The Contrarian – Smell the Glove

by Demetri Fragopoulos on March 20, 2016

This week, Demetri gives us various opinions that he believes smell like an old hockey bag.

I read a recent article on Sports Illustrated by Alex Prewitt about the usage of smelling salts by NHL players. It forms the theme for my article of topics that I do not feel pass the “smell test”.

The Stinky Seven

Fans in Canadian markets have had their noses in it for a while, so it will not be much of a surprise when their home teams do not make the playoffs this season.

Some, like TSN’s Dave Hodge, jokingly comment on which teams were the bigger disappointments. It makes me think of some adolescent kids attempting to evaluate which of their farts were the most rank.

It does not matter which was the best or worst. After all, they all stank this season.

Then there are others like Tim Wharnsby of the CBC and Mary Di Michele of The Hockey Writers who try to calculate the impact this would have on the league and its ability to generate revenues during the playoffs.

Both point out that Canadians are hockey-spending fanatics. But with a lower Canadian dollar and being subjected to poor performances, fans have been repelled by various stenches coming out of their NHL arenas.

Or, possibly like a moth and pheromones, they were attracted to the bright lights and got zapped.

What has happened has happened. You cannot un-spill the spilt milk. We hope that Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver each clear out the rotting sources of their problems, be it players and/or management.

My slight contention with Di Michele’s article is with the title, “The Reason that the NHL Playoffs Need Canadian Teams”. It implies that one or more Canadian teams be awarded a spot in the second season automatically.

She does not come out and say it, but someone will come up with the thought that there should be an all-Canadian division. The logic will be based on how much money it will make the league.

The plain matter is that none of the Canadian teams were worthy of a berth this year, so I would rather see teams like Detroit, Philadelphia, Minnesota, or Colorado make it. So would their money-spending fanatics.

Draft Odor

With the failure of the Canadian teams it was only natural that people started to focus on the draft lottery odds.

Should teams tank? Is it fair what they are doing? And so on.

As the GM meetings were being held, another thought about the draft was put out there that a team that has been constantly picking first should be blocked from doing so.

Gary Lawless of TSN says, “The team that won the lottery and the first-overall selection doesn’t go back in the hat for the next season, regardless of where it finishes in the standings. No more back-to-back hacks at No. 1.”

Mike Brophy of The Hockey News had even harsher words indicating, “Let a team that picks first and is in a position to have the top pick in the following year’s draft pick second. Or third. Just not first,” and, “It is time to stop rewarding continuous failure.”

Brophy does acknowledge the argument about the quality of the draft class and that not every draft includes a Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, or Auston Matthews. His answer is an emphatic “Too bloody bad.”

The problem with such a proposed rule, though, is that they show little vision and will only cause more loopholes or otherwise overly complicate the rules.


What if the team that won the first overall pick trades it away? Should they be allowed to win the lottery next year?

What about the team that traded for the first overall pick? Should they be exempted from winning it the following year?

What if the pick was traded before the lottery occurred? Should that factor in or not?

What if the first overall draft pick pulls an Eric Lindros and does not report? Does that provide the team with an exemption?

If a team, and in all the current cases it is the Edmonton Oilers that are sniffed out, is so bad that they were lucky enough to win the lottery in multiple years, then so be it.

Do not be cry-babies and poop your diapers over rule changes. Instead comment publically on how bad the offending club is being managed.

Do what Wayne Gretzky did when talking about the New Jersey Devils. Make them wear it.

Funny enough, it’s the Canadian teams that are looking to get their hands on Scottsdale, Arizona-born Auston Matthews. Everyone is hoping that they will be saved by the kid from the sun belt.

Well it makes sense, since Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Jose, Dallas, Florida and Tampa Bay are playoff contenders.

Would you believe what the Toronto Sports Media are suggesting? Because it makes revenue sense “The best bet here is for the Leafs to land the top overall pick and therefore for Austin Matthews to land in Toronto. Markets like AZ are what they are. The sport needs a healthy audience in Toronto.”

My comment to that is that Toronto has taken decades of advantage with their fans. They have to earn it and should not be given anything because it would be good for ratings and revenues.

Why should they be de-facto rewarded for their continuous failures, right Mr. Brophy?

What an Incredible Smell You’ve Discovered

You should know where that line comes from. But if you do not, Han Solo utters it after he, Luke, Leia and Chewie dive into the trash compactor on the Death Star.

I bring it up because of the Patrick Kane loophole, which was also discussed at the general manager’s meetings. Andrew Forbes of The Hockey Writers created an article about it.

“While it’s not technically cheating, it’s a bend in the rules that allows teams to take advantage of just that – the rules,” says Forbes.

Those who do not like it can complain but the answer is right there. It is not cheating.

Chicago was “lucky” enough to have their best player break their collarbone before the trade deadline. They were also “lucky” enough to find some fill-ins until the playoffs started when Kane miraculously returned earlier than anticipated.

That they went on to win the Stanley Cup is where teams get their noses bent out of shape.

Some creativity was needed to restructure their team in order to become cap compliant afterwards, but for the most part they escaped any real long term hurt… for now.

Ask yourselves this, though. Would you want one of your best players to get hurt badly enough to be placed on the long-term injured reserve list so you could take advantage of this loophole?

The assumption being made is that you know that your player will become available at some point during the playoffs.

No, I do not think teams will be wishing for this to happen to them, and those that are provided this opportunity can go ahead and exercise it. But unless they win, they can potentially get skunked and fall into cap room hell.

Why have IR and bench spots in your fantasy leagues? To give you some wiggle room if your team incurs a bad injury or two.

You still have a chance to be competitive, and that is all the Kane loophole is. A way to get out of trouble, but you have to wade through garbage. The choice is yours.

Difference Between Smart and Clever

My last topic for this week is that of veto powers used in fantasy leagues. An example of a trade that was overturned by veto was sent to Larry Fisher of The Hockey Writers.

The victim, Jeff Clarke, said that his offer of Duncan Keith and Johnny Gaudreau for Erik Karlsson was quashed by his fellow fantasy league managers. He was contemplating changing the offer to include Dustin Byfuglien instead of Gaudreau.

We do not know the rules of Clarke’s league, what kind of positional requirement are needed or where he and the owner of Karlsson are in the standings of that league, so it is hard to judge the validity of the deal.

Are they buddies and one is helping out the other win a prize?

Is one taking advantage of the other, and the rest of the owners trying to prevent a slaughter from happening?

Are the other owners protecting their own interests first?

One thing that I have encountered is that when a pool issues prizes (of any level) owners end up using veto power to block others from succeeding.

They are either protecting their rankings or they have a hate on for a particular person or clique and do not want them to at least appear to improve.

That is why I feel veto powers should not be included in fantasy pools.

If two owners come to an agreement, then who am I to hold them back from concluding the transaction? Even if it seems rancid to me.

Oh, how else could you stop collusion?

Well that is a different matter. If it can be proven, then the commissioner should be notified and block the deal and hand out any additional punishments.

The problem is that the commissioner is also a participant and thus could be involved in such a transaction.

Most pools go with the quick and easy path of including veto rules when starting up. What they should do instead is draft collusion rules and define who the authority is on trades involving the commissioner and any deputy commissioners.

When that is done properly, you will not have funky veto rules backfire on their intended purposes.

Sometimes I think people should take a whiff of those smelling salts or smell the glove, which can be just as eye opening. Whew!