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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Leadership Mission: Mark Messier & Six Stanley Cups

Stephen Covey groups his leadership habits into two groups: independence & interdependence. We all begin life as dependents. As we grow into our teen years, we begin to establish our independence (learning to drive, dating, renting an apartment, etc). And then hopefully, if all goes well, we become more interdependent (working in teams, starting a family, participating in the community).

Mark Messier & Hart Trophy
Covey believes the first three, as a set, are a prerequisite for the next three, or the independence stage, like in life itself, is the foundation for interdependence. It is through this natural process that leaders such as Mark Messier also start their way down the road of becoming captains, coaches or managers.

But what sets the elite leaders apart is something Covey discusses in the chapter on Habit #2, Begin with the End in Mind. And that is the mission writing process. Not everyone does this in a formal way. But the best leaders do typically have a vision or goal that that over time becomes crystalized in their minds like written mission.

Covey's mission statement recommendation though, goes beyond just goals. He believes these goals need to be guided by one's conscience in order for those goals to have an optimal effective on one's circle of influence. Thus, our conscience will reveal in our mission statement, our ethic or moral code for our personal life or professional life -- optimally both.

In hockey, the goal is obviously winning the Stanley Cup. Many kids dream of one day hoisting the big silver mug over their heads as well. Perhaps Messier was one of those children as well, but even he had no idea of the level of success he would achieve:
"Growing up, watching Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night with my family, I never dreamed I would hoist the Stanley Cup above my head six times." 

So what set Messier apart allowing him achieve unprecedented success in the modern era. Lets see what else he had to say:
"Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have played with and for some of the game’s greatest players and coaches. Because of this, I have also been able to achieve many individual accomplishments. But for me, it is and has always been about the team, the journey and the final collective achievement of one singular goal: the Stanley Cup."

Note that he demonstrates gratitude/humility by acknowledging his teammates and coaches. He talks about the journey in addition to the goal. He talks about the Stanley Cup as a collective goal or vision.

These were elements of his unwritten mission: an authentic vision that included both the goal (cup) and principles (team work, hard work and gratitude) that guided him throughout his professional journey.

Covey's Habit #1, being proactive, is essentially the opposite of being reactive. It's important because top performance requires athletes to ignore a lot the nice things in life in order to focus on their sport. For example when others were going to the movies, Gretzky was skating in his backyard rink fostering his hockey sense as an 7 year old, sometimes all alone.

Another example is eating well in order for the nutrition to heal the body especially since hockey is such a physically punishing game. This is especially as the athlete gets older.

So the point is that before one simply reacts to stimuli without thinking, the ability to pause between stimulus and response needs to be developed. That pause though to be meaningful requires filling by something meaningful. So that the eventual decision or action is based on the authentic vision (goals & principles).

That honed pause is quite powerful as it has the potential to create a machine out of the person. That person if pre-programmed with ethical principles then would then logically make ethical decision with the power to eventually propel him to new heights, but just as importantly, it could move others to better themselves, or just simply improve them on its own because of its ethical nature.

Thus, if that pause filled by principled thought, the result will be principled action! That's being proactive. What we sew is what we reap. Hence, optimal habit performance requires ethical vision.

Habit 3 is very much the same with regard to being more effective with a character exuding mission statement supporting it. Habit 3 is of course putting first things first. First things are those that intersection at the highest levels of urgency & importance. The important axis should be heavily influenced by what's in your vision. If the vision is a high character mission statement, then if first things are indeed done, many great deeds will be done around the world every day.

In Habit 4, Think win-win, this is the first habit that really puts a focus on other people in addition to oneself. If you are a credible person of impeccable moral character, people will trust you more naturally and you will both be able to get to win-win agreements more often. It's a no brainer.

With Habit 5, seek to understand first, before trying to be understood. Mutual understanding is much more easily achieved if their is mutual trust. So like win-win relationships, a person of high moral character will naturally be more trustworthy and have many more opportunities to participate in high quality relationships, which increase the chances of success, since more can be accomplished by groups than by individuals.

And Habit 6, Synergy is sort of the natural almost automatic result of high character enabled habits 4 & 5. Habit 7, renewal, well similar to habit 3, if a high character mission statement is at the core of a person's priority list, well just as good decisions will result, so to will good self development activity decisions.

It's that combination of goal & principles that will propel one to make the right decisions when the pressure to make the wrong decision are so great. When one avoids the pitfalls and imaginary shortcuts, longterm success is almost guaranteed.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Leadership & Hockey: Stephen Covey, Mark Messier compared

Shane Doan
The Mark Messier Leadership Award was handed out in June by Messier to a player who has been in the news recently for other reasons. Shane Doan, unrestricted free agent is still deciding which NHL team he will sign with, a contract likely to be the last one for the 35 year old and longtime Phoenix Coyote captain. Upon receiving the award, Doan said about the honour:
"I am thrilled to receive the Mark Messier Leadership Award. Growing up in Alberta, I was a huge fan of Mark Messier and to receive this award from one of the greatest leaders to ever play in the NHL is a tremendous honor."

As Doan stated, Mark Messier is a recognized as an individual who could lead a team to new heights. Some of his key achievements include:
  • He is second on the all-time career lists for regular season points (1887), playoff points (295) and regular season games played (1756). 
  • He won six Stanley Cups, five with the Oilers and one with the Rangers, and is the only player to captain two different professional teams to championships. 
  • His playoff leadership while in New York, which ended a 54-year Stanley Cup drought in 1994, earned him the nickname "The Messiah". 
  • He was also known, over the course of his career, as "The Moose" for his aggression and strength.
  • In 2007, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, in his first year of eligibility.

Mark Messier
When Messier started out in pro hockey, he had a lot of raw ability, like his blazing speed and incredible physical strength. The rest was a work in progress. Thus, Messier has been called the ultimate "coach's project." The coach (and GM) at the time was Glen Sather, who drafted the hometown boy in the second round  in 1979.

What Sather acquired was an impressionable and caring young man who just happened to reside in a monster athelete's body. Under Sather's guidance Messier became focused on the end goal:
"I never was brought into the league thinking as far as, you know, statistics, things like that. We were really brought into the league in a team concept. Everything was focused around winning." ~ Mark Messier

Mark Messier also had terrific skills of observation. In Edmonton, Messier got to watch the greatest hockey player in the world, Wayne Gretzky, game in and game out, and learned to apply at least one characteristic from Gretzky's game to his own: accountability.
"I played with a lot of great players before. They're all the same. They take a lot of responsibility for their own play, put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform and to play well." ~ Mark Messier

Eventually, Messier was able to take all of what he learned and developed it into his own personal leadership code. Mark Messier's leadership principles are as follows:
1. Compete
2. Communicate
3. Motivate
4. Bond
5. Be a Team Player
6. Do What it Takes!
These principles obviously worked since Messier is recognized universally as one of the greatest leaders in all of sports.

With that in mind, I took a closer look at his principles and compared them to that of a renowned personal leadership author, namely the recently departed, Stephen Covey. In his best-selling 1989 book, 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People', Mr. Covey revealed his timeless principles to personal success as follows:

Stephen Covey
Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
Habit 3: Put First Things First
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Habit 8: From Effectiveness to Greatness (revealed as a sequel to the original)

If we compare Messier's six principles to Covey's first six, it turns out they have much more in common then their shiny domes. What is revealed is an undeniable congruence in their principles/habits:

Habit 1: Be Proactive | 6. Do What it Takes!
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind | 3. Motivate
Habit 3: Put First Things First | 1. Compete
Habit 4: Think Win-Win | 5. Be a Team Player
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood | 2. Communicate
Habit 6: Synergize | 4. Bond

Stephen Covey's order is related to the developmental stages that he also identifies in his Habits series, which are as follows:
  1. Independence or Self-Mastery (Habits 1-3)
  2. Interdependence (Habits 4-6)
  3. Self Renewal (Habit 7)
  4. Greatness or Leadership (Habit 8)

So together, a Stanley Cup proven Leadership System for Hockey could be framed as follows:
Independence or Self-Mastery The First Three Habits surround moving from dependence to independence (i.e., self mastery):
Habit 1: Be Proactive (Do What it Takes!)
Take initiative in life by realizing that your decisions (and how they align with life's principles) are the primary determining factor for effectiveness in your life. Take responsibility for your choices and the consequences that follow.
Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind (Motivate)
Self-discover and clarify your deeply important character values and life goals. Envision the ideal characteristics for each of your various roles and relationships in life. Create a mission statement.
Habit 3: Put First Things First (Compete)
Prioritize, plan, and execute your week's tasks based on importance rather than urgency. Evaluate whether your efforts exemplify your desired character values, propel you toward goals, and enrich the roles and relationships that were elaborated in Habit 2.
Interdependence The next three have to do with Interdependence (i.e., working with others):
Habit 4: Think Win-Win (Be a Team Player)
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood (Communicate)
Use empathic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.
Habit 6: Synergize (Bond)
Combine the strengths of people through positive teamwork, so as to achieve goals no one person could have done alone. Get the best performance out of a group of people through encouraging meaningful contribution, and modeling inspirational and supportive leadership.

Habits 7 & 8 I have yet to compare. But if you look closely at Mark Messier's career in it's entirety, including off-season activities, he demonstrates his own versions of these two as well:
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw - to continue getting better, Messier, as do all pros, practiced almost daily in addition to playing the game. He talked about the games and participated in drills to hone his technique.
Habit 8: From Effectiveness to Greatness - as a recognized leader, Messier is passing on his experience and knowledge to others in his Mark Messier's Leadership Camp; his Mark Messier Leadershp Award, and all of the community development projects (particularly those that helped the underprivileged and children in the cities he played in.

In the weeks to come, I will be taking a closer look at each habit/principle and showing them in action both in on- and off-ice examples.

Monday, July 9, 2012

NHL Dominoes: Shane Doan to Vancouver? Jarome Iginla to follow?

Shane Doan is going to listen to outside offers as he's apparently determined, the Coyotes' chances of staying in Phoenix are still on shaky ground. According to Doan's agent, Terry Bross, Shane's criterion include: 

1. location
2. management
3. players
4. Cup chances

Thus, though there maybe a dozen teams willing to make an offer, only 2-3 teams will warrant serious consideration, again according to Bross. 

Assuming all the offers are relatively the same then, here is how I see Shane Doan's shortlist stacking up:

1. Vancouver
2. San Jose
3. Los Angeles

Lets start with #3 and work our way up. The Kings are a young team, and though they may have some cup hangover, they will be contenders for years to come. LA is also a short flight to Phoenix in case Doan intends on keeping his ranch and horses intact. A spot would need to be opened up for Doan among the top six though, as currently the Kings are all full up with Kopita, Brown, Williams, Richards, Carter and Penner on the roster. Penner could be shifted to the third line though, LA is still a very strong candidate.

Doan, Thornton and Kris Draper
Next is San Jose, another California contender with a strong nucleus. They may not be as close to cup contenders as LA, but Doan has a tailor made center in Joe Thornton, who he had success playing with while on Team Canada during the World Cup -- but that was over a decade ago. San Jose is also a quick flight to Phoenix, and maybe a little easier to get around in traffic when trying to get to the airport and back.

Then we have Vancouver. Another Pacific coast city, but this time much further north. Despite Doan's love for flight (yes he's got a pilot's license), a plane ride from Vancouver to Phoenix is not nearly as convenient then from either California cities. Despite that though, Vancouver has perhaps is the strongest candidate when it comes to Doan's teenage roots.

Doan me his wife Andrea while playing junior for the Kamloops Blazers. He and his family still spend parts of the off-season in Kamloops. Doan is a part owner of the Blazers, along with Jarome Iginla (who he played with in Kamloops) and new Dallas Stars owner, and Vancouver resident, Tom Galiardi.

Gillis and Gilman
In his recent blog post:, Province writer, Jason Botchford provided this additional nugget with regard to the Canucks chances of landing Doan: 

The Canucks may have an ace up their sleeve. At least, they have a pretty good in. Laurence Gilman, the Canucks assistant general manager, has a personal relationship with Doan established during his 13 years with the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets organization.
"I've known Shane since he was 19 years old and I have a lot of respect for him," Gilman said. "We've definitely stayed in touch over the years."

Andrea and Shane Doan
As much as the relationship with Gilman will play a factor, I think Doan's wife being from Kamloops will be the component that seals the deal with regard to signing with the Canucks. This situation eerily similar to the Ryan Suter's, where his Minneapolis raised wife, Becky, played a large role in his decision to move to the Wild, along with Minnesota native Zach Parise and his Minnesota soon to be wife Alisha.

Andrea Doan by the way, is a professional photographer by trade. She has her own company and website. Her passion is her family including taking plenty of pictures of her four kids and their father, Shane.

Some of the repercussions of Shane Doan signing a 3 to 5 year deal with the Canucks could include, Doan recruiting his old buddy Jarome Iginla to the Canucks. Iginla himself is an BC interior resident during the off-season, residing in close by Kelowna.

Shane Doan and Jarome Iginla

Thus, its not inconceivable that he and Doan could re-unite with the Canucks, next off-season, when Iginla is a unrestricted free agent. This could also play a role in Doan's decision on a NHL destination, likely to be determined in the next few days.

With the Brenden Morrow trade rumors appearing to be legitimate, I do wonder if Dallas Stars new owner Tom Gaglardi is making room for Shae Doan. They are of course business partners with regard to their ownership of the Kamloops Blazers (along with Jarome Iginla).

Either way, you would think Doan signing with Francesco Aquilini's Canucks, would be a tough pill to swallow for Aquilini's scorned former partner, Gaglardi. Doan may not want to create those negative vibes between himself and Gaglardi (and maybe even Iginla) by going to the Canucks.

The Canucks and Stars have tried to do business since Galardi's purchase of the Stars. Thus, it could a non-factor in the end, especially if it becomes a matter of Doan having to pick between his wife and his business partner's happiness

NHL Dominoes: Alexander Semin to Pittsburgh? Fellow Capital Mike Green to follow?

With Zach Parise and Ryan Suter now signed and delivered to the hockey fans of Minnesota by their Wild management team, the NHL version of falling dominoes will play itself out. The players likely to be landing on different teams include a who's who of NHL snipers and blueliners including:
  • G Roberto Luongo
  • D Shea Weber (RFA)
  • D Mike Green (RFA)
  • D Alexander Edler
  • D Keith Yandle
  • W Rick Nash
  • W Bobby Ryan
  • W Ales Hemsky 
  • W Shane Doan (UFA)
  • W Alexander Semin (UFA)
  • W Andrei Kostitsyn (UFA)

Lets start with likely the first to move, Alex Semin. The teams rumored to be inquiring include PIT, DET, NJD and of course his old team, WSH.

I get the sense, despite WSH's addition of Mike Ribiero, Semin may well look else where to find himself a pivot partner in crime -- the crime being lethal wristers from almost anywhere on the ice. NJD would seem to be a natural fit. However, with the departure of Parise and the uncertain financial status of the team, other potential issues become more prominent. For instance, the Devils top two centers by ice time these past playoffs, Travis Zajac and Patrick Elias, will both be UFAs at the end of next season.

Then there is DET, Semin showed tremendous chemistry at the latest World Championships playing alongside the Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk. Extending that dynamic duo relationship to the NHL would seem a natural. And it could well be Semin's eventual landing spot. The downside there is that DET is in the western conference, something that is less familiar to Semin. Also, if he intends to sign with DET longterm now or eventually, there is the added concern that Datsyuk is already 33 and only has two years left on his deal with the Wings. Not to mention their other key forward, Zetterberg is  now 31 and their all world blueliner, Nik Lidstrom has retired.

That brings us to PIT. There is an stated opening on the top line to play wing alongside Sidney Crosby (or for that matter Evgeni Malkin). Penguins GM Ray Shero had this to say about the matter:
“If we could (find center Sidney Crosby) a winger, that would be fantastic...It would make my life a lot easier, (but) Sid does pretty well whoever he plays with. I’d love to get a winger for Sidney, but those guys don’t fall off trees.”
With Parise being out of reach, the low hanging fruit is Semin now for Shero to pick. Rumors are swirling that Semin has been made a 3 year, $30m offer by Moscow CSKA of the KHL (which also recently signed KHL super star (and NHL enigma), Alexander Radulov, to a huge deal). Their is also gossip about Semin signing a "prove-it-to-me" one-year deal with PIT perhaps as early as tomorrow. That type of risky short-term certainly has precedence with regard to Semin. He did it twice with WSH, once as a pending RFA and another time as a pending UFA.

If Semin does it again, he'd be doing so for the same reasons he signed a one-year deal previously, to set himself up for a big payday after a big year. This time though Semin will likely seek out an environment that can provide with a first line center to play with, and within a consistently successful offensive system.

I would guess that in such a short term contract scenario, Semin's cap hit would likely be around the same he has signed for previously, $6 to 7m. And if its with PIT, that would leave the Pens about $3.5m+ to seek a blueline addition, and perhaps as much as $7m+ if they ship out another more replaceable top six winger (Chris Kunitz, for example) while acquiring that new top four d-man.

Why Kunitz? Well there maybe a replacement for him already on the Pen's roster; namely Tyler Kennedy. Here's what Shero had to say about TK:
"We’ve always talked about TK having the ability to move up. Maybe it’s his time to do that.” 
The reason why Shero and the coaching staff feel this way is probably because of Kennedy's playoff performances. Kennedy has more goals in fewer games than Kunitz, over the last four years of playoffs (including these past playoffs). TK is also seven years younger and has just over half the cap hit. 

So what could Shero do with $7m+ of extra cap hit after solving his top six winger issues? Well I think he'd naturally look to the blueline. Here's what he had to say on the subject:
“You’re not going to find Ryan Suter out there...We like our defense the way it is. If there’s a chance to upgrade, certainly we’re going to do that. But there are a lot of teams looking for defensemen. They’re not easy to find...We’ll see what’s available...If you can improve your team, you’re going to do that. One thing that we have now that we haven’t had in a while is cap space.”
The obvious name sitting out there is Shea Weber.  I'm sure Shero has plans to pursue RFA Shea Weber with a similar strategy, who I'm sure would be the ideal candidate. However, like the playing field was not level with regard to the pursuit of Parise & Suter (see why here), it's also likely tilted against PIT in any pursuit of Weber as well.

The next logical high end answer, may well be a star d-men whose rights are currently onwned by Pens nemesis, Washington Capitals. Yes, I'm talking about Mike Green -- despite his d-zone reputation. 

If Shero thought the end all be all answer to his blueline was a defensive d-man (the anti-Mike Green if you will), I sincerely doubt that well respected defensive defenseman Zbynek Michalek would have been traded last month. For this and other reasons then, I would contend, Mike Green is a better fit in PIT than Michalek and probably Paul Martin. By playing in a more structured offence with somewhat reduced minutes, Green's d-zone reputation would surely improve.

Green already has the right to choose his own destination. All he has to do is find a team that would be willing to give him a deal that WSH has been unwilling to give him thus far (a lockout anticipating, front loaded deal for example). 
And if WSH played hardball by not trading Green's rights, then Green could play his own version of hardball by refusing to play for WSH.

Even if Green eventually relented and accepted a one year deal with WSH, at least he gave his agent, hardball master, Don Meehan, the opportunity to determine precisely what his contract value would be on the open market when eligible. That would be valuable information during negotiations with WSH during the eventual negotiations on an extension after Jan 1.

Green's injury problems the last couple years will make WSH gun shy on a big extension. Whereas Green will feel as though his past performance is plenty evidence to be paid like a boss. Green's
comments the other month certainly didn't sound as though he was completely relying on WSH for that contract desire:

“I’m excited to come back if that’s the game plan. That’s what I want, but we’ll see.”

Green's actions (declining his qualifying offer and refusing arbitration) in my opinion, indicate he doesn't want a one year deal to prove himself, something that I'm sure McPhee would much prefer before offering multiple years at boss-type dollars. Plus, Green would most likely want to get a big deal done this off-season, before the new CBA comes into effect.

Like Alex Semin, Mike Green could very well be low hanging RFA fruit, where the playing field for PIT will be level (unlike during the pursuit for Suter and the likely pursuit of Weber). If that's the case, it will be strange enough seeing Semin in a Pens uniform, never mind Green.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Justin Schultz and the Kelowna Connection

Justin Schultz, #6 Wisconsin Badgers
Justin Schultz has successfully exercised his right under the current CBA to reach unrestricted free agency despite being only 22 years old (as of July 6).  

Make no mistake, this is a  big deal for NHL teams:
“This one is going to be just as big as the (Zach) Parise and (Ryan) Suter because of the economics of it.” -- NHL executive

His is one of those unique situations though, the UFA status will not necessarily garner him more money, since he is still bound by the limitations of the Entry Level Contract framework, which has a maximum base and maximum bonus structure. Here's a good explanation of what Schultz can expect:

Every team that makes an offer on him will do so knowing it will have to absorb a $3.8 million salary cap hit next season - $925,000 in base salary and signing bonus, $850,000 in ‘A’ level bonuses  (for achievements such as scoring 10 goals, 25 assists, 40 points, 0.49 points per game and others) and $2 million in ‘B’ level bonuses (for elite performance such as finishing among the top 10 defensemen in goals, assists, points or ice time or being a finalist for the Norris Trophy) – on a two-year deal.

So if the money is more or less the same wherever he goes, the real benefit to Schultz is the ability to choose where he plays. Its been widely speculated that Schultz preference is to play in Canada. Some feel he wants to reunite with former Wisconsin Badger teammates. Others think he will want guaranteed icetime that some blueline thin teams could provide. And then there are those who think it will be the proximity to his hometown of Kelowna BC that will be the determining factor.

Bob McKezie, who has been guessing that Edmonton would be Schultz preference, is reporting otherwise now:

Justin Schultz
What intrigues me more so is the question why? Why did he in December indicate to the Ducks that everything was hunky-dory, but soon after do a complete three-sixty. Bob Murray, the Ducks' executive vice president and general manager is left shaking his head in confusion as well:
"Yeah, that's a sore spot...huge disappointment. We've drafted fairly well the last few years...we rebuilt and you have a young man like Justin [Schultz] coming along who gave us every indication he wanted to play for us...[we] counted on it."

That type of dissapointment and eventual resigmation did not come quickly for Murray. There was a full court press employed to get Schultz to try to get Schultz to stick to his word. It included having hall of fame ex-Duck, Scott Niedermeyer personally calling Schultz. But to no avail.

Considering the difficult path Schultz faced including a hit to his reputation, why would Schultz subject himself to such an uncomfortable ride on his way to UFA status? What is it about Anaheim that turned him off some completely?

I don't think its a the city itself, Orange County and Southern California is a great place to live and play. The new head coach, Bruce Boudreau, is known as a player's coach. There doesn't seem to be any issues he has with anyone in Ducks management or ownership. The team itself has been relatively competitive over the past few years, though it headed for the links earlier than usual this past season -- but that happens. 

What else could it be? If we take a close look at the roster, we'll find that the team is facing a bit of an uncertain future. Since the departure of Niedermeyer and Chris Pronger, and due to the age of Teemu Selanne, the Ducks on-ice flag bearers have really been Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, and to some extent a younger Bobby Ryan. Both Getzlaf and Perry will be UFAs at the end of this coming season, barring a near deal with Anaheim.

Ryan Getzlaf (center) and wife Paige Larsen Getzlaf (right) in Kelowna
What if the uncertainty regarding the Ducks longterm future played a part in turning off Schultz? And, is it possible than that not only is he worried about Perry & Getzlaf flying the Duck coup, but he also knows where they are going?

What if the NHL team (Vancouver) Schultz eventually chooses is also where Getzlaf and possibly Perry may also plan on ending up. In fact, is it possible that Schultz was tipped off in some way, by Getzlaf and or Perry, or someone else in the know.

What do we know about Perry & Getzlaf? Perry, despite being a Rocket Richard Trophy winner, one year removed, was widely rumored to be headed to Vancouver during the last all-star break. That deal presumably would include from the Canucks side, Cody Hodgson and Cory Schneider -- not beyond the stretch of the imagination considering Hodgson was eventually traded and Schneider had yet to sub-plant Roberto Luongo.

As for Getzlaf, despite being married to a SoCal girl, and apparently owning a house in Orange County, he makes his off-season home in Kelowna as well. Is it possible the "Kelowna Connection" theory is at work here? 

Last off-season, I was speculating that Shea Weber was possibly conspiring with his good buddies Josh Gorges and Black Comeau, all three Kelowna residents, to possibly re-unite as free agents in Vancouver, to play closer to home. All three had signed one year deals despite successful performances with their respective clubs -- an indication that all three wanted out.

It didn't quite materialize though, as Comeau's game fell apart and was eventually waived and picked up by Calgary. Gorges, on the other hand, ended up signing longterm with Montreal. Weber though seems poised to force a move from Nashville especially with his blueline partner, UFA Ryan Suter, seemingly headed out of town. 

Is it possible then, that Weber and his Kelowna hockey colleague Getzlaf, both have Vancouver in their sights, and that fellow Kelowna boy Justin Schultz is but a precursor to more monumental free agent signings in Vancouver? 

Obviously, there are more questions than answers at this point in time. Nevertheless, the hockey enclave that is Kelowna BC, is once again a common denominator in another creative free agency conspiracy theory here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Zach Parise Contract: Kovalchuk Framework?

Media and speculation have the Minnesota Wild preparing to offer Zach Parise a lifetime contract, that will make him one of the highest paid players in the NHL: For instance, this one from Wild beat writer, Mike Russo:
Parise made $6 million this past season, but the Wild, the lowest-scoring team in the NHL last season and desperate for a star, is expected to offer Parise as much as $8-9 million annually.
And then, this tidbit from Charley Walters (whose not known as a regular on the Wild beat):
If need be, the Wild would be willing to offer presumptive New Jersey Devils free agent Zach Parise from Minneapolis a 13-year guaranteed contract.
Finally, Bryan Reynolds is sensing this:
If it is me, I offer a seven year deal at about $8 million per. My guess? The Wild are ready to pony up more than that...10 years, $9 million per year.

The theme here seems to be $8 to 9m contract anywhere from 10 to 13 years. The range is very relevant because it will effect the eventual cap hit, the number that fans tend to remember and is important to big market clubs as they look to squeeze in as much as possible under the salary cap.

Of course, the cap hit is the annual average value of a deal. It can also be somewhat misleading, as it is possible for Parise for all intents and purposes, to make $9m per year yet have a ~$7m cap hit. Here is an example of such a deal that could be offered to Parise to get him to the total dollars he demainds while keeping the cap hit manageable for an NHL looking to max out their roster (at some point in Minnesota's case): 

$6,000,000 (age 27)
$1,000,000 [throw away year]
$1,000,000 [throw away year]
$1,000,000 [throw away year] (age 40)
$93m Total
$7.154m Cap Hit

Essentially, what the above is is Ilya Kovalchuk's actual contract with the last three years lopped off. It would provide Parise with an average salary of $9m for the first 10 years. The last three years could be seen as "optional" years for him to either play through or even retire, given he'll be in his late thirties at that point. Considering his injury history and playing style, it's quite possible Parise will retire before those last years.

And then there is the strategy of front loading. That's when the contract provides the player to get much of the total dollars up front in the first few years of the contract, which is always a nice to have for anyone signing a contract. Russo believes the Wild are willing participants in such a deal:
The Wild, like others, have lots of salary-cap space. Maybe more than the Penguins, the Wild will have the ability to sweeten an offer with frontloaded money.

With some re-sorting of the above, we can make the same offer front loaded, as follows:

Craig Leipold
$11,800,000 (age 27)
$1,000,000 [throw away year]
$1,000,000 [throw away year]
$1,000,000 [throw away year] (age 40)
$93m Total
$7.154m Cap Hit

Bottom line, Zach Parise can become a $90m dollar man on a lifetime contract without breaking his team's (the Wild or some other team) salary cap bank.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ryan Suter & Zach Parise: Minnesota bound?

Could it be that both sign with the Wild?
Ryan Suter & Zach Parise

  • Zach Parise is from MIN and Ryan Suter is from the neighboring state of WI -- they are longtime friends.
  • Suter played for current MIN majority owner, Craig Leipold, who, like the Suter clan, is originally from Wisconsin.
  • Suter's agent is a college teammate of MIN Wild major shareholder, Phil Falcone -- they remain very good friends.
  • MIN acquired Tom Gilbert likely because of his ties to both Parise and Suter (giving MIN the pre-July 1 inside track on communication).

There's more...enter Ryan Suter's wife, beautiful Becky.

Becky Suter

Becky is a business school grad from University of Wisconsin. Ryan Suter met her there during his one and only year playing for the Badgers. She is originally from Minneapolis -- they were married at the golf course a stone's throw away from Zach Parise's new lakeside house in the upscale Minnetonka area).

Shea Weber
Ultimately, it may be Suter's wife responsible for Shea Weber's eventual exit from NSH.

Shea Weber seemed content to sign a multi-year deal with NSH back in 2010. But as contract talks gradually wore on, I suspect his buddy Suter at some point told him, "Hey Shea, I don't know if you really want to sign a long term deal, brah. I think there's a good chance I might be signing elsewhere my deal is up."

I think Suter wants out because he wants to do something nice for his wife, who still lists herself as working for her dad's real estate firm, which is in Minneapolis. It just so happens, Zach Parise is also from Minneapolis and he and Ryan Suter are known to be friends. I think those two have a plan that involves the Wild.

Parise bought a lake front mansion in suburban Minneapolis last summer and will be married, (likely) at the golf course across from his house, to his North Dakota fiancee, Alisha Woods, on July 21. Suter and his wife were married at that same country club a few years ago.

Zach Parise Lake Minnetonka Home

NHL team official:
"I am assuming that, at least as of right now, they [Zach Parise & Ryan Suter] are a package deal. They certainly seem to have set it up that way, themselves."

USA Olympic team official:
"My sense of what they shared when the team was together is a vision of how the game should be played, how they play their game given their talents and ability and how teams should play. I think that is what a lot of this hot stove, rumor-mill stuff is about: They know the kind of hockey they want to play, and they want to play it together, on a team they will help lead. Now, whether that desire ultimately rules the day is something that will be seen, in time."

Alisha & Zach Parise
So as Parise and Suter's plans started to form, likely over the Olympics, perhaps solidifying last season, Weber's tune started changing last spring about signing longterm in NSH. As you know, he ended up letting the negotiation go to (team elected) arbitration, ultimately picking the one year award instead of the two.

Bailey Munro
I recall hearing on Team 1040 last season, one of the local reporters saying that Weber told him about Vancouver during the Olympics, "this wouldn't be a bad place to play, eh" (or something to that effect). He's also on record as saying Vancouver is his favorite road city because "it's close to home." It's also close to home for his fiancee, Bailey Munro, who like Shea, is a graduate of Kelowna Secondary School.

So there you go, the moral of the story could very well end up being: if you want to know where players are going to sign, check with the wives.