Friday, July 16, 2004


Canucks Arbitrary Decisions

As the deadline passed for players to opt in to having some overpriced lawyer decide their salary for next season, a record 67 players, including Brendan Morrison and Dan Cloutier, two of the Canucks� more important players, filed for arbitration.
We know the arbitrators look purely at the numbers�and this can be a good or bad thing.
Good � Arbitrators should always seek to take a sceptical and objective view of the situation. If they allow bias to slip in, then their judgements could be swayed or flawed onto one side. Arbitrators are supposed to be the independent party that will award a contract based on the arguments made to him/her.
Bad � Since the arbitrators have shown a great lack of knowledge and understanding of the game, their awards have been quite monstrous and biased towards players who put up big offensive totals, despite however much �real� value they have to a team. Players are often eager to go to arbitration, because they know that they are likely to win big bucks. Der Komissar Gary Bettman knows this, and that�s he why he tried to stop the NHL from keeping real-time stats.
The NHL is also responsible for appointing the arbitrators (Those who give big awards eventually get fired), but that�s a tangent I�m not too interested in right now.
The Canucks have only 2 players filing for arbitration, and neither should expect to break the bank, although they will receive nice raises.
Brendan Morrison - In my mind, Brendan Morrison deserves whatever he wins (and he will WIN) in arbitration. He�s one of the more underrated players in the league, he plays hard (one of the few Canucks giving a real effort against the Flamers in the playoffs) he�s good defensively, he�s extremely durable (hasn�t missed a game in over 4 seasons) and he�s one of the better all-round centers in the league today.
His totals the last few seasons:
00-01  82GP 16-38-54 42PIM
01-02 82GP 23-44-67 26PIM
02-03 82GP 25-46-71 36PIM
03-04 82GP 22-38-60 50PIM
He also has 21 points in 31 playoff games over that stretch, which is fairly consistent with his regular season totals.
Morrison is 29 years old, and one of the few core Canucks that is not under a long-term deal. I expect he will get something similar to that of Shane Doan, a 28 year-old player that has put up slightly inferior offensive numbers, but adds a more physical dimension to his game.
Doan made $2.8mil last season, and he is slated to make $3.45 million next season. Morrison, who had around $2.5mil last season, should get an award that will fall into the range of $3.25-$3.5mil next season.
I worry, however, that the Canucks may do the dumb thing and try and trade him if his salary is deemed �too high�, rather than try and sign him to a long-term deal.
Dan Cloutier - We know the Canucks (Nonis) may have dropped the ball when he could have had Patrick Lalime for a draft pick (pretty much nothing), so we�re going to have to live with �Clouts� for at least one more season, barring some unexpected miracle.
By the numbers�
01-02    62GP  31-22-5  2.43GAA  91.0SV%
02-03    57GP  33-16-7  2.42GAA  90.8SV%
03-04    60GP  33-21-6  2.27GAA  91.4SV%
Cloutier has had 3 straight 30-win seasons, which will certainly look good in the eyes of an arbitrator. He has also played a lot of games over the past 3 seasons, and workhorse goalies tend to get paid accordingly.
Of course, he also has some god-awful Save Percentage stats, when compared to his peers. Daryl Shilling�s goaltender ratings do not rank Cloutier as one of the Top 10 or Bottom 10 goaltenders in the league. Cloutier has generally been �league-average� at best throughout his tenure with his Canucks.
What don�t these numbers tell you?
1. Durability Dan Cloutier, despite his games played totals, tends to get injured quite often for a goaltender, and often at the worst times (late in the year). Part of the blame could be shifted on coach Marc Crawford, who has no trust in the backups he�s been given. When healthy, Crawford tends to ride Cloutier quite hard, playing him in at least 8 out of every 10 games, if not more. Cloutier just doesn�t have the durability to play 75 games a year like Martin Brodeur, so that�s a black mark against him.
His injuries this season:
Dec 16: Missed 3 games with a groin injury (and wasn�t 100% for awhile afterwards)
Feb 14: Missed 1 game due to the flu
March 24: Missed 2 games due to a �lower body� injury
and the killer��.
April 11: Suffered an ankle injury and missed the last 4 games of the first round series against the Calgary Flames
2. He�s shakier than George W. Bush�s Iraq alibi - He�s just not that great! Like any �average� goaltender, Cloutier hasn�t shown the ability to carry the Canucks in any respect, and his win totals are quite a reflection on the talent in front of him. He�ll have his good games, and he�ll have his bad games�it evens out in the end and you are left with a pretty pedestrian goaltender who is good enough for half of the teams in the league, but not the kind of goaltender you want if you have aspirations of the Stanley Cup.
Cloutier ranked 19th in Save Percentage last season (among those who I considered qualified), and this was his best Save Percentage to date.
What kind of award could Cloutier expect? What should he get?
Let�s compare him to Patrick Lalime, a similarly maligned goaltender who was just recently signed to a new deal with the Blues
01-02    61GP  36-19-5  2.48GAA  90.3SV%
02-03    67GP  39-20-7  2.16GAA  91.1SV%
03-04    57GP  25-23-7  2.29GAA  90.5SV%
Looking at these �unadjusted� numbers, Lalime appears to be somewhat inferior to Cloutier, while playing behind a superior defensive team. Most people, from what I gather, seem to value Lalime higher than Cloutier. Looking at these numbers, I can�t quite see how Lalime could be viewed as a superior goaltender, especially after the poor season he just had.
Why would I prefer Lalime? Well, Lalime has always seemed more dependable than Cloutier (Durability and less likely to run HOT-COLD). Since Cloutier has proven that he can�t take the Canucks to the promise land, I felt getting someone like Lalime, who would have something to prove, would provide a nice change of pace at a reasonable salary.
So, Lalime just signed a deal that will pay him $2.9million next season, with an option for $3.2mil for the following season. I would expect Cloutier would fall into line with Lalime�s contract, and his award would be around $3mil for next year.
Now, my crazy co-worker thinks the Canucks would get up and walk away if Cloutier�s award was too high ($3.5mil or so), but I just don�t see it happening. There really aren�t a lot of proven options out there that the Canucks could get that would be an upgrade�not without giving up a lot of assets. As much as I�d love Martin Prusek in Vancouver (who just signed for less than $1mil for next year), the Senators aren�t going to trade him away, nor are the Canucks going to trade for him.

"He�s shakier than George W. Bush�s Iraq alibi":

There's nothing worse than mixing hockey and politics...
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