This article is cut up into two halves: Needs & Values.
The “Needs” section will discuss what roster needs Broadway will have this summer, and for next season, and how to digest these objectives into brainstormed solutions. In other words, ‘needs’ are a synonym for ‘how to correct roster deficiencies.’
The “Values” section will take our conclusions in the “Needs” prologue and assign a measurement of ‘value’ to each asset on the roster. How valuable is Martin St. Louis or Matt Hunwick to the 2015-16 roster? We’ll elaborate on each individual as best we can.
The 2014-15 New York Rangers were great, but not great enough. In the hours after elimination from the Eastern Conference Finals, countless fans have taken to social media to give their two cents on “blaming” or “assigning fault” to various aspects of the team.
Why didn’t this team win the Cup?
While there’s legitimacy in taking Ryan McDonagh’s broken foot, Marc Staal’s broken ankle, & Mat Zuccarello’s concussion all into account… That reasoning (caught forever between "reasons" and "excuses") is always rebuked with something along the lines of “every team has injuries. It’s no excuse.”
Yes and no.
Correct, most NHL teams have pieces that are banged up and battered, somewhat nullifying the advantages or disadvantages of skaters playing through pain. The thing is this: ultimately, some teams will be more injured than others, in varying degrees of severity-of-injury, as well as degree-of-skill overall afflicted with ware-and-tare.
I think the clearer, more important argument to have is about depth. Roster depth. As in “how many players outside of your Top-20 roster spots can you reliably inject into vital postseason games without the risk outweighing the reward?” Because while comparing hidden, discreet, nearly immeasurable baskets of comparative team injuries is virtually impossible… examining a franchises’s depth, which is the key to battling through injuries in the first place, is much more practical place to examine.
Why didn’t this team win the Cup? Outside the small consideration of injuries (being worse than Tampa’s?) and sheer variance (luck)… The NY Rangers’ lack of roster depth ultimately prevented them from overcoming Tampa’s tenacious adversity. If you don't believe it, just look at Game 7: New York burned a roster spot on the 4th line so Hunwick could only play 4:17 in the 1st period while McDonagh received a cortisone shot? Only then to have a healthy, rested Hunwick not play another shift upon McDonagh's return, rendering Game 7 basically a 17-skater Broadway lineup?
That doesn't sound like much faith in the depth of your defenseman. Either that, or a big error on the part of the caching staff... But since I'm the first to assume Alain Vigneault knows what he's doing, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and place the blame on (lack of) roster depth.
Comparing Broadway’s Top-20 roster (12 forwards, 6 defensemen, 2 goalies) to the rest of the league, it was superb. Tit-for-tat, the cream of the roster was exquisite, and very much deserving of their regular season success.
But what about the Top-22? In this case, that’s comparing Matt Hunwick and James Sheppard as the “extra skaters” compared to the rest of the league’s standby fill-ins. The Rangers’ Top-22 still probably fared favorably in contrast to the rest of the league (although probably even less so against Anaheim, Chicago or Tampa).
From the 23rd roster spot onwards? Not so much.
It’s difficult to sit broken-boned McDonagh and Staal because they comprise so much of New York’s effective defensive core. But who would you rather have, those two performing far less than 100%… or a 3rd pair of Mike Kostka & Matt Hunwick at 100%? Yeah… the Rangers were a defensive injury away from dressing Mike Kostka (or Conor Allen, maybe).
Remember in the 2013 NHL Playoffs, where the injuries to Marc Staal & Anton Stralman forced John Tortorella to play Michael Del Zotto & Roman Hamrlik? As if the 5-game-defeat to Boston was at all the coach’s fault… it was the General Manager (Glen Sather), as putting a lot of eggs in not a lot of baskets can prove fatal should a few of the Top-6 defensemen baskets incur a concussion, sprain or broken bone.
In fact, the Boston Bruins of that postseason, who went on to lose the Stanley Cup in 6 games to Chicago, actually used 9 different defensemen during the 22-game run! NINE. DEFENSEMEN. While they failed to capture it all, the team demonstrated the amazing ability to not be set aside by injuries, and having competent depth in the 23rd, 24th, 25th & 26th roster spots, should the rainy days come.
They did, and Boston nearly weathered the storm.
The Rangers, this spring? Decidedly less the ability to seek refuge in their 8th or 9th defensemen in the franchise arsenal (I thought Matt Hunwick was a competent 7th D). The Blueshirts needed short & sweet series, playing as little needed time and encountering as few injuries as possible, to make a run of it. Unfortunately, Washington and Tampa provided an exhausting series, and ultimately ate away at the team’s thinner stamina.
So… I think we can certainly agree the big “need” is improving depth. Molding the roster into something less top-20 concentrated, into something more designed to EXPECT a few injuries, and be able to cope accordingly. Surely that’s at least a fair assessment, eh?
The other side of the coin is: the team overall proved to be an honest contender, even if the 2015 postseason was indeed a futile run of it. So, while improving depth is indeed a logical diagnosis… keeping the team somewhat intact, wherever possible, would seem to be for the most part an imperative maxim to keep in mind.
No, there will be no Canyon of Heroes parade in the Big Apple this summer. But it wasn’t exactly the Toronto Maple Leafs or Dallas Stars, either. The team met expectations up until the last week of May. There’s more positivity in that, despite the emotional negativity of Game 7 heartbreak the past 72 hours.
To conclude: an increase in depth is perhaps the chief need for the organization, yet there should be a rejection of any “pressure” to blow up the roster and make sweeping changes, unless absolutely needed or genuinely fitting. Let’s try to walk that subjective line, shall we?
Once again, here’s a look at next year’s Top-20 roster. Let’s sift through the pieces, shall we?
Stepan is set to become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. His qualifying offer is $3.85 million, but it will be easily tendered by NYR, and easily rejected by Stepan. The fact is Stepan is likely due a substantial payraise, one way or the other, as providing to be the #1 center on the team. In fact, Stepan was the only Rangers forward to play more than 18 minutes per game (18:11) in the regular season, and the only forward to play over 19 minutes per game (19:31) in the playoffs.
He ranked 2nd among forwards in total PP time on ice, 2nd among forwards in ES time on ice, and 3rd among forwards in total PK time during the postseason. Like it or not, Stepan is an intricate ingredient in the Rangers rosters, and any idea of trading him in a deal must configure on those minutes being replaced… which is easier said than done, as quality centers playing quality minutes in this league usually demands a ripe premium.
That, and coupled with Stepan’s summer-long contract holdout from July to October of 2013, suggest the man will get his money, one way or the other. The only question? How much, and for how long.
In January, HockeyRodent compared Stepan to that of Ryan O’Reily last summer, in terms of similarity in both performance, position and contractual point in careers. Below I’ve updated the numbers of that comparison, and it remains a valid guide to help us determine what Stepan’s new salary ought to be.
AT TIME OF CONTRACT:
RYAN O’ REILY:
Career: 191 points (73 goals, 118 assists), 345 games, ~18:07/game
Career Avgs/Game: (0.22 goals, 0.34 assists, 0.55 points)
Previous 2 seasons: 84 points (34 goals, 50 assists) 109 games, ~19:28/game
Prev 2 seasons avg/game: (0.31 goals, 0.46 assists, 0.77 points)
Career: 252 points (89 goals, 163 assists), 362 games, ~18:18/game
Career Avgs/game: (.25 goals, .45 assists, .70 points)
Previous 2 seasons: 112 points (33 goals, 79 assists), 150 games, ~18:05/game
Prev 2 seasons avg/game: .22 goals, .53 assists, .75 points)
If O’Reilly is any indicator (which, in all likelihood, is an excellent comparable for Stepan’s summer negotiations)… He received a 2-year $6 million/year deal from Colorado, days prior to their salary arbitration hearing (which was filed by the team, not player). Granted that O’Reilly is roughly a year-and-a-half younger than Stepan… but still, this is the realistic figure Glen Sather will be dealing with.
Stepan could realistically refuse any offer he doesn’t like, go to arbitration, likely get a 1-year ~$6 million arbitration judgement, and set his sights on becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent in Summer 2017. It doesn’t take an economist to realize Stepan has the leverage, and while lowballing is not an option, it will very likely be “cheaper” to sign Derek to a long-term deal this summer rather than next summer, with as much as 29 other teams bidding for the productive center.
Of all the aspects of long-term considerations from which to pinch pennies on next year’s payroll, Stepan is likely that last place to do so. I think we can assuredly predict Stepan receives a cap hit of $6 to $7 million per year, with the former being 1-or-2-year-deals, and the latter representing 6-7-or-8-year-deals.
If that still seems like an unfairly high prediction-of-pay for Stepan, just remember last summer. The 31-year-old Jason Spezza received a 4-year $7.5 million/year contract from Dallas. The 28-year-old Paul Stastny received a 4-year $7 million/year contract from St. Louis. So… what do you think a 27-year-old Derek Stepan would fetch in 26 months, with the salary cap possibly in the mid $70-millions range?
And it’s foolish to think Stepan, his agent, & Glen Sather aren’t aware of the market’s atmosphere through any of this. Our guess at Stepan’s 2015-16 cap hit will be something like $6.25 million/year, assuming some sort of multi-year-deal is signed this summer.
Having the dynamic-duo of Derek Stepan & Derrick Brassard around for their late 20’s at a total annual cost of $11-$12 million per year is not a bad going rate in the current NHL. And of course, we assume we like that 1-2 punch, as they have notched 3 respectable runs in the postseason since they began playing together in February 2013.
Which brings us to Brassard and his line:
Mats Zuccarello, Derrick Brassard, & Rick Nash:
All 3 players excelled on their line, with Brassard & Zuccarello enjoying success on the same line for the 2nd consecutive campaign (it was Benoit Pouliot in lieu of Nash in ’13-’14). All 3 players are under contract, with varying No-Move/No-Trade clauses, for the next 3-4 seasons.
There’s no reason to think any of the 3 forwards will be moved, nor should it be thought they must be moved, going forward for New York. In sum, they will cost a total of $17.3 million, which is certainly not a “bad” rate for a top offensive line, realistically projected to score 70-80 goals next regular season.
Indeed, we can only wonder the true effect of Zuccarello’s absence in the 2nd & 3rd round of the postseason as far as Rangers chances at success. The line proved to be effective, time and time again, and will most likely be kept together for next October, barring some crazily unlikely trade.
Jesper Fast & J.T. Miller:
Both of these players had strange, versatile journeys in the 2014-15 season & postseason, varying from AHL minor leaguer, to 4th line specialist, to Derek Stepan’s top-linemate. Even though both players had NHL experience prior to this year, it was their first taste of NHL regularity. We can reasonably assume both can be expected as roster regulars for next season, both coming off their respective entry-level contracts this summer.
Neither player has the right to salary arbitration, which means barring a grandiose offer sheet, both forwards will be without leverage against Broadway lowballing. Glen Sather, historically shrewd and stingy with restricted free agents whom are without arbitration or recourse, should probably pursue that tactic, and save as much cap space on the duo as possible.
J.T. Miller’s qualifying offer is 1-year $777,000. Given his draft pedigree (15th overall in 2011), Sather would probably reluctantly succumb to a “higher” contract offer on Miller, than of Fast, who was taken 157th overall.
A 1-year deal of $800,000 - $900,000 is perhaps optimistic on Miller’s part (just ask John Moore last summer, whom received not a dollar more than his qualifying offer), but not impossible. If Miller looks to make at least $1 million annually, a 2-year “bridge” deal of $1-1.5 million seems a lot more realistic.
We’ll guesstimate that Miller and the Rangers end up agreeing to a 2-year, $1.1 million deal in July or August.
As for Quickie? … ehrm… I mean, Fast?
His qualifying offer is for more than that of Miller, which is 1-year $851,000. It would not surprise me at all if Fast signs a 1-year deal for his exact qualifying offer, even though I doubt he nor his agent would be thrilled. And much like Miller, a 2-year “bridge” contract for a little more, say $900,000-$1 million per year, could just as easily make sense for both parties.
So… we’ll make the assumption both are signed to 2-year deals, stiff-armedly lowball deals, at roughly $2 million per year totaled between the two.
As far as the depth chart? Coach Alain Vigneault would have the lineup flexibility of putting either skater on any of the 4 lines. Miller has shown a greater upside and potential for offensive production, while Fast has already locked up his reliability as an excellent defensive forward, whom was particularly successful on NYR penalty kills.
The only remaining Restricted Free Agent we have not talked about yet. Hagelin has the right of salary arbitration, and like Stepan, only two summers away from Unrestricted Free Agency. His qualifying offer is $2.4 million.
What’s his value?
If Hagelin goes to arbitration, the most recent (and very logical) comparable to examine is that of Vladimir Sobotka, and his 1-year arbitration result which found he was “worth” $2.725 million. How similar is Sobotka last summer to Hagelin THIS summer? Let’s take a look…
AT TIME OF ARBITRATION:
SOBOTKA (Age 27)
STL Career: 247 games, 101 points (29-72-101)… 16:05/gp
STL Career Avg/Gp: .12 G/GP, .29 A/GP, .41 P/GP…
Prev 2 Seasons: 109 games, 52 points (17-35-52)
Prev 2 Seasons Avg/Gp: .16 G, .32 A, .48 P … ~16:10/gp
HAGELIN (Age 27)
NHL Career: 266 games, 130 points (58-72-130)… 15:38/gp
NHL Career Avg/Gp: .22 G, .27 A, .49 P
Prev 2 Seasons: 154 games, (34-34-68)… ~15:20/gp
Prev 2 Seasons Avg: .22 g-.22a - .44 p
In addition to the nearly identical age (Sobotka was 1 month younger than Hagelin is now when he went to arbitration), nearly identical stats, and nearly identical role on respective teams… It seems to be a very fitting comparable for Hagelin’s camp to gauge his value. Perhaps this very article will come up in the arbitration hearing?
... A lonely, disheartened blogger can dream, can't he??...
All-in-all, Sobotka was awarded roughly 4% of the incoming 2014-14 salary cap ($69 million). Should Hagelin’s 1-year arbitration award mirror a 4% figure, then we can projected Hagelin’s value at about 1-year $2.85 million if the salary cap is $71.5 million.
Is Carlos worth $2.85 million to speed the flank on Broadway’s 3rd line? Perhaps, or perhaps not. It certainly wouldn’t be an “unfair” sum for either player nor team, yet if the Rangers are destined to have to cut salary by October, this is one of the likeliest candidates to be traded away.
It’s probably 50-50 on Hagelin returning next year or ending up with another NHL club. The only reason he wouldn’t return would be salary cap reasoning, as he’s proven to be a fine 3rd line speedster, particularly pivotal on a team which has won so many games with more speed than sizzle.
But most importantly: if you dump Hagelin, you need to replace his top-tier penalty killing minutes and abilities.
Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Tanner Glass & Dominic Moore:
All four of those skaters are under contract for the 2015-16 season, all of which have relatively minor salary cap hits. There’s no reason to think any of them will depart the team this summer. Even in the art of cutting salary to stay below the cap, this quartet totals a very modest collective cap hit of only $6,325,000. That’s not bad for one-third of the Top-20’s stock of forwards.
Actually… it wouldn’t be the craziest thing if Glass was traded, and a minimum-wage 4th liner was signed off the market to replace his spot. It could save the Rangers up to $875,000 in cap relief. But like I say, it’s unlikely any of these forwards are exiled for salary cap reasons, unless a very interesting trade in orchestrated in the coming months.
Unfortunately for Cam fans, it seems he is the prime candidate for being traded this summer. If there’s a place to start cutting salary, it’s the backup goalie making $1.45 million next season. That, coupled with Talbot’s brilliant play the past few seasons, should make him very attractive to NHL teams fielding starting goalie auditions.
If Broadway trades Talbot, and then signs a veteran backup goalie to a 1-year $575,000 contract (perhaps with a few hundred thousand more in performance bonuses)… That’s a cap hit saving of $875,000. It’s also the “easiest” way to cut salary, since ~ barring another long-term injury to Lundqvist~ it will only influence 20-25 games in the regular season… and (hopefully) none in the 2016 playoffs.
The biggest NHL shoppers expected to utilize this summer’s goalie market are likely Buffalo, Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota & San Jose.
I think it can be argued successfully that Talbot’s inherent value for the 2015-16 Rangers is not what he can do as the backup goalie, but what assets can he help return for the team in aspects other than goaltending. I would even go as far to say Talbot is very unlikely going to remain a Ranger over the next 4 months.
Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh & Marc Staal:
These four defensemen are unlikely to be traded or bought out by New York this summer, and are all-but-guaranteed to remain on the roster for next season’s crusade. All for have No-Trade and/or No-Movement clauses in their respective contracts, and have been irrevocable investments on the blueline for New York. Unless somehow one of these men willingly waives his contract clauses in some unforeseen trade, which is highly improbable; all the fans calling for their roster removal has no basis for actually being considered possible.
A mixed review of offensive contribution and defensive dullness, Yandle’s pricey acquisition proved to be ultimately unfruitful in the 2015 attempt at Stanley. But, he is on contract for one more year before hitting the Unrestricted Free Agent market, and continues to be 50% of his actual cap hit, with Don Maloney and the Arizona Coyotes footing the other 50% of the bill.
Trading Yandle? Possible, but his $2.625 million cap hit is extremely friendly. What 2nd or 3rd pair defensemen could he be replaced with for below cost? While it is “less impossible” for Yandle to be moved than any of Boyle/Girardi/McDonagh/Staal… I still think any of those 5 defensemen getting traded is a far cry from reality.
Which brings us to the 6th defensemen…
Klein, a retrospectively absolute steal from the Nashville Predators in the straight-up exchange for Michael Del Zotto, has enjoyed 2 deep playoff runs in the 2 seasons he’s been Broadway bound. In fact this season the 30-year-old defenseman put up career-high stats in goals (9), assists (17) and points (26).
So why do I think it’s very likely he’s traded?
For a team pressed up against the salary cap, like the Rangers will be this summer, a 3rd pair defenseman making $2.9 million/year is an easy place to cut. The fact that he enjoyed a career year (despite missing 17 games with a broken arm) only makes his trade value that much more enticing.
Like Talbot, his expandability in terms of salary vs “minor” playing time, coupled with his perky trade value after a successful season… spells out the perfect storm to be traded as the Blueshirts scramble to get under $72 million by October 1st.
Klein does not have any no-trade or no-movement clauses, meaning he is powerless to stop any trade he might be packaged within. And certain teams hungry for fair-value reliable-defensemen would certainly be willing to talk trade with Sather.
The fact that he has 3 more years under his contract makes his trade value all the more genuine. It strikes me as “highly likely” both Talbot and Klein are banished from Broadway to reduce the overall budget. I am NOT suggesting they be traded because of “poor performance” or “dislikability.” Quite the opposite, actually, which is what makes them all the more tradable.
Yes, Sather COULD trade Stepan or Hagelin to dump salary… but both of those players only has 1 season to play before becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent. Even if a team fully intends to acquire one of the two, and sign them to a long-term deal… all the player has to do is go to arbitration, reject all offers, and find himself in the 2016 July marketplace.
Klein’s got 3 years. That means even though Stepan and Hagelin are probably more “valuable” pieces to a team… Klein’s guaranteed service at a guaranteed price makes him the most convenient and effective trade asset. Particularly teams where quality defensemen are at a low.
And finally, the rest of the best…
Having finished his 2nd professional season in North America, including a “breakout” season and playoff run with the Hartford Wolf Pack the past 9 months… Lindberg’s candidacy for a 2015-16 roster spot remains a very possible one. The Swedish centerman played his first and only NHL game earlier this season.
He will be a Restricted Free Agent without arbitration rights, so it’s a safe bet the 23-year-old will be re-signed for something around his $709,000 qualifying offer.
The minor-league winger acquired from Winnipeg in the Lee Stempniak deadline deal… Klingberg fit in nicely, playing with Lindberg’s line successfully. He notched 11 points in his only 13 AHL games with Hartford, and delivered 7 points in 13 postseason games before the Wolf Pack was swept in their Conference Finals.
He will be a Restricted Free Agent without arbitration rights, and like Lindberg, will likely be re-signed for something very near his qualifying offer ($683,000), and given every opportunity to make a roster spot in the NHL come September’s training camp.
Matt Hunwick, Conor Allen, Dylan McIlrath, Mike Kostka:
All four defensemen will have expiring contracts in July. Hunwick managed to separate himself from the other 3 in terms of a bonafide “7th” defensemen throughout the season… yet none of these players were given much of a chance unless a rash of injuries made it so. I don’t believe these will be Rangers blue liners in the coming years (although Hunwick re-signing a low contact to return as the 7th D isn’t exactly “unlikely”, either).
Defenseman Prospects - Future Value:
As stated earlier in the article, the Rangers were depleted of defensemen ready to step in and relieve others’ injuries. I’d focus more attention on the crop of younger blueliners New York has brewing in the farm systems.
- If we reasonably assume Hayes, Kreider & Stepan get long-term, higher cap-hit extensions between this July and the next one….
- And we also see that Boyle & Yandle will have expiring contracts, with less money to spend on replacements following the 2015-16 season…
- Looking over our estimated "5-year-plan” (see chart below), look how little cap room is left for the 3rd pair of defense by October 2016?
|Click image for recent article which configured this 5-year plan for NYR payroll|
Is it not a fair conclusion to figure that the need to acquire bluechip bullion prospects over the next 12 months is an extremely logical one? Once Boyle and Yandle are gone, the 3rd pair will need cheap fill-ins. That means scourging the market for more “Matt Hunwicks”, “Steve Emingers” & “Matt Gilroys.” Or… perhaps like the case of Girardi, McDonagh & Staal… have a young, cheaply-contracted prospect organically transition into the big leagues on the 3rd pair.
So, to answer, who or what would we trade Klein & Talbot for?
Klein+Talbot+McIlrath for San Jose’s #9 overall pick?
Klein+Talbot+McIlrath for Calgary’s #15 overall pick?
Klein+Talbot+McIlrath for Edmonton’s #16 overall pick?
A deal like this, is it so far-fetched? It could be a great way to add another quality defenseman prospect to our farm system, and hope the pick could be NHL-ready in 16 - 18 months?
Or, another means could be raiding the free agent out-of-college market, as the Rangers have aggressively done in recent years without a 1st round draft pick. Girardi, Hayes & Talbot all broke onto the Rangers with this method (as well as AHL’ers Conor Allen, Mat Bodie, & Ryan Haggerty).
Mike Reilly, a left-handed defenseman out of University of Minnesota, is coming off his 3rd season in the NCAA. The 22-year-old scored 6 goals & 36 assists in 39 games. While drafted by Columbus in 2011 (4th round), if he does not sign a deal with them by August 15, he will be on the completely open market, in the same fashion Kevin Hayes was.
I count two dozen NCAA skaters drafted in 2011, still without a contract, who could also be totally on the open market this summer. It seems all but certain that the Rangers will pursue at least a few, depending on their scouting consensus.
As of now, Brady Skjei seems the likeliest prospect to contend for an NHL roster spot come training camp. By the training camp after that, it’d be nice to have 2-3 more candidates to fill the Boyle/Yandle void, almost assuredly coming.
Unless the Rangers will tap into a hot pool of premium defensive prospects, this next season could be the “deepest” Top-6 unit the team will have for the foreseeable future.
The Rangers will not be shoppers on the market this summer. The Rangers actually won’t have too many decisions at hand, as most of the roster is essentially already set up for the 2015-16 season. The only kinks are a few restricted free agent details as far as length & pay, as well as the inevitable need to dump a few million in salary (I still think it’s overwhelmingly Klein+Talbot). But that’s it.
This team had a good run. They played well, were coached well… the problem is they didn’t have an actual "well.” The top-heaviness of the Top-20 roster spots’ salary should be shaved off… and will be, as far as I can tell… but what really kept New York out of the Finals was a lack of depth. A lack of talented prospects bursting at the seems who could be asked to step in and play minutes.
… And that problem will only be exacerbated come a year from now, when the franchise will truly need to have defensemen with cheap contracts but not cheap playing ability. Look for the Rangers to at least draft a defenseman with their 2nd round, #59 overall pick.
There’s no reason why the 2015-16 Rangers should be any less competitive, competent or capable than their predecessor… considering it will likely be a near duplicate of its predecessor… and one more crack at a playoff run before Lundqvist’s 35th birthday.
The “window” may be closing, but it should remain at least cracked open, for one more season.
P.S.: I did not discuss Martin St. Louis because he is just as likely to return to New York as any of the other 2015 Unrestricted Free Agent wingers or defensemen out there. I don't think any of us will be surprised if he did not return to Broadway for next season...
And if not, we undoubtedly thank him for his tremendous service and dedication to the Rangers lineup the past 15 months. It will never be forgotten, despite no championship glory.