Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What to Do With Tyler Myers

After much thought, I've decided to forward the following proposal for Tyler Myer's contract extension to Darcy Regier's office.

6 million  for 2012-2017
7.5  million  for 2017-2022
5 million for 2022-2025
3 million for 2025-2028
1 million for 2028-2032
$250 for 2032-2042
$25 for 2042-2047

95,502,625 over 35 years gives us the low, low cap hit of 2,728,646.

This GM stuff is easy peasy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It Had to Be You

I spent a lot of my evening Monday writing about jerseys: how much I love having one even though they look ridiculous on most human beings, how I'm sad to put away my Tallinder jersey but why I'll do it anyway, and mostly, what my plans for a new jersey are.  The general gist of that last part was that I was torn between plunging ahead with a current Sabre or waiting a while and seeing if any of the kids struck my fancy, particularly Mike Weber who I've been waiting to see up full-time for what feels like forever.  But as I was writing the post I realized that I wasn't torn at all.  It was Jochen Hecht.  It's probably always been Jochen Hecht (after my forever beloved Hank, of course).

There are practical reasons that Jochen works really well.  He has two years left on his contract.  While I think he's likely to be here for those two years, he's probably (look away, Gambler!) unlikely to be renewed after that.  I'd be surprised if that happened at least.  He's kind of the perfect middle-man.  He takes me away from Hank and in three years, maybe one of the kids really will have caught my attention.  And unlike the very impulsively bought Connolly jersey in the back of the closet, I will never ever regret owning a Hecht jersey.  Also in Jochen's favor is the very silly fact that I love the way 55 looks on the back of a jersey.  To my eye, certain numbers look good and certain numbers look odd.  55 looks good.

But really the bottom line is that I love Jochen Hecht.  I like his game, I appreciate his style of play - steady, reliable, and often unnoticed - but I love him.  I've written many times before about how there are certain players who just kind of get under your skin in a good way.  You feel really happy for them when they're playing well and genuinely bummed for them when they're struggling.  In 2007-2008 when most of the team phoned it in, I was so proud of Jochen for playing like he actually cared (and I have documented proof of those feelings).  When he seemed to be a dead corpse skating around on the ice in 2008-2009, I wasn't angry, just sad and kind of bummed out.  I really root for him to play well, not just because he's a Sabre, but because I love him.  I love his quiet play, I love his responsible defense, I love his bashful monotone interviews, I love that not only will he shoot the puck when he's open, he'll shoot the puck when he's behind the net and three players, I love the teeny-tiny smile that pops out when he scores a goal, I love the way he skates off the ice almost as if he's afraid if he doesn't get to the bench quickly, they're going to take the goal away, I love that fact that he's super handsome but totally beneath the puck bunnies' notice.

I love him.  When it came time to do something with the banner, it had to be Jochen.  When it came time to think about a new jersey, it had to be Jochen.  When it came time to officially anoint someone Heather B.'s next favorite player, it had to be Jochen.  I don't know why I ever thought otherwise.

It had to be you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Final Word On Bucky Gleason (Okay, For Now)

I don't have a lot of time right now - we have a busy day of Elmwood Avenue and Shakespeare in the Park ahead of us - but I did want to quickly point out a couple of things related to my last post.

Since I complained in the comments that no one at the Buffalo News would properly address Patrick Kaleta's arbitration, I'll point out that John Vogl did write a nice little blurb about it on Sabres Edge.  It doesn't really touch on team-elected arbitration keeping Kaleta safe from offer sheets which was the scuttlebutt floating around Twitter, but there are plenty of good quotes from Darcy Regier on why the Sabres went this way, certainly enough to kill the notion that there were any evil intentions or severe disagreements between the Sabres and Kaleta.  Kudos to Vogl.

However, the following day Bucky Gleason hosted an Inside the NHL chat on Sabres Edge.  Here's a Q and A from the first fifteen minutes:

[Comment From Millrtime30Millrtime30: ] 
Did I hear correctly that some team was going to throw in an offer sheet for Kaleta, thats why the Sabres are taking him to arbitration?

[Bucky:]
No. He's taking the Sabres to arbitration because he thinks an independent person would give him more money than the standard 10 percent raise. It also leads to a better chance of putting pressure on the Sabres to sign him to a multiyear deal.

Yeah, let that sink in for a moment.

When someone questioned him later in the chat, this time mentioning Vogl's blog, Bucky backtracked, admitted he'd made a mistake (glory be!) and claimed he'd misread the item.  Come on.  Here are a just few small excerpts from the blog entry in question, linked above:

The collective bargaining agreement has a clause that allows teams to take players to arbitration, and the Sabres have elected to use that clause with restricted free agent Patrick Kaleta.

"Electing arbitration, it allows us to ensure a couple things: 1) that he’s playing in Buffalo; and 2) that we have a deal in place within the appropriate time frame." (quote from Regier)

The Sabres were the only team to elect to take a player to arbitration.

Oh, there's also the freaking title of the blog: Sabres elect aribitration on Kaleta

So yeah, I'm calling bullshit on ol' Buckster there.  He can try to explain it away all he wants (and he tried: See what happens when you don't read the paper for what it says, rather than what you think it says? I made the very mistake that many people make when reading my column. They read for what they think it says, or what they think it implies, rather than what it actually says).  I don't believe for one second that he read Vogl's blog until someone pointed it out to him.  And he clearly didn't read TSN's report on Kaleta being the only player taken to club-elected arbitration.  And you know what, even if he did read it, I'd have to worry about someone who could misconstrue information that was so concisely and clearly delivered.

And this is really my biggest complaint about TBN's hockey coverage when you get down to it.  I think there are a couple of talented, informed guys on the beat who also happen to have some semblance of respect for their audience, but those guys are consistenly drowned out by the noise from the ill-informed, condescending voices.

And now I'm putting Bucky back on IGNORE, at least for now.  Thanks for indulging me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bloggers Rule, Journalists Drool: Serious and In-Depth Thoughts

I've been trying to avoid Bucky Gleason as much as possible the last year or so, but his most recent column just happens to touch on something I mentioned in passing in my last blog post.  I said that I didn't think the Buffalo News had enough smart talk about the NHL and things that, as boring as they may be, have a huge influence on how a team functions: the salary cap, arbitration, revenues, that kind of thing.  Bucky's whole column is a mess ("Here's a bunch of guys who were good at some point in the last three years.  It was/will be a HUGE MISTAKE to not sign them!"), but the part I have a beef with is this:

Evidence [that expansion has worked] can be found in the salary cap, which is tethered directly to revenue. Many were predicting a $6 million decrease for this season after the economy tanked, but the cap actually increased by about $2 million.

This isn't entirely false.  The salary cap is tethered to revenue.  But it's not really true either.  Based on revenues alone the cap probably would have gone down.  Those predictions weren't wrong.  The reason the cap is going up is because the players' union elected to approve a 5% inflator.  Moneys the players put in escrow in case the actual revenues didn't live up to the projections are being used to push the cap up.  In fact, this is the second year where the cap would have gone down or stayed flat had the players not elected to use the inflator.

Now, is all that tough to explain to a casual fan?  Yeah, maybe, especially in a newspaper column where space is limited.  But there's a difference between simplifying something for the average reader and simplifying it to the point where it's just not true and is, in fact, kind of wrong.  If Bucky can't accurately explain how the cap works, then he shouldn't use it as support for his opinion.  Especially since once you inject the inflator into the conversation, I think you have a debate about whether an increased cap is really good support for the argument that expansion has been successful.  When I read the above excerpt my immediate response is to wonder if Bucky even knows how the cap works or what the inflator is, and that's not a good thing.  Either he doesn't know, he doesn't care to explain it, he's incapable of explaining it, or he's choosing to ignore it because it doesn't fit in with his argument.  Again, no good options there.

I once complained to Mike Harrington that TBN doesn't do enough behind-the-scenes talk, again things like the cap, RFAs, arbitration, that stuff.  He told me that the average person doesn't want to read that stuff, that when the sports department has tackled stuff like that, there's been a lot of disinterest.  I think that's crap.  It's a part of sports.  More and more, it's a huge part of sports.  If you're going to write about Tim Kennedy going to arbitration, or the Sabres taking Patrick Kaleta to arbitration, or suggest that the Sabres buy players out, or talk about cap hits vs. actual salary, and whether and when the Sabres make a profit then I think you have the obligation to make sure your readers know what that stuff means, how it works.  And if you don't think it'll fly in the newspaper, then put it on the blog where the more hardcore fans will find it.  Sabres Edge shouldn't just be a regurgitation of what's in the newspaper and a lot of times, especially in the off-season when there are no game blog or links lists, that's what it is.  Yes, there are a lot of casual fans in Buffalo who just want to know when the Sabres sign someone.  But there are a lot of smart fans who are willing and able to dig in more.  I think the ever-increasing popularity of writers like James Mirtle proves that.  I mean, it's totally crazy but maybe if TBN raised the level of conversation, they'd be surprised at how many fans joined them. 

The bottom line is that when I read local fan-written Sabres blogs, I feel like they have a better understanding of how the NHL works.  I feel like I'm reading smart, informed, thoughtful writing from people who have actually watched a hockey game or two recently.  The season before this last one, I sat in a Sabres chat and explained to two TBN staff members why exactly Tim Connolly wasn't eligible for an incentive-based contract under the current CBA.  Today on Twitter, atleast ten people who I follow questioned whether Bucky knew what he was talking about regarding the cap.  The only good analysis I can recall reading recently in TBN is Harrington's column on the current NHL no-name goalie trend.  It's smart, well-written, and is actually based in the reality of the last few months in the NHL.  Why is that so hard?  Why don't we get more of that?  I don't get it.  For me, TBN is rapidly losing ground to bloggers even though we're supposed to be the lazy, irrational, uninformed ones.  They have the access and for that, I'll stick around.  But more and more, that's about it.

And for the love of all that is right and holy in this world, SHELDON SOURAY SUCKS AT HOCKEY NOW!  Give it a FREAKING rest!

Monday, July 5, 2010

When Pro Sports Suck

I just want to give a very sincere thank you to everyone who's emailed, tweeted, or commented in the last few days.  I also want to thank those of you who wanted to comment but couldn't find the comment button.  I uh, didn't really think about that when placing the black veil of mourning over Top Shelf.  I'll admit, I've had the use of S.O.S. planned for Hank's departure since the trade deadline. It seemed like a funny, over-the-top way to express what would probably be some sadness. I'm glad some of you enjoyed it. And apologies to those of you who had to explain to your co-workers why ABBA was suddenly blaring from your computers. Hee.

The truth is, as silly as the song was, I am genuinely sad, more than I really anticipated being. I had pretty much assumed that Hank was going to be moving on (and I figured it was going to be years more than money that was the sticking point) and I thought, okay, that's cool. I'm 32-years-old and he's a professional hockey player. Professional athletes move on, that's partly what they do. I'm not 9-years-old anymore, you know? But then I saw the first tweet that said "Tallinder to Devils" and well, I was a broken-hearted kid again. No tears (close but not quite) but a sad, heavy feeling that lingered for the rest of the day plus some? Definitely.

The funny thing is, I'm kind of happy about that. I'm a firm believer in that old adage that you cheer for the front of the jersey and not the back. I wish Hank well in Jersey, but I'll happily cheer for Mike Weber in his place next season. I'd drop Derek Roy off a cliff yesterday, but he's a Sabre and I'd rather him lead the league in points than any player on any other team. But the truth, for me at least, is that it does partly matter who's wearing the jerseys, and I'm happy to know that's as true for now as it was when I was a kid. I spend a lot of time here talking about things like the salary cap, small markets vs. large markets, free agency, all kinds of numbers. And while I do find that stuff really interesting and I think there's a lack of smart talk about it in Buffalo, at least from the mainstream media (lots of blogs have filled that gap), the bottom line of being a sports fan, again for me at least, is the attachment you feel to a team and the individuals who make up that team. We can certainly debate how valuable Hank was to the Sabres, whether he was worth keeping or whether the Devils overpaid, but we can't debate this: I loved Hank an awful lot. I can't even really tell you why, I just did.  I enjoyed watching him play, he played a kind of game, I appreciated, but I also just liked him.  I rooted for him to do well and felt an admittedly warped but genuine pride when he did.  I defended him when he was criticized - even when he deserved it - and I liked seeing and hearing him.  And for all the (understandable) focus around here on Hank, I really liked Toni a lot too.  If you asked me to name my three favorite guys on the team, well, that's two of them. While I'm old enough to understand that players don't love us as much as we love them and the league works under certain financial constraints and players move on, it appears that I'm still young enough at heart to occasionally say, "That SUCKS and I don't like it ONE BIT!"  Because speaking purely on an emotional level, this sucks and I don't like it one bit.

I wasn't really planning on changing the look of the blog yet, but when I put the black on, I forgot to write down the code for the blue I was using.  I had been planning on trying out some new templates so since I couldn't get the old look back, I figured now was as good a time as any to look at some different things.  The look that's up now isn't permanent - I hate the yellow background on the text boxes but I haven't quite figured out what to do with them yet.  And while the banner isn't necessarily permanent either - I'm still playing with various photos - the guy in them probably is, at least for this season, even if he rarely ever goes Top Shelf.  Unless it went off the goalie's head first.  But more on that another time.  For now, dude, I'm pretty bummed out.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

DO NOT BE ALARMED

If you're here and the blog looks godawful ugly, it's because I'm in the middle of a re-design crisis.  If it's still like this Sunday night, don't worry, I probably just gave up on blogging completely.