Rambling about Sam Gagner, the ‘real’ reason for the Vermette buyout, the Oilers’ shakeup and more…

***

Are you enjoying the Fantasy Hockey Guide? You can pick it up in your downloads now, if you haven’t already. Or you can buy it here.

I already have an update in there. Though technically it was a ‘fix’. The Winnipeg Dobber Advanced section had last year’s in there. I fixed that mistake. There will be about 50 more updates over the next two months, when you re-download the Guide for the latest one, just check the date on the first page (after the cover).

*

By the way, the Guide now has the player names linked to their profile. Try it. Give one a click and check it out.

*

If NHL moves ever die down, just tune in during a Guide release day. That never fails to generate a bunch of NHL moves. The NHL general managers know when I have the Guide done and ready to roll, so then they announce the moves that they could have announced a week earlier – just to screw me up.

First the Sam Gagner move. I’m a believer that the small moves will still make a ripple, so while Gagner’s signing won’t have a huge impact on things… it will still have some. Do you really think that Columbus would sign a player like Gagner and not give him any power-play time? Of course not. This is a guy they’re taking a chance on, and that chance becomes “zero” if you don’t give him some power-play time. Even the Flyers gave him two minutes per game.

So he’s going to get two minutes of power-play time per game for the Jackets. At whose expense? Well, John Tortorella (and I noted this in the Guide) uses both of his PP units about evenly. I think he’s the only coach to do so. Most coaches lean heavily (to varying degrees) on the first unit, but Columbus it’s pretty even. That means any one of those 12 to 14 players that get decent PP time will suffer from this move. Even if a player like Brandon Saad or Cam Atkinson lose 10 seconds per game on the power play, for 20 games. Well, that still hurts. It may not cost them a point, but maybe it will. This is a signing that, barring a sudden rediscovery of the old magic, hurts every player a little bit. Except Gagner.

And yes, Gagner was a good player. I can’t stand seeing the Monday morning quarterbacks blabbering about how he was a bad draft pick and was never an NHL-caliber player and has always been a terrible center. That’s just not true. If you get 49 points as an 18-year-old rookie, then you’re pretty awesome – and a potential star. If a player scores eight points in a game at the age of 23 then, sorry everyone, but that player is star. And he proved it by following up with 38 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened season. He was legitimately on the right track. And whether it was from keeping himself in shape (or lack thereof) or injuries taking their toll, he’s no longer a good player.

*

Next is Antoine Vermette. A wasted move done just to disrupt my release of the Guide, am I right? Vermette had 14 points in his last 18 games and won 55.8% of his faceoffs (and that’s actually on the low end for him). So the Coyotes wanted to free up a roster spot and add some dead cap space. Okay, their situation is unique, I get that. But if a roster spot is so important, why did they sign Ryan White? If they want dead cap space and a roster spot, why not buy out Zbynek Michalek? Now there’s a guy who actually had a couple of healthy scratches last season and his salary, in the final year of his contract, is around where Vermette’s was. So what happened? There’s more to this story, behind the scenes. Likely something personal between players, and we see that from time to time.

*

The second camp tryout invite – Stu Bickel has agreed to join Anaheim’s training camp and try to win a roster spot.

*

Danny Kristo, one of the more disappointing fantasy prospects of the past decade, has re-signed with the Blues. On a two-way deal of course. In looking over his stats I was surprised to see that he never played a single NHL game. Surprised that the Habs never gave him a look.

*

Evander Kane is now being sued by the woman from that December 27th incident. He was cleared of criminal charges for that incident, and had just pleaded not guilty on Monday about another incident (from June 24). The woman from the first incident is suing because “Kuechle (Rachel Kuechle – the woman) met Kane at the Encore Restaurant and Bar on the evening of Dec. 26 and Kane bought her drinks before inviting her back to his room on what her lawyers describe as a “false pretext” of a party. The pair were taken to the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter by Kane’s driver, court papers say. Once in the room, Kane “engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct” toward Kuechle”. She said that Kane seriously injured her, including cuts and bleeding that required multiple surgeries.

I think the NHL, the Sabres, Kane and Kane’s “lawyer” Paul Cambria have their work cut out for them. Charges tend to go away for NHL players (Varlamov, the other Kane, O’Reilly), but in Evander’s case these negative stories just keep sticking in the news. Even if he’s cleared of everything, does Buffalo even want him anymore? First of all, if I ran the Sabres I would sit him down with a new rule: no bars. Both incidents were related to going to the bars. So if he wants to play for my team, he’s not allowed to go to a bar. Ever. Not even in the summer. Millions of dollars are at stake here.

*

It looks like the Sabres are going down that path, look at this. They tweeted Happy Birthday to Kane yesterday, but then deleted the Tweet. Then they reposted it without the celebration Emoji and without the note to ‘have a great day’.

*

The Oilers shook up their head office a little. Scott Howson has moved on and they didn’t renew the contract (as we heard last week) of analytics guy Tyler Dellow. Then they brought in Keith Gretzky (Assistant GM) and promoted Kelly Buchberger and Duane Sutter. Details on all the moves here. But I hate seeing changes like this when a team is on the cusp. I hated that Dale Tallon got fired and Stan Bowman was hired – just when the Blackhawks were about to dominate. So the Hawks did indeed dominate – and Bowman gets all the credit. Now the Oilers will start winning and the masses will believe it’s because they stopped focusing on analytics!

The Penguins also made a couple of moves, hiring assistant coaches for Wilkes-Barre. My Stratford readers (my hometown) will be interested to know that Chris Taylor, a Stratford boy, was one of the hires. And he’ll be working under head coach Clark Donatelli – who played for the Stratford Cullitons in the early 80s.

*

The Canucks hired for Sedin twin failed linemate Jason King as the Assistant Coach for Utica, the AHL affiliate.