Jason Chen

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  1. Hello again! It feels like forever since I've been back. Last year, I left this "Bleeding Blue and Green" blog (special thanks to Derek Jory for the opportunity, should he ever see this) after the website overhaul and started my own blog, Armchair Hockey. Check it out if you have a chance! There's some more recent stuff about the Rick Nash trade sweepstakes, the Kings-Flyers relationship and more. The Canucks pick 26th this year, and unfortunately for them it's a strong year for defensemen but not much to speak of in terms of forwards. The Canucks need more offensive punch up front, especially on the wings. I suspect this draft will be more for teams looking to plug lineup holes, since very few prospects (perhaps only Yakupov and maybe Murray or Galchenyuk) have the talent to be considered franchise players. Regardless, check out my 2012 mock draft to see who the Canucks might pick! It's been quite a walk down memory lane. Here's some of my favourite posts from years past. Public enemy number one Theo Fleury was right but got the year wrong. The Canucks were bounced in the first round in 2012, not 2011. Regardless, the new team with a huge target behinds its back is now the LA Kings. There's no question about that one. Keep an eye out for Joe I highlighted some of the top NCAA prospects, including the Canucks' own Joe Cannata, you should keep an eye on. Here's a update: - Dumoulin is foregoing his senior year at Boston College and just inked a three-year entry level contract. Faulk finished with 22 points in a pretty impressive rookie campaign. Along with McBain and Ryan Murphy, the Canes now have a deep blueline and is my reasoning for them taking a forward at the draft. - Cam Atkinson and Jason Zucker got call-ups to the big club and both are tabbed to be regulars next year. Both are quick and dangerous goal scorers when given the opportunity. - Jon Merrill (NJ) and Danny Kristo (Montreal) will likely head back to the college ranks. Both are still unsigned. Merrill is making his way back into the Wolverines lineup after going through some off-ice issues that resulted in a suspension from the team. - Chris Kreider needs no explanation. Best team ever? I stand by my belief that the 2010-11 Canucks were the most talented bunch assembled in franchise history, and also the best chance they had at a Cup. I thought we had a much weaker group this year and there's lots of holes to fill up front for next season. What's wrong with swagger? In which I supported the antics of PK Subban and Linus Omark, while pointing out that super classy guy Henrik Sedin does the same once in a while. It's fun, it's entertaining, it's good for the pro athlete to exude confidence and cockiness like that. For a young player, having that high confidence with a coach that supports that kind of attitude (not Jacques Martin) can do wonders. 30 players to watch By far my most favourite post to write every year. A (long) update: Bobby Ryan is now a bona fide first line winger; Bogosian's one of the game's hardest hitters; Horton hasn't scored 35 for the B's yet; Myers had an injury setback; Giordano is still better than Bouwmeester; McBain is coming along nicely; Hjalmarsson has been underwhelming; Quincey is back on Detroit; Russell is now a Blue with less pressure; Niskanen has been great for the Pens; questions still abound about Filppula; Hemsky can't stay healthy (again); Kulikov is the Panthers' most dangerous offensive defenseman, not Campbell; Schenn was key for the Flyers; Burns is now in San Jose; Subban is regarded as the league's young elite; Colin Wilson will crack 50 points next year (fearless prediction); Greene has been good but not nearly as he once was; I'm convinced Josh Bailey is done; Zuccarello-Aasen has returned to Europe with an NHL out clause; Karlsson is a Norris nominee; Giroux is a top ten talent; Turris looks rejuvenated in Ottawa; Paul Martin has been a rock; Demers regressed; jury's still out on Berglund; Hedman was one of Tampa's most reliable; I think Phaneuf's playing his best since Calgary; Raymond's tenure in Vancouver is likely over; and Carlson's Washington's best.
  2. It's playoff hockey time, my favourite time of the year. It's the time of year when lying on the couch watching playoff hockey at 4 PM and opening up the window for a nice breeze constitutes as "enjoying the nice weather." Whatever, with the MLB regular season and both NBA and NHL playoffs starting this might as well be my winter hibernation. And lo and behold, the greatest time of the year has also given us the best possible matchup in the first round - and it's certainly not because I think they're the shakiest team going in (that's Los Angeles from the West and Philadelphia from the East for me). I want the Blackhawks because I want to kick their butts. There is no question that the Canucks are the best (regular season) team this year and with Salo, Edler, Bieksa, Hamhuis, Ballard, and Ehrhoff all healthy, our confidence should be at an all-time high. When the Canucks do beat them (in 5 games, no less), it'll be a little less satisfying because their big "Boogey Man" from last year is hitting the courses early with the rest of the Atlanta Thrashers. It just wouldn't be as sweet a victory without Dustin Byfuglien looking dejected on the Blackhawks bench, but a series win is a series win, and the Canucks will have the final trump card. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/2995856.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> Other than the Boston-Montreal series (way too many storylines, the best being Price vs. Thomas), no other series has the potential to be more historically significant in a rivalry than this one. (I guess you could count Philadelphia-Buffalo, who will meet for the 9th time in history, but some of those series have been duds). Consider the consequences: if the Blackhawks manage to upset, they WILL have Vancouver's number. A 2 vs. 3-seed series could go either way, but if an 8 seed upsets the league's best team, they walk into the second round with sky-high confidence (which is also a reason why when lower seeds upset in the first round they tend to win in the second too). If the Canucks win, they are now the league's best team without any supposed weaknesses. Only Detroit will be viewed as a potential weakness but only because of their pedigree and reputation and goaltending's an issue. San Jose might be a really tough opponent too if they could bring the same intensity to brought in their final regular season tune-up but their depth doesn't hold a candle to the Canucks'. Either way, it's going to be an interesting series, blowout or not. Here's 5 things to watch for: 1. Roberto Luongo enters this series as the X factor (again and again) and this time's there's really no excuses – the Canucks have given him the rest during the season he obviously needed to stay fresh. He's said so himself, he's playing the best hockey of his career. Alright, Roberto, show us what you've really got. You may have a gold medal around your neck but we want the parade. And for the record, I don't think Luongo's leash is very long (if things go really south there's no way you don't play Schneider even though he is a rookie). 2. Who steps up their game for the Hawks? The depth isn't there and other than the usual suspects (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Sharp) their best offensively gifted player is Michal Frolik who has 3 goals in 28 games. Tomas Kopecky will stir up some trouble but he should be easier to handle since he's about 50 lbs. lighter than Byfuglien. It's nothing a Kevin Bieksa-stare can't handle. 3. The only guy I've seen who's always been able to really get the Sedins off their game is Dave Bolland. Unfortunately, along with Troy Brouwer, both are unlikely to dress for the series opener. Bolland has a concussion and with those things it's always dicey. Like I said, if the Canucks win it won't be quite the same, but they're still the Blackhawks, no? 4. Maturity is often the issue with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows and by distancing themselves from any extracurriculars Kesler cracked the 40-goal barrier. There were times though, where you could see the old Kesler start to creep back, especially when his wingers weren't making the plays or when things weren't going right for himself. It's going to be a pressure packed series and there will be all the more need for Kesler and Burrows to stay on an even keel. (As an aside, my two picks for the Hart are between Daniel and Corey Perry, but I also think that Kesler's the team MVP. How does that work? How does the second-best player on his team be considered for the Hart? Honestly, I don't even know. I can't really explain it until you watch a Canucks game. Also, shouldn't the Canucks should given an award to Mr. Kesler for his little sit-down with Ryan? Without him, no 41-goal Kesler.) 5. That's compared to the Hawks, who sounded more relieved to be just in the playoffs. They didn't bring their A game against Detroit (with shaky goaltending) and they had to count on Marc Crawford and the Stars to choke (who didn't see that coming?) to make it into the top 8. Some of the players couldn't even watch the game. When that happens the players are more relieved than psyched to play in the playoffs. If the Blackhawks can go from "happy to be there" to "brand new season" mode before game one they will be much more competitive. The Hawks entered last summer as a team with a lot of swagger and confidence. That's definitely not the story anymore. Can and will the Canucks take care of that? For more hockey stuff visit my new (still kind of under construction) site Armchair Hockey. Click for my Eastern Conference Preview, Hart, Jack Adams, Selke, Norris, and Masterton picks. Western Conference Preview and Vezina, Calder picks coming soon.
  3. I agree, this year's playoffs is going to hard to predict (more on that in the future playoff post) but for various reasons (Kesler's emergence, blueline depth, rested Luongo). However, going back to 2004, when the Canucks started to string together division banners, the team has never made it past the semifinals. Divison banner years in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2010, have resulted in two upsets and in the two losses against higher seeds (#2 Ducks in 2007, #2 Hawks in 2010), the Canucks have only one three games combined (combined score 14-7, I think). And in that 2007 first-round series against Dallas, we got really lucky because we should've lost and had no business of being in the second round against the Ducks either. There's also the manner in which we've lost as well, and the last two years have been ugly (5-1, 7-5). It certainly has looked like we don't belong. I think the same can be said about the Sharks and Capitals. They just don't look like they belong despite being regular season monsters.
  4. That reminds me of another thing - despite all the praises this team has received, this team doesn't have the same respect a Cup-winning team does. Going into round one, if I was a #8 team, would I be more scared of the high-flying Caps and a rested Ovechkin or a struggling Flyers squad? It's a no-brainer, I'm more terrified of the Flyers because I know they've been there and know what it takes while the pressure's on the Caps to perform and I KNOW they can cave under pressure. It's the same deal with Vancouver. Until we win a Cup, there will always be detractors. Nobody's talking about just how average the Habs team is (asides from Carey Price) because they've gone on long runs and have a trump card in the form of a Cup title from '93. Criticism comes with the territory of being number one and failing to win important games. The Canucks are in the same boat as the Sharks and Caps. It's tough to hear about all the whining in this city because Vancouver can be such a bandwagon hockey town and there are tons of Canucks fans who are better than that.
  5. "I'm going to go out on a limb here and I'm going to say that the Vancouver Canucks will not make it out of the first round... no matter who they play," says Theo Fleury. Soon after Fleury made those comments, he was lambasted on Twitter (@TheoFleury14) and accused of being a misinformed troll. Ah, the beauty of social media and the Internet. Now, before everyone here starts getting their pitchforks and lanterns in a city-wide manhunt, let's step back and discuss this. First, while I disagree with Fleury's prediction, he has made it clear that he's going against the grain. There's nothing inherently wrong with that - it would've been akin to saying that Boston U would've upset Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament. You're going to get laughed at, and Fleury clearly knew what he was going to get, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. If the Canucks did indeed bow out in the first round, doesn't that make Fleury a genius? Like it or not, he makes some great points in his argument. He even concedes that the Sedins' skills are mind-blowing. Second, if there's anybody's opinion about this matter that you should respect, it's Theo Fleury's. Very few players have made it to the NHL with a size disadvantage and even fewer have played with the same amount of fire Fleury had back in his heyday. He's an Olympic gold medalist, a Stanley Cup winner, and overcome substance abuse and depression. He's been on league-leading teams, teams that have choked, and teams that have won. If anyone knows about fighting a battles, win or lose, it's Fleury. Expectations are sky high in Vancouver - anything short of a Cup title and the President's Trophy this squad will win won't mean anything. The ultimate prize is still the Cup, so whatever happens between Opening Night and the last game of the playoffs is just all white noise when all is said and done. Jason Botchford isn't sure why there's been so much criticism directed at the Canucks, and more specifically, Roberto Luongo, but it's clearly because the Canucks have never, even been in this position. Think about it. Which team is the most criticized in the MLB? The Yankees, because they're a historically great team with an insane payroll that isn't a reflected on the field. The NBA? The Miami Heat, because LeBron James and his buddies teamed up and have formed one of the most talented nucleus in league history and promised 6 championships yet still struggle to stay atop the East. The NFL? The New England Patriots, because Tom Brady's pretty boy image was front and center along with their historic 16-0 season. The Vancouver Canucks are the best team in the NHL. They sit comfortably atop the league standings and boast the league's best special teams. Luongo is statistically having one of the best seasons in his career. Make no mistake - the Canucks are public enemy number one in all 29 other arenas in the NHL. Every single team wants to beat the Canucks. They're going to get picked apart by fans, experts, GMs, and coaches because they're the team to beat. They're the litmus test. And one of the easiest bones to pick with the Canucks? The fact that they've been blown out by the Hawks in two consecutive years, and in both years Luongo has been less than stellar. Pressure to win in the playoffs comes from regular season success. It's the logical step. What people want to know are the ones at the top. It's an exercise in social psychology as it is about sports. The reason why so many top teams choke (Washington) is because there's much more pressure on them to perform. And so many upsets happen every year (Montreal) because there's less pressure. Some teams thrive off pressure, some don't. So far, it's pretty fair to say the Canucks don't. Some people in Vancouver are up in arms because they can't take the criticism. Well, now we know how the Sharks felt the past couple of years and we know how Sidney Crosby feels on a nightly basis. You want to know why nobody picks apart the Red Wings' game even though Jimmy Howard really isn't that good, Jonathan Ericsson has hit a wall in his development, and Tomas Holmstrom refuses to fight? Because they've won Cups. Stop whining about not getting enough respect. Suck it up, play hard, and win the damn thing.
  6. For the Ducks, it's all Hiller. No Hiller, no chance. Same deal with the Preds and Pekka Rinne.
  7. Certain Canucks players and fans may not be so quick to make bold statements, but here's mine: write it down, the Vancouver Canucks are your 2011 President's Trophy winners. No other team in the NHL has cracked the century mark and the Canucks are already 5 points over. Now that's settled, I want to shift you attention to the big March tournament. No, not the one where Mike Krzyzewski's helmet-hair and Kansas' Morris twins are the prime time feature. The OTHER NCAA tournament, the one with Canucks goaltending prospect Joe Cannata. <img src="http://www.merrimackathletics.com/images/mice/2007-09_Images/2008_vs._BC/Joe_Cannata_3.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Cannata was drafted in the 6th round, 173rd overall in the 2009 draft, the 13th ranked North American goalie and a product of Boston College High School and the US Development Program, where he led the U-18 American squad to a championship at the Five Nations tournament. Now in his junior year with the Merrimack Warriors, who play out of North Andover, MA, Cannata has led his team to the school's first NCAA Division I birth since 1988. It's quite a feat considering the staying power of more well-known hockey programs like Michigan, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Boston U, Boston College, and North Dakota. With 25 wins, a 2.44 GAA and a save percentage north of .910, Cannata has been the Warriors' MVP all year. Like Steve Nash during his days at Santa Clara, the two unheralded athletes have led their mid-level programs to NCAA berths, and considering how many schools are part of the NCAA family, it's quite a feat, surely one that won't go unnoticed by Mike Gillis. There's been questions about the Canucks' future in net, and with Cory Schneider's strong play some have been brave enough to put forth the notion that the Boston College product should be Vancouver's no. 1 netminder. But these types of questions and headaches are the ones GMs love to have, and that's not mentioning that the Canucks have a promising Swedish import in Eddie Lack, currently polishing his craft with the Moose. Like Schneider, Cannata is a Massachusetts native and NCAA product. It seems as though the Canucks may have found their goaltending goldmine. For a complete list of drafted players in the tournament and the 16-team bracket, click here. Merrimack will play ninth-ranked Notre Dame Irish in the first round, highlighted by Riley Sheahan, a Red Wings pick that may eventually turn out to be a solid third-line checking centre. Other players to watch: Carolina's Brian Dumoulin (Boston College) and Justin Faulk (Minnesota-Duluth), two of the higher ranked prospects in the Hurricanes system whose playing styles translate very well to the NHL game. Columbus' Cam Atkinson (Boston College), drafted 157th overall in 2008, the 5'8" winger has some of the best wheels and hands in the college ranks. With his second consecutive 30-goal season for the Eagles, some scouts compare him to Boston College alum Brian Gionta, who scored 30+ goals three times for the Hockey East heavyweight. Detroit's Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame), who will face Cannata and the Warriors in the first round. While he doesn't do anything particularly well, he's a player that projects to be an effective NHL player given a couple more years in the NCAA and Grand Rapids. Los Angeles' Derek Forbort (North Dakota), who I think is the reason why the Kings were so willing to part with Colten Teubert in the Dustin Penner deal. The 15th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the 6'5" defenseman plays both ends of the ice very well. Minnesota's Jason Zucker (Denver), who flew way under the radar in the draft and was plucked by the Wild 59th overall and represented USA at the most recent World Jr. Championships. Zucker, only a freshmen, has potted 21 goals this year, compared to Cam Atkinson, who had less than 10 in his first year. Montreal's Danny Kristo (North Dakota), who was Zucker's teammate at the WJC. The Habs have always been pretty good at finding NCAA talent (Ryan McDonagh, Max Pacioretty, Louis Leblanc) and Kristo is no different. New Jersey's Jon Merrill (Michigan) is one of the most highly-touted prospects in the NCAA. Those who the Devils gave up a lot to get Kovalchuk forget that their pipeline isn't that bare - Merrill's mobility and puck skills are top notch and Jacob Josefsen, Mattias Tedenby, and Alexander Vasyunov are slowly making their way into the big leagues. The Islanders' Blake Kessel (New Hampshire) is Phil's younger brother, but unlike Phil he's a defenseman. The Rangers' Chris Kreider (Boston College) is a guy you have to watch. The big, burly power forward can score at will, and with 10 goals in two years for USA at the WJC he's already tied with Modano and LeClair and trails only JR's 13 and Gionta's 11. He was recently named MVP of the Beanpot Classic, an annual matchup between Boston U and BC. Ottawa's Loui Caporusso (Michigan), one of the few seniors to watch who will undoubtedly make the jump to Binghamton next year. Pittsburgh's Beauregard Bennett (Denver), better known as 'Beau', is seen as the long-term solution to Crosby's wing. St. Louis' Jaden Schwartz (Colorado College), who is one of two Schwartz brothers that makes up 2/3 of the Tigers' top line. I thought Schwartz was the best forward for Canada at the WJC until his injury when Ryan Johansen stepped up, but despite his small size Schwartz is a can't-miss prospect. Toronto's Jimmy Hayes (Boston College), who has 20 goals this year and joins an impressive crop of NCAA forwards in Toronto's system that features Christian Hanson (Notre Dame), Tyler Bozak (Denver), and Jerry D'Amigo (RPI before leaving for Kitchener). My readers (... however few) will know that I'm a big fan of NCAA hockey. Well, that's my shameless plug for the tournament but at least there's a Canuck in there, which really doesn't happen all that often. C'mon, wouldn't you have loved to see what kind of player Kesler was when he was at Ohio St.? Or how fast Mason Raymond was compared to his peers at Minnesota-Duluth? Or even see if you think Kevin Bieksa would've made the NHL after watching him at Bowling Green?
  8. All due respect but you're missing two MAJOR points. 1. Parity. Never has there been as much parity in the NHL. In Beliveau and Gretzky's days, there wasn't this much talent and there wasn't as many teams. I think everyone can agree on that. In a recent interview with Pavel Bure, he said the biggest difference in this league and the days in which he played was the skill level. Paraphrasing Bure: "Guys who are now 200 lbs. can skate like the guys who were 170 lbs. back in the 90s." 2. It's a different league. Beliveau and Gretzky came from distinctly different eras. The CBA signaled a completely different era. Hockey's changed a lot over the past 20 years, from equipment to player types and attributes. It's an unfair comparison to make. It's like saying, "Gretzky would've dominated the league today" or saying "Crosby would've dominated forty years ago because he's so much stronger and bigger compared to the guys from the '70s." It's an utterly useless argument to compare players from different eras.
  9. It's all politics. Brian Burke got absolutely FLAMED for his comments comparing Mike Brown and Sidney Crosby. He was right. In any situation, sports, jobs, business, current affairs, politics plays a HUGE role. Should Malkin have been suspended for that hit on Mitchell? I think so - at the very least that was a boarding, a charging, and a game misconduct. Am I telling you to feel bad for Crosby? Not really, and it's hard to tell anyone to sympathize with a player that earns $8.7 million a year. But keep in mind two things 1) the shelf-life of a pro hockey player isn't very long and the average AHL makes roughly $55,000. It's not bad but with the punishment these guys take it's not exactly fair value so we can't fault them for wanting a lot of money. It's their right. Some players side with reason and others just want to cash in. It's not unlike any opportunist in society. 2) If Crosby retires, this is a huge blow to the NHL. If Mitchell retires, and no disrespect to the local hometown boy, but who cares? Crosby is our generation's generational player. Our parents had Gretzky and our grandparents had Orr. In regards to generosity, why do you think Atlanta has a team? It's politics. Atlanta is the one of the US' biggest TV markets. Having Atlanta, LA, NY, and Florida makes that much more appetizing for ESPN or Versus to cut a TV deal. They're numbers guys. Gary Bettman and the NHL isn't any different.
  10. Like Trevor Gillies and his antics in the Penguins brouhaha, the league's negative headlines have far outweighed the good. Case in point - Sidney Crosby has now missed two months with a concussion and is now unlikely to return this season, and while that topic has dominated Maclean's covers and sparked talk of amending the rulebook in this week's GM meetings, the best story this season has been the playoff race. Never before do I remember such a close race in the West and two such intriguing storylines with the Leafs and Devils. But one thing's for sure: the Canucks will have to have a colossal collapse and the Wings would have to catch fire if the want to claim the West title. The former is unlikely to happen. This means that the Canucks enter the post-season as the number one seed, locking up home-ice advantage for, perhaps, the entire journey. With so much media scrutiny, so much pressure, and so many past meltdowns, you can't help but think that the Canucks are looking ahead to who they might face. They probably aren't, since they're such a level-headed team, and are concentrating on finishing the season on a high note. But of Minnesota, Anaheim, Nashville, Calgary, Dallas, and Phoenix (excluding Chicago and Los Angeles, who both have 7 wins in their last 10 and are most likely to finish in the top 5), who does Vancouver match-up the best? The worst? It is becoming increasing unlikely that the Wild will make the playoffs, but if they do, it'll present the Canucks with one of the most interesting match-ups. it's no secret - the Canucks stink at the Excel Energy Center in Minnesota, save Cory Schneider. The Canucks are tough at home and if they sweep the first two games then it's all fine and dandy. The only story that really matters is what to do if Luongo struggles. It's unlikely to happen for the 2011 Vezina-nominee (yes, I said it) but having such a strong backup eventually creates goalie controversies to varying degrees. The Ducks have a chance if they have Jonas Hiller, another would-be Vezina-nominee had he not been sidelined with vertigo, in the lineup. Dan Ellis may be hot right now and Ray Emery may be a feel-good story, but even with the addition of Beauchemin the Ducks just don't have enough depth up and down the roster. If the Canucks can play a clean game and keep Teemu Selanne off the powerplay and keep the Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry line from dominating, this should be an easy series. The Predators have not won a single playoff series in their history and it's not going to happen this year if they face the Canucks. Even with the unheralded Pekka Rinne, like the Ducks, the Preds just don't have the depth. The Shea Weber-led defense may frustrate the Canucks but the lack of scoring oomph in the Preds lineup may be even more frustrating for Barry Trotz. Let's not mentioning that the Preds will be playing 5 defensemen instead of 6 due to Shane O'Brien's constant bouts of Roxy flu. Of all the teams mentioned, Calgary scares me the most. They have a good goalie, an experienced blueline, and the ultimate warrior in Jarome Iginla. They've been a completely different team since Darryl Sutter was fired and are now playing the kind of hockey everyone expected them to play. They've got enough grit, size, toughness, and skill to at least make this a series. David Moss and Rene Bourque provides some good depth. The only questions here are the Canucks' health on defense and Calgary's poor matchups at centre against the Canucks. The Stars were in danger of missing the playoffs a couple weeks back after Brad Richards went down with an injury and the team was sent into a mini-downward spiral. Since then, the Stars have 6 wins in their last 10 and are trending up. Alex Goligoski was a good pickup for a team lacking offense from the blueline, even if the price was a little high. Marc Crawford is behind the bench and on squads that he's coached that don't feature Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg, he's only made it past the quarterfinals once. There's nothing on this Dallas team that really scares me - except for a potential writhing Mike Ribeiro suffering from extreme "back pain." There's just enough drive from Brenden Morrow and Langenbrunner and skill from Benn and the very underrated Loui Eriksson to cause the Canucks some trouble, but remember that in head-to-head matchups this year the Canucks swept the season series outscoring them 20-5. Phoenix is an interesting team. They've got a great coach, good goaltending, a mobile defense headlined by Keith Yandle, and a crop of forwards that gets the job done without an elite forward. If Ilya Bryzgalov gets hot, and we've seen this happen with many, many undeserving Cup finalists, watch out. But that's about it. But here's the REAL low down. When Kyle Wellwood returned with the Sharks, he was quite vocal about the experience and maturity level in the Canucks' dressing room, saying that there's still "lessons to learn." In a way, he is right - the Sharks look much better right now than I've seen in years past and the Capitals enter the post-season as a virtual unknown because of their new commitment to playing defense. Both teams have choked in the playoffs rather dramatically. Upsets over the number one seed in the first round are rare in any sport, but for the past two consecutive seasons, it's happened in the NHL. In 2009, the President's-winning Sharks were upset by the Ducks despite the Sharks setting franchise records in wins (53) and points (117). In 2010, the Habs defeated the President's-winning Capitals in the first round despite the Caps' awe-inspiring 121 regular season points. Both the Ducks and Habs featured hot goalies - Jonas Hiller had shutouts in Games 1 and 4, perhaps the vital games in any series, and everyone knows the Jaroslav Halak story. This is why Phoenix may pose the biggest threat if Ilya Bryzgalov, or even Miikka Kiprusoff, gets hot. The Canucks are set to shatter their franchise record of 105 points and could very will finish the season close to around 115 (7 wins in 11 games - not impossible).
  11. Another thing, I was going to talk about the number of teams that have won the Cup based on skill alone. (I'll save it for another day - it's worth a post of its own). Hard to really think of one. The Wings, during their glory days, had a supreme Grind Line. The Flyers, Hawks, Penguins, and Wings all have really strong supporting casts. I have yet to see any Ian Laperrieres, Dave Bollands, Max Talbots, or Danny Clearys on this team. Granted, no player is the same, but could you really see Tanner Glass, as good as he has been all year, score the Cup winner like Talbot?
  12. Desperation and intensity is certainly a big issue with this club and has been for the past two years. For some reason, when the going gets tough, this team just fades. It's not any singular player or coach's fault, but any fan who watches enough games can see that this team goes through lulls where they just can't do anything right. It's visibly different from Crosby's "I will destroy you" look and Mike Richards' "I'm not quitting" attitude. You're absolutely right about Vigneault's double-shifting tendencies - I have a feeling by the time Kesler was about to go against Chara he was already gassed from the previous five games. Is Vigneault a good coach? Certainly, and his track record proves it. But sometimes I wonder.
  13. So at the end of the day, still no Zenon Konopka. That's unfortunate. I really think he could've helped. But Mike Gillis had the most productive deadline day of his career, bringing in veterans Chris Higgins from Florida and Maxim Lapierre from Anaheim. On a day in which little activity was anticipated, in part due to the large number of trades that occurred weeks before the deadline, Gillis accounted for 1/8 of all total trades. This despite Vancouver supposedly being one of the quietest teams. How do these two players change the overall makeup of the team? <img src="http://www3.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Toronto+Maple+Leafs+v+Florida+Panthers+aokOrc1maZil.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Chris Higgins, #20 The former Yale University product was selected 14th overall by Montreal in the 2002 draft, a year that produced very few impact players. The 2002 class produced only four all-stars (Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Semin, and Cam Ward) and Higgins is only one of four players to have scored more than 100 career goals. However, Higgins' offensive struggles in recent years has been well documented, having been traded three times in the past two years, having been part of the deal that sent Scott Gomez to Montreal and Olli Jokinen to Calgary. While his 20-something goal-scoring days are over, Higgins is still a big-bodied forward with good skating ability who is able to play in the top nine. Maxim Lapierre, #40 Lapierre is an agitator, a fourth-line centre that brings speed and tenacity to the lineup. Another Montreal pick from the 2003 draft, Lapierre was instrumental in the Habs' upset of Washington last year. His speed, size, and general physicality caused problems in the offensive zone. But like Burrows and Kesler in year's past, Lapierre's antics, chirping and diving (he was once penalized for it in a playoff game) to name a few, began to limit his effectiveness as a hockey player. His (somewhat public) feud with Jacques Martin over his diminishing playing time earned him a ticket out of town, where even the grumpy Randy Carlyle couldn't harness him (Lapierre played 3:09 in his last game as a Duck and had started out on the third line). But like I've said before, if Gillis was to acquire a player, he better run it by Vigneault because there's no point in acquiring a player if your coach won't play him. That won't happen here with such an established veteran locker room presence with a clear focus on winning the Cup, and not to mention that Vigneault was once Lapierre's junior coach. Of course, lost in the shuffle is former Minnesota-Duluth star MacGregor Sharp (what an awesome name), who was acquired along with Lapierre from Anaheim. If Minnesota-Duluth rings a bell, it should: Mason Raymond was a Bulldog for two years, as was Evan Oberg, who went to Florida for Higgins. Current NHLers Jason Garrison (Florida) and Matt Niskanen (Pittsburgh) are also Minnesota-Duluth products. While Minnesota-Duluth is not exactly known as a NCAA powerhouse, it has become one of the better programs today, currently ranked 11th according to US College Hockey. However, Sharp is not expected to have a significant impact for Vancouver or Manitoba. And what did the three players cost us? A minor leaguer in Joel Perrault, two 3rd round picks, and Evan Oberg, who has since been leapfrogged by Chris Tanev, Lee Sweatt, Yann Sauve, and perhaps Kevin Connauton on the depth charts, making him expendable. You can certainly say that Gillis got great value, not sacrificing anybody on the current roster or significant prospect in the pipeline to nab two NHL veterans. But what about Marty Reasoner and Zenon Konopka, two players featured heavily in the Canucks' rumour mill? Well, there are reports that since Reasoner's wife is expecting soon, it didn't seem right for Tallon to deal him. Kudos to Tallon. And Konopka? The early rumour was that the Ducks were about to acquire the big centre but balked at Garth Snow's 2nd round pick asking price, which, to say the least, is idiotic. And we continue to wonder how and why Snow still has a job. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/images/upload/2011/01/107894055_std.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">While Lapierre will most certainly become a fixture on the fourth line, finally giving the team stability in that spot, the more interesting case is Higgins. He certainly has the ability to put the puck in the net but so do Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini and Mikael Samuelsson, but it's not the ability that's in question, it's the consistency. Higgins isn't the most consistent player by any means but at least he gives Vigneault other options after a clearly frustrated Kesler was trying to keep his mouth shut after a painful loss against Boston. Higgins can line up on the left wing on the second line with Samuelsson on the right, or even on the third line alongside Malhotra should Raymond or Tambellini re-find their touch. Given Higgins' size and physicality, it should relieve a little pressure off Kesler's shoulders, who has taken a beating every night on the powerplay and neither Raymond nor Samuelsson are as willing as Kesler to mix it up in the corners. That's not mentioning that Vigneault has lost so much faith in the rest of his lineup that Kesler's TOI/G has soared to over 22 minutes a game (including 26+ vs. Montreal) for the last six games. Even Sidney Crosby only averages around 22 minutes a night. But for the moment, Kesler will have to continue to keep his mouth shut because Higgins is still two weeks away from playing due to a fractured thumb. With the acquisition of Higgins, I hope Raymond hears the message loud and clear: score or sit. EDIT: Looks like Lapierre will be wearing 40, not 24. NOTE: I feel like I've been getting away from blogging about the Canucks, and since this is a Canucks site, I need to get back on track. For a breakdown of all the big deals, visit www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  14. The trade deadline is tomorrow and in all likelihood the Canucks will not be making any changes. It's understandable, given the status quo with the Canucks atop the league with a healthy 15-point lead over second-place Minnesota in the division. This team boasts some really high-end skill, but given the recent performances of Mason Raymond, the on-and-off play of Mikael Samuelsson, and the general ineffectiveness of the bottom six save Tanner Glass and Manny Malhotra on most nights, you have to wonder if this team is deep enough offensively to win the Cup. I'm not trying to be negative nor am I pushing the panic button, but it certainly a legitimate question to ask. When I envisioned the Canucks winning the Cup, I had imagined that Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, or some young player on a rookie contract would play a significant role on the team. Given how there is now more emphasis on building through the draft with the CBA, no team can win the Cup without significant contributions from cheap players. When the Blackhawks won, Patrick Kane (3.725), Jonathan Toews (2.8), Andrew Ladd (1.55), Brent Seabrook (3.5), Dustin Byfuglien (3) and Duncan Keith (1.475) all had cap hits under $4 million. The same goes the 2009 Penguins with Evgeni Malkin (3.834) and Jordan Staal (2.2). Even the runner-ups share the same trend: the 2009 Red Wings had Henrik Zetterberg at a $2.65 million cap hit and Johan Franzen was earning a shade over $1 million while the 2010 Flyers featured a breakout from Claude Giroux. The point is, you need cheap players to significantly outperform the value of the contracts. The players I've listed can easily double or triple their original value on the open market. It's not enough for a $3 million player to produce $4 million-type numbers. You need a Zetterberg or a Toews, who both were under $3 million, to give you $6 million-type, MVP-type production to win. Since it's very unlikely that a veteran can outplay the value of his contract due to their relatively older age and lack of upside, the only way to get such "value contracts" is to deploy cheap yet effective young players. Looking up and down the Canucks roster and salary structure, nobody on our current roster fits the bill except Alex Burrows, who is currently struggling. Everyone is at or close to market value and nobody's going to significantly outperform the value of their contracts. Particularly concerning are the forwards, where it often feels as though the Canucks don't have any weapons other than the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. Nobody else scores on a real consistent basis and the Canucks are so close to the cap that adding a significant forward without losing a roster player is out of the realm of possibility. Mike Gillis has already gone on record to say that he doesn't want to move anyone. That's also another way of saying that should anything go wrong, the Canucks will have to look for the answer internally. <img src="http://cache4.asset-cache.net/xc/90321829.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921CC759DF4EBAC47D06676A481A1E3B5C1F1C3E993EFDEA9D9664B3929E18EEB79E30A760B0D811297"class="imageFloatRightFramed">In steps Cody Hodgson. The highly touted prospect's cap hit is just $1.67 million and I think he does have the ability to make some significant contributions. It may not be this year, but he is signed until 2013. However, it's ridiculous to even think that he can make any sort of contribution, or even begin to, if he's stapled to the bench and playing five minutes a night. How is Hodgson, or any player, going to improve playing five minutes a night? That fourth-line centre spot has been a joke all season (anyone miss Ryan Johnson yet? I do), featuring a handful of call-ups in Alex Bolduc, Mario Bliznak, and Joel Perrault and players playing out of position with Jeff Tambellini, Raffi Torres, Glass, and even Raymond. I'd rather have Hodgson playing significant minutes in Manitoba and bring up a player who is a short-term solution. If not, Gillis better go out and grab someone... like Zenon Konopka. But, of course, Gillis will have to go through Vigneault first, because there's no use acquiring a player Vigneault ultimately is reluctant to use (Ballard). Vigneault is notoriously stubborn, and more often than not he's right, but how long is he going to stick to his guns? The thing with Vigneault is, if he doesn't like you, he's not going to put you in a position to succeed, which makes the odds for the underdog even worse. Even though Max Pacioretty didn't approach the situation the right way in Montreal, he was certainly right when he spoke out against Jacques Martin using him in the bottom six. A talented offensive player, Pacioretty knew he couldn't succeed without playing in the top six. It's a logical argument - you put scorers in your top six and checkers in the bottom six. So what, exactly, does playing Hodgson exclusively on the fourth line accomplish? Sergei Shirokov showed some great hands with Kesler but by the end of the next game he was on the fourth line again. Keith Ballard, who has some nice offensive instincts a kin to Jovanovski's in his ability to jump up on the play (I swear I'll stop the comparison someday), gets less powerplay ice-time than the decidedly average Aaron Rome (0:31 to 0:15 per game - granted, Ballard doesn't have a slapper but still). Tambellini is better than Raymond in a checking role with his physicality, but despite Gillis and Vigneault singing his praises he refuses to move Tambellini from the fourth line. By putting Kesler on the top powerplay unit (not even Vigneault's own idea) the Canucks have the league's powerplay, but the second unit is also suffering. Burrows and Raymond, two (fairly) regulars on the second unit, have just 5 PPG combined (they had 12 last year), one less than Henrik's season total. The Canucks feature three of the league's top 15 scorers this year (costing roughly $17 million combined) but the offensive depth of the team suffers for it. So this brings me to my next point. There's no point in trying to keep Christian Ehrhoff beyond this season. This ridiculous rash of injuries to our blueline aside, with Ballard, Hamhuis, Edler, and Bieksa, who I would re-sign, is a pretty good four-man group growing forward. It's comparable to Pittsburgh's Letang-Orpik-Martin-Michalek group, which I would say may be one of the deepest four-man groups in the league. Seeing as how Seabrook and Byfuglien both signed deals worth more than $5 million per season, the market value for Ehrhoff is extremely high. If he isn't willing to take a salary around $4 million, there's no point in keeping him because this Canucks squad needs another legitimate top six forward. Samuelsson is not the answer and it's becoming increasingly clear that Raymond is not either, despite me having him pegged for 30 goals before the season. Kesler's frustration is written on the wall. It couldn't have been clearer last night. He's tired of carrying the second line. Of course, this doesn't mean Ehrhoff's going to be dealt at the deadline. Far from it, but depending on how well Ehrhoff and the team performs in the playoffs, he could be a huge trade chip at the draft on June 24. For more hockey material, visit my new website, www.armchairhockey.net or follow me on Twitter @jasonchen16. Thanks for reading.
  15. 1. Lupul hasn't been successful since the post-lockout season. There's a reason he did not crack Anaheim's top-6 this season and honestly, TO just acquired a more injury-prone version of Stempniak. All that and his upside is worse than Versteeg's. I have to disagree. If you excuse that horrendous Oilers season, Lupul was a 50-point player before his return to Anaheim where he suffered a back injury and an infection and lost 25 lbs. I think he's a much better player than Stempniak, who thrived in Phoenix in part because Tippett is a better coach and has a better system. Hard to say if Lupul or Versteeg has the higher upside five years down the road, but it certainly looks like Versteeg has the upper hand, if only because he's healthier. Prospects are hit or miss. Even the "can't miss" ones, miss. Like Alex Daigle and Pavel Brendl. I was watching the Minnesota-Wisconsin game last night and Gardiner certainly needs some work. I can see why people describe him as fluid, because for a tall guy he's got a very smooth stride, but his reaction time just isn't there. The one goal he scored, off a long rebound with a completely out of position goalie, took him about two seconds to coral the puck and shoot it. That's just way too long. He certainly needs to react faster and read the play better. Fowler was an interesting case because he blew everyone away at camp. That's not mentioning that the Ducks blueline was so thin to start. Had Fowler been a Leaf I don't think he would've cracked the lineup as easily - going into the season the Leafs' defense was supposed to be one of their strong points. Hard to say if Gardiner's going to be a star, odds are he won't, but it always seems like any prospect in Toronto is doomed to fail. Same goes for Kadri, who will never live up to the hype. Nobody looks good besides Phaneuf. You either look terrible because he's piling on the points (which he hasn't done since Calgary) or because you're trying to cover his butt on 2-on-1s. Niedermayer was certainly a big reason why he was so good, but Beauchemin was one of the few really consistent Ducks. Chicago is losing because even with Frolik they still don't have the kind of depth they had last year and their goaltending isn't very good. I do believe Frolik will stay in Chicago because there's no use acquiring him if you're not thinking long term. If the Hawks are looking for a playoff push I would've looked at some other more experienced depth players and UFAs, like a Dvorak or even Stillman (cap restrictions aside). Three games isn't a big sample size so I'm willing to give Frolik the benefit of the doubt so far, and Quenneville's been away from the team. Tallon has drafted extremely well in Florida, but that organization's been known to draft some good players. No one pans out in Florida because the fans don't care - as a hockey player you reach a certain point and you question why you're even considering playing hard at all, like Horton and Bouwmeester. I'm hopeful Weber stays in Nashville, and while contract talks have stalled I'd be surprised if he takes the Kovalchuk route. I think this is the best Preds team we've seen in quite some time. The much criticized Lombardi and Fisher make a good 2a and 2b centre while I think they have something special in Colin Wilson and Cal O'Reilly. Defense is unquestionably deep because of the way they draft. The only thing that's eluded them is playoff success and if they get home-ice advantage they will win. This is the year. Spezza's an interesting case because he's by far the most talented player on the Sens. I'd give him a new coach and gameplan before I give up on him. Him and Karlsson are the two players I'd be most reluctant to deal based on skill and Alfredsson for sentimental reasons. 6. Anderson is a UFA. Elliott is an RFA. So Ottawa essentially dumps cap space for the summer while Colorado gets a backup locked up for next season without even trying. Done. I expect both teams to perhaps push hard for Vokoun, Bryzgalov and possibly even Howard, who Detroit has yet to lock up. (Because Howard will be the goat if they lose early in the playoffs.)
  16. Boston-Philadelphia and Vancouver-Detroit would give the league one it's highest ratings ever. Count it. Philadelphia will hold when Boucher or Bobrovsky gets hot - they made the finals with Boucher and Leighton, which I think is a slightly weaker tandem. I don't think Boston's offense can beat the Flyers' defense - only Milan Lucic has the ability to go one-on-one against Pronger.
  17. Christmas for the hockey fan is coming soon. As the deadline approaches, several teams have started to jump the gun. This is the first time I remember deals being completed several weeks before the deadline. Some of the big names have already been moved while I imagine others are waiting for the market to settle down. With Ottawa and Toronto both getting a head start on selling their assets, I don't imagine there will be a lot of big trades on deadline day but that won't stop the TSN crew from re-hashing the same trades for about six hours. To save you some time here's the breakdown on the trades so far. February 9 - Toronto trades Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul People think Lupul's a salary dump, and he is for Anaheim, since at $4-plus million a year he's just too expensive as a third-line winger. That being said, he's going to be a huge lightning rod for Leafs fans. But Lupul can still score. Like Keith Ballard, this entire season has been a transition year for Lupul, who's practically missed an entire year due to various injuries and a serious infection. Don't write him off yet. Cody Hodgson (the Canucks parallels will stop, I promise) was written off by many after the entire controversy over his bulging disc last year but when he scored his first NHL goal people were all too ready to jump back on the wagon. In Beauchemin, the Ducks get an experienced defenseman back on a blueline that is completely devoid of any sort of depth and who played his best hockey under Randy Carlyle. Gardiner's an interesting piece. I remember when he was drafted - your prototypical strong-skating defenseman that would be valued in today's NHL. Gardiner's averaging a point per game in his third year at Wisconsin, but that's hardly a barometer for any kind of success. His own coach, Mike Eaves (father of Patrick), admits that he's got work to do before he makes the NHL. Hard to tell if his collegiate success would translate to the big leagues - Patrick Wiercioch, a second-round pick from University of Denver by Ottawa, was a similar big-bodied, able skater averaging a point per game, but has only scored 6 points in 48 games for Binghamton. February 9 - Florida trades Alexander Salak and Michael Frolik to Chicago for Jack Skille, Hugh Jessiman, and David Pacan I love this trade for Chicago... puke. Michael Frolik is the most talented player in this deal, just edging out Salak. I don't imagine we'll ever see Skille live up to his seventh-overall potential (Kopitar, Marc Staal, and Stastny were still all available) but he's got the potential to be a second-line winger, although he might be much better suited for a third line role. For a team that's lacking depth, Frolik's a good pick-up for Chicago, able to relieve some pressure off Toews, Kane, Sharp, and the oft-injured Hossa. The scales would really tip in Chicago's favour is if Salak pans out. He played one season in the AHL last year before returning to Sweden on a loan to Farjestad BK, where he's been the best goalie in arguably the second-best league in the world. But let's take that with a grain of salt - this is the same Swedish Elite League that hailed Jonas Gustavsson as "The Monster" and was the league's best goalie. (What does that tell you about the NHL?) <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/53/Mike_fisher_predators.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed"> February 10 - Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for 2011 1st round and 2012 conditional picks Of all the trades that have been made, this has been my favourite. Did anyone notice how fired up Fisher looked last night in a Predators jersey? Did anyone notice how packed the rink was? Shades of Mike Fisher circa 2006-08, folks. Not only did the Preds get a very good player in Fisher, who will most certainly excel under Barry Trotz, with the possibility of Carrie Underwood appearing in more games it immediately sparks more interest. There's not much competition - the Memphis Grizzlies bleed money and the Tennessee Titans just recently fired long-tenured coach Jeff Fisher and cut ties with supposed franchise QB Vince Young. I asked ESPN's Pierre LeBrun over Twitter about Underwood's presence and he said that it "definitely" will raise the profile of the Predators. Fisher's fired up - he's in a city that his wife loves and on a team that wins games with a style of play that's very similar to his. (When this whole Fisher/Underwood in Nashville thing works, and honestly, this union might as well come from a Disney movie, at the rate hockey pros are reeling in high-profile entertainment stars, when do you think that Gary Bettman will start enforcing a "celebrity" clause, in which the player has to play for his girlfriend's hometown team? That means Mike Comrie heads to Hollywood - or Dallas? I believe Hilary Duff is from Texas and Comrie's a player I can see Marc Crawford using - and would prevent future dumb trades like Calgary sending Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert, both Albertans, to Toronto for some pucks and a waterboy in Matt Stajan.) <img src="http://phillysportscentral.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/kris-versteeg2-e1297880213906.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> February 14 - Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for 2011 1st and 3rd round picks You probably can't get a better deal than that for a player miscast as a top-line forward. The shifty Versteeg is a great depth player and would excel on a team where he doesn't have to be solely responsible for setting up Phaneuf's cannons or trying to find Phil Kessel. All Versteeg needs is a swift kick in the butt, and not from Ron Wilson, who's mixed signals should probably be translated into some sort of manual. (Did he really mean what he said when he thought Jeff Finger was good against Joe Thornton? One of life's greater mysteries). And Peter Laviolette's smart, giving Versteeg his much-wanted #10, and as athletes know it's a little more special when you get to wear your number, and by starting him on a line with Mike Richards and Andreas Nodl, two of the most competitive players on the Flyers' roster. Laviolette's hoping the work ethic rubs off on Versteeg and I think it's going to work. February 18 - Ottawa trades Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson Someone explain this trade to me because I don't get it. Let's compare the two: Elliott: 13-19-8, .894 SV%, 3.19 GAA, 3 SO, RFA '11, age 25 Anderson: 13-15-3, .897 SV%, 3.28 GAA, 0 SO, UFA '11, age 29 How the heck do the re-building Sens improve on this deal? There's absolutely no return at all in this deal. Anderson, who I lauded as a great value signing by the Avs two years ago and then cautioned against fantasy owners overrating the guy this year, walks as a UFA on July 1. The two goalies are obviously struggling, but would you trust a 25-year old or a 29-year old to get better next year? It's a no-brainer, it's Elliott. He has more long-term value and he's a RFA, meaning that the Sens could very well get another year from him. But Anderson? He's not even better than Elliott this year. The only redeemable facet of this trade for Ottawa is if Anderson re-signs with them, but again, wouldn't you rather have Elliott, who has more upside, to tend the pipes? Honestly, Bryan Murray couldn't have gotten a third or fourth-round pick for Elliott? C'mon, man! <img src=" February 18 - Boston trades Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik I have no idea why Nashville gave up on Rich Peverley, one of the more underrated centremen in the league. It's too bad he plays a position that can be so diluted, but he wins well over 50% of his face-offs regularly (55.5% this year) and has the ability to put up 40 points easily. He's a great pick-up for Boston, who asides from Patrice Bergeron, doesn't have a centreman capable of winning more than half the face-offs he takes. Valabik's a huge defenseman, but he's probably more well-known in Vancouver as being the guy who made the mistake of challenging Rick Rypien, thinking he had an easy win. Playing alongside fellow countrymen Zdeno Chara should allow him to learn a thing or two about playing in this league, but when you have cement feet you can only go so far. Also, I'm glad Blake Wheeler ended up in Atlanta. Here's a guy who outright said "no" to Gretzky and Phoenix, completely pissing Gretzky off, a major hockey no-no, then signs with an Original Six franchise thinking that it might be better for his profile. Well, as they say, karma's a b... February 18 - Toronto trades Tomas Kaberle to Boston for Joe Colborne, 2011 1st round and a conditional pick Can we declare Boston as the winners of the trade deadline already? They essentially got Peverley, Kaberle, and Chris Kelly for Joe Colborne, who still may or may not turn into a bust (odds are he doesn't). While I still think Philadelphia is the more talented and deeper team, the Bruins aren't going down without a fight. The Bruins still don't have a legitimate scoring threat after losing Kessel (yes, Kessel's a scoring threat - let's not underrate him just because he's a Leaf) and it's quite likely they'll finish the season with just a single 30-goal scorer (team leader Lucic is 6 away and Horton has 14, which means we really should give up on the dream that Horton would ever become a first-line power forward) while Philadelphia will have two snipers (Briere-28, Carter-26) and Mike Richards. But Kaberle does bolster an anemic powerplay (18.1%, 14th) while the Flyers lag behind at 17th. And also I think Peter Chiarelli has the entire southern Ontario region at gunpoint. <img src="http://nucksiceman.com/wp-content/upLoads/2010/10/Cory-Schneider-fantasy_g_schneider_3001.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">And just so we can end this post on the Canucks, can I just say how absolutely terrible we've been looking out there? The lack of NHL-calibre ability on the blueline is one thing, but this team just doesn't have any jump. It looks like Kesler's hurting a little and I haven't seen a Sedin-esque Sedin cycle in a long time. And that's not mentioning that Christian Ehrhoff is making dumb plays and coughing up pucks like Bryan McCabe. We didn't deserve to win against St. Louis or Nashville last night and Cory Schneider stole a game in Minnesota. You can't win games like that in the playoffs. Sooner or later you'll find out that goaltending can only take you so far before your players have to start putting the puck in the net on a more regular basis. And, really, it's a legitimate question, but if the Canucks meet the Wild in the first round, how long of a leash do you give Luongo before you put in Schneider? If the Canucks split the two home games (possible) and the Wild win their first at home (possible), do you go back to Luongo or play the odds with Schneider? Hmmm...
  18. I love hockey fights. They should stay in the league. But there comes a time when it goes too far and hockey becomes a petty, score-settling, free-for-all that becomes an absolute disgrace to the best game in the world. That Islanders-Penguins tilt last night was the prime example. Did it all start with Wednesday night's Bruins-Habs match-up that resulted in 14 goals and 12 fighting majors, now known as the in Boston? I thoroughly enjoyed the first two and half periods of the game. Carey Price and Tim Thomas' fight was laughable but neither team really came in danger of really hurting each other until close to the end of the game when the Habs got jumped. I'm not exonerating either team for what they did, but what did Greg Campbell think he was accomplishing by fighting Tom Pyatt? What were Shawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk trying to accomplish by fighting Jaroslav Spacek and Roman Hamrlik? It was an 8-5 game at this point with just 49 seconds remaining in the game. The game was obviously over. Then came the Islanders and Penguins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puMana_bq1o. Even if you factor in the context, a pissed off Islanders team that's absolutely tired of becoming the butt of the league's jokes, facing a Penguins team that knocked out starter Rick DiPietro in a fight (a fair one, mind you), the whole fiasco set the Islanders' reputation back at least another five years. Try climbing out of THAT hole. I get where the Islanders are coming from. They're headed to yet another lottery pick, ownership is bleeding money, they get almost zero support from their fans, there's been talk of relocation, and there's been few bright spots the past fifteen years. You have to be crazy to not think that coach Jack Capuano isn't playing that "us against the world" angle like Pete Carroll. The franchise is frustrated and took their frustration out on a Penguins squad when their failures as a franchise should be burdened by poor ownership and management. Whatever sort of "revenge" the Isles were seeking for Brent Johnson punching out DiPietro in a fair fight should've ended with a middleweight fight between Craig Adams and Michael Haley and a heavyweight matchup featuring Eric Godard and Trevor Gillies. That should've been the end of it. The Islanders were up 3-0, rare territory for them, but instead of trying to win the game it became an absolute gong show. Max Talbot, who's hit on Blake Comeau sparked the entire penalty parade, wasn't clean, but it wasn't dirty either. Comeau didn't have the puck and Talbot came in at an angle that could be argued as the blindside. Regardless, the Islanders didn't like that. In a 6-0 game the score has been settled. The Islanders were blanked 3-0 in their last match-up against the Penguins and have two fighting majors already. But Matt Martin thought it fitting to creep up behind Talbot and sucker punch him. It was eerily similar to the one Todd Bertuzzi landed on Steve Moore seven years ago (more on that in a bit). As many concussions caused by missed head shots and boarding calls, a sucker punch is worse. It's the biggest gesture of disrespect in a league whose players have a tradition of policing themselves. It was already ugly then and it got even uglier. I'm not sure exactly what sort of impact the Islanders think Trevor Gillies can bring to a game but one thing's for certain: you don't win hockey games with a 32-year old journeyman who's scored never scored more than two goals in any professional season and makes a living with his fists. Dan Bylsma deserves some blame here because I don't think Capuano would've dressed Gillies had Eric Godard been scratched. Regardless, I thought it was absolutely gutless of him to go after Eric Tangradi, a player ten years his junior who, despite his 6'4", 220 lbs. frame, is actually known more for his offensive game than his physicality. It was pretty clear that Tangradi was shaken up by a high hit from Gillies yet Gillies felt it necessary to start turning Tangradi into a punching bag. Even after Gillies was sent off the ice he had the nerve to stand at the gate and continue to talk trash while the Penguins' trainer was tending to Tangradi. You know right then and there that Gillies was out there looking to hurt, not to play hockey. What's more ridiculous was rookie Micheal (that's not a typo) Haley, after taking down Talbot, skating all the way to the end of the rink to challenge Brent Johnson, Johnson's second fight in as many starts. If Mike Richards thinks PK Subban's trash-talking and general disrespect for the game and its veterans was bad, I'd love to hear him sound off on Haley, who, like Gillies, has made a name for himself with his fists rather than his skill. I understand that young players who can't score to want make an impression and think they have to drop the mitts to catch the coach's attention, but that's negative attention the Islanders don't need. A young rookie like Haley, who begins the game mouthing off an establish veteran like Adams, ignores the referees after taking down Talbot, and then skates half the rink just to challenge another veteran goalie in Johnson, won't win any brownie points. The Islanders want respect, and to do that you need to win games, but what good memories the Islanders have of in a 9-3 drubbing of a Cup-wining team were completely erased. This game won't be known as the game the Islanders started to gain some respect, but rather a game in which a young, rudderless team got their priorities mixed up and gave hockey another black eye. The whole thing was bush league. But let's not put the blame entire on either of the organizations. Should the league had seen it coming? Perhaps, but there's only so much the league can do in regards to referee assignments and warnings before their jurisdiction ends at the edge of the ice. But the league really has an opportunity here to really throw the book at both teams. Martin's sucker punch requires the most attention because it was certainly pre-meditated. He was eying Talbot, who the Islanders felt wasn't punished enough already, the entire way. Analogous to Bertuzzi's case, Moore had fought Matt Cooke earlier in the game but Bertuzzi was obviously dissatisfied. If Bertuzzi's actions led to an indefinite suspension, which ultimately ended up being close to a one-year ban from competitive hockey, then I fail to see why Martin shouldn't be suspended for the rest of the season. Both games were in blowouts, the Islanders up 6-0 at that point and the Avs holding a similar 6-goal lead in a 8-2 game in the third period. Anything short of that and Bertuzzi looks like a martyr. He's the ultimate poster boy for a league that really picks its spots when it comes to suspensions. Haley and Godard will both have suspensions forthcoming. Both teams should be fined for failure to control their respective teams. The NHL shouldn't publish articles that praise the Islanders' pugilistic methods either with opening sentences like "The New York Islanders exacted the NHL's version of revenge on the Pittsburgh Penguins." Call it what it was - a complete disgrace. Whoever wrote that article needs to give his head a good shake and pack his bags for another profession. It also doesn't help the atmosphere when fans at Nassau were cheering "Crosby sucks!" the entire time, a cheer that's now synonymous with any anti-Penguins sentiment. It was the loudest I've heard Nassau in a long time but for all the wrong reasons. The Islanders were a joke entering the game and now a bigger joke after it. John Tavares can say whatever he wants but even if he does someday find himself having the same scoring touch as Mike Bossy, nobody's going to respect a guy who fails to differentiate between "entertaining" and "ridiculous." First the Evgeni Nabokov fiasco and now this. Will it ever stop for the once-storied Islanders? An owner who knows nothing about hockey but likes to call the shots in Charles Wang, an aggressive and hot-tempered but ultimately under-qualified GM in Garth Snow, and a lack of veteran presence in the locker room is a recipe for disaster. 34-year old Radek Martinek was the oldest Islander to play but he's never been one to count on for leadership. If the Islanders want to get serious about winning they better change that locker room culture. And fast. It's almost out of control. "Respect" is a word that's been tossed around way too much these days. It's a concept that I think has really evolved into something else that means entirely different than what it meant fifty, thirty, or even ten years ago. Let's shelve that word for the time being because it's obviously missing in today's game and not worth talking about until the players get their heads screwed on straight.
  19. The biggest news out of Vancouver tonight isn't the Canucks' suffering just their fourth regulation loss on home ice. It's potentially the loss of Dan Hamhuis to a concussion on a team that's looking to finish strong down the stretch with an already battered blueline. This rash of injuries to the Canucks' defensemen is something I've never, ever seen before. It seems as though once one defenseman comes back, another gets hurt. They're just dropping like flies. It's not like the Islanders losing Rick DiPietro, Nathan Lawson, and Kevin Poulin in succession. It's happening to a team that already had tons of depth on the blueline and needs a strong six-man defensive group to win games. Let's digest what's happened the past week or so. First, the injury to Keith Ballard. It was a slewfoot. Was it intentional? It's hard to tell, but given the outcry by the Vancouver media on that play you'd think Milan Michalek was the next coming of Bryan Marchment or Darius Kasparaitis. It's pretty one-sided journalism in a hockey-mad city, but here's what Michalek said according to the Toronto Sun: "He went to hit me and we kind of collided together... I was falling down and I grabbed him... I didn't want to hurt him, I didn't want to do anything." This is something a Jordin Tootoo, Matt Cooke, or Steve Ott would never say, and it's not like Michalek's a dirty player either. Keep in mind Ballard gives up about 3 inches and 20 pounds in that match-up. It wasn't an obvious slewfoot. Compared to or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN99_E0tLhg, Michalek's looks tame. I think Michalek was trying to get free from Ballard and when both players pulled their feet just gave out and gravity did the rest. Was it suspension worthy? No, because I think there was any clear intent to injure, and in reality a lot of slewfoots happen when two players get tangled and try to jostle for position, but a holding penalty could've been called. <img src="http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h164/jchockey/getzhammer.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">And then tonight the Canucks lost another key piece in Hamhuis on a http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9DhHejqQcg. To all those who think Getzlaf should be suspended, don't be silly. For those thinking it was a head shot, it clearly wasn't. I've watched the clip numerous times and Getzlaf didn't leave his feet or stick out an elbow to hit Hamhuis. John Garrett (let's face it, he's a Canucks homer) is clearly wrong because Getzlaf left his feet after contact. This isn't http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=322zqTkL0-c. However, it was a bad hit and it should've been a boarding call at the very least. But Hamhuis did see Getzlaf coming around the net, which is why he played the puck up the boards and not around the net, and turned his back to a 6'4", 220 lbs. player who isn't afraid to shy away from the hitting aspect of the game. What really did the damage was Hamhuis' head hitting the boards. Seeing how Hamhuis reacted, I'm pretty sure he has a concussion, even if Alain Vigneault says he "seems fine." Concussions are tricky and as I've said in previous posts, the big picture is the playoffs, which means that even if Hamhuis feels the slightest discomfort he should be held out of Saturday night's tilt against Calgary. That's two veteran defensemen down for a month while Alex Edler is recovering from back surgery. That leaves Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff as our top two, who will most likely be separated to even out the pairings, and Alberts and Rome rounding out the top four. Sami Salo is set to come back on Saturday, but I can't imagine him logging 20+ minutes in his first game back, despite lighting it up in the AHL on his conditioning stint. But Calgary may force Vigneault's hand if Chris Tanev, expected to be the sixth defenseman, isn't having a strong game (even though he's been good) or the Canucks are down and a powerplay opportunity presents itself. Ehrhoff and Samuelsson are expected to remain on the top powerplay unit while the second unit may feature two righties with Bieksa and Salo, perhaps with Tanev taking a shift or two. What appeared to be the Canucks' biggest strength heading into the season, strong defensive depth, has quickly become depleted, even if the farmhands have been performing admirably. With Lee Sweatt out with a broken foot, the Canucks can't afford another injury to their blueline. Ryan Parent, acquired from Nashville for Shane O'Brien, has struggled all season and in my opinion has completely lost his confidence, having just one point in 24 games with the Moose. Evan Oberg has eight goals in the AHL and appeared in two NHL games last year, both of them decidedly average, but may have been leapfrogged by Kevin Connauton, who excelled with the Vancouver Giants with 73 points in 69 games after transferring from Western Michigan and has 10 goals with the Moose. Are the Canucks at their breaking point? The Canucks have got some really nice bounces this year, but that's not taking anything away from the Sedins, Edler, Ryan Kesler, and Roberto Luongo, all of whom have been spectacular. But sitting 9 points ahead of second place Detroit in the West and first in the league puts the Canucks in an interesting position. In years past, the Red Wings have often been the measuring stick for teams seeking playoff spots, and in those games the opposition very often ratchets up the intensity. The Canucks are clearly the team to beat this year and the ultimate litmus test. With 27 games to go this final stretch will be very interesting to watch and we may find out what this team is really made of. This will be the Canucks' toughest test.
  20. As promised, my rundown of potential bodies that could be moved at the deadline: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Toronto, $6 million; Tomas Vokoun, Florida, $5.7 million; Pascal Leclaire, Ottawa, $3.8 million Given that all three teams are out of the playoff race, it would be wise to deal the three starting goaltenders for the future. Giguere is unlikely to return next season, and although he is still the best (excuse me while I hold my judgment on James Reimer) and most experienced goalie on Toronto's roster, he is not the future. The same goes for Vokoun, but his play has been much better than Giguere's. The Panthers already have a highly-touted prospect in Jacob Markstrom, who has a .907 SV% and 2.98 GAA in his first AHL season, but if Dale Tallon thinks Vokoun can be a good stop-gap and a mentor to Markstrom, who is clearly their future no. 1, then I have no qualms if they don't deal him. But Vokoun is the best goaltender on the market and teams looking to add some goaltending insurance (Philadelphia, San Jose) could use him. The ship has sailed on Leclaire, whose career has been plagued with injury and inconsistency. If Bryan Murray can get a mid-round pick for him, he'll pull the trigger and hold a 3-man audition for next year with Brian Elliott, Robin Lehner, and Mike Brodeur. Bryan McCabe, Florida, $5.75 million; Tomas Kaberle, Toronto, $4.25 million; Eric Brewer, St. Louis, $4.25 million <img src="http://dev1.capris.net/TotalProSports/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/tomas-kaberle.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">My bet is that regardless of whether or not the Blues make the post-season, Brewer is available at the right price. McCabe is currently out with a broken jaw and has been on the IR since mid-January, which means he'll be back soon. The Panthers captain is, like Vokoun, not in their long-term plans and along with Kaberle is the best puck-moving defenseman on the market. However, neither McCabe nor Kaberle have had any NHL playoff experience since 2004, when both were on the Leafs. Nashville (14.8%, 24th), Phoenix (16.1%, 22nd), Boston (16.8%, 21st), and Philadelphia (17.4%, 17th) could all stand to improve on the man-advantage. Chris Phillips, Ottawa, $3.5 million; Steve Montador, Buffalo, $1.55 million; Jan Hejda, Columbus, $2 million Phillips may want to stay in Ottawa, but at age 32 his window for winning is closing fast. He has 97 games of playoff experience under his belt but no title. It's hard to see the long-term Senator leave as a rental, but that may end up being the reality. If the Sens want to rebuild, Murray doesn't have a lot to work with and Phillips is the best trade piece he has, despite the horrendous +/-. In past trade deadlines, defensemen come at a much lower price than forwards (Brian Campbell was traded for Steve Bernier and a first rounder vs. while the Thrashers got two regulars, a prospect, and a first rounder for Marian Hossa, both 2008 trades), but Murray could easily net a first rounder for Phllips. The best bang for your buck is probably Montador, who is the only Sabre logging more than 20 minutes a game to have a positive +/- at +9. He's a good depth defenseman and well-rounded enough to log minutes on the powerplay and penalty kill. Hejda is another defenseman who can give you quality minutes on the penalty kill and will come relatively cheap. However, having been in Columbus for most of his career (4 seasons, and given today's sports economy this means he's going to change addresses soon) he has just 3 playoff games under his belt. Alexei Kovalev, Ottawa, cap hit: $5 million <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/senators/images/upload/2009/11/091111_alex.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Kovalev deserves a paragraph of his own. One of the most inconsistent and enigmatic players in recent history, the ultra-talented Kovalev is a waste of space in Ottawa. That being said, he could thrive with the right team. He's certainly not a player that you want to build your team around, but with the right players he's a great point-producer. There aren't many teams that would take a chance on him, given his reputation as a floater and his salary. The best case scenario is that he gives his new team an automatic boost on offense and the worst case scenario is him becoming a healthy scratch. There's really no in-between. Whether a team wins or loses on their deal with Kovalev will depend on what they give up for him. It seems like Kovalev needs a team with a very loyal (almost antagonizing) fanbase (Rangers and Habs, Penguins not so much) to spark his play, but you could argue that Ottawa is the only team he's played for that doesn't have much of a history. Jason Arnott, New Jersey, $4.5 million; Cory Stillman, Florida, $3.5 million; Tim Connolly, Buffalo, $4.5 million Lou Lamoriello is in a rut right now because the Devils are on a hot streak and it sends a bad message if they start dealing their assets now, but the reality is that they're 16 points out of a playoff spot. Having already traded Jamie Langenbrunner, the Devils may be looking to deal Arnott, who is their only significant impending UFA forward but has a no-movement clause. At 37 years old, Stillman can put the puck in the net and has a manageable salary since most NHL salaries have been paid out by the end of February. He could be the really sneaky good pick-up at the deadline, with two consecutive Cup titles under his belt ('04 Tampa, '06 Carolina) and in the latter year he was second in team scoring with 26 points in 25 games. However, Stillman has only played in 4 playoff games the past 5 years. Connolly is another intriguing deadline acquisition. I have a hard time believing that the Sabres are willing to commit another contract to the talented but oft-injured centre. He'll be a good pick-up for a team looking to boost their powerplay, but I don't imagine the market will be very good for Connolly since the bar just isn't set very high with Kovalev. Radek Dvorak, Florida, $1.7 million; Chris Higgins, Florida, $1.6 million Mike Grier, Buffalo, $1.5 million; Rob Niedermayer, Buffalo, $1.25 million <img src="http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/2010/11/22/niedermayer_rob_487_381.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">The Panthers are six points out of 8th in the East, but they could very well be the biggest winners at the trade deadline with five players making this list. But the Panthers really are showing the signs of becoming the next Washington Capitals, making some very adept picks. Remember it was Tallon who assembled the Blackhawks group and if he can package his players, he might be able to land a pick in the first three rounds. The Panthers have been drafting really well lately, having gotten World Junior standouts in Erik Gudbranson, Quinton Howden, Nick Bjugstad, two late cuts in Keaton Ellerby, Jon McFarland, and home run imports in Dmitry Kulikov, Jacob Markstrom, and Evgeni Dadonov. Buffalo may also stand to lose two key veteran players, both of whom are more attractive than Florida's pair. Grier has 94 playoff games under his belt and has made the playoffs in five consecutive seasons. He won't score any goals but he's a worthy pick-up for teams looking to add some PK and bottom six depth. The same applies for Niedermayer, who can play all three forward positions and has a better resume: five consecutive playoffs including three years with 10+ game playoff runs, including a Cup title with Anaheim in 2007. The Sabres have recently changed ownership (transaction pending) with Tom Golisano selling the team to Terrence Pegula, but there have been some conflicting reports about the future of GM Darcy Regier, who some claim has become too complacent with his job while others have continually praised his work. If the Canucks were to make a move, Niedermayer could be a target. His salary seems manageable if we can create some cap room, especially now with Keith Ballard out, or we can move a body. He's got some Cup experience and it's been rumoured in the past that both Scott and Rob would love to return home to BC. I don't think any move for the Canucks is likely but Niedermayer's a player I wouldn't mind inquiring about. Are all of these players being moved at the deadline? Impossible. Are there some I haven't listed? Of course - guys like Kris Versteeg, who still have years remaining on his contract, may get moved, but considering cap space is a premium, there aren't too many teams willing to take on long-term commitments, especially considering the current CBA is going to expire soon yet again. There are too many market factors at work here but these are players that I can think make an impact for their new teams. Since there is only one team that can win the Cup, my belief is that deadline trades end up not making a heck of a lot of difference, especially since the two Western favourites (Vancouver and Detroit) and Philadelphia (my East pick) either don't have enough cap room or are unwilling to tinker with their chemistry, and so are not going to be players at the deadline.
  21. Any winning team has good chemistry but they definitely are a team that can stand to add an extra body or two. Their depth is weak and the team is buoyed mainly by Stamkos and St. Louis, not unlike the Sharks with their one line, and look what happened to them. Roloson was a good pickup only because he's been lights out since being claimed and wasn't a "big splash" when news first broke. I wouldn't count LA out for a big move but they did already add Marco Sturm earlier in the season - they've got some good depth but some underwhelming performances. SJ will have trouble adding anybody significant and I don't think they'll be making any big moves, unless it involves them giving up on M-E Vlasic.
  22. The trade deadline is approaching. It's a little less than a month away, just 27 days left before frantic phone calls are made and triggers pulled too fast. It's my second most favourite NHL-related time of the year, just behind July 1, because I get to whine, complain, yell, laugh, praise, and wonder how close Pierre McGuire can creep up to Darren Dutchyshen before Dutchyshen completely loses it on live TV (I swear it's going to happen someday). It's also a great reason for me to stay home, glue my butt to the couch, and watch TSN until my eyes melt. So exciting. <img src="http://2010vancouver.ca/mikegillis.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">But are the Canucks even major players this year? Given that the Canucks are first in the West and in virtually no danger of falling out of the top eight, the team is obviously a buyer. But this is a team that never has been major deadline players under Mike Gillis. Over the past two trade deadlines, only three trades have been made, all of them last year. In Gillis' first season, the Canucks' last trade before the playoff run was a minor league swap (Mike Brown for Nathan McIver, who was waived by the Canucks the day before and claimed by Anaheim). It was never believed that the Canucks would be major players anyway, having signed Mats Sundin on December 18 and thus having little cap room to do anything else. To Gillis, signing Sundin was the equivalent to a trade deadline blockbuster, but without having to lose any long-term assets. Last year, the Canucks made three separate swaps, the only substantial piece being Andrew Alberts (the others by Yan Stastny and Sean Zimmerman), who was much maligned last year but has improved tremendously this year. Are we in store for another low-key trade deadline? I don't think there's any reason to suggest otherwise. The Canucks are interesting in adding pieces, not losing them (those Ehrhoff trade rumours are ridiculous and not worth discussing, and Schneider's staying), and while the pipeline is now replenished with some attractive pieces, it doesn't seem as if Gillis is willing to part with any particular player. Despite rumours of Cody Hodgson being on the move, I think largely fueled by a public semi-feud between the two camps regarding Hodgson's back injury, i would be shocked if Gillis gives up on his first ever draft pick. It was a pick that Gillis himself believed was a step in a new direction, a direction that shied away from "safe" picks which had been so common with Brian Burke and Dave Nonis, to players that had the right high-end mixture of talent and character. Losing Alex Edler to back surgery was a big blow but even by placing his remaining cap hit on the LTIR it doesn't open enough space for the Canucks to acquire anything substantial anyway. Like Sundin, the return of Sami Salo could be considered the Canucks' big deadline acquisition. In the playoffs, there is no salary cap, and if Edler and Salo can return by the opening round, the Canucks' six-man group, as noted before the season started, is the league's deepest. <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Zenon_Konopka.jpg/220px-Zenon_Konopka.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">But that doesn't mean Gillis shouldn't work the phones to plug two glaring holes: a injury-free, regular fourth-line centreman and a veteran player with plenty of playoff experience. Ideally, the two holes can be plugged by a single player, but if Gillis had to pick it should be the former. While experience is considered a luxury, it sure can be overrated. The team has already established its leadership group going forward and will rely heavily on the Sedins, Kesler, and Luongo to show what they can do to avoid another second-round exit. The Sedins will now enter the playoffs with over 60 games of playoff experience each and with few substantial roster changes over the past two years, most of the current Canucks will already have over 20 games and two separate playoff runs under their belts. So who can fill that fourth-line role? Not many. The first requirement is that the player be an impending UFA. It's important to acquire a player that is not signed beyond the 2010-11 season unless it's a two-way deal, which gives Gillis an escape plan should a rookie (Hodgson, Schroeder, Bliznak, Bolduc, etc.) be favoured for a roster spot next year. The second requirement is that the player has to win at least 50% of it's face-offs. While the Canucks do have three of the league's best centremen, having a dependable fourth will help. In the grand scheme of things the Canucks may not necessarily need him to win, but every play counts in the playoffs and it might give the team a better night's sleep if they didn't have to use Tambellini or Glass in a defensive zone face-off after an icing call.The only player that fits the bill, as Ben Kuzma has noted before, is the Islanders' Zenon Konopka, a big, strong fourth-line centre who is ranked sixth in the NHL if face-off %. Konopka's been on my radar for awhile as a fourth line player with some major sandpaper (250+ PIM last year) but his face-off ability is something that has gone under the radar the past two seasons, in large part because he was under-utilized by Rick Tocchet in Tampa Bay. He'll cost a mid-round pick, a minor price to pay. But how busy the trade deadline will be depends entirely on the market. There are four obvious sellers (Edmonton, Ottawa, New Jersey, and the NY Islanders) but none have any real attractive pieces, the most high-profile being Alex Kovalev, but he comes with a major red flag and seems destined to finish his career in the KHL. There are another four teams (Columbus, St. Louis, Florida, and Buffalo) that have an outside shot at making the playoffs but probably won't and will most likely be sellers at the deadline as well, especially Florida, which is slowly beginning it's rebuilding process. There is, of course, Toronto, who really should be a seller by this point already but haven't declared so, perhaps out of some misguided sense of self-worth, but have a great trade piece in Tomas Kaberle. That leaves 21 teams that are potential buyers. That's a lot, but we can narrow down the list even more. There are three teams that cannot afford to add salary due to ownership issues: Dallas, Phoenix, and Atlanta. There are two teams that have traditionally been non-buyers, Nashville and Carolina, who may be major players only if ownership gives the green light (unlikely). <img src="http://www.timescolonist.com/sports/1566473.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Vancouver and Detroit are in a good position to finish in the top two spots in the West but don't have any cap space to add anybody from outside the organization. Like I said before, Salo's return is Vancouver's big move and Detroit would love to have Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary back. Pittsburgh and Boston are headed towards the postseason but have little cap space to work with, which means Ray Shero probably won't find a winger for Crosby (again) and the Bruins are already pretty deep. San Jose, Chicago, Calgary, and Montreal are in danger of not making the playoffs. All four teams already have or currently trying to create some space for deadline deals. San Jose (Torrey Mitchell) and Montreal (Cammalleri, Markov) may have space to work with due to injuries, while Chicago (shuttling Nick Leddy back and forth from AHL) and Calgary (waiving Ales Kotalik) are making personnel changes. It's a TBD situation for all four but it'll be difficult. The Wild, Flyers, Rangers, and Capitals can perhaps add one extra body of note. The Capitals may choose not to make a move considering that Alex Ovechkin is "saving himself" for the playoffs (not buying the theory) and the Rangers eagerly await the return of Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan. The Ducks and Kings have roughly $4 million in cap room, giving them some good options, and both teams could use more help. My bet would be on the Kings to make the big splash but given their disappointing season thus far you have to wonder if Lombardi should stand pat and give the current Kings a vote of confidence and emotional boost. If my math is correct, that leaves two teams: Tampa Bay and Colorado. Greg Sherman is one of the league's most secretive GMs and who knows what he's up to, but my bet is that he doesn't do anything substantial. He's obviously a very smart GM and it would be wise for this young Avs team to grow together as a group in the playoffs. His only noteworthy deadline deal last year was swapping young players (Wojtek Wolski to Phoenix for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter) and not acquiring a seasoned veteran, one of which (Scott Hannan) he has already dealt this year. That leaves Tampa as the real, true, major buyer at the deadline. It's been a fantastic season for Steve Yzerman and company and they seem destined to win the Southeast. A great season with tons of attention on superstar Steven Stamkos and stable ownership means that their pockets will be looser. But they have to be careful. Nothing erases memories of a good season faster than a quick exit in the first round (ask the Thrashers, who finally made the playoffs as the Southeast champs in 2007, made a huge deal of acquiring Keith Tkachuk, but bowed out in 4 games after being outscored 17-6 and become the butt of everyone's jokes again) so the Lightning would be wise to avoid this pitfall. Coming soon: a look at the players most likely to be moved.
  23. Surgery's done and the general belief is that he'll be game-ready in 8-12 weeks, depending on how everything goes. It's a long time but at least it means Edler's surgery is not season-ending.
  24. After lighting the mood in the city in a 7-1 drubbing over Dallas and then having 5'9" Lee Sweatt, affectionately nicknamed "Rudy," score the winner on his first shot in his first game in a 2-1 win over Nashville to tie Philadelphia for first in the league, the big news out of Vancouver today is the unfortunate loss of defenseman Alex Edler to back surgery. Edler has been, in my opinion, the best and most consistent Canuck blueliner this year. I thought he's been so good this year that he was my second choice for the Norris, ahead of All-Star Kris Letang. He's a very quiet player who plays a quiet yet steady game, no doubt a reason for the lack of media attention. Playing on the west coast doesn't help matters either, but he leads the west's top-ranked team in points, ice-time, and blocked shots among defensemen. <img src="http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2008/12/120908_edler_b.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Edler was held out of last night's game vs. Nashville because of back spasms, thought to have suffered on his open-ice hit on Jamie Benn vs. Dallas. However, Edler is now going under the knife for microdiscectomy surgery, which is a type of microdecrompression spinal surgery usually performed on herniated discs. While the general post-surgery recovery time may vary, it is usually between 2-4 weeks before regular, normal activity can be resumed. Since Edler is a hockey player, that recovery time may be longer, perhaps up to 2 months, although the exact time frame will not be known until the surgery is performed. Edler has never played a full 82-game season. With Edler held out of last night's game, Christian Ehrhoff, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Kevin Bieksa all logged more than 23 minutes of ice-time, with Chris Tanev logging 11 and Lee Sweatt with a shade under 9. Expect that trend to continue, as Alain Vigneault will surely rely heavily on his four veterans post-All-Star break. With one of Vancouver's trigger men on the point gone, the onus will fall on Samuelsson, who may be moved up to the first powerplay unit on the point opposite Ehrhoff. Hamhuis and Bieksa will be on the second, giving the Canucks another left-right shooting blueline combo. Ballard led all defensemen in total ice-time last night but logged just four seconds on the powerplay and was the only blueliner to record a minus, but he has a real opportunity here to show Vigneault what he can do. If not, Tanev and Sweatt, both good skaters and have shown adept at moving the puck, may get looks over him. With Edler gone, it doesn't necessarily mean Sami Salo will be back soon. The pressure for him to return has increased, but it would be unwise to rush him back before he's ready. The Canucks enter the All-Star break in good position, with a 5 point lead over second-place Detroit and a 15-point cushion on Colorado. The worst thing the Canucks can do is rush Salo back and risk losing him to re-aggravation or another injury before the playoffs. The long-term picture here is the postseason, and if that means losing the Presidents' Trophy (very possible) or the third-consecutive division title (very unlikely), then so be it. For now, we'll just have to see what Chris Tanev and Lee Sweatt can really do. EDIT: Iain MacIntyre of the Vancouver Sun believes the injury may cost Edler up to 3 months. It's possible, but that could be the safe prediction. It is my personal opinion that Edler will be ready for the first round of the playoffs, and maybe even before that. EDIT #2: The hit itself was awkward, with both Edler and Benn colliding and falling over in awkward angles. The Stars have now announced that Benn is out indefinitely as well because of the hit.
  25. I wrote last week in my entry "Ups and Downs" that despite what everyone seems to think, this team was not in a slump. To recap, I think a slump is something like what the Kings are going through. The Kings, a team many picked to break out this year given their maturing young stars, finished October with 8 wins and 3 losses, and then kicked off 4 straight wins in December. By no stretch of the imagination was this a fluke - this is a team, after all, with a franchise centre in Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, and Jonathan Quick. As of right now the Kings sit 11th in the West. That's a slump. A team that obviously has the tools to win but short of firing Terry Murray or Dean Lombardi has tried everything it can to break out of its funk but only to fail time after time. The Canucks lost 4 in a row prior to a 7-1 drubbing of Dallas, but in those 4 defeats, 2 came in shootouts and one in overtime. That's not a slump, that's just a bump. Of course, having Kari Lehtonen play like he belongs in a beer league helps, but that's besides the point. It's also further proof that the Canucks (read: not specifically Luongo) are horrendous at shootouts, which again begs the question why Vigneault refuses to practise shootouts up until this year, but then you have to blame the Canucks for putting themselves in that position in the first place. <img src="http://www.puckagency.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Mikael-Samuelsson-Vancouver-Canucks.png"class="imageFloatRightFramed">If you're talking individual slumps, then you might have something there, but let's put everything into perspective. Stats are the most misleading aspect of sports. Nothing beats watching players and a game with a naked eye. If you're watching it live, even better. Sports scouting is not done through statistics. (Unless it's baseball, but that's a different topic altogether). It's certainly helpful and at least gives you an idea of how the player is performing, but by no means does it tell the entire story. A 20-goal scorer in the NHL, on average, will score a goal about once every four games. That's not bad, but remember that's the average. Since most scorers in the NHL are streaky and feast-or-famine type players, if that player scores a hat trick in one game, the law of averages say that he has a good chance of going the next twelve games or so without a goal. Take, for example, Mikael Samuelsson. His goal vs. Dallas was his first in 15 games. Before that dry spell, he was on a tear, with 5 points in 4 games (Dec. 20-26). Before that, he had gone 7 games without a goal (Dec. 1-18). Even before that, he had another 7-game goalless drought (Oct. 19-Nov. 4). Goalless droughts for him aren't unusual. So, 15 games is a little longer than anyone would like, but Samuelsson's still on pace for about 20 goals, which would still rank among his career highs. His feast-or-famine scoring ability couldn't be more apparent than last year when he got hot at the right time. Mason Raymond's 11-game goalless streak (Jan. 3-22) sounds terrible, but he had scored a hat trick two games before he got hurt. He's yet to find his groove, just less than one month removed from a hand injury and constantly bounced around in the lineup. Given his pace, he's still on track for roughly 20 goals, like Samuelsson. Manny Malhotra's gone pointless for an entire month, but he also went pointless last year in the month of May and had just one point in April and May combined. He's still on track for his career season averages of a dozen goals and 30-odd points. No more needs to be said about how streaky Raffi Torres can be. The only one that kind of baffles me is Jeff Tambellini, who's getting tons of scoring chances, shoots the puck very well, but just can't find the net. Even very good goal scorers, like Phil Kessel and Marian Gaborik, are prone to stretches of zero production. Before Gaborik's 4-goal outburst vs. Toronto he went 8 games without a goal and Kessel is currently mired in a 7-game drought for the third time this season. Neither Samuelsson nor Raymond are at that talent level so naturally I shrug when they don't score for 7 games. It's expected. When the Sedins are in a 7-game pointless drought, however, then you have a problem... When Dan Hamhuis scored, The Province's Tony Gallagher tweeted: "Hamhuis' first in 25 games not terribly meaningful but after that long we're pretty sure he'll take it." What? Does Gallagher even realize that with Hamhuis' current pace he's on pace to tie or break his career high of 7? Does Gallagher even realize that Hamhuis averages about 25 points per season? (I'm writing that 38-point season off, same with Samuelsson's 30 goals. Don't think we'll see either post those totals again). No one's mistaking Hamhuis for Shea Weber. I'm pretty sure Hamhuis isn't bothered by the fact that he hasn't scored in 25 games because that's not his game and he knows it. He's a dependable defense-first player that's occasionally seeing powerplay time this year because for whatever reason, Vigneault refuses to play Ballard (using Tanev instead vs. Dallas) on the man advantage. But I know better than to argue with results. Vancouver fans and media have been absolutely spoiled this year with such a great team that can, on most nights, seemingly score at will. Once we lost 4 games (3 of which we have collected points) everyone panicked. I like a win as much as the next guy but let's not lose perspective here. Had the Canucks continued their 3-2-4 "slumping" pace, that's still 91 points over a full season, a playoff-bound total. <img src="http://tenderslounge.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/evgeni_nabokov.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Okay, enough Canucks. Let's move ahead. I've had some time to digest the Evgeni Nabokov situation. The whole fiasco is a complete microcosm of why the Islanders still stink: management constantly overrating their value. What do I mean? I mean that Garth Snow thinks Long Island and a decrepit Nassau Coliseum is an attractive place to play, even though Manhattan and the much more storied Rangers are across town. This is a guy who was convinced he had a legitimate shot at signing Ilya Kovalchuk. That he thinks Nabokov, a player who has clearly earned enough money and is much more interested in a lengthy playoff run, would want to play for a team that's headed towards the lottery is lunacy. Is it even in the Islanders' best interests to play veterans and try to win games? The Islanders can't flip him back to Detroit (or any other team) for a pick because Nabokov would have to clear waivers again (he won't). Neither camp is moving and so the Islanders have suspended Nabokov. Dumb. The Islanders are supposed to be geared towards their youngsters. They don't need this distraction and what does this tell Islander players of their current situation when a guy who couldn't find a suitor during the offseason won't come play? Nabokov made it clear his intention was to play for Detroit, and from the information I've gathered, the Islanders didn't bother calling ahead and gauging Nabokov's interest in joining them. There were reports that Nabokov had hung up on Snow on a phone call (after he was claimed), but only because Nabokov didn't realize it was Snow. Does that sound as fishy to you as it does to me? It's not like Snow's brand new to the scene. Snow's quickly garnered a reputation as a very aggressive and sometimes confrontational GM. When he found out Nabokov wasn't coming you don't think he could've went into Bruce Boudreau-mode? If I were Nabokov, I'd hang up on him too. I'm not trying to start rumours or conspiracy theories, but that's just the way I envision it went down. By all means, Snow played within the rules, but that doesn't mean it's not a dumb move (see also: Lowe, Kevin and Penner, Dustin). An equally baffling move is Eugene Melnyk's decision to stick with Bryan Murray and Cory Clouston even though he's essentially admitted that the season's lost. Doesn't that make Murray and Clouston lame ducks? Melnyk may want to keep Murray beyond this season as a senior advisor but for a team that is in dire need of a new game plan, a new perspective, isn't that counter-intuitive? If the re-build starts now, wouldn't it better to bring in a new guy now and let him sell off the assets at the deadline for picks and prospects to establish his own foundation of the team? It seems as though the Sens are delaying the process of moving in a much-needed new direction. And by keeping Clouston, whatever motivational advantage Murray would've had by saying "we're not making any coaching changes, so suck it up and play like he wants you to play" has simply disappeared. I mean, what kind of affect would that have on a guy like Alex Kovalev, who on some nights really looks like he couldn't care less? Or Sergei Gonchar, who is probably really regretting turning down the Pens' two-year offer. On the other hand, you could argue that by doing so you could really tell the difference between players who are self-motivated and those who aren't and need to be shown the door ASAP. Some players may simply wish to play hard because they're looking for that big deal in the summer (Chris Philips, Kovalev) but it's kind of an interesting way to see which players respond and which don't. It's not on the record, but there's a belief that there are only two untouchables on the current roster: Daniel Alfredsson (declining) and Erik Karlsson (stud). It might change over the course of the next two months. Sometimes, you just never know with Eugene Melnyk.