Hockey, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: 2013 Free Agent Frenzy

Consider, if you will, the following four NHL players:

Player A

  • 27 years old
  • 238 regular season games
  • 82 game average: 18G, 28A, -14, 19:20 ATOI

Player B

  • 29 years old
  • 426 regular season games
  • 82 game average: 19G, 14A, -6, 14:07 ATOI

Player C

  • 29 years old
  • 367 regular season games
  • 82 game average: 21G, 28A, -2, 16:51 ATOI

Player D

  • 28 years old
  • 403 regular season games
  • 82 game average: 19G, 25A, -2, 14:59 ATOI

Those are four pretty identical – and pretty average – Top 6 NHL forwards, all past the average offensive prime of an NHL forward.

Now, without advanced metrics, you the reader do not know whether any of the above players are good defensively, as +/- is hardly an indicator. But let’s say that in this case the +/- is at least slightly indicative of defensive ability.

Who is the best player? Who would you sign? For how much? For how long?

Now supposed I told you that today, during the madness of the first day of the NHL’s silly season, the following happened:

  • Player B, a winger, signed a 7-year, $36.75 million deal: that’s $5.25 million per season, a raise of 175%
  • Player A, a centre – and, therefore, all other things being equal, more valuable than a winger – signed a $5-year, $21 million deal: that’s $4.2 million a season, a raise of $300%
  • Player D, a winger, signed a 2 year, $6.5 million deal: that’s $3.25 million per season, a raise of 0%
  • Player C, a centre, was bought out of his past contract of $5.5 million per year

Who were these NHL players?

  • Player A is Tyler Bozak, the Leafs perpetual default “#1” centre
  • Player B is David Clarkson, the Leafs big free agent acquisition
  • Player C is Mikhail Gravbovski, who the Leafs just bought out.
  • And Player D is Clarke MacArthur, who the Leafs decided not to resign

Now I generally support the Grabovski buy-out in theory but what I can’t understand is that, if Grabovski is not worth $5.5 million per season, how is Clarkson worth $5.25 per season?Moreover, how is Bozak worth $4.2 per season? And how, in all of this, is MacAthur, whose numbers are comparable to the other three – and whose advanced metrics are superior to Bozak’s – only worth his same old salary?

Was Grabovski bought out specifically to sign Clarkson? It appears that way. Looking at the numbers above one is hard pressed to understand what was going on in the minds of the Leafs management over the last few days.

Knowing a little bit about Grabo’s injury history helps explain only one of those for outcomes. The other three are still mysterious:

  • Is Bozak a Top 6 player on any team but the Leafs? I don’t know.
  • Is David Clarkson a legitimate Top 6 player or did he just have a good year once? I don’t know.
  • Is MacArthur so clearly not as valuable as Bozak or Clarkson? I’m pretty sure the answer to that is no.

Nonis backers say it’s to early to start the Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis, as free agency just started. I might agree with that sentiment – I am not one to rush to judgments – if Nonis hadn’t already given me reasons to question his decision-making, namely:

I don’t think the latter move was particularly egregious – it has a lot of sense to it – but it did set the Leafs up for this whole “Who is the team’s #1 centre? Oh it’s a more expensive Bozak” mess we find ourselves in.

The Leafs still have over $14 million in cap room but only have 15 players. Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2013-2014-2018 Toronto Maple Leafs (all salaries are in millions):

Lupul: $5.25; UFA 2018Bozak: $4.2; UFA 2018Kessel: $5.4; UFA 2014
JVR: $4.25; UFA 2018Bolland: $3.375; UFA 2014Clarkson: $5.25; UFA 2020
?McClement: $1.5; UFA 2014Kulemin: $2.8; UFA 2014
??Orr: $.925; UFA 2015
Phaneuf: $6.5; UFA 2014Gardiner: $1.117; RFA 2014
Liles: $3.875; UFA 2016?
Holzer: .787; UFA 2015?

Reimer: $1.8; RFA 2014

Wait, where’s Bernier? Where’s Colborne? Where’s Franson? Where’s Guannarson? Where’s Kadri? Where’s Komarov? Well, they have $14.3 $13.7 million to split between them. That should be fun.

All I can say is that if you have faith in a Leafs core of Bozak, Clarkson, Lupul and JVR then you’re doing better than me. I think I’m going to watch more basketball.

Editor’s Note: And I did. I have barely watched the Leafs since I wrote this and went from being a casual Raptors fan to a massive Raptors fan this coming NBA season, 2013-14. Thanks Dave Nonis. You killed hockey for me.

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