Five Thoughts for Friday

Methot and Ryan Contracts, Training Camp Rosters, Rule Changes and Height Bias: it's Five Thoughts Friday!

You know the NHL season is right around the corner when the talk turns to training camp battles and roster formations. We're beginning to get a clear picture of what the Ottawa Senators will look like at the start of the 2014-15 season; whether it'll be the same group by the end of the year is a whole other question. One of the players whose long term fate has yet to be decided is:

Marc Methot

The biggest news in Sensland this past week was the leak of Marc Methot's contractual demands. According to Bruce Garrioch, Methot's camp is seeking $5.5M over a six year period. This was always going to be a tough negotiation: on the open market, there's good reason to believe Methot would find some team desperate for defensive depth that would pay him at least that much. Heck, Brooks Orpik got a deal almost identical to the one Methot is asking for and he just turned 33 (and he kinda stinks). On the other hand, if you're the Senators, paying Methot that kind of scratch when there's some evidence that he's a by-product of playing with Erik Karlsson can't be too appetizing.

Some quick numbers, courtesy of Hockey Analysis:

  • When Marc Methot plays with Erik Karlsson: 55.7 CF% and 43.2 GF% (1063 mins)
  • When Marc Methot plays apart from Erik Karlsson: 46.9 CF% 45.9 GF% (1840 mins)
  • When Erik Karlsson plays apart from Marc Methot: 54.8 CF% 55.6 GF% (2464 mins)

When Methot plays with Erik Karlsson, they look good but Karlsson looks good with everyone else too; in fact he looks even better apart from Methot in terms of even strength goal differential. So this is the trouble: the Sens need Methot today because they're so thin on the backend, but paying Methot 5.5M when he's 33, 34 or 35 seems likely to be a bad value deal. This is by no means an easy choice and I guess that's why they pay Murray the big bucks. Methot's asking for the stars here, and why not, but if a deal's going to get done he's going to cut his ask on the term by a year or two or lower that AAV.

Speaking of AAV:

Bobby Ryan

The on-going saga that is the Ottawa Senators attempting to re-sign all of their 2015 UFAs continues with Bobby Ryan. In Bobby's case, we don't even have an idea of what he's asking for in exchange for signing with the Senators. Bryan Murray remains confident, but really what else is he going to say? The simple truth is that if Ottawa backed up a dump truck of money, say $8M per year over a five year term, Ryan would probably sign on the dotted line. He's said he likes it in Ottawa but this is also his chance to test the free agent market. If he doesn't think Ottawa is going to beat his perceived market value, of course he's going to wait to see what else there is out there. I don't blame the guy -- it does put a lot of pressure on the team, however. How far into the season can the Sens afford to wait before they need to explore trade options? It's not a fun story, but it's going to follow the team throughout the year no matter how much Ryan and management protest to the contrary.

And as we get closer to the season kicking off:

Is the Roster Set for Training Camp?

After all the talk of a potential trade in the early parts of the summer, it seems the Senators are set to enter the season with the roster as it is. The biggest question left to answer then: what to do with the backlog on the blue line? If no one is going out via a trade to upgrade the forward depth, and Dorion's right about Mark Borowiecki being up with the big club, there are too many bodies for too few spots. The smart money then is that a lot will be decided during training camp; for example, if Cody Ceci has a poor showing he could easily be sent down. Conversely, Patrick Wiercioch probably needs to stand out to assure himself a place in the top six. Not too long from now we're going to hear about how so-and-so has gained ten pounds of muscle and is in the best shape of his life, blah, blah blah. Normally I'd be pretty blasé about this stuff, but with no Senators hockey to speak of since April, training camp and everything that comes with it can't come soon enough.

New Rules

In broader NHL news, the league announced some changes to the rules, including increasing the size of the trapezoid behind the net, harsher penalties for diving, and a modification to the tripping rule. The last one is interesting to me because the new rule clearly states that even in the case that the defending player gets the puck first, if the attacking player is tripped the result of the play is a penalty. I'm a fan of the change because I've always found it a bit silly that you could completely wipe someone out if you just got the puck first. Selfishly I'm hoping there will be trickle down to beer leagues as well since I've had my legs taken out from underneath me more than once by guys diving at my feet under the guise of "getting the puck first".

The most immediately noticeable change, though, is that the spin-o-rama will no longer be allowed in the shootout. It makes the shootout less fun, but if the NHL is serious about awarding points and determining teams' playoff fates via a gimmicky skills competition they should be trying to make it as respectable as possible. That said, one shootout rule change I'd one hundred percent be in favour of is the adoption of the IIHF standard where each team sends out three different shooters and, if the game is still tied, they can then choose to send out repeat shooters. It seems we're stuck with the shootout, but it should at least be the skilled players deciding the outcome. Plus, everyone remembers how fun T.J Oshie was in the Olympics, right?

One guy who definitely won't be missing the spin-o-rama:

Maybe now that the move's gone, Martin Brodeur can find a new team.

Height disadvantage

I'm veering dangerously into Ary's Silver Nuggets' territory here, but I wanted to share a great article on the subject of height in the NHL draft. Many have long suspected that there's a bias in the NHL community towards height above other perhaps more important factors, but it's stunning to see how dramatic an effect your listed height can have on your draft stock. If I was a team executive reading something like this, one of the first things I'd do is try to exploit the potential inefficiency. There's a very good chance that shorter players are undervalued by scouts and smart, resource-strapped teams like the Senators would do well to see if there wasn't an advantage to be gained here. Specifically: look for players that have scored well in junior hockey in their age 16 and 17 seasons, and if they're shorter than 6 feet tall there's a very good chance they're going to be undervalued by the scouting community. This is how you end up with skilled players falling through the cracks. Max Domi's the perfect example as he fell to 12th overall despite clobbering the OHL. In a few years time, I think he's going to turn out to be one of the best picks out of that entire class.

Thanks for reading!

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