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Found 11 results

  1. 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...
  2. 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.
  3. I must admit it's weird not seeing mounds of snow on the streets in December, seeing how as I have spent the majority of the past four winters in Nova Scotia. But either way, it's the season of giving. So, in honour of that, here are your 20 worst trades in the NHL since the lockout! In chronological order! Hooray! August 3, 2005. Edmonton trades Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, and Doug Lynch to St. Louis for Chris Pronger. The advent of the salary cap and a potential new ownership meant the Blues had to shed salary to make themselves more financially attractive. Brewer remains in the Blues organization and is their current captain but isn't expected to last beyond this season. Woywitka shuttled between the AHL and NHL for some time and is currently in the Stars' organization. Lynch, a former second round pick, has played the last three years in Austria. Pronger would sign an expensive five-year extension and was a smashing success with the Oilers in his first season, leading them to the finals. August 26, 2005. Minnesota trades Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix for Erik Westrum and Dustin Wood. The Wild saw Michalek, who was undrafted, in 22 games and decided he wasn't worth their time before sending him to Phoenix. What a decision that turned out to be. Westrum played only 27 games at the NHL level and has been playing in Switzerland for the past couple of seasons while Wood never saw time in the NHL. Michalek spend five productive years in Phoenix, leading the league in blocked shots one year and guiding the Coyotes to their first postseason appearance since 2003. <img src="http://www.bestsportsphotos.com/images/t_20631_07.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">November 30, 2005. Boston trades Joe Thornton to San Jose for Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau. This trade eventually cost then GM Mike O'Connell his job. O'Connell, to be fair and honest, wasn't a bad GM - Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were both drafted by him - but he often butted heads with owner Jeremy Jacobs, who refused to open his pockets to retain their prized free agents like Sergei Gonchar and Brian Rolston. The Bruins were struggling at the time, and perhaps misguided by his anger towards ownership, he traded Thornton for three depth players. The trade sent the Bruins back five years. Thornton would go on to notch 92 points in 58 games with the Sharks and win the Art Ross that year. Primeau and Stuart lasted two season each before departing and Sturm was recently sent to Los Angeles for free. Interestingly enough, O'Connell is currently the Kings' Director of Pro Development. December 5, 2005. Philadelphia trades Patrick Sharp and Eric Meloche to Chicago for Matt Ellison and a 3rd round pick in 2006. Ellison played just 7 games for the Flyers over two seasons before moving onto Milwaukee in the AHL and then the KHL for the past two seasons. Meloche did not play a single game for Chicago and is suiting up for his fourth season with Straubing in the DEL. Sharp, however, has become one of the leaders of a young Blackhawks franchise. Unable to find quality playing time on a deep Flyers roster, Bobby Clarke gave him a chance by shipping him to Chicago, where he has become one of the league's most versatile and intelligent players. Sharp's 11 goals in last year's playoffs was tied for the team lead with Byfuglien. Sharp is shooting for his 5th straight 20-goal season. June 23, 2006. Florida trades Roberto Luongo, Lukas Krajicek, and a 6th round pick to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld. For all the hate Dave Nonis has drawn in this city, this should be the deal that negates everything. Luongo, as we all know, is an elite goalie with an Olympic gold medal. Bertuzzi was never quite the same since the Steve Moore incident and lasted just 7 games in Florida before being swapped for Shawn Matthias. Auld was horribly miscast as a starting netminder and the steady but unspectacular Allen remains the only souvenir for Florida in that trade. Oh, and that supposed throwaway 6th rounder? Turns out the Canucks got a pretty decent prospect. You might've heard of him. Sergei Shirokov? <img src="http://miamisportsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/luongo.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">June 24, 2006. Toronto trades Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft. Probably angry that Vancouver was making all the headlines around the league, John Ferguson, Jr. and the Leafs panicked and made a goalie move of their own, moving promising netminder Rask for former Calder winner Raycroft. To be fair, the Leafs had another netminder in the system, Justin Pogge, but he turned out to be a bust. Raycroft is now a career journeyman and backup, and while Rask is stapled to the bench due to Tim Thomas' otherworldly play, he is arguably the most promising goalie in this league. February 3, 2007. Boston trades Kris Versteeg to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski and a conditional 5th round pick in 2008. This was a trade that flew completely under the radar, perceived to be a rather insignificant minor league deal. Versteeg has since been moved to Toronto, but he was a key cog in the Blackhawks' makeup and was a vital secondary scorer with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. For a team that doesn't have a lot of high-end offensive skill, the Bruins would probably like a re-do for this one. As for Bochenski? After teasing fans with 13 points in 20 games playing alongside Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, he had trouble sticking with NHL clubs and despite being a very talented AHL scorer (33 goals in 35 games once), he now plays in the KHL. February 27, 2007. San Jose trades Josh Gorges and a 1st round pick (Max Pacioretty) for Craig Rivet and a 5th round pick in 2008 (Julien Demers). At the time, it was a good trade for San Jose because the Sharks were ready to win now and Rivet gave them one good year, with 35 points and 104 PIM. But it's these kind of deals that have really cost San Jose, who are struggling to keep up with their younger and better stocked Pacific Division opponents. Rivet was traded to Buffalo for two second round picks (Bill Wrenn in 2009 and the other sent to Carolina, who took Mark Alt) and, most likely due to injury, has seen his play nosedive. Meanwhile, Gorges has become one of Jacques Martin's most dependable defenseman and regularly plays against top opposition and logs 20 minutes a night. Pacioretty has yet to find his place in the NHL but he's a player with good offensive potential with 32 points 27 AHL games and 3 points in 3 NHL games this year. <img src="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/01cFg5M41QfN8/340x.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">June 18, 2007. Nashville trades Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell to Philadelphia for a 1st round pick. You can't entirely blame David Poile for this one. The Preds were going through ownership trouble amidst accusations of financial fraud with minority owner William Del Baggio, and could not retain any of its stars, despite at one point being able to land Peter Forsberg for a playoff push. The Flyers quickly locked up the two players and both have been vital to the franchise since. The two players combined for 28 points in last year's postseason. But the real kicker for me is that the 1st rounder the Preds acquired was their own and had been traded to Philadelphia last year for, you guessed it, Peter Forsberg. Perhaps the only redeeming fact is that the Preds used the pick to select former Giant defenseman Jonathon Blum, and I know better than to question the Preds' scouting department when it comes to blueliners. February 26, 2008. Tampa Bay trades Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, and a 4th round pick in 2009. Unable to foot the bill for their star players' salaries, the Lightning elected to part with Richards, who was in the third year of a 5-year, $39 million contract. Diminishing point totals scared management into action, but you'd think for a former 91-point player they could've gotten a better deal. Smith hasn't posted more than 14 wins a season in his career. Jokinen was later traded for a bag of pucks. Halpern is now in Montreal and that 4th rounder was later sent to Edmonton. Meanwhile, Richards posted yet another 91-point season last year and should the Stars elect to deal him, they'll certainly get a better haul than what Tampa got for him. July 1, 2008. Edmonton trades Joni Pitkanen for Erik Cole. The Oilers should've seen this one coming. Cole scored 30 goals in 60 games the year Carolina won the Cup, but dropped to 29 and then 22 before the Oilers snagged him. His tenure in Edmonton lasted just one disappointing 16-goal year before he was shipped back to Carolina, where a slew of neck injuries has really affected his production. Cole's point production the last five years since 2006: 61, 51, 27, 15, 16. Pitkanen, on the other hand, has emerged as one of the league's best unheralded puck-moving defenseman, having notched 46 points last year and with 18 in 29 this year is poised to hit that 40-point mark again. <img src="http://cache3.asset-cache.net/xc/77804113.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=77BFBA49EF878921E86F5CE8BE5D78FB39989BC62F51603617BBE599935116B54EB022E0AB10AD13"class="imageFloatRightFramed">July 4, 2008. Tampa Bay trades Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich to San Jose for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a 1st round pick in 2009, and a 4th round pick 2010 (James Mullin). Boyle had just signed a six-year, $40 million extension in late February, but just four months later ownership decided that his contract was not economically feasible and forced him to wave his no-trade clause. While San Jose's playoff woes have been well-documented, Boyle has been one of the best offensive blueliners in the league, posting two consecutive 50+ point seasons and 18 points in 21 playoff games with the Sharks. Carle suited up for just 12 games in Tampa Bay before moving on to Philadelphia, Wishart is still developing in the AHL, and the 1st rounder was packaged to Ottawa for Andrej Meszaros, who had 33 points and -18 rating over 2 seasons in Tampa, despite totals of 39, 35, and 36 in the three previous seasons with Ottawa. December 14, 2008. Anaheim trades Andy McDonald to St. Louis for Doug Weight, Michal Birner, and a 7th round pick in 2008. For now, Saku Koivu will do, but before that the Ducks had an awful time trying to find secondary scoring. McDonald and Getzlaf formed a fantastic 1-2 punch down the middle when the Ducks won the Cup in 2007, but figured Doug Weight, six years older, was the better option. The Ducks' 2008 campaign didn't last past the first round and Weight left for Long Island. Birner has since returned to Finland and the Blues eventually re-acquired their 7th rounder in a separate deal and drafted Paul Karpowich. McDonald has 154 points in 199 games (0.77 ppg, vs. Koivu's 0.65 ppg) for the Blues. Getzlaf's current point total is nearly double Koivu's and the Ducks continually rely on their big line of Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Bobby Ryan. February 7, 2009. Carolina trades Wade Brookbank, Josef Melichar, and a 4th round pick in 2009 to Tampa Bay for Jussi Jokinen. Jussi Jokinen wasn't adjusting well to life in Tampa Bay, with just 16 points in 46 games in his first full season with the Lightning. Arguably the league's best shootout player, Jokinen netted 30 goals for Carolina last year playing alongside Eric Staal, and while he's off to a slow start this year he's still third in team scoring. As for Tampa? Neither Brookbank nor Melichar are in the system, and that pick was later traded to Toronto for Richard Petiot (no longer with Tampa), only to be forfeited by the league due to a dispute over Jonas Frogren's contract. So, really, the Canes got a 30-goal scorer and showed off the Leafs' infinite front office wisdom for free. I'd say that's a pretty good deal. <img src="http://www.spox.com/de/sport/ussport/0903/Bilder/christian-ehrhoff-san-jose-sharks-nhl-514.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">August 28, 2009. San Jose trades Christian Ehrhoff and Brad Lukowich to Vancouver for Daniel Rahimi and Patrick White. Nonis will be remembered, quite unfairly, as the GM who went off the board and chose Patrick White in the first round in 2007. After Nonis was fired and Mike Gillis stepped in, it was made apparent to him that White, who had scored only 13 goals in 81 game over two seasons at Minnesota, was not in the Canucks' long-term plans. The Sharks were in a cap bind with the acquisition of Dany Heatley and were forced to jettison Ehrhoff, who had hit the 40-point plateau for the first time in his career. Ehrhoff finished his first campaign with Vancouver with 14 goals and +36 with over 22 minutes per game. Rahimi has since returned to Sweden, unlikely to return, and White has just 1 goal so far in his senior year. September 12, 2009. Ottawa trades Dany Heatley and a 5th round pick (Isaac Macleod) to San Jose for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, and a 2nd round pick. Bryan Murray had his hands tied with this one because Edmonton truly offered a better deal, one that centred around Dustin Penner. Cheechoo was already a shadow of his former self and the 2nd round pick was later flipped to the Islanders for Andy Sutton, now with Anaheim. Michalek, the younger brother of Pittsburgh's Zbynek, is a big, bruising winger, but has just 7 goals in 31 games this year. He's struggling big-time and can't even provide secondary scoring the Sens desperately need. Heatley, on the other hand, was one goal shy of 40 in his first season as a Shark last year. September 18, 2009. Boston trades Phil Kessel to Toronto for a 1st (Tyler Seguin) and 2nd round pick (Jared Knight) in 2010, and another 1st round pick in 2011. In defense of Brian Burke, I don't think anyone predicted the Leafs to finish second last. The jury's still out on this one but with another trying season that 1st rounder in 2011 looks to shape up to be a top 15 pick for an already deep Bruins squad. Seguin, despite being a healthy scratch lately, has wowed with his speed and hands, while Kessel continues to labour and is on pace for just 27 goals. Toronto's 75 GF is only higher than New Jersey and the Islanders. The scales in this trade could still in the Leafs' favour, especially if Seguin or the 2011 1st rounder doesn't pan out, but the chances of that happening are quite slim. January 21, 2010. Calgary trades Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom, and Keith Aulie to Toronto for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White. In a trade that features marquee talent, the team getting the most talent always wins, so score this one for Toronto. Stajan and Hagman are the only remaining Flames from that trade and while both have been quietly producing the team scores too few and far between and rank 2nd last in the West. While "Neon Dion" hasn't fared much better in Toronto, he's by far the most talented player out of this group and Keith Aulie, as I've said before, is an absolute keeper. Keep in mind Toronto's one the youngest teams in the league and they're trending up, unlike Calgary. June 24, 2010. Chicago trades Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, Ben Eager, and Akim Aliu to Atlanta for Marty Reasoner, Joey Crabb, Jeremy Morin, New Jersey's 1st round (Kevin Hayes) and 2nd round picks (Justin Holl) in 2010. July 1, 2010. Chicago trades Andrew Ladd to Atlanta for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2nd round pick in 2011. We all know how this happened. As much as Dale Tallon was instrumental in building that Cup-winning squad, he was also terribly inept at handling the cap and didn't file RFA paperwork on time and, as a result, had to overpay to keep his team together. He was fired for his blunder and Stan Bowman was left to clean up his mess, inevitably leading to a mass dump of players to Atlanta, who had just hired Rick Dudley, Tallon/Bowman's assistant in Chicago, as GM. Reasoner was later swapped for Jeff Taffe while Crabb left for Toronto as a UFA when the Hawks still didn't have cap room to keep either. The Thrashers, meanwhile, have a blueliner garnering Norris talks in Byfuglien (33 points in 34 games), named a new captain in Ladd, and have serviceable depth with Sopel and Eager and a decent prospect in Aliu. The Thrashers sit atop the Southeast Division, a place where the Caps had been comfortably sitting for the past 3 years. The Hawks? Currently sitting 8th in the West with 14 losses, third most in the West, and in danger of following in the footsteps of Edmonton and Carolina, both teams who finished in the Finals yet missed the playoffs a year later. <img src="http://cache.daylife.com/imageserve/0c9f0M9dRg3Je/x350.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">November 30, 2010. Washington trades Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for Scott Hannan. The Avs were moving in another direction, and as a fast and speedy team the cement feet quota had already been taken up by Adam Foote. The Caps were loaded with talent but still couldn't figure out how to play defense, and with the emergence of centres Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perreault, Fleischmann was expendable. The trade made sense for both teams but it couldn't turn out any more lopsided. Since moving to Matt Duchene's left wing, "Flash" has re-found his offensive game, putting up 11 points in 9 games and named the NHL's second star of the week. Despite snapping their losing streak against Ottawa, Hannan hasn't provided the defensive presence the Caps were looking for and is a woeful -9 in 9 games. And there you are, the 20 worst trades since the lockout. There have been some big ones, including the Marian Hossa-Dany Heatley, Jay Bouwmeester, and two more Chris Pronger trades, but in those trades I felt at least both teams have been able to walk away with something substantial. Even the Antoine Vermette trade netted the Sens a decent prospect in Robin Lehner. No trade is fair - there's a reason why some teams continue to struggle while others remain consistently good. I was tempted to touch on the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, but it wasn't the trade that killed the Devils, it was that extension over the summer. Tracking the picks that have been moved over the years has been a real pain, but here's an interesting tidbit I found. I was originally going to include the Edmonton-Anaheim deal that sent Pronger to the Ducks but I held back because of this little nugget. In exchange for Pronger, the Oilers received Joffrey Lupul, Ladislav Smid, Anaheim's 2007 1st rounder, 2008 2nd rounder, and another conditional 1st rounder. The 2007 1st rounder was sent to Phoenix, who selected Nick Ross, and the 2008 2nd rounder was sent to the Islanders, who took Travis Hamonic. The conditional 1st rounder would be awarded on the condition that the Ducks reach the finals. (I vaguely remember an article that said Oilers brass were rooting for the Ducks so they could get that extra first rounder.) Anyway, the Ducks did make the finals in 2007 so their 2008 first rounder, 22nd overall, was given to the Oilers. And who did the Oilers end up picking? Jordan Eberle. Hope you enjoyed this post. Happy holidays, folks.
  4. We're a quarter way through the regular season and like any other NHL season, there's been plenty of surprises, both good and bad. Let's recap. If you had told me the Flyers would finally unearth a top 15 netminder in Sergei Bobrovsky, they would've been my pick to win the Atlantic. Michael Leighton is skating again but both him and Brian Boucher would find an uphill battle to unseat the Russian netminder with a 12-3-2 record and sixth-ranked .926 SV% for goalies with at least 10 games played. I noted that Claude Giroux was a star in the making but what he's done this far has exceeded my expectations. So how about that Carey Price!? No longer am I somewhat hesitant to voice my support for the BC native who was picked by the Habs to be their franchise goalie and he couldn't have chosen to break out at a better time. Not having to look over his shoulder for Jaroslav Halak has helped him tremendously, but all he needed was just some time, to mature and soak in everything. And you know when Price turned the corner? When he showed his unwavering support for Halak in the playoffs last year. That type of off-ice maturity bleeds on to the ice. Forget about Marc-Andre Fleury, who's an overrated regular season goalie, Price is the future netminder for Canada. He beats out Cam Ward and Steve Mason for that spot. <img src="http://www.nhlsnipers.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/277-Stamkos-Game-Photo-3.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Even as unreasonable a Steven Stamkos fan I am, what he's done this year boggles my mind. He's not going to score 82, or 76 to tie Teemu Selanne and Alex Mogilny, but my bet is that he scores 60. He's the best sniper I've seen since Brett Hull (even looks like him too) and even though he prefers that left face-off spot he can score in a variety of ways, unlike one-trick pony Dany Heatley. But everyone should've seen this coming. The World Championships are often overlooked because of the playoffs, but Stamkos really stood out with 7 goals in 9 games in the 2009 tournament. While both Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin are both adept at scoring goals, they're really fun to watch and compare because they're so different. Ovechkin's a bull - he'll do everything at high speed with raw talent, skill, and strength, but he'll also do the same thing 20 times even if he's failed the previous 19 times. Hal Gill really showed us how they could shut down Ovechkin by taking away just one of his moves. Stamkos is a different. He's a much more finesse sniper. One of the few teams that has really surprised me is Atlanta. I thought the biggest piece Chicago would miss would be Dustin Byfuglien, but it's actually Andrew Ladd that has been the key cog in Blueland. You'd think that losing your most talented player in Ilya Kovalchuk would hurt, and they were better last year with him in the lineup than without, so that Rick Dudley and Craig Ramsay have turned this franchise around in such a hurry is really encouraging news. Dudley, who was with Chicago last year, clearly knew which players he wanted to target. And finally the franchise is putting some confidence in Ondrej Pavelec. Don't let Boston's eighth rank fool you - they've played less games than everyone else and are currently in a slide, but this team is much better than its record suggests. Nathan Horton, with 8 goals in 22 games, is on pace for 30, the most since 2007. A healthy Milan Lucic gives this team an even more physical dimension and he's proving that he's a legitimate top six winger. Tuukka Rask has only one win (no fault of his own - Boston has scored just 12 in his 7 starts) but Tim Thomas has come back more determined than ever. If you need any proof that a good backup is key, just look at what Boston's been able to do, and to a lesser extent, the Jackets' Mathieu Garon, the Rangers' Martin Biron and Vancouver's own Cory Schneider. Are we finally seeing the Cam Ward that we saw (quite unfairly, actually) win the 2006 Conn Smythe? Ward's been posting the best numbers in recent memory. His goals against is trending down and his save percentage is trending up. Ward turns 27 in February, the prime of his career but it may be all for naught if the Hurricanes can't find more breakout players like Jeff Skinner. Drayson Bowman, Jamie McBain, and Zach Boychuk, all highly lauded prospects, haven't had the same impact. It's hard to see Ward's numbers get even better than they already are now because Carolina's just not a very good team. Ryan Miller isn't the best goalie this year and that shouldn't surprise anyone. It's so hard to predict which goalie is going to the best in the league ever year. There was a time when Martin Brodeur dominated every category but he's on the downside of his career so it's wide-open. Case in point. League leaders in SV%: Thomas, Garon, Ondrej Pavelec, Price, and Brent Johnson. Wins: Price, Jimmy Howard, Bobrovsky, Michal Neuvirth, and Thomas. I guarantee you no one had those goalies at the top of their lists in their fantasy draft (except maybe Howard). If Darcy Regier can turn this team around he and Lindy Ruff will stay, but owner Tom Golisano is under some pressure. <img src="http://images.ctv.ca/archives/CTVNews/img2/20101111/600_maple_leafs_lose_101111_430241.jpg?2"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Florida's been another nice surprise this season. Tomas Vokoun has been spectacular as usual (9-8, 2.44 GAA, .923 SV%) on a team that can't score. Their highest scorer, Michael Frolik, has 13 points and Stephen Weiss still hasn't stepped up his game, which I thought he would with Horton's departure. It's nice to see that the Panthers, like the Canucks with Jeff Tambellini, has given proven AHLer scorer Mike Santorelli, formerly of the Predators organization, a chance to stick with the big club. I used to hate having to watch the Leafs every Saturday night, but now I quite like it. Despite what people may seem to think about their lack of effort, I really think it's just a lack of talent. Sometimes it's visible, but most other times they're just plain bad plays and bad giveaways. Phil Kessel may be taking lots of flak for not scoring but it's not hard to see that he plays hard every shift and it's not really his fault he gets knocked on his butt every other time. All teams need to do to shut down the Leafs offense is to contain Kessel. The Leafs don't have a centre to dish him the puck or a strong winger to create some room for him. Most nights it looks like he's carrying the offense all by himself because Kris Versteeg clearly isn't comfortable being to a go-to guy after playing second fiddle in Chicago. The Leafs have improved, despite that awful Kessel deal, since Brian Burke came in. End of story. As long as Kovalchuk is in a Devils uniform, that franchise is going nowhere. It's not so much that he's a bad player, he's really talented, but it's that contract. If that deal costs the Devils Zach Parise, it'd go down as the worst gamble in NHL history. While Lou Lamoriello still has some pieces in the organization, the Devils are certainly trending down. Martin Brodeur isn't what he's used to be and there's no heir apparent. Jeff Frazee isn't ready yet. Even when his team's struggling, Kovalchuk hasn't changed his game to suit the Devils' system. This inability to adapt or change isn't something that's applied to Kovalchuk, but to a lot of Russians. Ovechkin's gotten better at what he does but he hasn't added to his repertoire like Sidney Crosby or Stamkos has. It's also why I'd take Crosby over Ovechkin any day - because I know Crosby will always strive to be a more complete player (and also because he's a centre). St. Louis will only go as far as Halak takes them. When Halak's head is in the game he's great, but once in awhile he'll just implode and let in 7 goals. With TJ Oshie out for the long-term, there hasn't been anybody who's stepped up their game. Patrik Berglund has responded nicely after clashing with Andy Murray last season but Brad Boyes has just 5 goals, David Backes has 13 points, and Andy McDonald, a good centre but miscast as a number one guy, is the team's leading scorer. The team needs to find the consistency that has to be present to win in the West - the Blues go 3 wins to start November, then allow 29 goals in 5 games, then win 3 straight after that. If there's any team that will challenge Vancouver for the division title in years to come it's Colorado. Does anyone see a little Joe Sakic in Matt Duchene? That draft couldn't have worked out any better for the Avs and Duchene and in three years they may be the scariest team in the West along with the Kings. They need that franchise goaltender but the pieces are all there - Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart, Ryan O'Reilly, and Duchene. Five years down the road, should Dean Lombardi not put his team in some sort of cap headlock, the Kings are going to be the team to beat in the West. A franchise player in Anze Kopitar, a future fab four with Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson, Colten Teubert, and Thomas Hickey, and a franchise goalie in Jon Quick. They've got a good mix of veterans right now and would be a dark horse to win the Cup despite their inexperience. Dallas may have the division lead right now but the Kings will be so far ahead by the end of the season they won't be able to the Stars in the rear view mirror. Is there any other team that is as misinformed as the Sharks? I feel stupid for picking the Sharks to win the Pacific (albeit barely). The Sharks are a non-Cup contender posing as one. Their defense was porous to start the season and since Marc-Edouard Vlasic can't move the puck to save his life it's now just Dan Boyle, Doug Murray, and four other guys. The Sharks, even with Joe Pavelski, are a one-line team. As much as Todd McLellan wants to mix up the Big Three, he's continued to have to force the trio back together because they can't get anything going without one another. The goaltending is suspect and even though you don't need an elite goalie to win the Cup, you can certainly lose a season with two underperforming goalies. There's just no depth on this team. <img src="http://therattrick.com/files/2009/08/48154_Flames_Bouwmeester_Hockey.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I've also never seen a player with a worse brain to talent ratio than Jay Bouwmeester. This guy can skate like a wind but thinks like a brick. Really, sometimes the stuff he does just makes you question your own sanity. He's paid franchise player money when he clearly can't play like one. As long as he is the anchor of the Calgary defense, and he has to because he's paid the most, they will never win a Cup. My guess is that by the end of the year the Flames will dump Darryl Sutter and ironically name Jay Feaster, the former Lightning GM who defeated the Flames in 2004, as GM. I'm guessing Brent gets another year because a lack of good personnel isn't exactly his fault. I think this is one of the few times i've praised East teams more than West teams and what we're witnessing is a shift in power. it's probably more apparent this year than ever. All the years of the East being inferior to the West is no more. The East has stockpiled so much talent over the years and slowly their patience is being rewarded. All of the league's young stars - Crosby, Malkin, Backstrom, Stamkos, the Staals, Price - are in the East. While the West may have more parity, more and more the good teams are separating themselves from the teams that still haven't adjusted to life in the cap era. Trophy Tracker: Hart: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Vezina: Tim Thomas, Boston Calder: Jeff Skinner, Carolina Art Ross: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Norris: Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Lindsay: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Adams: Guy Boucher, Tampa Bay Selke: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Richard: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay But, wait! Where's Vancouver, you say? Well, they get a blog post all of their own and I think it's going to be a dandy, one that (hopefully) gets some good discussion going. Stay tuned!
  5. After a 6-2 trouncing of Ottawa, the Canucks continue their eastern swing and face the struggling Leafs in a prime-time match-up Saturday nigth. A convincing win over Pascal Leclaire and the Sens improved the Canucks' road record to 3-4-1, just one game below .500 but compared to the Canucks' home record of 6-0-1, it's like Jekyll and Hyde all over again. Last year, the Canucks had the league's best home record (30 wins, tied first with Washington) but was among the worst on the road among playoff teams (19 wins, third worst among the 16 playoff-bound teams). The Leafs are struggling offensively, with just 32 goals scored, second worst in the league and only ahead of New Jersey. In an effort to jumpstart the offense the Leafs have called up top prospect Nazem Kadri but a saviour he is not (yet) and it is very, very likely that the Canucks will earn their fourth road victory. Here are some things to keep in mind: <img src="http://www4.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Nazem+Kadri+NHL+Rookie+Tournament+Toronto+pnZkhYfgvVml.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I'm not as optimistic as others when they say that the Leafs are one centre away from being offensively competent. While "Magic Hands" Kadri is indeed a top prospect, the Leafs don't have anyone in their system at any level that will develop into an elite NHL forward. Phil Kessel is a spectacular goalscorer, but he is not a player you build your team around. Kris Versteeg seems to lack the jump he had in Chicago, and I reckon it's because he's not used to being the focus of opposition defenses, given that in Chicago the top pair was always assigned to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, but also to Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. It doesn't help either when Versteeg is such a perimeter player. The lack of offensive presence led to Brian Burke calling up Christian Hanson over Kadri in late October and it's hard to fault his logic. The Leafs were getting shots on net but lacked the physical presence up the middle to create space and time for their wingers and Hanson, at 6'4" and 228 lbs., is much bigger than the 6'0", 188 lbs. Kadri. The reason why the Leafs' fourth line of Mike Brown, Colton Orr, and Mike Zigomanis/Hanson is so successful is because they put so much pressure on the opposition defense with their physical forecheck and aren't afraid to go into the dirty areas. Offense will probably be the most discussed topic for Toronto but lost in the shuffle is Keith Aulie, a prospect received from Calgary (the piece that really tilted the deal in favour of Toronto) in the Dion Phaneuf trade who was called up along with Kadri. If you don't know who Aulie is yet, you should. The WHL is known for producing great defensemen and Aulie spent his entire major junior career with Brandon. Drafted 116th overall in 2007, Aulie didn't turn many heads... that was until he was paired with Tyler Myers for the 2009 World Junior Championships (the year Canada won its fifth straight gold and Cody Hodgson led the tournament in scoring, only to lose the MVP award to John Tavares) and became the tournament's best shut-down pair. At 6'6", the lanky blueliner has a pterodactyl-like wingspan but once he's filled out his frame, along with Luke Schenn they could form the league's best shut-down 1-2 punch. Even if you include Ryan Kesler's two-goal effort in Ottawa, the Canucks' secondary scoring has been absolutely atrocious on the road. Granted, Kesler's outburst may have finally opened the floodgates but both Mikael Samuelsson and Mason Raymond have yet to score on the road and have only combined for 4 assists and -9, atrocious stats that you won't find unless you look on the last page of the road +/- category. With no Dion Phaneuf, who remains sidelined with a leg injury, look for Alain Vigneault to try and get his second line going. The Sedins, as always, have been consistent both at home and on the road, and with Alex Burrows finally 100% that line will once again rank in the league's top 5. <img src="http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/3797222.bin?size=620x400"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Vigneault elected to not make any lineup changes following a shutout loss to Montreal in which the entire team played poorly, thereby declaring that it wasn't just one player's fault for their performance. Coming off a convincing win makes lineup changes even harder to justify but since Keith Ballard's exile to the pressbox, giving the Canucks their first $4 million healthy scratch and the first of Ballard's career, Andrew Alberts' play has regressed. He's taken bad penalties at bad times and failed to clear the puck in key situations. Aaron Rome has been unspectacular but much more steady, giving Vigneault at least a dependable third pairing player. But as hard as it is to justify lineup changes after a win, like Sidney Crosby I prefer to give my struggling players the opportunity to play rather than stapling them to the bench or exiling them to the press box. Let's not forget that Ballard has led the Panthers in hits in five consecutive seasons and along with Zbynek Michalek and Mike Weaver, one of the most underrated shot blockers in the game. He's had a rough start to the season but he is still top four material. Despite Alberts' struggles he is, by far, the most improved Canuck this year (thanks to plyometrics) and he has proven that he can be change the momentum of the game, like in the 6-4 win over Detroit when he absolutely wallpapered Pavel Datsyuk. Aaron Rome doesn't have that game-changing ability. For that reason, Rome would be my odd man out. On a team that is as talented and skilled as this I can afford to make the risky play knowing that Roberto Luongo and rest of the team can bail Alberts out if he makes a mistake. I'm not saying Alberts' upside is like Ed Jovanovski's, who similarly made a name for himself by taking risks, but like Mario Bliznak last night it's particularly uplifting for a team when a depth player can make such a significant impact in the game. Speaking of Bliznak, another former WHL product like Aulie who played with the Giants, if he continues his strong play forget about the search for a fourth line centre (move aside, Peter Schaefer. Thank goodness that ill-conceived experiment has ended). Drafted 205th overall in 2005 by Dave Nonis, Bliznak was virtually unknown, save for the fact that he was playing in the Slovak men's league as a 17-year old and appeared in 19 games but registered zero points. Bliznak moved to the WHL to further develop as a hockey player but was never known to be a prolific goal scorer. However, his work ethic has always been his selling point and even when he graduated from the WHL, Moose GM Craig Heisinger was taken back at how ready this kid was for professional hockey. There's no lack of confidence in the kid by Vigneault either, with Bliznak taking 10 face-offs last night and winning half of them. Since centre ice is arguably the most valuable property on the ice, if Bliznak can develop into a serviceable fourth line centre, the Canucks will be locked in at that position for years to come. Just like how the Leafs hesitated to call up Kadri, Mike Gillis has elected to keep Jordan Schroeder and Cody Hodgson, who leads the Moose in scoring, in the AHL for further development. There's no hurry - both players are entering their first full professional season. For those wondering when wunderkind Cory Schneider will get his next start, it is most likely in Buffalo against the struggling Sabres, but if Luongo plays well he will start all of the games on the trip. With four teams struggling, especially the Penguins suffering from new-home-rink-itis, the Canucks may go 4-1 on this trip. Prediction: The Canucks absolutely blister the Leafs on special teams. The Canucks are clicking at 26% on the powerplay and the Leafs can barely kill of 3/4 of their penalties. Kadri makes one nice play but disappears for the rest of the game. Mike Komisarek takes at least one dumb penalty and Tanner Glass scraps with former Canuck Mike Brown. Canucks win, 5-1.
  6. Hockey pundits and fans talk all they want and make bold predictions but once the puck drops the NHL really reminds us of how futile our efforts really are. Carolina, Toronto, and Dallas are all unbeaten. Pittsburgh is winless. Someone once said that sports is the most successful and best reality show in the world. I'd have to agree. Here are some storylines to keep watching for the rest of the year (or just to save myself some embarrassment, the next week). <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/af/fullj.babfaa6716e9bc1feb693b2ab5619ce4/babfaa6716e9bc1feb693b2ab5619ce4-getty-103114207_abe015_leafs_wings.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Leafs are 2-0 but don't get used to that 1.000 winning percentage too soon because they face off against the winless Penguins next and you know Sidney Crosby won't be letting the former Cup champs slide to 0-3. To the Leafs' credit they've looked incredible so far. Their fans needed this hot start and so did Ron Wilson, who is temporarily off the hot seat but if the Leafs hit the links soon again this year then he won't be back coming back. The looked good in their season opener but remember that the Habs were without two of their top four with Andrei Markov and Roman Hamrlik both sidelined with injuries. With a healthy Phil Kessel and the addition of the shifty Kris Versteeg the Leafs are noticeably faster this year and caused all kinds of havoc on a disorganized Senators team. But if the Pens' breakouts continue to look like this then the Leafs may go 3-0. I noted Brent Burns as the player to watch in Minnesota and even though they're still having a little trouble putting the puck in the net (only 4 goals in 2 games) in Burns' second game he played 30:57, over 23 minutes on even strength alone. That's Scott Niedermayer/Chris Pronger territory right there. Burns is averaging 28:25 per game, fourth in the league and also has 9 shots, good enough for 8th in the league. While his defensive play is still probably something to be desired if you haven't picked up Burns yet in your fantasy league now's a pretty good time to do so. At least for now all the stars are pointing in the right direction for Burns. Speaking of good starts how about those Oilers? Taylor Hall didn't bulge the twine but he didn't have to. He was probably Edmonton's best player even though Jordan Eberle did steal the show which prompted some good ol' Canadian tongue in cheek humour from the rest of the dressing room. It's a small sample but judging from the Oiler's dressing room atmosphere but it really looks like they've got a team. One of the reasons the Blackhawks were so successful was partly because a lot of their young players matured together. The Oilers could be next with their Big Three (Eberle, Hall, Magnus Paajarvi). It's too early to speak of playoffs but this team is playing with confidence and sometimes the most dangerous teams in the NHL are the ones that no one ever takes seriously, like Colorado and Phoenix last year. Nikolai Khabibulin is no Ilya Bryzgalov but he does have a Cup ring (2004 with Tampa). Consistency may be the Oilers' biggest enemy this year, however. At least Oiler games won't be boring to watch anymore with one of the Big Three expected to score each game. If the Flames keep playing like that, which I suspect they will, they're finishing last in the Northwest. They're slow and old and generally ineffective. That Dion Phaneuf trade looks terrible right now and I do agree with Mike Peca in that Jay Bouwmeester is really easy to play against. He wasn't in the spotlight in Florida because it was mostly on Olli Jokinen (who coincidentally is on the Flames. Again). He didn't want to play for a non-hockey market team but didn't step his game any when he was shipped to hockey-mad Calgary. Bouwmeester is a complimentary player who's earning franchise player money. That just won't work under the cap. Mark my words, Bouwmeester is going to be the next Wade Redden. Last night Eric Francis from the Calgary Sun was on CBC and noted the friction between Darryl and Brent Sutter. My guess is that by the end of the year Brent stays while Darryl gets the boot. It's not exactly Brent's fault he was little to work. Next in line for Calgary's GM position is probably going to be the architect of Tampa's Cup win over Calgary in 2004, Jay Feaster. You get the feeling Calgary's going to be swimming circles all season long. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/ap/e7/fullj.6ee4ff05d92c7d383433a7a4b7863c4a/4964e77c61e840e5a3dc94153a1c0003.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Joe Thornton was named San Jose's captain after training camp ended and I have to say he's the most logical choice. Dan Boyle is relatively new to San Jose and doesn't come with Rob Blake's pedigree and Patrick Marleau had his chance. Joe Pavelski will be wearing an 'A' soon enough but he's a couple seasons away from captain material. Don't make any mistake though, this isn't the same Joe Thornton that briefly captained the Bruins. But like Shea Weber with Nashville and previously Roberto Luongo with Vancouver, I wonder if handing Thornton the captaincy is a goodwill gesture ultimately geared towards coming to a long-term extension. The whole situation blew up in Atlanta's face with Ilya Kovalchuk (more on him later) when they made him captain but San Jose is a contender with plenty of options for Thornton to pass to. Henrik Sedin was also the logical choice to be captain although I have to admit I had Ryan Kesler pegged as wearing the 'C'. Hank was management's choice all along because they felt Kesler's not quite ready yet. At least this time the logic behind this one seems sound, unlike when they made Luongo captain (not that he was a bad one but there's a reason why goalies can't/don't wear the 'C'). The assistants were hand-picked by Henrik himself and unsurprisingly includes brother Daniel, Kesler, and newcomer Manny Malhotra. It may have surprised some that Kevin Bieksa was named the fourth assistant over the steady Dan Hamhuis or high-scoring Christian Ehrhoff or Alex Edler, but I think this is Henrik's first leadership move. By giving Bieksa the 'A' Henrik's publicly (but quietly) challenging Bieksa to assume a leadership role and play better. There's still a chance that Bieksa will remain a Canuck beyond the trade deadline and this season but of course that will depend on how well Bieksa plays and so far it's only been so-so. The NHL opened their season with games abroad, the fourth consecutive year they've done so. Minnesota and Carolina opened in Helsinki, Phoenix and Boston in Prague, and Columbus and San Jose in Stockholm. I think it's absolutely great that the NHL is playing meaningful games overseas, especially in Europe (forget anywhere else), although the selection of teams does leave my head scratching. If anyone had been watching those early games you might have noticed that most of the games, especially Columbus-San Jose, played to quiet and mostly empty arenas. If Gary Bettman wants to maximize these opportunities, which he should, his selection of the teams has to be better. San Jose and Columbus don't have any significant Swedes to speak of and that means less vested interest for Swedish fans. Instead, pick teams with enough significant local flavour to play games. Could you imagine how crazy a Detroit-Vancouver match-up would be in Stockholm? Why aren't national heroes Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne playing in Helsinki when this may be their last swan song together? Why aren't Ales Hemsky or Patrik Elias in Prague? Why not bring Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara to Bratislava? And KHL willing, why not have the Pens and Capitals face-off in Moscow? (My guess is that a Pens-Caps 2-game series in Moscow will just about trounce anything the KHL has to offer and president Alexander Medvedev doesn't want that). Europe's a hockey market. Let's showcase the best of the best. Unlike Bob McKenzie, I didn't have a problem with the that left Ivanans concussed. I agree that the fight really didn't solve anything but the Oilers were completely dominating and it doesn't take much to tick off hockey players sometimes and God knows what it could've escalated to. I bet you that McKenzie would change his tune had Ivanans made a run at Eberle or Hall because MacIntyre refused to fight. Could Ivanans have saved himself from a concussion? Maybe. The truth is, once you lace up those skates you play knowing that there's the possibility of getting hurt. If you drop the gloves you expect to be punched. Ivanans' an enforcer who's job is to hit, fight, and spark his team. MacIntyre didn't want to fight but he knew he had to. Fights happen. Concussions happen. Live with it. McKenzie says there was no point. I say it's just two guys trying to keep their NHL careers afloat and it's just unfortunate one had to leave the game. I think fighting does belong in the game but heavyweights are a dying breed. There's no use keeping a player on the roster for his fists if he can't skate. Speaking of heavyweights as a dying breed, one of the reasons is because stars (some, at least) aren't afraid to drop the gloves anymore. while Henrik Zetterberg tussled with Ryan Getzlaf behind the play. The Ducks were taking runs at the Wings' skill players all game and when you don't have a heavyweight (and given Detroit's success, another reason why you don't necessarily need one) these players have to fend for themselves. This is the way hockey should be. Stand up for yourself and fight. Big props to David Booth for dropping the gloves with Mike Richards upon his return instead of having a plug like Andrew Peters (now a Canuck) doing it for him. And who says you need a good fight to spark a team? Kovalchuk's tilt against Mike Green wasn't spectacular but for a guy who earns $10 million a season and scores 40+ goals to willingly drop the gloves like that and try and generate something speaks a lot about his character. And let's face it, an ugly Kovalchuk-Green tilt is more interesting than some unknown fourth liners in a fight. I'm not sure if anyone's kept track but I thought it was interesting that while
  7. September is always the toughest to swallow when you're a hockey fan because it's the only month where Opening Night feels so close yet so far away as well. At least the NFL has kicked off. But September may very well be the most important month as well because this is really where teams start to take shape. A great camp from a rookie may change the entire depth chart for certain teams like Florida and Atlanta, who are desperately hoping for a gem to emerge from their ranks to being their re-build. Even Cup contenders like Vancouver, are waiting to see if Cody Hodgson or Jordan Schroeder can make the big club and make an impact. Pittsburgh is waiting to see which of Eric Tangradi, Ryan Craig, Dustin Jeffrey, or whoever they may unearth can step into a top six role. To help you bide the time while waiting for the puck to drop, here are some grumblings... <img src="http://tomferda.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/dustin-byfuglien.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Craig Ramsay has announced that he will start Dustin Byfuglien on defense. I guess if you're going to spend the majority of the season treading water and trying to keep pucks out of the night it's more logical to use your biggest player to clear the crease rather than cause havoc in the offensive zone. People think because Byfuglien can play defense he's versatile, but he really isn't. Anyone who watched him play this year knows that he's an atrocious skater and given the emergence of young defensemen with extraordinary skating ability, like Drew Doughty, Erik Johnson, and John Carlson, you'd have to think if this is a good move. Byfuglien won't help with the transition game - instead, he's more like an Andy Sutton-type with better hands. If you look at the players who can play both defense and offense, they're mostly guys who really don't do either very well. Ian White aside, the list includes the likes of Christoph Schubert, Matt Carkner, and Wade Belak - a pretty mediocre group. Given the right environment, like lining up besides two potential Hall of Famers like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Byfuglien will succeed, but not in Atlanta. So long as Ron Wilson is behind the bench at the Air Canada Centre, Tomas Kaberle won't play... according to his father. It was a non-headline at the beginning and I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the Leafs desperately need him on the blueline. I don't think Brian Burke was ever really dangling him but I do believe at least 10 teams have called and if they have a good offer, you listen. He's a great puck-moving defenseman with a very affordable salary, which in the CBA world pretty much counts as a first round pick. Without him the Leafs won't have anyone to spring Phil Kessel on a breakaway. Kaberle is still the Leafs' best player. Jersey numbers have a way of sticking in hockey fans' heads. 99 is synonymous with Wayne Gretzky, 66 with Mario Lemieux, and 4 with Bobby Orr. In Edmonton, 4 evokes memories of Kevin Lowe, the Oilers' great blueliner during their 'City of Champions' years. When I heard that Taylor Hall was going to wear that number, my stomach did a little flip. Lowe's number is not retired by the Oilers so it's fair game, but it's a number that hasn't been used since 1992, Lowe's final season in Edmonton in which he was also captain. I'm obviously making too big of a deal out of it but I wish Hall picked a different number and blazed a path of his own. But then again, it's Lowe's number to give and no one is really going to watch the Oilers this year anyway (which makes them dangerous, actually, like Colorado and Phoenix last year). The Blues weren't very involved during free agency (they didn't have to) but did get an upgrade in goal with Jaroslav Halak. Habs fans still are still swooning over their playoff hero during a recent visit to Montreal. But let's put things into perspective: Ville Leino will not be a force in the regular season, at best a second line player, and Dustin Byfuglien won't score 41 goals in the regular season. Playoff heroics has a funny way of driving up a player's stock and more often than not those players become way overrated. The Blues should be excited because they've finally found a legitimate no. 1 goalie but Habs fans shouldn't forget that Carey Price also managed to post a respectable .912 SV%. If you're expecting Halak to be all-star material I wouldn't bank on it. Count me as a skeptic. Speaking of skepticism, Mike Modano evokes none from me. Wearing the unfamiliar number 90 and even more unfamiliar red and white, Modano has an opportunity to finish his career a winner, at home, no less. The Michigan native signed a one-year contract for one last kick at the can and the stars have lined up for him. Chicago lost quality players and the Wings have Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, and Niklas Lidstrom back. The Wings are poised to re-take the Central Division title and a little bit of luck and staying healthy could mean the Wings could be back in the finals for a third time in four years. Modano won't have the pressure of having to score and his defensive game has improved by leaps and bounds the past 5 years. The Wings' puck-possession game suits him well with his deft hands and great skating. One of the more intriguing training camp stories this year (there's always a few - who's going to be our Sergei Shirokov this year?) has been the Stars' invite to Jonathan Cheechoo. Cheechoo's fall from grace has been well documented but if anyone can find your offensive mojo it's Marc Crawford. The Stars can score goals in bunches if they can keep the puck out of their own zone long enough with Brad Richards dishing out passes while James Neal, Jamie Benn, and Loui Eriksson finish them off. My prediction is that Cheechoo does land himself a contract from GM Joe Nieuwendyk but there's no returning to form here. I think it's case-closed that Cheechoo's 56-goal season was a major fluke and more Joe Thornton than him. I also would've rather kept Modano rather than invite Cheechoo. There's been reports (sorry, no link) that Bobby Ryan is close to inking an extension with the Ducks but it'll be on the Ducks' terms, not his. Reportedly the main holdup between the two sides is length, with Ryan wishing to become a UFA as early as possible while the Ducks hope to have him signed beyond that, ensuring that Ryan, Corey Perry, and Ryan Getzlaf won't all bolt at the same time. Thanks for the paranoia, Miami Heat. LeBron James' summer fiasco has changed free agency forever. That's his legacy. Forget about the championships, he's all smoke and dollar signs. <img src="http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/multimedia/photo_gallery/0810/nhl.rookies.to.watch/images/cody-hodgson.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">If you're banking on either Schroeder or Hodgson to make this squad, the safe bet is Schroeder. It wouldn't hurt for both to return to the AHL for more seasoning and the Canucks have zero need to rush them but at this point Schroeder has at least proven he's capable of producing at the AHL level. The Canucks recently announced that Hodgson won't be attending the rookie tournament in Penticton after doctors couldn't declare him fit to play. Alain Vigneault, never one to shy away from challenging a player's mental toughness publicly, has refused to elaborate but it doesn't take a genius to know that he's not particularly happy with this whole fiasco. But neither is Hodgson - I'm sure he's frustrated too. It's been two years since his misdiagnosed back but it's been disappointment after disappointment, some of them undeserved. He got cut because he wasn't 100%. He lost out the MVP award at the World Juniors to John Tavares even though he was more deserving. Tavares will now have at least 2 NHL seasons under his belt before Hodgson. Underclassman Schroeder is leapfrogging him on the depth charts. However, let's not panic - Hodgson still has a bright future and to give up on him now would be a mistake. Hodgson is once again a big fixture in the training camp news wire and he'll really need to impress if he wants to make it. For now, the odds are stacked against him and it'll be another long test of his character. Oh, and Sidney Crosby hits home runs.
  8. When Ilya Kovalchuk scores, Atlanta was six games over .500. When he doesn't, they were five games under. Even Nicklas Bergfors, who averaged a point per game with more quality in ice-time since his departure from New Jersey, is re-signed, expecting 40 goals out of him is like hoping Sami Salo's body can stay intact for an entire season. The rest of the roster is filled with former Chicago depth players and a bunch of inconsistent youngsters like Bryan Little and Angelo Esposito. Nik Antropov can't carry a team. Rick Dudley has a long road ahead of him to turn this franchise around but he already has a great building block with Zach Bogosian, who I think will end up being better than either Erik or Jack Johnson. Offense: C+, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- <img src="http://www.boston.com/sports/hockey/bruins/extras/bruins_blog/2010/06/29/Bruins.jpg"class="imageFloatCenterFramed"> The Bruins won't have any scoring problems this year with Nathan Horton, who I think just needed a change of scenery. There's been talk that the Bruins offense could be potent enough that they can afford to send Tyler Seguin back to Plymouth, given their cap troubles. David Krejci is poised to have a bounce back season and Milan Lucic is healthy. I think Dennis Seidenberg is an upgrade over Dennis Wideman and Tuukka Rask could give Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur a good run for their money as the best goalie in the East. Offense: B+, Defense: B+, Goaltending: A If you expect Ryan Miller to repeat what he did last season, history is working against him. Miller's .929 SV% last year is 15 points higher than his career SV%. Even when Martin Brodeur posted his best SV% in 1997 with a .927 mark, he regressed 10 points the following season to .917, which is closer to his career average of .914. The same goes for Roberto Luongo, with a .931 mark in 2004 then .914 the following season. Brodeur has only managed to post back-to-pack seasons of .920 SV% or greater only once. Looking at that defense, and given the trends that work against Miller, I have a hard time believing the Sabres' defense will hold. Offense: B+, Defense: B-, Goaltending: A Heading into his first full NHL season as team captain, Staal doesn't have a heck of a lot to work with. Only Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen could be considered scoring threats but neither are top line players. Erik Cole is a lost cause and Sergei Samsonov lives in his own little world. Joni Pitkanen is great offensively but can only count on Tim Gleason to save his butt. Cam Ward has yet to replicate his Conn Smythe performance. However, GM Jim Rutherford has collected a good group of young talent that should make a significant impact this season, including Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, and early Calder candidate Jamie McBain. Offense: B, Defense: B-, Goaltending: B This is a transitional year for the Panthers who are preparing to give their entire organization an overhaul. Over half the roster are impending free agents and unless they impress Dale Tallon the majority of them will be gone, possibly by the trade deadline. David Booth is a potential franchise cornerstone but has yet to play a full season. There isn't much in the pipeline to speak of although there are three players (Dmitri Kulikov, Jacob Markstrom, and Evgeni Dadonov) that look to be keepers. The only constant for this team will be Tomas Vokoun's play and Bryan McCabe's giveaways. Offense: B-, Defense: C+, Goaltending: B+ <img src="http://committedindians.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/sharks_canadiens22b.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">I'm probably one of the few people out there that believe the Habs' decision to go with Carey Price is the right one. Out of all their young players I think him and PK Subban have the most upside. If anyone thinks the Habs can repeat what they did last year is delusional. What this team lacks in size they make up for in feistiness and toughness but the season is an 82-game grind and the little guys will wear down. Mike Cammalleri and Andrei Markov are probably the only two players on this roster that are paid what they're actually worth. Offense: B, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B Ilya Kovalchuk or not, the Devils always manage to make the playoffs when everyone writes them off. No one's making that mistake this time after GM Lou Lamoriello made a big splash signing Anton Volchenkov, who combined with Colin White may give the Devils the biggest intimidation factor since Scott Stevens. For once they are also to afford to give Martin Brodeur some rest with the more-than-capable Johan Hedberg. The only problem I see with this squad is the transition game from their blueline which features mediocre puck-moving ability when Paul Martin wasn't adequately replaced. Offense: B+, Defense: A-, Goaltending: A+ Like the Panthers, the Islanders have a slew of players set to become free agents in 2011, which means many of them are going to be motivated. Matt Moulson has to prove he's no one-hit wonder, Kyle Okposo really wants to be the East's premier power forward, and Josh Bailey and Rob Schremp both have something to prove. But this team is still too green to make the playoffs. And you can forget about Rick DiPietro – it's about time Snow looks in a different direction. Offense: B, Defense: C+, Goaltending: C+ Asides from that ridiculous contract to Derek Boogaard, I like what GM Glen Sather has done. Adding Alex Frolov takes some pressure off Marian Gaborik's shoulders and Todd White adds some defensive presence. There isn't anything too spectacular about the Rangers' offense other than Gaborik but if Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, the 5'7" Swedish Elite League MVP can deliver the Rangers might have a legitimate second scoring threat. Wade Redden will dress on Opening Night and Marc Staal is still un-signed but Michael Del Zotto, Dan Girardi, and Matt Gilroy could improve by leaps and bounds this year. Offense: B+, Defense: B-, Goaltending: A+ For a guy who loves playing in Ottawa, the media sure want to run Jason Spezza out of town. A lot of the blame rests on his shoulders, sometimes rightfully so, but he's a talent that can't be easily replaced. If Alex Kovalev can learn to play hockey again things would go much smoother for Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. The blueline has plenty of talent, highlighted by the emerging Erik Karlsson, but asides from Chris Phillips, whether or not this group can defend their own zone consistently enough to help out Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott is questionable. Offense: B+, Defense: B, Goaltending: B- If I had to put money on either Chicago or Philadelphia to make the finals again, it'd be the Flyers. They didn't lose much over the summer, save Chris Pronger's injury and the oft-injured Simon Gagne, and realized they have a potential superstar in Claude Giroux and salvaged a talent in Ville Leino. The blueline could use some work and we'll have to see if coach Peter Laviolette can work some magic on Andrej Meszaros. I expected the Flyers to go with a Michael Leighton-Brian Boucher tandem and they did, so there's no way I'm giving them a thumbs down for not going after Jaroslav Halak or whoever. Offense: A-, Defense: A-, Goaltending: B+ The Penguins didn't have any trouble scoring goals after Sidney Crosby decided to do it all himself rather than wait for Ray Shero to find the right wingers. Defense, however, was another story as the Pens allowed 237 goals, second-most out of the eight playoff teams. That was quickly fixed by signing Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek, two of the best signings this summer. Coupled with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, and Alex Goligoski, the Pens have the most well-rounded and capable six-man group in the East. Marc-Andre Fleury, never a fantastic regular season goalie, will get all the help he needs to notch a 40-win season, his first since his sophomore year. Offense: A-, Defense: A, Goaltending: A- <img src="http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/8912889/tampa-bay-lightning-vice/tampa-bay-lightning-vice.jpg?size=380&imageId=8912889"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">A testament to how much Steve Yzerman is respected in Tampa Bay shows in the names he's managed to haul in: Pavel Kubina, Simon Gagne, and the underrated Brett Clark. Guy Boucher is a big step up over former head coach Rick Tocchet and he'll most certainly build his offense around Steve Stamkos, arguably the East's second-best centre. But let's be realistic here – the Bolts aren't making the playoffs with that roster. They are, however, going in the right direction. Offense: A, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B- The Leafs severely underperformed last year and this team isn't as bad as many people think. J-S Giguere is no Vesa Toskala so at least there's some solace in that. The blueline isn't bad either if you exclude Jeff Finger. (I met a guy once who tried to rationalize that signing when it was announced – I'd love to see him do it now). There are some question marks up front but you have to give Phil Kessel some credit – he did score 30 goals with zero help. If the Leafs make the playoffs they'll sneak in as the eighth seed. It's plausible because after the top six spots the field is wide open. Offense: B-, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ Whatever question marks the Capitals had heading into last season were erased when Semyon Varlamov emerged as a capable number one goalie. Now with Michal Neuvirth pushing him he'll have to stay focused. Alex Ovechkin must be motivated as ever, losing both the Art Ross to Henrik Sedin and Rocket Richard to arch rival Sidney Crosby so watch out, he's shooting for 60 goals. The team's ability to play defense will determine how far they will get in the playoffs but for now pencil them in as the President's Trophy winner. Offense: A+, Defense: B+, Goaltending: B+ EAST STANDINGS 1. Washington 2. Pittsburgh 3. Boston 4. New Jersey 5. Philadelphia 6. Ottawa 7. Buffalo 8. Montréal 9. NY Rangers 10. Carolina 11. Toronto 12. Tampa Bay 13. NY Islanders 14. Florida 15. Atlanta
  9. With just one Canucks playoff game to dissect this week, Number Crunching takes a page out of the playbook of our road warriors and gives Game 1 the full court press with the best stats from the Round 2 series opener. And because we're just so darned nice out here on the West Coast, we decide to give a shout out to a long-lost friend who just couldn't be here with us. BALANCING ACT <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks24_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">By combining on Vancouver's fifth and final goal of Game 1 against the Blackhawks, Michael Grabner and Rick Rypien became the 17th and 18th players, respectively, to tally a point during the 2010 playoff run for the Canucks - giving the Canucks the same number of players with a point they had in their entire 2009 playoff run. Through all Game 1's played in second round (i.e. excluding games played on Sunday), Vancouver not only leads all currently active playoff teams in goals with 30 (tied with the Pittsburgh Penguins) but their 18 players with a point also leads all teams still in the post-season. The Sharks and the Canadiens are right behind the Canucks with 17 players each with a point so far in the 2010 post-season, while the Blackhawks bring up the rear with just 14 players to have recorded a point. The Canucks also saw Kyle Wellwood and Michael Grabner become the 13th and 14th players, respectively, to tally a goal for them in this year's playoffs - giving them the lead among all active playoff teams in that category as well. The Red Wings and Penguins have the next highest total with 13 goal scorers each while the Flyers have the fewest among teams still alive with only eight different goal scorers. Last season, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champions Pittsburgh Penguins finished the playoffs with 16 different goal scorers and 20 different skaters who recorded at least one point. PLAYING KEEP-AWAY <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks09_t.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">A big reason the Canucks managed to keep the Blackhawks' potent offense largely in check during Game 1 was because of their puck control. The Canucks committed just four giveaways in Saturday's contest - the fewest so far for them in the 2010 post-season. The low number of giveaways was actually a trend for the Canucks during the regular season at the United Center as well. In their two regular season contests played in Chicago, the Canucks combined for just five total giveaways. Vancouver's record during the regular season when they committed five-or-fewer giveaways in a game was 19-8-2. During their first round series against the Kings, the Canucks committed an average of 10.7 giveaways per game - the most being 16 (Game 6) and the least being seven (Game 5). ONE AND DONE <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/05/may0110_hawks08_t.jpg class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Roberto Luongo had one streak entering Game 1 on Saturday that he was more than happy to see come to an end. Luongo gave up just a single goal to the Blackhawks in the series opener snapping a streak of 10 consecutive games where he had given up multiple goals-per-game dating back to April 1 in the regular season. The streak of 10 games where he had personally given up two-or-more goals was the third longest single season streak for the netminder since he joined the Canucks in the 2006.07 season. Luongo's longest streak as a Canuck where he gave up multiple goals each game was 14 games from January 15, 2009 to February 24, 2009. Followers of the Canucks will remember that span took place upon Luongo's return from missing 24 games with a groin injury. His second longest streak was 11 games from January 8, 2008 to February 5, 2008. Luongo's longest streak of multiple goal games surrendered during the 2009.10 regular season was six games. He suffered through two such streaks during the regular campaign - first from January 9 to January 21 and again from January 25 to February 9. ON THIS DAY IN STANLEY CUP HISTORY (MAY 2) <img src=http://cdn.nhl.com/canucks/images/upload/2010/01/205x115_3_13010.jpg class="imageFloatRightFramed">Number Crunching is a fully fledged member of Canucks Nation but that doesn't mean we don't welcome fans from across the NHL to read this blog. Today, we offer this little shout out to any Number Crunching fans reading this from Toronto. We know your beloved blue-and-white was not invited to this year's playoff party (your invitation must have been accidentally sent to Boston) but here's something that will turn that frown upside down: 1967: With the oldest lineup in Final history, the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 3-1 in Game Six to win the 1967 Stanley Cup. The Leafs' roster included 42-year-old goalie Johnny Bower and 41-year-old defenseman Allan Stanley as well as seven others at least 30 years old. Toronto center Red Kelly played his 65th game in Final competition, setting a Stanley Cup record later tied by Montreal's Henri Richard. (Courtesy of Total Stanley Cup - NHL 2010 Playoff Media Guide) Statistics and other information appearing in this blog are for entertainment purposes only and a sense of humour is recommended when reading. E-mail the author here or follow him on Twitter.
  10. On some days when I can't up from bed in time, or even when I do it's hard to be totally aware of things at the moment, I like to read the recap about the Canucks' effort. From I've read, it sounds like Roberto Luongo did his thing and bailed a dis-spirited team in front of him with some big, big saves. It wasn't until the shootout when you could literally win the game by skating as leisurely as you'd like (which is why it'll never fly in the playoffs) did the Canucks pull out with a win with none other than veteran Pavol Demitra. Good thing we have that guy in net, eh? But anyway, this whole week has really been about players outside of the Canucks organization for once, so, here's a look at the rest of the league, which might be as interesting as the Canucks. <img src="http://media.nj.com/devils_main/photo/ilya-kovalchuk-devils-debut-4c5015598550731b_large.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Not really surprising, some say, that in the end it was the New Jersey Devils that ponied up and got the prized Ilya Kovalchuk. So, I guess they weren't surprised when they found out? So why all the hype and speculation before hand? Couldn't they all raise their hands and say "New Jersey" and be done with it? Anyway, a lot of people have ripped Don "The Nicest Guy" Waddell for the package he got, but it really wasn't bad. That pick could be higher but New Jersey didn't have a higher one and it was a first rounder, anyway. In trades like these it's always quantity over quality, so the Thrashers did get two, or three, nice assets. He did try his best to keep Kovalchuk, who had, at times, been quite vocal about staying, and offered him a $102-million contract, which would've made him the highest paid player in the league. A sign of a team having few options is having too trade him to a Conference rival - they don't have the flexibility to ultimately decide where to send him. Dany Heatley stayed with Ottawa, Mark Recchi went to Boston, and Marian Hossa went to Pittsburgh. In the end, I guess it just meant that Kovalchuk's ultimate motive was that he wanted out of Atlanta. There's no other reason why he would turn that contract down. The move brings Kovalchuk to an underrated Devils offense that includes Zach Parise, USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner, savvy vets Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias, big bodied Dainius Zubrus, and the very, very underrated Travis Zajac. The Devils are going to make the playoffs and with Martin Brodeur in net they have a good chance of going far. They may now very well be the favourites in the East. Their defense isn't spectacular on paper but they more than make up for it with Lou Lamoriello and Jacques Lemaire, arguably the best GM-coach tandem in the NHL. I raved about Brian Burke's move for getting Dion Phaneuf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere, but talk about immediate returns. That loss in New Jersey was tough but they did hold the lead for awhile and Giguere's first two starts with the blue and white have both been shutouts. Even if you don't think the Leafs will make the playoffs (and I don't) you have to be pretty amazed how much hope and hype it has created. Not that there isn't anything to excited about, there is with Phaneuf and Phil Kessel, but it's not a bad storyline. Even if they do make the playoffs, it will have to be without Mike Komisarek, who is out for the season. Cody Hodgson is finally back on the ice and has played two games with the OHL's Brampton Battalion and registered three assists. Without either him or Matt Duchene, the Battalion have struggled this year with only 18 wins after recording 47 the year before. It's the first time Hodgson has seen any game action since training camp in September after suffering from a bulging disc that took months of recovery. There was some controversy about the treatment, and Alain Vigneault, who was never one to mince words when it comes to overcoming injuries, didn't exactly have nice words to say. When asked about Vingeault's comments, Hodgson said that he hasn't been in touch with Vingeault since and he's looking forward instead to getting back on the ice. Hodgson says there is the possibility of re-aggravating it or having the pain return but for now he feels good. Canucks management has been equally curt with their answers. It's not exactly sunshine and rainbows when the organization's top prospect doesn't get off on the right foot with the coach, but I don't think there's a whole bunch to be concerned about. <img src="http://www.outcomebuffalo.com/burke.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Last but definitely not least, our condolences to the Burke family for their loss. Brendan Burke, former Canucks GM Brian Burke's youngest son and student at Miami University in Ohio who is also the team manager for the nation's top-ranked hockey team, was involved in a fatal car accident yesterday. Brendan's announcement that he was gay to his family was the subject of an article that appeared in ESPN by acclaimed writer John Buccigross. Brendan Burke was 21. The Leafs posted a big 5-0 win over the surging Ottawa Senators in an emotional affair.
  11. I thought I was in for a long night when Phil Kessel scored just minutes apart and Jamal Mayers wired a shot past an uncharacteristically mediocre Roberto Luongo. It always stings to lose to the Leafs on every level, but Vancouver's big line came through and scored 5 straight goals to seal the win. I don't think the Canucks came out flat in the first, but more so that the Leafs really capitalized on what few chances they had. Vesa Toskala was good in net despite letting in four goals and I think this is the first time in awhile the Leafs have played with some jump in their game. The loss shouldn't be attributed to their lack of work ethic but more so the personnel - they couldn't find a single pairing or line that could match up against the Sedins. Admittedly it's difficult for any team to cover the league's leading scorer but the Sedins completely dominated. Andrew Raycroft rubbed it in to the crowd who obviously really relished the win against his former employers and was happy to get some playing time. Don't worry, Andrew, I think we'll see some more of you on this big road trip. The Canucks have started off quite well. There's little to write on on a big win like this, in part because it's easier to criticize after a loss. All hockey teams in Canada know this. <img src="http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Sports/images-2/brian-burke.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After their monumental collapse, in which the Leafs fell for the fourth time this season after leading in the first (11-4-3), Brian Burke made some sweeping changes. I honestly thought the Leafs would at least be in the hunting for a playoff spot with their upgrades on the back end and with Kessel coming in, but their disastrous season thus far is worth examining. Anyone who thought this re-building process was not going to be painful and slow should have another drink or two, and let me preface this by saying that I'm a fan of Brian Burke - but you have to like his move to get Dion Phaneuf. Blowing a 3 goal lead, especially to Vancouver and the big Sedin line, must've hurt Burke than the other 39 losses. So amidst the rumours that Phaneuf was the block, which was vehemently denied by Darryl Sutter, Burke went out and got the big fish for literally nothing (at least in terms of long-term assets). As much as I criticize Phaneuf for his bone-headed play, he is a remarkably talented player with a big booming shot. He's a one of a kind defenseman but really lacks that level-headedness that separates him from the league's elite. The Flames also sent Fredrik Sjostrom, a serviceable depth player and good penalty killer to the Leafs, but I think the name that everyone should keep tabs on is Keith Aulie. The 116th overall pick in the 2007 draft, the towering 6'6" defenseman was a stalwart for the 2009 Canadian World Junior squad and the Brandon Wheat Kings. He's the type of player that Burke loves - big, strong, and full of sandpaper - kind of like another Robyn Regehr, whom he idolized. I have no idea what made Sutter give up on him. Aulie has appeared in 43 games for the Abbotsford Heat this season, along with 6 points, 32 penalty minutes, and +1. It would've been nice for Burke to stockpile picks, but this package is probably better than that. You get an established player in Phaneuf and a potential blue chipper in Aulie. So what did the Flames get? Quantity over quality in Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White. While I think all four are serviceable players, none of them are what the Flames are looking for - the big playmaking centre for Jarome Iginla. Stajan has the potential to be that guy, especially if he's paired with Iginla, having notched 40 assists in 76 games last season. Inconsistency is a problem here but like Ron Wilson, Brent Sutter demands a lot out of his players and really keeps them accountable. Hagman is a strong two-way player and a hard worker I think Sutter will like, as well as Jamal Mayers who approached Burke about a trade a couple days ago. Ian White is a versatile player and can play defense or wing. White, Stajan, and Mayers are all free agents at the end of the season, although I do believe White is a RFA. The Flames get cap flexibility now that Phaneuf is gone, and you have to wonder if this means more moves are in the works for the Flames, who have been linked to Ilya Kovalchuk. And as I'm writing this, I hear the Leafs have packaged Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake to Anaheim for JS Giguere, who obviously has waived his no-trade clause. The writing was on the wall with Jonas Hiller's recent extension and this move had been rumoured for months. When it becomes a staple in the mill for this long, it was probably bound to happen, much like Burke's departure from Anaheim to take the Leafs job. Despite what anyone says about Giguere being a pads goalie, check his stats - his .922 SV%, a career high, came after the league decided to cut down on pad sizes. He's now re-united with not only Burke, who helped him out with his baby who had eye problems (which led to the no-trade clause), but also highly regarded goaltending coach Francois Allaire. Despite the Leafs having zero offense outside of Phil Kessel and Alexei Ponikarovsky now, Burke has really made progress with these trades. He's building a solid team from the net out. Even if Giguere is not the long-term answer he's a great short-term solution until we can really see what Jonas Gustavsson can really do. The back end is good enough for now, although with Phaneuf you have to wonder if there are more moves coming (cue Tomas Kaberle rumours). Up front it's still a mess, but Burke can address those problems in the off-season. This gun-ho attitude has just landed the Leafs a premium defenseman, a good prospect, and a solid goaltending while giving up players that meant little in the long-term. What does this all mean for Vancouver? Well, for one, we'll really be missing the opportunity to see Phaneuf get completely owned by the Sedins. We also won't be anytime soon either. I don't particularly like the package the Flames got and in the other deal the Ducks mainly benefit from cap relief this summer. Is this a playoff push by Burke? Well, it seems like it, but it also addresses long-term goals as well. If Giguere does re-sign in Toronto, I highly doubt it will be for the same salary he's earning now, which is $7 million. At 33 he's still got some years in him, enough time anyway for Burke to find a more suitable solution. But I think an interesting point to ponder here is Burke. After another playoff collapse, he promised sweeping off-season changes but neither him nor protege Dave Nonis had the opportunity. You have to really wonder what sort of changes Burke had in mind - the big Irishman is no stranger to bold moves.