Monday, January 18, 2010

Reasonable article fail

Faithful remnant! That could be referring to readers of this blog too. TOV is back up and running from a long Christmas break down in sunny sunny Texas. But we're happy to be back in hockey mad Canada. Not to say that they don't like hockey in Texas. Actually, I got to see the Stars vs the Sharks while I was down there with the Future Mrs. TOV. Actually, if you watch to the end of this highligh package you can see her as the unhappiest Stars fan in all the land. Apparently TSN had her on plays of the week too. Not me tho. I'm not a pretty lady so I got cut out. But hockey is alive and well in Texas.

However, it is sad to see that some things don't change in this bright shiny new year. Leafs still play well, then pinch out stinkers, then play a game where we all say "bbq! Playoffs!" and then another string of epic suck. Following that we have still been getting a string of articles that are equally as bi-polar: "Leafs stink. Burke can't build a team." "Wow, Leafs look impressive, Kessel a steal." "Wilson sucks, Kessel a 2nd liner, 2 first rounders" etc etc. Now, normally these articles are coming from local Toronto sports writers, so you can accept that they are going to be Gigli-Bad but this article by the Hockey News has really disappointed me. So lets analyze it in depth in hopes that we here at TOV can equip you, the loyal Leafs fan, with a keen mind and a stout heart so that you can cut through the haze of desperate writers attempting to save an industry.

Imagine the buzz in Toronto today had the Maple Leafs not foolishly traded away their first round pick in the 2010 draft?

They’d be talking about possibly getting that first overall pick. They’d be talking about Taylor Hall. They’d be talking about the bright side of a rebuilding project that has been spinning its wheels since the lockout. They’d be talking about hope."

It's true. Instead we are talking about an aging team, full of over-the-hill veterans with no bright spots at all. We are crying out for a first overall pick--the obvious cure-all of any hockey club. Yes, its true. We want to be talking about hope. Help us to see the light, Brian Costello.

Instead there’s panic and embarrassment imagining the likelihood of the Maple Leafs conceivably finishing last overall – or among the bottom five – and winning the lottery for first overall pick, then handing it over to the Boston Bruins as the first installment in return for Phil Kessel.

For Toronto, the Kessel trade was flawed from the second it was proposed. There was no chance he was going to lead the Leafs into a playoff spot this year and even if he’s somehow able to lift the team into 21st or 22nd or 23rd, it means the Leafs are giving up a prime pick this year (and next) and a second-rounder to boot. Remember all the buzz and excitement and kernels of hope last year’s seventh overall pick Nazem Kadri created in Toronto last June and during the World Junior Championship? Toronto gave two more of those away."

Ok kids. Time to play "spot the lie." Can you see it? I can! The lie is: all drafts are carbon copies of one another. A 7th overall pick in 2009 (Kadri) is the same as a 1st round pick down the line. They have to be. So if you got excited about Kadri, you now have to get as disappointed to the same degree that we are not picking out someone this year. Someone who is sure to be better than that lug we got instead. And he's not even getting us in the playoffs either this year. Jerk. And there's no guarantee he can get us there in future years. But 1st rounders can. (*note: look up Kessel draft year)

How’s a team supposed to rebuild without young, cheap talent coming down the pipeline? A colleague argued Toronto could afford to give up the valuable first round picks because it had signed Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson as free agents and they are effectively de facto first-rounders. Shame on the person who thinks a rebuilding team can give up any early draft picks."

Yeah! How is a team supposed to rebuild without young, cheap talent coming down the tubes. And thank you for pointing out Bozak and Hanson who are obviously not talented and who are way overpaid making the entry minimum salary. No, you're right, we cannot justify trading away first round picks even if we sign young free agent guys who are young and NHL talented. It's laughable to suggest that we should have even gone down that path going after undrafted guys. It's sure to fail. Replacing young potential NHL talent with equally talented NHL players. Disgusting.

"It’s such a shame the Leafs were seduced by Kessel’s age (21) and upside (40-goal potential). But they gave away the future to get him."

Geeze. How could we have been seduced by things such as "young" and "talented" and "40-goal potential" when we could have had the "young" and "talented" and "nhl ready" of the draft baby? I hope you are resisting the urge to link "40-goal potential" to the "they'd be talking about hope" of the opening paragraph. I assure you, they aren't related. At all. Cuz there were first rounders involved. First rounder means ipso facto dumb move. Hey! I can misquote latin too!

Ok, let's finish 'er off

It all comes back to the steep price the team paid to get Kessel. Sure, he may be a budding gem, even a 50-goal man some year, and the deal might have made sense had the Leafs been a top-10 team poised to crack the top five.

But for a team rebuilding, it made no sense then or now and will make even less each day we get closer to the April 13 NHL draft lottery and the focus shifts to a Boston-bound young star such as Hall, Tyler Seguin or Cam Fowler."

? What's that? 40-goal scorer? Cmon, stop being a stupid leafs fan. He's actually a potential 50 goal scorer now! Gotcha! A budding gem! But it doesn't make sense for a team so low in the standings to want things like 50 goals from a 22 year old veteran (yeah, dirty word right? Am I using it right?) That only makes sense if we were like, you know, a better team. It's a proven fact that teams lower in the standings don't like goal scorers. Look at their stats. Less goals for than goals allowed. See? They are adverse to goal scoring. Stats never lie. Bottom line, this deal didn't make sense. A 22 year old injury-prone veteran with a bad attitude on a rebuilding team is a bad hockey move. We will be ruing the day Kessel scores his 50th goal while Seguin suits up for the Carolina Hurricanes.

So stop hoping that a young, unproven player can get you to the playoffs. Because Kessel can't seem to do it. But we should have kept our 1st picks so that these young, hungry draftees can bring us up the standings. Burke must have the investment strategy of this guy.

To break it down:
Leafs potential 50 goal scorer = bad
Keeping 1st round picks instead of getting a 50 goal scorer off a rival team = good

Youth like Kessel and Bozak and Hanson is bad because we're not a good team (and playing for us may shatter their fragile psyches.) Oh, but youth you can draft is good because we're a bad enough team to draft them and since they are first rounders they are necessarily good and then the sign of a good team. And if they are good we are good and no longer bad, so then we can go after good players. Like Kessel. Except that it's bad to trade for good players, or at least its bad to trade future good players for present good players. So don't trade the future for the present. Even if it is a good present with strong potential to be better than the future. Cuz it's the principle of the thing instead of how it actually breaks down in a couple of years.

Get it?


blurr1974 said...

Youth = bad. Unless it's been drafted, and therefor unproven. Unlike Kessel, who is proven. But that's bad...?

That logic has made my head hurt forever. Thanks for tearing apart this argument. Great stuff. The last paragraph is a home run. Might need to squeeze it into a bumper sticker or something... :)

That said, I'm sure a few folks might still disagree.

Junior said...

Fucking masterful. Should be required reading for every arsehole who calls into those godawful phone-in shows.

Brilliant and, for me, somewhat cathartic.

MF37 said...

I think it's great that Burke is exploring other ways of getting talent into the Leafs, but many of the points raised by Costello are valid (ick, I can't believe I just wrote that).

The Leafs are woefully thin on prospects.

The Leafs don't have many upcoming picks to replenish the farm.

If the Leafs had kept their first round pick, Leaf fans would be estatic about the upcoming draft. (How many people would be blogging and talking about the potential for the first #1 pick since Wendel Clark?).

Can Kessel really be called a potential 50 goal man? He's on a pace for less than 30 goals in 70 games this year.

If you project out Kessel's goal scoring over 82 games each season he'd have totals of: 19, 42,32. Those are great totals, but they're well short of 50.

stucky said...

mf37, here's what I would say re: Kessel... we do have to remember he's coming back from major shoulder surgery and missed a lot of games, and therefore won't be on quite the pace he set last year (taking longer to get into game shape, etc.). So a 32 goal pace over 82 games is still pretty darn good. And being fully healthy next year and (hopefully) with more support he can build on that and become a 40 or even 50 goal scorer.

I do like Kessel, but I can definitely see your concerns; Burke paid a high price to get him, and it has taken a lot of the hope out of this year in terms of projecting who we'll pick with our #1 (unless Burke gets another pick through trade, but even that almost certainly won't be as good as our own pick would have been). Let's hope it works out, clearly this is Burke's biggest gamble so far.

Graeme Donaldson said...

Yeah, I don't know if Kessel will ever be a 50 goal guy. We never play systems that ever accommodate that. We like the whole rolling three lines, bring in the 4th for smashy time.

I think he'll score 30 repeatedly. But the point is, is that Costello treats Kessel as a problem and a draft pick as the solution, which is absurd.

At best anything people can say is that the trade was fair. At worst they can say "don't know for 5 years."

This is the "hedge fund manager" of sports thinking. I'm hoping Burke is a Buffet.

Junior said...

No doubt people would be excited about a possible upcoming lottery pick if we still had our selection, but the amount of buzz isn't the point, it's the talent the team is assembling.

I don't disagree with mf37 that the Leafs are thin on prospects, but the fact remains that this club needs young top-level talent if it is ever to succeed; a smattering of "good" prospects, no matter how numerous, probably ain't gonna get the job done. Kessel fits the bill; I don't know that he'll ever score 50, but if he tops out at a 40 goal man, in my eyes the trade is still a success.

I think TOV is absolutely spot on that the potential of undrafted talent is absolutely over-valued in Costello's analysis. It does boil down to "we need first-rounders to become competitive because first-rounders are always awesomely able to deliver this", ignoring the fact that Kessel himself is not that far removed from sitting in the seats waiting for his name to be called; he alone among these man-god first-rounders, apparently, must be tragically unable to turn a team around, more's the pity being a Leaf fan.

All of this focus on the first-round pick almost fetishizes the value of a first-rounder. Of course, the better talent is more likely to be drafted in the earlier rounds, and of course that means that the Leafs will be less likely to obtain impact players in those two drafts. The point, however, is that we have an impact player now and he wears number 81.

Don't worry about his numbers this year. They'll improve as we put some more pieces in place around him. I also have no doubt that Wilson will be putting him on a conditioning plan not unlike the one he set out for Kabby at the end of last year. I think PK will have a good year next year, provided he stays injury-free.

Pamplemousse said...

Man - I think everyone needs to take a step back and realize that the Kessel trade was not entirely bad, nor was it entirely good. It's not really a black and white situation.

Look, the Leafs got a good player in that trade, no doubt about it. Kessel does have the potential to be a 40 goal scorer for the Leafs, something the Leafs haven't had post-lockout. On top of that he's really young, only 21, just three years older then any draftee we might take. This wasn't the typical, Pat Quinn first rounder for aging veteran move to put a team over the top. This was a move to acquire a high level scoring threat for a team that didn't have one.

On the other hand, Burke made the trade assuming that his team was better then they've been. He probably wasn't banking on the Leafs giving up a potential top five pick this year, and depending on how that pick works out, he could (in time) come to regret the trade. And lets be honest with ourselves, aside from Kadri the Leafs really don't have any 1A prospects in their pool. As much as Hanson and Bozak were highly sought college free agents, and DiDominico and D'Amigo might be sleepers, they aren't anywhere near as valuable as a guy like Taylor Hall would appear to be, optically or practically.

My point is - everyone has to stop saying it's ALL GOOD or ALL BAD. It can be a little of both, like most things.

MF37 said...

I think the Leafs had (and still have) a bit of a chicken and egg problem.

They didn't have top end talent, so they sacrificed picks to get it in Kessel.

Now they have no one to play with Kessel and no picks to cash in to get said talent.

Sure they have Kadri and Bozak in the system, but that's not a lot of depth. One injury, one stalled development and the team is really SOL.

The other element missing in this discussion is the cap hit. A top draft pick takes up $850K to $2M, and is salary controlled for at least 3 seasons before getting even minimal leverage as an RFA. Phil Kessel eats up $5M+/year - about 10% of the cap.

An interesting topic to be sure and a fun thing to debate...

Kleric said...

It is not the loss of this years draft picks that irked me about the Kessel trade. It is the following years first rounder that has me unsettled.

I still don't know why Burke didn't just offer sheet him....