Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

Sergei Makarov’s Hall Of Fame Case

Over the last few days I have written posts related to the free agent signings and the major trades that occurred.  I am returning to looking at the Hall of Fame cases of the recent player inductees.  I have written the Hall of Fame case for Eric Lindros and today I will make the case for Sergei Makarov.  I think the case is made clearly by using the Keltner List which is borrowed from baseball but just as clearly applies to hockey.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Sergei Makarov was regarded as the "Soviet Wayne Gretzky".  Thus he was seen as the best player in the Soviet program.  There was often a question about how players from behind the Iron Curtain would play in the NHL and some suggested they might be the best players in the league although most had them settling at levels lightly below that.  When Makarov came over to the NHL he was 31 years old but nobody considered him the best player in the NHL however his best years were likely over.  He put up 86 points in his first NHL season ever.  It is an open question how well Wayne Gretzky would have fared if he was transported to Russia at age 31 but in the NHL Gretzky put up 121 points at age 31.  I think most people never considered Makarov to be the best player in the world but because he was the best player in the Soviet system, there was some uncertainty of where he stood in the NHL and that left a small uncertainty that he might be the best player in the world.

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How Good Was The 2015 All UFA Team?

Every year I make an All UFA Team.  This is the best possible line-up one can make from unrestricted free agents.  It shows how good a team one could make if money was no object and you could buy all the best players available.  Typically the All UFA Team costs more than the NHL salary cap and isn't a particularly strong team.  This shows that a good team must be built by other means than free agency.  In late June I posted the 2016 All UFA Team.  Today I want to talk about the 2015 All UFA Team and estimate how good it would have been last year. 

Below is the 2015 All UFA Team with their salary cap hit and statistics achieved:

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On The PK Subban Trade

Yesterday more than 100 players signed new contracts.  It was an active July 1st.  Nevertheless in terms of meaningful moves that will set the direction of franchised for the next several years, the July 1st free agent frenzy was upstaged by June 29th.  Three major events were announced.  First Steve Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning and hence did not become a free agent.  Second Edmonton traded Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson.  The final move was Montreal trading PK Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber.  That is the move that I want to discuss today.

PK Subban is a first class defenceman.  He won the Norris Trophy in 2013.  He just turned 27 years old in May and it is reasonable to believe that his best is yet to come.  Subban faced problems in Montreal for many reasons.  He is a black player and thus comes from an underrepresented group in the NHL.  He is a high profile flamboyant personality who commands news coverage.  He brings with himself a bit of "swagger" that is more common to football or basketball than it is to hockey.  He is a creative offensive defenceman and that goes against the grain in the dead puck era NHL in which he plays.  He was forced to sit out the first four games in the 2012/13 season when Montreal was unwilling to sign him to a long term contract arguing that he had not proven himself as a top defenceman yet.  Immediately upon signing the contract, Subban won the Norris Trophy.  This all left a bad feeling between Montreal management and their star defenceman.  Eventually it was that feeling that required a trade.  The problem is that it is very hard to trade a player as good as PK Subban and win the deal.

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On The Taylor Hall Trade

Since free agency was likely upstaged a couple days ago by two major trades, I see no problem writing a post about one of those trades right as free agency is about to begin.

The Edmonton Oilers have been a bad team for several years.  During this time they have been able to acquire several forwards as top draft picks.  This year is no different is Jesse Puljujarvi fell into their lap.  One problem is that they lack any good defencemen.  In fact the only defencemen they had who was once considered a top prospect for the Oilers was Justin Schultz.  He didn't work out and found himself traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year.  The Oiler have been trying to turn some of their young forwards into a top flight defenceman in a trade for quite a while.  They hadn't been able to do so.

I think the move they finally made was out of desperation.  They traded their top established player in Taylor Hall (assuming Connor McDavid is not really established yet having only played half an NHL season) to the New Jersey Devils.  Hall is one of the top left wingers in the game and is a player I would have put on Team Canada for the World Cup.  The Oilers got Adam Larsson as their return from the New Jersey Devils.

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2016 All UFA Team

Every year I make an all star team of the best unrestricted free agents to be.  This shows how good a team one could make if they went out and bought all the best players available.  Usually this team isn't very good and costs well over the salary cap.  We can look back at this team next year to see how good it is. 

I will take a look at last year's team in a few days after the majority of the free agency moves are over.  We already have some significant trades that may have upstaged the July 1st frenzy.

This year's team took a significant hit yesterday when Steve Stamkos re-signed with Tampa Bay.  The major prize among the UFAs is no longer available.

Here is the 2016 All UFA Team:

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Eric Lindros Hall Of Fame Case

On Monday the 2016 Hall of Fame inductees were announced.  Over the next few days I want to spell out the Hall of Fame cases of the player inductees using the Keltner list which is borrowed from baseball, but applies to hockey almost as well.  I am going to start today with Eric Lindros.

1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?

Many people considered Eric Lindros to be the best player in hockey from the mid-90's until about the year 2000.  There were other candidates throughout this time including Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek.  The case against Lindros had to do with his ability to stay healthy.  During the period that he may have been the best player in the game, Lindros never played more than 73 games in a regular season.  Thus some people may argue that Lindros never was the bet player in hockey, they would argue that a healthy Lindros would have been the best player but that was an animal that didn't exist.  Lindros won the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP in 1995.  This was the ideal season for Lindros to win the Hart Trophy.  Due to a lockout it was only 48 games long.  There is some doubt as to whether or not he could have been healthy enough to win MVP had that season lasted 82 games.

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2016 Hockey Hall Of Fame Class

Yesterday the Hockey Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 2016.  There were no significant first year eligible players so this was a year to induct people who had been overlooked in the past.  Three players were inducted in Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov and Rogie Vachon.  I think Lindros and Makarov are deserving inductees and I had them among the list of players I would have inducted.  Rogie Vachon was not.  He is likely the best remaining goalie from the 1970s who is not inducted in the Hall of Fame and as such gained some support for his induction.  However he isn't a Hall of Fame worthy player.  Vachon wasn't a top goalie for a sustained period of time.  He did have a relatively long career so he has a pretty high totl of career wins.  Vachon is on the level slightly below the Hall of Fame.  In the days to come I will post the detailed Hall of Fame cases for all three of these players.  Likely the opening of free agency will delay these posts until a few days into July.

Also inducted as a builder is Pat Quinn.  Quinn was a top coach and GM.  He was an important figure in several cities - most prominently Vancouver.  Unlike some builders like Gary Bettman and his ilk and owners who are only concerned about making money from the game of hockey, Quinn was concerned about hockey.  I like that kind of builder inductee.

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On The Masterton Trophy

What is the Masterton Trophy awarded for?  I have no idea anymore.  Officially it is awarded for perseverance, dedication and sportsmanship.  The easiest of those three to quantify is sportsmanship.  Naturally some of the all time penalty minute leaders such as Gary Roberts and Ken Daneyko have won this award.  This season Jaromir Jagr won it for having a lengthy career.  Nobody has ever won it for that reason in the past.  Gordie Howe didn't even win it for having a lengthy career.  Last year Devan Dubnyk won for making a comeback from a really bad season that nearly had him out of the league to a Vezina nominee season.  How can the same award be for such different things in back to back years?

The Masterton Trophy has been given for strange reasons ever since the early years of its existence.  In 1969 Ted Hampson won because he was the best player on a really bad Oakland Seals team.  Voters have no consistent interpretation of this award.  Most frequently it is given for overcoming a serious injury or illness that threatened a career.  I think that is the most meaningful description of this award.  By that definition Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers was the best of the nominees.  Zuccarello overcame a brain contusion and concussion to have a significant season.

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On The Selke Trophy

Patrice Bergeron had won the Selke Trophy in 2012,2014 and 2015.  He was a nominee in 2016 but he didn't win the award.  Voters wanted to give it to a new winner and they chose Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.  It was a mistake.

It is hard to quantify a good defensive forward but we have some of the tools.  Some of the best numbers to use can be found at behind the net.  You want to see a player who has much better puck possession (Corsi) numbers than typical players on their team.  This can be seen as a high Corsi relative.  Last year Patrice Bergeron led the NHL among forwards with 50 or more games played.  Anze Kopitar was 158th.  You also want to see that this was done against a high quality of opposition.  In behnind the net, Corsi Rel QoC is the best measure of quality of opposition.  Here Bergeron came in 7th place among forwards with 50 or more games played.  Kopitar finished 98th.  By those measures there is no competition between them at all.  Voters clearly picked the inferior player.

The fact is Bergeron is the best defensive forward in the NHL by a significant margin.  Some voters got tired of him and wanted to give the award to somebody else. But why did they pick Anze Kopitar?

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Calgary’s Got a Brand New Goalie

Last year the Calgary Flames goaltending was bad.  They expected Jonas Hiller to carry the load but he struggled.  He posted a .879 saves percentage and a 3.51 GAA.  This was one of the worst goaltending seasons in recent memory.  Their other options were better than Hiller but still below average in Karri Ramo (.909 saves percentage), Joni Ortio (.902 saves percentage) and Niklas Backstrom (.882 saves percentage).  Calgary would improve significantly if they could find a reliable goalie who would merely perform at the league average. 

Yesterday they did better than that.  They traded with St Louis to obtain Brian Elliott for their second round pick.  St Louis selected Jordan Kyrou from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. 

Elliott posted a .930 saves percentage last year which was the highest among goalies who played a significant number of games in the entire league.  Elliott received a few votes for the Vezina Trophy as a result but since he shared his time in St Louis with Jake Allen was not taken as seriously as the clear number one goalies.

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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