7/19/18 – Revolution vs Silly Love Songs

I finished reading Rob Sheffield’s “Dreaming The Beatles” yesterday. It’s legitimately one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. I now know more about John Lennon’s penis, the depressing nature of Ringo Starr just wanting to be happy with his bickering friends on a submarine, and the threads connecting Revolution with Silly Love Songs than I ever thought imaginable.

I think I might be Paul McCartney if you remove the money, talent, good looks, and famous friends. This observation on page 261 threw me through a loop for a little while. It described (describes?) my outlook on life to an alarmingly accurate degree.

Paul selected a life, closed the menu, and then lived the fuck out of that life without ever worrying his pretty little head about the other adventures he could be chasing. That’s not just rare, it’s insane. His friends probably felt sorry for him. He brought that same level of follow-through to music.

I never put my outlook on life into words, but Sheffield did it for me through Paul McCartney.

Under a certain lens “selecting a life and closing the menu” is also called settling. Some view it as being content with things that add value to your life. Potato, potatoh. Revolution 9, Silly Love Songs. The easy path is to condemn the choice, expecting “more” out of a person. His friends probably did feel sorry for him, as if it were their place to feel sorry for a man pursuing what made him happy.

I chose my partner early, and clung to the shared experiences and happiness I drew from the relationship. I was satisfied working through life’s problems with this person, and helping her do everything necessary to reach her lofty dreams. It ultimately didn’t work out because she didn’t share that satisfaction, and wanted to aim for a better, more fulfilling life. So it goes.

But who am I to judge a person I care about for honestly pursuing what they feel is right for them? The pain lasted for a long time, but the bitterness didn’t. I know I’m a vastly different person in the aftermath (the jury is hung over whether I’m better or worse), but I still want the same things. In the one relationship I’ve had after my marriage I know I’ve given my all too, often to my detriment in that search for consistent happiness.

When I see John Tavares take a truckload of money to go home to Toronto then tweet out a picture of himself as a little kid wrapped up in Maple Leafs sheets I can’t possibly fault him for it. When LeBron James decides he would rather live in Los Angeles than Cleveland I nod. If Tyler Seguin decides he would rather be somewhere else after the Dallas Stars 2019 season I’ll link to this story, shrug my shoulders, and start making money off of looking at the different ways the Stars can replace his production.

Sometimes life sucks, bad and/or unexpected shit happens that can be really difficult to deal with, but even more challenging alone.  My situation opened me up to a world I never wanted to see: divorced in my early 30’s trying to find happiness while not knowing what that is or how to do anything. I’ve stumbled a lot, putting myself in situations I’m ashamed to even admit.

Those situations arose from pursuing happiness. Tavares in Toronto may not work out. Lebron the Laker may fail. Tyler Seguin joining a third team, should that come to pass, may work out for both the Stars and Seguin. Who knows? As long as people are pursuing what makes them happy without trampling over others then screw it. My newly identified inner-Paul will never allow me to burn a jersey. I’ll laugh when you do it though, and commend you on your little $200 fire.

 

 

 

5/22/18 – 2019 Dallas Stars Salary Cap Picture and Free Agent Projections

The Stanley Cup Final matchup will be set tomorrow which means only one thing that really matters at this point: the 2018 season is finally almost over. The Dallas Stars have undoubtedly been at work piecing together how they would like the 2019 roster to look for months so I thought it would be as good of a time as any to see what they see by looking at how the salary cap picture looks.

I took the info Cap Friendly had for the Stars to make the table. I used @Cane_Matt ‘s Free Agent Predictions for the Stars RFA and UFA. RFA projections are italicized. Nichushkin is underlined because that’s my guess for what he eventually takes.

2019

Antoine Roussel, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, and Kari Lehtonen are UFA. I could see Pateryn coming back if he was fine being a 7th defenseman, but I don’t really see it with the others.

UFA

None of these projected contracts are bad outside of maybe Lehtonen, but look at how much roster space is already taken up. Without moving a defenseman they don’t have room for a regular lineup player so it’s currently hard to see how either Hamhuis or Pateryn fit. Roussel is fine, but with so many depth options who produce at roughly the same level he’s an extraneous expense.

I think we can confidently pencil in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, and Valeri Nichushkin into the top nine forwards. Jason Spezza should be there. That’s seven regular spots spoken for by guys already here.

Gemel Smith and Tyler Pitlick need to play. Remi Elie at least needs to be on the roster as a spare forward or in the lineup. What about Jason Dickinson? Roope Hintz? Nick Caamano? Jason Robertson? Denis Guryanov? At some point they have to get a shot or why even keep draft picks? The Texas Stars are on the verge of the Calder Cup Final, and right now none of those guys have a realistic path to NHL playing time.

That’s 15 forwards without ever discussing Brett Ritchie, Martin Hanzal, or Devin Shore. Those three are projected to make a little over eight million to be ok. Having depth is good. Having clutter isn’t.

If Hanzal needs to go on long term IR that will eventually open close to five million in cap space depending on how the Stars utilize their assets and open up a roster spot, but for a team that needs to improve offensively there isn’t a lot of room on the roster. The Stars could be pretty active in deals. 18 forwards and the only change is Nichushkin in for Roussel which doesn’t move the needle.

Some of that cap space is going to a goalie, but there is no reason to dedicate much of it to one. Andrew Hammond is probably the best target for the Stars, and Matt has him projected at a little over a million dollars. Do it.

Defensively there isn’t a ton of wiggle room either, but fortunately everyone is inexpensive. Marc Methot isn’t particularly good, and he makes close to five million. If the Stars really want to go off the board and improve the defense even more than by just adding Miro Heiskanen they could look to flip Methot.

The problem with that is….who kills penalties? Stephen Johns and Esa Lindell for sure. Is Jim Montgomery trusting Julius Honka, John Klingberg, or the rookie Heiskanen to kill them off? I probably would, but no one asks me.

We’ll go through the free agent list later this week and see if any fit. Matt already nailed the Evander Kane salary so we’ll treat it like gospel until proven otherwise. Spoiler alert: there isn’t much out there.

 

5/21/18 – Finding Offense Within: Valeri Nichushkin

The Dallas Stars need to find some of that sweet offense for 2019. They’re going to have to look under every rock and put on the heavy gloves to dig in every dirty couch they come across looking for spare offensive change. Today we dive into the Soviet Couch and look at old friend Valeri Nichushkin.

The first draft pick of Jim Nill as the Stars General Manager is only two months past his 23rd birthday. He’s coming back from Russia for the 2019 season so he should provide some offense down the lineup. How much he’s going to provide is where the problem comes in.

Val came out of the gates with 34 points as a rookie in 2014 before missing virtually all of 2015 due to injury. In 2016 he had another 29 points. Over his last 86 games in the KHL Nichushkin has 51 points which translates to roughly 30 points in the NHL.

Any number of reasons for this low total can be justified if you are so inclined, but I’m not. If you can score, you can score in the KHL. Ilya Kovalchuk has 285 points in 262 games the last five seasons. Pavel Datsyuk has 69 in 81 over the last two years.

And they’re old.

So if you’re looking for Nichushkin to come back and be a dynamic offensive player you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. He always looks dynamic though which is where the expectations and frustration come from. Look at him dice up the KHL before setting up a tap in goal.

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Nichushkin has some slick hands. He can stickhandle, he can bulldoze his way to the net, and everything he does looks smooth. The slickness masks a lot of warts. Nichushkin looks the part of a dominant offensive forward, but mostly plays the game of a power forward with limited finishing ability.

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Razor pointed this out with Nichushkin early on and I’ve never been able to shake it. Val can’t elevate the puck. This is purely anecdotal, but it seems like almost every one of his goals is nearly flat on the ice or a deflection. He can’t, or at least hasn’t been able to, shoot.

As a rookie Nichushkin produced at the rate of a third liner at even strength with third line minutes. The images are from hockeyviz.com.

Val1

After a lost season Val came back for the 2016 season and took a step back to perform at the level of a fourth liner. He was beyond useless on the powerplay in both seasons.

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I pulled a bunch of data from Corsica to further illustrate the point.

Val

I took the even strength data collected for Nichushkin’s two full seasons. 21 forwards got into more than ten games in those two seasons. If you rolled 12 forwards to fill out a lineup from those two years Nichushkin might make the lineup.

Val5.

Maybe.

Those are his rankings in all of the aforementioned stats among the group of forwards.

I ran this poll for a reason.

There likely isn’t much difference production wise between Antoine Roussel and Nichushkin. The difference is in perceived potential or banking on youth. I would bank on youth too if the options are basically split though, honestly, spending legitimate money on either player is probably foolish.

I’m falling into the trap of focusing on what he can’t do. What can Nichushkin do that can help the Stars depth scoring issue? He can crash the hell out of the net and set up his linemates. Nichushkin needs to be on the ice with guys who can follow him to the net and accept passes from him in prime scoring areas. He’s best when the puck is on his stick. Let him have it.

The problem is he’s going to have to earn time with the guys who can do that, and the Stars don’t have many of them. Nichushkin isn’t taking Alexander Radulov‘s place in the lineup, but speaking of Radulov, that’s who Nichushkin needs to study endlessly.

At his absolute best that is who Nichushkin should strive to be: a big playmaking winger with some sand paper. At his worst Nichushkin is a bottom six forward who will drive the play to the other end of the rink which is absolutely valuable. You need guys like that to be successful. You just don’t want to pay them a ton of money when they are apparently relatively easy to acquire (hi Vegas).

4/6/18 – Backup Goaltender Options for 2019

While you’re here, why not take a 5 minute survey about the 2018 Dallas Stars season? Please?

It seems like the Stars are looking for goaltending every offseason because, well, they kind of are. Antti Niemi didn’t work. Kari Lehtonen has been ok, but he’s now about to head into free agency. Ben Bishop is going to be here for a while, but there are no prospects beating down the door to take a backup NHL job yet.

So, once again, the Stars are going to have to dip into the market to find a goalie. Maybe it’s simply Lehtonen. Lehtonen on a pay cut could be fine, but what if there are better options out there? The theory out there seems to be that the Stars skaters go into a mental meltdown when Lehtonen consistently plays. I don’t know that I buy it as a big driver of problems. I do see what other people see: something does look different. If you’re of the mind that this is a real thing then it makes sense to at least see what the goalie marketplace has to offer unless Lehtonen is willing to sign for league minimum or something nutty.

I hit up Cap Friendly to pull the list of free agent goalies this offseason, both restricted and unrestricted. From that list I knocked off a bunch of AHL guys and restricted guys that make absolutely zero sense. I left some on that make zero sense, but not absolutely zero sense.

From there I pulled even strength save percentage and expected save percentage numbers from the last five years from Corsica to see which goalies exceeded expectations the most. As a point of reference, Ben Bishop has basically nailed his expected save percentage over the last two years.

The last column shows the added value of each keeper at even strength.

Goalies

This list isn’t the most encouraging, but it’s what we have to work with right now. For the purposes of finding the Stars a second goalie we’re going to eliminate Connor Hellebuyck. He isn’t leaving the Jets and he sure as hell isn’t leaving the Jets to join the Stars to split time with Bishop.

We’re also going to eliminate all of the guys below Lehtonen. If Lehtonen is attainable, what sense does it make to consider guys who have performed worse than he has?

That pool of candidates now looks like Andrew Hammond, Juuse Saros, Philipp Grubauer, Jaroslav Halak, Antti Raanta, Petr Mrazek, and Lehtonen.

To weed the group down a bit more I went back to Corsica and pulled their penalty killing numbers. It wouldn’t be fair to just ignore what happens shorthanded now would it?
Goalies2

The two premier restricted free agents head to the top of the list. As good as Grubauer and Saros have been it would be a waste of resources for the Stars to pick either up unless they planned to turn the starting job over to them one year after signing Bishop to a long term deal. I don’t see it.

I’m sure there exists a scenario where you could convince me that doing so would be a good idea, but I don’t know what that scenario entails. I’m also not who would need the most convincing. Bishop has little reason to waive his no movement clause. It’s all just too messy.

This same logic is why spending trade capital on a goalie isn’t ideal. Why trade for Mrazek or an unidentified goalie under contract when other options  that only cost cash exist? It’s just too messy. I guess the point is this: don’t trade for a goalie unless the free agents get stupid deals. I can’t imagine all four getting actual money though.

Raanta and Halak have starting experience. Either could sign on with a team offering a more direct opportunity to start, but the Stars offer an opportunity for either guy to boost their stock for the next offseason. Bishop has had some injury issues. Either guy is probably starting 35+ games here.

Does 35 games behind a good defensive team increase the chances of either one of them getting legitimate money after the upcoming season? For Halak, maybe not given his age. He did get waived while making 4.5 million, and no one claimed him.

Raanta is 28. He’s coming off of his first season as a starter with the Coyotes. Give him a season as an almost starter behind a team as talented as the Stars. If he does what he usually does he’s going to get a good contract from a team in need of a starter.

If both are gone, can Hammond be had for less than Lehtonen? He’s been awful on the penalty kill in the NHL, but it’s only 200 something minutes so, what, about 20 full power plays? If he can be had cheaply that might be worth a flier. Plus, the guy eats hamburgers thrown on the ice from fans. I feel like he’d fit in.

Maybe Halak or Raanta find real starting jobs this offseason with teams on the rise. If they do, good for them. Maybe Lehtonen gives the Stars enough of a deal that considering Hammond isn’t worth the risk. The Stars should at least wait until the offseason before committing to Lehtonen as the backup given the potential availability of two demonstrably superior goalies and a third who can likely match Lehtonen, all of whom might be attainable for a similar cost.

And for the love of God don’t trade a mid to late round pick for the privilege of negotiating with a potential back up goalie. Please.

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The feel better music part needs to come at the end. I don’t need previews for Serious Hockey Stories to be full of me rambling about songs I love. I don’t need to scare people away until after they read about hockey.

I don’t even remember how I came across The Briefs back in the day. I do remember buying their entire CD catalog at Warped Tour, in like 2006, from the BYO booth followed by them breaking up not too far afterwards.

I listen to this song an unhealthy amount. The song is so criminally poppy, and the lyrics are absurd. It’s just several situations where Steve E. Nix (yes) is getting hit on in moderately inappropriate situations followed by him saying “what kind of man do you think I am?”

They will feature in this section more and more over time if I keep doing it. Their album Sex Objects is p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l. I love them and my quest to prove that my musical taste is acceptable will continue.