Sunday, July 20, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Remember when John Edwards was campaigning for President and stated that there were "two Americas?" Edwards was stating that there were "haves" and "have nots" and that we needed more equality in this country.

That theme was picked up by President Obama, who after his re-election vowed to fight income inequality. His premise was based on the fact that some people make more money than others, and that is just not fair.

At its core, the fight against income inequality amounts to a rationale for thievery. Someone has more than someone else, so you have the government take it and re-distribute it to those that have less.

Never mind that those who have more may have worked harder, got a better education, or engaged in specialized training to get what they have. They have more, that's not "fair" and it should be taken away for no other reason than it doesn't satisfy someone's notion of fairness.

This premise that you can reduce income inequality by debasing the successful denies the consequences of their efforts and spares the unsuccessful the consequences of their choices.

Economic success generally follows the choices that individuals make. As mentioned, those that have worked hard, sacrificed, and maximized their education are more often than not the beneficiaries of higher incomes than those that did not do those things.

And what is unfair about that?

There are those that decry the inequality of income while ignoring the inequality of effort.

My orthopedic surgeon makes more than I do. I do not begrudge that fact. He spent many more years getting an education and in specialized training than I did.

Should I be angry that he makes more than I do?

Absolutely not.

His years of study and training have enabled him to earn the income he enjoys, and he should be rewarded for his efforts.

Yet there are those in this country that would punish him because he makes more than most. Rather than award those who achieve through their efforts, they would seek to negate his efforts and take away his income.

A free society allows people to make choices and to succeed or fail based on those choices. That freedom can and does lead to different outcomes. As a society, we need to realize that there is no real option for success if there is no real option for failure.

It is a lie to say that one man's success happens because of the victimization of another man. That philosophy foments division, class warfare, and saps the productivity of those that put forth the effort to succeed. it pits one group of Americans against another for political purposes.

John Edwards was right: there are two Americas.

It is an America divided not by differences in outcomes, but in efforts.

Equalizing income is not a solution. It is Marxist class warfare cloaked in flowery language.

As a country, we must unequivocally be a nation that provides equality in opportunity. Our educational system must be one that equips ALL to function in the modern global economy. Laws and their application must be equal. The workplace must equally honor the efforts of both men and women.

But in no way should outcomes be equalized or guaranteed.

That denigrates the efforts of those that choose to work harder than those that do not.

Right now, the two Americas are pitted against each other.

And we as a nation run the risk of proving the truth spoken over a century ago by Abraham Lincoln.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

And that my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Predators Sign Roy, Ribeiro to One Year Deals

The Nashville Predators have added to their depth at center by signing Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro to one year contracts. Roy was signed for $1 million and Ribeiro was signed for $1.05 million.

Here is the Predators press release on the signing of Roy:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed free-agent forward Derek Roy to a one-year, $1 million contract.
“Derek brings us added depth, playmaking ability and experience at center, helping complement our young, developing wingers,” Poile said. “He has played in a number of roles, averaging about 19 minutes of ice time throughout his career, and is effective on the power play. He provides our coaching staff with some added skill and maturity down the middle when putting together our lineup for the coming season.”
            Roy, 31 (5/4/83), has recorded 492 points (177g-315a) in 666 career NHL regular-season games with Buffalo, Dallas, Vancouver and St. Louis since 2003-04. The Ottawa native is a four-time 60-point, 20-goal scorer including a 32-goal, 81-point campaign in 2007-08 and a 28-goal, 70-point season in 2008-09, both with the Buffalo Sabres. In 2013-14, the 5-9, 184-pound center posted 37 points (9g-28a) in 75 games with the Blues.
            An alternate captain for three seasons playing alongside current Predator Paul Gaustad in Buffalo from 2007-09, Roy captained the Kitchener Rangers to Memorial Cup and OHL titles in 2003, earning both Stafford Smythe Trophy and Wayne Gretzky 99 Award as MVP of both tournaments. Buffalo's second selection, 32nd overall (second round), in the 2001 Entry Draft is a three-time silver medalist for Canada, representing his country at the 2003 World Junior Championship, and both the 2008 and 2009 World Championship.
And here is what they had to say about Ribeiro:
Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed free-agent forward Mike Ribeiro to a one-year, $1.05 million contract.
Mike is a talented veteran center who has produced offensively everywhere he has played,” Poile said. “We have done our due diligence and believe Mike has a lot to offer to our team, improves us at our center ice position and will fit in with our group and contribute.”
            Ribeiro, 34 (2/10/80), has amassed 656 points (202g-454a) in 865 career NHL games since the 1999-2000 season with Montreal, Dallas (with James Neal and Eric Nystrom), Washington and Phoenix. In 2013-14, the 6-0, 179-pound center registered 47 points (16g-31a) and he is just one season removed from producing at a point-per-game clip with Washington, posting 49 points (13g-36a) in 48 games in 2012-13.
            Since the 2003-04 campaign – his first full NHL season – Ribeiro has played the 10th-most games of any NHL forward, averaging 62 points a season and posting the eighth-highest assist total (431). An NHL All-Star in 2007-08 when he set career highs in goals (27), assists (56) and points (83), Ribeiro has missed just 10 games his last four seasons.
            Montreal’s second selection, 45th overall (second round), in the 1998 Entry Draft, Ribeiro enjoyed a decorated QMJHL career with Rouyn Noranda and Quebec from 1997-2000, being named league rookie of the year and recipient of the Paul Dumont Trophy as personality of the year in 1998, and winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the league's top point producer the following campaign after amassing 167 points (67g-100a) in 69 games. He also helped Canada to a bronze medal at the 2000 World Junior Championship.
The Predators now have a glut of players that can play center. Mike Fisher is injured and will be out of the line up for 4-6 months. Even so, Calle Jarnkrok, Colin Wilson, Olli Jokinen, Paul Gaustad, Matt Cullen, and Craig Smith can play the center position. Colton Sissons and Austin Watson are also at Milwaukee, with Sissons seeing the most playing time with the Predators.
The addition of Roy and Ribeiro mean that Wilson and Smith will play on the wings and will only be pressed into duty as centers in an emergency. This could also mean that Jarnkrok and Sissons will probably be assigned to Milwaukee.
Frankly, I hope Jarnkrok can impress enough that he can stick with the Predators, who desperately need his play making skills.
Roy is a steady player that can produce. He should be able to step in and immediately help the Predators down the middle. He should see his ice time increase in Nashville, and hopefully that will allow him to increase his production. Last season, with the St. Louis Blues, 37 points (9G-28A) in 75 games while averaging around 13 minutes TOI.
Roy will also be a good locker room presence and will be helpful in mentoring some of the younger players on the roster. His transition to Nashville will be assisted by former team mate Paul Gaustad, both of whom were alternate captains for Buffalo.
Ribeiro comes to the Predators as damaged goods, having been bought out by the Arizona Coyotes because of off ice issues. Ribeiro has had domestic problems as well as missing team meetings and the team bus for a game.
Ribeiro had 47 points (16G-31A) for the Coyotes last season in 80 games. He has shown that he can be a consistent producer, his off ice issues notwithstanding. If- and this is a big if- he can be more stable in his off ice life, he could wind up being a steal for the Predators.
Ribeiro will have a fresh start here on the one year deal and will be presented with every opportunity to prove he can be a quality team mate and continue to produce. I believe that Ribeiro will look at the Predators as his last chance to stick on a roster at the NHL level and that he will respond.
Frankly, Ribeiro is a low risk signing by the Predators that could yield good results. Given his past history, I believe that he will be given a short leash by Head Coach Peter Laviolette, and if he is a disruption to the team, he will no longer be on the roster.
If however, he returns to form, he could be a great add for the Predators. I would look for him to paired on a line with Neal to begin the season.
These additions give the Predators some veteran depth with some upside as well as options once Fisher returns.
Now it is up to these guys to show they can still produce and be integral parts of this team.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Thoughts From Development Camp

The Predators capped off their Development Camp with their Blue vs. Silver scrimmage yesterday. Here are some thoughts from the contest.

  • The boys have some wheels. Most everyone that was on the ice can fly, and those that stood out to me were Brendan Leipsic, Kevin Fiala, and Filip Forsberg. Those three especially used their speed to create some space and some opportunities around the net.

  • Speaking of Forsberg, he plays with a "casual virtuosity". He is adept at finding the soft spots in the offensive zone and has a deceptively good shot. Forsberg seems stronger and skating better than last season (which wasn't bad) and possesses a very good hockey sense. His ability to handle the puck in traffic was very good. I would expect to see him make the roster this season for the NHL club.

  • Tommy Veilleux showed that he is not afraid to go to the high traffic areas and scored twice from the slot with a good snap shot.

  • I liked the play of Leipsic and Fiala. Both used their speed to their advantage to create offensively and neither shies away from contact. Leipsic in particular used his speed and shiftiness to avoid the big hit but wasn't afraid to mix it up when necessary.

  • Fiala had a beautiful move in the shootout, faking left and dragging the puck back to the right side of the net for the score.

  • The goal of the shootout belonged to Viktor Arvidsson with a spin-o-rama back to the forehand and lifting it under the crossbar. That goal brought everyone to their feet.

  • Jonathan-Ismael Diaby is huge and skates fairly well for a big man (6'5", 223 pounds). I expect he will be in Milwaukee next season to continue to develop his game. Diaby showed that he has the ability to use his size well, especially down low and clearing the front of the net.

  • Pontus Aberg, the first pick of the 2012 draft, did not show me much. He possesses good speed and hands but did not show a desire to drive the net and get in the tough scoring areas.

  • Colton Sissons looks as if he is going to challenge for a spot on the opening night roster. he played with intensity and has a sound overall game. The door is certainly open for Sissons with the injury to Mike Fisher.

  • I thought Jaynen Rissling, acquired from the Capitals, looked good on the blue line. Again, I would expect him to be in Milwaukee to open the season, but he could be a call up if the Predators experience injuries on the blue line.

  • The Predators game ops experimented with a new goal song, the Black Keys "Gold on the Ceiling" I like the song as a goal song, but it is kinda clunky with the "I like It, I love It" lead in. perhaps it is time to retire Tim McGraw's part of the goal celebration.
There is a lot of talent with these young guys. But potential is just potential. It will be up to Scott Nichol, Director of Player Development and the coaching staff to continue to develop the talent and make it NHL ready. That is a formula for long term success, and it is good to see that the Predators have filled the pipeline with young players that have tons of potential.

Friday, July 11, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Last week, we heard from the Bureau of labor Statistics that hiring is on an upswing and that unemployment has fallen to 6.1%. That news was delivered and immediately hosannas were sung throughout the land about the strong "recovery" that was underway in our nation.

Yeah... about that.

Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon says that we may want to take a second look at those numbers. In particular, Simon says that with so many people who have dropped out of the work force that those numbers are, for all intents and purposes, bogus.

According to Simon,

"The unemployment numbers have been particularly hard to read, especially with so many people dropping out of the work force," adding, "that middle class and lower class consumers are still economically challenged, only spending for the holidays and family occasions."

The fact remains that the unemployment numbers that we hear trumpeted in the news are grossly misleading. The 6.1% unemployment rate is the U-3 rate, and it counts those that have lost their jobs and are drawing unemployment and are searching for another job.

The more accurate U-6 unemployment rate counts those that are in the U-3 category AS WELL as those that have stopped looking (discouraged workers) and those that are no longer receiving unemployment benefits (even though they are still unemployed..

Care to guess that number?

Currently, the U-6 rate is closer to 13%.

And there are 92 million Americans of working age that do not have a job.

This situation is made worse by the fact that our economy, in response to overall weakness and the impact of Obamacare, is adding far more part time jobs that full time jobs. The June jobs report was heralded as good news with 276,000 jobs added. Look at the numbers and you find that we lost 592,000 full time jobs while adding 799,000 part time jobs.

Replacing full time jobs with part time jobs results in stagnant wage growth and makes it difficult for many families to make ends meet. Real income has fallen for seven consecutive years, mostly as a result of the loss of good paying full time jobs.

Many of the full time jobs that are now being created in our economy are in lower paying industries: food service; hospitality; and leisure. The industries that are hiring are food service (fast food and food preparation), hospitality (mainly cleaning jobs); and leisure (ticket takers, for example). All of them lower wage jobs.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these jobs. But when this is the bulk of the full time jobs being created, one can see the problem with growing wages in the overall economy and with supporting a family specifically.

So while job creation is being lauded, one would be wise to take a closer look at the numbers. When you do, you can begin to understand why our economy is struggling and families cannot make ends meet.

Wal-Mart is the canary in the coal mine. They should serve as a warning to all of us that this economy is much weaker than the numbers suggest.

And that weakness is going to take a long time to overcome.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Thoughts on James Neal, Olli Jokinen, Anton Volchenkov, and Mike Fisher

The dust has settled on the James Neal trade and the Predators activity in free agency. So what are we to make of all this?

Neal, a second round draft choice by the Dallas Stars in the 2005 Entry Draft, made it to the NHL in the 2009 season, in which he played 78 games and notched 65 points (27G-38A). In subsequent years, he had 55 points (2010-11 22G-23A in 79 games); 81 points ( 2011-12 40G-41A in 80 games); 36 points (2012-13 21G-15A in 40 games); and 61 points last season (27G-34A in 59 games).

Neal has been productive playing with centers like Brad Richards and Evgeni Malkin, and the Predators lack that caliber of player at that position.

One of the questions that arose after the trade was who was going to center Neal's line and get him the puck? That is a valid question because the Predators have struggled to find an elite number one center. Colin Wilson was thought to be able to grow into that role when he was drafted, and although occasionally showing some flashes, has never developed into the consistent number one center the team had desired.

Could it be promising youngster Calle Jarnkrok? Craig Smith?

The lack of a definitive answer to that question has many wondering whether Neal can continue to be productive at the levels he has displayed so far in his career.

That question will not be answered until after the preseason, but I believe that the Predators will find a solution. Now, will it be a player currently on the roster or one acquired via trade?

I don't know, but I believe the Predators are still in the market for a center. It could be Vinnie Lecavalier from the Flyers or perhaps another player. Regardless, the Predators have the assets to make a deal.

Barring a trade, someone on the roster has to step up. To me, the most likely candidate is Jarnkrok, who has shown creativity and a nose for the net in his brief NHL appearance last season. Jarnkrok is adept at distributing the puck and creating space with his speed and puck handling and could be an exceptional fit with Neal.

The other question surrounding Neal is his sometimes stupid play that has resulted in several suspensions.

Time will tell if he has moved past his sometimes reckless play, but I believe the move to the Predators will be good for him. With the Penguins, Neal was not in a leadership role and with Sidney Crosby and Malkin in the line up, was not "the man" on the ice. He will be with the Predators, and I think this will lead to more responsible play.

The Predators also signed Olli Jokinen and Anton Volchenko to one year deals. Both were good signings for the team.

Jokinen brings a veteran and consistent presence to the Predators. Although he is in the twilight of his career, Jokinen has shown that he can be a proven scorer and is hungry to get back to the playoffs. He has 740 points (317G-423A) in 1169 games and his veteran presence will benefit the younger forwards on the roster.

Jokinen signed a favorable one year deal for $2.5 million and I would project him as centering the third line.

Anton Volchenkov was signed to a one year, $1 million deal. The 32 year old blueliner has played 650 NHL games for New Jersey and Ottawa and is a rugged, stay at home defenseman. He will probably slot in on the third pairing, and while not an offensive threat, can play a physical game.

The signing of Jokinen is particularly fortuitous with the announcement that Mike Fisher ruptured his Achilles tendon during off season work outs. He is expected to miss between 4-6 months while recovering, which could translate to as little as 10 games to possibly 40 games if he takes longer to recover.

This is a significant loss for the Predators as Fisher is a leader and strong locker room presence and was potentially slotted to be the number one center. While a loss, it does open the door for Wilson or Jarnkrok to step into an increased role. The problematic aspect of this injury for Fisher is that it is a difficult one from which to recover, especially late in his career. It remains to be seen how effective Fisher will be on his return.

There are questions surrounding this team. Which player on the current roster will step up, or will the Predators attempt to plug holes in their roster via trade?

How those questions are answered will determine the success of this team.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Predators Draft Analysis: Adding Some Potential Pop to the Offense

The recently completed NHL draft saw the Nashville Predators pick up some players that have the potential for high end offensive in the NHL. This is a bit of a departure from the tendency to draft grinders and gritty players in previous drafts.

Perhaps General manager David Poile is serious about getting more offense out of this team.

The Predators selected Kevin Fiala with the 11th pick in the first round. Fiala can play either left or right wing and possesses immense offensive upside. Fiala has been described as a player that can develop into a Patrick Kane type player, and that if he were a bit bigger would have been a top three pick in this draft. Here is what the experts at Elite Prospects say about Fiala:

Kevin Fiala is an offensive forward with game-breaking potential. He is a respectable and shifty skater with quick legs and explosive acceleration. Fiala owns a slick skill-set with soft hands, good stickhandling and brilliant puck-control. Not known for his defensive play, as he still needs to learn what it means to stick to a game-plan or doing exactly what the coach has told him. Fiala is not very big or strong yet, but his quickness and agility lets him avoid getting hit or held back along the boards. Has a wealthy arsenal of shooting tools which, combined with his creativity and finishing abilities, makes him the player you turn to if you need a goal.

With their second round pick, the Predators selected Vladislav Kamenev, a 6' 2", 203 pound forward. The book on Kamenev from Elite Prospects says:

Kamenev is a talented forward with good sized who uses his physical gifts to protect the puck and win board battles. He sees the ice well, has good hands and a strong shot. Has to keep his emotions in check as he can get overzealous taking stupid penalties at times.

And the assessment from Hockey's Future concurs:

Kamenev is a good-skating center with an excellent set of hands, and is a very interesting prospect thanks to his size, use of the body, and puck skills. The native of Orsk, Russia can be very effective along the boards as he can use his size to his advantage and can also be very useful in front of the crease. He has a good shot, but is not a goal-scorer, as he, as many other Russians, plays more of a pass-first type of game. He also seems to have a good work ethic and hasn’t had many problems with penalties in his career.

Props to the Predators for not shying away from the young Russian after their negative experience with Alexander Radulov. Kamenev is 17 and played for KHL champion Magnitogorsk, coached by former NHL Head Coach Mike Keenan.

In the third round, the Predators selected Jack Dougherty, a defenseman from the U.S. Development League. Here is the view from Elite Prospects:

Dougherty is an intelligent defenseman who tries to blend strong positioning while trying to inflict a physical dimension on his opponent. He isn't the fleetest of foot, but does get where he needs to go. He also makes a strong first pass and has solid offensive instincts.

And from Hockey's Future:

Dougherty has made great strides the past couple of seasons — steadily progressing from a defensive defenseman to a confident puck handler and someone with a great ability to read the play. Has the size and skating ability that attracts scouts and has not let his offensive play diminish his defensive game.

Dougherty is slated to attend the University of Wisconsin in September 2014 and looks to be the next in a long line of impact defenders for the Badgers. With a strong all-around game, size and the skating ability to compete at a high level, Dougherty has the raw talent to be a successful two-way defenseman and Badgers coach Mike Eaves and his staff have had a lot of success getting those types of players to the next level.

Dougherty is 18 years old and is 6' 2" and 185 pounds. It is expected that he will continue to fill out his frame in the college ranks.

Third round pick Justin Kirkland has been mentioned as a sleeper and a steal in the draft. The 6' 3", 175 pound left wing has been described as possessing "limitless" potential. The 17 year old plays for the Kelowna Rockets, and here is the scoop on this prospect:

The Camrose, Alberta native recorded 48 points in 68 games with Kelowna, one of the best teams in the Western Hockey League this season. Scouts have described Kirkland as a raw talent with limitless potential, a true value pick at 62. Before being drafted by Kelowna, Kirkland skated for the Notre Dame Midget Program in Saskatchewan, joining the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards who also played for the elite program. Kirkland has a unique mix of size and skill, and has been compared to the likes of Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole and former Kelowna Rocket /current Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn.

One can only hope he pans out like Cole or Benn.

The Predators went back to the forward ranks in the fourth round, selecting Viktor Arvidsson. Elite Prospects has this to say about the 21 year old winger:

A smallish winger with good speed and impressive technical skills. Really noticeable on the ice with his creativity. Has a fine shot and potential to become a high scoring player. Works pretty hard too and does not ignore his defensive responsibilities. Scores big/important goals.

And Hockey's Future says:

Despite starting on the lower lines when the tournament commenced, Arvidsson worked his way up the depth chart, showing tremendous energy and showing off terrific skills and creativity. Eventually, he worked his way up to the top-six, played frequently on the power-play and even saw some time on the penalty kill. The last item sticks out as somewhat uncommon for a player of his size and skill level, but he’s been working on his defensive game intently, and it shows.

“Viktor has worked very hard to develop his defensive game,” said his junior coach in SkellefteĆ„, Hans Wallson. “The progress has been good and he feels confident in his game in all zones, which has meant that he now plays regularly in the Elitserien.”

Arvidsson is a small forward, only 5' 9" and 176 pounds. While that doesn't mean he can't be an impact player in the NHL, he will have to continue to develop his game to stick on the roster. But we all know that the Predators need creative play makers, so Arvidsson is an intriguing pick.

The Predators selected two defensemen with their final picks in the draft. In the fifth round, Joonas Lyytinen, a 19 year old, 6', 150 pound blueliner who plays for KalPa in Finland was selected. There is no analysis on Lyytinen, and I am not a scout, but it would seem to me this young man needs to eat- lots.

The Predators final selection was Aaron Irving, a 6' 1", 185 pound 18 year old. Irving currently plays for the Edmonton Oil Kings, and this is the view from Hockey's Future:

Irving possesses “stay-at-home” attributes. Not shy of physical play. Looked upon to settle things down in defensive zone. Moves puck well up ice. Trusted by coaching staff during key minutes late in games.

It is a solid draft that adds some players to the pipeline that have some seriously good offensive upside. And it is refreshing to see that the team has begun to add those types of players, which we have sorely lacked.

After all, you have to score goals to win games.

And these forwards look to have that potential.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Predators Trade Hornqvist, Spaling to Penguins for James Neal

The Nashville Predators are a team that is need of consistent offense. They took a step to remedying that problem by acquiring James Neal from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.

In Neal, the Predators pick up a player that has produced a point per game in two of his last three seasons, and has scored 20 goals or more in each of his NHL seasons. Last season, Neal had 27 goals and 34 assists in 59 games.

Neal has played 413 NHL games, tallying 315 points (161G-154A) and picking up 349 penalty minutes. Neal brings some snarl to the Predators forwards, but has stepped over the line on occasion, picking up suspensions for questionable hits. The Predators can use his grit and end energy, but he has to play in control to be effective.

There is no doubt that Neal has benefitted from playing on a talented Pens team, and it remains to be seen if he can be as productive with the Predators.

The Predators gave up Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling to pick up Neal. Hornqvist had 53 points (22G-31A) in 76 games last season for the Predators. Hornqvist has been a heart and soul player for the Predators and scored many (most) of his goals in the hard area in front of the net. Spaling was a versatile depth player for the Predators that could play center or wing and had 32 points (13G-19A) in 71 games.

Neal has three years remaining on his contract that pays him $5 million per year. Hornqvist has 4 years left on his contract that pays him 4.25 million per year. Spaling is a restricted free agent and was paid $1.5 million last season.

The acquisition of Neal represents a bold move for Poile. In trading Hornqvist and Spaling, Poile has moved players he drafted for a top line scorer. Hornqvist and Spaling were gritty, character guys that played the "Predator Way". As hard as they played, they did not have the potential to be elite scorers, much less in the top half of the League in scoring. Neal has that ability and has shown flashes of being exceptional.

Kudos to General Manager David Poile for making a move to add immediate scoring help for the Predators. The anemic offense that has been put on the ice the past few seasons has cost the Predators a playoff berth and has put too much pressure on the defense and goaltending. Neal is a proven goal scorer and if he continues to produce can tremendously benefit this team immediately.