Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is There Really Anything Wrong with what Lou is Doing?

There's a good deal of hubbub across the blogosphere this morning as hockey media, professional and amateur alike, are either up in arms or coming to the defense of the latest Devils scandal.  Salary cap constraints are not new to the New Jersey Devils, and their evil genius GM Lou Lamoirello has long been lauded at the master of maneuvering the loopholes, going back to the Vladimir Malakhov fiasco of 2006, and leading up to the events of the highly-publicized "Koval-gate" scandal.  If there's a way to manipulate the CBA, Lou has likely identified and exploited it.  So why is anyone surprised at the latest chapter in Lamoirello's almanac of string-pulling?  And worse yet, why is anyone upset with actions benign, if not advantageous, in regard to the competitive balance of the league?

 Lamoirello addresses press at recent conference at his lair in Hell

If you somehow hadn't heard, the Devils iced a lineup of 15 skaters yesterday, as they took on the Pittsburgh Penguins.  This was done for the sake of getting under the cap without having to make any real roster moves to replace the injured Anton Volchenkov and Brian Rolston, and also to allow the signing of successful free agent tryout Adam Mair.  My daily perusal of Twitter and my blogroll shows that a good many people are not happy with this approach, some even calling for further penalties against the Devils organization.  I simply don't get that.  There's no stipulation in the CBA or NHL bylaws to state that a team can't ice BELOW the maximum of 20 players (23, with scratches).  And why should there be?  The Devils played the Penguins with 3 forward lines.  Wouldn't you say that any advantage they gain in regard to getting under the cap, they lose on the ice by having to overtax nine guys, as opposed to better distributing the icetime over 12 skaters?  It's a little ridiculous to call for some investigation or amendment of the rules--essentially the Devils are having to penalize themselves.  The 12 Penguins forwards averaged  15:14 of icetime.  By contrast, the 9 Devils forwards averaged 19:41 of icetime.  A pretty substantial difference.  To further illustrate, Craig Adams had the least icetime of all Penguins forwards, with just 11:03.  For the Devils, our old friend Jason Arnott came in with the lowest icetime at 16:24.  Any perceived advantage the Devils reap from "twisting the cap" goes out the window when you examine the absurd icetime the forwards are having to take on to pick up the slack.  No team can sustain itself for very long at that rate -- the Devils are punishing themselves more than any cash penalty could. 

I don't normally weigh in too much here on non-Predators related news, but I felt strongly enough about this topic to want to get my two cents in, so hopefully you enjoyed the perspective.

Back in Nashville, NHL Preds Insider reports that our worst fears have come to fruition, and Pekka Rinne will not be making the trip to Chicago for tomorrow's tilt with the Blackhawks.  Mark Dekanich has been recalled from Milwaukee to back up Anders Lindback.  To make matters worse, Erat, Kostitsyn, and Lundmark are all staying behind as well.  I had maintained a small hope that we might take a flier on waived Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss, who I feel is better than Lindback not only now, but also has more potential, but Bob McKenzie reports that he did in fact clear.  I understand the glut of goaltenders that we're currently faced with, so I'm not all that surprised, but I would have liked to have picked up Greiss, and then shuffled the deck as needed.  Lindback could have been loaned back to his Swedish club, or Dekanich could have been loaned to another team in the NHL to accommodate an addition, but I understand the hesitance. 

On the subject of goaltenders, Chet Pickard was pulled in his first start of the year after allowing 3 goals in the first period to the Peoria Rivermen.  After a bit of an underwhelming training camp and inconsistent year last season, you have to wonder if the pressure starts to build up on young "Picks."

Lastly, 'Hawks defenseman Niclas Hjalmarsson is scheduled for a hearing with the NHL in regard to a suspect hit that left Sabres forward Jason Pominville unable to leave the ice under his own power.  While I don't think there was malicious intent, and the hit was more unlucky than anything, for the sake of leveling the playing field a bit in tomorrow's game, here's to hoping for at least a one game suspension :)

-OMR

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