A while back I looked at cities that might be good or bad destinations for Rick Nash. Since it appears Bobby Ryan is also on the trading block, a similar look is in order, along with some of the factors that may (should) lead to his trade.

The Anaheim Ducks as a team don’t lack talent. They have guys who have scored 30 and 50 goals recently, and a goalie capable of leaving opponents frustrated night after night. What they lack is anything like commitment in the first half of the season. They have played at best mediocre hockey until the football season winds down, and then between Christmas and New Years they are suddenly nearly unbeatable. It happens like clockwork.

Bobby Ryan has turned in four straight 30+ goal seasons and played about an average number of minutes a game to do it. In the last two seasons he’s added penalty killing to his pedigree. He was part of the American Olympic team that won silver just a couple seasons ago picking up a goal and assist along the way. While he played for the Ducks in the season after they won the Cup, none of his other stops have been the top tier hockey spots. Owen Sound of the OHL is not exactly the NHL player factory that that teams like the London Knights, Kitchner Rangers or some others.

The New Jersey Devils

This team leaps to the top of the list for several reasons. You can start with their having just lost a high profile left wing. Or you can go with Bobby Ryan being a Cherry Hill, New Jersey native.  Either works. They need to replace the scoring they lost, and Ryan is probably the closest points per game producer they can get at .780 ppg to Parise’s .817, an argument can even be made for Ryan being as good or better given the slight playing time advantage to Parise, and more first line minutes.

The New York Rangers

One than that is unlikely to be an issue here is ego. Ryan is well liked, well respected and about third or arguably fourth in prestige on the Ducks, on the Rangers there’s at least as many players ahead of him who would be in line for media blitz and blame after the shiny wore off. The top two goal scorers on the left side last season were Hagelin at 38 points in his rookie season, and Fedetenko (now elsewhere) with 20 points.

Minnesota Wild

Sure they just landed Parise and Suter, but they just means they have less expensive prospects and probably several of them to move. Yes the Miami Heat jokes would get old even before the season started, but Parise, Ryan, Heatley between them aught to be able to fix the offense. A return almost has to include at least one of Granland or Phillips and Coyle. With a smaller contract than some of the other names team moving contracts out for space only leaves the danger of a thin bottom six.

Washington Capitals

With the near certain departure of Alex Semin, another left wing will be needed, why not Ryan? The media will even have to find a real reason to dump on him since he’s not Russian. Hell, the raw physicality on wing with him and Ovechkin on the ice together probably makes them favorites to for deep runs on more than just paper. Skill isn’t really lost either.

Nashville Predators

Strong goaltending, got that. Tough defense, got that too. Go too scorer? Bueller? Or maybe Bobby? With the departure of Suter, getting Ryan might make it easier to nail Weber to the floor. At only 1.6m more than Suter’s last Predators contract, he’s more than affordable and fills a need. The rabid fans in Nashville could push him to even higher performances.

Carolina Hurricanes

They said they were looking for a scoring winger to play with Eric Staal. Bobby Ryan meets both of those qualifications. Adding Ryan without losing someone off the roster (unlikely) would only put the Canes about half a million over the cap floor with 21 players on the NHL roster. If your top six includes Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Bobby Ryan, and Jeff Skinner you have as good an offense as 80% of the NHL.

Buffalo Sabres

With an expected revamping in the offing, Ryan in and nearly anyone not Leino going back probably does good things for both lineups. With Roy gone, and Hodgson and Luke Adam both pretty young, who the center the Ducks would want in return might be is a bit murky, but playing in Buffalo would only be a let down in climate.

Detroit RedWings

Not only do they need to start accumulating talent under 35, any draft picks they could send back would be at a twenty year high in value. With the loss of Lidstrom, and the aging of the rest of their roster,

Montreal Canadiens

If they decide to tweak their roster Tomas Plekanec almost certainly goes back as part of the exchange. This would leave the Habs spending only slightly more, and open up more ice time at center for the recently extended Lars Eller and local boy Louis Leblanc. With Cole and Pacioretty at left wing, it might mean some other moves in were needed, but as well mean one of the three plays out of position.

Toronto Maple Leafs

They can send back anything but a center unless they cough up Grabovski and he’s willing to be traded their. Brian Burke is the general manager who drafted him and adding him to the mix in Toronto could deflect attention from Phil Kessel and who ever is unfortunate enough to be playing goal for a while.

There are quite a few things that separate the good teams from the bad, and the perennial contenders from the serial pretenders. In some cases it is money. In others it is ownership that is either over involved or under-informed. Unrealistic pressure brought on by a fan base who has been whipped into a frenzy by local media owns a place on the list as well. But one of the clearest hallmarks of serial failure to flourish is an inability to draft and develop talent.

The Detroit Red Wings built their system over the years by draft talent they believed in regardless of the round and making those players perform to the best of their abilities within the Detroit system. Henrik Zetterburg 7th round pick, Pavel Datsyuk 6th round pick, Jonathan Ericsson 9th round pick, Joey MacDonald undrafted. All these players were on the Red Wings roster last season. All of them contributed to yet another playoff run.

Then there are the Edmonton Oilers. Once the NHL’s finest team, today a safe bet to be in the lottery. Why? That’s pretty easy. They can non draft and develop talent. In the drafts between 2000 and 2011, they took 36 defensemen. Of those defensemen, the only two to play more than 150 NHL games are Matt Greene (now with the Kings) and Theo Peckham. Pekham hits well, and frequently, blocks tons of shots and averages around 17 minutes an night over his career. Of the other defensemen, 28 have played between zero and fifty NHL games. 2 out of 36 is a pretty damned low success rate. Throwing darts at prospects names would work just as well.

Not all markets will support a team that can’t get out of it’s own way. Edmonton is lucky in that regard. They’ve put up with a pretty putrid product for the last half decade. But this CBA negotiation presents a unique chance to turn a dead letter, the current offer sheet system, into a way to get more talent into the NHL.

The idea is: Any team that misses the playoffs three years in a row, is required to submit at least one offer sheet per year each season after that they miss the playoffs. If a team has a player signed away, they get whatever the current compensation is, an additional 2nd round pick and a contract ceiling waiver for those draft picks. The team losing the prospect would also get protection for that year from any other prospects being signed away. The team losing the prospect could also choose which year they wanted each pick, potentially allowing a team with low talent levels to sign two or three players to offer sheets.

The team submitting the offer sheet gets the talent it can’t find or develop in its own. The team losing a prospect acquires additional draft picks they can trade either as picks or as prospects for mature talent or retain in their own system. Young players have a higher chance of being developed in a useful system, and experienced players will have the chance to play their whole career in one place, and have a chance to win.

It likely doesn’t stop there though. Player movement, particularly of hot young talent, generates merchandise sales, can impact advertising revenue, and obviously the product on the ice. Reasonably speaking teams with more talent are more likely to be entertaining and win. This means that the Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and other flourishing teams get to keep more of their money. An expansion market or team that was struggling due to the local economy could find a way back to the top with one or two careful offer sheets.

 

The easy assessment today is that the Wild are a vastly better team today than they were yesterday. Justin Falk will get a Norris worthy mentor, Steve Kampfer will get his second of that caliber. Dany Heatley will get to play without always being the most recognizable offensive threat on the team  Backstrom will get a guy in front of him who is healthy, highly skilled and driven. Koivu not only will end up with less responsibility to carry each game, he can sit home and smile for a couple days that he’ll have to playoff experienced veterans of high skill to deepen the talent pool, and help shoulder the burden of success.

A big reason for both Suter and  Parise to sign in Minnesota is that both are used to defensive systems that make use of all five players in all three zones. Together with Koivu, Backstrom, and Heatley,  they make a compellingly deep team. For all the defensive prowess of the Predators that can’t be said about them. For all the wizardry of Kovalchuk and the promise of Henrique, they aren’t a top team now, with or without Parise.

For the Northwest division, it just got uglier. The Canucks are no longer assured of a playoff spot, division title, and potential Presidents Trophy simply for playing in the leagues worst division. The Calgary Flames should see this as a sign they need to finally set off the explosives while Iginla, Bouwmeester and one or two others will still fetch something. The Oilers are possibly the worst off since a division rival just got better offensively and defensively. Colorado will have to scrap even harder, and get everyone pulling together or just pull the plug but things can’t continue as they have.

Hardest hit is likely one of the teams that never had either, the Detroit Red Wings. With the end of the Lidstrom Era, and the decline and fall of their once dominant forward group, another Dead Wings era may be in the offing, The Predators while losing an enormous talent are likely better off than the Devils. Suter was not the name and face of the franchise. Ideally they will replace him with a quality forward or two who can provide timely offense. For the Devils, some will call this a death knell given their financial troubles, or see it as a betrayal. The truth is the Devils had a great deal of luck getting to the finals last year, and didn’t have the money to upgrade to win.

Next season, the Devils are still likely a playoff team, as are the Predators. What this means for the draft pick the Devils could have forfeited this year is unknown, but this years pick is likely to be higher. Also look for the trade market to spring wide open. This may even include some of the prospects drafted just a couple weeks ago.

 

The five days of camp were quite the spectacle. While the smaller number in this years crowd showed off individuals more, it was harder to separate the players into either A: likely NHL ready this year or next or B: not yet close. Like everyone else, my focus was first on the guys most likely to turn pro this season, second on the new draft class, and third on everyone else. With so many players, including six goalies and drills being run at both ends of the ice and sometimes in three lines, I didn’t get a chance to focus on everyone.

In the first group:

  • Tommy Cross, unflappable puck handler, smooth, smart passes and over the years his willingness to throw the body has grown. Some have criticized his foot speed but the list of NHL guys without high end speed who have logged hundreds and hundreds of games isn’t short. Glenn Murray, Hal Gill, Mike Komisarek, Adam Foote are just a few on the list.
  • Ryan Spooner, almost certainly both the best skater in agility and speed as well as the softest hands in camp. Solid shot too. Has clearly gotten stronger and filled out since being drafted.
  • Jared Knight, still a fearless net driver, willing to trade hits with larger players and definitely plays bigger than his average size. One of the fitter players and was able to absorb hits from larger players, in a manner similar to Bergeron, without it shifting his balance.
  • Dougie Hamilton, good straight line speed, good passer and not afraid to shoot, pinch or or go deep into the offensive zone. Made a nice hit crossing the blueline in scrimmage. Is off to the Worlds this summer.
  • Alexander Khokhlachev while barred from contact in drills, and held out of scrimmages, his hands are undeniably gifted. Has bulked up a bit despite the time off. Unless he makes the NHL this year will be playing for the KHL team his father manages this year.
  • Torey Krug, sealed off the boards well, went into traffic as needed and was also aware enough of more offensive minded defense partners to stay back when they pinched. It’s not a surprise why the Bruins signed him out of college.

Malcolm Subban watching the action at Development Camp

This years draftees:

    Malcolm Subban, high end athleticism, not

just

    explosiveness but control. When you watch him move in the crease you get the feeling he could move the exact same distance fifty times while singing the national anthem. When I spoke to him I got the impression he listened very intently and that can’t hurt a goalies development.

  • Matt Grzelcyk, of the defensemen, probably the most agile, showed good hands in several drills as well. Small but popped in and out of lanes well. He’s off to college this fall.
  • Colton Hargrove good skater both in terms of movement and speed, made nice passes even on bad ice, willing to hit and be hit as well. Western Michigan University fans will get to watch him play this year.
  • Cody Payne, while the most notable line on his stats in the PIMs he showed off more than you might expect. He’s played for Team USA internationally in the Ivan Hlinka so he certainly should be watched.
  • Seth Griffith, shoot first, and second mentality, never looked out of place. Was tracked a bit better by TheOffWing, but I noticed him more and more as the week went on.
  • Matthew Benning is one of those rare right shooting defensemen, was limited by a minor injury. On his juniors team he was in the top half in points per game, and had 87 PIMS. Clearly not a goon, but bears watching for his skill.

Everyone else:

  • Robbie O’Gara is headed to Yale this fall, big body, better agility than some of the smaller players. More than willing hitter who didn’t get out of position to do it.
  • Adam Morrison, the recently signed goalie tracks the puck well and is not going to be beat along the ice. Moves the pads well even if both are flat.
  • Niklas Svedberg, no beatings dished out this week, but he also didn’t get beat by many pucks. Aggressive play, willing to come out of the crease and just shrugged off physical contact.
  • Wayne Simpson didn’t look out of place, handled the drills, physicality and the like quietly, had a huge open ice collision and shrugged it off. Also showed off some nice hands.
  • Brian Ferlin two words best describe his game one is power the other is forward. Uses his body and brain.
  • Ben Sexton, in body and scrimmage reminds me of Sean Bergenheim, compact and solid body, lower skating posture
  • Parker Milner, stays upright a bit more than some goalies while down, good glove.
  • Justin Courtnall, quiet competence, for some unknown reason attracted a lot of attention from other Hockey East players, displayed good on ice awareness and dropped back to cover for pinching defensemen frequently.
  • Chris Casto, more a stay at home defenseman than guys like Hamilton or Krug.
  • Anthony Camara, good size, straight line player, likely to annoy the hell out of the defenders he runs over.

 

One of the things that leads to promising prospects flaming out most often is some failure between player and team to adopt the teams mentality. If you look at the New York Rangers under Tortorella; if you don’t block shots you don’t play. He’s a tough minded coach who is always on task and isn’t going to spare the feelings of anyone.

The Nashville Predators its equally simple. Play defense. Don’t make waves. Team first, second, third, fourth and fifth. Don’t have a visible personality. Work within the system at all times. Don’t expect or demand a lot of ice time.

For individuals going into a system like the Boston Bruins, its easy: play your game, but add to it. If you’re a smart defender with solid positional play, and not very physical add that edge to your game. If you’re a soft handed, skilled forward know the capabilities of your teammates. As an averaged size forward, don’t expect to be able to overpower NHL opponents the way you might have in juniors or college. Above all else, don’t stop hustling.

Whatever the team, whatever the system prospects need to do two things, keep the high points of their game, and add to their portfolio. Teams need to do one thing: help them.

Lots, and lots of action on day one with perhaps the most talked about contract going to someone who only held the spotlight for one season, Jason Garrison. I’m not a big fan of contracts over five or six year, so I won’t assassinate anyone based on those, but there were a number of not bad signings, and only a few of the horrible ones.

Best Low Risk Contract:

Brad Boyes to the New York Islanders. Boyes has all the skill he needs to become a terror to defenses and goaltenders across the NHL, anyone who pots seventy-six goals in two seasons, has to have them. What he hasn’t had in recent years is anything like consistency. If he get’s it back and hits the 20 goal mark the Islanders are well ahead on the deal, if he hits 25 to 30 the Islanders made money.

Worst Collection of Signings:

Montreal Canadiens, some of the players signed yesterday are going to contribute and be a big part of the team, but they don’t address the teams biggest underlying issue: offense. The team has finished 20th, 23rd, and 26th in goals for the last three seasons and yesterday’s additions don’t address that.

Best Blueline Upgrade:

Anaheim Ducks, Sheldon Souray will bring some experience to help fine tune Cam Fowler and some of their other prospects, Bryan Allen is a smart stay at home defenseman who’s probably destined to become Hiller’s very best friend.

Worst Sentimental Signing:

Dustin Penner who scored seven goals in the regular season, and three in the post seasons was brought back for $3.25 million, which is a lot to pay for someone who produces like a 4th liner.

Best Stealth Move:

Jeff Zatkoff was picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and might just be their goalie of the future. The American netmidner has had success at the college level, played well in Manchester and could unseat one or two of the names ahead of him if given an honest shot.

Best Team Movements:

Every team that didn’t over pay in a horribly thin market.

 

On the second to last day of camp the crowds were large enough that Ristuccia hit capacity and had to turn late comers away. On the ice it was possible to separate the best conditioned from those still working on it. Physical fitness testing was this morning before practice and scrimmage and with that and four days of being run ragged by Cassidy and Sweeney, chased about the gym by Whitesides and community service, it is quite likely half the players have never had a week this busy.

With only two units of forwards and defense for the black vs white scrimmage it was destined to be short and sharp. While the small group and the emphasis on personal development and team building the tone wasn’t as nasty as it could have been. There were quite a few solid shoulder checks laid out.

The top participants in the physicality should come as no surprise. O’Gara led the bruise brigade with a few solid hits. Knight both absorbed a few solid hits, and returned them. Cross showed a heartening level of physicality on top of his unflappable puck control and smart positioning. Justin Courtnall seemed to attract more than his fair share of hits and just rolled with it dishing out a few and nearly coming to blows with one of his larger fellow campers.

Ryan Spooner’s speed and puck handling were notable from puck drop to final whistle. Torey Krug handled contact with several larger players easily, and flashed in and out of traffic pinching offensively and defending with equal ease. Hargrove showed off a top gear that generated some buzz chasing down a small defenseman and reaching around him after a two stride disadvantage.

Other tidbits:

  • Parker Milner said he decided to come to the Bruins Camp over some other offers after having seen the way they treat players. Will be back at Boston College this fall.
  • Tommy Cross was happy to share a locker-room with Milner again and thinks highly of his play.
  • Coach Cassidy said ice conditions and small numbers make it difficult for team to scrimmage very long at this time of year. Noted the development of O’Gara and others.

Yesterday Justin Schultz chose the Edmonton Oilers. Today his contract will be registered with the league. For the Anaheim Ducks this is an ugly blight on their off season. But things like this don’t happen in a vacuum. He was drafted back in 2008 and has had time to observe the Ducks organization in action for all that time. They’ve gone changed coaches, a player has been publicly and repeatedly scapegoated. Collectively the players on the ice have taken the first half of the season off two years in a row.

Then there is a drafting and development record that doesn’t deserve mention. Justin Schultz is 21 years old, he’s an adult. He didn’t choose the team that drafted him. And a team that doesn’t. compete well and douses its stars in public scorn isn’t someplace many will want to play there. When one of the biggest stars in the league who isn’t know for piping up does so just days before the draft maybe this. should be a wake up call.

Some might see this as a reason to change the CBA. I see this as a way to keep players who don’t feel a team offers what they needm or who may be toxic to stay out of low growth situations. As we saw with Jeff Carter thisyear and others in years past; unhappy players don’t perform well. What team really believes a miserable player is good for their team? Let it go, growand learn from it and move on.

Today’s skating drills were revealing. Some guys are more agile than they show in the course of a scrimmage. Not surprisingly the players who have done these drills in the past do them best. Ryan Spooner stood out and that was in no way news.  Several of the bigger players like O’Gara and Ferlin did quite well, and despite the questions about Cross that should have been stuffed and mounted long ago he went through drills that  look painful more smoothly than Hamilton.

I spoke with a couple players after practice, O’Gara who is headed off to Yale in the fall says his goal is to get bigger and stronger. Using the camp stats as reasonably accurate if he puts on 5-8lbs of mass and stays all four years he’ll wind up somewhere in between 205 and 217, I can’t imagine many forwards wanting to go into his corner. Had the most physical shift of the day smashing the larger and older Justin Courtnall repeatedly.

Local boy and USNDT Matt Grzelcyk will be staying local and playing for Boston University for the next few years. Bruins fans can look forward to the nearly inevitable BU/BC Beanpot games have at least once prospect on each team. The smooth skating defenseman was drafted in the 3rd round this year and is among the smaller players at camp. Watch him closely.

Jared Knight says the playoff experience in the OHL helped him develop, and that he’s focused on improving his game and going into camp focused.

The most entertaining and informative exchange of the day however was off to the side as Khoklachev and Subban worked on one end of the ice while the rest of the campers practiced rushes. Khoklachev is held out of contact for a few more weeks. Until the lacerated kidney is completely healed he can’t be a full participant in camp. Subban was in net. As Khoklachev swooped in from the blueline for shot after shot the two ratcheted up the skill level, the two found the competition increasingly humorous. At one point Khoklachev was lying on the ice laughing. The two exchanged mock exuberant celebrations after a save or score. Good to see players who might well play together for ten years making fun out of their very serious work.

Dev Camp ’12 Saturday June 30

Coach Cassidy spoke about the development of various players. Tommy Cross was praised for coachability while playing two games in Providence last year. Stressed that the camp was about developing individual players and familiarizing players with the Bruins expectations and way of doing things. Later he mentioned the Providence Bruins not only had 11 1st year pros, but fourteen concussions, the highest in the AHL last year. He’s expecting a better season this year.