I'd probably take the safe road and re-sign Giguere, too. But I'd probably try for fewer years on the contract, I suppose.

PJ Swenson said...

Bertuzzi was a disaster. Not just the size of the contract or the terms, but his play leading up to being signed.

I know why he was signed, I know what they wanted him to bring in the lineup, but it just didn't work. And it was obvious it wouldn't work before he ever played his first game.

Bryzgalov was a horrible maneuver. I may be tarred and feathered among polite NHL circles, but I always thought with 2 Norris trophy winning defenseman in front of him Bryzgalov could be just as good as Giguere, and he will be around longer. Plus he gives better quotes and is slightly crazy.

You can look at Los Angeles and San Jose, Chicago, and even Columbus and Phoenix in the West, and you can see the next few waves of speed and skill entering the NHL. With Anaheim, it is a bunch of veteran players trying to grind out, or pound out wins en route to a knock out drag out playoff series or two.

Winning a Cup validated Burke I guess, but his legacy came at a cost for Anaheim.

Earl Sleek said...

With Anaheim, it is a bunch of veteran players trying to grind out, or pound out wins en route to a knock out drag out playoff series or two.

Sure, for the rest of this year, but next year? I count the veterans signed as Selanne, Pronger, and Giguere. You seem to paint the Ducks with a sense of permanency, but I think this could be the last year to describe them like that.

Of course, I am holding out hope that Scott Niedermayer will sign a Selanne-style deal next summer, just for the Vancouver Olympics. $2M?

Winning a Cup validated Burke I guess, but his legacy came at a cost for Anaheim.

Yeah, but I don't know if it's that big a cost -- most of what Burke put together, especially on his grinding lines and his blueline, dismantles at the end of the year. I don't think we're looking at terribly long-term ramifications.

Earl Sleek said...

As for the game tonight, for Washington Semin, Morrisonn, and Fedorov are out. For the Ducks, Hiller and Rob Niedermayer are in, and Carlyle will experiment with new defensive pairings.

Earl Sleek said...

Winning a Cup validated Burke I guess, but his legacy came at a cost for Anaheim.

I should probably point out also, PJ, that the complaint I've got about Burke and the push to the salary ceiling probably applies to the Sharks at some point in the near future also.

They may even have it worse, as the Sharks are paying above the salary ceiling with McLaren. There's nothing wrong with that "win now" sort of push, I think, but it should be understood that it probably is a temporary position and won't get to continue like that forever.

Kevin Y said...

For one more night, and one more night only, I'm a Ducks fan.. somewhat. I hope the Capitals destroy the Ducks, but I'd also love them to beat up Ovechkin (and Semin, if he's playing through his "upper-body" injury) for the Kings' sake tomorrow night.

By the way, I get to ride the Zamboni at the 1st Intermission of the Kings game tomorrow night. I'll be wearing my Ziggy Palffy jersey, so if they get a shot of me on TV, let me know.

Anonymous said...

With Anaheim, it is a bunch of veteran players trying to grind out, or pound out wins en route to a knock out drag out playoff series or two.
After this year, that's no longer an issue. Like Earl said, all the veterans are UFA except for Pronger, Teemu and Jiggy. Getz, Perry, and Kunitz are locked up. Other than that, a lot of dead weight comes off the books. The only one I would want Murray to absolutely keep is Sammy, for obvious reasons. Everyone else, I'm indifferent on as long as a similar or better (read cheaper) replacement can be found or brought up from the farm.

As for the Bertuzzi buyout - I think it's one of the best decisions Burke has made. Team chemistry gets overlooked a lot when salary cap comes into play, but watching that team last year, they just looked like a shitty mentality had spread across the players and infiltrated all their effort on ice.

They are just rumors, but it's been passed around the "interwebs" that Weight and Bertuzzi didn't exactly lead to a conducive environment in the locker room.

Weight was rumored to openly question the team's style in front of Carlyle, and I can only imagine what Teemu was thinking sitting next to the criminal. Remember, Teemu was part of that Avs team when the Moore incident happened.

Earl Sleek said...

Everyone else, I'm indifferent on as long as a similar or better (read cheaper) replacement can be found or brought up from the farm.

Yeah, I'm probably in that boat also, but I do have a short list of people I think should be re-signed:

1. Pahlsson, of course.
2. Montador, if he's willing. I've liked what I've seen out of the guy.
3. Beauchemin, if the dollars are right.
4. Hate to say it, but Parros is so damn popular I think he should stay.

The rest I could wave bye to pretty quickly. The only exception is if Scotty wants to re-sign dirt cheap, I'd take him. And I'm on the fence with Moen.

As for the Bertuzzi buyout - I think it's one of the best decisions Burke has made.

Hey, there we go, I knew I was wrong on some of this. Yeah, it's certainly debatable, and I'm much happier with a Bertuzzi-less lineup also, but it's just the $1.33M next year that bothers me. That represents real money being spent, so even if it's not cap-ceiling important, I think it still affects Murray's spending budget.

Still, on all of these I could switch positions in a heartbeat. I had to scrounge to really come up with three items to criticize.

Earl Sleek said...

So this game quickly sucks. Can we get a do-over?

Anonymous said...

Amazing how slow the Ducks look when the play an Eastern conf team that has speed and skill. Another reason not to re-sign 3/5th of the current roster next year.

On the positive side (positivity Earl!), Bobby Ryan has some sweet, sweet hands. Sweeter than Marisa Miller dipped in a full body chocolate fondue ...... um, what was I talking about again?

Julian said...

You had me at Marisa Miller...

It was a fun game tonight, even if we didn't get the result. I was 10 minutes late (game time) and it was already 3-1 Caps.

That'll teach me.

No, probably not. I hate the 7pm start time. I'll blame that for my inability to get to the game on time.

By the way, aren't we supposed to have a world-class defense or something? And boy am I happy to have Bobby Ryan on the roster. That kid was the best forward on the ice with Ovechkin. That's some pretty heady company.

Julian said...

I should have mentioned this in my last comment - I went to the Salty Dawg after the game, give me a break - but one of my favorite moments was when Ryan was mixing it up in the corner and Getzlaf and Perry came sprinting to his defense from the bench.

When Ryan got sent to the box the crowd started chanting "Bobby! Bobby!"

I think he'll fit in just fine.

Earl Sleek said...

Yeah, I actually left the house when it was 3-2, but the start of that game was horrific.

I thought it would be a fun fantasy hockey gimmick, but my tandem of Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller got slaughtered today.

But I do have me some Bobby Ryan.

Julian said...

Yeah, I picked him up and will no doubt feel smug and superior until my next boneheaded roster move.

Earl Sleek said...

Actually, I've had Bobby Ryan eating up a roster spot for a few weeks now in the Mirtle league.

You see, I am terrified of playing in a league with Spector, Mirtle, Puck Daddy, etc., because it stands to reason that they'd know about a Bobby Ryan promotion two days before I would. So I just picked him up and stashed him. And even though he was getting zero statistics, he was still outperforming Brendan Morrison.

Oh, but it helps that my forwards include a Malkin, Vanek, Gagne, Selanne, and Setoguchi. They're covering for quite a few slouches in my lineup.

Earl Sleek said...

BTW, I don't think it happens tonight, but how awkward is it to have to say "Great game, Bobby Ryan. Have a fun day in Bakersfield!"

Anonymous said...

earl our D core is pathetic...are pronger and scott past there prime.....pronger looks slow and hes getting pushed around (his only highlight throwing one his elbows) and neidemeyer making dumb decsions...with both of them playing like shit...were fucked...they played bad even "toghter"....im starting to think we need some all new re-built D....trade pronger and scott...get cap relief

get rid of morrison....crap...

re-boot..get rid of all ineffective dead weight...build around perry, getz, giguere, ryan...i know im alone all this...but we look like complete shit...lets not even talk about the pk

i found out last nite...were second in the leauge in scoring?

Earl Sleek said...

Positivity, Spade!

Sure the Ducks have been miserable a bunch, but if you ignore their first six games things have been a lot better.

And sure the Ducks sucked ass last night, but if you ignore their first 7 1/2 minutes things went a lot better.

Hey, yesterday was a mix-and-match game for Carlyle on the blueline, and I think that unsteadiness (plus the tendency to shoot themselves in the foot as soon as humanly possible) caused some of the on-ice confusion.

I'd give it a few games and see if they can't put in a better effort. I'm not going to write off the talent of Niederpronger that easily, at least. I've seen way more good games out of those two than bad.

And hey, most of the Ducks' bad losses lately have been against the (dammit) Southeast Division. Once they get through that part of the schedule, maybe things will get more positivity-oriented.

Anonymous said...

all right ill go positive...but if things go sour i expect a blog from you detailing what our d is doing wrong and calling for the apcoylypse...

meet me half way though sleek...morrison is a disaster? we can agree on that

ok positive sorry here i go...Bobby ryan looked great!!!