Monday, February 28, 2011

Phillips Stays

The first big news of the day/night before was that Chris Phillips re-signed in Ottawa for 3 seasons at a cap hit of just over 3 million and avoided being moved to another team during today's feeding frenzy where organizations make more mistakes than at any time of the year.
Signing Phillips is a great move by GM Bryan Murray, but as to be expected, a lot of the reaction has been negative, most of it boorishly so. It's almost as if people think the Senators are doing Chris Phillips a favour here. Not so. In fact, it's the other way around. Phillips would have gotten more than 3.1 million on the open market this summer, so right away Phillips is leaving money on the table. He's also taking a pay cut from his current salary, so to imply that this is a charitable contract just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
I also find it almost incomprehensible that some fans are so spoiled that they would criticize a player who actually wants to play for the Senators. It wasn't that long ago that this team was considered a joke around the league and were in danger of being moved to an American city less than a decade ago. Nobody wanted to play here due to instability, high taxes and the tight budget this team operated under. I'm guessing a lot of "new fans" don't remember any of this. Perhaps they should brush up on their history by reading Roy MacGregor's book "Road Games" and realize it's even a privilege to have an NHL team in this city, let alone a franchise defenseman who actually wants to help this team win.
People have been so caught up in this "rebuild" that they want to see everybody thrown overboard without thinking of the consequences. To win in the NHL, you need NHL defenseman, and Chris Phillips is a damn good one who's only 32 years old right now. 3 million dollars for a defenseman who is respected around the league is a pittance, especially on a team that is going to be nowhere near the salary cap ceiling. In fact, they are required to hit the cap floor which is a bylaw put in to prevent teams from trying to tank seasons.
My guess is that Filip Kuba gets bought out of the final year of his deal if he can't be dealt today or by the draft, saving the team some hard cash in the process and opening up more spots for the younger prospects on defense.
If Murray was mulling whether to keep Phillips or Kuba, then he certainly made the right choice. It will be a good night when Phillips plays in his 1000th game next season, all of them in the black and red sweater.
We'll be back after all the dust settles after the deadline with a wrap-up of the big day.


Andy said...

I don't think you have to be spoiled or ignorant of history to dislike this deal. The problem I have with it is that Chris Phillips is not the same player he was. I don't want him on this team at any price. Good for him to want to stay, and I'm sure he's a great character guy and and probably runs a lost puppy shelter out of his garage, but in the end you still have to play good hockey, and I haven't seen Phillips do that this year. He is frequently the worst D on the ice - I have more confidence in Gonchar's defensive game.

Sure, he could get better money elsewhere. Maybe we could have signed Redden for $5.5mil instead of the $6.5mil the Rangers gave him - that non-deal is the smartest move Murray never made.

At this point the Phillips name is worth far more than the player. We could have had a second round draft pick or a good prospect. That opportunity is gone now.

Oman said...

Right on. You nailed it Mr. Milks.

Maybe he could have done the rental thing and come back for us, but that doesn't sound like a nice process and it's a big gamble. He might not come back at all.

Phillips will be an integral part of the rebuild. I'm sure Cowen and the rest of the rest of the young D are very happy with this move.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What is BMil thinking? Re-signing phillips @market w/NTC? Can we f---ing fire that loser already? This move is terrible. Why is he still working for the sens.

Phillips will not be part of the rebuild. He's a liability at both ends of the ice. He's old. He's a soft stay-at-home d.

I'm sure Cowen's doing cartwheels just thinking about the 5 minutes a game of ice time he just lost.

Who cares if someone's "good in the community" Seriously, why would any fan care? I'll take Patty Kane getting shit-faced 5 nights a week and a stanley cup over Chris Phillips' philanthropy any day.

It's all about winning the cup, isn't it? Does anyone actually think this move gets us closer to being a cup contender? Closer than a high pick or good prospect would?


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Jeremy, I very much like your blog but I respectfully disagree with you on this one.

I would have NO issue keeping Big Rig as an assistant coach or perhaps a defense consultant but to keep him for THREE 32...with a NMC...not liking this unlike the turnaround is lightning quick. Respect, wanting to play, good in the community are all well and good but he's an aging asset and not a great one at that.

I read "Road Games", I have a copy of that, "Home Game", "The Game", "Tretiak the Legend", bunch of others...but it doesn't mean I have to like this deal. I'd rather a younger player paid minimum wage than Phillips.

Mark my words Mr. Milks, he will be booed by locals before his contract is over.


Anonymous said...

"Unless" not "unlike"...still steaming from the deal.

Lastly, we paid the franchise fee to get the team. Hamilton and others didn't. Pretty much end of story.


Jeremy Milks said...

Greg, you seem to think Phillips at 32 years old is already ready for retirement. He has a lot of good hockey left in him. Nearly everybody on this team is experiencing the worst season of their careers.

Why would he be booed by the locals? For wanting to play for this team? For playing over 1000 games for this team? For being this team's best defenseman (which he is still)?

Booing Phillips would say more about the intelligence of those doing the booing than it would about Phillips.

As for the expansion, Ottawa is lucky to have the team because a) they got in during the last year of John Ziegler's reign as President and surely would not have been granted a franchise under Gary Bettman; b) they paid an expansion fee with the last money they had, leaving nothing to finance an arena; c) which they went into such debt for that they actually went bankrupt under Rod Bryden and were in very real danger of leaving the city when the Canadian dollar was at an all time low; d) remained in Ottawa only because Melnyk swept up the team for a pittance without having to absorb any of the previous debts.

The fact that the Senators are still in Ottawa is a minor miracle. Also, there was close to a century where this city did not have an NHL team and no one ever believed it would come back. Even today, most see the expansion bid by Bruce Firestone as the biggest bluff in NHL history - that actually worked.

For those reasons, I think it's justifiable to say this city is lucky to have a franchise at all.

Peter Raaymakers said...

Great article. I'm in total agreement. I have little fear that Phillips has lost his game; I'm quite sure he'll be fine next season, and I think the certainty of having this deal done will make things easier for him. The passion with which he spoke of wanting to stay in Ottawa really sold me.

And he didn't just talk about it. He really sold it. Looking at some comparables in recent history, I have no doubt Phillips might have received a 5yr/$20M at market. Look at guys like Jovanovski ($6M), Hamrlik ($5.5M), Hannan ($4.5M), Komisarek ($4.5M), Hamhuis ($4.5M), and Ballard ($4.2M) and I think he might have even been able to do better than $4M per season. He left serious money behind to stay in Ottawa. I like that.

But that's not all. He's also still young, and still a good defenceman. I'll be watching him this season, and judging by his play against Philadelphia, I'm pretty sure he's trending upward.

Jeremy Milks said...

Thanks Peter, it's nice to hear that someone likes this deal as much as I do. I've heard nothing but negativity today, and it stunned me a little.

Oman said...

Don't sweat the haters Mr. Milks.

Ray Bourque in his prime would have been -20 on this team this year. With terrible goal tending, so many injuries and a defence in complete disarray, anyone in the top pairing facing the top line of the opposition 20 minutes a game is going to get eaten up in the plus/minus department.

Phillips has a few good years left in the tank. And he did give us a pretty decent discount to stay in town.

Let the haters hate. We kept a few solid core guys and we have a mitt-load of picks to get this rebuild going. I'm getting pretty stoked for the draft.

Oman said...

Oh and did I mention the lack of scoring? Yeah, pretty hard to have a good plus/minus when your forwards can't put the puck in the net.

Anyone who knows hockey, know plus/minus has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Just sayin.

Anonymous said...

Interesying speculation regarding ray bourque. Total bs, of course. Ray Bourque is a hall of fame defenseman, a perennial all-star. Phillips is a very average, 2nd or 3rd pairing defenseman. And he'll be 33 soon. And he's soft and has no offensive upside.

A previous poster was right, Phillips will be experiencing some boos in the future (not from me, BTW, even though I hate this deal i NEVER boo our guys). But he can take solace in the fact that the boos are really aimed at BMil, worst GM in ottawa history. It's not Phillips' fault BM gave him the contract.


Oman said...

Obviously the Bourque comparison was an exaggeration, but I think the point is still a good one.

I hope you are man enough to eat your words pg, when a serious cup contender rises from the ashes of this rebuild in a couple years.

Unless of course, a reactionary, testosterone driven GM such as your beloved Pierre McGuire swoops in and takes the credit for Murray's hard work, ala Burke in Anaheim...

Obviously BM has not been a perfect GM, but the comparison to Mike Millbury is "total bs, of course."

hambown said...

>He is frequently the worst D on the >ice - I have more confidence in >Gonchar's defensive game.

I'm sorry, but you're just wrong here. Phillips has suffered along with all Sens defensemen this year, and prior to this year you would never hear anyone calling him a "soft stay at home defenseman". He will certainly be better next year.

As for the extra five minutes Cowen won't be geting next year, *I'm* doing cartwheels about that. Have you not seen what Luke Schenn has gone through in Toronto, being asked to do too much on a crappy blueline for three years? His play has been a total train-wreck until recently.

Cowen won't step in and be an NHL defenseman. He'll have to learn to play at a level where he can't defend by manhandling smaller, younger players. NHL forwards are bigger, faster, stronger, trickier and meaner. It will take time to learn to defend them properly. And during this time, it will be helpful to have along side him a playing partner who's been there and can still do that.

Oman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oman said...

Great points hambown.

If you think a young defender like Cowen isn't excited and relieved to be playing and learning alongside a player like Phillips, you don't know shit about hockey.

Andy said...

Hey, I hope I'm wrong about Phillips. If he can get back to his Philchenkov form that would be great, maybe with Cowen picking up the 'chenkov portion. I'd happily eat my words. I want the Sens to win.

My concern is that this year's downturn could be permanent. Again I bring up Redden. He was still young, and there was reason for the Rangers to believe he could "get back to form". He's now probably the highest paid player in the history of the AHL.

I also realize that Phillips doesn't play in a vacuum. Mistakes look worse when your goalie NEVER bails you out - defensive zone miscues seem worse when lazy or confused forwards lose their checks. But I'm correcting for that. Even on a bad Senators team Phillips play often stood out this year, in a bad way.

By the way, I don't really worry about +/-. It's not meaningful for shutdown D since they face the best players all the time.

Anyway, now I just have to get used to it. The deal could certainly be worse - it's not that much money, not that much term though I still dislike the NMC. I fully expect there to be bumps in the road for Cowen and Rundblad, and Gryba & Wiercoch have yet to prove they're NHL caliber, so hopefully Phillips can add stability there.