An early look at Mike Santorelli

Cam Charron
October 29 2013 09:57AM

During the second intermission of the Canucks and Capitals game, friend of the Army Dan Murphy asked his panellists a question pertaining to the sustainability of Mike Santorelli's play. After two seasons that saw Santorelli bounce between the injured reserve, the waiver-wire, and worst of all, the Winnipeg Jets, there weren't an awful lot of expectations for the local kid. Our pre-season mock rosters all had Santorelli maybe acting as insurance should one of the Canucks young kids not make the team.

It's now towards the end of October and Santorelli is a pleasing presence on the Canucks, one that makes the team more likeable than anything. When you extrapolate his production over 82 games, nothing screams all that out-of-the-ordinary. He's on pace for 23 goals and 53 points, which would be very good for a second-line centre, but it's not like he's on pace to be a point-a-game guy or an all-star or anything.

Is his production sustainable? His production rates are surprisingly right in lock-step with everything else in his career. Santorelli scored 20 goals in 2010-2011, but was injured for Florida's training camp in 2012 and missed the first bit of the season. Last year was completely forgettable:

  GP Goals/60 Sh% Shots/60 Points/60 On-ice Sh% On-ice SF/60
Santo 2011 82 0.79 10.2% 7.6 1.59 7.9% 30.1
Santo 2012 60 0.63 6.7% 9.6 0.73 4.8% 29.8
Santo 2013 34 0.31 5.90% 5.3 0.62 3.2% 24.4
Santo 2014 14 0.56 10.50% 5.4 1.41 7.1% 31.6
               
Career (2008-2013) 208 0.59 7.5% 7.8 1.00 5.5% 29.0

From Hockey Analysis and Extra Skater. Only Santorelli's past three seasons appear on the chart but the "career" numbers include his early Nashville days.

Nothing really pops out at you this year as far as unsustainability goes. If Santorelli finished the season with a 10.5% shooting percentage, and if the Canucks finished the season shooting 7.1% with Santorelli on the ice, that wouldn't be out of the ordinary. Santorelli's early production includes two overtime goals, but at 5-on-5, which is all this chart considers, Sanotrelli hasn't been doing a whole lot this year. 2 goals, 5 points, and that's okay. Second-line centres score a whole lot less than people tend to expect.

Given that Santorelli has a high shooting percentage relative to the team when he's on the ice, one might expect that Santorelli's low individual shot totals catch up with him and some of those goals turn into assists. Nothing about his percentages would suggest that Santorelli is going to regress this season, but there is some "fire in a bottle" feeling about his play early on. He had some issues in Florida and Winnipeg, but it appears that one of the reasons he wasn't scoring was his on-ice shooting percentages of 4.8% and 3.2% (and his 2011 on-ice shooting rate looks like a total outlier when you look at it in context with his early Nashville days). Players can affect very little of the on-ice shooting rate, unless they're taking a tonne of shots and their shooting is way better than average or way below average. Santorelli doesn't appear to be that player, so it's more likely he had a run of bad luck after his 20-goal campaign.

SO WHAT IS IT THEN

Interestingly, during the same discussion with Murph & Co., there was a question about whether the recent ice times for the Sedin twins and Ryan Kesler and whether that was sustainable. I don't think it's too much to ask hockey players to play a lot of hockey, but Santorelli has been playing notably more than he has during any 14-game stretch of his brief career. In 2011, he hit a stretch where he averaged 18:56, but at 19:10, this is more than he's ever played over a stretch like.

Here, I even mapped it out on a graph for you all. That green line across the top represents how often he's played this year.

Data from Hockey Reference

The thing for me is this: Santorelli's rate stats all look consistent with what he's done in his career, with some variability aside. He looks like the same player in all aspects but ice-time, where's he's playing more than he ever has. It's five minutes more per game than in either of the last two seasons. While Santorelli had "down" years in production those seasons, he didn't get a whole lot of second chances. Keep in mind that in the 2011-12 season, the rest of the Panthers lineup was doing pretty well and the team made the playoffs. Even though he was coming off a 20-goal season, the Panthers had to find space for their new C and RW acquisitions Marcel Goc, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky, not to mention Mikael Samuelsson when he showed up partway through the year.

Is it a fitness thing? Perhaps it's earned. Santorelli came into camp in fantastic shape, many people have noted since his brief outburst to start the season. At the start of camp, he won the two-mile running race and was probably the Canucks' best player in preseason, for whatever that counts for. As for ice time being sustainable, I don't think the question is with Ryan Kesler, I think it's with Santorelli. The latter is a player looking to make an impression and it's not too much of a stretch to suggest he's giving it more than his all in the early going, and his coach is appreciating it and rewarding him with a lot of ice. Will he be averaging 19 minutes a came come December? February? Will his health hold up?

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

The beauty of Santorelli is that he's been unspectacular, but people can appreciate that since there was no expectation for a 2nd line centreman this season not named Ryan Kesler. It's cool to see in the early going, and if sports fans appreciate anything, it's a hometown player on minimum salary out-performing low expectations. He's a good story, and if he plays another month posting similar rates to any season he's played in his career he's given the Canucks value on his contract. It's kind of a reminder that good hockey players are good hockey players and the line between "2nd liner" and "minor leaguer" is so thin, it's determined by having the fitness to play an extra three or four minutes a game consistently, and a few points in shooting percentage. A lot of capable hockey players wind up in the minors because they wound up on the wrong side of too many coin flips.

Still, defence is a little hazier. Santorelli was never much of a play-driver in Florida and his early high Corsi numbers have to be taken with the context that he's spent some time with good linemates this season (these numbers appear to be a couple of games old, but Santorelli is a 65.1% Corsi player when playing with Chris Higgins and 60.6% when playing with Henrik Sedin. You'll remember that being a line combination for a brief period of time. There's not enough evidence to support Santorelli is much better at D than he was in his Florida days).

What to consider is that you still don't get much if you extrapolate Mike Santorelli's rate statistics. You get a very productive hockey player for a minimum salary, but I'm keeping an eye on that ice-time, and that 5.3 shots per 60 rate. Santorelli had three shots against Washington, but he had none against the Blues and none against the Islanders after a nine-game stretch of multi-shot games.

You can also tell he isn't solidly in the second-line centre position. If he were, in this town, there would be more people mentioning he's scoreless since the second San Jose game.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 GeezMoney
October 29 2013, 10:16AM
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I knew this was going to be another "Corsi" column, but I thank you for putting some thought in to this.

Santorelli is playing well and has had his moments. He's not a guy who is going to become a star in this league, but he is above whatever else they are throwing out there and his production and energy is spiriting the team.

He had no shots against the Isles, but he made a hell of a play to set up the overtime winner, which is taken in to account by statistics. You have to simply see it to believe it, which apparently doesn't count for much these days.

Thanks for the thoughtful analysis Cam. He isn't an ideal second line centre, but right now he is doing fine. Which for a hometown boy, making as little as he is, is great news.

Plus, 5 points is okay production.

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#2 NM00
October 29 2013, 10:28AM
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The best part about Santorelli is that, fingers crossed, the Canucks won't have to waste assets on a rental centre at the deadline.

The worst part is he's just another mouth to feed that will eat into the 2014-2015 cap increase.

Santorelli may very well join Sedin, Sedin, Tanev & Hansen as players that will need significant raises or will need to be replaced.

Along with role players like Kassian, Lack, Weise & Schroeder or their replacements.

Booth might need to be bought out just to keep this team together...

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#3 antro
October 29 2013, 11:34AM
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Nice post. I really like what you say about the "thin line" b/w minor leaguer and NHLer. So that an injury or two can also be the difference between earning minimum salary (Santorelli, Schroeder) and earning $4 million (Derek Roy). Injuries are a kind of coin flip, bad luck. Ask Yann Sauve, who gets "called up" only to increase the salary. Or ask David Booth, who hasn't been able to stay healthy since he got kneed.

It'll be interesting to compare what Santorelli does this year to what Derek Roy does. Obviously the total salary cap of the whole NHL forced a lot of players to accept less money, but if the salary cap hadn't gone down, maybe Roy would have played a similar role. For 4 million. Let's see if Santorelli can keep it up.

@NM00: there's a weird optimism to some of your comments lately! I hope you aren't becoming a Gillis supporter in spite of yourself ;).

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#4 Ruprecht
October 29 2013, 11:36AM
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An odd thought/question came to mind while watching last night's game. Probably because it was discussed here as a possibility in the summer, but anyway, at this point who would you rather have Grabovski or Santo? There were certain people around here disgusted we couldn't land Grabovski and had a guy like Santorelli in the stable. Not mentioning any names, but lots of people were outwardly disgusted. Easy for anybody to say now, but at 3 mil vs. 550k, to me the answer was surprisingly simple. I'll take the Santo, thanks.

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#5 DCR
October 29 2013, 11:49AM
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I really like what Santorelli's been doing. Any time you can turn a League-minimum reclamation guy on a 2-way contract into a legitimate middle-six forward I call it a win.

I think he'll taper off over the course of the season, but even so he's well worth the money.

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#6 NM00
October 29 2013, 12:07PM
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@antro

It's not optimism.

It's trying to be realistic without being a homer.

While I have no problem giving Gillis credit for finding some good role players, it'll take a lot more than that to put me into the pro-Gillis camp.

I'm waiting until November 25 to see if this team is any different than what I thought heading into the season.

By then, the Canucks will have played 26 games (13 home, 13 road) and closer to a normal percentage of intradivision games.

If enough of the "positivity" remains, I'll gladly suggest the team has a puncher's chance against SJ or LA in the 1st round.

Though they could just as easily be 5th in the division...

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#7 NM00
October 29 2013, 12:12PM
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@Ruprecht

The Canucks never had the money for Grabovski.

It never should have been considered a realistic option no matter how much fans want to believe in cap wizardry.

However, I'll credit the GM I want fired for finding a credible solution (so far) to the centre issues that have plagued Vancouver since Manny went down...

The fact that Santorelli may very well be amenable to a hometown discount probably makes him a better fit than Grabo in the long run.

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#8 PB
October 29 2013, 12:38PM
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I think it's as unlikely that Santorelli will continue scoring at his present pace as Stanton at his, but for the money and no-cost in terms of assets given up they are awesome value. I love his hustle; he's clearly more of a third-line player (paired with a better defensive forward like Richardson and probably Hansen when healthy) and if he can bring that kind of energy for the more realistic 15 min a game for a 3L player it's an excellent stop-gap until the younger guys are ready.

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#9 Ruprecht
October 29 2013, 01:00PM
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NM00 wrote:

The Canucks never had the money for Grabovski.

It never should have been considered a realistic option no matter how much fans want to believe in cap wizardry.

However, I'll credit the GM I want fired for finding a credible solution (so far) to the centre issues that have plagued Vancouver since Manny went down...

The fact that Santorelli may very well be amenable to a hometown discount probably makes him a better fit than Grabo in the long run.

Yeah, for certain we didn't have the quid at the time. It was one of those weird thoughts that cropped up watching both play and comparing wages, not really factoring in each team's cap situation. I don't think either one of us were thinking of it as a viable option at the time. As I recall you were pissed about Gillis not having cap space to make depth signings in the first place, and I was of the thinking that it might not be so bad for Gillis' hands to be tied at the prices some players were going for. But look at Washington, they bought in and aren't any better off for the spending. Gillis may have been backed into a corner financially, but it has brought out some good so far. If we could just have the league ban him from making trades somehow, we're laughing.

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#10 GeezMoney
October 29 2013, 01:11PM
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Ruprecht wrote:

Yeah, for certain we didn't have the quid at the time. It was one of those weird thoughts that cropped up watching both play and comparing wages, not really factoring in each team's cap situation. I don't think either one of us were thinking of it as a viable option at the time. As I recall you were pissed about Gillis not having cap space to make depth signings in the first place, and I was of the thinking that it might not be so bad for Gillis' hands to be tied at the prices some players were going for. But look at Washington, they bought in and aren't any better off for the spending. Gillis may have been backed into a corner financially, but it has brought out some good so far. If we could just have the league ban him from making trades somehow, we're laughing.

Gillis' trades haven't always been terrible. I just think on average they haven't been very good. For the amount I rage on and on about Booth, he is a better player today than Samuelsson or Marco Sturm. He's just locked in for too long.

That said, maybe we should avoid making trades with Florida altogether. After a few good trades ( I argue getting Jovo plus for Bure was a win in as much as a win could be had when a player simply won't play for you any more) and we did steal Luongo. Now we've had one bad trade and one meh trade. It's starting to wash out.

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#11 NM00
October 29 2013, 01:19PM
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@Ruprecht

"If we could just have the league ban him from making trades somehow, we're laughing."

Don't forget banning him from the draft (so far), building relationships with players and media appearances in general...

If he doesn't (massively) improve the Canucks are Calgary in 3-5 years...

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#12 NM00
October 29 2013, 01:21PM
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@GeezMoney

"For the amount I rage on and on about Booth, he is a better player today than Samuelsson or Marco Sturm"

How about the fact that he gave Sturm a dumb contract in the first place and the only way to get rid of it was to take on a higher cap hit and longer term.

A couple of good band-aids isn't going to fix the bullet holes...

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#13 Nanodummy
October 29 2013, 01:54PM
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NM00 wrote:

"If we could just have the league ban him from making trades somehow, we're laughing."

Don't forget banning him from the draft (so far), building relationships with players and media appearances in general...

If he doesn't (massively) improve the Canucks are Calgary in 3-5 years...

Ehhhh.... If the Canucks are comparable to the 2008 Flames (their last good team) then:

We'd need to trade Edler for pucks (Phanuef), have Hamhuis break his knees (Regher), lose Kesler and Bieksa in free agency (Cammalleri, Aucoin), trade both the Sedins too late (Iginla[except we have two!]) have Luongo remain a starter, but not an elite one (Kipper), with Eddie Lack turning out to not be an NHL starter, and have no prospects in the pipeline at all.

I think you forget how truly mismanaged the Flames were, and how shallow that team was after Iginla, Kipper, Aucoin, Phaneuf and Regher.

Gillis has made some bad moves, but do you really see a Phaneuf level blunder happening?

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#14 NM00
October 29 2013, 02:29PM
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@Nanodummy

If the Canucks keep butchering evaluations with young players, how exactly are they going to stave off a rebuild in 3-5 years when the Sedins & Lou are in their late 30s?

There aren't enough BC born defenseman in the world of free agency...

Which, by the way, is pretty much Gillis' only "contribution" to the core of this team.

And let's not forget that the Sedins still need extensions and Kesler, Bieksa & Hammer are less than 3 years away from free agency.

If your point is that Gillis has inherited more than what Calgary had in 2008, that's not exactly a glowing endorsement of the general manager...

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#15 santofiSh
October 29 2013, 03:28PM
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Mike Santorelli = The new Alex Burrows.

Think about it.

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#16 Ruprecht
October 29 2013, 03:57PM
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GeezMoney wrote:

Gillis' trades haven't always been terrible. I just think on average they haven't been very good. For the amount I rage on and on about Booth, he is a better player today than Samuelsson or Marco Sturm. He's just locked in for too long.

That said, maybe we should avoid making trades with Florida altogether. After a few good trades ( I argue getting Jovo plus for Bure was a win in as much as a win could be had when a player simply won't play for you any more) and we did steal Luongo. Now we've had one bad trade and one meh trade. It's starting to wash out.

How about just a new organizational rule, that if somebody named Lou from Jersey or Dale from Florida call inquiring about a deal, Mike turns his phone off for a couple of weeks?

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#17 Ruprecht
October 29 2013, 04:03PM
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NM00 wrote:

"If we could just have the league ban him from making trades somehow, we're laughing."

Don't forget banning him from the draft (so far), building relationships with players and media appearances in general...

If he doesn't (massively) improve the Canucks are Calgary in 3-5 years...

I see your point. Where we've really slipped is we had top notch coaching and development in Manitoba, but been floundering ever since the end of the Moose. I think you're right, we're hooped in 3-5 years if we don't shore that up quickly.

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#18 Jordan_Clarke
October 29 2013, 04:06PM
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Cool post Cam.

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#19 PB
October 29 2013, 05:36PM
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@NM00

Like Vancouver, Calgary significantly improved their prospect ranks at the most recent draft. Unlike Vancouver, they have floundered for a number of years in the interim, doing little to improve in either the short or long term. I don't think the comparison is accurate.

Your point regarding the long-term deterioration of the club might come true -- especially given the age of the core. But the picture you paint seems to me to be of an old club with no new talent -- regardless of whether we have drafted or signed them. Yes, the drafts from the first years of the Gillis regime have been generally abysmal. But it's hard for me to look at the farm system and think that there's no hope for the future. A lot of question marks and potentially some boom-or-bust prospects, but I think there's a lot more to be positive about than what you've suggested.

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#20 NM00
October 29 2013, 06:01PM
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@PB

Calgary took a very long time to, finally, take a step back and rebuild.

The Canucks certainly aren't there yet. But they're on the same path if they keep blundering draft picks/trading away NHLers like Grabner & Hodgson for underwhelming returns.

It's already caught up to them to the point where they are unlikely to win a playoff round this year.

And what's the solution for next year? Giving raises to the same group and trying again?

Even if some of these draft picks play a meaningful role in Vancouver, something which Gillis has never shown any ability to do, is the timing of this going to work?

I'm not sure the current core players will be around for the next contending Canucks team...

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#21 chocoball
October 29 2013, 08:59PM
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If Santorelli continues to do well on the 2nd/3rd lines, he deserves a raise in 2014/2015. It's far better than Sestito getting a contract he didn't deserve.

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#22 Nanodummy
October 29 2013, 09:06PM
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@NM00

Gillis resigned Kesler,Edler and the Sedins, for bargains, keeping his core intact. He also re-signed Burrows, Bieksa and Hansen. So he deserves credit for retaining all of them: you can't blame him for keeping top flight talent. He inherited a good top six and a good top 4 and resigned them. Calgary lost them to free agency and bad trades.

He also added Tanev, Hamhuis, Higgins, Garrison, and Santorelli.

Certainly, if he does nothing in the next 3 years and neither Gaunce, Horvat, Jensen or Shinkaruk belong in the top 6, or Corrado, Tommernes or Subban in the top 4 and Lack doesn't become an NHLer and he doesn't sign anyone, then we're pooched.

But to blunder the way Sutter and Feaster did, come on...

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#23 PB
October 29 2013, 09:27PM
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@NM00

If the sky does indeed fall and the Canucks turn into abject failures like the Flames or (heaven help us) the Oilers, then I'll see things as you do. Until then I've seen little evidence that the Canucks are the train wreck you're describing. Instead I've seen a team that's been consistently entertaining and competitive and that has made some good and risky moves in the last year to try and begin retooling. There are some good young players in the pipeline and some decent complementary additions that have been made.

Calgary continues to blunder about and this notion that tanking to become better is the way to go has absolutely no guarantee that it will work (for every Chicago and Pittsburgh we have the Oilers and Isles). I would rather watch a competitive and entertaining team try to retool on the fly than get turned off by watching them flounder back into relevance.

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#24 NM00
October 29 2013, 09:46PM
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@PB

"I've seen little evidence that the Canucks are the train wreck you're describing"

Where have I ever called the Canucks a trainwreck?

"this notion that tanking to become better is the way to go has absolutely no guarantee that it will work"

Of course it's not a guarantee of anything.

Though it's a little early to suggest it hasn't worked in Edmonton or Long Island. They're really only in the middle...

"I would rather watch a competitive and entertaining team try to retool on the fly than get turned off by watching them flounder back into relevance"

What makes you think the Canucks are trying to retool on the fly?

This is pretty much the same core as the last few years sans Schneider and there isn't a shred of evidence that anything has changed in terms of integrating quality young players into the lineup.

Every team has "good young players in the pipeline".

I'll believe it when I see it with this management team...

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#25 NM00
October 29 2013, 09:54PM
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@PB

Big market cap teams keep most of their core players.

In case you are wondering, that's why very little premium talent becomes available via unrestricted free agency...

And it must have been very difficult to get Hamhuis & Garrison to sign in their home province.

The fact that they took discounts is proof they wanted to come here...not that Gillis is a magician...

Gillis has butchered many things (draft picks, trades involving Hodgson, Grabner, cajoling Lou to mentally check out of Vancouver).

If he butchers transactions at the same pace he has during the first 5 years of his reign, this franchise is rebuilding in a few years...

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#26 JFR
October 29 2013, 10:25PM
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The great thing about Santorelli is that he has a great fitness level, wins face offs at high rate and is in constant motion. The guy is the hard working kind Of forward that the Canucks have needed for a while. He can play on any line and is willing to do so. Never be surprised about a guy who has the LAST Chance tag on his dressing room plaque.

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#27 Mr Lewis
October 30 2013, 03:21AM
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The Hodgson-Kassian trade is still to be evaluated. The Grabner toss off was horrible (though Florida did even worse with it). Let's not get too suicidal until we see how Peoria washes out. I see a new defence arranging itself, maybe a goalie and several hungry forwards looking to break in. No Bure's, no Crosbie's. Them toys be rare, but chips do fall.

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#28 Nanodummy
October 30 2013, 10:29AM
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@NM00

Except Calgary, a cap team in a big market failed to retain their core. So your comparison falls apart. Gillis has put ink on every contract on this team. He gets credit for that. Sutter and Feaster could not and instead leveraged their futures for mediocre players to fill out their core. We've leveraged a few futures for our depth.

Gillis signed Malholtra as well, but I missed that tidbit since he's done so well with all of his top 9 signings.

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#29 NM00
October 30 2013, 11:39AM
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@Nanodummy

"Gillis has put ink on every contract on this team"

He's had the job for 6 years.

All that tells you is that the previous GM didn't give out any 6+ year contracts...

Do you notice how Boston, LA, Pittsburgh, Detroit, San Jose, Chicago, St Louis, Washington, Philadelphia & New York (just to name 10) haven't had issues keeping their core players?

You are falsely attributing this as a skill to Gillis.

Again, there's a reason very few core players reach free agency in the first place.

Player retention hasn't been an issue for this organization since Burke rebuilt the team.

And, as I've noted above, the Canucks aren't Calgary yet.

But they are on the same path that Calgary was on after their second of four straight 1st round playoff exits...

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#30 Fred-65
October 30 2013, 11:50AM
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I just hope we can depend on him for the next 3 months when we get his back back n the ice, Schroeder. So far so good or lets not look a gift horse in the mouth. No one including MG and Pro scouts can claim this is how they expected this to pan out. Sheer luck plus the player himself and his determination.

Maybe the best part of Santorelli is the fact it's moved Kesler to wing where he started his surge to fame playing on the wing with Sundin. I was thinking/hoping it was going to be Schroeder at centre and Kesler on the wing and Burrows with the twins. But MS has thrown caution to the wind and forced his presence on the team...it looks go on him

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#31 GeezMoney
October 30 2013, 01:57PM
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@NM00

Agreed about Sturm, not so sure about being forced to take on Booth's contract.

But it is fair to say he was making a softish bet that Booth would be a goal scorer and not a corsi mega star.

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#32 Ruprecht
October 31 2013, 10:32AM
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GeezMoney wrote:

Agreed about Sturm, not so sure about being forced to take on Booth's contract.

But it is fair to say he was making a softish bet that Booth would be a goal scorer and not a corsi mega star.

I just hope Booth and his agent were smart enough to include a Corsi bonus.

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