The Big Book of Bad Ideas
Hockey history is littered with bad ideas.
From glow pucks to trading Tuukka Rask for Andrew Raycroft, many of these moves are made with the best of intentions, but frequently they are also born of desperation, panic or, occasionally, sheer stupidity.
It seems like the 2015/16 NHL season is no different, as clubs stick stubbornly to failing resources, or look to plug holes in their boat using band aids.
Here are some of One Puck Short’s favourite ‘bad ideas’ that have appeared so far this season:
Trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
A rumour formed via a combination of media quotes and folks ‘best intentions’ to (again) try and fix the Edmonton Oilers.
Speaking on 630 CHED’s Oilers Now radio show, Sportsnet’s Mark Spector used the term ‘soft skill’ to described Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. TSN’s Darren Dreger also indicated the pair were somewhere near the top of any potential trade list Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli might have. And thus the wheels started turning.
Spector expanded on his point, saying “There’s a ton of hockey player there (in RNH) and when he’s right we always see a little, a guy who can steal the puck the way I like, a guy who can come up with a fantastic wrist shot…. I’m not saying there’s not a good player there. I think the move comes from the too large pool of soft skill on this team.”
What ‘soft skill’ means, no one is entirely sure. Nugent-Hopkins is clearly not in the Martin Hanzal or Joe Thornton category of brawny centremen, but recent comparisons to Anze Kopitar should tell you everything you need to know about the 2011 1st overall pick.
Nugent-Hokpins might not be a big horse, but he’s a savvy centre with good defensive instincts and a strong offensive skillset. The 22-year old would be the #1 centre on a number of teams in the NHL right now.
So why move him?
Well, it’s no secret the Oilers defence is still somewhat lacking, no matter how well Anders Nilsson plays, and the former Red Deer Rebel is the kind of bait that might be able to land the franchise a desperately needed top pair defenceman. Might be able to.
With Connor McDavid on board, and Leon Draisaitl playing outstandingly well during his eighteen games this season, it seems that some believe ‘RNH’ is now an ‘expendable’ member of the organisation’s much talked about core should the right deal present itself.
Naturally any suggestion of trading a centre leads the conversation to Nashville, who undoubtedly need help down the middle and have a plethora of defensive talent, but the rub here is that this entire conversation seems to be based on a hot streak from Draisaitl (who has shown he is more than capable of playing on the wing too) rather than a prolonged period of excellence from the young German that truly makes Nugent-Hopkins some kind of odd man out.
Draisaitl looks to have all the skills required to be a good or very good NHLer; but even so, in a Conference where strength at centre matters, trading a bona fide top tier centre like Nugent-Hopkins would be a colossal gamble that isn’t actually going to land the Oilers a true #1 defenceman anyway, because those guys simply aren’t available.
So you might land someone capable of playing on your top pair, and maybe some other assets to plug a couple of other wholes, but the trouble with trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is that once you’ve done it then you no longer have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on your team…
Continuing to Play Dan Girardi as a Top 4 Defenceman
I’m sorry Rangers fans, but this isn’t a campaign driven by a small handful of journalists like Travis Yost, it’s an actual thing. Girard’s best days are over.
31-year old Dan Girard is simply getting left behind in an increasingly speedy NHL, to the point where he is not only dragging the teams cap down, but his team mates as well.
By whatever metric you choose to use, the Ontario native is becoming a liability.
As rivals such as Montreal and Washington get faster, Girard has noticeably lost a step – whether as a result of injuries, simple wear and tear or just plain old fashioned time, when Ovechkin et al – players Girard used to so effectively shut down – build up a head of steam then the results are rarely good for New York. The eye test is not Girard’s friend.
Statistically speaking, it’s perhaps even worse as one peruses the various metrics used to compare players in the modern game. As an example, Michah Blacke McCurdy’s WOWY charts a pretty bleak outlook for the Rangers Assistant Captain; with only Keith Yandle seeing an upturn in fortunes while paired with #5.
It’s a trend even some Rangers fans are now starting to point out – perhaps in the hope of saving their fellow man?
Even Girard’s much vaunted shot blocking skills are of questionable benefit. Like hits, it’s a stat driven by a lack of puck possession and a skill potentially far more damaging if all a player does is cause additional chaos in his own end. There’s a reason Girard features twice here:
Again, this isn’t some vendetta driven by a handful of writers – it’s reality. Alain Vigneault’s continued use of Girardi in a top four role is baffling, especially as he becomes a greater and greater anchor for star talent such as Ryan McDonagh.
And all for $5.5m per season until 2020.
Paying Jakub Voracek More Than $8m Per Season
Voracek had an exceptionally good 2014/15 campaign, registering 22 goals and a career high 81 points to take his Philadelphia career statistics to a total of 85 goals and 238 points in 290 games played.
Not a bad return by any stretch, but enough to warrant an 8-year, $66m extension that will make the 26-year old the Flyers’ second highest paid player? Because that’s exactly what the franchise handed the Czech winger in late July.
Whilst there is something to be said for inflation and changes to the cap ceiling since certain deals where signed; Voracek’s $8.25m cap hit will be higher than Phil Kessel’s, Vladimir Tarasenko’s (who also signed his extension in July), Erik Karlsson’s and Matt Duchene’s – to name but a few.
That’s an awful lot of money for a man it would be generous to describe as a ‘sixty point scorer’ throughout most of his career.
Voracek currently has 1 goal and 15 points in 27 games – much more in keeping with his previous career numbers – and was recently demoted to the Flyers fourth line. Meaning Philly weren’t even paying him to be a set up man for the club’s better scorers ahead of his bumper pay rise kicking in next season.
Amazing what one outlier can do for a player.
Continuing to Play Cam Ward
There’s a lot to love about the Saskatoon’s natives early NHL career. The rookie goaltender who carried the Canes to the Cup – winning the Conn Smythe and an army of fans in the process.
More recently however, the 31-year old has been associated with a single word: bad.
Ward’s 6-year contract, signed in 2010, has become a larger and larger millstone around the club’s neck as the former Red Deer Rebel saw his game slowly crumble.
Now in the final year of that deal, the full scale of Ward’s decline has been painfully apparent for some time; no more so than against Arizona on Sunday:
Incredibly, despite the decline and the acquisition of Eddie Lack, Carolina keep playing Ward.
Perhaps the Swede’s stumbling start to life in Raleigh spooked the Hurricanes coaching staff, who will be loathed to expose young D men like Justin Faulk and Noah Hanifin to the kind of defensive disaster zone normally associated with the Oilers or Avalanche. But with Lack signing an extension before the season began, the writing appears to be on the wall – the former Canucks puck stopper will be the Hurricane’s horse moving forward.
So why keep the 27-year old anchored to the bench? Let him get his feet under him, find his game, adjust to a starters workload and build some chemistry with his blue line – an oft undervalued aspect of team defence.
Because, as painful as it is to say, playing Ward only pushes Carolina further in to irrelevance.
Changes to Goalie Gear
It’s not the principal of the idea that is the problem – in fact most goaltenders agree certain pieces of equipment could be streamlined without compromising safety – it’s the ridiculous vision some people have in their head that changing the goalies gear will take the NHL back to some magical era of offensive dominance.
The kick save isn’t coming back. Wind mill glove saves aren’t coming back. Wingers crossing the blue line and clapping the puck past a seal like falling goaltender isn’t coming back.
It’s not the 1980s anymore. The game has moved on. The position has moved on.
The sooner some folk realise this, the sooner we can have a proper, rational conversation about the entire ‘goal scoring’ situation.