Month: February 2011

AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE NHL TRADE DEADLINE

The NHL trade deadline if quickly approaching. There already have been several trades made in advance of the last frantic hours that teams use to negotiate a last piece of the puzzle. The media is always searching to sensationalize that last minute deal that might give a team a better chance for the Stanley Cup. They create headlines of trades involving players with the biggest names. That’s normally the news and information which fans most remember.  However the trade deadline is more than just making trades. There are other obligations that an NHL General Manager has to attend to on that day.

He must finalize his roster for the reminder of the season. He must also assign players to the minor league affiliate team to satisfy the American Hockey League “Clear Day List” which coincides with the NHL Trade Deadline. Players must be on that list to be eligible to play in the AHL for the rest of the season and in the playoffs. So, the NHL “GM” must to set up his organization to maximize the contribution and the playing time for a handful of players.  Teams want some of their younger players who are on the NHL roster to be eligible to play in the AHL playoffs if the NHL team fails to qualify or gets eliminated in the early rounds. This is very important and crucial in the development of those players. All of this must be done knowing that the NHL team will only be allowed “four recalls” (other than emergency) until the end of the season.

Here is an example: The last year that I worked for the Florida Panthers, we only had a very slim chance of making the playoffs as the deadline came. So we wanted some of our younger players who were on the NHL roster to also be eligible to play for the Rochester Americans in the AHL playoffs.  So, we assigned 3 players to Rochester in a paper transaction to insure that they would be on the AHL “clear day list”. Then, a few hours later, we recalled them to the NHL so that they could play at the highest level for the reminder of the season. We knew at that time that we would be using 3 of our 4 recalls for the sake of development. Those three players were able to play at the NHL level for the reminder of the season and also play in the playoff competition at the minor league level.

There are no Salary Cap restrictions during the playoffs Some transactions may be done with that in mind. Some veterans who clear waivers may be sent down to finish the rest of the season in the minors to make room for the cap or to give them more playing time. In some cases, those players will be recalled for the playoffs because there are no Cap restrictions.

Another example is a player like Wade Redden who has spent the whole season in the minors with a $6.5M salary. It’s almost impossible to recall him during the season because of his salary but can be recalled to play in the playoffs for the Rangers because there are no Salary Cap restrictions.  

Are you confused yet? There are many rules, regulations and crucial dates that General Managers must be aware of in the new CBA. The trade deadline is only one of those key dates.

This week-end, watch for those soft moves that don’t seem to make any sense from the outside looking in but if you’re on the inside, you know that there are reasons why they are done.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com) Read my blog every Tuesday and Friday!

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TRADE DEADLINE COLLATERAL DAMAGE!

Phil Myre Flyers action

 

The NHL trade deadline is quickly approaching. Some trades have already been consumed and more will come. Many discussions are ongoing between General Managers. Everyone talks about “buyers and sellers”, making moves to make the playoffs, strengthening and improving teams to win the Stanley Cup. The media is pro-active, speculating on possible trades and creating great anticipations from the fans. 

I was involved in one transaction near the trade deadline on February 24th, 1981. Two events took place in my life that day. My emotions went from euphoria to anguish as I went from one to the other. One was personal, the other was professional. 

Yes, 30 years ago, my wife, Nicole, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl with big brown eyes. It was a very special moment for us. We were overwhelmed with happiness that Natalie was a healthy baby who would join her older sister Stephanie, then 4 1/2 years old. 

I was a member of the Philadelphia Flyers then. While we celebrated this exciting event, I received a message at the hospital, to call the Flyers General Manager Keith Allen. I didn’t tell my wife about the message because I had a feeling that it wasn’t going to be good news. The trade deadline was around the corner and the Flyers were carrying three goalies. (Pete Peters and Rick St-Croix were the other two) I was the oldest goalie and more expandable. I took the message and looked for a payphone to call Keith. (There were no cell phones then)  When I reached him, he asked me to stop by the Spectrum for a meeting. 

My meeting with Keith Allen was short. He informed me that I had been traded to the Colorado Rockies. I spoke to Bill MacMillan, the Rockies’ General Manager. They were fighting for a playoff position and were very anxious to have me play for them as soon as possible. I pleaded with him to give me a few days to take care of things but he insisted that he wanted me to play the next game which meant that I would have to leave the next morning for Denver.   

Going back to the hospital and telling my wife that I had been traded and that I had to leave the next day was very difficult. She had the baby through a caesarian operation and the recovery was much longer and more difficult.  To tell you that my emotions went from euphoria to anguish is an understatement. Nicole took the news like a “trooper” like she always does (at least in front of me). 

Thanks to the support of some of the wives on the team, we were able to get help for Nicole until her mother was able to come. I took a flight the next day and I was gone for 6 weeks. The team managed to stay in the race but we missed the playoff in the last week. I was asked to go to Sweden to play for Canada in the World Championships and left for another 3 weeks following the season. (That’s another story in itself) 

We managed to live through this difficult period but not without some scars. Life in Pro Hockey was not as understanding when I played then as it is now. Teams today are more lenient towards their player’s personal life and problems. Players are left home or fly back from a road trip to attend personal problems like the birth of a child. I can recall many occasions when we toasted to a newborn on the road with the new father. The team came first and only extreme emergencies allowed players to miss games or road trips. 

In the next few days, when you hear about all the transactions that will take place around the National Hockey League, take a moment and think about the intangibles and the collateral damage that may occur to families.  Thing are different today, of course. Players make a lot more money and can enjoy more benefits when they get traded but it still comes with some personal loss and emotional challenges.  As professionals, they must play through it. 

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY! (Read my blogs every Tuesdays and Fridays) 

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com)

“MERE” COMMENTS from Phil

“MERE” COMMENTS

  • So far in the month of February (up to Feb 16) 25% of the games in the NHL  have gone to Overtime or Shoot-outs. Unofficially, there were 110 games so far in February and 27 of them awarded an extra point to the losing team.  According to my calculations, a total of 200 points have been awarded to losing teams so far this season.  At this time of the season, teams who are fighting for position follow the game results very closely. Their first thought is always: “Pleaeaeaeaease don’t make it a 3 point game!” They all hope that only 2 points were awarded in regulation time within their conference.The NHL is the only one of the four major Professional sports in America to allow points for losing. 
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  • What about the New York Islanders going on a winning streak! They have won 5 consecutive games and are 8-1-1 in their last ten. They have been winning with rookie goalies in the absence of often injured Rick Di Pietro. I like some of the forwards that they drafted like Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo who missed a lot of games this season and John Tavares, of course. Michael Grabner is taking advantage of his opportunity with the Islanders. With a little luck and fewer injuries to key players, they would have been in the hunt for a playoff spot this season. Why is Evgeni Nabokov still refusing to play for the Islanders?  He has nothing to gain by refusing to play. He was selected in the Waiver draft from the Detroit Redwings after returning from Europe. If he remains a suspended player and doesn’t play this year, he will be obligated to the Islanders next season because he did not fulfill his contractual obligations. I still have a feeling that he’ll end up in Detroit at the trade deadline.
  • How far will Bryan Murray go in dismantling the Ottawa Senators? First it was Mike Fisher, now Chris Kelly. There is obviously a green light from owner Eugene Melnyk to take this team apart and rebuild. The information I received is that everybody is available except for Erik Karlsson. Chris Phillips may be next. He’s a valuable asset for a team needing an experienced defenseman for the stretch run and playoffs. It’s so sad to see the players that I worked with from 1995 to 2004 leave the Senators. Individuals like Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat, Wade Redden, Anton Volchenkov, Antoine Vermette and now Fisher and Kelly were all part of a Master Plan to win the Stanley Cup that failed. The window of opportunity to win the cup is very short in today’s world. As players contracts grow, free agency comes early and teams can’t keep all their core players.     
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  • “Déjà Vue” in Atlanta! The Atlanta Thrashers owners have publicly said that they are looking for investors or buyers or they will move the team. People in Québec City and Winnipeg are salivating at the prospect of getting this franchise just as Calgary did in 1980. I lived similar times when I played for the Flames in Atlanta. In 1978, we were asked to take a pay-cut to save the team from financial problems. It failed, obviously, because the team moved to Calgary shortly after. I was traded in December of ’78 to a team who was also having financial problems at the time, the St-Louis Blues. So, it’s not a novelty for teams to have financial difficulties. We have to move on…
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  • Was the price for Chris Versteeg too high? The Toronto Maple Leafs traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this week for a 1st and a 3rd round pick in this year’s draft. Versteeg will provide speed and offense to the Flyers for sure but I thought that the price was high. One thing about Paul Holmgren, he’s not afraid to pay a premium if he really wants a player… and who am I to argue with success. I’m surprised that the Flyers didn’t have to give up any contracts $ (money) in the deal as they are close if not over the cap. I assume that they will need to make other moves when their injured players return.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!  (read my blogs on Fridays and Tuesdays)

Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com

NHL DEALING WITH HEAD INJURIES

 

Phil Myre Colorado Rockies

 

NHL DEALS WITH CONCUSSIONS…WHAT ABOUT THE PLAYERS? 

Wayne Gretzky said it best in an interview last week-end at his Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas. “Kids playing games in a park will get hurt.  Profesional athletes playing a high speed, physical game will get hurt too”. It’s inevitable.  

Hockey is a physical sport and it’s impossible to eliminate injuries. However, the National Hockey League is faced with an alarming increase in concussions. The players today are bigger and faster, yet, the playing surface has remained the same, reducing the space for them to maneuver and increasing the chances of injuries. 

Unofficially, I counted 21 concussion injuries currently in the NHL. That includes stars such as Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, Marc Savard, Boston Bruins and more recently, Dan Hamhuis from the Vancouver Canucks. Players like Peter Mueller (Phoenix), Matthew Lombardi (Nashville), David Perron (St-Louis) and others have missed most of the season with concussions. 

Undoubtedly, medical advancement has made it easier to diagnose concussions, creating more cases. Only a few years ago, I’m sure that many of us played with concussions that were never diagnosed. I may have had a mild concussion when playing for the Colorado Rockies in 1981. A shot hit me square in the forehead, cutting me for ten stiches through my face mask. I lost consciousness for a few moments and  I didn’t feel well for several weeks following the incident. I never missed a single practice. Feeling tired or “whoozzy” and having an  occasional  headache was just attributed to the heavy schedule or just being tired. 

The NHL has made a colossal effort and has been pro-active in dealing with the increase of concussion injuries and the hits that cause them. They have dealt with “blind side hits”, “hits from behind” and “hits to the head”. They changed or added rules and increased suspensions and fines. They are investigating the equipment that players wear to reduce their rigidity that may cause injuries. 

There are some things that the NHL CANNOT DO! They can’t restrict the size of the players and they can’t tell the players to skate slower. They CANNOT remove the body checking and the physical part of hockey. Making the ice surface bigger is improbable if not impossible. 

I THINK IT’S TIME FOR PLAYERS TO TAKE SOME RESPONSIBILITY! WHY WAIT FOR THE LEAGUE TO LEGISLATE SOMETHING THAT IS SO IMPORTANT AND VITAL TO THEM? 

The players’ responsibility exists on both sides of the hit: the hitter and the player getting hit. The onus can’t always be on the player doing the hitting. Many players put themselves in vulnarable situations to get hit that can be avoided. Why do so many players cut to the middle of the ice while carrying the puck at the offensive blue line? That’s the most vulnerable area for a dangerous hit. There are very few players who have the skills and the vision to execute that play successfully. 
Players can also control the number of hits from behind. It’s clear that a player can’t hit an opponent who is not facing him or without the puck. And there has been signs of players easing up on those situations. But what about players who put themselves in a vulnerable position to get hit from behind? I know that it’s a fine line but more and more players turn and face the boards when they have control of the puck. It has become a “safe haven” for some players who know they can’t get hit in that situation. Sometimes, the momentum of players skating in for a hit doesn’t allow for a quick change of direction to prevent the hit. This is different from scrums when several players fight for the puck and all of them are stationary. 

The last element that is becoming more evident is the lack of respect that players are showing for each other. There seems to be so many unnecessary hits, charging type hits, “cheap shots”, players leaving their feet to deliver a hit, slew footing, careless use of the stick, dangerous elbows to the head etc. 

COME ON GUYS! ! LET’S PLAY HARD BUT PLAY FAIR! 

NHL executives have faced the issues pro-actively. No, it’s not perfect but the process is ongoing. They are doing the best that they can to protect their athletes from each other. But let’s not leave the whole burden of solving the concussion issue on the league alone. Players must also be held responsible and accountable. 

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!
Phil Myre (www.philmyretalkshockey.com) 

GOALIE INTERFERENCE NOT CLEAR IN THE NHL

Front of the Net Battle

 I don’t know about you, but I’m confused on the goalkeeper interference rule. Following a game in Detroit last Monday, Scott Arniel, coach of the Columbus Bluejackets, publicly called for clarification of this rule. Being at the game, I completely agree with him in this case. There were two events during the game that either disallowed a goal for his team or caused a penalty. Both incidents were very questionable.

I’ve seen it called so many different ways this year, I am confused. The Redwings and Tomas Holmstrom must be equally baffled. Holmstrom is the “poster boy for front of the net presence”. His actions in front and into the crease has been called so many different ways. At times, he barely and questionably is in the crease and gets penalized, at other times; he almost tackles the goalie with no call or a goal being allowed. (He reminds me a lot of Gary Dornhoffer of the Philadelphia Flyers with whom I had many battles over the years).     

Some will say, “Here is a goalie complaining again”! Maybe so… Being a former goalie, I may notice those things more and be overly sensitive to the protection of goalies but my experience in the NHL overrides in this case. The league has gone from one spectrum to the other in the past few years. At one time, “seeing your shadow in the crease” would be a penalty or a goal disallowed. Now, the “no harm no foul” and the incidental contact rules are in effect. I have no dispute with those two rules. Disallowing a goal for having a toe in the crease was over the edge. However, there needs to be more consistency among referees in their interpretation of the Goalkeeper Interference.  

 In the “NEW NHL”,  players take the puck to the net with no inhibitions and they stand in or outside the crease with no fear of getting abused by an opponent. The puck is their only risk of injury. There is so much more traffic and pile ups in the crease now than there used to be.  There was a time when players paid a higher price  taking the puck to the net or standing in front of the net because more physical abuse was tolorated.  (Not to mention the metal pins holding the net screwed into the floor causing injuries) We must be more diligent in protecting the goalies and making the right call on interference. I don’t want to go back to the “toe in the crease” era but referees should be mandated to call “Goalkeeper Interference” more closely and give the goalie the benefit of the doubt. Not only is the health of the goalies in question, there are very important goals scored or penalties called, or not called that influence the outcome of the game. As close as the league is in the standings, one goal could mean success or disaster for a team.  

On a different note, I have a “trivia question for you”!  

Can a goalie throw the puck forward with his hand? Get the answer below in rule #4:  

Here are the Goalkeeper Interference rules as they are written in the NHL RULE BOOK. Those of you who have interest in reading it can go on. Others can skip it and get the answer to the trivia question at the end.  

1- GOALKEEPER INTERFERENCE PENALTY:  

“In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty (minor or major, as the Referee deems appropriate). In all cases where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is for goalkeeper interference”.  

2- INCIDENTAL CONTACT:   

“Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.”  

3- GOAL IS DISALLOWED due to Goalkeeper Interference:  

“The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed”.  

– Any contact with the Goalkeeper disallows a goal. “If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed”.  

4- While researching for these interference rules, I looked for a rule that I thought may have been eliminated, but it’s still there. Martin Biron did it in Detroit last week with no call. It prompted me to search for that rule. Here it is as written:  

Has anyone seen this called EVER?  

A goalkeeper shall be assessed a minor penalty when he throws the puck forward towards the opponent’s net. In the case where the puck thrown forward by the goalkeeper being taken by an opponent, the Referee shall allow the resulting play to be completed, and if goal is scored by the non-offending team, it shall be allowed and no penalty given; but if a goal is not scored, play shall be stopped and a minor penalty shall be imposed against the goalkeeper.”  

CHECK MY BLOG ON “FRIDAYS AND TUESDAYS” Have a Great Hockey Day!  

Phil Myre     www.philmyretalkshockey.com