This season the Buffalo Sabres were expected by many to challenge for the very last Northeast Division title. The Boston Bruins were expected by most to fight like hell to win the division again. So far the Sabres have fired a head coach, declared open season on their roster, and wallowed around the bottom of the division and conference. The Bruins have missed out on acquiring future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla, traded away a world class goaltender the front office alienated, and had the decided displeasure of a rear view on the Montreal Canadien’s for much of the season.

Disclaimer;

You can seriously injury yourself, destroy property, or even die even if your participation in this drinking game is nothing more than water. If you should happen to do something incredibly idiotic and entertaining during this drinking game that makes it to Youtube, TextsFromLastNight or other fun sites; do send a link. It won’t make your life better, but I’ll get a laugh too. No one is responsible for the stupid you commit but you. Enjoy!

 

Take 1 Drink Whenever:

  • Lindy Ruff is mentioned
  • Jordan Leopold or other former members of the Sabres are mentioned.
  • The word “lethargic” is applied to either team.
  • The size of Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Nathan Gerbe, or Tyler Ennis is mentioned.

Take 2 Drinks Whenever:

  • Sidney Crosby is mentioned.
  • Jarome Iginla is mentioned.
  • An announcer uses “shakeup” in discussing either teams problems.
  • The Lucic/Miller collision is mentioned.
  • Someone says they don’t like an officials call.

Take 3 Drinks Whenever:

  • Someone mentions players needing to wear visors or full cages.
  • Ryan Clowe is mentioned on tv, twitter or radio in connection with the Bruins.
  • Someone says “fire sale”, “wholesale changes”, or “rebuild” about the Sabres.
  • John Scott skates more than 2:25 seconds in a period.

Take 4 Drinks Whenever:

  • Game of Thrones is mentioned or alluded to.
  • Someone makes a trade deadline prediction.
  • Peter Chiarelli or Darcy Regier are mentioned or shown on tv.
  • There is a mention of any teams scouts.

Switch Drinks:

  • Between periods.
  • Whenever Mike Milbury makes the least sense in an intermission.
  • Whenever Doc goes more than four minutes of game play without using; knife, stab, or pitchfork.
  • If Patrick Kaleta, Andrew Ference, John Scott or Shawn Thornton score a goal.

Skip a drink;

  • You start to have faith the Sabres will make the playoffs.
  • You think the Bruins will fall out of the playoffs.
  • You think Liam McHugh is funny.
  • Greg Campbell wins a fight.

 

 

The Calgary Flames and the twice traded Jarome Iginla may end up being the biggest trade of the year, but the first general manager to say they are listening to everything is Darcy Regier. Mike Harrington reports in the wake of the Jordan Leopold to the Saint Louis Blues that the embattled general manager is talking to every front office in the league. Nobody is off the market at this point, so let’s take a romp through the roster.

Top tier;

  • Ryan Miller should be an easy chip to move if he’s willing to get gone no goalie with more games played has a better save percentage than his .911, his $6.25m contract isn’t ridiculous, and at 32 he’s probably got four to five more years of solid play ahead of him minimum. When you look at guys around his size like Tim Thomas, Martin Broduer, and even Hedberg and Biron, you get the idea he might have another 8-10 years in him. He’s putting up solid numbers despite an awful season from the team, and that means even teams starting to rebuild might want to consider him.
  • Drew Stafford, the 27 year old right wing is having an off year, his point percentage is usually a bit closer to .66 per game, versus the less than half a point per game this season. With two more years at four million he’s in  the price range where he should be getting second line minutes, but if he’s outperformed by someone, or just fits better on the third line most competitive clubs won’t have sunk their chances of success. At six-two tall and two hundred pounds and change the former 30 goal scorer presents a pretty compelling , where he plays in all situations, even if his scoring touch isn’t there he can still contribute.
  • Cody Hodgson is not a player I would want to trade if I were the Sabres, but he’s one that might draw some pretty nice offers is anyone is paying attention. He’s young, he’s already taken part in a run into the Stanley Cup finals, and he’s a skilled one or two center. While he’s hardly large or physical, he plays on both the powerplay and the penalty kill and plays big minutes.
  • Thomas Vanek might be hard to move, not because of his skill set or age, but because his contract is a bit large to shuffle into the mix with the salary cap going down. This might be a situation where a team like say the Islanders or Red Wings takes on the player and most of the contract. When you can be more than a point per game on less than 19 minutes of ice time a game on a bad team in a compressed season your skill set is worth taking note of.
  • Jason Pomminville, another year with 5.3m left on the contract should really only slow down those with no cap flexibility at all. Twice a 30 goal man, five straight years of more than 20 goals, and a career points per game percentage of .79? The biggest question should be is anyone worth keeping wearing his number on your roster.

Mid tier:

  • Tyler Ennis, low risk, potentially high reward. The small forward is tenacious, a great skater, a good passer, and should easily fit in at anywhere from the 4th-10th forward spots. A bit over 2 million for his cap hit for one more year, a twenty goal year to his name, and just 23.
  • Tyler Myers, high risk, but the reward could be huge, or a perpetual drain on the payroll. He’s got a forever long contract and has taken a couple dozen steps back from his Calder Trophy form. A team that has a solid defenseman who can coach up the towering Texan into better play is probably in the best position to get the most from Myers. That defenseman might not even need to be on ice, Lidstrom played recently enough that he could likely make big strides Myers.
  • Christian Ehrhoff, while most defensemen age pretty well, this one has had more than one knee injury, and carries a cap hit of four million through 2012. The actual pay out is only only one million a year in the last three seasons, but a guy who relies on his speed and skating signed for that long with those problems already is worrisome. On the other hand, he’s only increased his minutes in the last two or three years and is playing in all situations. The contract length could mean the German defenseman stays in Buffalo even if someone has some interest.

I can’t see anyone targeting most of the rest of the roster. Marcus Foligno might garner a bit of interest, and defensemen are always in demand so shuffling out the current blueline for some prospects and picks is possible, and the fact that Regier traded for Ott shows there’s at least two people who think he’s got value (aside from his agent). Overall this team isn’t horribly built, it just can’t seem to ever get on the same page or four games in a row.

 

The deadline is coming!

The deadline is coming!

And it is a glorious thing, the western conference has a lot of interesting parts that make it hard to say who will be buyers or sellers. Some of the bottom teams have improved a lot, some of the middle teams aren’t as good as they look, and some of the top teams are just scary.

Chicago: If there’s anything this team could use other than better centers not named Toews, I’m not sure it really matters, they are scoring lots, allowing little, and beating people on a regular basis (at least the ones who aren’t from Anaheim). Extra depth for the playoffs wouldn’t hurt but how do you tinker with a team that’s lead the league since the word go?

Anaheim: With just one player in the top 40 in the NHL’s scoring race, and a defense where the TOI split between #1 and #6 is about four minutes, one wonders how this team has been the the second most consistent team in the NHL this season. This team doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses, unless it is a lack of playoff experience up and down the roster.

Vancouver: We know the Canucks are desperately trying to win he very last northwest division title. We know they have less ROW’s than Minnesota who also have a game in hand. We know the team traded away the talented young Hodgson even though Kesler is rarely healthy and they don’t have a viable 2nd center without them. We know after year of being at the top o the NHL’s scoring race, the Sedins who sat on the couch during the lockout are behind guys like Sam Gagner, Patrice Bergeron, Mikko Koivu, and Chris Stewart in the scoring race.

Minnesota: We knowWild will be the word for the emotions of fans in the state of hockey when they get to see their first playoff game in a few years. There’s still a good chance they win the division. We know that Mikko Koivu might finally get some of the adulation and national attention he deserves if they win a round or two in the playoffs. We know they need to do something pretty damned extreme to get their goalie and a respectable roster put together by opening night this fall. We know it is a crying shame Jonas Brodin won’t even make the long list for the Calder.

Los Angeles: We know the Kings who weren’t notoriously good at scoring last year are very quietly number seven in goals for this year. We know that their number one goaltender has had a performance dip year over year.  We know this team will be a different variety of difficult to beat in seven games than last spring.

Detroit: With the trade of Huskins for a conditional 2014 draft pick, and hometown boy Danny DeKeyeser, we’re starting to get a look at what the team will look like in a year or two. We know that with 27 skaters having taken the ice in 34 games and just two players with 10 or more goals, long term answers need to be found.

San Jose:  82 goals for, 82 goals against tells us this team is rather mediocre. I can’t see a high price on some of their middling talent, but I can’t see this team selling big before the deadline, ownership has apparently decided to drive this core group into the ground, meaning Sharks fans can expect another year or two of making the playoffs and getting made into chum in the second season.

Saint Louis; Good news, bad news. We know the team is scoring better than last season, we also know the team is allowing more goals than last season. We know the team needs to find an identity, and see if they can get more recognition for Pietreangelo.

Dallas: We know this team needs to find defenders who can get the puck out of their own zone. We know this team has lots of old guys left and the team wouldn’t be made worse medium term to get rid of every forward over thirty.

Columbus: We know if this team won half their games on the road instead of one fourth they’d not only be a playoff team, they’d be poised for home ice advantage at least through the first round.

Nashville: What ails this team isn’t just the loss of Suter, they are missing some of the same drive the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins lack. They also still don’t know how to score.

Edmonton: We know the Oilers defense is made out of wet tissues, we know the offense is struggling despite the nearly point per game production of Sam Gagner, we know the team isn’t going to be fixed until the leadership is changed.

Phoenix: Like the desert they play in, this team is hot and cold, last season they won the division and went to the conference finals last season, and this season they are in the basement. We know the ownership drama may never end. We know the Coyotes need both depth and quality.

Calgary: We know handing out too many no movement clauses makes rebuilding difficult. We know failing to acquire good young talent makes rebuilding difficult. We know being publicly shown to have no clue, and no ability to make deals makes rebuilding difficult.

Colorado: We know if this team was playing in a top tier hockey market the media bludgeoning would make their record and team stats look pleasant. We know this team will probably draft a high end talent and then fail to develop them.

 

 

 

 

With the deadline looming, and about a bakers dozen games left for many team, it is time to take a look at what we know about all the teams in the NHL.

Pittsburgh: We know Ray Shero likes to make deadline trades, we know health is sorta returning for this team. We also know that with a current cumulative cap hit higher than next years cap, and Morrow’s decline and questionable health that this is likely a one shot deal for the guys currently in uniform.

Montreal:  It’s kinda hard to figure out why more people aren’t excited about his team. They are fifth in goals for, ninth in goals against, there only real bad component is their penalty kill. While we’re at it, Tomas Plekanec deserves way more attention than he gets, if he could drag the penalty kill into respectability, or even just score a shorthanded goal or two he’d be on my Selke shortlist.

Winnipeg; We know this team needs desperately to buy quality defense at the deadline. Adding offense wouldn’t hurt at all, but the backend needs to come first they are one of just two top eight teams in the east to allow triple digit goals already.

Boston: This team needs an attitude adjustment. They do not have the raw focus or hunger they did in their Cup winning year, what body they add isn’t the solution, the size of the fight in that dog is.

Ottawa; Clearly this is a team made up of undercover superheros, or at least the guys left on the ice. They might not go to far this year, but oh man this team has some good young talent and might even lead the conference if they were healthy. A cheap rental forward who can add to the scoring would be nice, but this team could easily produce an upset or two.

Toronto: The fact that no real changes have been made to this team since Brian Burke was fired, and it has just about locked up a playoff spot means he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing his next GM job, and probably trading for Kadri, Gardiner, and Grabovski or pennies on the dollar.

New Jersey: The Devils have spent all season proving last season wasn’t a fluke. How they’ve done this is anyones guess. They are winning right now even without Kovalchuk, It would not surprise me if they became sellers at the deadline, but in a very limited sense.

New York Rangers: We know this is either the Eastern Conference’s best bad team or worst good team.  We know time is running out on the current off ice leadership for this team. We know in order to get this level of under-performance elsewhere in sports you’d have to threaten professional cycling with accurate testing and jail time for violators. We know that if the Islanders and Devils make the playoffs and the Rangers don’t the angst in Blue Shirt nation will be legendary

New York Islanders: We know John Tavares should be getting way more attention than he does, he is after all over a point per game, second in goals, and seventh in points. If the Islanders make the playoffs, he has to be on the Hart shortlist. We know that Brad Boyes would be a frickin’ idiot to sign anywhere else next season given that he has more points in 34 games this season, than in 65 last year.

Carolina: With several games in hand their current 10th place position is deceiving, we know however they need to win those games. We know that Cam Ward isn’t nearly as irreplaceable as the faithful would have you believe. We know that Jeff Skinner (signed to a big endorsement deal by Dewey, Slewfoot and Diver) will probably not like the attention he receives night after night from top defenses.

Washington: We know that Adam Oates deserves a boatload of capital for turning the ship around on the fly without the benefit of a training camp, stable goaltending, or a team with any confidence in itself. He’s also got Ovechkin back to a point per game by using that weird thing called logic and letting him play more minutes. We also know that this team still isn’t built right and that problem still resides at a higher level than Oates.

Tampa Bay: We know that Yzerman is just as good at constructing a defense as he was at fighting.

We know he needs to fix that if he’s going to make it to his fourth year as general manager. He’s clearly good at identifying offensive talent, so swapping some of the current stable to rebuilding or needy teams for a veteran defenseman or two shouldn’t be completely impossible.

Buffalo: We know Terry Pegula can’t be pleased with the state of his hockey team. We know that with next years realignment no one with an ounce of hockey sense would pencil this team into next years standings about sixth place without major changes. We know if they blow up the team right they could have a pretty good chance at drafty both Seth Jones and Connor Mcdavid.

Philadelphia: We know the keep defenseman healthy the same way The Real World finds the mentally unbalanced to film every season. We know that no to long ago the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals, and have regressed further and further every year. WE know this is another team that’s due for some administrative housekeeping even if the health problems make things look worse than they are.

Florida: We know that last year despite an absurd amount of injuries the team went toe to toe with the eventual Eastern Conference champions. We know that this year, another absurd amount of injuries and dramatically poorer goaltending from the guys not named Markstrom have lead not to the Southeast division title but once again to the eastern conference basement. We know they have a couple more solid prospects in the pipeline. We know there is tons and tons for Dale Tallon and company to do.

If there’s anything more prone to producing hysteria and hysterical behavior in the hockey universe than the humongous big trade deadline, I’ve never seen it. This is the time of year when my follow list and the blogs I read have the most turnover. Why?

Well, you get things like this:

Just thinking out loud, the Kings trade Bernier+ for Iginla. Turn around and then trade Kiprusoff to the Leafs for Joe Colborne+? #NHL
@bMacdonald8
Brandon Macdonald

That get taken seriously, grow legs, and inspire flame wars and silly amounts of swagger.

That’s the part most people hate.

For me, it is amusing. But, the really fun part is finding out what people know about the systems of various teams, and of course what general managers think of various players and prospects in their systems.

Dean Lombardi of the LA Kings:

I don’t think that’s feasible at all right now.

of trading backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier back in January, and hasn’t changed his tune at all as of this week.

Or his Boston counter part Peter Chiarelli on a 19 year old prospect:

I’m not trading Malcolm Subban

Which when you consider how rarely Chiarelli, a former lawyer, makes definitive statements, this is a landmark statement. If he does go ahead and trade Subban, players who are told “we won’t trade you” but we can’t give you a NTC are going to have their entire world into question, but that’s not the point of this post. We now know for sure, that Subban looms large in Bruins plans, and arguably is the top prospect in the minds of the Bruins front office. Lombardi has effectively said the same thing.

With Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks saying it is “very doubtful” he’d seek a rental player, you have to wonder if the time for an earth shattering kaboom in San Jose.

That’s why even more than the draft, or the Cup finals, or even the ever disappointing July first free agency kickoff, I love the trade deadline.

The Duluth Bulldog’s loss is the Boston Bruins gain. Chris Casto a solidly built, right shooting, stay at home defenseman. Casto has completed two years at Duluth in addition to a year playing in the USHL for the Lincoln Stars. For his year in Lincoln he was in the top third of the team’s point race, 3rd in +/-. The undrafted Minnesotan spent two years at the Bruins development camp learning along side Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Tommy Cross, Malcolm Subban and other top prospects.

I lean towards his starting in Providence, with a chance at a one or two game stint similar to Torey Krug’s last season in the NHL. When you add in the mystery recall of Adam Morrison (also a free agent, also a development camper) it looks more and more like the Bruins will be making a move at the deadline, but don’t be surprised if the Bulldog turned Bruin is around for years to come.

Obviously it’d be nice for Calgary Flames fans if the general managers teams on Iginla’s list suffered some sort of stroke and had them offering up the whole farm system and three roster players. That is however unlikely to happen, even if you disagree with some of the choices, or even the general philosophy of the GM’s in question, all four have won a cup recently.

If I’m sitting in Jay Feaster’s chair, here’s what I’d ask from each team that is fairly reasonable:

Los Angeles Kings:

Centerpiece: Slava Voynov, an offensively talented defenseman who at 23 was part of the Stanley cup win and is still on his entry level deal through July first.

Tyler Toffoli a well regarded center prospect who has 3 games of NHL experience, and about a season in the AHL with good numbers.

And:

a conditional 1st round pick either in 2013 or 2015, Calgary’s choice.

Pittsburgh Penguins:

Defensive prospects Scott Harrington, and Derrick Pouliot

A first and  a second round picks.

Boston Bruins:

Centerpiece: Alexander Khokhlachev, a young center, a position the team is deep at.

Rich Peverley a versatile forward with speed, a bit of grit and who is affordable enough to be worth keeping around through the rebuild, Peverley does have a NTC, if he’s unavailable:

or:

Niklas Svedberg who is 9th in the AHL in GAA and 7th in Sv%, with more games played than anyone ahead of him in the latter category except Curtis McElhinney who has never managed to stick in the NHL, this in Svedberg’s 1st season in North America.

And:

A conditional 1st round pick either in 2013 or 2015.

Chicago BlackHawks:

Brandon Saad is technically a rookie, but he played two regular season games last season, two

Adam Clendening, a young defenseman with USNDTP experience, two years of college play at Boston University, and in his first year in the AHL.

A 1st and a 2nd round pick.

Given Jarome Iginla’s age, the fact that he will be a UFA in just a couple months, and the fact that the Penguins and Blackhawks as the number one and two offenses really don’t need him, not to mention the Morrow trade, I think these are fairly reasonable prices. If the bidding got heated, particularly if Iginla expands the list, I can see more being paid, but even as good as Iginla would be with a legitimate 1st or 2nd line center for the first time in a decade, there’s less than 20 games left in the regular season, and then the uncertainty of the playoffs. Each of theses teams should at least hit the second round. Also to be considered is when other teams decide to sell off. If for example Martin St. Louis becomes available, or if there’s suddenly a fire sale in a city whose GM has one foot out the door, prices could actually go down.

Via Renaud Lavoie Jarome Iginla will or would waive his no movement clause for the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. A quick look at the offenses of the teams has Pittsburgh at the top of the NHL, the Blackhawks a close second, while the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins are treading water in 12th and 13th place in goals per game.  Chicago is ranked as having the deepest prospect pool by Hockey’s Future, while the Flames system is weak overall on depth, particularly at right wing.

Another coach firing on a teach with an ECHL roster lightly-speckled with NHL talent. When the Tampa Bay Lightning went to the Eastern Conference Finals two years ago, two things got them there, one was Dwayne Roloson, the other was Guy Boucher. Both of them are gone, and both were highly under rated for the jobs they did. If a dispersal draft were done on Lightning today, its an open question how many of their players would be picked and retained both other teams. It 31 games into the season and they have just one player to score more than 10 goals, and that player also has the second worst +/- on the team. Career backup Garon has the teams best sv%, depth center Nate Thompson is arguably the best defensive player on the whole roster, and none of the decisions that got them onto the clubs payroll happen at the coaches level. Guy Boucher goes out the door, in another time and place Steve Yzerman would be tossed out a window.

The CHL playoffs are under way and Fang Faction has taken a look a Predators prospects in the playoffs.

David Krejci is drawing heat is the Boston Bruins continue to tread water in fourth place in the east.

The North American Hockey League is producing some Division One NCAA, the Brookings Blizzard announced there’s Aidan Cavallini and you can get the rest of the leagues commitments right here.

And as we roll closer and closer to that most wonderful day of the year Draft day, a look at the US National Development Team is looking toward its own future of smiling eyes and wide smiles.

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Players:

  • … Chris Stewart, Brad Marchand and Jiri Tlusty would be in the top 21 goal scorers in the NHL and Ryan Getzlaf, Rick Nash, and Phil Kessel would not.
  • … Luke Schenn would be second among Flyers defensemen in +/- and one of just three players with a positive +/- to play more than 20 games
  • … in the same number of games, John Tavares would have more more points (31) than Jonathan Toews (29).
  • … Thomas Hickey would play more minutes and shifts through two thirds of the season than Lubomir Vishnovsky.
  • … Artem Anisimov’s 80% shootout success rate would lead the league.
  • … Ben Bishop would be 3-0 in shootouts and Robin Lehner would be 0-3, both for the Senators.
  • … the active leader in game winning goals, Jaromir Jagr would have just one through 27 games played.
  • … Ilya Kovalchuk would have four short handed goals, four game winning goals, and just ten total.
  • … in just 19 games played the leagues penalty minutes leader would be Mike Brown
  • … the top five shooting percentage leaders in the NHL would be 1: Patrik Berglund  29.2% 14 goals 2: Mike Ribeiro 27.8% 10 goals 3: Chris Kunitz 26.9% 18 goals 4: Alex Tanguay 26.5% 9 goals 5: Brad Marchand 26% 13 goals

Teams:

  • … having fired their general manager at the start of the season and made no significant trades, the Toronto Maple Leafs would be tied for sixth place with more ROW than any team below them and even or less games played than any team within five points.
  • … that in less games, the New York Islanders would have scored more goals than the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • … the Tampa Bay Lightning who are second in goal per game would have only one player with more than ten goals.
  • … half of the top ten powerplays in the NHL would belong to teams currently out of playoff position; Capitals, Islanders, Oilers, Flyers, and Flames.
  • … with at least 27 games played, the Canucks, Flames, Lightning, Canadiens, Penguins, and Wild would all have failed to score a 4 on 5 goal.
  • … each having played 28 games only the Oilers and Ducks would not have a 4 on 4 goal.
  • … the Northwest division would be separated by the least points with just ten between the division leading Minnesota Wild and the fifth place Colorado Avalanche.
  • … six of the top ten shot blocking teams would be out of the playoffs: Colorado, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Edmonton, Nashville, and Phoenix.
  • … the only two teams without a regulation loss in their last ten games would be the Columbus Blue Jackets (7-0-3) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-0-0)
  • … eleven teams would have a double digit negative goal differential while just eight have positive double digit differentials.

How much of this would you have believed in if I told you in September?