March 30th, 2013 — Uncategorized, What We Know
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.
March 20th, 2013 — Feature: If I told you in September
This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.
- … 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
- … 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?
March 9th, 2013 — Uncategorized
We all knew the Chicago Blackhawks streak would end eventually, most of us did not expect it to come at the hands of the erratic Colorado Avalanche. While other teams have been interesting to watch all season, none have gotten the attention the press has paid to Chicago.
5: The Colorado Avalanche are just four points out of the playoffs with just over half their schedule left to play. The team just got their best defenseman Erik Johnson back fro an injury, and Ryan O’Reilly should be back in game shape. Between those two additions to the roster and the confidence of ending the Blackhawks streak, the squad might just have what it takes to pry about 33 points out of their final 25 games to make the post season.
4: The Ottawa Senators, most everyone thought Erik Karlsson’s keening intonation that Matt Cooke’s actions were intentional would be the death-knell for the teams playoff hopes. Here we are weeks later and the team is still in sixth place with a comfortable four pint lead on the 8th place Rangers, and five on the Winnipeg Jets. Cue Jason Spezza’s pemding return. You simply can’t overstate the impact of the return of the divisions most offensively talented center, the fact that Spezza has also developed some defensive ability in the last couple years just makes Paul Maclean’s job a little easier.
3: Washington Capitals. Did you know this team is 7-3-0 in their last ten? Did you know that while they’re currently in 12th place and five points behind 8th place, with only 22 games played, only the Boston Bruins have played less? Did you know Ovechkin’s 5 points in his last 3 games brings him up to just under a point per game? With Carolina having lost their #1 goaltender, the Caps, like the Jets have to have their eyes wide open and focused on the division title as step on.
2: St Louis Blues, this team was scary good last season. Their goaltending was incredible. This season they are aggressively average. Currently 8th in the west, their goal differential is exactly 0, and they are an unspectacular 5-4-1 in their last ten. This team could be buyers or sellers on April 3.
1: Nashville Predators. This team needs to find goal scoring. They have the defense, coaching, and goaltending to do damage. Only five teams have a lower cap hit than the Predators. David Polie needs to be ready to move heaven, earth, draft picks and prospects to get into the playoffs and secure some offensive talent before the deadline. If Polie doesn’t do something to bolster the team and they miss the playoffs after having lost Ryan Suter in the off season and nearly losing Shea Weber, there could be some sad songs in music city.
In discussing the perpetually rumored signing of a Swedish prospect a certain big name media type referred to the potential signing as the players return to the NHL.
Question: How can a player who has never played outside Sweden, not even playing juniors in North America “return” to the NHL?
February 23rd, 2013 — What We Know
The season was a long, long time coming and it seems amazing that we are one third of the way done. We know the Western Conference is never easy to predict. Today, we know which teams are better than we thought, which teams are worse, and which ones just don’t have a clue.
15: Columbus Blue Jackets: We know the more things change the more they stay the same. We know the team has a new General Manager. We know the new GM has a reputation as a great evaluator of draft-able talent. We know that despite all the changes, the roster is still a lottery team.
14: Calgary Flames: We know this is one of the most hamstrung teams in the league in terms of farm system and with no movement and no trade clauses. We know Jarome Iginla isn’t getting any younger, and that this is the last year of his contract. We also know he might just be their best player at faceoffs, which would be great if he were a center and not one of their numerous grindline centers.
13: Edmonton Oilers: We know they still don’t have a defense. We know they probably have the assets to trade for defense. We know if they end up drafting first they probably won’t be smart enough to draft Seth Jones. We know from watching Oil Change that Daryl Katz is more interested in being seen as the owner of a hockey team than he is being seen as the owner of a winning hockey team. We know that sooner or later Ralph Krueger will be scapegoated so that Tambellini and Lowe can keep their jobs.
12: Colorado Avalanche: We know the AVS are still as a collective head cases.Their win two lose two, rinse and repeat record says their is more wrong with this team than questionable defense, and an offense that really should be better than it is. We know Sacco will likely get sacked because he ran out of gold stars and lollipops for his collection of kids.
11: Los Angeles Kings: We Know the Stanley Cup Hangover is only part of the problem. They still haven’t fixed their deficient offense.
10: Detroit Red Wings: We know they lost Lidstrom and Stuart. We know Datsyuk isn’t as good as he used to be. We know this team should be blown the hell up and rebuilt while no one in Detroit can afford to come to games anyway. We know two or three years of tanking and recreating the team with top talent is preferable to adding mediocre talent to a team that has possibly three above average players.
9: Dallas Stars: We know the Stars were a bubble team last year. We know they are a bubble team this year. We know that when you add Old Dudes, no matter how good they are simply because of how good they were in the 90s, you probably need to re-prioritize and figure out the real holes in your team.
8: Minnesota Wild: We know they added more salary and years to their roster than anyone else over the long, long offseason. We know they had a ton and a half of injuries last year. We know Josh Harding deserves a standing ovation before every game. We also know this team isn’t playing to their potential with that much talent on the roster.
7: Phoenix Coyotes: We know the NHL still hasn’t settled an owner into the corner office. We know the team will get to hold onto Shane Doan a while longer. We know that Oliver Ekman-Larsson is pretty damn good.
6: San Jose Sharks: We know they aren’t as good as their 7-0-0 start, nor as bad as the six game losing streak that followed. We know you can’t ignore the contributions on the backend or count this team out of the playoff hunt no matter how far they fell last season.
5: Saint Louis Blues: We know last year wasn’t a fluke. We know that Alex Pietrengelo needs to be accounted among the top five defensemen in the NHL. We know the team has a talent for identifying goalies about to hit the zone. We know that its unlikely anyone will ever think of the names of any forward other than Taresenko or Backes without prompting, no matter how many goals the team scores.
4: Nashville Predators: We know Weber is every bit as good as everyone said and that he was for more deserving of the last two Norris Trophy’s than either guy who collected them. We know the team is third best in goals against. We know that despite being 30th in goals for, they are still a damned dangerous team.
3: Vancouver Canucks: We know they are once again leading the weakest division in the NHL. We know Kesler is back from his yearly injury. We know it could be years before anyone knows who the real starter is in the crease. We know they aren’t all that impressive on the road.
2: Anaheim Ducks: We know Teemu is Forever. We know adding Bryan Allen to this team made their goaltenders job easier. We know Victor Fasth could steal Hiller’s job as the number one netminder. We know this team is a lot more like the squad we expect than last year’s nearly identical roster.
1: Chicago Blackhawks: We know this team is incredible. We know the team is deep. We know the team isn’t playing 100% to their potential. We know they will never keep this pace up because guys are playing so far outside their normal range. We know they are incredibly fun to watch.
February 13th, 2013 — player
The Avalanche are in the midst of yet another signing saga. At present they’ve spent the past eight months holding their leading faceoff man and leading scorer from last season by the choke chain known as “RFA status”. The other marks in O’Reilly’s favor are nothing to sneer at. He had two overtime tallies, led the team in assists, won 53% of his faceoffs, potted four powerplay goals, played in all situations and generally contributed to the teams success.
The level of the teams success sheds a different light on his accomplishments, so does the fact that it was his third season and one where he more than doubled his career assist and points totals on a team that finished 20th in the NHL. Anyone who doesn’t see the potential for steady growth for the 22 year old 200lb center is probably convinced we’ve seen the best from Taylor Hall and John Tavares. I don’t think anyone puts the ceiling for O’Reilly quite that high, but the chance for growth is coupled with one regression as well. He could just as easily turn into a half hundred other forwards like Peter Schaefer who got some ice time, got lucky and then fell apart when he had to repeat it.
If the Avalanche are determined not to give into his teams demands, where else he could land is a matter of finding a GM who sees O’Reilly continuing to get better, and has the assets and the inclination to go after him. Kent Wilson of FlamesNation thinks the Calgary brass must make a play for him. While it is unarguable that the Flames are a bit cool at the pivot position, what they have to offer up isn’t much. The Flames farm system is rated 23rd best in the entire league. Would a package of Jankowski, Seiloff and a 2nd round pick do the trick? And would that package actually be good for either team?
The Florida Panthers are currently underwater on faceoff win percentage, 23rd in the NHL in goals, and almost as poorly off in the east as the Avalanche are in the west. It’s highly unlikely any talks around the Panthers actually include Jonathan Huberdeau since the rookie is currently leading the team in goals, but perhaps Kris Versteeg is due for his sixth jersey since draft day and draft pick or two could accompany him back to the western conference. O’Reilly and Huberdeau could arguably be the best 1-2 punch at center in the Southeast division in a couple years.
Assuming Washington wants to make a shakeup, and they
probably should, Backstrom and O’Reilly as a the moving points of the offense for the Capitals could actually get the team out of the lottery even before the seasons end, like Backstrom who Ovechkin has played longest and best with, O’Reilly is a left handed shot. Going back could be any number of pieces, ideally Carlson, although that would prove what just about everyone should suspect about McPhee, but Yevgeni Kuznetsov is a very attractive piece, if they can woo him across the pond, in some combination with Tom Wilson, Filip Forsberg and or picks should seal the deal.
It’d be nice to include the Wild in this list but there problem isn’t talent on the ice. The system in Nashville prevents offensive stars, and I don’t see the new GM in Columbus looking to take on a big contract for someone who seems likely to want to wrangle over it ever time. There are other teams who might make a move to juice their line up, but the Panthers, Flames, and Washington top the list of teams O’Reilly, at the right price makes sense for.
August 5th, 2012 — player
After writing up the top defensemen, I looked at the forwards and wondered if all the General Managers had taken vacation or just leave of their senses. The amount of talent left dangling is more than enough to fill out the top six for any team in the league. In no particular oder, here are the best RFA’s to keep an eye on, and think about for your fantasy team.
- Tyler Ennis missed about a third of the season with injuries. This was his second full season in the NHL. While his overall numbers were lower, his points per game and stats become eye popping when you break them down. He put up a respectable .59 points per game as a rookie. In 48 games last season he was a solid .71ppg. He managed 19 takeaways 15-19-34 and +11 as part of a disastrous campaign for the Sabres. In March he put up 19 points in 16 games. The scary part is that he averaged just 16:09 of total ice time and under two minutes of powerplay time.
- All Star Jamie Benn is somehow unsigned. The Stars had time and money to sign the aging and infirm Jagr, trade for Derek Roy, and no doubt get in a couple rounds of golf. He’s only gotten better year after year. Last years totals were career highs in goals, assist and points. Many would call him the best player on the team, few would put him outside the top three. Somehow he’s still sitting in cold storage given all the respect of a dusty can of store-brand peas.
- Evander Kane is also on the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot list of players left to grow mold and discontent. The fact that he is still unsigned in August does nothing to dispel the rumors from early this year that he didn’t want to sign in Winnipeg. 2o year old 30 goal scorers aren’t exactly a dime a dozen. Yet the 4th pick of the 2009 draft who had 173 hits, 31 blocked shots, and just 18 giveaways to his 35 takeaways last year is unsigned with training camp closer than the end of last years regular season.
- Ryan O’Reilly, his agent, his fans and family are probably a bit confused this summer. Granted they have a good reason. Apparently to the Colorado Avalanche more than doubling your career totals in one year, leading the team in scoring and leading all forwards in ice time while playing in all situations aren’t enough to warrant a timely contract. No, I can’t figure that out either.
July 13th, 2012 — Uncategorized
I’m a bit baffled by some of the remaining free agents. As weak as this free agent class is, the number of useful players who haven’t either taken off for the KHL or signed with an NHL team is pretty surprising.
As likely the best center left Kyle Wellwood‘s unsigned status is just baffling. He had more points last season than any other remaining center, and had the third most points of any forwards remaining unsigned. The two ahead of him are Shane Doan and Alex Semin. Doan only beat him by three points and played two additional games, Semin who beat him by seven points. Based on total time on ice, with similar distributions, and having played in the same division last year Wellwood was more efficient than Semin in producing points picking up each point about half a minute quicker than Semin.
Brian Rolston after being traded to Boston at the deadline Rolston showed there’s still something left in the tank. Points in the first three playoff games, three multipoint games in the last month of the season, including a four point night. He clocked as many as 19:58 a night, and showed his versatility playing up and down the lineup in all three forward positions. He manned the point on the powerplay put in some shorthanded time and looked like he’d rolled the clock back a few years. He probably won’t command the same money as his last contract, but for teams like Colorado, Buffalo and Winnipeg who don’t have much playoff experience on the roster and have very young teams he could be that elder statesman that helps push a team over.
Daniel Winnik could help any of the several teams that desperately need to improve their penalty kill do so. His 2:44 of SHTOIG is tops among this UFA class, and he chipped in more than twenty points.
Michal Rosival is a right shooting defenseman, he played nearly 20 minutes a night for the Coyotes, at 33 he’s still in his prime. He gained ground on most shifts, and in the playoffs he picked up about two hits and two blocked shots per game.
Carlo Colaiacovo good corsi, probably can be had for under or about four million. Good points production and solid contribution in the playoffs. Former 1st round pick, and a solid sized body.
Matt Gilroy popped in twenty points on 17:30 a night. He split the season between the Senators and Lightning, good depth player who should come along fairly cheap and continue to grow.
Curtis Sanford he put up better numbers than several goalies who made it to the playoffs, for the Columbus Blue Jackets last year. He might not be a starter on some teams, but as a heavy use #2 he’s probably going to be one of the better goalies available.
July 4th, 2012 — Uncategorized
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.
March 15th, 2012 — Uncategorized
1: St Louis Blues
Good News: If the playoffs started today you’d go home with a Division Title and a Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: No underdog status for you!
2: Vancouver Canucks
Good News: It doesn’t look like you’re going to have to worry about the ‘curse’ of the Presidents Trophy.
Bad News: That probably has something to do with being a .500 team over your last ten.
3: Dallas Stars
Good News: It certainly appears the new owners faith in the team was rewarded by solid play.
Bad News: Uh, no one start a pillow fight with Lethonen, you might actually need him healthy in May for a change.
4: Detroit Red Wings
Good News: Despite a 3-6-1 spiral you’re currently clutching the last spot with home ice in the first round.
Bad News: Nashville has two games in hand, can win on the road and at home, and could be your opening round opponent.
5: Nashville Predators
Good News: Still something to play for; namely home ice advantage in the first round.
Bad News: The division title is almost certainly out of reach.
6: Chicago Blackhawks
Good News: Toews is on the mend.
Bad News: Six of your final ten games are on the road where the team has been routinely scalped this season.
7: Phoenix Coyotes
Good News: Playing well on both home ice and the road means all else being equal you’ve got a good shot in the playoffs.
Bad News: The division title is probably out of grasp.
8: Colorado Avalanche
Good News: Landeskog, McGinn, O’Rielly have given the team a late push into a playoff spot.
Bad News: Don’t get used to the view, you’ve played more games with less ROW wins than anyone in range to take the 8 spot.
9: San Jose Sharks
Good News: All the key players are healthy.
Bad News: You’d never know the good news was true by looking at the 2-5-3 record in the last ten.
10: Calgary Flames
Good News: More ROW than anyone else from 8 down means the playoffs are still possible, especially with games in hand.
Bad News: Gotta win the games in hand.
11: Los Angeles Kings
Good News: Jeff Carter has finally warmed up.
Bad News: It will take more than just Carter and Quick to climb into the playoffs.
12: Anahiem Ducks
Good News: The playoff push since the new year were a valiant effort.
Bad News: Next year trying a smart effort from October might work better, and it might keep your prospects from jerking you by the short and curlies over where they sign after their college career is over.
13: Minnesota Wild
Good News: The teams weaknesses are easy to identify for off season attention.
Bad News: I’m not sure anyone trusts the current leadership to address the teams weaknesses.
14: Edmonton Oilers
Good News: Hooray! A better finish than last year!
Bad News: The free agent market probably isn’t going to provide enough to boost this club into the playoffs next year either.
15: Columbus Blue Jackets
Good News: Great draft potential at the top.
Bad News: Holding fan attention would probably be easier of that 1st pick overall and maybe the Kings first could be flipped for immediate help, but leadership probably will ask for six roster players, a prospect and three second round picks for them.