Welcome to Week 6 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com, 4 on 4. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Cam Charron of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Feel free to give your own answers, and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. What limits and/or restrictions would you change to player contracts?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - It all starts with the Entry Level Contract. As several GMs have noted, players used to earn their big money later in their careers. Now, guys are getting huge deals after just a few years of service. If a player's prime years are somewhat between the ages of 25-30, these should be their prime earning years as well. Thus, the Entry Level Contract shouldn't have a limit of three years, but rather five years. In practical terms, that means guys like Drew Doughty and Steven Stamkos wouldn't have been up for their 'second contract' until next summer - rather than in 2011. Before, you had to earn your big UFA contract and now, your second contract is your big contract and teams are taking big chances that those players will be productive and healthy the rest of their careers. Over the last few years we've also seen various NHL teams try to circumvent the salary cap by signing players to ridiculously long contracts when agreeing upon a second deal. This isn't working either and a five to seven year term limit should be placed on these contracts - or even some type of scaled limit, based on years in the NHL or age of the player. Owners want cost certainty and players want security, but the current long term deals just don't make sense. When given just one paragraph to answer these are the simple solutions at a high level. One other area that should be addressed though is revenue sharing. The NHL is truly a league of the haves and the have-nots. For the betterment of the league, each franchise should be able to compete effectively with the other 29 teams - ala the NFL. They need some form of revenue sharing to help spread the wealth. If not, expect more franchises to be in danger of moving while others continually spend to the cap floor and rarely ice a truly competitive team.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - I believe there should be a limit on the number of multi-million dollar contracts that are handed out before I get mine. No, I have no hockey talent (some would argue no talent at all) and have no reason to be given a multi-million dollar contract, but why should that stop me? When life gives you lemons, complain until someone makes you lemonade.
I'm a free market kind of guy. Limits on contracts can be set by either side at anytime. There is no reason to artificially manipulate the market to either side's advantage. You think Dustin Brown is worth $40 million a year, and you have the cash (and the cap space), good for you. Enjoy your team. Don't think he is worth $40 million a year? Don't sign him to that contract. If this free market kills off a couple teams here or there, that's the cost of doing business. How billionaires can't figure out how to turn a profit on hockey is beyond me. Let the market sort it out and let's play some hockey.
Or, you know, let the guys with actual talent play hockey.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - The Board of Governors may disagree but I think player contract structure is largely fine as is. I'm not a fan of the owners' proposals to set a cap on contract length or extend entry-level deals. If there's one thing I could change it would be a stipulation that the annual cap hit of every contract would have to be identical to the amount of salary a player earns that season. With front-loaded deals and outrageous signing bonuses a thing of the past, small-market franchises would be better suited to retain their homegrown talent. The only real drawback I can see for the league's lesser financial lights is they would no longer have the option of acquiring the final years of a front-loaded deal in which, under the current CBA, a player's cap hit is substantially higher than the real dollars paid out but that's rarely an option those teams have pursued for whatever reason.
Cam Charron @CanucksArmy - On one hand, I'd like to say "let the free market rule, and teams that make the unhealthy mistake of signing zillion-dollar deals to the defence partner of perennial Norris Trophy nominees suffer the own darn consequences," but that doesn't create healthy competition between the league's teams. I personally wouldn't sign too many players to more than six seasons, and I might to see that limit introduced to save a few teams from themselves.
Fun fact: 42 players signed deals to last as long as the last collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA.
2. After years of playoff failure, what element do the Capitals need to add or subtract for success?
John Hoven - San Jose East, what will it take to fix that team? While the Captials have the bonafide superstar in Ovechkin - something their Pacific Division cousins lack - the similarities between the two teams around neither having a killer instinct. If you were the GM of Washington, you probably wouldn't start in goal. Both Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth are considered top prospects and one will rise to the top in the next season or two. It's easy to say they lost their top point-producing defenseman in free agency (Dennis Wideman), but truth be told Nicklas Backstrom only played 42 games last season. If he's healthy, coupled with the continued growth of blue-chip defenseman John Carlson and Karl Alzner, they should be in a good position defensively. They have some sandpaper in Jason Chimera, but don't look for him to repeat his career-best 20 goal output of last year. That leaves Brooks Laich as their second best forward, now that Alex Semin is with Carolina. That's not enough. They need another big-time weapon and somebody with a must-win attitude. Picking up a bargain basement, mediocre forward or two isn't going to cut it if they Caps have eyes an a deep playoff run.
Nathan Eide - Cohesiveness. They seem to get to the post-season and lose the ability to get on the same page. Is it coaching? Ego? Fear? Youth? Honestly, I have no idea (if I did, I imagine I'd be getting paid remarkably well by Ted Leonsis) why they lose what got them there, but that's the problem as I see it. Maybe they need to all get in a fight with the other Action News teams, then get an apartment?
Derek Tanabe -The Caps' biggest issue for quite a few seasons now has been a lack of forward depth. Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Alex Semin have driven the bus up front and for the most part have done a great job in that capacity but there have been far too few passengers of sufficient quality. Washington's top six forward corps has usually been filled out by over-the-hill veterans like Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Fedorov, grinders like Mike Knuble and Jason Chimera or one-dimensional forwards like Tomas Fleischmann and Marcus Johansson. The big three, along with defenseman Mike Green when he's in the lineup, have largely been able to carry Washington to great regular season success (save for last season when Backstrom was injured half the year and Ovechkin took another step backward) but when they've gone cold or been shut down over the course of a playoff series, there's really been no one capable of stepping up to replace lost offense. The team took a step in the right direction by trading for Mike Ribeiro but the downgrade from Semin to Wojtek Wolski might be enough to undo the advantage gained there. They're still left with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Ribeiro and a couple of question marks and maybes. At the very least, head coach Adam Oates should look to use his troops more wisely than Dale Hunter did. Joel Ward has a well-earned reputation as an elite defensive forward in this league--he, Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera should be used in much tougher situations than they were a year ago. Guys like Wolski, Mathieu Perreault and Troy Brouwer may not be natural offensive dynamos but if Oates can give them butter-soft minutes by burying the Laich line they may be able to turn in the top-six calibre production Washington has craved.
Cam Charron - Well, firing the coach and getting rid of one of the team's best forwards probably isn't the healthy route in this case. I think this is a team that, for years, misinterpreted why they were having problems so provided a very thorough fix to the wrong aspects: "Well, my faucet is leaky, so I am going to buy a new water heater."
Oh wait, "what element do they need for success" was the question? I'd suggest more of a compound of a top-six winger, top-four defensive defenceman and a starting goaltender, and a coach who is willing to bite the bullet and put Alexander Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro on the ice every single time the Capitals are fortunate enough to have forced an offensive zone face-off.
3. Which teams have the best and worst jerseys in the league?
John Hoven - The Chicago Blackhawks are the perennial winners of any 'best jersey' poll. Their iconic crest and simple jerseys continue to be one of the best in all of sports. However, I personally appreciate two other jerseys - at least one of which probably won't be a popular choice around here. The Philadelphia Flyers are hockey through and though. It's hard not to think HOCKEY when you see that jersey. Plus, while many teams around the league have tried to incorporate black into their color schemes - thinking it makes them look tougher - the Flyers have worked the black in just perfectly. Also, while a bright color like orange can be difficult to work with, they use just enough of it to grab your attention without going overboard and being obnoxious. Another jersey that's highly underrated is the Vancouver Canucks. Now, this won't win over a lot of readers, considering the hatred level outside of BC might be at all-time high for these guys. However, the colors are warm, the style is current (but not trendy) and it's one of the very few 'new' logos that doesn't look cheap. As for the worst jersey, the list is long. Columbus, Minnesota and Carolina are all pretty bad. Rising to the top though has to be the Nashville Predators. First off, it's not an image that matches the city. Not that every nickname or logo needs to tie perfectly to the city, but this is a total mismatch in my book. Also, the yellow jerseys are just beyond hideous. The somewhat strange thing here is that just about every logo or jersey designed in the last 20 years is pitiful. Why?
Nathan Eide - Best - New York Rangers home. The blue shirts are timeless, a classic. Copied at club teams, high schools and junior programs across North America for generations, and with good reason. The blue shirts are iconic and should never be adjusted. They're the Yankee pinstripes or the Bears rounded numbers. Some things are special and should always remain as they are. The Rangers home sweater is one of these things.
Worst - The Dallas Stars. It should be green, with a white N and a little star over the N. And shouldn't say Dallas anywhere. And the team should play in Minnesota. And be called the North Stars.
Derek Tanabe -This is as predictable an answer as it gets but I'm not sure it gets better than the Blackhawks' home sweaters although I thought the duds Toronto wore at the ACC last year were terrific too. But if we're removing the Original Six from the picture to get slightly less played out answers, I love Minnesota's primary, seemingly Xmas-themed home sweaters. The alternates Buffalo have rocked for two seasons now with the city name on the front look terrific too. As for worst, it's a tossup for me between the Stars sweaters that don't even have an appropriate color scheme or logo on the front and the new Dragonball-inspired Nashville sweaters. In both cases, the teams should really consider switching back to a pattern closer to what they were sporting at the beginning of the 2000's and I've heard rumblings that something along those lines is slated to happen in Dallas.
Cam Charron - The best jerseys are the gold and navy blue beauties sported by the Nashville Predators. Mustard was a horrible colour on a hockey jersey, and the Predators' newest incarnations have a much more pleasing shade that is also unique and somewhat intimidating. No other team can claim a colour as their own.
When some teams attempt to go "vintage", they end up looking sort of silly if they don't go far enough. The Buffalo Sabres' nostalgic look has been perverted by a darker and more common shade of navy and obnoxious white piping. At least the players who have to wear those sweaters get to live and play in the fine city of Buffalo, NY.
4. Could the NHL adapt advertising on jerseys much like teams in Europe?
John Hoven - The simple answer is sure, why not. The NHL doesn't have the big TV contract ala the NFL. They also don't generate nearly as much cash as the NBA or Major League Baseball. So, they'd be foolish not to look at alternative revenue streams. That being said, it needs to be done in a tasteful manner to minimize fan backlash. Limiting the size is an obvious path. It could be done by replacing one of the shoulder patches with a small advertisement or they go with one on the front of the jersey and a second on the bottom-rear. In a way, they've already had advertising on jerseys. Remember the big CCM section on jerseys in the '90's? Or even the Nike swoosh on the back of the Oilers jerseys during Gretzky's rookie season? The NHL needs more revenue, fact. Gary Bettman hasn't been afraid to make decisions that he were in the best interest of the league, despite a public view that was the exact opposite at times. Thus, expect to see advertising on NHL game jerseys in three years or less.
Bryan Reynolds - Why not? Who wouldn't love a nice ED drug advertisement on their rival team's sweaters? It would make it so much easier to find low hanging fruit that way. There's a joke there. I won't make it.
As mentioned above, if it helps them turn a profit and keep the team solvent, go for it. It seems to me to be sacrilegious, but I'm not the guy cutting the checks. I can't imagine sweaters would sell as well, so maybe there's some trade off there. Of course, NASCAR sells a ton of gear and their entire identity is based on the ads. Maybe the new CBA could stipulate that only rednecks can watch hockey, and then advertising on the sweaters would be a massive hit and spread hockey across the far flung reaches of North America.
Or, we could just leave them the way they are and find other ways to make money. Like those spooky digital ads on the glass when watching on TV. Did you all know the yellow line marking the first down isn't actually on the field? It's unpossible!
Derek Tanabe - I'd be very disappointed if they did. That might not be the most rational response as this is, after all, a league in which the boards are plastered with advertisements, broadcasts superimpose ads on the glass behind each net, every arena is named after a corporate sponsor, there are specific timeouts during play for TV commercial breaks and seemingly every goal, save, power play, penalty kill and offsides is brought to you by a different product. Realistically, a single ad on a jersey would likely be equivalent or lesser in size to the Easton, Reebok or Nike logos already found on player helmets and gloves. Still, being a sports fan isn't about rational responses and there's something sacred about hockey sweaters in particular that shouldn't be soiled with some faceless conglomerate's imprint. I'm also skeptical that the league would even rake in that much extra in ad revenue by doing it unless they went full-NASCAR and covered every inch of sweater space in ads.
Cam Charron - Yes, it will happen soon. There will be pressure against it from fans and media, but eventually people will get used it it, and it will be a non-issue, much like advertisements on the boards, glass, television broadcasts, "power ring" displays and arena signage.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - a full multimedia site, including exclusive on-ice video interviews from the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.
Cam Charron is a Western Canadian content producer, providing my organic wares to the Score's Backhand Shelf, the Province's Legion of Blog, and both Canucks Army and the Leafs Nation of the Nation Network. Still dreams of one day suiting up as Pavel Bure's centreman with a side career as an astronaut. You can follow him on twitter at @camcharron.