Friday, July 27, 2018

Embracing Going Vegas on the Rest of the NHL

Columbus Blue Jackets!  C'mon down!
There is something magical about the inaugural season of an NHL club.  The players know they are up against it, and band together into a tightly knit bunch.  Even the inaugural Blue Jackets did that, and Ron Tugnutt established a record for wins for an expansion goal tender until Fleury demolished that record.  There is a bond between the fans and the players, and the atmosphere can be awesome.

And Vegas this year, launched from a much better starting position than the CBJ, roared into a Stanley Cup Final.  Huge props to the players, the coaches, and the management.  And I think its time for the CBJ to take a page out of their book, and go all in for this year. 

In a previous post I opined that salting the increased value over our investment in Artemi Panarin back into the organization by trading him now was a choice that I favored.  I have been a season ticket holder since about 2005, I'm in too deep to back out now.  I'll probably keep buying tickets.  So for me, I think about the long haul.  But a reality I don't often consider is that people keep talking about the possibilities of Columbus as a market, instead of the realities.

It is valid to state that a rather large sector of the Blue Jackets fandom REALLY needs to see an extended playoff run sooner rather than later.  Therein lies the gist of one of the other options.  It is a high risk option, sure, but there is high reward if you rise above the risk.  That option is to ignore the contract status of Panarin and Bobrovsky as of July 1, 2019, and make a run for the Stanley Cup now.  The best players on the team are under contract until that time, and you make it clear to the team at the beginning of the season that it is time to win a Cup, for the sake of the franchise.

Lambert, over on Yahoo did a pretty solid analysis of this, and one of  his points that intrigued me was that a deep run, such as to a Cup final, would generate enough cash to make it pay for the organization that it was worth keeping Panarin for 2018-19, even if he walked in free agency.  He also pointed out that running into a hot goal tender in the first round could easily derail that strategy.  Which is a good point.  But if you do this approach, it applies to Bobrovsky as well.  Bob may want to be the highest paid goal tender in the league.  If he wants to be the best goal tender in the league he CANNOT let another goal tender best him, no matter how 'hot' that goal tender is.  That is what a contract year means to a player.

There are some advantages to the 'all in' approach.  For one, the team thinks short term, about this season.  They look around the room, and know it will be different next year, so the group needs to write its legacy.  Another is that the coach thinks long term.  A coach only thinks about the next game at some level, but the coaches strategy should also take into account an expectation that 'this is the year' and that a long playoff run is in the offing. 

Another thing that would have to change, is how the fans approach the season.  A lot of fans, like me, who have gone into a season with high hopes only to see it over by Halloween, kind of wait and see what happens.  We wade into the season, and as raucous as Nationwide Arena can get at times, it can be pretty quiet in October, November, and sometimes December. 

If this is a season where we are 'all in', that means all of us.  The fans need to start by bringing the thunder early and often, and be focused on making the home atmosphere a challenge for the opposition.  It will be a lot of work, it will be crazy, and it may well end in disappointment, for the opposition is formidable.  But you would know you left it all out there.

None of the things I have talked about are sustainable here, year in, year out, until we have finally established the reality of this market, and have achieved significant success.  But it is very doable for the short term.  A special season.  But someone needs to call it; To say the way its going to be, such as Babe Ruth pointing into the outfield.

So if we are going to go 'all in' this year, I respectfully request that John Davidson stroll to the lectern on media day, and give a short and simple speech: "Damn the torpedoes!!  Full speed ahead!  We're going for the Cup!"  And then we'll all be on notice that its 'all in'.

And that my friends, would be wildly entertaining!


Friday, July 20, 2018

Why it's Okay to Take Prospects and Picks for Panarin

Hope we don't have to do this with Bob as well!
In recent news, Aaron Portzline over at the Athletic has reported that Artemi Panarin's agent has passed along the word that Bread doesn't want to deal with any contract stuff after September 13, 2018.  At that point, its time to play hockey, and Panarin wants that to be his focus. 

I don't feel any animosity towards what Panarin has done.  I think he believes he is doing his best to do right by the Blue Jackets organization, and I am okay with that intent.  Not everyone will be, which is fine too.  While Panarin is under no obligation to negotiate with the Blue Jackets (he already has a contract), the Blue Jackets are under no obligation to heed this deadline.  However, it does set a waypoint in the negotiation process, and the Jackets can approach it three ways. 

First, they could go all in on this season by keeping Panarin, and do damage control at the trade deadline if things go awry.  This is the high risk move.  The second way is to try to gauge the market as best you can, and try to trade Panarin at the top of the market.  The notion here is that you are trying to make a deal that has a good player coming back along with a prospect and a pick.  The third way is to shrug, and make your best deal before the season starts, which almost certainly would be a package of picks and prospects that may be of value in the future.  It is this last option that I want to examine.

In my previous post I suggested that the organization had invested assets roughly equivalent to a middle of the pack first round pick to acquire Panarin.  It is the organization's good fortune that the skill and tenacity that make Artemi Panarin a fantastic player to watch on the ice have resulted in that investment blossoming into an elite player.  The Blue Jackets badly need elite players like Artemi Panarin.  It is the organization's misfortune that they will be unable to retain the player, in spite of a willingness to pay top dollar.  So now what?

My point about the third option above is that a way to take the net difference between the cost to the Blue Jackets and the value of the player, and invest it back into the organization is to acquire the picks and prospects that are likely to be offered over the summer.  Portzline reports that there is a legitimate offer on the table at this time.  While it is true that picks and prospects won't help us this year, we have a young and dynamic defensive corps that is going to keep us in the playoff hunt for a while here.  We won't be drafting from an advantageous position.  By investing in strengthening the talent pipeline with picks and prospects we are helping to ensure the team will be competitive for some time to come.  It took the Capitals nine years to break through.  You have to be ready to compete for the long haul.

Right now, one of the strengths of the organization is the scouting department.  By trading Panarin for a prospect or two, and some picks, you give this part of the organization tools to work with to keep us strong for the long term.  The prospects put pressure on our own prospects to succeed, and it never hurts for the AHL Cleveland Monsters franchise to be flourishing.  You want your prospects developing in a winning atmosphere. 

If Panarin was negotiating, I wouldn't even consider this approach.  But he is not.  We get the best value for Panarin by being willing to take picks and prospects.  It is a value that can be reinvested into the organization to keep it strong..  This is the course of action I favor at this time as having the best return.  We will get to see how it all plays out.


Saturday, July 14, 2018

Assessing the Cost if Panarin Does a Taveres

Some may be angry...
Well, the initial stages of free agency 2018 are over.  John Taveres, the plum free agent on the market, ended up signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs, spurning the team that drafted him, the New York Islanders.  The Isles lost the value of a number 1 overall pick, and got nothing in return. 

The Blue Jackets are facing a similar problem with Artemi Panarin, who has declined to enter into negotiations with the Blue Jackets, even though he could.  Panarin is set to command top dollar and term when he goes to free agency July 1, 2019, and its possible that he will exercise that right.  So what would the Jackets lose if they cannot sign or trade Panarin? 

Well, we traded Brandon Saad, and a goal tender we drafted (Anton Forsberg, (3rd round(?)) for Panarin.  So there is the value of a third round pick.  To get Saad, we traded Arty Anisimov and Marco Dano and some minor league guys to Chicago.  We got Anisimov as part of the Nash trade (Dubinsky, Anisimov, and a first) and we got Dano as a first round pick from the Kings in the Carter trade.  We got Carter for the first round pick that netted the Flyers Couterier, I seem to remember that being something like 8th to 12th overall.  We also got Jack Johnson in the Carter trade. Johnson walking in free agency is irrelevant to the present discussion.

So total organizational value traded was a 30th overall (Dano)(which we got for half of an 8th overall); a third of a 2nd overall (Anisimov, as part of Nash trade) and a third rounder.  These are organizational assets to be sure, but if we had to take a dead loss, it is not of the same magnitude as losing a first overall, who was a pretty good player. 

If you look at this as the cumulative probability that a player gets to the NHL and plays at least 400 games, your first overall is a near certainty to achieve this.  Second through about third picks are like 80-90 percent chance of meeting this.  After the top 5, this probability starts dropping sharply, with picks 5-10 at about a 50% rate (Editor's note: neither Gilbert Brule or Alex Picard made this threshold) and by the time you get to the thirtieth pick and the top of the second round the percentage levels off at about 10-12%.  By the third round everything is pretty stable at about 6-8% chance of playing 400 games.

So if we try some ersatz ranking system we come up with:

Taveres, No 1 overall = 95%

15% (Dano), + 10% (half of an eight overall converted to a 30th overall correction factor), +30% (Anisimov, one third of 90%) + 8% for a third rounder (Forsberg) = 62%, or roughly the equivalent of an 8th overall. 

Since Panarin has blossomed into an elite player, you might well get a first round pick and a couple of young assets on a trade and sign deal this summer.  In that case the CBJ would break even or come out ahead in the long run.  If we can't get what we want for him, and Panarin walks in free agency, it is roughly the equivalent of a draft day flop on your first round pick after a fair to good season.  It hurts, but it is not as crippling as losing a first overall. 

Tom Reed wrote an excellent article over on the Athletic urging the 'trade Panarin now' position.  I tend to agree with him.  Having Panarin in a contract year next year would be awesome, but acquiring some young assets in exchange would work nicely, and keep the team growing at a good pace as it gets better and the draft pipeline gets a bit thinner.  So I agree with Reed that you do not have to get an equivalent player for Panarin; top young assets and high picks are a very good return for this player.

We will see how this saga plays out.  Its not a bad thing to have Panarin playing for us in a contract year, so the short term results may be worth the middle of the road long term impact.  But if you can get what you want on a trade and sign deal, than Jarmo should pull the trigger.

Feel free to call me on any details of these trades.  I likely have some of it wrong, but it gives you an idea of the relative values we are working with.  It's summer, and it is okay to make stuff up.  Ha ha ha!

Stay cool everyone!