Thoughts on a number of random topics:
-I caught part of Bob Stauffer’s show today and I have to ask: what’s the deal with emphasizing that Tom Mayson isn’t Joffrey Lupul’s biological grandfather (Stauffer always adds “…as has wrongly been reported elsewhere”, or words to that effect) every time Mayson’s name arises on the show? His point is a great mystery to me. I mean, for one, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it reported that Tom Mayson is Joffrey Lupul’s biological grandfather – that would be an awfully weird thing to report. Is his point that we should discount the whiff of nepotism that came off of Lupul’s presence on the Oilers on the basis that nobody really loves their adopted grandchildren? Of all of the points in the world to hammer home on separate occasions, that strikes me as a weird one.
-I’ve had some emails offering defences of the EIG. There are, I think, a couple of fair points that haven’t exactly been articulated between the Journal’s pro-Katz stance and the Sun’s decision to go all Japanese tabloid and appeal to their readers to for pictures of the mysterious Mr. Katz. Anyway, the points in favour of the EIG faction can be loosely summarized as follows. First, Katz will likely take on debt to buy the team himself, just like the EIG faction. The point that’s been made to me is that he’ll likely capitalize Rexall Sports just enough to get the debt financing he needs to buy the team, which he will then secure with the Oilers as collateral. Second, nobody really knows the details of the guy’s financial empire – as best as I understand, he’s the source of information about his fortune.
-More resignations from the Oilers Board of Directors. I’m a little mystified by this. The local media keeps talking vaguely about conflicts – the guys who resigned are apparently on board with selling – but that doesn’t really make sense to me. With Cal Nichols, I can at least sort of see the argument that he’s got a conflict – he’s been publicly offered a new job by Katz, which at least creates an appearance of impropriety (although I don’t think for a second that it would affect his position) because he stands to get a benefit other than that accruing to the shareholders as a whole if the sale goes through. In those circumstances, I could see the concern about the conflict. The guys who went today though…geez, I don’t know. If there’s a conflict of interest that disqualifies them to serve on the Board of Directors there, I don’t see it. I can’t see how taking a position one way or another puts someone in a conflict – the role of the Board is apparently to advise the shareholders on decisions like this, which you can’t do without taking a position. (This isn’t a legal opinion and I don’t do corporate work so there may be issues of which I’m unaware; I’ve rolled this around in my mind though and I’m having a hard time seeing it.)
-There’s a litigation angle, I think, to what Butler and Co. are trying to do. It seems to me like there’s some confusion in the media over the specific terms of the Oilers shareholders agreement and whether they can avoid the requirement that shares be offered internally if 60% want to sell to an outside buyer. I’m thinking that this is an issue that isn’t precisely clear to even the lawyers involved – I heard Pat LaForge on Bob McCown’s show talking about this and he couched his comments on the issue with a reference to it being his understanding . If I was Butler & Co., I’d have two objectives here. First, I’d want to convince the shareholders that I’m willing to pursue legal action if the shares aren’t first offered internally. Second, I’d want to convince them that I’ve got a good enough case that it will tie things up for some time. Those two factors combined might be enough to move EIG investors into selling internally to avoid the hassle: the Faction’s money spends just as good as Katz’. Where this gets really interesting is if Katz has his 60% or whatever he needs – I don’t know what the promises to sell to him look like, legally speaking, but he might be moved to sue if a bunch of the EIG try to get out. Conceivably, you could end up with a court effectively choosing the new owner.
-Andrew Raycroft may have done more to deep six JFJ than any player and GM in the history of the world. 2,352 shots at an .890 save percentage? That’s atrocious. Amazingly, Raycroft was 37-25-9 last year, despite his .894 save percentage. Find a goalie who puts up, say, a .907 save percentage (like…I don’t know…Manny Legace?) and the Leafs are 25 goals better. Given that they missed the playoffs by a grand total of one point, it’s likely that that decision cost them a playoff berth. This year, they’re 18-14-4 in games where Raycroft doesn’t get a decision; 2-8-4 when he and his .874 percentage do. JFJ is actually coming out of Toronto with a bit of a bad rap – I’m by no means a Leaf fan but I don’t think that this team is as bad as their record; they’ve just been buried by some bad goaltending. I don’t like the approach that JFJ took from a team building perspective; like Kevin Lowe, I think that he built a team without any chance of being elite in the next 3-5 years but he built a team that actually wasn’t that bad the past two years; it just had an absolutely fatal flaw between the pipes that it wasn’t good enough to overcome.
-According to William Houston, Brian Burke is at the top of the Leafs list of potential GM’s and he wants the job. I, for one, endorse this move. I can’t imagine what would happen with him dealing with the Toronto media, the closest thing that Canada has to the kind of media coverage that the Yankees or Red Sox get. Burke’s apparent unawareness that Dustin Penner could have been taken to arbitration wouldn’t pass without comment here.
-Getting back to Stauffer’s show for a second, he suggested that Darryl Katz would buy out Dwayne Roloson if he got control of the team. This seems to me like it wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Roli is on for $3MM next year. A buyout knocks $1MM off the cap hit, leaving them with a $2.67MM cap hit for Roloson next year. That’s all well and good, you might think – it gets you $1MM in cap room but you’re going to need a backup goalie, who’s going to eat up the vast majority of that. That’s going to eat up a lot of the dollar savings as well. Do you want to bet that you can find a better goalie than Dwayne Roloson for $1MM or less? Is the savings once you’ve done that worth the risk? I can’t see how it is, unless Roloson is a poisonous SOB when he’s not starting who spends his time emailing guys on the other team with tips on when Ales Hemsky is most vulnerable to a big hit. To be quite honest, I have a hard time figuring out situations in which a buyout will make sense with a $55MM cap and the Oilers in the situation that they’re in now. Even a guy like Souray, if you were to buy him out tomorrow, you’re on the hook for 2/3 of his money. Would you bet that you can do better than him with 1/3 of the money? In his case you might be right, depending on how he ages but in my view, it takes a truly terrible contract for a buyout to make sense.