The 3-2-1

The broken RFA system, pressure on Jason Botterill, and context for comebacks

Jeremy White
September 14, 2019 - 9:10 am

Photo: Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

The 3-2-1.

As we get set for the start of another National Hockey League season, there’s no better time to hammer out three quick points, while raising awareness of the dire need of the 3-2-1 point system. 

The league needs it. We’ve gone over it. 

But here’s some news stuff:

 

3.) The #OfferSheetWars that weren’t

The NHL's restricted free agent system is broken. It’s only broken because we still live in a world where the men that run these teams fail to use every avenue at their disposal to improve their team. 

No, I’m not upset that Mitch Marner wasn’t offer sheeted, I never really fully expected him to be. 

There are middle-tier restricted free agents that most definitely fit the bill, though. 

There are teams that are up against the cap, allowed to operate freely without any challengers. At least when Steve Yzerman was the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, we could buy the B.S. argument that nobody wanted to get on his bad side. You wanna be friends with the guy, right? 

Now that Yzerman has left for the Detroit Red Wings, how is it that Tampa Bay can offer Brayden Point a three-year contract at $5.7 million? TSN hockey insider Pierre Lebrun tweeted that that was their latest offer. 

In a just and ruthlessly competitive NHL, Point would tell the Lightning to "bleep off" and never play there again. Then a team that knows it’s in position for a Stanley Cup run over the next four years would load up an offer sheet and sign him. He’d take it for, you know, the money, and the chance to win multiple Stanley Cups. 

However, that still hasn’t happened. So Tampa Bay will probably just sign him for like, $6.8 million AAV? And they’ll be celebrated for being so good at managing the cap.

It certainly is a lot easier when you have convinced other teams and owners not to challenge you, and you’ve sold every player in the league on the importance of loyalty and family. Good stuff guys. 

I’m not kidding when I say I’m going to have a hard time ever taking this league seriously until the general managers (or owners, or players) start competing like it’s a competition. 

Even the talk about offer sheets can’t get it’s story straight. Remember the Sebastian Aho offer sheet? First it was the Carolina Hurricanes that were going to be mad! Then it was the Montreal Canadiens that did them a favor!

Wow what a favor!

In one day, the story switched from general managers won’t do it because their colleagues will get mad, to it’s too friendly. 

Stop hiring former hockey players and start hiring people that are better suited in asset management.  

 

2.) Oh yeah, the Sabres

Every year, I talk myself into the Buffalo Sabres being good. Nearly every year, that doesn’t work out. 

The good news is that this year, I’m not even working for it. I have no expectations for them at all. 

I’m glad they changed the head coach, something that should have happened nine months ago. A lot of the preseason build-up includes the notion that they won’t be such a mess in their own end this year. There’s a universal, “did you see what they were doing last year?” and that just burns me even more.  Just about everyone around the league, team, city, and world knows they were a mess defensively, and yet it was such a battle for them to make the coaching change.  

General manager Jason Botterill threw away a good start to last year, and half a season of, what could have been, a time to get things going in the right direction. That was a half a season to showcase a more defensively responsible Rasmus Ristolainen. A half season to not be the worst team in hockey over that stretch. A half season to try to convince other unrestricted free agents that this team’s hot start was a sign of things to come. 

Instead he, like his predecessor Tim Murray, watched a season die. The good news for Botterill is that he made it through and got a third bite at the apple. I said it when they hired head coach Ralph Krueger and I’ll say it again - he may have hired his own replacement. 

The pressure should absolutely be on Botterill this year, and if things go south, I wonder if Krueger could be the one to slide upstairs and start running the show. He presents himself well, and in a very Sean McDermott-like fashion. Lots about belief, buy-in, and togetherness. 

Their motto this year is “play connected”. I hope things go well enough for the Sabres for the general manager and head coach to stay connected.

 

1.) There are comebacks, and there are comebacks

I’m going to run the risk of angering some of the Josh Allen hype train engineers, here. I’m plenty satisfied with where Allen is right now. Encouraged. Interested. Excited. 

However, I am not lining up to tell you he’s a comeback artist with a boatload of resilience. Not yet. 

Allen has six wins as a start-to-finish quarterback with the Buffalo Bills. In his six wins as the start-to-finisher, the opposing teams have scored: 6, 12, 21, 13, 17, and 16. 

Right now, the Bills' best offense remains a good defense. Allen deserves high marks for completing the comeback in New Jersey against the Jets last week, but it’s the defense that presents the opportunity. 

Is it resilience, or is it a top-notch defense? Perhaps a little of both.

There’s plenty to like right now, but I’m saving plenty of my enthusiasm for 38-35 wins, something that you’re going to need every now and then.

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