The Contrarian: The Four Slots and So Long General

by Demetri Fragopoulos on October 23, 2016

Thoughts about the Canucks' surprise start and General Fanager shutting down.

The Four Slots

I was reading about the Vancouver Canucks’ surprise start to the season. An article by Ed Willes indicates that the league usually have four types of teams. From top to bottom: The Aristocracy, the Above Average, the Mediocrities, and lastly the Wretched.

However, this season seems to be anomaly because Willes claims that there are only two categories, the Pretty Good and the Draft Building teams. As such, he places the Canucks in the Draft Building category.

There are two question that he asks, “Where do they stand among those teams?” and “the Buffaloes are like so many teams in the NHL: they’re loaded with high first-round picks and they’re going to be a handful at some point. But when is that point?”

The reason for his questions is so that he can evaluate and then possibly rank Vancouver amongst the group which are devoted to building via the draft.

However, I have some problems with his logic.

First is his categorization of placing Vancouver with the likes of Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, New Jersey, Columbus, Toronto, and Carolina.

Team

26-year-old or Younger Roster Players

Drafted

Traded For

Free Agent/ Waivers/Undrafted

Total

Vancouver

6

5

 

11

Buffalo

7

4

 

11

Calgary

8

4

 

12

New Jersey

8

4

2

14

Carolina

11

2

3

16

Columbus

12

4

 

16

Edmonton

11

2

3

16

Toronto

7

6

3

16


While the number of players 26 years old or younger lumps them in with those teams, there is a clear distinction between what Vancouver, Buffalo, and Calgary are versus the rest. They are a veteran team that is infusing their lineup with younger players. The others contain a young core line up with a sprinkling of veterans.

His second point about when will these draft building teams reach the point when they become competitive is a bit self-serving.

He says, “[Everyone] assumes good young teams will develop on schedule, that they’re learning curve will be smooth and predictable and that’s just not the case. Some of these teams might improve this season. One or two might even improve dramatically.” And, “But all of them aren’t going to make a great leap forward this season. As for the Canucks, they know what they have — at least they do though the first four games — and that might be their one edge.”

The implication is that Vancouver has turned the corner and can be competitive. While those other teams hope that they will improve, the Canucks have already done so as proven by their impressive start to the season.

Did he not read what he wrote about the quality of the Canucks’ opposition in those first four games though? The St. Louis Blues were the only above average team which they have played against.

The really young rosters are going to be wretched, but unlike past cellar dwellers, they will be exciting to watch. If they fail, they have next year to improve.

Those veteran rosters are mediocrities that are hoping to be above average. If they fail, they will meet the rest in the basement of the standings.

If they succeed in becoming average, the temptation will be to give up on the draft because it takes a long time to develop players and instead focus on signing quick-fix free agents to get into the aristocracy.

Follow that temptation and not only will they fail, they will be slotted as a truly wretched team.
 

So Long General

Another fancy stat website shutters up. I am referring to GeneralFanager. This article by Frank Seravalli not only discusses why the Las Vegas franchise went out to hire Tom Poraszka, but also lists a few of the other statistic-based analysts that were brought into the fold of other NHL clubs.

As everyone mentions, it started with Matthew Wuest (CapGeek.com). He saw a need and built something that others could use and reference.

When Wuest could not continue managing the data after cancer hindered his ability to spend time on the site, the void was evident. People wanted to know and came to rely on having access to player and team salary information.

Some fantasy pools like salary cap leagues need this information and were put into a bit of a tizzy when they could not find the info that they needed. On a sidebar, it is always good to have it clearly stated within your rules what happens when you do not have access to stats necessary for your leagues.

That is when GeneralFanager and CapFriendly stepped onto the scene. Whether you had a favorite or not there is no choice any more. Be happy that there is somewhere you can still go to get this information, but who is to say that it will stay this way.

I suppose that is where Seravalli is coming from when he writes, “The NHL has declined to integrate salary data into their website, with commissioner Gary Bettman repeatedly saying there is not an ‘appetite’ from fans for the information. The metrics and online buzz would beg to differ: teams used General Fanager as a reference in a sport where personnel moves are sometimes entirely dictated by dollars.”

It seems natural. They already have the data. Cut out the middlemen and produce it for fan consumption on the NHL site. Since it would be on the official site, you would never fear that it would disappear on you.

The only thing that I could come up with it that there might be a liability issue if the NHL proceeded in this direction. Not from players or from fans, but from their clubs.

Imagine that their site had made an error and a club did not notice. That club proceeds to make a transaction (trade, signing, buyout, etc.) and only after the transaction is completed do they find out that the are in violation of the salary cap.

The club would complain that it referenced information from the NHL site and should not be penalized, and so on. Things could get messy fast.

Hence, the NHL does not produce salary information for consumption. That allows secondary sites to exist by compiling the information for themselves.

What I would argue with Seravalli about is why does it have to be the NHL that provides this information?

Seems to me that the next best groups or organizations to compile and provide salary information are the sports news outlets (The Hockey News, Sportsnet, TSN, ESPN, etc.) or someone like Stats LLC or The Sports Forecaster.

They have the insiders with the connections to management, players, and the local media that follow their respective teams. As far as technical infrastructure goes, they already run their own websites and could manage some more pieces of data.

Instead of referencing CapGeek GeneralFanager CapFriendly, they would be the source. If I were one of them I would be talking with the people at CapFriendly.

Last thing, if your pool relies on a secondary site for specialized data, you might want to consider capturing the info every quarter season. Call it a checkpoint.

If something should happen, like Poraszka going to Las Vegas, you will at least have a set of info that you could work from instead of compiling everything from scratch.