5/15/14: Three Thoughts – Babcock, Drafting, and Spinning

By: Meesh Shanmugam (@HockeyMeesh)

I am lost without 4,000-word game recaps, goal assessments, and keeping track of the amount of stupid penalties taken in a game (final result: a lot). There will be season reviews for the team coming up, but for now I shall introduce a possible summer feature that I would like to do daily or every few days. Let’s start off the morning with a few thoughts. It’ll be Pens-centric at first and we’ll see what it turns into.

Thought #1: Blame (and Hire) Mike Babcock?

Marc B (@heyheyitsmarc) asked me a question worth pondering in regards to the Olympics:



Isn’t that an interesting scenario…did Sidney Crosby thrive under Bylsma until February, enjoy himself winning a gold medal under Mike Babcock, and return only to realize that his old coach wasn’t as shiny and motivational as his Olympic one?

Prior to March, Crosby had 80 points in 59 games (1.36 ppg). For the rest of the regular season post-Olympics, Crosby had 24 points in 21 games (1.14 ppg) and in the playoffs it dropped to 9 points in 13 games (.69 ppg).

I am inclined to say that fatigue and level of competition played factors in the decline, but it makes one hell of a conspiracy theory to think over at least. Many reporters talked about how well Babcock and Crosby got along at the Olympics. I remember several mentioning how Crosby and Babcock had discussions on their own on the ice during the first few days of Olympic practice as they picked each other’s brains. Did Crosby cheat on his NHL coach and realize he liked the other option better?  Did Crosby also beat his NHL coach at the Olympics and walk away with a new mindset?

Of course, the plot thickens:



As Madden says, Mike Babcock still has one more year left on his contract with the Red Wings. The franchise has treated him very well and so has his general manager, Ken Holland. After Detroit was knocked out, Holland stated he wanted to make signing Babcock to an extension a priority. However, Babcock apparently wasn’t quite as concerned about it and has no issues going year to year.

For what it’s worth, I would guess Babcock is pretty loyal to Holland, who has two years left on his contract.

Either way, have at it with your theories. Perhaps Babcock changed Crosby’s point of view. Perhaps the Penguins are going after Babcock. Perhaps Crosby is about to dictate exactly what he wants to happen to the Penguins franchise. We shall see soon enough.

Thought #2: More on Shero’s Drafting

In my article yesterday, Thoughts Part II: Season’s Over, What Now?, I discussed my theories on Bylsma, Shero, the Bylsma/Shero relationship, and how much blame each should have.

Here is an addendum to that, courtesy of Derrick (@TK_Noodle) from Pensburgh.


It’s a great point that I hadn’t considered. Shero was at the helm in 2006 and had three years of drafts and trades before Dan Bylsma came along.

The first thing I noticed: Puck-moving defensemen weren’t a priority yet.
The second thing I noticed: He didn’t have a lot of picks.
The third thing I noticed: The picks were still largely disappointing.

The defensemen taken in his first three years were Carl Sneep (06, 2nd round), Brian Strait (06, 3rd round), Timo Seppanen (06, 7th round), Robert Bortuzzo (07, 3rd round), Alex Grant (07, 4th round), Jake Muzzin (07, 5th round), and Nick D’Agostino (08, 7th round).

In the ’06 group, there was no puck-moving defenseman taken. The ’07 group had two potential guys in Grant and Muzzin, both taken after Bortuzzo. The ’07 group had its flaws though as Grant was seen as a questionable defenseman and Muzzin wasn’t even signed. Then D’Agostino in ’08 appears to be a nice grab, though clearly not a priority pick in the 7th round.

In all three years, a center was the first pick (Jordan Staal, Angelo Esposito, and Nathan Moon), though when Moon was picked, he was the 4th round pick after the Penguins had already gotten rid of their first three picks.

Out of 17 total picks from ’06-’08, only Jordan Staal, Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo, and Jake Muzzin have made any sort of impact in the NHL so far. Staal was a can’t-miss pick in the first round of 2006 as Shero could have thrown a dart at a dartboard and instead landed with Toews, Kessel, Backstrom, or quite a few other strong NHLers.

After Bylsma was hired, the top two picks were used on defensemen in three of the next four drafts, with the exception being Beau Bennett and Bryan Rust in 2010.

This all leads me to believe two things: 1) Shero’s draft strategy did change to some degree with Bylsma and 2) He still hasn’t proven he’s any good at drafting, with Bylsma (5 years) or without (3 years).

Sadly, this leaves me with the same analysis I had in my end of season thoughts post. I don’t know the relationship between Bylsma/Shero and how much Shero hitched his wagon to Bylsma’s wants/needs, so I will trust ownership with a decision either way. Logical points can definitely be made for both sides.

Thought #3: Watch Out for Public Relations

Finally, here’s a short point without stats, numbers, players, or coaches. As you consume all kinds of media (blogs, news, social, etc.) this offseason, keep the sources in mind. There will be a ton of thoughts, opinions, and rumors that will be floated around as “knowledge”, likelihoods, and facts. There will be roughly 75% BS, 20% lesser-BS, and 5% real facts out there. Be careful with what you believe and pass along.

Furthermore, the Penguins are an amazing public relations machine. When a player is going to be moved, the necessary rumors quickly leak that lead fans to thinking he should leave (see: Jordan Staal). The messages that get out are often very controlled, on purpose, and affect public perception of players, coaches, theories, etc. greatly. Everything is very strategic and planned. This is a business more than anything else; this isn’t just about hockey.

So as you read and hear about all kinds of rumors, facts, and theories, make sure you process it and think about it rather than just accepting it from the source right away.

Thanks for reading!! Keep sending questions, comments, and suggestions and we’ll see what this evolves into.