Thursday, 10 December 2015

Canadiens divorce with Alex Semin is easier than the Oilers' with Mark Fayne.

The Canadiens made a clean break with Alex Semin when he cleared waivers and instead of accepting an assignment to St. John's, he chose to terminate his contract and sign with Magnitogorsk of the KHL.

In contrast, Edmonton currently has an anchor of a contract on its hand that it wishes it could dispose of as easily.

It’s easy to rag on the Oilers, but they have some fundamental problems in building a roster, due to their locale which lands them on most free agents’ no-fly list, and on most NHL players’ limited No Trade Clause list of teams they can’t be sent to.

Two summers ago, the Oilers targeted and landed two UFA’s, and kind of snapped their suspenders at this feat. They explained that their data showed these two players were undervalued and were poised for bigger and better things. They weren’t quite the belles of the ball, but rather under-the-radar free agents, second-tier types who they trumpeted were poised for a step forward. I remember a few articles pointing out how the Oilers’ (new) reliance on advanced stats had a lot to do with these acquisitions.

One of these players was Benoit Pouliot, a player we know quite well in MontrĂ©al, who’d just had a strong season on the Rangers’ third line. The other was Mark Fayne, a player I still know nothing about, I always have to catch myself not to write or say ‘Frayne’. No, that’s Trent Frayne, the sportswriter, I tell myself.

For both of these players, it was accepted that Edmonton had to overpay, go high on salary/term to get these guys to sign on July 1, rather than a more glitzy Original 6 or California destination.

Well, Mark Fayne just got put on waivers by the Oilers, who want to send him to the AHL.

There were a couple of comments on social media after Alex Semin was waived stating that Marc Bergevin made a mistake signing him in the first place.

I’ll repeat that it wasn’t a mistake, it was a low cost risk with a potential for a high return that didn’t pan out, and will now be no skin off our nose.

You want to talk about mistakes, talk about Mark Fayne, Nikita Nikitin and Ben Scrivens in the AHL, all on multi-year, mult-million dollar contracts.

In an article on Rick Dudley in Le Journal de MontrĂ©al, he described one of Marc Bergevin’s strengths as not being overwhelmed by the fear of making a mistake. He talks of other GM’s who are paralyzed by indecision and can’t pull the trigger on trades.

In this light, I’ll maintain that to call the acquisitions of Alex Semin and Zack Kassian, which were made at a low cost and are easy to get out of, mistakes is the wrong word to choose, it has the wrong connotation.

A mistake isn’t putting a quarter in the slot machine and not hitting the jackpot. You expected not to win the jackpot, you can carry on without it. A mistake is taking the down payment on your first house to the blackjack table and losing it all.

I think of either of these acquisitions as a Hail Mary attempt that falls incomplete. It would have been awesome if it connected, but there’s almost no risk if it doesn’t. No big deal, you get the ball back on your next down and decide what you want to do. You always have the safe option of punting.

It’s not a mistake like fumbling the ball away, or mismanaging a fourth-down situation when you should have gone for the first down but chose to kick the field goal, and see the other team drain the clock on its next possession.

The Oilers though, it does look like they just fumbled inside their own 20 again.

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