Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'Who Should We Bet On In College Basketball?' Week - Part One, Most Talented Duos

As college basketball season approaches, we have two things to really research.

The first question is extremely easy to answer: Is Villanova going to be good? The answer is yes, they'll win the Big East (again) and their tournament run will depend on how good Super Freshman Omari Spellman ends up being.

The second questions is arguably even more important, though: Who should we be betting on? With college basketball, it always seems to be a 'shoot from the hip' situation. You can dig deep into advanced metrics on https://www.teamrankings.com/ncb/stats/, but really the most fun way to gamble is just to know which teams are good and then win money on them.

With that in mind, this week happens to be "Week of College Basketball Lists" on Barstool, hosted by your boy Reags. Yesterday's entry was the 50 best players in the country, which will allow us to cherry pick teams with two (and even three) elite players. Throw them in your memory bank and file them under "Good", and let's ride.

(Note: I'm pulling the Honorable Mentions from Reags' Twitter replies to people who asked him about certain players.)

Duke - #4 Marvin Bagley, #9 Grayson Allen, #25 Trevon Duval, #50 Wendell Carter

This is just plain unfair. Duke is returning Allen (a National Player of the Year contender) and surrounding him with:

  • Duval (the top point guard in this year's freshman class)
  • Carter (the second-best power forward and fifth overall recruit in the class), 
  • Bagley (the top power forward and top overall player in the entire class)
And that doesn't even include Gary Trent, who is the highest-ranked shooting guard in this year's incoming freshman class. Duke has the potential to be fucking sick this year.

Arizona - #6 Allonzo Trier, #15 DeAndre Ayton

Michigan State - #1 Miles Bridges, #31 Nick Ward

Villanova - #2 Jalen Brunson, #43 Donte Divincenzo

Seton Hall - #5 Angel Delgado, #42 Khadeen Carrington

Notre Dame - #10 Bonzie Colson, #28 Matt Farrell

Xavier - #7 Trevon Bluiett, #44 JP Macura

Kentucky - #19 Hami Diallo, #29 Kevin Knox

USC - #24 Chime Metu, #27 Bennie Boatwright

Cincinnati - #30 Jacob Evans, HM Gary Clark

Maryland - #35 Justin Jackson, HM Kevin Huerter

Providence - HM Kyron Cartwright, HM Rodney Bullock





Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Bruins Did Not Do A Great Job With Their First Round Picks From 2005-2013



Matt Lashoff, drafted 22nd overall in 2005

Totals with Bruins: 46 games played over three seasons, 1 goal, 15 assists, 16 points
On March 4, 2009, at the trade deadline for the 2008–09 season, Lashoff was traded by the Bruins, along with Mārtiņš Karsums, to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Mark Recchi and a 2010 second round draft pick.

Recchi played the rest of that season and two more for Boston, totaling 180 games, 42 goals, and 107 points. That run culminated in the 2011 Stanley Cup, and then he hung up his skates

Boston flipped that second-rounder to Florida for Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski. The Panthers used it to draft defenseman Alex Petrovic (one pick before the Hurricanes selected Justin Faulk).

Seidenberg played 400 games for the Bruins over seven seasons (including the 2011 Cup year). Bartkowski played in 131 games over five seasons, but totaled zero goals and just 24 assists. 

Still in Boston: Nothing. Recchi is retired, Seidenberg is an Islander, and Bartkowski is a Flame. 

Phil Kessel, drafted 5th overall in 2006

Totals with Bruins: 222 games over three seasons, 66 goals, 60 assists, 126 points

On September 18, 2009, the Bruins traded Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a 2010 first-round pick (Tyler Seguin), a 2010 second-round pick (Jared Knight) and a 2011 first-round pick (Dougie Hamilton). 

Put a pin in Seguin and Hamilton, because we're obviously going to see them in a bit. 

Knight never played an NHL game - he was in Denmark last season and I'm not going to dig any further to see where he is this season. 

Still in Boston: We'll circle back here in the Seguin/Hamilton sections.

Zach Hamill, drafted 8th overall in 2007

Totals with Bruins: 20 games over three seasons, 0 goals, 4 points

On February 6, 2012, the Boston Bruins placed Hamill on waivers, and he was sent down to Boston's American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, Providence Bruins, after he cleared waivers on February 7, 2012. On May 26, 2012 he was traded by the Bruins to the Washington Capitals for forward Chris Bourque.

It was cool that Ray Bourque's son got to play for Boston. But he only actually played 18 games (1 goal and 3 assists), and then he became a free agent. 

Still in Boston: Nothing

Joe Colborne, drafted 16th overall in 2008

Totals with Bruins: 0 games played

Boston dealt him to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Colborne was sent, along with two draft picks, to the Maple Leafs in exchange for Tomáš Kaberle on February 19, 2011. Kaberle was essentially a deadline rental, tallying 1 goal and 8 assists in the 24 regular season games he played that year. And then, of course, there was the whole Stanley Cup run where he had 11 assists in 25 games. He left the following summer. 

Jordan Carron, drafted 25th overall in 2009

Totals with Bruins: 134 games over five seasons, 12 goals, 16 assists, 28 points

On March 2, 2015, he was traded along with a sixth round selection in 2016 to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Maxime Talbot and Paul Carey.

Talbot (sort of) played two seasons with the Bruins, but he only totaled 56 games, 2 goals, and 10 points. Carey never played an NHL game for the Bruins. 

Still in Boston: Nothing

Tyler Seguin, drafted 2nd overall in 2010

Totals with Bruins: 203 games over three seasons, 56 goals, 65 assists, 121 points

On July 4, 2013, Boston traded Seguin, along with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button, to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.

Eriksson played three seasons in Boston and scored 147 points in 224 games. Then he left as a free agent and is now a Vancouver Canuck. 

Smith played two seasons in Boston, totaling 33 goals and 91 points. He was traded to Florida for Jimmy Hayes, who scored 15 goals and 34 points as a Bruin in two seasons - he was so bad that they bought out the final year of his deal and he's a New Jersey Devil now. 

Fraser played 38 games as a Bruin and scored five goals (with zero assists - selfish!). Boston waived him and he was claimed by Edmonton. 

Morrow played sparingly for three seasons (totaling 65 games and 9 points), and then left as a free agent to sign with Montreal. 

Still in Boston: Nothing

Dougie Hamilton, drafted 9th overall in 2011

Totals with Bruins: 178 games over three seasons, 22 goals, 61 assists, 83 points

On June 26, 2015, during the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Hamilton was traded to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a first-round draft pick (Zachary Senyshyn) and two second-round picks (Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Jérémy Lauzon), all in the 2015 Draft.

Finally we get some guys who are still with the team! Although I guess we should use "with the team" lightly, because all three of them will start this season with the AHL Providence Bruins. I'll reference Stanley Cup Of Chowder's Top 25 Under 25 Rankings here: JFK was ranked 5th, Senyshyn was 11th, and Lauzon was not ranked. 

Still in Boston: JFK, Senyshyn, Lauzon

Malcolm Subban, drafted 24th overall in 2012

Totals with Bruins: 2 games, 0-2 record, .727 save percentage

As Dan referenced in his tweet, Subban was claimed by Vegas this afternoon. For what it's worth, SCOC had him at #24 in their ranking. 

Still in Boston: Nothing

Linus Arnesson, drafted 60th overall in 2013

Totals with Bruins: 0 games played

The Bruins still have his rights, and he's played parts of three seasons in Providence, but per SCOC he elected to go back to Sweden for this season. He was an honorable mention in their T25U25 piece. 

(Note: Boston didn't have a first round pick in 2013, as they sent it to Dallas in the Jaromir Jagr trade.)

Still in Boston: Arnesson

-

So, to wrap it up, Boston turned 8 first-round picks and 1 second-round pick into four prospects (two of which aren't even in the top 25 of their farm system). Not great!

Monday, September 25, 2017

I Got A Little Mad About Sean Couturier Again

I have a confession - I got a little triggered this afternoon. It was this tweet from my boy Mikey (great follow for Flyers and non-Flyers content):
I'm a Couturier guy. I feel like I go to bat for him all the time against people who think he stinks. I certainly don't think Mikey believes that Couturier is "bad", just that Scheifele is better than him.

And from a scoring standpoint, it's hard to argue. They were drafted back-to-back in 2011 (which is why this fucking comparison comes up so frequently). Couturier started in the NHL immediately, and his two-year headstart over Scheifele means he's totaled 110 more games played. But despite that difference, Scheifele has still outscored Couturier by 20 goals, 16 assists, and 36 points.

When you boil it down to raw scoring, yes, you would obviously rather have 0.96 goals per 60 minutes than 0.58. You don't need to be an Ivy League economics grad to grasp that general logic (shoutout Charlie O'Connor).

....Stephen A. Smith voice....

HOWEVER.

Couturier's value is always extremely underappreciated by raw scoring metrics for three reasons.

  1. Teammates
  2. Competition
  3. Power play
I'm going to try to be brief and bang out summaries for all three. First, let's look at the guys with whom he shares the ice. I'll resort back to those raw scoring numbers so we can look at how much ice time Scheifele and Couturier get with their teams top ten scorers (please note that Scheifele led the Jets in scoring next year and Couturier was sixth on the Flyers):

(Please do not utilize the bit in parentheses there in an argument against me, thank you.)




Scheifele plays with Wheeler, Laine, Ehlers, and Byfuglien each about half the time he's on the ice. I'd have to get a more mathematically-talented person to tell me how much of his ice time is spent with one of those top-four guys.

What I can tell you with absolutely certainty is it's a shit-ton more time than Couturier plays with the Flyers' top four. I mean he didn't even play enough minutes with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds last season to qualify for HockeyViz's WOWY chart.

I think perhaps the best illustration of the Teammate disparity is this stylish Excel 2003 plot:
Sure, Couturier spent quite a bit of time with Philly's number one scorer (Voracek) last year. But Scheifele spent even more than that amount of time with each of Winnipeg's four top scorers. I'm going to disappoint my high school calculus teacher and try to reference area under the curve here - Couturier's would be about half the size of Scheifele's.

As for competition, that has been well-documented on this website. Couturier consistently takes his band of whoever-the-fuck-his-coach-tells-him-to-play-with into battle against opposing teams' top lines, and he routinely shuts his opponents down completely.

And as for the power play, I would recommend Charlie's latest piece from Flyers training camp. He references the second power play unit with Couturier, Konecny, Provorov, Jordan Weal, and Nolan Patrick. I certainly think the additions of Weal and Patrick (with the new coach behind the scenes) should make this second unit more dangerous.

I also would like to state for the record that I think Couturier should be the net-front guy and Patrick should take the "Giroux" spot on the wall. That seems like a simple fix.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Eggplant Emoji Analysis From Day One Of Flyers Camp


First of all, Adam, please don't tell me how emotional I'm allowed to get during training camp. If I want to cum in my own pants over a bunch of practice lines that are all going to be shuffled every day for the next two weeks, then I'm going to cum in my goddamn pants.

Plus, this is just a ton of fun. Let's break those forward line combinations down and grade them from "Yes, those are three names" to "The aforementioned cumming in the pants".

Zero Eggplants

These lines, while they are made up of players that are technically our babies (and will hopefully be Flyers one day), are probably on their way out of Vorhees soon. Some of them will head an hour north to Allentown, and some will head multiple hours north to Canadian Juniors, but we will see them all again next year.

Leier-Vorobyev-McDonald
Carey-Knight-Salinitri
Twarynski/Goulbourne-Fazleev-Martel
(edited to include) AubeKubel-Varone-Bunnaman

There isn't too much to say about these, but I did want to quickly mention that Vorobyev, Leier, and NAK should hopefully see a cup of coffee apiece this season.

One Eggplant

I try to see the positives in all of the Flyers players - even the haters and losers. I don't consider these trios to be kept together for the season, and if they are I will probably get mad online about them. But still... hockey is back and the blood is flowing!

Laberge-Rubtsov-Kosorenkov

Sure, these three should probably fall more into the previous group because they're all heading back to minors and/or juniors for this season, but Rubtsov's development this season will be incredibly fun to watch. And Kosorenkov has almost certainly done enough to lock up an entry-level contract.

Bardreau-Filppula-Lehtera

These three are all very 'meh', but I find it interesting that they are using Filppula as a pivot. It seems like the Flyers had five NHL-caliber centers in camp today (Giroux, Couturier, Patrick, Laughton, and Filppula) with Mike Vecchione lurking somewhere. 

Raffl-Laughton-Read

If you have not already read Charlie O'Connor's piece for The Athletic about Matt Read, I would encourage you to do that immediately. I'm rooting for Read to take hold of a fourth line wing spot and a huge penalty kill responsibility. Perhaps that fourth line would also feature Laughton and Raffl, though I personally believe that Raffl's complementary attributes would work better along more highly-skilled players. 

Two Eggplants

Okay baby, now we're talking. Two eggplants is a lot - and it's supposed to be. I'm feeling the blood flow, and I'd be perfectly fine with seeing these trios during a real life NHL game. Throw them on the whiteboard right now and I'm game. I hope these guys stay together all season and each provide a hundred and fifty points over the course of the year.

I'm serious - pencil these nine in as the top three lines on opening night. G'head.

Lindblom-Giroux-Konecny
Weal-Patrick-Simmonds
Weise-Couturier-Voracek

Those are three legitimate NHL-caliber top-nine lines. If you swap Weise and Raffl (which I would), then you have three lines that are arguably top-six caliber and an above-average fourth line. Maybe Filppula and/or Lehtera can win a spot away from somebody, but the realization just hit me that the Flyers should be VERY GOOD this season.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Flyers-Islanders Rookie Game Preview

Hockey is back! It's cold enough to wear pants, there is ice on the floor of the Wells Fargo Center, and players who make a shit-ton of money are practicing at the Skate Zone in Vorhees.

The rookie camp-training camp week feels like the real start of the season. Especially consider the Flyers' DEEP prospect pool, the fact that these games don't count doesn't matter in the slightest. We get to watch our boys (and some of them are actually boys) and that is a beautiful thing.

Tonight's Flyers-Islanders rookie game should be a good one, in that it features two teams whose fans believe they have among the best prospect pools in the league. For what it's worth, two of the top three comments on THIS random Reddit post mention the Flyers and Isles.

Of course, we know everyone who will be wearing orange tonight. We do not, however, know who is going to be playing with who(m) tonight. We'll reference some trios and pairs from rookie camp to try to project who might get matched up.

And then I don't know a goddamn thing about the Islanders prospect pipeline. So I wanted to do a bit of research as a primer for tonight.

Combinations Of Baby Flyers That Might Happen

Your Boy Dave Isaac tweeted out the lines from the first two days of rookie camp. Here's the forwards from day one:

  • Bunnaman-Patrick-Salinitri
  • Lindblom-Laberge-Rubtsov
  • Twarynski-Vorobyev-Kosorenkov
  • Ratcliffe-Frost-Strome/Sushko
  • AubeKubel-Vecchione-Fazleev
And then day two:
  • Kosorenkov-Vorobyev-Salinitri
  • Lindblom-Laberge-Rubtsov
  • Ratcliffe-Frost-Strome/Sushko
  • Bunnaman-Patrick-AubeKubel
  • Twarynski-Vecchione-Fazleev
And, hot off the press, day three:

  • Lindblom-Laberge-Rubtsov
  • Twarynski-Vorobyev-Kosorenkov
  • Bunnaman-Patrick-Sushko
  • Salinitri-Vecchione-Fazleev
  • Ratcliffe-Frost-Strome



My thoughts:

  • Lindblom-Laberge-Rubtsov OH MY GOD!! Over/under 9.5 points from that trio tonight?
  • Patrick being stapled to Bunnaman is a good move in my mind. Patrick can be the playmaker and Bunnaman can be the scorer. If Sushko is indeed their third tonight, he'll be half-playmaker and half-shooter. I like it. 
  • Aube-Kubel, Veccione, Fazleev is probably a Phantoms line next season.
  • Props to Anthony Salinitri, who has been deemed good enough to play alongside Patrick and AHL-caliber players. Similar props to Carsen Twarynski. 
  • I hope Ivan Kosorenkov kills it and signs an ELC next week. 
  • Ratcliffe-Frost-Strome. Babies!

Islanders Prospects That Are Going To Be Good In The Future At Some Point

I'll try to pick some brief scouting reports from around the internet, and I'll aim especially for (1) buzzwords that don't really mean anything and (2) NHL player comparables.

Mathew Barzal, center, drafted 16th overall in 2015
(Dobber Prospects"one of the purest puck handlers and passers of anyone in his age group...has the skills and the vision to be a deadly weapon on the powerplay, but he showed his range and creativity 5 on 5 as well...he will continue to round out his defensive game"

Kieffer Bellows, winger, drafted 19th overall in 2016
(Eyes On Isles) "Bellows said his plan is to play one season for Portland before joining the Islanders for the 2018-19 season. He’ll try to improve all areas of his game, with a focus on his skating."
(The Draft Analyst) "a well-built goal scorer with a low center of gravity who can play a punishing, heavy yet cerebral game...is most certainly better suited as a shooter from the flank...He plays an aggressive, sometimes stubborn game, often too much for his own good. Getting whistled for bad penalties is a habit he’s had since high school"

Michael Dal Colle, winger drafted 5th overall in 2014
(Eyes On The Isles) "scouting report heading into the 2014 Draft was full of superlatives. It included skill, size, creativity, puck protection, battler, as well as hard working and intangibles...Islander fans shouldn’t give up on Dal Colle"

Joshua Ho-Sang, winger, drafted 28th overall in 2014
(Eliteprospects"Ho-Sang often turns heads with his ability to handle the puck with ease in the offensive zone. He has speed and great offensive instincts but needs to work on his game outside of the offensive zone."
(Sportsnet"Josh Ho-Sang forgot to set an alarm. That is why he was late for Day 1 of New York Islanders training camp"

Mitchell Vande Sompel, defenseman, drafted in the 3rd round in 2015
(Lighthouse Hockey) "What Mitchell Vande Sompel lacks in size he boasts in all-zone hockey intelligence. He has to. He's been used as both a forward and a defenseman...the allure here is how he can distribute the puck and join the rush from the blueline as an outstanding, agile skater."

Parker Wotherspoon, defenseman, drafted in the 4th round in 2015
(Lighthouse Hockey) "he became the youngest Sound Tiger ever at age 18 - his coach said "I thought he was confident. He was poised with the puck. He made really good puck decisions. He had really good battle. His hockey IQ: He was ready to play. He understood where to be on the ice."
Here are some more great Hockey Quotes from that article:
  • When you watch Parker Wotherspoon, you notice him.
  • He skates well. He jumps in the play well. Oh, and he defends well. We're excited about him.
  • Wotherspoon has the potential to be a top 4, offensive LD who is sound defensively. 
  • The kid can skate.
  • Parker Wotherspoon improved greatly this past year on a Tri-City team that wasn't very good.
And now for some players that aren't really of the caliber of the guys above, but are worth noting anyway. I'll call them honorable mentions (possibly not honorable):

Sebastian Aho - This is not the actual Sebastian Aho (the good one plays for Carolina).

Devon Toews - He is not related to Top 100 All-Time NHL Player Jonathan Toews.

Matthew Gaudreau - Johnny's younger brother. He is also from New Jersey just like his older brother; did people know that Johnny Gaudreau is from New Jersey?

John Stevens - Son of coach John Stevens, who played for (and coached) the Flyers.

David Quenneville - His brother John (Devils) is the good one. His cousin Joel (Maple Leafs) is also good. David (Islanders) and Peter (Blue Jackets) are the "shitty" ones, but in this family that means they were only seventh-round picks.

And then this guy: Mitch Gillam - He played at Cornell (it's an Ivy League school in case you were not aware), and he posted save percentages between .914 and .927 (and goals against averages of 1.99 to 2.49) over his four years. Then he made the jump to the ECHL Solar Bears for a cup of coffee last year and immediately posted a .833 save percentage and a 6.34 goals against average.

(Eamon McAdam - the other goalie for the Isles in this game - seems actually good though, so it's not going to be all fun and games and offense)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

You Need Five Top-Six-Caliber Wingers In Today's NHL

It's almost hockey season, which means it's almost the time of year where I see a random tweet and spiral downward into a place where I try to convince myself that the Flyers are actually good.

Today's entry comes from the newest member of The Athletic Philly (I think), Englishman (I think) Alexander Appleyard:
So, let's jump right the fuck in and see how close the Flyers are to this level.

Top Six Centers

I think the majority of Flyers Twitter is in agreement about the guys who are going to be anchoring our lines for the next few years. In order from oldest to youngest, it's Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, and Nolan Patrick.

Perhaps someone might make a case for German Rubtsov, Morgan Frost, or Pascal Laberge stealing one of those spots in 2-3 years, but for now I think we should just focus on Giroux, Couturier, Laughton, and Patrick.

We need one center to score 70+ points and another to score around 50. Giroux hasn't scored more than 70 since 2014-15, and he finished last season with just 58 points in a full 82-game season. In Giroux's defense (I'll keep it short, there are plenty of deep dives elsewhere), his career-low shooting percentage last season cost him about 7 goals and the team's poor shooting percentage probably cost him at least that many points.

Hot take: Claude Giroux is our best bet to score 76 points next season.

Here's another take, in case you're really looking to get hot: Sean Couturier is the guy who's going to score 49 points next year. He scored 34 in 66 games last season (a pace of 42-ish over a full season), and he's going to almost certainly get an upgrade in wingers and defensemen this season. Yes, Couturier spent quite a bit of time between Travis Konecny and Jake Voracek last year, but he also spent quite a bit with Matt Read, Nick Cousins, and Dale Weise on his flanks.

Bottom Six Centers

With decent (or even just better-than-replacement-level) wingers, I have no doubt that Patrick and Laughton can get us to the 28- and 23-point thresholds in Alexander's tweet. Moving on!

Wingers

We know the names here - Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Weal, Jori Lehtera, Michael Raffl, Matt Read, Dale Weise.

I think it's easiest to start by trying to box some guys in as fourth-liners in the 17-23 point range. That would include two of these:

  • Weise (topped out at 29 and 27 points two and three seasons ago)
  • Read (steadily declining with 40-30-26-19 points over the last four years)
  • Lehtera (44-34-22 over the past three years despite his being stapled to Vladimir Tarasenko's hip)
  • Raffl (great complimentary piece but probably maxed out at 31 points in 2015-16)
Let's just move our way up the lineup card to the third line. These two are probably the hardest to project out of the whole roster, but this is a wide enough window that I think we can get away with it. These would be players who are 40-point wingers in a good season and 29-point wingers in a bad season:
  • Lindblom (47 points in 52 games plus 14 points in 20 playoff games last year in the SHL, which is the third- or fourth-best league in the world - I think this level offers a reasonable window for him to try to reach)
  • Weal (I believe his point-per-game pace will reflect less of his 12-points-in-23-games last season and more of his 12-points-in-37-games for his career, but you never know)
And the second line-caliber guys, aiming for 52 and 44 points:
  • Filppula (sneakily scores more points that I would have thought, totaling 58-48-31-42 in his seasons since he joined Tampa Bay)
  • Konecny (28 points in his rookie season, should improve and eventually get some power play production)
And, finally, the first liners. The guys at the top of the depth chart are shooting for 64 and 57 points:
  • Voracek (scored 354 points in 445 games as a Flyer, an average of 65 points per 82 games)
  • Simmonds (his full seasons in Philly have totals of 49-60-50-60-54 points)
How Good Are We?

Well, it hard to say. 

I think we have five 40-point wingers this year - Voracek, Simmonds, Filppula, Konecny, and one of Lindblom/Weal. If the other of Lindblom/Weal can't step up to replace Filppula in that group after he leaves, then it becomes a little more hairy. There are plenty of prospects in the pipeline, but it's difficult to say with any certainty that one of them is going to be ready to score 40 points in the NHL one year from now. 

But, for now, let's just enjoy the fact that the current Flyers forward group seems like it might just meet the criteria for this one small part of being a legitimate contender. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Man, I Love The Eric Lindros Trade Fiasco

The deep dive into the fabled Lindros Trade (which has its own Wikipedia page) was wonderfully done by NHL.com in 2012, and then was republished last season when Lindros was inducted into the Hockey Hall Of Fame. It came to mind for me this week, with the news that the Flyers are going to retire his #88 into the rafters forever. 

Part three of that four-part NHL piece focuses on the complex legal situation that was a disputed trade between the Quebec, Pennsylvania, and New York franchises of an Ontario-based league. As seems to be the case in most legal battles, each organization found supporting precedents to support the ruling that would have most benefited their individual interests. 

But first, let's set the scene:

Eric Lindros was perhaps the most heralded junior-hockey player in history -- at just 18 years old, he was 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. With a blend of dominant skill and overwhelming size and strength, many had pegged him as the next great NHL superstar, following closely in the footsteps of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.

Taken by the Quebec Nordiques with the first pick of the 1991 NHL Draft, Lindros resisted signing with the club. He spent the 1991-92 season playing junior hockey and skating for Canada at the 1992 World Junior Championship and the 1992 Olympics. Lindros reiterated to the Nordiques that he would play outside the NHL in 1992-93 and re-enter the draft in 1993.

Faced with the possibility of losing Lindros with no compensation, the Nordiques began entertaining offers for Lindros' rights, with the culmination of that effort set for the 1992 NHL Draft in Montreal.


June 20, 1992 marked one of the stranger days in NHL history: Just prior to the start of the draft, the Nordiques twice traded Lindros' rights -- first to the Philadelphia Flyers then to the New York Rangers.

As a Flyers fan, I tend to sympathize more with the Philadelphia contingent in the story. Here's the front office's description of the day of the 1992 NHL Draft, which is the day they (thought they) completed the trade for Lindros, and then found out that Montreal yanked the rug out from under them:

Russ Farwell, Philadelphia Flyers general manager

"We thought we made the trade. We called Eric and I got in a cab and went to the draft."
"Jay called me and said, 'Aubut is backing out, he tried to trade him somewhere else,' and that's where it was. He said, 'I'm not going over [to the draft], I'm taking a car to ...,' he was going to file a grievance. In the meantime, we pulled our guys together. We thought we had traded our pick so we pulled our guys together and said we had to pick."

Jay Snider, Philadelphia Flyers president
"I was just pretty much in shock. I didn't know how to react. This was crazy. I called my dad [Flyers owner Ed Snider] and I said, 'You're not going to believe this -- Marcel said, I traded him to the Rangers.' Just like that, happy as could be, typical Marcel Aubut. … Our first reaction was, 'You know what? Screw it, this deal is too much and to hell with it at this point, let's just let it go.' And then I don't know if it was that conversation or he called back five minutes later, but he said, 'Before we do that, go talk to Gil Stein,' League's general counsel, 'and find out what our rights are.' I went to the draft floor, sought out Gil, explained our situation, Gil said, 'Let's get John [Ziegler, NHL president].' We go into a back room, talk about the situation and he said, 'Jay, you can arbitrate this.' I said, 'OK I'm arbitrating this -- what do I do?'"

Jim Gregory, NHL vice president of hockey operations

"[Ziegler and Stein] asked me a couple questions, but nothing serious. I just told them that Larry Bertuzzi, who was doing work for the NHL, was an unbelievable lawyer, had a perception about hockey, and would be a good man. They listened."

..And so it began. Bertuzzi was to arbitrate the matter, in Montreal because the entire league was already there for the draft. Lindros was poised to be a generational talent, a player that Philadelphia and New York would both love to add to their organization for the next two decades. Montreal was going to receive a haul either way, but their 'individual interest' (as I worded it) was to bring back as much talent and assets as possible. 

Jay Snider, Philadelphia Flyers president

"It was very hostile up there, because in essence Lindros was snubbing French Canada -- I couldn't find a law firm in Quebec to work for me. Not one. I went to probably five top firms and they all refused to take it."

"[Nordiques owner Marcel] Aubut brought in a major firm, and the head of the firm had been the ambassador to the United Nations, a member of the Royal Order of Canada.

"[Chicago Blackhawks owner] Bill Wirtz lent us his attorney [Gene Gozdecki], who was there as an alternate governor for the Board of Governors meeting. He started the first day representing us in the first hearing."


This is my second-favorite part of this whole story. Lindros had refused to play in Quebec, and EVERY LAW FIRM IN QUEBEC refused to represent anything that remotely involved his interests. It's like how a small Texas town treats its football players, but it was the second-largest province in Canada with something like 8 million residents. It was something like the entire state of Virginia, and not a single big-time lawyer would support any party not named the Quebec Nordiques. 

And the guy who ended up representing the Nordiques was a UN Ambassador and had received 'The highest degree of merit, for an outstanding level of talent and service or an exceptional contribution to Canada and humanity.' Picture Charlie Kelly going toe-to-toe with Harvey Specter on any legal topic other than bird law. 

Let's jump to Larry Bertuzzi (uncle of Todd), who was a Toronto lawyer with quite a bit of NHL experience.

Larry Bertuzzi, arbitrator

"I show up in Montreal on Sunday morning, I'm introduced to all the parties. I make a few inquiries -- tell me everything that's on the books on how to deal with this matter. Tell me everything that's on the books about what makes a trade, how this dispute is to be resolved. Give me all the guidelines that are already in place. They handed me a two-line piece of paper. And it said -- I'll paraphrase it -- when there's a dispute involving whether or not a trade took place, the dispute shall be handled by the president of the League or at the consent of the parties by an arbitrator. Period. Full stop. That was it."

(Quick spoiler: whether or not the three teams consented, the NHL was always going to endorse him as arbitrator. So that little two-line piece of paper ended up meaning that he was totally FUCKED for the next week or so.)

"There are three parties, there's about 12 lawyers and I look around and we have people representing legal jurisdictions of Ontario and Quebec in Canada, New York, Philadelphia and Illinois in the States. And I realize that there is absolutely no legal procedure which governs the proceedings. So I effectively put the challenge to the counsel and, 'I need you to tell me what the question is you want me to answer and how you're framing it and I want to see if the three parties can come up with a process by which we might get to the bottom of this.'

"I get a call about 5 o'clock [Sunday] from Snider and Weinberg and I go down there and they said, 'We're going home.' I said, 'What? You're going home?' They said, 'Look at this piece of garbage that they gave us.' Sure enough Quebec and New York had written a very one-sided-looking document and Philly said, 'We're not taking this.'

"I had breakfast with the NHL [Monday morning] and I said if they don't agree to me as arbitrator consensually, what are you going to do? Ziegler said, 'I'm going to appoint you so it's out of their hands.' I said, 'Fine, that's all the jurisdictional backing I need.' I went in at 9 o'clock and I said, 'Gentlemen I've given you six, seven, eight, nine hours to come up with a process. You failed miserably. Here's what we're going to do. We're going to adjourn for two hours and I'm going to write out the process myself. And I'm going to then hand it out to you and you have two choices: You can like it and we'll proceed or you can hate it and we'll proceed nonetheless.'"

Jay Snider, Philadelphia Flyers president

"Bertuzzi said this is going to be kind of based on common sense and law and the NHL rules. It's based on an amalgam of law. Because in Quebec the law is a little different than the rest of Canada. It's like Louisiana in the U.S. -- it's more based on a French system. There's nuance. He just said it's not going to be based on one jurisdiction of law; it's going to be based on common sense in a way."

This is the single most interesting thing for me about this whole ordeal. Bertuzzi essentially had to invent a legal code for handling this situation that factored in two separate Canadian provinces (with vastly different heritages) and three separate US states. 

It must have been a complete pain in the ass to create, but this was a one-time set of guidelines that will probably quite literally never apply to any situation ever again for the rest of time. It's tough to find anything about Bertuzzi on the internet that isn't about this case or his relationship to Todd, but I would be willing to be that this was a highlight-of-the-career type of opportunity.

Larry Bertuzzi, arbitrator

"The hearing went for five or six days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. It finished at about 6 a.m. Saturday morning.

"I was making it up as I went along. And I had no one to consult. And it was highly secretive and it was both the most challenging thing I ever did and one of the loneliest legal things I ever did. I had an attaché from the League who became a good friend, Benny Eroclani. I had a security guy from the League who I spent all my off hours with. I wasn't lonely in that sense -- I had people to eat with. But from a pure running-the-case perspective, there was a room full of lawyers and a room full of executives and there was little old me at the front. I was in charge of making all the rules, but I was on my own."

"During those six days we had nothing but bumps and bruises along the way. We had objections and I'd say, 'What's your objection?' and they'd say, 'That's not the way we do it in Pennsylvania.' Someone else would say, 'That's not the way we do it in New York,' and someone else would say, 'That's the way we do it in Quebec, that's the way we do it in Illinois.' Back and forth, stuff like that.

"We had a request to subpoena the Lindroses, except I had no subpoena power. I had to get on the phone with the Lindros' lawyer and negotiate their attendance. So when they showed up they had their own lawyer. We had to navigate the press every day. We had a press blackout, but since the NHL's annual meeting was on, maybe 20 of the press stayed all week and hung outside the room.

What a fucking MESS this must have been.

Jay Snider, Philadelphia Flyers president

"It was horrendous. It was one of the most stressful periods in my life."
Yup.

Jay Snider, Philadelphia Flyers president

"I remember on the last day, before final arguments, Phil [Weinberg]said, 'I need to be alone.' Phil had to figure out basic law and he came up with the basic principle that the existence of a contract is from offer to counteroffer to acceptance. If you look at the decision, it came down to the fact that Aubut's call to me and giving me permission to talk to Lindros was the indication that a contract had been reached. At the very basis of it all, that's an accepted principle in law in all jurisdictions. It indicated that a valid agreement had been reached."

Phil Weinberg, Philadelphia Flyers lawyer

"What I was trying to argue was that's what makes a contract. In the simplest terms a contract is formed when there's an offer and it's accepted. Acceptance can occur in a number of ways. It can occur in writing, it can occur through action -- in any way that the parties manifest that they have accepted the offer. That's sort of hornbook law about what makes a contract. There's a little bit of discrepancy in the law of the United States and the law of Canada as to how can that acceptance be manifested. In the United States, it has to be ... there's an objective theory of contract formation and a subjective theory of contract formation. The objective theory is, what would the outside person looking at things determine as to whether there had been an acceptance of an offer. And a subjective theory isn't so much what an outside observer would think, it's more what you think in your own mind, the accepting party, as to whether you've accepted the terms of the offer or not. The European common law that runs through Canadian jurisprudence a little bit more is this subjective theory. And the American theory is the objective theory.

"What I was able to argue is that by all outward manifestations, Marcel Aubut, who was the person accepting our offer, indicated his consent, indicated his acceptance, because there was this term ... one of the things that happened in the arbitration was that we had wanted to talk to Lindros to see if he'd sign with us. And Aubut had said somewhere along the way that if he gave us the number then we had a deal. He did in fact give Jay the number at some point for Lindros so that we could talk to him and see if he would play in Philly. We used that fact.

"What I was able to do was argue that Aubut in the Canadian way of thinking about contract formation, probably in his own mind, didn't even really know he had made a contract because it was more subjective to his own way of thinking. He, in his own head, was playing out this auction but holding back in his mind the ultimate assent to the offer, the ultimate agreement or acceptance. But that doesn't matter because the rule of law that should be applied is the objective theory. Any outsider, any third party, anybody looking at his conduct, would believe a contract would be formed because we can't go into the mind of somebody to really understand what they're thinking. Which is why we ascribe to this objective theory. Once he met the last term of our offer, which was, give us Lindros' number to see if he wants to play in Philly, then he had accepted all of the terms by an objective theory. It didn't really matter what he was thinking about anything. I think that's what I was really trying to stress."


Phil Weinberg has been General Counsel for the Comcast/Spectacor company since it was created in 1996. Knowing what we know about Ed Snider and the Comcast-Flyers family in general, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that his brilliant handling of the Lindros situation earned him that position for life. 

Larry Bertuzzi, arbitrator

"I phoned the NHL on Monday and told them I had my decision ready to go because I worked all day Sunday on it. They said, 'We don't want you to release it now; we want you to release it on national TV.' So we had this major extravaganza where at 9 o'clock I had a conference call involving all the clubs and read my decision. And then at 10 o'clock, on a conference call with more than 100 participants, I read the decision on national TV, on TSN and on the radio. And then we had this monster press conference."

"The case turned on the following: If New York and Quebec agree they made a deal on the basis of the conduct they engaged in, then applying that same test to the Quebec-Philly discussions, they must have made a deal an hour earlier."

As it turned out, the question that Bertuzzi had in mind with his 'I need you to tell me what the question is you want me to answer' quote was just simply 'Did the Nordiques trade Lindros to the Flyers?'

And, as it turned out, the answer was yes. Maybe Marcel Aubut honestly didn't realize what was happening. Maybe he was being a snake and trying to fuck over the Flyers. Maybe the legal mindsets that have developed over hundreds of years based on French, British, and American principles are just fundamentally different and shit like this happens. 

Whichever way you want to look at it, it's one of the (if not the singular) most entertaining sports law stories of recent history. 

And there's a great happy ending quote from Farwell:

Russ Farwell, Philadelphia Flyers general manager
"I remember our staff a week or two after saying we announced that signing, we sold more season tickets than they did after they won the Stanley Cup."