Part 1: Competitive Impacts of a Lost Season - The Players
Part 2: Competitive Impacts of a Lost Season - The 2004 Lockout
Possible impacts on teams based their on place in the lifecycle.
When talking about team competitiveness, it's impossible to separate player development/degradation, roster changes, and economics, so I won't try. Each of these will play a part in the competitive position of a team depending, at least in part, on where they are in the lifecycle. I'm going to assume that the salary cap survives the lockout, and drops significantly, but in a way that doesn't send Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote packing.
All Blowed Up - The salary cap is only marginally interesting to a team at this stage. They have recently jettisoned high priced veterans, are likely below the cap, and their payroll might decline a bit more before they are done. If 2004-2005 is any guide, the teams at this stage will hold similar low (lottery) draft positions for another year, allowing another young stud to be added to the stable. Recent draft choices and young rookies will get another year in Junior to gain maturity, and remaining veterans will burn a year toward free agency. One longer-term downside is that younger players will burn a year off their Entry Level Contract (ELC), meaning RFA is closer and costs will go up without these young players generating any (high profit margin) revenue.
Rebuilding - Like the prior stage, the salary cap is not a concern. The rebuilding team will have another season in an early draft position, which is important because an improving team tends to move later in the order each year. Younger players have another year to develop, possibly in Junior, the AHL, or in a European league. Consecutive off-seasons means more trade/FA opportunities to add youth and skill. Also like the prior stage, very young players will lose a year off their ELCs, putting RFA years closer.
Contending - The contending team will be closer to the cap than a rebuilding team, but should still have space, so a drop in the cap may or may not have much immediate impact. The core players are nearing their primes, so a loss of a year here is significant, but not catastrophic. There will be a loss on ELCs, but more likely a loss of RFA years from important "keeper" players on their second contract. Draft position for a contending team is typically in the second half of the draft, so it's unlikely that there will be any impact here one way or another. Like the rebuilding team, the contending team will benefit from consecutive off-seasons to acquire talent through Free Agency and trade.
Climax - Because of the way a lowering of the salary cap is likely to be structured, even teams right at the cap are unlikely to have to jettison players through any "amnesty" program in the CBA. Player salaries (AAV) will be lowered through escrow by a similar percentage to the drop in the cap. It will mean that adding new players could become more difficult. How difficult will be determined by the final language of the CBA. Climax teams, if well constructed, tend to draft very late in each round, so having consecutive late picks will provide no advantage. Core players are at their peak, so they lose a year of that level of productivity, which could preclude any "dynasty" from being achieved. To the positive, the few young players on the roster will have a year to improve, and the older core players will have a year to heal and reduce wear and tear.
Past Prime - This is where the lockout will have its greatest negative impact. The core of a past prime team tends to be older, so a lost season puts the team one year closer to irrelevance. It does mean reduced wear and tear and time to heal, so there is some mitigation. Still, it represents another year of assets traded to remain competitive with no resulting revenue. The past prime team is typically a playoff team, so their draft position will hold in the later half of the draft. The quality of prospects available will be less certain.
Death's Door - Aging core players with no significant prospects to replace them; up against the cap, so no real ability to improve or replace the core; stuck in a draft position either out of the lottery, or just barely in, the Death's Door team will not benefit from the lockout unless management shows courage and decides to use the lost year as an excuse to jettison veterans between the CBA signing and the following trade deadline, and start the rebuild. (It was a dark and stormy night...)
Quick review of all teams
I'm going to review the lifecycle phase of each of the teams and then opine on whether the lockout helps, hurts, or is neutral and then provide a few words to why I think that way.
- Chicago Blackhawks - Contending - Helps. The core is still young. Only Hossa is old, and another year of healing would be good for his noggin. They might find a goalie in free agency next summer, or may be able to trade for less of a sieve.
- Columbus Blue Jackets - All Blowed Up - Helps. Assuming this clown farm finds some brains, time can only help. There really isn't a core that you could point to as something to build on, so another year at the front of the draft is the right medicine.
- Detroit Red Wings - Past Prime - Hurts. The (2nd) oldest roster gets a year older and a year closer to collapse. To the positive, the Wings get another year to figure out the defense after Lidstrom's departure.
- Nashville Predators - Rebuilding - Helps. I'm kind of re-thinking this team since I wrote the original series. I had them at past prime, but now I think they are more of a rebuilding team. Their core is thin outside of Weber and Rinne, but both are young and the lockout gives them time to develop their prospects.
- St. Louis Blues - Contending - Helps. This team has a young core and some good talent among their prospects. The biggest impact is that the lost year opens them up to a free agent frenzy with almost half their current roster either RFA or UFA. Their older players, McDonald and Langenbrunner, will both be UFA next year and represent half of their UFA contingent, so in spite of it, the core of the team isn't going to walk after the non-season. They have a lot of flexibility and a lot of salary cap to work with.
- Calgary Flames - Death's Door - Hurts. This is a team that absolutely must blow it up and start over. Sadly for Flames fans, the lockout doesn't really provide any impetus to clean house and start over. They still have plenty of stupid contracts that run out to 2014 that they are likely stuck with, and I can't see management trading Iginla and Kiprusoff for prospects and draft picks like they need to. Another season of old and on the playoff bubble after the lockout.
- Colorado Avalanche - Contending - Helps. As long as the core players get quality playing time and decent coaching, this young team will improve over the lockout. Another draft (where they actually have a 1st round selection) in the 11th position will be good for filling the talent pool, and another summer of free agency will help to fill the remaining holes in the active roster.
- Edmonton Oilers - Rebuilding - Helps. Edmonton will win the draft lottery again for the 2013 draft and finally pick a defenseman (who am I kidding). This is good for them as they are a rapidly improving team and this should be their last shot at the first overall selection for a long time. Also, Taylor Hall has had surgery to repair a shoulder that has been injured since his rookie season. Now he has a full year to heal and rehab.
- Minnesota Wild - Contending - Helps. This was a tough call. After winning the UFA lottery this summer, they've become a better team, and a different team. However they play, they are a young team and a year of maturing will help. They have zero flexibility under the cap now and next year, but in 2014 they have 9 UFA contracts to contend with. Not sure if that's good or bad, but the Heatley contract is one of them. Getting a year closer to punting that has to be good.
- Vancouver Canucks - Climax - Hurts. This team is on the back side of it's peak, but not far from it. Taking a year out of the Sedins will not be beneficial. To the positive, they have a lot of contract turnover next year, and it should provide some flexibility since they are currently up against the cap.
- Anaheim Ducks - Contending - Hurts. Anaheim's forward core are, almost without exception, is going to be UFA at the end of 2012-2013. Depending on how Anaheim treats a player like Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry could be gone. Teemu Selanne benefited from the last lockout. Unless he has the Finish fountain of youth in his back yard, it's unlikely that he or Saku Koivu return after this one. That's total destruction of the Ducks top two lines. Anaheim goes from a team that fought for a playoff spot in the final weeks of last season, in spite of terrible seasons from Perry and Getzlaf, into a team that could contend for the first overall pick.
- Dallas Stars - Past Prime - Hurts. The Stars took a gamble this off season pulling in a couple of geezers, Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, to complement a middle-aged roster. Stars like Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson are relatively young, but the rest of the regular roster are in their late 20s and 30s. A lost year is probably the end for Jagr. Whitney will probably play out his 2 year deal. Several important players, including Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy are UFA after 2013. Decisions await after the non-season for the new ownership.
- Los Angeles Kings - Climax - Hurts. Now is the time for talk of dynasties, not lockouts. The Kings will be able to keep their core together after the lockout ends, but it's a waste to lose a year from the prime of your team. They will be competitive for years to come, but the league is costing them their best shot at a second consecutive cup.
- Phoenix Coyotes - Contending - Helps. Whatever ownership group steps up, they have another year to scrape their pennies together. That has to be good news for Coyotes fans. Their core is signed for at least 2 more seasons and they are way under whatever cap is proposed. A salary rollback has to be a plus for anyone contemplating more desert hockey. Outside of Doan, this is a fairly young team with depth. Assuming that the young players get some playing time and decent coaching through the lockout, this could be an opportunity to develop.
- San Jose Sharks - Death's Door - Hurts. Like Calgary, San Jose's most significant contracts don't come off the books until 2014. That means that their first opportunity to blow this up and start over doesn't come until the 2013-2014 trade deadline. Their draft picks are mid pack, so the chance of picking up a core asset is limited. There are few spring chickens in this team's core. Time is not their friend.
- New Jersey Devils - Past Prime - Hurts. Bones grow brittle with age. I'm now waiting for a hot slapshot to hit a thin spot in his padding shattering Brodeur into a million pieces. Young tyke Johan Hedberg will wheel himself out to replace Brodeur and will slip and break his hip. The rest of the team's core on offense (except the eternal contract of Kovalchuk) will be UFA in 2013. To the positive, the Devils would be writing off one of the expensive $11M years from Kovalchuk's stupid contract, but that's probably not enough for the financially strapped franchise. They are also losing the final year from Adam Henrique's ELC, and you have to believe his next deal will pay significantly more than $850k.
- New York Islanders - Rebuilding - Helps. I'm blaming the lockout on Lubomir Visnovsky. He didn't want to go to the Islanders and he's on a one year contract. The courts said he had to go, so he triggered the lockout. Problem solved. Actually, if you look at the Islander's prospect pool, it's deep. Really deep. That extra year of development will put some solid players on the roster in 2013-2014. Almost forgot, one less year in the Nassau Coliseum. Big win.
- New York Rangers - Climax - Hurts. Name the only Rangers player on a 1-way contract who still gets paid during the lockout... Wade Redden pulls $6.5M in the AHL again this year. Sometimes it pays to have a few good seasons then suck. Oh, and Chris Drury gets $1.67M on his buyout. The following players are on ELCs: Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh. Stepan, Hagelin, and McDonagh are all up for new contracts after the non-season. Gonna be expensive. This team was about to make the "oh face" so that will have to wait a year. No one wants to lose time at the top.
- Philadelphia Flyers - Past Prime - Neutral. 2013-14 is going to look a lot like 2012-13 might have. Not a lot of roster turnover based on upcoming UFAs They lose ELC years from Shenn and Couturier, but they're expensive ELC years. Pronger, on LTIR, gets paid anyway.
- Pittsburgh Penguins - Climax - Hurts. They're losing prime years from Malkin and Crosby. That alone has to hurt. They have 8 RFA/UFA contracts in 2013-14, but mostly from 2nd tier players and they'll be stuck with the same questionable defense. To the positive, missing a year's abuse to Crosby's cranium has to be good. Maybe he can heal to the point he won't have to fake it.
- Boston Bruins - Climax - Neutral. I'm guessing Chara has only 3-4 seasons left in his humongous body. Losing one of them is expensive. Most of Boston's core and 2nd tier skaters are signed for the foreseeable future. All of their goalies are up for new contracts after the lost season. Thomas will probably come off the books and Rask will get his salary. They have zero cap space, and will likely still have zero once the cap is reset. Their last cup was won with adequate play and a hot goaltender. That's not the most repeatable formula (although LAK showed some of it last year, Boston didn't).
- Buffalo Sabres - Rebuilding - Helps. The forward core will be stable for the next couple of year, so the lockout doesn't have a short-term impact there. Their defense will be a Free Agent Fiesta in 2013, so expect some turnover. The biggest impact will be on the prospect pool. Buffalo has a lot of good young players in their system, and the extra year of development will put some of these kids on the NHL roster.
- Montréal Canadiens - Death's Door - Hurts. Good: A year of Scott Gomez' contract goes away. Bad: There's still one left. Good: Hot young prospects get another year to develop. Bad: Almost no room on the team in 2013-14 to add them to the roster. This is a team that should blow it up and start over, but their contract situation will hold that off for (at least) a year after the lost season unless management finds d'énormes couilles (blame Google Translate) and makes some blockbuster trades. Of course since it's the Canadiens, the fans might blow it up for them, and then set fire to what's left.
- Ottawa Senators - Rebuilding - Neutral. The extra development year for this young team would be a plus, but at the cost of Alfie, one of the classiest players in the game. Gonchar might also call it a career, or go back to Russia. The prospect pool is pretty deep, so the extra year will help, and there should be some openings on the roster in 2013-14.
- Toronto Maple Leafs - Rebuilding - Helps. Toronto is one of those teams that hard to classify. They've been flopping about on the verge of mediocrity for so long, it's hard to say what's happening. In the original analysis I had them on death's door, but I think they have sufficient youth and potential to call them rebuilding. There is potential for a great deal of change after the lockout with 9 UFA/RFA contracts to be negotiated in 2013-14, including THE Tyler Bozak.
- Carolina Hurricanes - Rebuilding - Hurts. Isn't it ironic (in the "raaaaaiin on your wedding day..." sense) that the 'Canes went out and spent a pile in cash and prospects to lure another Staal to North Carolina and sign Semin, and now they don't get to play with their expensive new toys? Semin is on a 1 year deal, so they might lose him before they ever see him play. No signing bonus for Semin is a brilliant move in hindsight. They have youth on their side and no looming contract renewals in their core so it's not a killer, but what a bummer.
- Florida Panthers - Climax - Neutral. To think that the Panthers might not get to see Peter Mueller
float around the iceplay because of the lockout. Such a shame. The core of this team is in their primes, with their top defenders on the old side. That would suggest a lost season would be a problem, but they peaked at a first round exit in the playoffs (yes, 7 games to NJD, but still...). They have great young players coming up, and quite a number of possible openings in 2013-14, particularly in their forward corps, so all is not lost.
- Tampa Bay Lightning - Death's Door - Neutral. It's not clear what Yzerman is trying to do here. He's saddled with some weird contracts, wrote a couple of his own (Matt Carle, 6 years at $5.5M AAV without Pronger). They have Stamkos, Hedman, and the immortal Martin St. Louis. Then there's Lecavalier who better be immortal given his contract. What will Anders LIndback look like without Weber and Suter in front of him? Quite honestly they look like they'll be a 10th place team again once play resumes.
- Washington Capitals - Past Prime - Hurts. Dear Mike Ribiero, "Oh won't you stay-ay-y just a little bit long-ger?" We hardly knew you (stick tap to vtcapsfan). Washington finally gets their 2nd line center via trade of prospect Cody Eakin (classic past prime move, by the way), and he goes UFA on them after the lockout. Ouch. Both goaltenders and most of the defense go to some form of Free Agency next year, so there could be a lot of turnover. Maybe 2013-14 will be the year we see (Filip) "Forsberg" back on an NHL sweater.
- Winnipeg Jets - Rebuilding - Helps. Youth will be served, with a side order of free agency. This is a young team, but 2013-14 looks to be interesting on the contract front. They'll improve naturally as their young players develop, but several young core players will be getting what is likely their final RFA contract. Most of the Jets good prospects are already on the big team, so the pool is shallow at the moment. The extra draft should help that. Last of all, Dustin Byfuglien has a whole year to develop sufficient gravity to attract satellites. Scary.