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.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Western All-Stars

Starting Forwards: Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf. Kane and Getzlaf(5th in league scoring) I have no bones with being All-Star starters but Toews has been bit somewhat with a sophomore slump and hasn’t been as good as he was as a rookie. But he was the fans choice so more power to them.

League selected forwards: Dustin Brown, Patrick Marleau(replaces Pavel Datsyuk), Shane Doan, Milan Hejduk, Jarome Iginla, Mike Modano, Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Keith Tkachuk.

My Take: Anze Kopitar probably would be a better choice then Brown for the Kings, Ryan Smyth is leading the Avs in points so he arguably should have been there instead of Hejduk. Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson all would have been better choices then Mike Modano. Modano making this team is just the league putting a large name American in a southern market in there. Tkachuk is the same, Brad Boyes is leading the Blues in scoring and should be there.

Starting Defensemen: Brian Campbell and Scott Niedermayer. While Campbell deserves to go, not so much as a starter. Niedermayer go in on name recognition only, his stats this season aren’t tearing the roof off. But these are the fans choices.

League selected Defensemen: Dan Boyle, Stephane Robidas(replacing Nik Lidstrom), Sheldon Souray, Shea Weber.

My Take: All these players were deserving except for the injury replacement. Even as a replacement Stephan Robidas shouldn’t be in the All-Star game. That’s a joke. He’s got 19 points and is only there cause he plays in Dallas and the league wants as many players as possible from southern markets. More deserving of being named a replacement for the best defenseman of this genereation, Lidstrom, include the likes of Brian Rafalski, Chris Pronger, Rob Blake, Lubomir Vishnovski, Duncan Keith, Marek Zidlicky, Ryan Suter, Dion Phaneuf(even though he’s the most overrated dman in the game), hell even Tom Gilbert is more deserving!

Starting Goalie: JS Giguere. The most ridiculous choice by the fans(don’t criticize, don’t criticize!). Giguere’s been a sieve all season. But the fans voted him in!(*insert teeth grinding*)

League Choices: Nik Backstrom and Roberto Luongo. Luongo’s on for name alone. Evgeni Nabakov and Mikka Kiprusoff are more deserving but the Canucks needed someone to go. Backstrom should win the Vezina so he should be there.

Next up, it’s not to early to start thinking free agency and the key UFA’s!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My opinion of the Eastern All-Star Roster


Starting three forwards: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Alex Kovalev. The fans voted these three into the game so I’m not going to criticize their choices, although Alex Kovalev’s play this year doesn’t really deserve an all-star spot. Andrei Kostitsyn is a more deserving Canadiens forward if the fans had to vote another one in.

League selected forwards:

Jeff Carter, Vinny Lecavalier, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Marc Savard, Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek.

Out of the league selected forwards, you could make a case that Ilya Kovalchuk(20 goals), Vinny Lecavalier(44 points) and Eric Staal(35 points) got there because of their names, not necessarily cause they were the most deserving forwards on their teams. Bryan Little(Atlanta-21 goals), Marty St.Louis(46 points) and Ray Whitney(39 points) are more deserving.


Starting 2 defensemen: Andrei Markov and Mike Komisarek. Andrei Markov is a starter for the second year in a row and definitely deserves to be in this spot. Mike Komisarek being a started in the All-Star game however was the product of fandom. This will be his first and last All-Star game.

League selected defensemen:

Jay Bouwmeester, Zdeno Chara, Tomas Kaberle and Mark Streit.

While I’m not going to argue that Chara shouldn’t be here, his teammate Dennis Wideman(Boston-31 points) is equally as deserving. Tomas Kaberle is a product of the “one player from every team must go” rule, while he’s Toronto’s leading scorer on D he’s also -11. As much as the Islanders suck, Streit does deserve this.


Starter: Carey Price. Tim Thomas probably should have been the starter but Price does deserve to be in the game in my opinion. He’s one of the top 5 goalies in the east and with Mary Brodeur out with injury he takes a spot.

League selected goalies:
Henrik Lundqvist, Tim Thomas.

No qualms with either player.

Friday I’ll cover the Western All-Star team.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Last of the Oilers greats gets taken care of.

On Sunday January 19th the Edmonton Oilers will be retiring Glenn Anderson’s number 9. It’s been a exciting last few months for Anderson with not only his jersey being retired but also being part of the Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2008 along with Igor Larianov, Ray Scapinello and Ed Chynowth. Quite frankly it was a joke that the Hall took so long to admit Anderson through it’s doors. 498 goals, 1,099 points and 6 Stanley Cups(5 with Edmonton and 1 with The Rangers) and it took him nearly a decade of eligebility to finally get in due to his contraversial manner with the media. The rumors that abounded in Edmonton after his friend drowned in his pool and a child support issue that was solved in 2003 with an ex-girlfriend also contributed to the delay. With all the marginal players the Hall has inducted before him they should be ashamed, but then again, the Edmonton Oilers shouldn’t exactly feel that great about taking this long to retire his jersey either. I believe that he should have had his jersey retired before those of Paul Coffey and Grant Fuhr. Anderson was in Edmonton for all five Stanley Cups while Coffey was traded away because of money issues after the 1987 season so he was in Edmonton for only 3 of the cups. When it comes to Fuhr I’m of the opinion that the only reason he had his jersey retired and ended up in the HHOF was that he was the goalie on the great Oilers teams. His career stats definitely aren’t up there with the greats. Some might argue that Andy Moog(1980-87) was a better goalie.

Now that number 9 will go up to the rafters I hope that the Oilers don’t start retiring jersey’s of players who were simply good but not great now that all the great dynasty players have been taken care of. Players like Kevin Lowe, Esa Tikkanen, Craig Simpson; some people have thrown out Ryan Smyth, Doug Weight, Craig MacTavish, even Kelly Buchberger. NO! Jersey retirements should be saved for great players, not just good players that fans have a soft spot in their hearts for like they do in Toronto(Wendel Clark? Please.). So Oilers organization, wait for the next great player to lead you to a cup then when he retires lift his jersey to the rafters.

Also before I sign off I would like to inform my readers that this is not exclusively an Oilers blog. I am aware that most of you are Oil fans and therefore around 50% of my articles will be about the Oilers. However the other 50% will be the biggest story in the NHL at the time. My personal alliegance to The Montreal Canadiens is well documented and some readers have jumped to the conclusion that I will become to Habs central because of my Lecavalier feature. The only reason I did that feature was because it was the biggest story in the league at the time, not cause it involved the Habs. Hopefully this will put all fears of this developing into a Habs blog to rest.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Money Side aka why it won't happen

However there is now the Habs side of this including a little problem in the way of this deal that a lot of people are ignoring: the salary cap. All the deals that TSN are reporting that are being discussed do not work under the cap. Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, Josh Georges, PK Subban and at least 1 first round pick is the supposed deal. Sure this could work but the NHL would have to ignore the fact that the Habs would be more then 4 million over the salary cap. The Habs have many big ticket players that would be UFA at the end of the season. One or more of Robert Lang, Alex Tanguay, Alex Kovalev or Mathieu Dandenault.(Also UFA would be Francis Boullion and Tom Kostopoulus but Tampa wouldn’t want pluggers at this point and they’re very valuable to a playoff run, and Saku Koivu has a NTC in his contract and I doubt he’d waive it to go to a last place team this late in his career.). Tampa Bay would have to take on one big expiring contract and out of the group I’d say that it would be Tanguay, who hasn’t been the same since getting wallpapered against Detroit by Brad Stuart. And since I can’t ever fathom Gainey giving up Subban after the World Juniors he just had. A fathomable deal would be Tanguay, Higgins, Plekanc and Ryan O’Byrne/Josh Georges(although I hope not this kid is fantastic). Along with prospects Ryan McDonough and Pavel Valentenko(who bailed on Hamilton to go to Russia for money. If Tampa gave him a spot on the big club which they probably would he’d come back) as well as a 2009 first rounder, conditional 2010 first rounder, and some lower round draft picks. This might be enough to pry Vinny out of Tampa but that would pretty well be gutting the team which Gainey would never do. And that 11 year deal is a major sticking point. Especially with Mike Komisarek to re-sign after this season for 4 million +, and come 2010 when the cap is expected to go down it happens to be the summer the Canadiens will have to give Carey Price a brand new contract and he won’t sign for a few bags of airline peanuts and a club membership to Chez ParĂ©e so Gainey will need a good amount of cap room set up for that summer. So all in all I really don't see the deal happening for the money reasons and I’m not convinced Vinny would want to be in Montreal and he would pretty much have to approve any deal even though his NTC doesn’t kick in till July 1rst. But it does make for interesting discussion and it really would be every Habs fans dream come true.

Next up this weekend, Glenn Anderson and Oilers jersey retirements

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vinny To Montreal, the non-money side

In a two day two part series on the Lecavalier to Montreal rumors, I'm going to focus on the non-financial aspects of the deal today(part#2 tommorow). It seems to me like we’ve been hearing the same rumours about Lecavalier’s imminent departure from the Bay to his childhood home to play for his childhood team since he was taken first overall in the 1998 NHL draft. Of course every time these rumour’s have all turned out to be bogus and at every opportunity he’s had to become a UFA and join the Habs Vinny has re-signed with the Lightning each time. Most recently he chose to forgo his opportunity at upcoming summer free agency and instead signed a contract for 11 years and 85 million dollars with Tampa. Vinny was one of the many French Canadian players who had really no desire to be the next great Guy Lafleur or more accurately the next Jean Beliveau who Lecavalier has been compared to since he entered the league. Danny Briere, Simon Gagner, Alex Tanguay and Georges Laraque in the past have very vocally talked about how undesirable it was for most French Canadians to play there. However you’ll notice how two of those players are now playing for the Habs(Laraque signing as a UFA and Tanguay waiving his NTC to go there). So maybe it’s not as undesirable as it used to be? It seems to me that while some of the rabid jackals known as the French media still seem to think that a French Canadian superstar is a must, the memories of an offensive French Canadian star have faded to black since Lafleur left. Also the fact that the Tampa Bay organization is a wreck doesn’t help. The ownership group has made so many brutal personnel decisions with trades and UFA singings that has the team near the bottom of the league again but with a lot of money tied up in underachieving players. And of course the story’s are out there that the owners are hemoraging money and so they may be forced to sell the team at which point it would probably move from Tampa Bay. So would Vinny want to risk having to go play in some unfamiliar city with a crappy team with no hope of winning for the rest of his career but he would continue to lead a life under the radar in some US market; or would he accept a trade to a resurgent Habs franchise with a great management team and coaching and great talent on the ice with a chance to win but would be in the smallest hockey fishbowl in the world with the weight of a province on his shoulders? Vinny's got a tough decision to make.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yee of little faith in young players

Ever since he was taken with the 25th overall pick in the 2004 NHL entry draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Robbie Shremp has been the subject of much speculation and a seemingly unending thirst from Oilers fans wanting to see him at all costs because of the monstrous offensive numbers he put up playing for the London Nights of the Ontario Hockey League(145 points to lead the OHL in the 2005-06 season ). He was the brightest pure offensive prospect the Oilers had since Ales Hemsky coming out of Hull Quebec and the man who would become the first bonafied #1 centre the Oilers had possessed since Doug Weight was dealt to the St.Louis Blues(no Mike Comrie was not, and most certainly is not, a #1 centre). His skating wasn't(and by all accounts still isn't) all-world class like Andrew Cogliano or Pavel Bure in his prime but then again his footspeed has improved greatly and it's not like Wayne Gretzky was the world's greatest skater(I'm not comparing Shremp to Gretzky). His defense isn't stellar but then again alot of top notch nhl offensive players aren't that great in their own end. And is he that physical? No but he's not wired to be. Craig MacTavish publicaly ripped the poor kid the other day( for the "negatives" in his game. The Edmonton Oilers have tried in vain to turn this kid into a defensively responsable 3rd-4th line player because that's what they do to young players. They jerk them around and put them in positions to fail because it seems like they feel that once a young player is broken they can rebuild them into the checking defensive forward they want all their players to be.

Examples of young players who have failed in the Oilers system because of their lack of patience and caring for their own drafted kids and young players in general are numerous and span back to the Glenn Sather era. The two big examples from the Sather era would be Miroslav Satan and Ray Whitney. Satan put up some decent offensive numbers in Edmonton and looked like he was ready to bust out when Sather shipped him to Buffalo for two players who never played in the NHL. Sather felt that Satan wasn't good enough in his own end or worked hard enough in there. Satan's work ethic seemed fine as he posted 224 goals in Buffalo between 1997-2004 including a 41 goal season. Ray Whitney was the Edmonton Oilers stick boy as a child and grew up around the franchise as his father had worked for them and came to the Oilers after a few years in San Jose and Europe. What a story it would have been had Whitney made the team but alas Sather felt he was too small to make much of an impact so he dealt Whitney to Florida. All Whitney has done since is put up 548 points in 10 seasons since leaving Edmonton and was part of the Carolina Hurricanes squad that defeated the Oilers in the Stanley Cup final. Another example you could throw in would be Jason Arnott, a very talented young player in Edmonton who was run out of town by the fans but was given little support by the franchise. He's since won a Stanley Cup in New Jersey as their #1 centre and is currently the captain of the Nashville Predators.

And now the debacle known as the Kevin Lowe era. Not only was his drafting a joke(a blog for another day along with the rest of the massive laundry list of KLowe blunders) but the fact that every quality offensive prospect they've had has at some point or another been broken by Craig MacTavish and his coaching staff so they'll start thinking more about defense then scoring goals is evident. Ales Hemsky received fourth line duty when he first joined the Oilers. Sam Gagner was moved to the wing even though he's a natural centre and had tons of success there as a rookie and that experiment proceded to completely bomb. No one really knows why MacT did this or what went through his brain (besides not much). Robert Nilsson(very comparable to Shremp) has been placed on the fourth line for various reasons and at various times. Tom Gilbert, in a polar opposite direction, was given way too much money and way too much responsibility way too fast. The jury is still out on the rebuilding project that is Gilbert Brule although I'm not sure putting an offensive prospect on a line with Zach Stortini and Kyle Brodziak is really the best way to bring out his potential. Now I can hear the arguments of "What about all the success the young players had last year?". Well apparently there's an answer. During an interview on the Team 1260 it was put out there that former assistant coach Rob Daum was the one who worked with the young players on the Oilers last season while MacT pretty much left that to him. True to Oilers character they replaced Daum behind the bench this past offseason with MacTavish version 2.0 aka. Kelly Buchberger and the play of the young players has plummeted. Sophmore Jinx or brutal coaching? Or both?

It's obvious that the Oilers don't know how to handle young players and their main problem is that they seem to think that putting a young player in a position to fail is better then a position to suceed. The young skill players they've had have either had defence drilled into in the minors or forced to play with pluggers on the third and fourth line. You take a look at all the other long-term succesful organizations around the league and when they have a young player with alot of offensive upside they usually put him in a position to succed. San Jose put Devin Setoguchi on a line with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, Montreal put Max Pacioretty on a line with Alex Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec, Philadelphia brings up Claude Giroux and he goes on Jeff Carter's line, and finally when Bruce Boudreau took over the Washington Capitals one of the first things he did was put Nicklas Backstrom on a line with Alex Ovechkin and his career sky-rocketed after that and now he plays well with or without Ovie. Young players need to be put into a position to suceed to get their confidence up and the rest will come with time.

The Oilers impatience has cost them with young players for years and will continue to do so until Craig MacTavish and his coaching staff get the axe and Kevin Lowe completely steps away from the organization. Until that day however, MacTavish continue running the team like any player that doesn't drop down to block a shot with their face isn't really that valuable. The Toby Peterson's of the world will continue to man the point on the Oilers second wave of the PP, The Marty Reasoner's(MacTavish undoubtedly cries himself to sleep at night now that Marty has left him for Atlanta where he centre's Ilya Kovalchuk. Boy their coach sounds just like MacT!) will be their #1 go to guy as Shaun Horcoff's injury replacement and the Rob Shremp's will continue to get 4 minutes of ice time on the fourth line with no real chance to succeed.

Sunday Rumor Roundup

During its Saturday night second intermission “Satellite Hotstove” segment the following was discussed:

-Al Strachan claims the Penguins players despise head coach Michel Therrien and management is under pressure to make the playoffs from ownership. Pierre LeBrun and Mike Milbury also claim GM Ray Shero is under pressure to make a trade or do something else, with Milbury suggesting firing Therrien could be the option. Strachan suggested moving a young player like Evgeni Malkin while LeBrun notes recently re-signed Jordan Staal’s new contract doesn’t have a ‘No-trade” clause.

-LeBrun noted the Lightning deny shopping Vincent Lecavalier but some around the league claim otherwise. The league is satisfied the Lightning are ok financially. Strachan claims the Lightning might not be shopping Lecavalier but they are “exploring” the option. LeBrun notes Lecavalier’s NTC kicks in July 1st.

-LeBrun suggests the Maple Leafs could trade Tomas Kaberle if he sought a deal while Strachan suggests Kaberle may be willing to move now when he could have some say in where he’d go rather than this summer , when there’ll be a two-month window (if the Leafs miss the playoffs) where he could be traded anywhere without his consent.

From The Ottawa Sun

-The Edmonton Oilers are eyeing the Senators for help at center but are more interested in Mike Fisher (despite his struggles this season) than Jason Spezza, as the latter’s contract is expensive and the Oilers would prefer to bring in a “hard-nosed” player.

-One team that might be interested in Spezza is the Columbus Blue Jackets as supposedly head coach Ken Hitchcock believes he can improve Spezza’s all-round game. The Jackets are believed shopping Rostislav Klesla.

- Now that Maple Leafs d-man Tomas Kaberle has let it be known he’d be willing to waive his NTC the Senators, Canadiens, Canucks and Kings could make pitches for him. Garrioch claims Leafs GM Brian Burke isn’t afraid to deal with the Senators or Habs. Teams could also be interested in Leafs such as Nik Antropov, Matt Stajan, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Dominic Moore.

-Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford can’t find any takers for defenseman Frantisek Kaberle


-The Ottawa Senators will start rookie call-up goalie Brian Elliott for the next week or so and decide after that if they’ll keep him up, which could mean they would try to shop Martin Gerber. LeBrun reports there were talks between the Senators and LA Kings about Gerber but they’ve passed preferring to give Jonathan Quick “a good look”.

-Contract talks between the Detroit Red Wings and Henrik Zetterberg are ongoing but so far no breakthrough. LeBrun claims the Wings won’t start talks with Marian Hossa and Johan Franzen, who are also UFAs this summer, until they’ve got Zetterberg signed first.

-NY Islanders centers Doug Weight and Mike Comrie are available. Weight isn’t keen to leave the Isles but he lacks a no-trade clause and would have no say in what happens.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

NHL news and notes from January 10th, 2009

-Brendan Shanahan has rejoined the team that he started with.....kind of. He has joined the New Jersey Devils but has yet to sign a contract although that seems like it's just a matter of time.

-Boston's Claude Julien and San Jose's Todd McLellan were named the head coaches of their respective conference all-star teams.

-A happy birthday to "The Big M" Frank Mahovlich. The senator turns 71 today. He was a Stanley Cup champion 6 times(4 with the Leafs and 2 with the Canadiens) and a hall of famer.

-The Hockey News has a story that Jaromir Jagr would consider returning to the NHL next season to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

-The Atlanta Thrashers acquired centre Rich Peverley on waivers today from Nashville today.

-Tampa Bay ownership and Vinny Lecavalier's agent, Kent Hughes, publicaly shot down a story that the ownership group of the Lightning were in such financial trouble that they were going to trade Lecavalier before his NTC kicked in on July 1rst.

-Boston GM Peter Chiarelli announced that Marco Sturm could very well miss the rest of the season with a left knee injury he sufured versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 18th.

Side notes: The KHL all-star game was held today with Team Jagr defeating Team Yashin 7-6 in the Red Square today. Marcel Hossa(formerly of the Montreal Canadians, NYR and Phenoix Coyotes) had 3 goals.

The United States scored a 3-2 OT win over Canada in the women's U-18 Women's Hockey championshop final.

Friday, January 9, 2009

NHL news and notes from the day

-Patrice Bergeron has vowed to be back in the Bruins lineup before the season is out. He's been out a few weeks now with his second concussion in as many years.

-Ottawa coach Craig Hartsburgh has toned down his critisism of star players Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza a day after saying that the pair had "cost them the game" against Boston thursday night.

-Mikhail Grabovski has been suspended 3 games for abuse of officials after pushing a linesman in last nights 6-2 loss to the Montreal Canadians. He and Hab Sergei Kostitsyn had been vehimently trying to go after each other with less then 2 minutes to play and had to be restrained by referees.

-Mats Sundin(I've heard just about enough about this guy) will be making his home debut for the Vancouver Canucks.

-A Oilers sniper Ales Hemsky has been place on IR.

-The Young Stars have been announced by the nhl for the Sophmore vs. Rookie game the night before the All-Star games. The Rosters include Bryan Little, Mason Raymond, Devin Setoguchi, Andrew Cogliano, Erik Ersberg, Niklas Backstrom, Steve Mason, Luke Schenn, Drew Doughty, Kris Versteeg, Blake Wheeler, Patrik Berglund, James Neal, Micheal Frolik, Mikkel Boedker, Steven Stamkos, Marc Staal, Kris Letang, Milan Lucic, and Brandon Dubinskey.

Original Six Rivalries, are they dead or are they gaining steam again?

For the first time in what seems like decades, and for the first time since I began to really watch and understand hockey, the Original Six teams(minus the Leafs) are all very compeditive teams near or at the top of their respective conferences and divisions. The Blackhawks and the Red Wings just finished this years(and third in total, I get really annoyed that the NHL ignores the first outdoor game in Edmonton between the Oilers and the Habs. That was the first outdoor game, not the one between the Sabres and the Penguins) winter classic game at Wrigley field which ended in a 6-4 victory for the Red Wings with both teams battling for the #1 spot in the central division, the Habs and Leafs had a fight filled grudge fest with a Belarussion flavour at the end of the 6-2 Habs victory. The Boston Bruins are back and off to one of the best starts in franchise history sitting pretty in the top perch in the east and the New York Rangers are battling the Philadelphia Flyers for first in the Atlantic division and have fantastic young threesome of players to work with in Nikolai Zherdev, Marc Staal and one of the top 5 goalies in the league with Henrik Lundqvist. The Leafs, even though they are currently battling for the #1 overall pick they have managed to generate some excitement with the hiring of Brian Burke and the play of 2008 #5 overall pick Luke Schenn. All the Original six teams either have bright hope for the future, a chance to battle for the Stanley Cup or both. But the question is, after all the years of mediocrity to down right brutal performances(with the exception of Detroit) are the rivalries between the original six teams really still there?

There are of course two sides to this argument. Most of the people who say the rivalries are dead are those who have been around and watching hockey much longer then I. They remember when there where still just 6 teams and the expansion to 12 in 1967. The good old days when teams would take bounty's out on other teams star players, the days before Bettman and his boys started censoring anything remotely entertaining(Burke vs. Lowe and as much of a jerk as he is you have to admit Sean Avery was pretty entertaining). The violence in today's game is nothing compared to what the players did to each other back then which some people tend to forget and considering you played the same teams over 10 times a year things could get out of control back then, much worse then now. Legendary hockey writer Red Fischer who's been covering the Habs since the night of the Richard Riot in 1955 wrote the article that gave me the idea for my first blog topic here( when he wrote an article this morning about how he believes the legendary Habs/Leafs rivalry has died and his reasons why.

The there are those younger hockey fans such as myself who weren't around for the glorious hey day of the original six rivalries. We've lived through the pre-lockout years when it was the same 4-5 teams every year who could buy Stanley Cup teams(although Tampa Bay and Calgary actually ended the trend of the same usual teams having at least one spot in the final) with the Leafs, Red Wings and, before they traded Jumbo Joe, the Bruins were usually aroung the top of their conferences although the Wings were the only one of the 3 who ever had any playoff success, while the Habs and Chicago always seemed to be in a state of rebuilding and the Rangers were a continuous disaster of high payed underacheivers.................until now. This is the first real dose that young hockey fans have really ever had of the legendary franchises being good at the same time. Could this be a new beginning to some legendary rivalries and playoff series between Chicago and Detroit, Boston and Montreal with the Rangers possibly in there as well in the coming years with Toronto eventually building a contender? I guess only time will tell. It's my opinion anyway that the Original Six rivalries could just be getting started again.