A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER

With Toni Rajala’s release this week, we have another player to scare ourselves with–he’s another “one that got away” for Oilers Nation. Do these players ever amount to anything? What’s the system of measurement to inform us about a truly shameful loss? Is it NHL GP?

I think the answer, increasingly, is no. Let’s take a player like Patrick Thoresen. He wasn’t drafted, but showed enough in the SEL for the Oilers to sign him, spring 2006. Oilers coach Craig MacTavish–who didn’t give a rat’s ass about draft pedigree, let me tell you–was impressed enough with the young Norwegian to keep him on the club. He hung around all year and then the following season Edmonton felt they could move on (and they did, although I expressed my unhappiness, using almost the same wording as I did for the Rajala flush) using men like Geoff Sanderson.

Since then Thoresen has found a home in the KHL and at 30 I’d imagine he’s pretty much established in Russia. Question for you: do you believe Patrick Thoresen is a better hockey player than some of the men Edmonton is auditioning for their bottom 6F’s this season? How many would you estimate? As a  guide, using Vollman’s NHLE equivalency number, Thoresen is just off a KHL season that suggests 82, 26-37-63 is the line in the sand (NHL equivalency).

Which brings me to another question. In an article for Oilers Nation yesterday, Jonathan Willis wrote the following:

  • For one, it already makes a mediocre 2009 Draft look worse. The Oilers found a real player in Magnus Paajarvi at 10th overall (since cashed in for another real player, David Perron). Four years out, Rajala was one of three guys contributing at the AHL level, and the only one scoring – the others are defensive specialist Anton Lander and backup goalie Olivier Roy. One pick (Troy Hesketh) is already a clear bust and two others look to be well on their way: Cameron Abney, who can’t crack the Oilers’ AHL lineup, and Kyle Bigos who is on a one-year AHL contract with the Worcester Sharks.

I don’t have an argument with any of what Jonathan wrote, the Rajala flush DOES make the 2009 draft look worse. My question is: should it? Now before you roll your eyes and decide this is yet another way for me to defend MBS, hear me out please. In the first half of the last decade, Oiler prospects (from Rita to Mikhnov to Niinimaki to Trukhno and on it went) would get a chance in the AHL, possibly move up to the NHL for an audition, and then head back to Europe with an answer about their NHL ability (fringe players).

Nowadays, and I’m going to bunch Thoresen in with Omark and Rajala and Hartikainen and let’s include Liam Reddox too, “fringe”  NHL players have other, more lucrative opportunities than the AHL. Unless you’re sure that an NHL offer is coming, and that’s what caused Teemu Hartikainen to leave (as I understand it), then the KHL (or other Euro league) has to be an attractive option–especially if it’s at or near home. Right?

Now, we have a player in Rajala who–without the money from Europe calling–would have stayed, built on last season and possibly received some NHL playing time. After that, you never know.

So, back to my question: because of the change in European offer size, is it reasonable to adjust our thinking in regard to draft success? Is it reasonable to say “well, Rajala may or may not have emerged as an NHL option but he reached that career plateau where the Euro dollars outflanked the NHL possibilities?” and further can we reasonably suggest that the Rajala pick was a success even without an NHL appearance?

From my point of view, the AHL has become a farm team for the KHL (as well as the National Hockey League) and at some point we’re going to regard the KHL as something similar to the WHA 40 years ago: another (lesser) major league. And if that’s the case, then Patrick Thoresen covered the bet.

I believe the change in the weather means we have to adjust our sights. Thoughts?

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62 Responses to "A CHANGE IN THE WEATHER"

  1. OilTastic says:

    it’s kind of a drag for me because, though quite small, I would have liked to see what this kid could do at least before we shuffled him out the door.

  2. OilTastic says:

    or he shuffled himself out the door I guess…and the KHL is another WHA is a good point….they really are taking more than a few NHL and AHL players aren’t they, with promises of pro hockey and better money?

  3. Lowetide says:

    Yes, and I also think there’s an ill wind blowing in CHL hockey that will hurt the Euro ratio at the NHL level. all of it combined suggests (to me, anyway) the NHL is exiting the period where pretty much all of the best players in the world were housed in one league.

  4. D says:

    It’s a change in the market and the teams in the NHL that bests adapt are the ones that will see the most success. From a rational supply and demand perspective, no player will sign a 5 digit, two-way AHL contract for the chance at a cup of coffee in the NHL when they can sign a 6 or 7 digit KHL contract promising steady work. Considering how short a hockey player’s career really is, monetizing it as much as possible still has to be the top priority.

  5. Masamax says:

    D you are absolutely right. In response to Lowetide’s question… Do we adjust the metrics for draft success? Maybe, but at the end of the day the more beneficial metric is overall asset management. If a player you draft ends up playing on another team with success and you haven’t properly monetized that asset in the process, does it matter if you can pat yourself on the back and say “See , we drafted well!”? I would suggest not. The draft at the end of the day is to get players that will contribute, and if you get nothing from that pick, whether because they don’t turn out or you mismanaged the asset, the result is still a wasted pick.

  6. supernova says:

    Two question LT

    1) isn’t the line in the sand of success just under 2 picks per draft year?

    2) don’t you think the best players could eventually end up in the NHL but more likely at late 20′s.

    It seems the risk level on drafting euro’s has went from Russia to all of Europe unless they are elite.

  7. supernova says:

    Sorry for all the posts something funky happening on the iPad, when I edited the post

  8. G Money says:

    Your conclusion is definitely reasonable re: scouting success.

    On a more general note, if I were Russian or European, hell yes I’d rather stay there than the AHL. For a North American, ask yourself, how much money would it take to get you to pull up stakes and move to Russia for a job? And what if that job actually paid LESS than what you’re making now?

    The NHL is not immune to the same globalization effects that have made the landscape challenging for virtually every industry, and in theory, it is also actually a *good* thing that there is another league that the NHL can treat as a de facto developmental league. It is highly unlikely that very many N American stars will bolt the NHL for the KHL. It will be a stop of second last resort. And for every legitimate Russian star like the homesick Kovalchuk that bolts the NHL or tweeners like Thoresen who can’t find work here but can over there, there should also over time be many more players and prospects who develop solid games in the KHL and then want to prove themselves in the best league in the world.

    My concern with the way the world is evolving is in the intransigence of the KHL. I do not believe they see themselves as a developmental league, even though they are far far behind the NHL in overall talent level. And they have money. The real risk ultimately I think is potential distortion of salary structure. If a Russian billionaire decides to offer a star (Russian or otherwise) $20M to play over there – it will have an effect.

  9. Woodguy says:

    So, back to my question: because of the change in European offer size, is it reasonable to adjust our thinking in regard to draft success? Is it reasonable to say “well, Rajala may or may not have emerged as an NHL option but he reached that career plateau where the Euro dollars outflanked the NHL possibilities?”

    I’d have to say no because the goal of drafting is to add good players to your NHL team.

    You would need to separate drafting from development. So would Rajala be a draft success, but a developmental failure? (since he won’t play a game for the Oilers)

    You can draft good players, but if they never play a game for the NHL team, then the pick is not a success, from the point of view of the end goal of drafting.

    Also,

    With the KHL and SEL (now SHL) giving out much better than AHL money, its going to be tough to keep any fringe NHL/AHL euro player on a two way when they can’t quite crack the NHL line up.

    If I had a chance to make much better money, playing closer to home in a culture I was more familiar with, then I’d jump at.

    The result might be leaving your euro picks over there to develop rather than bringing them over right away.

    I wonder if Marincin is a year away from doing the same thing?

    I wonder if it will change the dynamic of bringing over euro kids after they are drafted to play in WHL like Rajala, Gernat, and Marincin?

    Shitty spot to be in as a NHL team. Spend the money to develop a player, and as soon as they can make more $ in other leagues they might jump.

    This leads to a question like “How does Detroit keep a talented player like Joakim Andersson in the AHL for 3 years without him jumping to the SEL/KHL, while only making $60K/yr for the last 3 years?”

    Interesting conundrums for teams to deal with for sure.

  10. Lowetide says:

    WG: I see your point, but my follow up would be this: was it possible on draft day to know that Rajala—in Finland at the time but soon to be in Brandon–would be where he is at 21? I don’t think it was. The scouts didn’t fail, he’s a depth pick who could reasonably be slotted as a possible callup this coming season.

    I can’t see putting an F beside Rajala’s name. Seems completely unfair to the scout (Musil? Nilsson?)

  11. Woodguy says:

    Lowetide:
    WG: I see your point, but my follow up would be this: was it possible on draft day to know that Rajala—in Finland at the time but soon to be in Brandon–would be where he is at 21? I don’t think it was. The scouts didn’t fail, he’s a depth pick who could reasonably be slotted as a possible callup this coming season.

    I can’t see putting an F beside Rajala’s name. Seems completely unfair to the scout (Musil? Nilsson?)

    Following your logic then Banana Hammock was a successful pick because after 114 NHL games he has a career in SEL/KHL.

    Reddox is a success because after 100 NHL games he has a SEL career.

    If you are going to discount an F because they didn’t know where Rajala would be at 21, then you must let them off the hook for Ptilick/Hamilton etc, etc because you don’t know where they are going to be at 21 either.

    If you start moving the line in the sand because a player has a pro hockey career anywhere besides the NHL, then the line is sand is irrelevant because many, many players that are drafted have hockey careers elsewhere.

    That’s not the goal of NHL drafting.

    Whether it be injuries, the call of more $ closer to home, substance abuse, flat out not wanting to work hard enough to make the NHL, whatever the reason…..when a player doesn’t have a NHL career I don’t think you can call it a success draft pick.

    Move the line for Euros who have very good reasons for not playing in the AHL, and you will have to move the line for others for other reasons.

    I get your point.

    “Let’s give the scout a “C” because they found a player outside the top 100 who is good enough to have a pro career.”

    If you move the goalposts that far out, then a much, much larger amount of picks are successful because many, many drafted players who play professional hockey in leagues other than the NHL have been drafted by NHL teams.

    It lowers the bar too low.

  12. Bushed says:

    Masamax,

    Agree with your points.

    Let’s take it a step further. What happens when the non-Euro players realize there’s more money elsewhere, careers are short, etc.? No guarantees that late bloomers, tweeners, fringe players, or guys stuck in the wrong organization (i.e. depth) at the wrong time (hello, Linus) won’t follow the dollars, whatever their nation of birth.

    Will AHL salaries eventually rise? Interesting dilemma.

    PS Loved Thoreson as an Oiler–played much bigger than his size, great corner guy, under-rated skills. He’d still look great on our third line…

  13. BrazilianOil says:

    I love to see a NHL’s conference in Europe.

  14. PeOiler says:

    Time for Katz to buy a KHL team for our Omarks, Rajalas and Thoresens to join…

  15. 106 and 106 says:

    It just seems like it was a money issue for Toni Rajala, which is a shame because I’ve liked him since his draft year. Oh well, he would never be a hall or yak anyways. We need big guys on our team, not dudes smaller than our dink like miller

  16. Lowetide says:

    WG: Well, it’s not like he’s a second rounder (the crime of that draft remains Hesketh-Abney) but still a shame. If I were the Oilers, that’s still a solid pick where they got him, too bad it didn’t work out.

  17. Racki says:

    All I read in this article was draft more Canadians…. or have Katz buy a KHL team, like PEOILER suggested… brilliant!

    One has to ask why Thoreson hasn’t gotten a job in the bigs since parting ways with Edmonton. Still not too late for him though, but a team will want to pick him up sooner than later, if at all since he’s approaching his 30s.

    Also, I don’t think these players like Rajala/Omark/etc that were drafted are really busts that they appear… it’s just they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. The strategy at the time was to stop drafting JF Jacquesusses because “size was in” and start going with any skilled player you can regardless of size… it turned out that we ended up with some really skilled guys in the line up ahead of those guys that are already not the biggest players in the league. So to keep bringing in these small players is going to have a negative impact. If the Oilers had some big forwards to complement these small guys with, Rajala (and maybe even Omark) might have had NHL jobs here in the very near future.

    Anyways, now it seems the Oilers are back to looking hard for coke machines again… but they aren’t completely discounting the small skill guys either.

  18. Lowetide says:

    BrazilianOil:
    I love to see a NHL’s conference in Europe.

    Me too. Moscow, London, Prague, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, who else? More Russian teams I’d guess.

  19. Woodguy says:

    Perhaps it makes more sense to grade then on a large range than A-F.

    Something like: (pulling this out thin air, feel free to improve upon it)

    10 – NHL All Star
    9 – NHL player with > 500 games
    8 – NHL player with 160-500 games and greater than 500 career pro games
    7 – NHL player with 80-160 games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    6- NHL player with 1-80 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    5- Player with 0 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    4- Player with 320-500 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL (plays past ELC in AHL)
    3- Player with 160-320 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    2- Player with 0-160 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    1- Out of hockey before pro career could start (Troy Hesketh types)

  20. Racki says:

    Lowetide: Prague

    Zurich! If for no other reason than to see Krueger get an NHL job again… :P

  21. Woodguy says:

    Lowetide:
    WG: Well, it’s not like he’s a second rounder (the crime of that draft remains Hesketh-Abney) but still a shame. If I were the Oilers, that’s still a solid pick where they got him, too bad it didn’t work out.

    I agree that its a solid pick, but it didn’t help the Oilers one iota in the long run.

    He’ll play as many NHL games for the Oilers as Hesketh and Abney (agreed with the putrid nature of taking these guys where they did)

  22. BrazilianOil says:

    Lowetide,

    For shure a Swiiss team ( richiest counry in Europe ). London has no hockey tradition.

  23. RexLibris says:

    I find myself very much in agreement here, LT.

    This may be a good time for us fans and off-off-broadway analysts to reevaluate how we look at draft success.

    Your point about a wider employment market is well taken and raises the question of a break between scouting and development in that scouts are shopping globally and franchises are thinking locally. The model is shifting and whereas we as fans still use NHL games played as a measure of scouting success, if a scout finds a talented young player who finds a career somewhere other than North America, does it undermine the work of the scouting group or should it reflect the abilities of the managers?

    Consider, Rajala was a 4th round pick. Not a grandiose rate of success there, historically. So if he becomes even a career AHLer it is considered a good call. He’ll probably follow in that Liam Reddox/Linus Omark mould and carve out a career overseas with perhaps an NHL cameo or two later in life. This would suggest that the scouts were right to make that call.

    I think what we can take from this is that we need to craft a far more nuanced approach to rating draft success than we currently have. One that lends more weight to narratives and situational circumstance than is usually the case – and I count myself as guilty in this regard as anyone.

  24. Lowetide says:

    Woodguy:
    Perhaps it makes more sense to grade then on a large range than A-F.

    Something like: (pulling this out thin air, feel free to improve upon it)

    10 – NHL All Star
    9 – NHL player with > 500 games
    8 – NHL player with 160-500 games and greater than 500 career pro games
    7 – NHL player with 80-160 games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    6- NHL player with 1-80 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    5- Player with 0 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    4- Player with 320-500 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL (plays past ELC in AHL)
    3- Player with 160-320 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    2- Player with 0-160 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    1- Out of hockey before pro career could start (Troy Hesketh types)

    Which is a very good idea, I’ve always felt that defined levels are the best way to go. I do think the point you made earlier was the best one, though. If you set the bar low, then you set the bar low. And then you’re really not addressing the main thrust–NHL players.

    I hate you making the point, but you’re right. :-)

  25. Woodguy says:

    Woodguy:
    Perhaps it makes more sense to grade then on a large range than A-F.

    Something like: (pulling this out thin air, feel free to improve upon it)

    10 – NHL All Star
    9 – NHL player with > 500 games
    8 – NHL player with 160-500 games and greater than 500 career pro games
    7 – NHL player with 80-160 games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    6- NHL player with 1-80 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    5- Player with 0 NHL games and > 500 career games including AHL/SEL/KHL
    4- Player with 320-500 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL (plays past ELC in AHL)
    3- Player with 160-320 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    2- Player with 0-160 career games in AHL/SEL/KHL
    1- Out of hockey before pro career could start (Troy Hesketh types)

    Maybe you need to sub-divide all those categories with where the player was drafted.

    i.e. you get more points for drafting Luc Robitalle 171st and Jamie Benn 129th than you do picking Crosby 1st.

  26. Woodguy says:

    Lowetide: Which is a very good idea, I’ve always felt that defined levels are the best way to go. I do think the point you made earlier was the best one, though. If you set the bar low, then you set the bar low. And then you’re really not addressing the main thrust–NHL players.

    I hate you making the point, but you’re right.

    Hating me because I’m right puts you in some good company.

    :)

  27. Dead Oiler walking says:

    It is the job of the scouts to rank the players on ability and provide a description of strengths & weaknesses so management has the best information available to make a decision based on talent. Then it is up to management to factor in team needs and the Euro factor.

    Now it appears that the scouts ranking is influenced by management directive, size vs. skill etc.

    If you are rating scouting, a good player is a success. They have done their part.

    If you are rating a pick, the question is did the pick better the team, even if it is at the AHL level which helps development or in trade for another asset, so long PRV. In the end the pick is on management.

  28. Radman says:

    I suspect Rajale looked at the needs of the Oil, did the math, and made the decision. MacT likely wasn’t crazy about losing him outright, but saw a weak positive in freeing up a contract. Not a great outcome for the team, but not every circumstance is a home run in reality.

    In terms of Rajala, and others to follow, leagues like the KHL provide a viable and appealing option when plan A goes off track. As WG suggests, why wouldn’t he play close to home, for more money in a comfortable culture. The culture thing might be understated for these guys. Maybe this is why the Oil seem to be drafting a little Russia in YEG. Bust out the borscht Mrs. MacT !

    Not sure it changes the drafting in the first few rounds, as long as the player and agent suggest plan A is still the NHL. Fringe NA born players are likely to stick it out here until later in their careers. The reality is teams need players on the farm. This should be taken into account. Can’t use too many later picks on boom/bust Euros at the expense of NA players or your AHL ends up depleted ?

  29. Rustyknuckler says:

    One thing the KHL/SHL money is going to do: make it more likely for teams to draft North American players than a kid from Europe. While the best player may not be picked it will allow for more Canadians and Americans in the league, increasing the rivalries for international competitions. maybe we see the return of the Canada Cup? Those were the days

  30. speeds says:

    Hard to know exactly why Rajala left? Was it simply an opportunity to make more money? Did he not believe he was going to get the shot to play in EDM he felt he deserved? Had Rajala played a couple of NHL games near the end of last season, would things have played out differently?

  31. Lowetide says:

    speeds:
    Hard to know exactly why Rajala left?Was it simply an opportunity to make more money?Did he not believe he was going to get the shot to play in EDM he felt he deserved?Had Rajala played a couple of NHL games near the end of last season, would things have played out differently?

    He may have observed the Hartikainen experience and decided to go now. Just a guess.

  32. Lowetide says:

    Radman:
    I suspect Rajale looked at the needs of the Oil, did the math, and made the decision. MacT likely wasn’t crazy about losing him outright, but saw a weak positive in freeing up a contract. Not a great outcome for the team, but not every circumstance is a home run in reality.

    In terms of Rajala, and others to follow, leagues like the KHL provide a viable and appealing option when plan A goes off track. As WG suggests, why wouldn’t he play close to home, for more money in a comfortable culture. The culture thing might be understated for these guys. Maybe this is why the Oil seem to be drafting a little Russia in YEG. Bust out the borscht Mrs. MacT !

    Not sure it changes the drafting in the first few rounds, as long as the player and agent suggest plan A is still the NHL. Fringe NA born players are likely to stick it out here until later in their careers. The reality is teams need players on the farm. This should be taken into account. Can’t use too many later picks on boom/bust Euros at the expense of NA players or your AHL ends up depleted ?

    Great post. I like the idea of leaving players over in Russia, etc until they’re ready. The problem with that is by that time they are making big dollars there and still have to go through entry level here.

  33. Dead Cat Bounce says:

    Lowetide: Great post. I like the idea of leaving players over in Russia, etc until they’re ready. The problem with that is by that time they are making big dollars there and still have to go through entry level here.

    That’s what I alluded to yesterday.

    Unless these players have a clear, quick path to the NHL, they may decide to stay in Europe.

    Slogging through an NHL ELC without a really high chance of making an NHL roster will become increasingly unattractive.

    And, now that the KHL has expanded into Finland (Jokerit joins the KHL this season), The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Latvia, et al, the opportunities in Europe are expanding.

    It’s quite likely that Sweden, Germany and Switzerland will soon follow suit.

  34. jfry says:

    The khl needs to be seen as a bother extended level of development where players emerge a little later in life, like the NCAA track. The big issue is not to be reticent about bringing guys back.

    I don’t know Mact from a hole in the wall, but part of me thinks he was okay with teemu going to the k. It’s obvious we’ve been scouting Russia and see it as a good league, so why not encourage someone to play there if you have some watchful eyes. You don’t have to pay but you get no say in the dev process. Seems like an okay bet.

    Now, completely freeing ourselves of a 21 yo prospect is a completely other way of thinking.

  35. maudite says:

    What about taking nhle ratios and applying that to games played?

    Quick dirty but effective

  36. jfry says:

    Also, why doesn’t the ahl pay more? If we know this is going to be an issue, it should be looked at. Seems weird that you make ten times the money in the BP in the show than you do playing 20 mins a night in the ahl.

    At a certain point, the NHL will have to look at their own entry level deals and be honest with themselves. Is that part of the problem? Raja la says, “yes”

  37. prairieschooner says:

    Earlier it was mentioned that there was no hockey tradition in London and as a kid in Scotland I remember televised games with the Fife Flyers, The Dundee Racers The London Lions or tigers or something .During my search I came across this guy and thought I would share it Yes it is a hijack but it is worth the trip
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Gardiner_(ice_hockey)

  38. Racki says:

    JFRY: Good questions/comments. However, I think it’s tough to steer guys towards the KHL because at the same time you’re going to be steering guys away from your AHL affiliate. If a guy knows he can go make a mill or two over in the KHL rather than the $50k he’s getting in the AHL, he may jump ship, on the basis that his team won’t mind this move at all. Eventually that will deplete the AHL resources.

    As far as why the AHL doesn’t pay anymore.. I think the average attendance there is somewhere around 6000, and at last check I think the average ticket price is 25.. maybe 30 bucks tops? So that doesn’t bring a whole lot of revenue in to put out big contracts. There are NHL teams bleeding money as is without having their AHL players sapping money from them too.

    As far as relying on the KHL as a development league, I would be really hesitant to do that. Most people over here see the KHL handing out wads of money to players and think that these teams must be raking in dough hand over fist when really they aren’t. They are owned by rich owners/corporations who must take a huge hit financially, at least just in team revenue. Perhaps the publicity of owning a team drives in more business for their other businesses.. I don’t know. But KHL average attendance is around on par with the AHL, and their revenues are likely about the same too since ticket prices are pretty close (they might even be a little lower). However, they spend way more money on salaries…. do the math… the AHL is somewhat of a business, the KHL …. maybe it’s for the love of hockey? I don’t know.

    I guess if the AHL had millionaire owners willing to lose money they could afford to pay their players more.

    PRAIRIESCHOONER: One fellow I chat with on some hockey sites I run is from the UK and he follows the Nottingham Panthers there (often talks about the hockey there) and is a huge Oilers fan. So yah, I wouldn’t say there is no tradition there either.. but of course it is more niche than here. Kind of like Rugby fans here… on a smaller scale, I assume.

  39. delooper says:

    Lowetide: Me too. Moscow, London, Prague, Helsinki, Stockholm, Berlin, who else? More Russian teams I’d guess.

    Munich is more of a hockey town than Berlin. Zurich is more of a hockey town than London, too. St. Petersburgh should be on the list, too.

  40. Racki says:

    BTW, the old Russian Superleague was known for having teams fold due to financial issues (not that this hasn’t happened in the NHL.. but….). Also, it was not uncommon for teams to NOT pay players. I warned of this when people were freaking over the KHL potentially stealing NHLers when it first started up.

    For those looking for a good read, check out Dave King’s book “King of Russia”. Lots of awesome stories about hockey over in Russia, including coaching Malkin there. I might read it again one of these days.

  41. Lowetide says:

    Racki:
    BTW, the old Russian Superleague was known for having teams fold due to financial issues (not that this hasn’t happened in the NHL.. but….). Also, it was not uncommon for teams to NOT pay players. I warned of this when people were freaking over the KHL potentially stealing NHLers when it first started up.

    If that were happening we’d be reading more about it/players wouldn’t be going over. I’m sure there are defaults, but as with the NHL everyone gets paid except Gretzky.

  42. Racki says:

    Lowetide: If that were happening we’d be reading more about it/players wouldn’t be going over. I’m sure there are defaults, but as with the NHL everyone gets paid except Gretzky.

    Not saying it’s happening now in the KHL (that players don’t get paid), but it did happen in the Russian Superleague (which didn’t fold THAT long ago). My point just was that it’s amazing how the KHL survives there with big payrolls when teams aren’t exactly raking in money. Hell, they aren’t all raking in money in the NHL either, but I don’t know if the KHL has revenue sharing in place (they share TV revenue I believe, but not sure what beyond that). It’s just baffling to me how it works there.

  43. LMHF#1 says:

    What I will never understand is why they didn’t just nuke the 50 contract limit. It serves no one well. What’s the damn point?

  44. BlacqueJacque says:

    Lowetide,

    Wasn’t Gretzky’s salary as coach rather egregious?

  45. Lowetide says:

    BlacqueJacque:
    Lowetide,

    Wasn’t Gretzky’s salary as coach rather egregious?

    Idiotic.

  46. BlacqueJacque says:

    Lowetide: Idiotic.

    One of the reasons I find it hard to sympathize with him vis-a-vis the whole Phoenix fiasco.

  47. Chunklets says:

    Lowetide wrote:

    From my point of view, the AHL has become a farm team for the KHL (as well as the National Hockey League) and at some point we’re going to regard the KHL as something similar to the WHA 40 years ago: another (lesser) major league.

    I think this is dead on. The KHL has got itself now to the point where it can attract talent that the NHL didn’t think it was finished with, and I’m not talking about Kovalchuk here – that was a very unusual situation. The departures of players like Hartikainen, Jan Mursak, and other AHL-NHL ‘tweeners, are, I think, very significant.

    G Money:

    My concern with the way the world is evolving is in the intransigence of the KHL. I do not believe they see themselves as a developmental league, even though they are far far behind the NHL in overall talent level. And they have money. The real risk ultimately I think is potential distortion of salary structure. If a Russian billionaire decides to offer a star (Russian or otherwise) $20M to play over there – it will have an effect.

    I don’t know that the KHL has been intransigent so much as it’s been aggressive, and they’re certainly allowed to be that way. There’s no obligation for the KHL to simply accept the long-term superiority of the NHL in terms of calibre of league.

    It’s actually kind of fun. The NHL’s automatic response, throughout its history, to the merest suggestion that it had a rival in acquiring talent has been direct and brutal (examples include the PCHA, the WCHL, the AHL, two pro versions of the WHL, the WHA, and Father David Bauer’s Canadian Olympic program). And the NHL has eventually won all of those wars. Now, however, it has a prospective rival with whom it does not have the kind of leverage that it had with those older outfits. It’s going to be quite entertaining, I think, to see how it all plays out (and if this battle results in the growth of the game, the way the WHA situation did, so much the better).

    Dead Cat Bounce:

    And, now that the KHL has expanded into Finland (Jokerit joins the KHL this season), The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Latvia, et al, the opportunities in Europe are expanding.
    It’s quite likely that Sweden, Germany and Switzerland will soon follow suit.

    Indeed, and that’s one of the more visible examples of that aggression (Jokerit doesn’t actually arrive in the KHL until 14-15, but your point stands). They’ve got Croatia joining this season, Finland next, and projects bubbling under in Poland, Switzerland, and Italy (not to mention a Russian Junior League team in Hungary). I have read that their efforts to expand into Germany and Sweden have been rebuffed so far, but you have to think they’re still trying.

    What will be very interesting, from my standpoint at least, is what happens when the KHL starts seriously poking around in the Far East – Japan, South Korea, and China. A couple of guys from those areas were taken in the KHL draft this spring, both by the new Vladivostok team, so there are definitely contacts there, and interest.

    Anyway, apologies for the very lengthy comment, but I’m very interested in the KHL, and there were several fascinating points raised in the post itself and in previous comments!

  48. delooper says:

    Chunklets:
    Lowetide wrote:
    What will be very interesting, from my standpoint at least, is what happens when the KHL starts seriously poking around in the Far East – Japan, South Korea, and China.A couple of guys from those areas were taken in the KHL draft this spring, both by the new Vladivostok team, so there are definitely contacts there, and interest.

    Or what if the KHL put teams in Toronto and NYC?

  49. Dead Cat Bounce says:

    Chunklets,

    Thanks for the additional info.

    Just some random other info I’ve dug up:

    “The South Korea men’s national ice hockey team is the national men’s ice hockey of South Korea. They are currently ranked 28th in the IIHF World Ranking and currently compete in IIHF World Championship Division I.

    The team holds the record of the largest victory in the sport. South Korea beat Thailand in the 1998 IIHF Asian Oceanic Junior U18 Championships almost unbelievably 92–0.[1] The team’s most successful campaign thus far was a third place result at the 2011 IIHF World Championship Division 1 Tournament.

    The team is in the talks to compete in Finland’s Mestis from the 2013–14 season onwards, in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.”

    “Asia League was created primarily for the development of hockey in Asia. The league allows teams to hire a small number of imports to play on the team in order to even out strength as well as increase the level of competitiveness in the league.

    Playing against more skilled foreign players will allow players from the participating countries to increase their skills and benefit from having some more experienced players on their teams. China is allowed the most imports while the experienced Japanese teams are allowed the fewest.[9] As part of some sponsorship deals China was provided western players from the San Jose Sharks, and the two Chinese teams were provided Swedish players when the Nordic Vikings were active in the league.

    Several National Hockey League players have played in the league, including Greg Parks, Esa Tikkanen, Chris Lindberg, Tavis Hansen, Shjon Podein, Jason Podollan, Derek Plante, Steve McKenna, Jarrod Skalde, Joel Prpic, Tyson Nash, Jamie McLennan, Shane Endicott, Wade Flaherty, Kelly Fairchild, Brad Tiley, Ricard Persson, Bryan Young, Claude Lemieux, Brad Fast, Ric Jackman and Cole Jarrett.”

    Former Oiler Brock Radunske leads the South Korean effort to make the Olympics:

    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2013/04/07/south_korea_awards_citizenship_to_canadian_hockey_player.html

  50. Chunklets says:

    Racki,

    It’s just baffling to me how it works there.

    Welcome to the club… :) The KHL’s financial affairs are not precisely transparent, to say the least! However, we do get a few clues. SKA St. Petersburg announced last season, with some fanfare, that their gate revenues were now covering all of their costs except player salaries.

    My impression is that these teams are funded almost entirely through sponsorship, either from government or from industry or from both, and that those sponsorship rubles are sunk cost. I further think that a lot of reasons behind why organizations sponsor KHL teams have to do with prestige, and presence in the community, and inter-organization competitiveness, and notions like that.

    That system does work, but it leaves teams vulnerable to change of whim on the part of ownership. When the Lada car company decided that it wanted to get into Formula 1 racing, that was pretty much the end of Lada Tolyatti Hockey Club as a big-league competitive entity (the team is on the upswing again, and will probably be back in the KHL in 14-15, so maybe priorities at the company have changed).

  51. Chunklets says:

    delooper,

    Or what if the KHL put teams in Toronto and NYC?

    I think we’re a ways away from that yet! :) But on the other hand… the KHL had two regular-season games scheduled for New York last season, although they ended up pulling out of that deal. And their decision a couple of years ago to change the nameplates on the sweaters from Cyrillic characters to Latin characters was aimed very explicitly at the audiences in North America and non-Russian Europe.

    It would be hilarious if the KHL made a move to put a team in that new arena that’s planned for Markham! :)

  52. Lucinius says:

    the new Vladivostok team

    And NHLers bitch about travel.

    Christ. Can you imagine the kind of travel involved in the KHL in a few years?

    Nevermind the aerospace safety issues, either.

  53. Lowetide says:

    BlacqueJacque: One of the reasons I find it hard to sympathize with him vis-a-vis the whole Phoenix fiasco.

    I think he should be paid any monies he was supposed to be paid. imo that’s the moral thing to do. I don’t agree that it was a good idea, and am somewhat baffled by the idea that he’s being screwed. If he’s being screwed, he should sue. That’s how it works.

  54. Racki says:

    CHUNKLETS: I also wonder if having a billionaire owning the league helps too. I mean, obviously it does, but I wonder if he helps cover a lot of the losses in some fashion. My guess is that corporations/owners and Medvedev are taking losses in order to grow the name and grow hockey there in hopes that one day it will take off, the Russian economy improves enough, etc.

    I guess it’s not like this is anywhere near the first business to lose wads of money in order to build it’s name and grow the business. I just wonder how long they can keep this pace up. Not saying the KHL will fail, by any means, just I’ve never seen the KHL as a threat to the NHL that some have and unsure whether it’s in the NHL’s best interest to affiliate with them down the road.

  55. Chunklets says:

    Racki,

    That’s a good point. Medvedev and his circle were absolutely key in getting Jokerit to join the KHL (they bought Jokerit’s arena, for one thing). The KHL also has active support from the upper levels of the Russian government. The story goes that when the old Red Army club was teetering on the brink a couple of seasons ago, Vladimir Putin stepped in personally, and lo-and-behold Rozneft, the state oil company, rescued the team. Dynamo Moscow, in similar dire straits, were able to survive by merging with the team owned by the Russian Interior Ministry.

    “Noblesse oblige” may not be an entirely accurate term for why these governments and corporations are willing to sink money in the KHL, but I think it at least comes close. If you’re an outfit that is important in a community, part of the job involves supporting the local sports scene. The very rich organizations do it extravagantly, and the less wealthy ones sort of muddle along as they can (competitive balance in the KHL is becoming a bit of an issue). It is, however, going to be a very sad day for some of those teams if the price of oil ever drops precipitously!

  56. Chunklets says:

    Lucinius,

    It actually used to be worse, when Amur Khabarovsk were all by themselves out in that neck of the woods (until Vladivostok arrived in the KHL, Amur’s shortest road trip was 3300 km, by air, one way). Now it’s a mere 600 km to Vladivostok – practically next door! :)

  57. G Money says:

    Woodguy: The KHL is a vanity league for Russian Oil Oligarchy, including the government.

    Dammit, WG, the last three times I’ve gone to post something, you have beat me to the punch. It is precisely because it is a vanity league that a. standard economics don’t apply (not that they do in Russia anyway), and b. why I consider it to be a possibility that one day the KHL offers e.g. Crosby $50M to play in the KHL for a year.

    Chunklets: I don’t know that the KHL has been intransigent so much as it’s been aggressive, and they’re certainly allowed to be that way. There’s no obligation for the KHL to simply accept the long-term superiority of the NHL in terms of calibre of league.

    I used the term intransigent not because of a sense of their aggression or because I believe they should passively accept the superiority of the NHL, but mainly because that aggression occurs without any seeming sense of cooperation. Even rival leagues that aren’t strictly developmental (like CFL->NFL) almost always will honour each others contracts. The KHL a few years ago pointedly would NOT honour NHL contracts until the IOC told them that Russian players would not be allowed in the Olympics if that continued.

    On a broader note – because the KHL *is* a vanity league, and the economics are suspect, I do not think it is feasible that the KHL will ever be able to realistically match the NHL until the Russian economy returns to its post-WW2 size – and given the corruption and oligarchic control over there, I don’t think that’s much of a concern.

  58. jake70 says:

    Things sure were simpler prior to the all those Revolutions in 1989. I blame Regan.

  59. Lowetide says:

    Nancy

  60. Koho says:

    I think when judging draft success we have to also consider that there’s no way to know who you’re going to pick in the years to follow.

    Had the Oilers finished a little better and drafted Landeskog and say Reinhardt; Rajala’s NHL career might look a lot more plausible right now.

  61. russ99 says:

    If they end up with a NHL division in Europe, the Swiss franchise would certainly be in Davos. That place is crazy in winter (I celebrated a New Year there) and they have the best rink in Switzerland.

    Zurich is more a soccer town than a hockey town.

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