NHL Happy Hour: Cheaper side of things


This week’s NHL Happy Hour is going cheap – a bottle of Ketel One vodka, ice, and a lime. What else do you really need, eh? Well, hockey would be one. I thought an appropriate topic for today might as well be cheap things in hockey. Cheap, but good, because my vodka is good and it is relatively inexpensive. Since we have CBA meetings being held only few blocks from me this week in New York City, I felt compelled to talk about some rubles. The gloom and doom CBA negotiations  where the owners get to cry poor – what a joke, right?

I will take a shot for those underprivileged souls.

The funny thing about these guys weeping poor is that more money spent does not always equal more wins. I mean really, some clubs should just buy some beer for the fans who shell out ever-increasing prices to NHL games, instead of handing out 100-million dollar deals.  I am very serious about this, why do we not have a free beer game day? Or what about a two-for-one special?  That should up the attendance, eh Islanders’ fans?

But hey, it is not all Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames spending and return in W’s in the NHL though. We got some smart GM’s who, with a bit of luck, spend their Pillsbury dough wisely. Whether this is out of choice or out of necessity, won’t matter for us today. The thing about the NHL post lock-out era is that having deep pockets is no longer everything. It is like someone leveling the playing field in the bar between you and that rich bloke with a Ferrari key on his key chain, where somehow your intellect and the deep knowledge of the world that you have learned with years of Redditting, is on display and the girl actually respects your genuine niceness – ahhh, to be Will Hunting.  Sigh.

Another shot it is then.

So which teams have responsible ownerships Well, to be honest, there are quite few teams with solid, fiscally-responsible GM’s and owners.  Except Paul Holmgren woes does not only have the best haircut out of the GM’s, but also has the least restraint when it comes to big contract deals.  I really like how he tried to steal Weber from Nashville. Even the ones that technically spend more money than a small country’s GDP, can be financially responsible if the team does a load of winning. Remember, winning is like vodka – more of it is never a bad thing. Well maybe too much vodka can leave you feeling a bit fuzzy in the morning. Come to think of it, so can winning a cup.

Nashville and the St.Louis Blues to me are my favorite teams from last year, as far as spending:winning is concerned. It is a bit awkward mentioning Nashville and spending, since the whole Suter and Weber ordeal, but focus on LAST season and the lessons learned. Last season they were a good team, signed a franchise goalie, had two franchise defenders, and beat the Red Wings in the playoffs. Things were good. I even saw a predator fan talk a little trash talk. Fun, wasn’t it?

Another shot it is to usher in a new season.

Sincerely, nothing goes better with vodka than mashed potatoes, kotleta, and a pickle. Fantastic.

So the reason I pick these two teams above all else is because both have players that were developed through the draft. These teams are built using team resources to scout talent and replenish the roster holes with cheap, young talent. This is the kind of franchise growth you really enjoy as a fan. It is always nice to sign the big FA, looking at you Minnesota Wild, but it is more rewarding to see your own home grown talent develop and become stars.

The St.Louis Blues spent $54.8 million last year. How much did that cash buy them? Well the only team to have more points after 82 games was Vancouver. Not bad, eh? My favorite part about this team is that it really was a team. I mean their best point-getter was Backes with 54 points. Two of their top-four scorers were defensemen, and this is where we start to find major clues as to the reasons for their success. Top-two defensemen who are not only dominant in their own end, but put up 94 points between them. Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk were key cornerstones to the Blues’ success.

Fun little aside – I actually dropped Pietrangelo mid-season on my fantasy team, because until December 31st he only had 11 points. 11 points in 37 games and I dropped him. Of course he went on a tear and averaged 12 points each month after that.  I am a twonk.

Where did I put my drink…

Besides those two stellar defensemen, we have quality up and down the line-up. Andy McDonald came back after missing most of the season for 25 games and chipped in 22 points. David Perron was another player that returned mid-way through the season and had 42 points in 57 games. The astounding thing here is that out of the top six scorers on this team, five were drafted by St.Louis. What is more astounding is that none of these guys had “minus” ratings.  Alexander Steen had 28 points, yet he was plus-24. That is some quality minutes right there, right? What about the goalie tandem of Halak and Elliot? Someone probably won lots of fantasy games with that tandem.

Nashville had a similar strategy as the Blues. They only spent $52.1 million and finished just behind the Blues in the Central division. Do you know another thing that Nashville has in common with the Blues? They also have two superstar defensemen who combined for 95 points – ah, the glory days. They also drafted most of their players and have one of the best goalies in the league. Both teams also did not have a player that scored more than 60 points. But let us be realistic, when you ice Weber, Suter, Erat, Legwand, Fisher, and have Rinne in net, it’s not exactly a bag of chips and a soda can for dinner, agreed?

Honestly, a franchise like the Nashville Predators, you have to feel bad for them with what happened during the summer with Suter and almost losing Weber.  But that is all part of the ugly business side of our lovely sport.

You know what else bugs me?  Why do Nashville fans not lose it with Patric Hornqvist?  27 goals on the season, which are decent numbers, but it seems he just ninja-vanishes for weeks during the season. I expected big things from his last season and drafted him on my fantasy team. So of course he starts the season out scoring 0 points in the fisrst seven games, causing me to drop him. Ever feel some hockey players just hate you? He scores seven goals the next six games.

Not to distract you with my fantasy woes, but what I really wanted to hammer in this little piece is that hard work pays off. Or something like that.

One more vodka drink should do it.

People always say that the Detroit Red Wings are one of the preeminent organizations in NHL. They always praise the drafting and the pedigree of winning that Detroit has established over the last 20 years. I happen to agree that the Red Wings have been an almost perfect franchise over the last 20 years. What we do not always talk about is how Red Wings have always supplemented the holes they could not fill through the draft with big-time free agent signings.  The Red Wings have the money and the sex appeal of winning (is that sex appeal fading?). The St.Louis Blues and Nashville predators have done it without being sexy, at least last year. They really have started from scratch and won. They prove that with a good scouting team and financial responsibility you can still win. Even the NY Rangers took notice and now have some quality home-grown talent.

I guess some fans think that you really do need to spend to win.  The LA Kings were pushing the CAP limit last year and so did Boston the year before that, but both of those teams had key ingredients that were developed from the inside of the organization. To me that is what will always separate quality franchise and the ones that will fail to win.  The Blues and Nashville look well-managed, coached, and will be competitive for a long time due to proper spending and proper drafting. Fans might urge huge spending to get big-time free agents, still looking at you Wild, but good GM’s should show restraint.

Look, we all want to get that expensive cocktail because it looks delicious, but in the end sometimes value is value. I have had some terrible twelve dollar drinks and felt highly disappointed.  But on the other side of the coin, you never really complain about open bar quality of drinks right?

To me these two franchises, Nashville Predators and St.Louis Blues, represent the new modern era model teams to take notes from and follow suit.

If you missed my first installments of NHL Happy Hour, they can be found here:

NHL Happy Hour: Volume One How NHL Teams can be Compared to Vodka

NHL Happy Hour: Volume Two Summer Cocktails and Predictions


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