NHL Coaching Free Agency Is More Exciting Than Player’s

What a time to be alive.

Now is the time to reflect on how different the world is because once President Trump is sworn in, the end of the world will immediately follow. But before The Donald starts World War III and our matter is redistributed throughout the universe upon the destruction of Earth, let’s recall the halcyon days of when free agency was exciting.

Feels just like yesterday that the Flyers, Maple Leafs, Red Wings and the Rangers were throwing gobs of money at any semi-decent/recognizable name on the free agent market:

Hey, Wade Redden! You kind of suck now but would you like $39M?

Bryzgalov, you just had a career year that is highly unlikely to be duplicated especially because you won’t be insulated by Dave Tipett’s defensive system anymore. Butttttt here, have $51M!

You mean to tell me that David Clarkson could be the next Wendell Clark? There’s no possible way that this could go wrong!

Weren’t these fun times?

Remember when July 1st was a day that we all actually looked forward to because legitimate NHL stars were on the market?

Man, I remember when Peter Forsberg signed with the Flyers coming out of the lockout as if all of my Christmas memories had a baby with my memory of that time that time that I had to poop in bag that I’ve been trying repress. That shit (in both senses) was exciting! I called everybody with the excitement as if I just called Foppa myself and said, “Peter, sign here” to which he replied, “Sure thing! Now let’s be best friends!”

Even more fun than the signings themselves was the lead up and speculation before the open of free agency. Could you imagine if there was Twitter coming out of the 05 lockout?

But that was then, and this is now. Unfortunately, NHL parity and the CBA have ostensibly killed the in-season trade, and free agency. Anyone worth getting excited about is a RFA throughout the first 5 years of their career, and is then signed to a 7-10 year deal there after. Basically, if you can put up 25+ goals, 50+, and have Corsi of 53% or better, you’re with the team that drafted you for life.

Of course this year will have the exception of Steven Stamkos (presumably) hitting the market but it’s hard to get excited about that because does anyone think that he is going to sign anywhere besides Tampa or Toronto?

After Stammer, the only compelling free agents are Keith Yandle (who will get way too much money and term for a number 2-3 defenseman who is 29 years old), and Milan Lucic (who I am still amazed has the minimal mental capacity to operate his opposable thumbs). After that, we enter the real murky waters of Shane Doan, Cam Ward, and Eric Staal.

And then there was last summer when Matt Belesky and Cody Franson were the bells of the ball for the first time in either of their lives.

Last summer, we were forced to focus on Belesky and Franson because we had to. But what was a much more compelling story was, which coach was going to go where? If I had to rank last summer’s top 5 free agents, it would have went like this:

  1. Mike Babcock
  2. Todd McClellan
  3. Matt Bellesky
  4. Johnny Oduya
  5. John Hynes

This summer, you would see a pretty similar ranking:

  1. Steven Stamkos
  2. Bruce Boudreau
  3. Claude Julien (possibly)
  4. Keith Yandle
  5. Luke Richardson/Dan Quinn/Jim Montgomery

Strange strange times we live in now.

That being said, coaches becoming much more attractive free agents makes perfect sense when you consider the aforementioned indentured servitude of any good player, and super duper reluctance of General Managers to part with prospects.

Asset management is EVERYTHING for NHL squads now. Prospects that would have been jettisoned after their ELC’s expired are finding longer ropes because teams are A) afraid that they’ll materialize into decent NHLers the second they are let go; and B) it’s way cheaper to have Scott Laughton play bottom six minutes and make him a winger than it is to sign a 10 year vet.

So, how then do you affect change if the players aren’t as easily moved? Simple, you find somebody that can get more out of the players that you already have.

Look, I love hockey for many reasons but there really aren’t that many ways to play this game. From a systems stand point, there really isn’t anything anyone can do that no one has never seen before. Even if there were, the other NHL coaches will figure out how to counter it -when Patrick Roy tried to play man-to-man defense in his first year for example.

I never thought there would ever be a day that I cared more about where the top free agent coach would sign over the top free agent player. But here we are.

Oh what time to be alive.


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