Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sick and Tired of the Double Standard

I've never been one who's shy when it comes to critisizing Gary Bettman and his NHL administration for many things. Things such as not putting US franchises on life support back in Canada and his adversion to continuing Olympic participation after the 2010 Olympic games but now I have a new bone to pick: The Double Standard. What I'm talking about is the obvious double standard when it comes to supplementary discipline handed down to players for major infractions. This problem has once again reared it's ugly head this week on two seperate occasions, with two Russians in Evgeni Artyukhin and Alex Ovechkin and then Tuomo Ruutu and Mike Richards.

Artyukhin was suspended three games by the NHL earlier this week for slew footing Dallas Stars dman Matt Niskanen yet the next night Alex Ovechkin did the same thing to Atlanta's Rich Peverly and he merely got a 2,500$ fine. It was the exact same infraction and the looked the exact same yet here we are, Alex Ovechkin got away with it because he is the NHL's best player and a guy who sells tickets.

Even worse was the later example of Ruutu and Richards. Both hits delivered serious injuries and were clear attempts to injure the opposing player yet the NHL chose to only suspend Ruutu. Ruutu's hit was one that was delivered from behind that knocked Darcy Tucker out of the game and out of conciousness last week and indeed clearly deserved a suspension. Richards hit was a late blindside hit where he caught Florida's David Booth coming across the middle watching the puck long after he'd dished to his line mate, Richards lowered his shoulder and then drove it into Booth's jaw knocking him unconscious. If had been any other player then the Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers and the face of hockey of one of the NHL's flagship franchises he definitely would have been suspended but since he put's butt's in the seats in Philly the NHL doesn't have the ball's to suspende him. This problem will only get worse until Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and Colin Campbell are relieved of their duties.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Best Commentary Teams

A little dibated subject is the quality of commentary teams for NHL broacasts in Canada. Everyone has their favorite team, teams that they don't mind listening to and the teams that make you cringe when you turn on your tv and your hear their voice. Let's start off with the good teams and those that need improvement, aka the one's in the middle:


Jim Hughson & Craig Simpson: HNIC's top commentary as they usually cover the Leafs games on saturday nights. These two are a decent combination as Hughson is probably one of the top 2 play-by-play guys in the business. Craig Simpson does a decent job at colour commentary although he's definitely got some room to improve. The one downside to the team is that they have to buy into the CBC mandated Leafs bias that makes you want to barf.

Mark Lee & Kevin Weekes: A definite CBC theme here. Mark Lee does a better job then most give him credit for and Kevin Weekes has actually provided good insight into the games he's done so far but he's still very raw.

Needs Improvement:

Bob Cole & Greg Millen: When Harry Neale retired that spelled the end for Bob Cole's run at the top as those two went together like peanut butter and jam. While it pains me as a Habs fan, due to Bob Cole's constent Maple Leaf mindset, I have to admit he's one of the best play-by-play commentater's ever. This team would be alot better if Greg Millen wasn't involved in any way however as he's got to be the third worst colour guy in the game(after Leafs suck Glenn Healy who just joined their team and one who will be mentioned later).

All Sportsnet teams: The Sportsnet teams are all basically rejects who couldn't cut it at TSN and CBC or weren't wanted. All of them or passable but really not that great.

The Best:

Chris Cuthbert & Ray Ferraro: This is by far my favorite announce team on tv. Letting Cuthbert go was one of the many major blunders commited by CBC sports during the time period where that network lost almost every important sports program that they had except for HNIC. He's fantastic at his job. And Ferraro is by far and away the best colour guy in the game today as he provides maybe the best insight into the game and he's probably the most unbiased commentator.

The Worst:

Gord Miller & Pierre McGuire: This almost has nothing to do with Gord Miller as he'd probably fall in the good category on his own as he's a decent play-by-play guy. Unfortunately for him his partner drags him down. Pierre McGuire is by far the worst colour commentator on canadian hockey broadcasts. Not only is he wholly and completely biased against certain organizations(i.e. Oilers, Islanders, Canadiens) but he's followed the media masses in kissing Brian Burke's ass and claiming that everything he touches turns to gold and laches on to certain players, pumps them up beyond and ignores their completely obvious faults *cough*Dion Phaneuf*cough*. Just retire already Pierre.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Impressions of Opening Weekend

-The Central division is the power division of the NHL. Chicago, Columbus, and St.Louis all look like they're ready to join the discussion as legitemate contenders in the Western Conference. Chicago's elite level offence including names like Kane, Toews, Sharp, Bolland, Hossa, Byufglien and maybe the best all around blueline corps in the league with Keith, Seabrook, Campbell and Barker manning the top 4, however how far will their goaltending (Huet) take them? The Columbus Blue Jackets have an offence that is becoming one of the league's best with Nash, Huselius, Umberger, Filatov, Modin, Voracek and Brassard, a goaltender that won the Calder Trophy last year (Steve Mason) however can Ken Hitchcock's system mask their underwhelming D corps? Finally the St.Louis Blues served notice with two straight wins over the Wings this weekend that they have arrived with a elite forward corps consisting of names like Tkachuk, Kariya, T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, Andy McDonald, David Perron and budding power forward David Backes. However beyond Erik Johnson the D corps is lacking playmakers and how long can career backup Chris Mason keep up his hot play?

-Alex Ovechkin is on a mission this year. He didn't like watching the Penguins win the cup especially after defeating his Caps in the second round. He is coming out on fire and his team is following suit. Playing the Capitals isn't going to be fun this year.

-The Vancouver Canucks have come out of the gate very flat, especially Roberto Luongo. Yes he is a notorious slow starter but he's supposed to be the leader of his team and right now his team is following him in the wrong direction.

-As shown in their game against Carolina, and probably motivated by their second round ouster at the hands of the Canes, the Bruins are once again going to use physical intimidation as their main tool to rule the East once again.

-The Philadelphia Flyers and Ray Emery have come out and played to expectations so far with Emery leading the way with two very good goaltending performances.

-Carey Price has stolen 4 points for the Habs to start the season. And with Andrei Markov out for 4 months and and a suprisingly good Ryan O'Byrne out for the next 6 weeks, Price is going to have to keep standing on his head to keep the Habs in it till those two come back.

-John Tavares had a very impressive debut with a goal and an assist.

-The Ottawa Senators look just as bad as they did last year. Their defence still sucks and Dany Heatley's goals are going to be much harder to replace then the canadian media are letting on.

-Brian Burke's much ballyhoode new defence has been less then impressive to say the least. Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin were awful against Montreal and then the whole team collapsed against Washington. Unless they tighten up it's going to be a long year for Vesa Toskala and "The Monster".

-Calgary, with Bouwmeester taking a lot of pressure off of Dion Phaneuf which has lead to far more confident play, is looking like they will challenge to be the class of the west.

-I was very impressed with the Oilers and the way they played against Calgary, particularly Sam Gagner, and if it wasn't for Khabibulin's puck handling skills they had a good chance to beat Calgary.

-It's going to be a long, drawn out battle for the Pacific between San Jose and Anaheim. I'll take Anaheim, more depth and their goaltending has proved to be far more clutch then anything San Jose has.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Return

The Blog will be returning to active duty over the next couple of weeks

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thoughts on the Draft and the trades leading up to the UFA season

-The top 3 picks went as expected with John Tavares, Victor Hedman and Matt Duchene went 1,2,3 respectively.

-5 out of the 6 Canadian teams (with Calgary being the exception) made very good picks.

Now the juicy stuff,

Chris Pronger was dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa and two first round picks: Well I wouldn't want to be a team in the eastern conference next year, especially one in their division. The battles between the Flyers and the Penguins next year are going to be epic. The Flyers now arguably have to be considered to power in the east if Ray Emery can get back to his 2007 form. With a defensive top 3 of Pronger, Tiominen, and Coburn to go along with Richards, Carter, Briere, Gagne, Giroux and Hartnell. But on the other side the Flyers gave up an absolute kings ransom for Pronger. In Lupul they lose potentially 30 goals, Sbisa was their top defensive prospect and two first round picks make it a very steep price to pay so Pronger better damn well pay off.

Jay Bouwmeester's negociating rights were traded to the Calgary Flames and then he signed a 5 year, 33 million dollar contract: What a blue line the Calgary Flames are going to have next season! With JBo, Phaneuf, Regher and Cory Sarich as their top 4 it's going to be hell trying to get anything done in Calgary's end and the former 2 have 60 point potential. Jay is only 25 years old and is just heading into his prime so Calgary now has the potential to have 2 of the top blueliner's in the league on their roster for a very long time. However don't expect this team to have any depth considering all the money they have sunk into star players. Not only that but this team's window could be closing with Olli Jokinen slated to become a UFA next year, the expected plunge in the salary cap and Daymond Langkow and Jarome Iginla are starting to gain some tread on their tires so this is a win now trade as well.

Scott Gomez and two minor leaguers were traded to Montreal for Chris Higgins and prospects Ryan McDonaugh and Pavel Valentenko: The Montreal Canadiens get a potential #1 centre who comes with some issues however and give up a chronic underachiever who thinks he's better then he is along with one top end defensive prospect in Ryan McDonaugh and one who abandoned the Habs AHL team to go back to Russia in mid-season for more money in the KHL. Scott Gomez is a player who could very well put up massive numbers but he'd need someone else to play with which is an oppurtunity he had in New Jersey but never in New York. So he could turn back into a really good centre or he could be the 7 million dollar a season bust he was in NY. Chris Higgins is a player better suited for being a defensive forward but he thinks he's a natural goal scorer who can pot 40 (not a chance in hell). I won't really miss him and his probable future hellacious contract negociations or Pavel Valentenko and his bolting to Russia but Ryan McDonaugh could turn out to be a very solid top 4 defenseman. This deal could go either way for both teams.

Dany Heatley has been traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid: The Edmonton Oilers have finally gotten their first pure scoring winger since Jari Kurri left for Los Angeles all those years ago. He has the potential to score 50 goals every year and hopefully he's paired with Sam Gagner to speed along his developement instead of Shawn"The Anchor"Horcoff. However Heatley does come with the baggage of demanding a trade off his team for the second time now and apparently their were dressing room issues with Heatley in Ottawa so we'll see how Pat Quinn handles him. The Oilers actually managed to rid themselves of Dustin Penner and his outrageously brutal contract but they do lose ultra-fast goal scorer Andrew Cogliano and tough as nails defender Ladisalv Smid. Ottawa gains those two along with expensive reclamation project Penner who Brian Murray believes he can save.(Update: Heatley has decided to sleep on waving his NTC till tonight because it appears he wants GM Bryan Murray to work on trading him to San Jose or New York)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Offseason Story lines

Here are some interesting story lines and possible endings for them this offseason:
-Firstly the Dany Heatley saga has become the major story of the upcoming draft much the same way that Chris Pronger was a few years ago. By demanding a trade out of Ottawa Heatley has forced GM Bryan Murray into dealing him and odds are he will be heading out West somewhere and there's no way that Ottawa will get back equal value for him either. As you'd expect the western canadian teams have figured prominently into rumors and while Vancouver and Edmonton are two viable options (Calgary won't have near enough cap room) they'd have to give up healthy packages for him and Vancouver simply doesn't have the depth. Personally I think it would take a package of Tom Gilbert (whom Ottawa is reportedly smitten with) Andrew Cogliano (whom apparently Oilers management doesn't want to trade) and the 10th overall pick. However if I had to pick a current frontrunner for Heatley I'd say it would be San Jose who has Patrick Marleau, Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski to chose from to trade along with prospect Logan Couture so they have much more to offer up to trade.

-The Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has promised to go out and spend boatloads of money this offseason and with the Sedin twins looking more and more like they aren't going to re-sign in Vancouver and with the history between the two sides it would not be suprising to see the Sedins in Leaf blue next year along with a couple of other high priced free agents.

-Will the Montreal Canadiens, with the most cap room in the league, so spending crazy or will they do something that is long overdue and rebuild. Also the free agent class next year (Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, Ilya Kovalchuck, Rick Nash) will be far superior and with the cap going down, some smart GM's will be hoarding cap space like it's gold for next season and I hope/a part of me believes that the Habs will be very quiet and do this.

-With a lot of important UFA's and it seems that they're going to let alot of them walk away and without a whole lot of prospects outside of Cody Hodgson the Vancouver Canucks could very well be in a tough spot especially because with the noises that Roberto Luongo is making about only wanting to play for a contender, Mike Gillis is going to be in tough to deliver one for Roberto next season.

-There will be over 7 new head coach's in the NHL next season, how will they fare?

-Will the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins be able to stock up to get back to the cup finals for the third year in a row?

-Will the Islanders take Tavares or Hedman? My money is on Tavares, natural goal scorers don't come along every day.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Russian Bear is coming

Team Canada, the home team for the Olympic hockey tournament next year, at least in my opinion is in very deep trouble when the Russians come knocking next year. In the three units of a team as it stands right now, the Russians are better in 2 out of the 3 areas:

1) Forwards:
When it comes to scoring forwards there is no team with more talent in the coming tournament then the Russians. They have 3 of the top 5 forwards in the league with Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk and behind them Kovalchuk, Semin, Kovalev, Frolov, Slava Kozlov, Nikita Filatov along with Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov who are playing in the KHL. Canada has 2 of the top 5 with Crosby and Iginla but the support staff, while good and with more depth, isn't as good as the Russians. Rick Nash, Vinny Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Marc Savard and Jonathan Toews. However the Russians don`t have a semblance of a checking line while the Canadians will have a superb one with Brendan Morrow, Mike Richards and Shane Doan.

2) Defenseman:
Well Canada has a definite advantage in this department because beyond Andrei Markov the Russians have a bunch of no names and old broken down past their prime guys like Sergei Zubov. Canada is obviously hoping that Scott Niedermayer is going to be there as he is still our country`s best defenseman. However they also have Chris Pronger, Dion Pheneuf, Brent Burns, Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regher, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook and Mike Green are there to be chosen from.

3) Goaltending
Before this season I would`ve said Canada without a doubt, but after Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo choked hard in the playoffs I`m going to give the edge to Russia. Ilya Bryzgalov, Nik Khabibulan and Evgeni Nabakov are a better threesome of goalies then Canada can come up with. After the former two, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury, Steve Mason, Marty Turco and possibly Carey Price if he has a bounce back season will all vie for the #3 position.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Future

For over a decade two of the greatest franchises in the history of the NHL, The Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens, have been mismanaged, poorly coached and combined with very poor drafting and other bad managerial decisions these things have lead to their downfalls into mediocrity. The Oilers finished out of the playoffs for the third straight year and a year after finishing first overall in the east the Montreal Canadiens absolutely flamed out this year and were obliterated in a first round sweep at the hands of the Boston Bruins. They both have very similar current problems to go along with the long standing ones: lack of size, competitive drive, underachieving young players, no head coach, they’re not exactly the most desirable places for UFA’s to head to and they both hold mediocre draft positions. Here’s what they both need to do to build their teams into annual contenders.

Edmonton Oilers: New GM Steve Tambellini is stuck somewhere between a quick fix and a long term rebuilding project. Kevin Lowe has left him a mixture of young talent still to be groomed with the potential to be a great corps (Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson, Tom Gilbert, checking centre Kyle Brodziak, Ladislav Smid, Patrick O’Sullivan,) and some prospects (Taylor Chorney, Theo Peckham, Riley Nash, Jordan Eberle, Jeff Drouin-Delauriers, Rob Shremp and Devin Dubnyk). However he’s also left him a group of high priced veterans who are either just overpaid for who they are (Pisani, Moreau, Staios) and a few who are grossly underachieving but who are earning top dollar (Horcoff, Penner, Vishnovsky, Hemsky). First thing to take care of is the impending UFA’s (Denis Grebeshkov, Ales Kotalik, Dewayne Roloson) and if I were Tambo my first priority would be re-signing Grebeshkov as I feel that he greatly improved himself this season, is arguably their most dependable puck moving defenseman and he’s still relatively young. Kotalik is dispensable but if he’ll come back for a relatively low contract number why not re-sign him. Dewayne Roloson is tricky. I’d bring him back but only on a one year contract and the Oilers two younger goalies have got to get way more playing time then they did last season because Oiler brass really does need to know what they have in their younger goalies as Roloson is now 40 years old and you don’t know when his performance will absolutely plummet. Next up is the draft and the Oilers, by my estimation will have to decide whether or not they’re willing to reach for that size and toughness they desperately want up front or take one of the two potential elite offensive defensemen that will probably be available at #10 overall in the first round. So right now I’d say it’s between Zach Kassian, Ryan Ellis and Dmitry Kulikov with an outside chance at Nazem Kadri. Free agency is a little thin on quality this year, and with the cap supposedly going down after this coming season I’d sit tight in that area if I were Tambellini and hope that the young players and Ales Hemsky steps up even more next season. And let’s not forget the head coach! If you want an experienced available coach I’d suggest either Peter Laviolette or Tom Renney. Little known coaches that I’d suggest might be the Manitoba Moose’s Scott Arniel or the Hamilton Bulldogs’s Don Lever. Tambo is playing his coaching choice very close to the vest so it’ll be very interesting to see who he indeed does pick.

Montreal Canadiens: Well, this past season was a disaster. We were bombarded with 100th season publicity and talk that the Habs were the favourite to represent the east in the Stanley Cup final and then the team folded under all the expectations. The veterans were either injured or would go through long confidence sucking slumps; Kovalev went through his usual every 2nd year drought and Saku Koivu plain and simple is done as a good player. About half the Habs roster is going to be UFA/RFA after this season including basically the whole corps of the team. The Habs three notable RFA’s are Guillaume Latendresse, Tomas Plekanec, and Christopher Higgins. Latendresse has developed along with Maxim Lapierre into a very efferective 3rd line combo and has consistent 20 goal potential so he is a definite re-sign. Higgins is also developing into a consistent 20 goal potential shut down forward in the mold of a Bob Gainey. Plekanec on the other hand is a player that at most I would give a one year contract and then would trade him at the first sign of a good deal or that the team is ready to make the next step to becoming a cup contender because in his 3 trips to the playoffs he has disappeared every time and he consistently shies away from physical contact. UFA players that I believe should not be brought back for sure (mainly for cap, health and age considerations) are Francis Boullion, Patrice Brisebois(who will retire) and Tom Kostopoulos as Gregory Stewart will be doing his job and is younger and cheaper. After that Bob Gainey basically has to consider the price and length of contract that his other UFA’s want. Mathieu Schneider is someone that I believe could be brought back to man the point on the PP as he is still very effective their but there’s no way he should be getting as much playing time or money(5.75 million) that he did last year and I’d give him just a one year deal at around 2 million as any contract given to a player over 35 counts against the cap for the duration even if the player retires. I do not believe that Mike Komisarek will be back as he will get mega-bucks in free agency that he is not worth and I believe that he is done with the organization after his atrocious play at the end of the season so if the rumors are true that Francois Beauchemin wants to come back to MTL I’d sign him in a heartbeat to replace Komi. The development of Ryan O’Byrne as a potential big physical shutdown defenseman is something to keep an eye on and it looks as if top prospect Alexei Yemelin will sign this summer and he is a nasty piece of work ala Darius Kasparitis. Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev and Robert Lang have all said that they’d like to come back and that money isn’t the issue but the term. Tanguay I’d bring back for 4-5 years but at about 4 million at most, Kovalev warrants a 2 year deal at most at around 2-3 million but Lang get’s a one year deal. Even though he played very well last year he’s 39, was already not a great skater and suffered a severed Achilles tendon. Tanguay has already said that he won’t sign until a new head coach is named and with most players probably won’t sign until one is named Gainey should probably get a move on. Team President Pierre Boivin has already screwed management by telling people that the team will hire an experienced french speaking coach so names such as Bob Hartley and Marc Crawford are sure to be mentioned and interviewed. Don Lever, given his very good work with young players in Hamilton should get very long consideration although he’s not a francophone so the French media would cry bloody murder. And of course the wild card who apparently Tanguay has said that he’d love to play for is his ex-teammate, a man who’s arrogance would make him so self assured that he would be able to withstand all attacks from the media and he’s so crazy that he just might work, of course I’m talking about Patrick Roy. All his ex-teammates say he will make a great coach and all his junior players love him, plus he may be one of the few people to be able to instil the competitive drive in Carey Price that he so desperately needs but the Colorado Avalanche have offered him the position of coach and GM so we’ll see how that turns out. Finally the Habs are drafting in the #18 hole in the draft and a big forward is just what this doctor prescribes for what ails the Habs. If Zach Kassian inexplicably drops that far the Habs should snap him up in a second. Others include Brandon forward Scott Glennie (6.01/174 lbs), Guelph centre Peter Holland (6.01/178 lbs), Carter Ashton of Lethbridge (6.02/190 lbs) and wildcards Chris Kreider from Andover Maryland and local centre Jordan Caron (6.02/196 lbs). I’d take any of the Canadian players myself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ovie vs. Crosby

The dream playoff matchup that the NHL head office has dreamed of since 2005 finally happened this spring and indeed so far it has lived up to the hype. The game of one ups manship between the game's two biggest stars has been phenomenal to watch, especially game 2 when both of them recorded hat-tricks. If Gary Bettman wasn't so busy trying to defend his disastrous sun-belt market franchises from Jim Balsillie he'd probably be wetting himself with glee at how well this series has gone. It's been a fantastic marketing tool for the NHL almost like (although not quite the same as they aren't meeting for the Stanley Cup) Magic vs. Bird during the 80's for the NBA. This series has also done something very important, it has shown just how different their styles of play are and that they can't deffiate from those styles if they want to be effective. When Crosby was trying to go goal for goal with Ovechkin during the first two games his team was losing because if Crosby is trying to score goals the play of his linemates plummits. Crosby is a passer, not a goal scorer. His passing and playmaking are what make his team and linemates better then they would be on their own and as he was trying to match goal total's with Ovechkin his team was suffering. However in the last three games he's gone back to his playmaking self and to no suprise the Penguins are faring much better. As we all no Ovechkin is the premier sniper in the NHL and he has 7 goals in 5 games in this series. He's a decent passer but his forté is definitely shooting the puck and this opens up room for his teammates as the opposition is constently focused on shutting down Ovechkin.

This series has also proved that right now anyway, the Pittsburgh Penguins are a better team then the Washington Capitals especially on the defensive side of the puck. Offensively the teams are pretty much even but on the back end the Penguins are definitely superior as well as their overall play in their own end. Capitals all-star defenseman Mike Green has completely disappeared this spring in both of the Caps playoff series and this has significantly weakened the Capitals backend play as there really isn't much beyond him on their blueline and at this point in time Marc-Andre Fleury is outplaying Simeone Varlamov. The Penguins will likely win game six and go on to the Eastern final as the Capitals have much to improve on in the own end but whether they can do it in time for a series victory or if it's something that they'll have to do in time for next season to go further into to post-season is another question.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First round analysis(by order of series finishing)

Vancouver defeats St.Louis in 4 games:
Contrary to the fact that it was a four game sweep, the St.Louis Blues came out and played hard in this series, they just got beat by a far more veteran team. The Canucks power play was effective when they needed it and the completely shut down a previously potent Blues power play. Roberto Luongo stole game one and came up large right when they needed him and while Chris Mason played well he didn't play well enough obviously. The Canucks are a team that was built to win this year with the Swedish core (the Sedins, Sundin and Ohlund) are all up for UFA status and All World goaltender Roberto Luongo will be a free agent after next season while the Blues are a team that is deep with young talent that is building towards possibly something special. Right now I'm looking for the Canucks to at the very least make it to the Western Final because I believe they'll beat the Chicago Blackhawks in round #2

Detorit defeats Columbus in 4 games:
Much like the Vancouver/St.Louis series this was men against boys. The Detroit Red Wings machine claimed another victim in the Blue Jackets in this round. Chris Osgood's stats went from below zero temperatures to boiling hot once the puck dropped for the playoffs after a brutal regular season and once again their high powered, all-star laden roster (Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Hossa, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Franzen, etc.) rolled through an inferior opponent. Naturally the Red Wings aren't leaving the spotlight any time soon even with Hossa probably leaving as a UFA . The Blue Jackets, much like the Blues, are a very young team that is building towards the future into a potential power team and now it appears that they finally have a goaltender in Steve Mason, although the Wings taught him a thing or two. One source of concern for the Jackets is that their star player and the face of the franchise/captain Rick Nash will be eligible to become a free agent after next season so you can bet they will be putting all their efforts into re-signing him.

Boston defeats Montreal in 4 games:
This series was a shitkicking and a half. For a Habs fan this was outragously painful to watch. The Bruins were better in every facet of the game. They were bigger, meaner, more skilled and far more determined. Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Micheal Ryder, Phil Kessel and Marc Savard ran the Habs show in this series. They have a nice blend of veteran and youth players but much like a few teams they are going to be in cap trouble over the next couple of years with major RFA's (Kessel, Krejci, Lucic and Wideman) and UFA's (Chara, Axelsson, Ward, Fernandez) and the cap will be flatlining and then going down. The centenial version of the Montreal Canadiens are a disaster and I have a feeling that they aren't going to be good for a few years now. They have 10 UFA players and 5 RFA's and you can bet that a large number of them won't be back, including Mike Komisarek and Saku Koivu who I'm betting won't be back. The young players on the team have a reputation of loving a night out on the town rather then taking their jobs seriously and the man who was supposed to be the future of the franchise, Carey Price, has major maturity and work ethic issues. This is going to be a very important offseason for the direction of the Habs.

Pittsburgh defeats Philadelphia in 6 games:
Plain and simple, Malkin and Crosby showed up and the Flyers defense beyond Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn on a good day is a big bunch of nothing. Matt Carle has regressed beyond belief since he entered the league with a bang in San Jose, Luca Sbisa and Ryan Parent are rookies who are a little ways away from becoming impact players and the rest of them are pluggers. The Flyers are set up front with young stars Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while Scottie Hartnell, Dany Briere when healthy, Claude Giroux, and at times Joffrey Lupul but with a porous defence, Mike Knuble as a UFA and no goaltenders signed the Flyers are in serious cap hell. The Penguins are good and will be for awhile for obvious reasons of Crosby, Malkin, Fleury and Gonchar.

Chicago defeats Calgary in 6 games:
Simply put the Flames top two defensemen (Regher and the overrated Phaneuf) were either injured or ineffective in this series and there's nothing on the backend beyond them and the forwards (even with Langkow, Iginla, Cammalleri, Bertuzzi, Jokinen, and Bourque) couldn't score if their lives depended on it most of the time. The Flames are in deep cap trouble and obviously have other problems as per the fact they haven't made it out of the first round since their 2004 cup run. The Hawks young stars came through in this series, Nik Khabibulin stood on his head and their defence was solid. The Blackhawks are going to be good for a very long time with young stars Toews, Kane, Sharp, Bolland, Versteeg, Keith, Barker and Seabrook.

Anaheim defeats San Jose in 6 games:
The Sharks are officially the Indianapolis Colts pre-super bowl, the biggest chokers maybe their respective sport has ever seen. The Sharks finished the season with a franchise record 117 points and a President’s trophy award. A loaded offense (Thornton, Marleau, Setoguchi, Michalek, Clowe), a Stanley Cup defence (Boyle, Blake, Lukowich, Vlasic) and an All-Star goaltender in Evgeni Nabakov were supposed to finally pull through in the playoffs this year and as usual they folded. Once again the Sharks big guns up front, especially Thornton, did nothing and when the going got tough they got to gliding but the biggest problem with the Sharks is Nabakov. Besides Roman Turek I’ve never seen a goalie who’s performance so drastically diminishes come playoff time. Whenever his team needs a save he never gives it to them. The Anaheim Ducks just keep rolling. They dump some unneeded veterans at the trade deadline and the young players step up. The Getzlaf/Perry/Ryan line is going to be dominant for years to come, they still have that All-Universe defence and a suddenly out of nowhere great goaltender Jonas Hiller.

Carolina defeats New Jersey in 7 games:
One half of my Stanley Cup prediction went up in smoke in this series including who I thought was going to win the whole shebang but I won’t be making that mistake for one reason: Martin Brodeur has proven to me once and fore all that he cannot carry a team by himself to a Stanley Cup championship. Without Stevens, Neidermayer and Rafalski he simply cannot get the job done. The ‘Canes did a nice job shutting down the Parise/Zajac/Elias line after the first couple of games and the secondary scoring for the Devils dried up as well. The Hurricanes are going to give the Bruins a nasty shock if they think that this series is going to be as easy as their last one. They have the hottest goaltender in the league right now in Cam Ward, a very effective puck moving defence and the best line in the playoffs with Whitney/Staal/Cole and the Brind’Amour/Ruutu line has been providing excellent secondary scoring. The Bruins/Hurricanes series is going to be a doozy.

Washington defeats NYR in 7 games
Their were two pivotal events in this series: 1) The Washington Capitals replace Jose Theodore with Simeon Varlamov and 2) John Tortorella benches Sean Avery in game 5 for a lack of discipline and then goes and get’s himself suspended for throwing a water bottle into the crowd in Washington. These two things helped the Washington Capitals come back from a 3-1 series deficit to score their first playoff round win in 11 years. Basically the only reason the Rangers were even in this series was Henrik Lundqvist. “The King” was dominant at the start of the series and stole the 3 games that the Rangers did win as once again Slats’s high price talent failed to produce as it’s looking more and more like I was right to think that Wade Redden, Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Markus Naslund were going to be busts relative to the money they were going to make. With nothing coming up the pipe in the minors any time soon Ranger fans should get used to teams that win only when Lundqvist and of all people Sean Avery play well. Alex Ovechkin still looks like he’s trying to figure out the playoffs because he still plays like he would in the regular season which is why he hasn’t been as effective. It’s not that he’s not trying but he’s still trying to do everything himself and doesn’t use his teammates to great effect which is something he’ll have to learn to do. They have great secondary scoring with Nik Backstrom, Alex Semin and Mike Green, a solid defence and a hot goaltender. The NHL has it’s dream playoff matchup with Ovechkin vs. Crosby and it should be good.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Random thoughts and observations

Due to final exams I haven't really had the time to come up with an article but here are some thoughts on the end of the seasons and beginning of the playoffs:

-The Northwest division is in for some changes for next season with the Oilers and Wild needing new coach's, the Wild and Avalanche needing new GM's and if Calgary goes out in the first round then I think they along with Colorado will also be looking for new coach's.

-Brian Burke is back to opening his big mouth saying that he's going to try and trade up to #1 overall in the draft, but he really doesn't have what it would take to do so. This is basically just trying to drum up excitement and make it seem like he's trying.

-With 9 UFA's, constant benchings of young players and a potential franchise goalie with work ethic and maturity issues and an ass kicking in the first round at the hands of the Boston Bruins, the Montreal Canadiens are in need of a serious rebuild and I'm not sure that Gainey will stick around as GM to do it. I have a feeling that he may well step away from the GM's position and take up a presidential position. If I'm the Habs I'm making a package to trade way up into the top 10 in the draft (which is being held in Montreal) and get the rebuild started now.

-The Islanders and Coyotes are in serious financial peril and Gary Bettman may only be able to hold out for one more year before seriously looking into moving those franchises. NYI owner Charles Wang has already stated that he will be moving his team to Kansas City if the Long Island government does not approve the 2 Billion dollar Lighthouse project which would give him a massive new arena (the current arena is a dump). If it is indeed approved the Islanders stand a good chance at becoming relevant in their market again like the Penguins with John Tavares taken first overall (which will give them a couple of pieces up front along with Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Kyle Okposo) but they still need Rick DiPietro to finally be healthy and some major prospect infusion on the back end. The Coyotes are in deep shit financially and I don't see them is Phoenix in 5 years.

-With the salary cap flatlining this offseason after years of constent growth and rumored to be plummeting after next season, teams such as Philadelphia, Detroit, Edmonton, Boston, NYR, Washington and Chicago are going to be in major cap hell and may ver well need to move some good players just to get under the cap after next season and none of them will be improving via Free Agency for next year.

-The Vancouver Canucks and Detroit Red Wings (at least in the 1st series) look like the two teams that'll be meeting up in the West final and that should be a great series.

-The NHL seems very keen on cutting down on incidents during the last few minutes of games by suspending players who commit major penalties or who look like they're trying to send a message.

-The Central Division with the Red Wings, Blackhawks, Blue Jackets, Blues and on the outside the Predators who always seem to be there at the end, is going to be a warzone next year with the 'Hawks, Blue Jackets and Blues all with up and coming young powerful teams looking to lay claim to the Red Wings throne.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Stanley Cup Final Combatents aka. The Crapshoot

The calender changed from March to April and the smell of spring has entered the air and along with that comes the smell of another season: The Post Season. There are a few things that come with this season: if you're a fan of a team that didn't make it to the dance then you either pick a new one to cheer for or go hit the links at the same time as your team, if your team does make it to the playoffs then it has a 1 in 16 chance of actually winning the cup and so the odds are quite good that they won't make it that far but your blind devotion forces you to believe otherwise. UFA players know that other teams will be watching so if they want to get as much money as possible then they better step up with a strong playoff. New heroes and villians are born seemingly with every play and with the Olympics coming up next year you can bet that spots may be opened or closed to borderline players who need to make an impression. And then of course there's one of my favorite parts, which is trying to accurately predict just who is going to walk away with Lord Stanley's mug. So here I'm going to give you my two favorite's, one in each conference, to win that coveted trophy that is handed to the winning team's captain every June.
Western Conference winner is: the Vancouver Canucks
Probably the hottest team heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. They've got 2 great scoring lines that are currently doing what they're supposed to do, a quality checking line that does a decent job shutting down the other teams top guys and an energetic, big and bruising fourth line that can dole out some punishment along with handling themselves with their fists. As long as the Sundin/Demitra/Kesler line continues to score it will help take the attention off of the Sedins/Burrows line. However if they hit a cold streak and teams can then focus in on the Sedins, they've proved that they will dissapear if you are able to put a full court press on them. The Canucks defense is very solid from 1 through 6 and they've got a couple of guys in Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and to a lesser extent Alex Edler and Mattias Ohlund can all put up points if need be so their powerplay should be solid throughout. And of course nothing helps more in the playoffs then goaltending and the Vancouver Canucks have one of the best three goaltenders in the game today. Roberto Luongo, while at times inconsistent during the regular season, always steps up for important games (ie. World Cup in 2004 and Canucks series win vs. Dallas two years ago) and this year will be no different. The Western Conference playoffs will be an absolute grind and any team that comes out of their deserves to be commended. But the San Jose Sharks will have to prove to me that they won't choke again, the Red Wings have severe goaltending issues, the Flames are folding like a cheap suit right now, the Blackhawks like the Penguins two years are just to young and inexperienced right now and will probably be bounced in the first round, ditto for the Blue Jackets although I have more faith in their goaltending then Chicago's, my darkhorse in the Anaheim Ducks cause they seem to be putting it together at the right time and with their phenomenal first line and two first rate defensemen on the back end they could be the Cinderella story, and finally the Blues or Predators will just be happy to be a young team that made it. But right now my choice to represent the West in the Stanley Cup final are the Vancouver Canucks.

Eastern Conference winners: the New Jersey Devils
Much like the Red Wings they are the franchise that just keeps winning and winning and winning. As long as Martin Brodeur is manning the crease in New Jersey this will not change. The Devils have arguably one of the top lines in the league with Parise/Zajac/Langenbrunner putting up massive numbers this season and I don't expect that to change in the playoffs. They are deadly 5 on 5 and almost unstoppably in the PP. Elias/Zubrus/Gionta as a second line is a great combo for a second line, a big two way centre with two highly skilled wingers flanking him and Elias has had arguably the second best season of his career. Shanahan/Madden/Rolston is an absolute lexury as a third line as not only can they put up big points on any given night but they're phenomenal in their own end and Shanny along with Rolston are particularly effective PP players and their fourth line is chalk full of experience. All of their forward lines have Stanley Cup rings on them and that could prove to be huge. The one place where the Devils may be exposed is on their back end where they have a host of nobody's as it's not a very impressive group but they get bailed out of their most glaring mistakes by the best goaltender in the game today in Marty Brodeur. Brodeur's resume is lengthy and unmatched among active goalies and given the fact that he's missed most of the season with an elbow injury will mean that unlike the past few years he won't be as tired as he was. The Bruins historically choke in the playoffs much like San Jose, Washington has no goaltending, Philadelphia's goaltending is also very questionable and their defence leaves something to be desired, Pittsburgh's defence is not that impressive and while thBoldey arguably are the hottest team and offence heading into the playoffs I don't expect Marc-Andre Fleury to continue his hot play but if he does they are my dark horse team in the east, The Carolina Hurricanes are just to soft and their goaltending is too streaky, The Montreal Canadiens might win a round but a lack of secondary scoring, a suddenly porous defence and inconsistent goaltending will do them in, and either the Rangers or the Panthers will probably either get killed in the first round or upset Boston and then get killed in the second round. So right now my eastern favorites are the New Jersey Devils.

Stanley Cup winner: the New Jersey Devils.
Martin Brodeur will prove prevailent over the younger goaltending star in seven games, much like Patrick Roy did to him 8 years ago. This is my crapshoot, my choice for the Stanley Cup final. Are the odds on my side? No, but I sure hope that I am cause I think it would be a great series.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Changes coming to Oil Country?

With the Oilers in the middle of a playoff dogfight could the jobs of almost the entire organization be on the line? Sounds a little bit ridiculous but the scuttlebutt around town is that it could come down to a playoff birth, and that might not even be enough. Fans of this organization have been looking for change somewhere for a couple of years now and they started with a new owner last year. When Darryl Katz took over this team he made an agreement to keep everyone there for at least one year and that year is nearly up. There have been talk and I've been told by someone close to the former head of the EIG Cal Nichols that his leave of abscence is not temperary but in fact he is now done with the Edmonton Oilers. Whispers in/around the Edmonton business community are that Katz will be at least clearing out the upper echelons of the organization(ie. Patrick LaForge and co.) but also if the Oilers do not make the playoffs that management on the hockey side may go as well. Quite frankly I'd be a little dissapointed in Katz if he fired the new GM as Tambellini hasn't really been given a fair shake at running this show. He should be given at least 3 more years as most GM's get around five years to show their wares(unless your Kevin Lowe of course who get's a decade of chances and still can't learn to draft properly) although I'd be fine with clearing out the rest of the hockey department and letting Tambellini bring in his own people. Now the coaching staff is something that make the playoffs or not, that must go. In the span of one week the teams star player calls out the coaching staff(with his "I'm becoming a checker comments probably being aimed at MacT) and I've been told by family friends of some of the players that MacT has completely lost the dressing room, although that's become pretty obvious with their continued erratic play down the stretch. With Nashville, St.Louis and Anaheim all stringing numerous wins together at the end here and the Oilers going win-lose-win-lose I just can't see the Oilers making the playoffs and for the sake of the organization and the fans that Katz does what it necessary for the team going forward and brings in a swath of new people and a new direction that this club so desperately needs.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The King of Kings

One of the things I really don't like are the "Best player ever" conversations that pop up around the table at the bar because quite frankly there's too much of a gap between the generations of players and how the game evolved between the generations. However with Martin Brodeur becoming the winningest goalie of all time and slowly but surely catching up to Terry Sawchuck's "unbeatable" shutout record I feel compelled to take a stab at who I believe is the greatest goalie of all time(although personally I prefer refering to players as the best of their generation and not the best of "all time). In my humble opinion the top 5 goalies to ever lace up the skates and put of the pads are: 1.Patrick Roy, 2.Martin Brodeur, 3.Terry Sawchuk, 4.Glenn Hall, 5.Ken Dryden

Ken Dryden: His career only lasted 10 seasons because he wanted to be a lawyer(and later a politician) so while he may not have a record amount of wins he won when it counted. 6 Stanley Cups in 10 years, and only 7 full seasons, including his rookie season in 1970. He only lost 57 games his entire career and was one of the backbones of the greatest dynasty team of all time. He won the Calder Trophy, Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy. The iconic image of him leaning on the butt of his goalstick will be replayed for years to come and he helped lead Canada to victory over the Russians in the 1972 Summit Series. These are the reasons why Ken Dryden was the 5th greatest goalie to ever play.

Glenn Hall: "Mr.Goalie" as he was known, is the owner of one of the most impressive streaks in proffesional sports, 502 straight games for a goaltender and this was back when there were no masks and the padding they wore back then would be considered street hockey equipment today. He won 2 Stanley Cups as a goaltender(with Detroit and Chicago respectively) and then 1 as a goalie coach with the Calgary Flames in 1989. Hall was very well known for throwing up before almost every game he ever played in. He finished his career with 407 wins, 84 shutouts and a 2.49 GAA. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy and the Vezina trophy 3 seperate times. Even with all these impressive stats the one I always come back to is the 502 straight games. That alone get's him on this list at #4.

Terry Sawchuk: The man who held the record for most wins for 30 years, Terry Sawchuk was a legend. His record for most shutouts(1o3 of them) still holds to this day, although Martin Brodeur will break this record by next season. He won the Stanley Cup and the Vezina Trophy 4 times and the Calder Trophy his rookie season. He finished his career with 447 wins and a 2.52 GAA and quite the reputation of a party animal. He bounced around from Detroit, to Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and the New York Rangers and left an impression wherever he went. Their was no doubt as to who the best goalie of his generation was with Sawchuk and he's #3 on my list.

Martin Brodeur: The inspiration for this list, Martin Brodeur has cemented himself in the history of the game this year by becoming the winningest goalie of all time and he's closing in on the shutouts record as well. He has won the Vezina Trophy 4 times, the Calder Trophy, and has missed the playoffs only once. He currently has 552 wins and 101 shutouts and a career 2.20 GAA. The reason that I have Brodeur at #2 and not in the top spot is that he's always played on a stacked team and when he was winning cups he was playing behind probably the best 6 man defensive unit since the 1970's Montreal Canadiens. His style is quite different and has yet to be emmulated by younger goaltenders but that will undoubtedly change, but the goaltender that copies him better be as athletic because you have to be pretty damn agile to pull of some of the things Brodeur does, especially since his goaltending equipment is smaller then most goalies around the league.

Patrick Roy: St.Patrick, arguably the most hot tempered, egotistical goaltender to ever play to game of hockey. But the fact is he revolutionized the position and he was prone to taking teams on his back to Stanley Cup championships. When he retired he was the winningest goalie of all time(551 wins) along with 66 shutouts and a career 2.54 GAA and the only player to ever win the Conn Smythe trophy 3 times(twice in Montreal and once in Colorado). He won the Vezina Trophy 3 times and has had his Jersey retired by both teams that he played for. There are two things for me that set Roy just above Brodeur. The first is that Roy carried two average Montreal Canadiens teams(1986 and 1993) to Stanley Cup victory's and in their one head to head meeting in the Stanley Cup finals Roy topped Brodeur in 7 games. All he ever did was win Championships and that is why he goes down still as the greatest goalie to play the game.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Not only has Don Cherry proved that he is completely out of touch with the game of hockey and that he is indeed prejudice against europeans, but that their is a battle coming between the old guard of hockey and the new younger generation just entering the league. The former players who played in the league in the past always did things a certain way. The most controversial thing they ever did was to raise their hands after a goal. Now things have changed with a far more flamboyent and exciting type of player for a new generation has been deemed a threat by certain individuals to the very bland fibre of the game. The obvious example is that which Cherry used of Ovechkin, the best player in the game today, jumping into the boards after scoring goals. Cherry seems to believe that this is not only disrespectful of your opponents, but that it just isn't something that good old hockey players, like his boy Bobby Orr, would ever do and that doesn't sit well with him. Frankly I think that Ovechkin is a breath of fresh air into a game that badly needed one. My second example would have to be Craig MacTavish and Rob Shremp. Shremp was drafted as a hot shot kid coming out of London of the OHL with a lot of flair to his game, the reputation of a guy with a bit of an ego and some sick moves with the puck. MacTavish immediately took a dislike to him and I believe that this played a big part of that. What the old guard doesn't understand and is trying to fight against is the fact that change is indeed coming to the game and the way things are done. The new generations coming in just do things a different way and things like Shremp's Lacrosse style shootout moves or more players jumping into the boards like Ovie are going to become the norm. But Don Cherry has shown that while his argument will inevitably fall to the wayside and forgotten, he and his band of brothers will not go down without a very loud, obnoxious, talent killing(in Shremp's case) fight.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Is it time for The Don to hang up the brightly coloured suit?

When I was a little kid I didn’t bother watching Toronto Maple Leafs games in the early 90’s at 5 p.m. on Saturday nights. I had no interest in seeing Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark zipping around the ice with Bob Cole and Harry Neale bowing at the feet of the almighty Maple Leaf organization. But there was one event I would always come running out of my room for after the first period of Hockey Night in Canada. When I heard that distinctive Coach’s Corner theme song I would come running into the living room yelling the name of my hero: “Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry! Don Cherry!”. I loved Don Cherry. He dressed funny, he talked about hockey, he would give advice to kids and he would yell at Ron McLean. He was a real life cartoon character. The angry, senile, intense version of Mr. Dressup. But at the same time he managed to toe the line between being entertaining but at the same time his biases were not that pronounced. But then in the year 2000, Gary Bettman and the NHL’s board approved an unthinkable new rule that caused Don to go over the deep end; they initiated the instigator rule. This was really the first notice that the NHL as we knew it was going to change forever and Cherry seemed to take it as a personal attack and suddenly his pre-existing biases and bigotry’s about French Canadians and European hockey players slowly started seep out. By 2004 Don Cherry had specifically taken aim at a few issues such as European skill players being better players then Canadians, visors, the instigator rule and basically anything progressive coming into the game today. Cherry got in trouble that year for his comment about only “French Guy’s” wearing visors and because of this CBC put a 7 second delay so there would be no more perceived anti-French Canadian comments. Don has gotten slowly worse and worse until last Saturday, when in my opinion, Cherry hit a brand new low. He proceeded to drastically cut-down the NHL’s best player, Alex Ovechkin, and it’s champion from last season, the Detroit Red Wings basically for not conforming to his outdated vision of the NHL. Cherry doesn’t like Ovechkin jumping around after scoring his goals and showing enthusiasm on the ice. He’d rather that Ovie would be one of the usual boring, no personality Canadian hockey players that he loves. Ovechkin get’s just as excited when a teammate scores so you can throw any selfish showboating notions out the door right now. After Cherry got done with his baseless anti-Ovechkin diatribe finishing off with his belief that ‘Jumbo’ Joe Thornton is the best player in the NHL(“Give me a break”) he turned his venom towards the heavily European Detroit Red Wings. They were the first team to win the Stanley Cup with a European captain and a European laden roster and Cherry has shown that he can’t stand it. While he does have a point that Red Wings fans absolutely love fighters and fighting(always have) he does conveniently ignore the economy and high ticket prices as other reasons as to why fans aren’t turning out in droves for Wings games. He then ripped Pavel Datsyuk for “Hits from behind”, showing clips of what were clean hits with a couple borderline ones that are thrown every game. You’re telling me you couldn’t find clips of a Canadian player throwing the same hits? Please. Cherry’s xenophobic anti-European rants have grown tiresome and somewhat disturbing. For someone who at least likes to think that kids look up to him and listen to him, he really doesn’t do a good job filling in as a roll model. If I had kids, I would not let them watch Coach’s Corner because I wouldn’t want them to grow up thinking that they’re better and tougher then someone else simply because of the country of birth on your birth certificate. It’s time for a new Coach to occupy that chair on CBC. It’s time for Cherry to ride off into the sunset before he damages his legacy anymore then it already is.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Deadline Deals

-The Edmonton Oilers have dealt Erik Cole to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Patrick O'Sullivan. Also a second round pick was sent to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Ales Kotalik(My Take: Getting a young sniper like O'Sullivan was a stroke of brilliance for the Oilers and Cole obviously wasn't going to re-sign. I'm not a big fan of Kotalik, an inconsistent player who's saving grace is that he's a shootout specialist, so the jury's out on him)

-The Phoenix Coyotes have acquired Scottie Upshall and a second round pick for tough guy Daniel Carcillo(My Take: Looking at the Coyotes trades today they're obviously trying to build a team on speed which Upshall brings plenty of. And you thought the Flyers were tough before.........)

-The Buffalo Sabres have acquired Dominic Moore for a second round pick.

-The New York Rangers have parted with a second round pick and another conditional pick for Nik Antropov and have dealt Dimitri Kalinin, Nigel Dawes and Petr Prucha for Derek Morris(My Take: The Rangers paid a kings ransom for Morris. They're desperate to make the playoffs obviously)

-The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded for NYI captain Bill Guerin. Heading to the Islanders is a conditional draft pick with the highest level of a 3rd round pick(My Take: Really? Between a third and fifth round pick? With all the insane overpayments? The Islanders got fleeced)

-The Boston Bruins have dealt for Mark Recchi, sending Matt Lashoff and Martin Karsums.(My Take: Now the Bruins best defensive prospect is out the door. They're going for it now folks)

-The Calgary Flames have traded for Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold. Matt Lombardi, Brandon Prust, a 1rst round pick are heading to Phoenix. Lawrence Nycholat, prospect Ryan Wilson and a second round pick are going to Colorado for Leopold.(My Take: Obviously Calgary is going for it all next season cause with Jokinen's 5.5 million on the books for next season you can kiss Bertuzzi, Cammalleri and newly acquired Leopold goodbye. But now the Flames are a legit powerhouse for this season.)

-Filip Kuba has re-signed with the Ottawa Senators for 3 years at 3.75 million per season.

-The Ottawa Senators have traded Antoine Vermette to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pascal Leclaire and a second round pick.(My Take: Ottawa hopes that they've found their goalie of the future although Leclaire comes with major injury question marks. Vermette, who's having a brutal season, is going to try and give the Blue Jackets some scoring depth to help Rick Nash)

-The Toronto Maple Leafs have claimed Martin Gerber off of waivers from the Ottawa Senators as they have shut down Vesa Toskala for the season.

-The Boston Bruins acquire depth defenseman Steve Montador for offensive prospect Petteri Nokelainen.(My Take: So let me get this straight, the Bruins deal their top offensive prospect for a #6-7 defenseman?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Coaching Carousel

After Tom Renney was fired Tuesday and replaced with John Tortorella, all of the coaches who took their teams to start the season in Europe have all been fired. Renney, Michel Terrien, Barry Melrose and Craig Hartsburg were all fired and along with Dennis Savard who was ousted 5 games into the season in Chicago, five coaches have been fired before the season is even finished.

Tom Renney: He was canned mostly because of Glen Sather’s continued poor draft performance and his reliance on signing over-rated or past their prime free agents. Wade Redden(6.5 million cap hit for another 4 seasons), Chris Drury(6.8 million cap hit for another 3 seasons), Markus Naslund(4 million cap hit for another season), Scott Gomez(7.8 million cap hit for 5 more seasons) and Micheal Rozival(5 million cap hit for 3 more seasons) were all grossly overpaid and are therefore underachieving compared to what they’re being paid. Frankly Sather’s mistakes are the biggest problem in NYC although Renney’s trap style didn’t help. He was replaced by Tortorella who won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay, and while Renney was known as a lenient players coach Torts is a hard ass who won’t hesitate to call out his players; also he’ll be employing a harder forechecking style that may suit the Rangers a little better.

Michel Terrien: This was a firing that was coming for a few months. Terrien had lost the dressing room through various actions including multiple public beratings and trying to barge into a players only meeting. He’s coaching style eventually grates on players. GM Rey Shero’s offseason moves didn’t help either. He put all his eggs into the Marian Hossa basket and lost players like Ryan Malone and Colby Armstrong because of it. Dan Bylsma took over a few weeks ago but unfortunately some of the same inconsistencies continue to plague the Penguins: no secondary scoring, iffy goaltending at best and weak defence. I’m not sure Bylsma will be back next season, especially if the Pens don’t make the playoffs.

Barry Melrose: What a colossal screw up this was. Melrose hadn’t coached in 13 years and was completely out of touch with the game, had a bad relationship with the management that hired him, he alienated his best players and treated 1rst overall pick Steven Stamkos with distain and had no time for this young player. All this culminated with his firing back in November. Rick Tocchet replaced him behind the bench and has done a good job with the team he has. Their #1 goaltender is out with a concussion, they traded away one of the best defenseman in the league in Dan Boyle and replaced him with Matt Carle(traded to Philly a couple months after) and Andrej Meszaros and that really blew up in their faces as they can’t move the puck up the ice. And a lack of secondary scoring beyond Lecavalier, St.Louis and Malone is also a factor.

Craig Hartsburg: I feel bad for Hartsburg. He inherited a shallow team with only three forwards who can score but who also happen to make all the money. They didn’t have any defensemen who could make a pass out of their own end and once again bad goaltending was a bane to this team. Once again management’s mistakes cost the coach. Cory Clouston has since taken over and while the team had a brief surge but have since come back down to earth. Brian Murray has since made a deal to get Mike Comrie(who’s expressed an interest in re-singing long term) and Chris Campoli, a young puck moving defensemen they lost with Meszaros. I have no clue what erratic, meddling owner Eugene Melnyk will do this offseason.

Dennis Savard: More of a motivator then an X’s and O’s guy, the new ownership and management group weren’t big fans of his and he rubbed some of his veterans the wrong way. So they brought in an experienced and very good coach in Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks haven’t looked back, becoming one of the elite four teams in the western conference. While I believe that Savard got a raw deal you can’t argue with results which Quenneville has gotten from his charges.

Other coach’s that may be on the chopping block after this season:

-Craig McTavish(Edmonton): If they don’t make the playoffs they may at least consider it for a change.
-Andy Murray(St.Louis): Injuries have decimated this team but they haven’t achieved what they thought they would this season and usually the coach get’s the blame.
-Alain Vigneault(Vancouver): Isn’t Mike Gillis’s hire and if they don’t make the playoffs he becomes a probable fire.
-Wayne Gretzky(Phoenix): While I don’t think he’ll get fired, he may resign given the sad state of the Coyotes.
-Also Craig Anderson(Atlanta), Tony Granato(Colorado) and Scott Gordon(NYI) are all possibilities just because these teams just suck, and in the case of Gordon and Anderson their franchises are just plain sad.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oilers deadline possibilities

With the Montreal Canadiens trading for Mathieu Schneider this week the trading season has kicked off and the Edmonton Oilers are in the interesting position of being one of those bubble teams that will have to decide whether to be a buyer, a seller or a hybrid of both. If I was Steve Tambellini, or the man who may very well be pulling the puppet strings Kevin Lowe, I would attempt to be the latter. However that’s not really their style as the Oilers usually go all in with one strategy. Obviously the most talked about player on the Oilers roster the last few months when it comes to being traded has been Erik Cole. The power forward who will be UFA on July first was acquired this past summer for Joni Pitkanen and has turned out to be the major return for Chris Pronger if you follow the trail(Lupul to Pitkanen to Cole) but hasn’t really fit in playing with the Copper and Blue. Some believe that the Oilers want to re-sign Cole while some believe that they don’t. However I really don’t get the impression that Cole wants to stay. Bob McKenzie of TSN claims that the Oilers have some interest in mr.enigma Alex Kovalev with Cole and a draft pick or prospect going Montreal’s way. I think both players would do better with a change of scenery and Kovy could be the winger Ales Hemsky has been looking for his whole career. If the Oil could find any takers for Dustin Penner or Shaun Horcoff and their massively overinflated KLowe contracts they’d be all over that. The Oilers will be looking for some defensive depth and of course a winger to play with Ales Hemsky at the deadline. Nik Antropov might be a guy the Oilers look at to ride shotgun with Hemsky or if they’re looking to make a big splash Olli Jokinen is apparently available for the right price so a package headlined by Horcoff and a 1rst round pick might do it. Defensemen like Derrick Morris and Niclas Havelid would be the type of depth dmen the Oil would be looking at, nothing big. And please Oiler fan, even though TSN is reporting that Ryan Smyth is available ( please don’t scream about wanting him back. He’s not even close to the player he was, and even then he was a glorified second line winger.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Top Five Most Dissapointing NHL Teams this season, plus 4 more

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs are the victims of a few things. One would be through the roof expectations as this is the centennial season and since they aren’t in first place so it’s already bad. Carey Price has mentally crumbled under the pressure of this season and the expectations put on him; the kid needs some time off. The team’s best player, Alex Kovalev, plays extremely uninterested and even their recent opponents have said that they’re arguably the softest team in the league. For this team to turn things around they really need to man up and start playing with a little sandpaper. A deadline deal for an offensive point man should also be in order to help their brutally bad powerplay.

Carolina Hurricanes: While some aren’t surprised I really thought this would be their year to get back to Eastern Conference prominence for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006. However they’re the same inconsistent ‘Canes. Both Cam Ward and Eric Staal have never reached the heights they did during the cup year as they have both somewhat regressed and stay very inconsistent. Age has finally caught up with team leader Rod Brind’Amour and he has started a steep and rapid decline on his way towards retirement. Their defence remains soft and inconsistent. They need Ward and Staal to take some initiative and leadership and become leaders on this team while taking the next step towards becoming the stars they should be.

Pittsburgh Penguins: A lot of problems with this Stanley Cup finalist. They have nothing beyond Malkin and Crosby(besides Sykora on a good day). Jordan Staal’s development has “Staaled” so to speak as the team refuses to do anything with him besides slot him into the #3 centre spot where he plays with linemates that aren’t exactly up to par with his skill level. Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar have been injured all year so their PP has suffered drastically along with the play in their own end. Marc-Andre Fleury has reverted back to his inconsistent ways. Quite frankly until one of their big two get’s dealt this team will be hamstrong by paying 1/3 of their cap room to two guys. And since Crosby is the face of the franchise, it’s going to have to be Malkin that get’s dealt.

Ottawa Senators: While I didn’t think they’d be that good this year, I didn’t foresee them as being this bad either. Just like the Penguins and Tampa Bay before them, they have too much money locked up in too few and it’s cost them dearly. They have no secondary scoring, no defence and they’ve never really had elite goaltending minus one year of Ray Emery. They have nothing coming up the pipe in the way of prospect except Swedish dman Erik Karlsson so they’re going to have to somewhat blow this up and trade one of their big three to get at least a good goaltending prospect in return.

Edmonton Oilers: Call me nuts but I somewhat bought into the Oiler hoopla from the offseason, my only question about them was their goaltending as Mathieu Garon had done the one year on/one year off act before. However Shaun Horcoff and Dustin Penner, those of the brutally awful contracts, have been worse then I anticipated. While they finally slayed the 3 headed goaltending monster it took too long and they suffered for it. Ales Hemsky unfortunately still has no trigger man to bury his fantastic passes and the kids have hit the dreaded sophomore slump. Craig McTavish’s unoriginal coaching remains a problem. A new coach would help along with KLowe stepping away from the organization. The kids bouncing back would be huge and finding some sucker to eventually take Penner and Horcoff’s contracts would be huge, but that won’t happen unfortunately.

Honorable Mention: New York Rangers(Without Lundqvist they'd be screwed. Avery=answer?)

Tampa Bay Lightning(Unlike most I thought this team would suck and it does)

Nashville Predators(Eventually the cost cutting would hurt them big time)

Colorado Avalanche(injuries, age and poor drafting have contributed)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Darth Avery returns

But does anyone want Dallas's Sloppy seconds?

For the past two months, the NHL has been a happy place for everyone. Gum drops and rainbows, smiles and sunshine. However it appears that the quite before the storm is about the turn into a possible media hurricane once again as it appears that the NHL’s greatest villain of the last decade will ride again. Sean Avery looks to be on his way back after the Dallas Stars placed him on waivers this past Saturday. He’ll clear waivers on Monday and be sent to an AHL team that’s willing to take him on and it looks like the New York Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolfpack will be the only one. Also the Rangers are the only NHL team that’s rumoured to be interested in picking him up off of re-entry waivers once he’s re-established himself down there. However on some (including Al Strachan and Pierre LeBrun of Hockey Night In Canada’s Satellite Hotstove) believe that if Avery shows that he has indeed rehabilitated himself into a normal human being instead of the loner with obvious emotional issues then some other NHL teams may snap him up before New York can to try and give their own teams a boost. These teams would include Pittsburgh, Edmonton and Anaheim.

Now according to LeBrun people close to Avery are claiming that he is indeed a changed man and that this whole experience has scared him straight as he does not wish to lose his main mode of income. Whether he actually has or not I can’t claim to have any inside sources on the matter so I won’t take a guess. However if he has then the New York Rangers or any other team have gotten themselves a potential 20 goal 50 point player with a boat load of grit. Sean Avery is a very talented hockey player who has always just let his own personal issues get in the way of his play. This leads us to wonder what would happen if he hasn’t changed but is just putting on an act? Well in LA and Dallas we’ve seen that he can make the atmosphere inside of a dressing room toxic and while claiming that Dallas’s resurgence is solely based on Sean Avery being kicked off the team would be a little bit of a stretch it certainly has been a big part of it. Personally I’m kinda excited to see how this unravels because no matter which way Sean Avery goes, I’m going to get my popcorn ready because it’ll be a show!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Flames vs. Oilers 2009 quarterfinals

Game 1: The Calgary Flames, your Northwest division winners, host the Edmonton Oilers in a playoff series for the first time in about 2 decades and the excitement level is off the hook. So much so that the Flames are too worried about making an impression that the Oilers squeak out a 3-2 after Sheldon Souray scores a late third period PP winner.

Game 2: After Mike Keenan scares the living bejesus out of the Calgary Flames and threatens to send Mikka Kiprusoff to Atlanta in the offseason, the tender shuts the door and Jarome Iginla takes over the game and the Flames roll 4-1.

Game 3: This will be the first playoff game in Edmonton since game 6 of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. The electricity inside Rexall Place will be palpable. We might even have a Darryl Katz sighting! The Oilers will come out absolutely flying with Ales Hemsky leading the way with 2 goals and 1 assist and Dion Phaneuf launches himself face first into the boards, injuring himself, trying to kill Kyle Brodziak after Phaneuf thinks he hears him mutter something to do with sloppy seconds.

Game 4: The Oilers and Flames carry a hotly contested game into the third period tied 2 goals apiece when Todd Bertuzzi takes a roughing penalty at 1:40 left after the image of Steve Moore’s lawyer’s face suddenly seems to look a lot like Steve Staios. Unfortunately for the Oilers their coach happens to be Craig MacTavish who plays a 1 forward 4 back trap system during the PP so that way they’re guaranteed to go to OT as he forgets that they won’t be getting a point and that there’s no shootout. Bertuzzi steps out of the box and gets the breakaway pass and buries it :25 seconds into overtime.

Game 5: Still stunned by the overtime loss and perplexed at MacT’s postgame rant about how the loss was all Robbie Shremp’s fault the Oilers crawl out of the gate and the moral boost of the return of Dion Phaneuf guides the Flames to an easy 5-1 victory.

Game 6: All seems lost for the Oilers as they are completely outplayed by the Flames through 60 minutes but Dewayne Roloson plays out of this world and keeps the game at 0-0 till late in the 3rd period when MacT’s trusty 4th line grinders come through in the last minute and obvious hero Zack Stortini scores the winner with less then 30 seconds to go.

Game 7: I’ve come up with two alternate endings to this story just like any good modern day DVD, and as a promising member of the Canadian hockey media I must uphold the great tradition of fence sitting and not choose a decisive winner. In version one Jarome Iginla destroys the Oilers with a hat trick and Kiprusoff completely shuts them down for the series win. In version two, the hockey gods great senses of humor, irony and evening things out as Robyn Regehr’s ill-advised outlet pass from behind the net ends up bouncing off Mikka Kiprusoff’s skate and in as the Oilers celebrate their series win in the Saddledome.

Anyway that’s how I see an Oilers/Calgary playoff series going in my imagination.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

His last Chance

By far and away so far this season the giants of the Northwest division are the Calgary Flames under the leadership of good guy Jarome Iginla. For the first time since they went to the Stanley Cup final in 2004 they actually have some secondary scoring which is the biggest change that has allowed this resurgence of sorts. Todd Bertuzzi, while not the top flight power forward he once was, has established himself as a solid secondary offensive source. Rene Bourque has been surpassing expectations, Matthew Lombardi has finally developed into the second line centre that Calgary envisioned and of course Daymond Langkow along with Craig Conroy are giving steady offence and a veteran presence. But probably the biggest help given to Iginla this season has been the acquisition of Mike Cammelleri. The trade that brought him over from LA for draft picks is looking like a steal. If he continues his current pace he’ll probably score over 40 goals and possibly come very close to 50.

Everything Darryl Sutter touched this past summer turned to gold. Unfortunately his touch at the draft table isn’t that great and this is going to leave Calgary in a very precarious position after this season with Bertuzzi, Adrian Aucoin and the aforementioned Cammelleri will be unrestricted free agents. Calgary is right up against the salary cap with their current cap numbers and with Bertuzzi and Cammelleri will both being in line for raises(the latter will be getting a huge one) and with them probably having to sign a UFA defenseman to replace Aucoin if he’s not brought back things will get very dicey. With Iginla, Regehr, Phaneuf, Kiprusoff, Sarich and Langkow all signed to long term contracts there is really little chance that Calgary will re-sign Bert and Cammelleri and there are no offensive prospects in Calgary’s system that could replace them next season. Therefore this is probably Iginla’s last chance to win the Stanley cup at the very least in his prime as he’s signed on for a long time in Cow Town.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Definition of Insanity: Doing the same thing even though it never works.

There’s an old saying that goes something like “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”. After the illness inducing 10-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday this is exactly the statement that pertains to Darryl Katz and the Edmonton Oilers. It was about a short month ago that the Oilers were hanging their heads in shame after getting handled to the tune of 9-2 by the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place. Now a team will lose that badly every once in a blue moon as every team in the league does. But to do so twice in the same year, on home ice no less, is absolutely inexcusable. There is a clear lack of coaching on this team. Of course the players hold a good amount of responsibility for the debacles that occurred and yes they’re supposed to motivate themselves but a good coaching staff should be able to get a vibe from their team and how they’re feeling. A good coach will deem whether a team needs a little extra motivation or discipline heading into a game. A good coach will go into certain games and will know when his team just doesn’t have it and will run damage control. Craig MacTavish seems to be at a loss for what to do when his team is struggling in game. It almost comes across like the players are running the team because they’ve completely tuned MacT out and no one would hold it against them if they had. He’s torn a strip off of Dustin Penner for pretty well playing to the best of his ability(it’s not his fault that Kevin Lowe gave him way more money then he’s worth) and then he ripped a kid that’s not even on the team yet! Not only that but a coach has a certain shelf life with a team. There comes a time when the players eventually just tire of the same old message(Lindy Ruff in Buffalo and Barry Trotz in Nashville are the exception, not the rule). Even if the Oilers manage to squeak into the playoffs they wouldn’t make it past the first round with the coaching and inconsistent offense and goaltending they have. You have to hope that Darryl Katz doesn’t think that a 7th-8th place, 1 and out playoff would be good enough to save Craig MacTavish’s job.

Monday, January 26, 2009

UFA Defensemen

Major UFA Defensemen:

Adrian Aucoin(Calgary): Aucoin is nearing the end of the line of his career but still has a couple of serviceable years left in him, particularly as a powerplay specialist as he has a big shot from the point. Not sure if Calgary will bring him back.(Possible Destinations: Chicago, Montreal, NYI, Calgary)

Francois Beauchemin(Anaheim): Unfortunately for Francois, the forgotten man in Anaheim behind Niedermayer and Pronger, he tore his ACL early in the season and it knocked him out for the year. While the only time he’s put up big points is playing with one of the big 2 on the powerplay, he’s very good defensively and puts up decent numbers on his own. Not sure if Anaheim will give him a long term deal coming of an injury but I think he’ll stay in California.(Possible Destinations: Anaheim, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto)

Rob Blake(San Jose): Veteran that is now on retirement watch at the end of every season has revitalized his career in San Jose putting up big numbers on the powerplay and his play in his own end has improved back to his standards. If San Jose wins the Stanley Cup I believe Blake will retire or go back to LA but if they simply come close I think he’ll come back for one more year in San Jose.(Possible Destinations: San Jose, Los Angeles, retirement)

Jay Bouwmeester(Florida): Probably the top blueliner on the marker. Young at 25 and extremely talented, he’s a very fluid skater and great offensively. If you took Chris Pronger, gave him better skating, made him less physical and took ten years of wear and tear off of him you’d have Jay Bouwmeester. Some people believe he’s looking to go back to western Canada but with Calgary already against the cap and the Oilers with 15 million tied up in their blueline per season already, unless the Oil move one of their D I don’t see it. If they do it could very well happen, and he’s all but made it clear he won’t be back in Florida. He’ll cost at least 7 million per.(Possible Destinations: Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa)

Mike Komisarek(Montreal): The #2 dman headed for free agency, he’s probably the complete opposite of Bouwmeester. He’s a good skater with a good first pass but not much offence to his game but he makes up for that by being one of the top physical dmen in the game. ‘Komi’ is one of the top 5 defensive defensemen in the game. I believe he’ll re-sign in Montreal for between 3.5 and 5 million, although if negotiations fall through his hometown Islanders could be a dark horse.(Potential Destinations: Montreal, NYI, NYR, Los Angeles)

Filip Kuba(Ottawa): Kuba is probably the only defenseman on the Senators that can actually skate and make a good first pass on the rush. Making 3 million per season he’ll probably require a healthy raise to about 5 million cause defensemen like him are in high demand. The Senators would be smart to lock him up.(Possible Destinations: Ottawa, Anaheim, Vancouver, Florida)

Mattias Ohlund(Vancouver): Ohlund is a physical, talented defenseman who makes good first passes and can play on the powerplay. He also provides good veteran leadership and could be of value to a young team like Los Angeles. But he’s been in Vancouver his whole career so I see him coming back.(Possible Destinations: Vancouver, Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit)

Sergei Zubov(Dallas): A lot of people have blamed the disaster that is the Dallas Stars on Sean Avery but the loss of Sergei Zubov to injury until recently can’t be understated. With Phillipe Boucher not being the player he once was and eventually being traded to Pittsburgh, the offense and powerplay rely heavily and Zubov. He’s got a couple of years left on his career but has become very injury prone recently. He’ll probably re-sign in Dallas or retire.(Possible Destinations: Dallas, retirement)

Jordan Leopold(Colorado): After putting up decent numbers he looked like he was ready to explode upon his arrival in Colorado but he’s been buried behind John-Michael Liles on the PP so he hasn’t reached his potential. He’ll probably need a change in scenery to reach the next level, otherwise he’ll be considered a huge underachiever.(Possible Destinations: Phoenix, Tampa Bay, Minnesota)

Scott Niedermayer(Anaheim): The second best defenseman of his generation behind Nick Lidstrom, after flirting with retirement it sounds like he’s rediscovered his passion for the game and wants to sign a new deal in Anaheim although with his brother a UFA as well they may sign together elsewhere like back home in Vancouver, or he may choose to finish back in New Jersey.(Possible Destinations: Anaheim, New Jersey, Vancouver)

Mathieu Schneider(Atlanta): Another aging defensemen who’s very good offensively and knows enough tricks of the trade to still be good in his own end although playing on a brutal Thrashers team this season seems to have worn on him. I think he’ll sign with a contender for one last kick at the can after this season.(Possible Destinations: Montreal, Boston, Washington, San Jose)

Trade Dealine Candidates: Schneider, Leopold, Ohlund, Kuba, Zubov

Other notable UFA Defensemen: Christian Backman, Francis Boullion, Nick Boynton, Mathieu Dandenault, Steve Eminger, Hal Gill, Niclas Havelid, Shane Hnidy, Kent Huskins, Paul Mara, Johnny Oduya, Dennis Seidenberg, Jaro Spacek, Darryl Sydor, Greg Zanon, Derek Morris.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Looking ahead: UFA forwards

Mike Cammalleri: Half-way through this season Cammalleri is the second leading scorer in Calgary with a 50/50 split in points with 22 goals and 22 assists. Not the biggest player at 5”9 and 185lbs. he’s somewhat injury prone. Cammalleri is the perfect complementary scorer and will average around 30 goals and 80 points if he stays healthy. He’ll be looking for a raise of his current 3.6 million so Calgary will be in a tough spot when it comes to re-signing him.(Possible destinations: Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Montreal)

Johan Franzen: The “Mule” as he’s known in Detroit has really emerged since March of last season as another star goal scroing Swede developed in Detroit. Sitting at 21 goals at the halfway point he’ll also be tough for his current team to re-sign due to cap problems.(Possible destinations: Detroit, Columbus, Los Angeles, Vancouver)

Marian Gaborik: Maybe the biggest waste of talent due to injury’s that I’ve ever seen. Gaborik has speed to burn and a lethal shot, he’s pretty well burnt his bridges in Minnesota and Vancouver is rumoured to be his destination of choice while LA is also but a report out of LA says that they’re interest level is at sub-zero temperature due to his injury history.(Possible Destinations: Vancouver, LA, Pittsburgh, Toronto)

Brian Gionta: Small New Jersey forward who notched 48 goals the year after the lockout, he’s currently sitting at 11 playing on the second line in NJ. He’s more a 25 goal guy who’s good in his own end. I don’t see him staying in the constricting system of NJ and he doesn’t seem to mesh with coach Brent Sutter(Possible destinations: NYI, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Buffalo)

Martin Havlat: A lesser Gaborik. Injured constantly although ala Sheldon Souray he’s managed to stay healthy for his contract season. He’s at 15 goals this season and he’s about a 30 goal man but won’t be back in Chicago because of the cap(Possible Destinations: Columbus, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Washington)

Marian Hossa: The biggest gun for hire the second year in a row, Hossa is a potential 100 point player every season. He’s on pace for 90 this season. More so the Franzen, Hossa’s price tag will be too big for Detroit after this season. Will the Oilers give him another whopper offer?(Possible Destinations: Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Minnesota)

Saku Koivu: The heart of the Canadiens for a decade, Koivu will either take a pay-cut to stay on as the Captain in Montreal and try and win a cup or maybe sign in Minnesota to play with his younger brother(Possible Destinations: Montreal, Minnesota)

Alex Kovalev: The most enigmatic and moody talent in the game. Kovalev probably has the most raw talent in the game but he marches to his own drum at all times and that hurts him at times. If he takes a pay cut he’ll be back in Montreal(Possible Destinations: Montreal, Pittsburgh, Washington, Atlanta)

Andy McDonald: The Anaheim Ducks offense hasn’t been the same since they dealt him to St.Louis for Doug Weight. A fast slick playmaker with 90 point potential every season. Injured this season but he’ll be back(Possible Destinations: St.Louis, Columbus, Minnesota, Los Angeles)

Joe Sakic: Old man snowblower will either resign in Denver or retire.(Possible Destinations: Colorado, retirement)

Daniel + Henrik Sedin: The sisters are in a unique position cause they come as a package deal. Henrik is the playmaker while Daniel is the sniper. I believe they’ll stay in Vancouver but if they go anywhere else the team will need a lot of cap room wanting a quick fix(Possible Destinations: Vancouver, Toronto, Florida, Columbus)

Mats Sundin: Oh great he’s going to be a free agent again? Please go away Mats.(Possible Destinations: Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, retirement)

Alex Tanguay: Tanguay is a smooth playmaker who doesn’t shoot nearly enough. Was off to a good start with 26 points in 34 games before separating his shoulder. I doubt Montreal would bring him back at 5.375 million so he’ll move on to a non-hockey market(Possible Destinations: Anaheim, Florida, Phoenix, Los Angeles)

Henrik Zetterberg: This superstar isn’t going anywhere. Reports are that a newly signed contract will be delivered by end of the month.(Possible Destinations: Detroit)

Nikolai Zherdev: I like to call him Kovalev jr. cause of all the talent he has yet he chronically underachieved in Columbus before finally getting it in New York….in his contract year. I think he’s got a good thing on Broadway and we’ll stay but with the economy the way it is he could also go for the fattest paycheck he can get(Possible Destinations: NYR, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Montreal)
Other notable UFA forwards: Max Afinogenov, Nik Antropov, Derek Armstrong, P.J Axelsson, Steve Begin, Todd Bertuzzi, Radek Bonk, Alex Burrows, Kyle Calder, Erik Cole, Mike Comrie, Tom Connolly, Sergei Federov, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mike Grier, Bobby Holik, Ales Kotalik, Viktor Kozlov, Robert Lang, Ian Laperierre, John Madden, Todd Marchant, Brendan Morrison, Chris Neil, Rob Niedermayer, Mike Peca, Gary Roberts, Jeremy Roenick, Tuomo Ruutu, Mikael Samuelsson, Miro Satan, Brendan Shanahan, Mike Sillinger, Steve Sullivan, Brian Sutherby, Peter Sykora, Keith Tkachuk, Doug Weight, Richard Zednik.