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  1. Google "Canucks slump" and you're going to get an avalanche of news reports about how the Canucks have had trouble scoring after being shutout twice in three games prior to last night's game vs. Colorado. Isn't it amazing how the media can just pick this team apart? I'm not absolving myself for ripping into this team once in a while, but when I do it's usually for more pragmatic or philosophical reasons. The only time I would rip into this team is if they don't put in the effort I know they can. Teams get shut out, the best ones and the worst ones. It's not a slump and we're not struggling. We're just simply going through the ups and downs of any other regular NHL season. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/4c/fullj.d2c28721d90cd846aae33df7084b590b/d2c28721d90cd846aae33df7084b590b-getty-102843497am012_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Had the Canucks had trouble scoring against the Avs, or put in another lacklustre effort like at Excel, I would've been (sort of) ready to jump on the slump bandwagon. But in between the two shutout losses I think everyone's sort of forgotten that we beat Washington 4-2. I wasn't able to watch the game, but from what I heard we weren't bad and a much better overall effort than against the Rangers. Although, to the Rangers credit, they played excellent hockey, a defensive, grinding style that John Tortorella's effectively used this year. (If Tortorella wants to be considered for the Jack Adams, losing Brandon Dubinsky for 3-4 weeks with a fractured tibia is the ultimate test. If the Rangers can still stay afloat without Dubinsky give Tortorella all the credit). The Rangers stuck to their game plan and executed it to perfection. Despite the Canucks firing 31 shots at King Henrik, the big chances only came when Vigneault had pulled Schneider. Most of the shots were relatively easy for the Swedish netminder and he had lots of help from his defense. Even Lundqvist said so himself: "...they didn't get that much. We had a couple of big blocks here and there." (And for those of you who read my previous Mid-Season Awards post, I bet you Girardi played a big part in some of those!) It was a one-goal game and it could've gone both ways. Both goaltenders were excellent but the Canucks were simply outplayed. It happens. Nothing unusual here, nothing that would indicate to me that the Canucks are in a slump. Then that awful game at Minnesota. Schneider was once again in net and I thought he was great. Of the four goals two came on breakaways and John Madden scored an easy tap-in from three feet when the Canucks defense completely forgot about him. Schneider's SV%, .840, was not indicative of how well he played. Two of Minnesota's biggest goals were scored on special teams, the opening PPG by Brunette and the third, a SHG by Matt Cullen that gave Minnesota a more comfortable lead and seemed to suck the energy out of the Canucks. We fired 32 shots at Anton Khudobin, who is starting in place of injured netminders Niklas Backstrom and Jose Theodore, and while I thought the Canucks' effort was better than the one at MSG, we still didn't look particularly dangerous. Let's also not forget that Khudobin has been lights out since his call-up: 2-1, .942 SV%, 1.59 GAA. It's no fluke, in Khudobin's two starts last year he was unbeaten with a .979 SV% and 0.87 GAA. Again, despite being shutout, I don't think this qualifies as a slump. Now Colorado. What a game last night. I'm a regular poster at www.canuckscorner.com, although not as frequently as in years past, but I noted that this Avs team should be a team that the Canucks might have a little trouble with if they met in the first round. The Avs skate extremely well and are relentless. The Canucks may be a mobile team and much better at moving the puck but we had trouble keeping up to their footspeed. John-Michael Liles was particularly effective with his speed and Matt Duchene was all over the place. And, oh yeah, we weren't shutout, scoring three times, twice on the powerplay that was the result of fantastic puck movement and quality scoring chances. We lost the game because Luongo was average and Raffi Torres took two dumb penalties, the first an interference on Philippe Dupuis that led to Milan Hejduk's goal, and another holding call early on the third period that gave a well-oiled Avs PP another chance. I would've benched Torres for the rest of the game after that interference call. The Canucks had gained so much momentum from Sergei Shirokov's highlight goal but that needless Torres penalty just completely killed it. Completely. And then instead of redeeming himself he comes back early in the third and takes a hold. What was he thinking? Again, giving that we had some great chances, peppered Craig Anderson with 40+ shots, scored three times, twice on the powerplay, I don't see any signs of a slump. <img src="http://d.yimg.com/a/p/sp/getty/8d/fullj.709db74e2528be4d55a9dd9ea32164fc/709db74e2528be4d55a9dd9ea32164fc-getty-102982596dp008_vancouver_ca.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">There were three things I took away from the Avs game, asides from re-affirming the fact that the Avs' speed could be a problem. First, Shirokov was fantastic. One reason why he's been so good: he's always moving. He opens up new lanes and angles by moving his hands when he's got the puck and moving his feet when he doesn't. He was our most dangerous player all game and it really made me wonder why Vigneault used his so sparingly in the third and on a crucial PP late in the same period on a Paul Stastny interference call why he still went to a struggling Raymond and snake-bit Tambellini on the second unit. Wouldn't it have made much more sense, considering how the game was going and which players were responding, to at least give Shirokov some ice-time there? It was a crucial powerplay and I think Vigneault blew it. Second, Chris Tanev looked tentative, but good. He made a nice play, if a little lucky, in breaking up that 3-on-1 before getting up, losing control of his body's momentum, and then falling on his butt. He's a guy that I can see log regular NHL minutes down the road, but not before another year or two in Manitoba. It's been awhile since Canucks fans have gotten excited about players in the pipeline and there are plenty to keep an eye on. Third, Kevin Bieksa was fantastic. Asides from one boneheaded giveaway I thought he was great defensively, breaking up at least 3 plays, all without any fanfare. He's played himself back onto the top 4 and won't be moved for Salo, if he even comes back. Henrik giving Bieksa that 'A' has done wonders. The Canucks have gone 2-4 in their past six, and only in one of those losses did I feel like we really deserved to lose, and that was against Minnesota on the road, which is always a tough match-up. We could've won that Detroit game had Jimmy Howard not stood on his head, the Rangers' loss came in a lack of effort and a well-executed gameplan by Tortorella, and that Avs game could've easily gone either way. Not exactly what you'd expect from a first place team but not exactly what I'd call a slump, but just a little up-and-down. This is traditionally the toughest stretch of the season, where players start getting injured and hurt. If you want to talk slumps, talk about Edmonton's 0-for-40-something powerplay. ... Actually, that's not a slump, that's... I don't know. I'm lost for words on that one. A slump is when a supposedly good team, like the Kings, go 2-8 in their last 10 and fall out of playoff contention. The Canucks? Still 6-2-2 and first in the conference. Two shutout losses in three games does not mean a slump. Got it?
  2. 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
  3. More often than not, I agree with Brian Burke - the World Hockey Summit in Toronto that is coming to its conclusion was a fantastic idea... if you could fork over the $450 ticket price and believe that the NHL is willing to implement changes. To me, the Summit is a re-hash of ideas, some great, some not so much, but certainly by no means having a direct impact on hockey in general because of its lack of execution. Increased scoring, financial viability of certain teams, expansion, and the CBA were again the major topics of conversation, some of which are worth discussing. <img src="http://www.tsr.ch/xobix_media/images/tsr/2008/swisstxt20080512_9077705_0.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Even though the NHL is struggling to keep some of its franchises afloat, there has always been talk of expansion, but not necessarily the kind that adds more teams, but rather the geographical kind. In my mind, there's no doubt the Coyotes are going to move, but the question remains when and where. Winnipeg and Quebec City are the oft-discussed destinations in Canada while south of the border the usual culprit, Kansas City, remains the most intriguing option. But what of overseas expansion? It's no secret that hockey is big in Europe and if the NHL is interested in generating revenue, Europe already has an established fan base, unlike the majority of the southern teams in the US. However, International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel is steadfastly against the idea. The underlying motivation behind Fasel's position isn't holding a grudge against Gary Bettman for refusing to commit NHL players to the 2014 Sochi Games, but more for protecting the interests of the European hockey leagues and indirectly, the NHL. The NHL boasts the world's best hockey players in the world but also the biggest revenue streams. As much as Alexander Medvedev thinks the KHL is more lucrative and more talented, that's just not the case. Ray Emery, who spent a season with Atlant Mytishchi, says the competition isn't even close and I'm inclined to agree. If the KHL, who often boasts about its player salaries exemplified by its offer to Ilya Kovalchuk (reportedly close to US $20 million a season, tax free), can't compete against the NHL, then neither can any of the European leagues. By establishing an European division, the NHL can essentially wipe out those leagues. Obviously there will be some fan loyalty to consider, but if the best players play in the NHL's European division, that's where the fans will go. Fan support is clearly dictated by the success of a team's on-ice product. Earlier this summer, Russia's most storied hockey franchise, Moscow Dynamo, whose alumni include Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Ovechkin, folded. If a team of that stature can fold, and while the KHL's financial instability isn't mirrored in the Swedish Elite League or the Finnish National League, it's not inconceivable that other storied franchises like MoDo or Jokerit Helsinki could fold as well. Even if the NHL is willing to pump millions of money into an European division, the logistics would be a major headache. Flight costs, scheduling, and game times are just some of the major problems it will encounter. If the Canucks were to play in Stockholm, they'd have to travel over 7500 km (airplane fuel is slightly more expensive than the already ridiculous prices they charge you at your local gas station) and a 7:00 PM game time in Stockholm translates to 10:00 AM Vancouver time. This severely decreases TV viewership and even if the games are played on weekends some die-hard Canucks fans would find it hard to get up that early. If the Canucks play at home at 7:00 PM, it's 4:00 AM in Stockholm and at that hour there's almost no point in broadcasting the games, especially if the NHL wishes to charge Swedish TV networks a premium for showcasing NHL talent. It's an idea that just won't work on any level and should be laid to rest. The second issue worth discussing is again, the salary cap. Even though Kovalchuk's original deal with the Devils was voided by Richard Bloch, it looks like he's going to be a Devil anyway. While other teams have knocked Kovalchuk's door, I think it's his intention to remain a Devil. You have to wonder if the Kings would've made a second pitch to Kovalchuk had they not signed Alexei Ponikarovsky upon hearing Kovalchuk's 17-year pact with New Jersey. The Kings still have ample cap room but having an extra $3.2 million in the bank could've changed things. If the NHL was so intent on preventing these "cheat" contracts from happening, why not dole out a real punishment, like preventing the Devils from re-negotiating with Kovalchuk? At the end of the day, when Kovalchuk is once again in the red and black, the Devils and Kovalchuk will merely shrug their shoulders. The Devils still got the player they wanted with (most likely) another ~$10 million per season salary contract, albeit shorter. Preventing re-negotiations between the two sides may be crossing the line for the NHL but it's a league that clearly doesn't believe in reason or logic. <img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_S-6RkogBLCs/SZQTkclNhaI/AAAAAAAAArk/rmYHVhfx7hk/s400/DSC_0497.JPG"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Hawks have also been whining about how inflexible the cap is and may have to loan Cristobal Huet to the Swiss National League A. The victim here is clearly Huet, not the Hawks, and frankly I'm a little disappointed the Frenchman hasn't sounded off. Since day one the Hawks have little confidence in their $5.625 million goalie and have come up with oh-so-original idea to either banish him to the AHL or loan him to European teams. Whether or not you agree Huet is starting material is debatable, but he is a NHL-calibre goalie. Teams that have clearly made mistakes, like Washington with Michael Nylander and the Rangers with Wade Redden, should be punished by having those salaries count against the cap regardless of where they're banished to. The Rangers, and more recently the Caps, now have deep pockets and aren't afraid of paying players to just simply go away. Unlike Phoenix, those organizations don't have problems paying their players but do have problems understanding how the cap works. By this time, entering the sixth year of the current CBA, there should be no excuse. The CBA is far too flexible and makes it far too easy for teams to make their mistakes go away.
  4. Even though the animosity on the ice between the Blues and the Canucks is real, it looks like upstairs in the front office it may be quite amicable. The Globe and Mail has recently reported that there is a potential deal in the works, with John Davidson having scouted the Manitoba Moose recently and Mike Gillis taking in the Blues-Habs game rather than the CHL Top Prospects game. <img src="http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2008/1124/fantasy_g_schneider_300.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">There have been no comments from either Gillis or Davidson, but the Globe suspects that the Blues are keeping their eye on Cory Schneider, whose career as a Vancouver Canuck may not last past this season. The former Boston College standout has voiced his displeasure at being stuck in the AHL and the Blues, with Chris Mason and Ty Conklin manning the pipes, may be looking for a goalie of the future. They do have Jake Allen, Canada's World Junior starter, in the pipeline, but he is a couple years away and Hannu Toivonen has turned out to be a flop. The player coming back, however, is speculated to be David Backes, a player that Gillis has targeted previously. Backes has one more year remaining on his contract at $2.5 million before he comes an unrestricted free agent. The big power forward has only 10 goals this year after potting 31 last year, but offensively the Blues have been inconsistent all season long, which has already cost Andy Murray his job. I'm skeptical of this trade because of the role Backes plays in St. Louis. He's a leader, having worn the 'A', and he brings a rare blend of size and skill to the table. St. Louis would be making a mistake by trading away Backes. He has an attractive contract to go with it and I think the only reason the Globe has mentioned Backes is because Gillis had expressed interest before his breakout season. <img src="http://assets.espn.go.com/photo/2009/0102/nhl_g_backes_300.jpg"class="imageFloatRightFramed">Now that Backes' stock has somewhat fallen, he may be easier to pry away from the Blues. Davidson, Larry Pleau, and Doug Armstrong are no fools, however, and the know the value of having Backes in an otherwise smallish (but fairly physical) top six Blues lineup. That being said, as much as Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows and Backes have had http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1angy_kjuk, I would love to see him in a Canucks jersey. League rumour round-up: Asides from Eric Staal, Cam Ward, Tuomo Ruutu, Brandon Sutter, and Tim Gleason, everyone on the Hurricanes' roster can go. I'm a little surprised to see that Joe Corvo isn't on that list. He's one of the few truly underrated players out there and the Sens shouldn't have given him up. Another player of interest is Matt Cullen, a second/third-line forward that is good in the circle and has some offensive ability. Ray Whitney has yet to waive his no-trade clause. Just a note on the captaincy switch - I wonder if it means Rod Brind'Amour's leaving soon? The Caps at least traded away Chris Clark and waited a couple of days before naming Alex Ovechkin as captain, even though everyone saw it coming. It's no secret that the Oilers are going to try and overhaul their roster soon. Sheldon Souray has already said he'll waive his no-trade clause but it's been rumoured that he prefers to stay out west, unless it's a Cup contender. Washington has expressed interest, as have the Rangers, Sabres, and Bruins. The Hawks are reportedly looking for more defensive depth but they'll have to unload Brian Campbell somehow for that to work. Despite reports that Vincent Lecavalier doesn't want to leave Tampa, his name continues to be a staple in the rumour mill. As always he will be linked to the Habs, but given their (ill-advised) splurge this summer they have little room for him. The Rangers are also rumoured to be interested but the Lightning will have to take back significant salary, something I don't think they're too keen on doing given their poor financial numbers. Wade Redden, Matt Gilroy, Michal Rozsival, Brandon Dubinsky, and Ryan Callahan are the names being mentioned. People are still hooked on a potential Tomas Kaberle trade but it's just not going to happen. First, he's the Leafs most valuable player and the only defenseman on that team that can handle the puck with any form of grace and skill. Second, as much as Burke's attitude gets the spotlight, he's a real man of his word and when he says he won't ask Kaberle to waive his no-trade, I believe him. Kaberle's not going anywhere this season. One name that's of particular interest to me is Colby Armstrong. The Thrashers are looking to deal the rugged winger and the Flames and Wild are reportedly interested. I don't know if Armstrong's the solution to the Flames' scoring woes and the Wild have made sideways steps this year at best, but he's a versatile player who can play a physical style suitable for the playoffs. The Wings will probably re-sign Todd Bertuzzi, the Pens would love to have Sergei Gonchar and Kris Letang back but will probably have to pick one, the Stars are looking for a goalie of the future, and the Ducks may become sellers soon. But of course, the Big Tuna here is Ilya Kovalchuk. Sorry Canucks fans, but it's not going to happen. Let's hope he stays out East though. And I'll just end everything with my personal favourite John Tortorella and his post-game interview against Philadelphia last night.
  5. John Stevens' firing from the Flyers may be the move that will set off a series of changes to some NHL teams. The recent struggles of the Blue Jackets has Ken Hitchcock reportedly in the hot seat along with the Blues' Andy Murray. While both the Ducks and Leafs have been off to rather disappointing starts, Randy Carlyle and Ron Wilson may also be on the hot seats although their respective GMs have publicly stated that roster changes will be made before the head coach gets the ax. Players such as the Blues' Patrik Berglund, the Kings' Dustin Brown, the Leafs' Niklas Hagman, and the Coyotes' Peter Mueller are just a couple names that are being thrown around. What's surprising is that these are young, quality players (asides from Hagman) that just haven't really found a niche on their teams. Some teams are making changes to deliver a message while other teams like Carolina may be looking to re-build their team already. The best part is, it looks at though Vancouver may be a beneficiary of these moves, as it's been rumoured that the Rangers are interested in re-uniting Marian Gaborik with Pavol Demitra and it is believed that Mike Gillis is openly shopping Shane O'Brien. <img src="http://www2.pictures.gi.zimbio.com/Vancouver+Canucks+v+New+York+Islanders+QtmV6Kt6aZfl.jpg" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> The struggling Rangers were off to a hot start thanks to the play of Vaclav Prospal, Ales Kotalik, and Michael Del Zotto on the powerplay, but John Tortorella's squad is struggling mightily of late and is currently on the outside looking in. While Gaborik (21 goals) and Prospal (20 assists) continue to pile on the points, Kotalik has failed to score a goal since November 5 and hasn't finished the game with a plus since October 14. Del Zotto has only 5 points in November after posting 12 in October and is -9 in his last 5 games, including an ugly -5 in a 8-2 loss against the Penguins. Questions concerning the Rangers' offensive depth were raised but quickly silenced after their hot start but it looks as though it was merely a mirage. The Rangers don't have much cap space to work with (roughly $1 million) so if they wish to acquire Demitra the Canucks will most likely have to take on some salary in exchange. Demitra is a UFA at the end of the season and given his injury history, production, and the emergance of Burrows and Kesler as dependable offensive weapons, it is unlikely he will be extended beyond this season. The Rangers picked up Erik Christensen off waivers from Anaheim a few days ago and a player that could be moved is Chris Higgins ($2.25 million), who has been in Tortorella's dog house this season and has only 9 points. O'Brien, on the other hand, has always been on the outside looking in once Mathieu Schneider was signed. While defensive depth was an area that Gillis felt the team needed to improve, O'Brien has been used sparingly and the Canucks do have Aaron Rome, Nolan Baumgartner, and Lawrence Nycholat as call-ups. O'Brien brings an edge to this defensive corps but it is obviously something that Gillis deems expendable. Exactly what sort of compensation the Canucks can get for O'Brien remains to be seen but I don't see a big market for him - it is rumoured that the much more dependable and valuable Aaron Ward is on the block. Gillis may simply try to parlay O'Brien into a pick but I imagine that Gillis would prefer if O'Brien returns East rather than going to San Jose as Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun suggests. O'Brien played just over 15 minutes against Carolina, the only Vancouver defenseman to play under 19 minutes that game. O'Brien has had his run-ins with the coaching staff in the past dating to last year and is obviously not in the team's long-term plans. I don't think it's any coincidence that these rumours have come at the heel of an afternoon loss against Carolina. It could be blamed on the schedule, in which the Canucks were playing matinee game after posting hard-fought back-to-back wins against New Jersey and Philadelphia, but even then the Canucks' play against the lowly Hurricanes lacked any sort of urgency in the second period. The Canucks shot themselves in the foot in a game that they should've taken. One area the Canucks may wish to improve on is special teams, especially the PK, which sits 21st in the league at 78.4%. Vancouver's 4th ranked PP is clicking at 22.7%, but asides from a blowout in Edmonton (4 PPGs), the Canucks have gone 0-19 with the man advantage in the other six games. The Canucks may simply just choose to re-stock the pipeline with prospects and picks but you can definitely count out any talks regarding Ilya Kovalchuk.