James O'Brien

Pittsburgh Penguins logo

Fancy that: Pens hire War on Ice’s Sam Ventura

27 Comments

Perhaps there will be a sequel to 2014’s fancy stats summer?

It would be hard to top that this time around, but hardcore number-crunching hockey fans will likely take note anyway, as the Pittsburgh Penguins scooped up Sam Ventura, co-creator of War on IceThe Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Ventura was hired as a “consultant responsible for analytics.”

The team seems especially excited to add a local, especially one like the 27-year-old, who recently earned a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon.

“To have someone who grew up here in Pittsburgh, literally in our backyard, to have the skill set and knowledge base that Sam has, he seemed like the perfect fit,” Jason Karmanos told the Tribune-Review. “Once I met him and started talking to him, I knew that he was the perfect fit for our group here.”

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford seems to give advanced stats some serious respect extending back to his days running the Carolina Hurricanes (even if some situations worked out better than others in that regard).

Karmanos said that Ventura’s addition will “augment” the analytics arm in Pittsburgh, indicating that the team may do more in that area in the future.

Ventura’s hiring reminds one of the Toronto Maple Leafs snatching Extra Skater’s Darryl Metcalf last summer, although it sounds like there’s a chance War on Ice may function for some time. That said, Ventura’s venture shows that the “fancy stats” community can recover from big losses; perhaps Ventura may help the Penguins avoid more letdowns on the ice?

When Katy Perry isn’t enough: Glendale’s latest beef with Coyotes, IceArizona

Katy Perry
21 Comments

Sometimes even Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake and the Eagles aren’t enough to turn around concert revenues.

The City of Glendale isn’t happy about IceArizona falling about $1 million short of its stated goals for Gila River Arena, as the Arizona Republic reports.

Peter Corbett’s story is basically a stream of unsettling – if sadly familiar – stats about the area, ownership group and team’s financial struggles. Here are a few key bits:

  • The arena hosted 14 concerts/events, doubling the total from the previous fiscal year. Still, a lot of free tickets were handed out – 16 percent of the 143,000 attendees – and, again, it ultimately meant falling approximately $1 million short of projections. The report indicates that they’ve been about $2 million shy of projections over two years, too.
  • Tom Duensing, Glendale interim assistant city manager, says that Glendale lost $8.15 million in 2013-14 and may lost as much as $8.5 million from this past season.
  • Hockey attendance is down 2.8 percent.
  • But, hey, there are two Taylor Swift concerts coming up!

Coyotes president Anthony LeBlanc released the following statement on the team and ownership’s behalf:

“We are pleased with the revenue generated for Coyotes games and non-hockey events at Gila River Arena thus far this year. We’ve made some great strides on the business side and we are moving in the right direction. Our goal remains to achieve profitability and we are confident that will happen in the future.”

There are variables that make this situation a little bit different, but the theme of lost cash amounts to the same old song and dance. A court hearing is set for July 31, so we’ll find out what happens next soon enough.

Being reunited with Roy in Colorado feels so good for Grigorenko

Mikhail Grigorenko
19 Comments

If anyone will give Mikhail Grigorenko the benefit of the doubt, it’s Patrick Roy.

The fiery Colorado Avalanche head coach was Grigorenko’s bench boss with the QMJHL’s Quebec Ramparts in 2011-12 and 2012-13, his best days with that team. The 2011-12 campaign stands out in particular: 85 points in 59 games, a run that likely inspired the Buffalo Sabres to select him 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft.

With that in mind, it’s not too surprising that the 21-year-old told the Denver Post that he’s thrilled to play for Roy again, this time with the Avs.

“I can’t wait for the opportunity to have him as a coach again,” Grigorenko said. “I had my best years in Quebec and it was great having Patrick as a coach. He was great to me and taught me a lot of things on and off the ice. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done for me already, and I can’t wait to have him as a coach again.”

It’s probably an understatement to say that Grigorenko needed this change of scenery in the form of being traded from the Buffalo Sabres (and signing a one-year deal reportedly at $675K).

He’s going to a place where his coach could vouch for him, which stands in contrast to Buffalo, where people wondered why Grigorenko was “afraid” of signing a two-way deal and former head coach Ted Nolan slammed his efforts as “lackadaisical.”

Back in March, Roy stood up for the struggling prospect, praising his skills and hockey sense to the Buffalo News.

While some will judge Grigorenko as part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade package, his cheap contract strengthens the argument that the Avalanche are making a low-risk move here. If optimism makes any difference, Roy may very well help Colorado strike quite the bargain.

Report: Flames, Bouma are $1 million apart

Chris Tanev, Lance Bouma
1 Comment

It appears as though the Calgary Flames and Lance Bouma are $1 million apart as today marks their salary arbitration hearing.

That’s the word from Sportsnet’s Roger Millions, who reports that Bouma is asking for $2.5 million while the Flames counter with $1.5 million.

The instinctive response is to say “split the difference” and hand Bouma $2 million, but these types of situations aren’t always that simple.

The 25-year-old’s situation isn’t likely to cripple Calgary’s cap space either way. General Fanager puts it at $6.2 million, so the Flames could absorb the hit. That doesn’t mean the Flames are necessarily excited about forking over a big chunk of that remainder to someone who amounts to a depth forward.

From the sound of things, it was a fairly lengthy discussion:

Bouma has 199 regular season games under his belt, all with the Flames (who drafted him with the 78th pick in 2008). The 2014-15 campaign was easily his best so far, as he scored 16 goals and 34 points in 78 contests.

He admittedly serves as “energy-type player” in Calgary. We’ll find out soon enough what his efforts are worth.

The Flames also face possible hearings for Paul Byron and Josh Jooris this week, so it’s a busy time for the franchise.

Kane thinks Anisimov could be ‘ideal’ fit as his center in Chicago

Patrick Kane
15 Comments

The Chicago Blackhawks are going to look different in quite a few ways next season, and that’s definitely true down the middle.

Of course, Jonathan Toews stands as the No. 1 center, but thinks get interesting after that. Head coach Joel Quenneville indicated that Artem Anisimov will take the second spot while Teuvo Teravainen is expected to slide from the wing to a third-line center role, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

Boasting considerable size and a change-of-pace style compared to recent second-line centers in Chicago (he certainly won’t be confused for Brad Richards), Anisimov should make for an awfully interesting fit.

Patrick Kane indicated on Friday that he’s excited to line up with the towering pivot.

“He’s a big, smart, two-way centerman, a left-handed shot,” Kane said, according to the Sun-Times. “That’s kind of the ideal center for someone like myself. He’s also got the skill, too. He could be a really dangerous fit on our team. So I’m looking forward to the chance of playing with him, if that’s the case.”

Second City Hockey points out that the Blackhawks have been hoping to plug someone like Anisimov, 27, into that second-line spot for some time.

After the Hawks sorted through a number of options last season, eventually giving up a first-round pick to rent Antoine Vermette, Anisimov can be the big (6’4, 198 pounds) center who eats minutes and plays the two-way game that coach Joel Quenneville craves. He’s not a flashy scorer, but certainly brings a change of pace from many of the team’s other options, including [Marko] Dano.

It’s been a turbulent offseason for Chicago, but this franchise has weathered storms and changes before. Blackhawks management might just seem ahead of the curve – again – if players like Anisimov and Teravainen really take off going forward.