August 26th, 2012 — 2012-13 Season Stories
On paper, the Dallas Stars may be the most improved team in the Pacific Division. That’s good for them because they needed to improve having finished seven points out of the playoffs. The bad is that hockey is played on ice and not paper, and some of their additions are likely to have less impact than people hope. That said, Dallas fans can at least take some solace in the new ownership having both patience and far, far more importantly a direction. The players moved out are guys who have at one point or anther in their NHL careers, given people the opportunity to question their character.
- Yet more Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski, and Loui Eriksson.
- Richard Bachman provides some hope for when Kari Lehtonen goes down for his inevitable injury/injuries.
- Derek Roy should make the best pivot the team has seen in a few years.
- The two high priced forwards the team signed in the off season will be 41 years old before the next Stanley Cup is awarded.
- After Goligoski and Daley the defense is rather meh.
- Kari Lehtonen will miss several games due to injury.
High: Bubble team, if all goes well, given their offensive strength, the strength of their division, and Lehtonen’s quality of play when healthy they do have a shot at the 7 or 8 slot, or as tight as the division was last year, even the 3 spot.
Low: Lottery team, their goalie is good for a dozen or more missed games, they have two guys who will be 41, one of whom was not particularly healthy last season, and their second line center position is a myster. Their defense is nothing to write home about
We’ve seen several moves from the front office to shift the roster, a move for a high end defenseman, or a full wipe of everyone over 30 to rebuild hard and fast could be in the mind of the teams leadership, certainly aside from the two short term contracts to Jagr and Whitney, theyve been getting younger over the last year.
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.
June 23rd, 2012 — trades
The NHL Entry Draft is perhaps the most exciting day on the NHL schedule. July 1st as the start of Free Agency is fun, but not as good. The trade deadline is probably third, after opening day. The trades are just one of the things that make the day fun.
The New York Islanders made a savvy pickup relieving the Anaheim Ducks of Lubomir Visnovsky. The soon to be 36 year old is on the last year of his contract and will likely be in the dual roll of top defensemen and mentor to the young blueliners. Calvin de Hann will undoubtedly benefit from Visnovsky’s nearly 800 games of NHL experience, this years first round pick Reinhart may get some time riding shotgun as may Scott Mayfield. The Islanders gave up a 2nd round pick in next years draft
The Pittsburgh Penguins sent Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Harrison Ruopp, Marc Cheverie and pick #81 (3rd round). This was the second trade of the night for the Penguins.
In the biggest trade of the day, the worlds best 3rd center Jordan Staal was relieved of that title and an address in Pittsburgh area. Instead he’ll be playing with elder brother and fellow Stanley Cup champion Eric Staal. There are a number of possibilities for how Jordan and Eric are deployed separately and together. Going back tot he steel city are, Brandon Sutter, this years 8th pick Derrick Pouliot, and Boston College alumni Brian Dumoulin. This is a win, win bigger trade. The Hurricanes overpaid, but got a player who wants to be there, will have chemistry with at least one other player, and yes is very highly talented.
The Washington Capitals grabbed Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for Cody Eakin and the 54th pick. That second round pick will be deployed sometime saturday morning. This is a curious move for the Capitals who have had one or two questions about their commitment and character and Mike Ribeiro is well, Mike Ribeiro. On the other hand I not only haven’t figured out what method George Mcfee is using to shape the team, I haven’t figured out how he’s still employed.
June 21st, 2012 — Uncategorized
With new ownership and a team that just fell short of the playoffs (again), we could see some aggressive moves by the Dallas Stars. Or we could see a quiet draft and some possible free agency aggression. That’s one of the nice things about new owners, they have less predictable teams than the long time groups.
The Dallas organization has only taken two goalies since 2007. One is Jack Campbell who is the highly regarded USNDT product out of Port Huron, Michigan. The other is Ontario native Tyler Beskorowany who has spent the last two seasons in the AHL. One other minor league goaltender is on the books, and then in the NHL are Richard Bachman and Kari Lethonen. It wouldn’t surprise me if they picked a goaltender in the first round, but as they own two second round picks going for offensive talent with the 13th pick isn’t outside the question.
There’s a lot of noise about Grigorenko dropping out of the top five, if he does manage to slide this far, I wouldn’t expect it to go on any longer. With some famously questioned characters like Mike Ribeiro, Sheldon Souray, Steve Ott and Michael Ryder, all of them good Canadian boys, on the roster the staff has probably learned a thing or two about enigmatic players. The most entertaining wags are saying he might be a year or two older than is his official age, I suspect most of the teams are ignoring this stuff but it’s amusing none the less.
Brendan Gaunce is nicely in the zone, as is Thomas Hertl, that said Derrick Pouliot deserves some attention. He’s not getting much buzz, and with a blueline young enough for them to be able to let him develop for two or three more years in juniors and the AHL, he could be a very tempting option. This draft isn’t heralded for its forwards so don’t be shocked if they go with the best player available, a defenseman or goalie over one of the forwards on the board.
May 3rd, 2012 — Uncategorized
What is Jordan Staal worth on the open market? Simply put, a lot. After Parise he’s potentially the most impactful forward on the market. As far as players under contract if he is moved this summer he is the most desirable player likely to become available. Because of his playoff success, offensive ability, and defensive prowess there is a lot to like. Two important things to remember, without a no trade or no movement clause Staal doesn’t have a say in where he goes, and second if whoever picks him up doesn’t convince him to stay he’ll only be there a year.
Using the Kessel trade as a low end value, two first round picks or (or high end prospects) and one second round pick as the return isn’t really beyond the ability of any team to spend. Assuming there’s no extension and trade deal worked out between the clubs let’s take a look at who is most in need of him first.
Because of his defensive ability and offensive potential, the first team to step up for him in the western conference should be:
The Minnesota Wild. Mikko Koivu is one of the ten or so most underrated players in the league and carries the burdens of captain, defensive and offensive leaders on a team that has struggled since it it was founded. Adding Staal as the second top two center allows the team to retain it’s identity as a defensive first team, and both lower the burden on Koivu shorthanded and increase the teams five on five strength. A return of Coyle, a 1st round pick and second is reasonable, although if the Penguins are looking at a backup goaltender Matthew Hackett might end up in the mix.
Staying in the west, two teams that are young and strong but would likely want as much in the way of offense out of Staal as defense are:
The St Louis Blues and Dallas Star, Pietrangelo and Backes highlight the first, while Benn and Eriksson lead the latter. The two teams finished back to back in the low twenties in offense this season. Adding Staal’s offensive production over anyone internal gives either team the chance to level up. For the Blues who have to be considered to be in “win now” mode given their high finish, he’s got the potential to put them over the top. For the Star’s, he represents the difference between breaking up in mid April and having to worry about arena availability through at least one round of the playoffs.
The biggest question for either team is what is ownership willing and able to spend to keep him long term.
Staying in the Central, one of the NHL’s longest snipe hunts might be concluded if this team were to pickup on Staal:
The Columbus Blue Jackets might just find the center to compliment Rick Nash. With Johnson and Wisniewski to patrol the blueline, and Nash, Staal, and Umberger up front all that’s needed to get out of the lottery is an average performance in net to lift the team out of the lottery. Arguably it could be done with the goaltending they’ve gotten if you factor in Staal’s penalty kill prowess. Having taken on Carter and then Johnson’s contracts after signing Wisniewski’s it’s doubtful they’d be unwilling to sign Staal long term if he decided he liked the move about three hours drive west of his current team. There isn’t a great deal on the Jackets roster that could be traded out that is something the Penguins would need currently, so straight draft picks are most likely.
Coming up a look at the eastern conference possibilities.
March 29th, 2012 — Uncategorized
With Gauthier and Gainey both out the door on Montreal, the search will begin in earnest for the new hand at the helm. If Molson is serious about getting the team to contend again, he almost certainly needs a person who’s crazy enough to want to step into the inferno that is the Montreal daily lot, and experienced enough with building a contender or champion to have a shot at lasting. Dale Talon is probably having too much fun in Florida to consider making a lateral move even if it is to an original six franchise. Jim Nill of the Detroit Red Wings springs to mind as someone who might be a great fit, he’s overseen their prospect development for years and has been part of that organization since before the lockout. While more likely to want to move west than north, Dave Taylor of the St Louis Blues has extensive experience and could be the steady hand that is needed. Another really intriguing choice might be Lorne Henning of the Vancouver Canucks, he’s won Cups as a player and coach.
Back To The Blueline
Joe Corvo having sat out several games as a “banged up but healthy” healthy scratch, will be back in the lineup for the Boston Bruins tonight. The Washington Capitals will get to face him instead of defensive stalwart Dennis Seidenberg. A cut suffered in a game against the Kings that became infected is to blame. Interestingly Mike Mottau is not going back in. Tim Thomas will man the crease. Assuming a magic number of 95 to clinch a playoff spot in the East this year, the Bruins will nail one down with a win, and the Capitals would need to win to retain any hope with just four additional games remaining
Two Will Do
A look at the schedule of action in the NHL for today will tell you the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars are both hoping for the exact same thing; a two point game between the Coyotes and Sharks. With two points and four regulation or overtime wins separating the four teams, we might not know who lands where until the final game goes into the books. Dallas, having the most in the ROW column has the first tie breaker if there is a points tie between them and another team, but it will be close.
And The Pink Slip Goes To
With Gauthier out the door in Montreal, it looks like open season on general managers is in effect. My guess is there will be three more general managers who get the ax between now and the middle of the playoffs. I suspect one from the southeast division, and possibly two from the Pacific. Almost any others would be a modest surprise, some would be an enormous one.
March 23rd, 2012 — Uncategorized
We’re in that last sprint to the playoffs where will is even more important than skill and organization depth and a little luck can pay off like no other time before the sweet sixteen square off for battle. The bubble teams are the most exciting story this time of year.
If the LA Kings:
- Are in, it’s because they remembered how to score for another two weeks.
- Are out, it’s because that shameful reprobate Quick didn’t shut people out and score too.
If the Washington Capitals
- Are in, its because they finally did more than just listen to a good coach and use their talents.
- Are out, its because they deserve it. They should have challenged for the Presidents Trophy this season, not a lottery pick.
If the Buffalo Sabres
- Are in, it will because miracles do exist. This team had everything go wrong this season.
- Are out, because they had everything go wrong and that’s a lot to overcome…and other teams will sleep easier if they miss the 2nd season.
If the Chicago Blackhawks
- Are in, it will because the rest of the defense stood up and played like men in Keith’s absence.
- Are out, goaltending that ranged from godawful to erratically average all season long.
If the Phoenix Coyotes
- Are in, Mike Smith, Ray Whitney.
- Are out, lack of depth…a common problem in the division.
If the Dallas Stars
- Are in, its because they got it done in regulation more often.
- Are out, puck possession is a weakness, 21st in faceoff percentage, three more won faceoffs per game could have had a big impact.
If the Winnipeg Jets
- Are in, its because the team dragged themselves in on pure will power.
- Are out, blame leadership who chose not to bolster the roster at any point in the year.
If the Senators
- Are in, it will be because someone was taking care of defense for “the greatest defenseman of all time”.
- Are out, obviously it will be because Nikita Filatov was wasted in the KHL and AHL instead of being on the first line.
If the San Jose Sharks
- Are in, they can thank coherent play and contributions up and down the lineup.
- Are out, its because their window has closed.
March 22nd, 2012 — Uncategorized
One of the most surprising things about the NHL is how little it does to effectively give itself long terms stability in terms of fan attention. I’ve discussed once or twice or maybe, just maybe quite a few times, some of the NHL’s marketing
failures opportunities for improvement. One of the ways that other industries do this is with their award shows.
The hype heading into the award shows from the announcements to reissuing of books, movies and myriad merchandise with award logos for both winners and nominees remind even the least interested that a given actor, writer, or musician is worth noting. The NHL Awards show is far less horrible than its equivalents. In fact it is probably the best produced NHL event of the year. Sure, the quest for ever more vanilla performing acts and positively whitebread presenters takes it down a notch, but it is at least interesting.
The current awards are mostly decided well in advance of the award show and handing them out is a mere formality. Figuring out who won the scoring race isn’t that hard. The Jennings Trophy only requires knowing what it’s awarded for. The others are drawn from a very small pool of players who are known before training camp even starts.
Currently the only two awards that have serious questions surrounding them by Thanksgiving (American or Canadian, take your pick) are the Jack Adams for best coach and the Calder Trophy for best rookie. While I have my favorites for each (See Southeast division for the first, and either the Atlantic or Northwest for the second) you can debate the merits of them and what each individuals impact was. The arguments for Hitchcock as this years Jack Adams can be made quite strong, and you can still give the Calder to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, but neither would be my choice.
More importantly neither award possesses much panache or widespread appeal, and even rookies as celebrated as Nugent-Hopkins, Hall or Stamkos might not sustain the public attention long. A look at the list of recent winners includes Steve Mason, Andrew Raycroft, Tyler Myers, and Barrett Jackman who have been at best average since, and again the focus for the them is no more than six players by the All Star game at the very latest.
An award for an emerging star might however captivate widespread attention. It wouldn’t need to be the most important player on a given team, or even the most valuable at a given position in a year, just someone who’s made their team better and had a much larger impact that previous years. This year alone without even stretching the definition you’d have nominees in Ray Whitney and Mike Smith of the Coyotes, Blake Wheeler of the Jets, Jamie Benn of the Stars, Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes, Ryan O’Reilly of the Avalanche, and half a dozen others. Getting these players and their teams the additional attention of frequent speculation for the award or the win itself can’t hurt the teams revenue. It would undoubtedly lead to more ticket sales in the attendance challenged markets, more merchandise sales in any market, and greater league revenue as hole.
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.