Of the teams left who are expected to make the playoffs, or sell out to make a playoff some of them have yet to make a move, there are different pressures on all of them, and different asset sets.

The San Jose Sharks went as deep into the playoffs as you can go last year, and made some savvy moves in the off season adding some speed, and some playoff acumen. As it stands they are likely the third most dangerous team in the west. They could go out and make a move and add something now, but what? There isn’t as much pressure to do something as there has been in the past. They also lack assets. They don’t have either a second or third round pick in the next two drafts. The talent pipeline for the Sharks really isn’t good either. They are ranked as the 23rd best farm system. Don’t expect much.

The Edmonton Oilers made a minor move to add Henrik Samuelsson back on the first, but haven’t done anything that will impact their playoff prognosis, and nor should they. They have literally no pressure. Lucic, Maroon, and Talbot have all been to the post season before and can help mold how the team responds to the pressure, the highs, and the lows of the second season. They really shouldn’t make any moves, I can’t think of any available combination of players that would make them the best in the west, much less the favorite to win the Cup.

The Boston Bruins need to either commit to the rebuild and move out everyone they don’t expect to see on the roster in three years or just do nothing. They have decent to really good prospects in the system at both wing and defense, and they have some goalies who have high potential as well. If anything I think they should ask two of their biggest salaries (Rask, Krejci) to waive their movement clauses and see what they can get for them. I don’t expect a significant move, because this isn’t a contender.

If the Nashville Predators have decided this isn’t this year (and they should), they should move some older player for young assets. Fisher is well regarded, and at 36 he’s not got many more chances to go for a Cup. A contender who added him would be getting a better deal, and a guy with more miles left than Doan or Iginla. Vernon Fiddler is inexpensive, versatile, and playoff experienced. If he can be moved for anything he should be as I doubt the team brings him back next year. If they do want to make a move for a push into the second round, they are only short one fourth round pick in the next four years.

The Colorado Avalanche have two of the most talked about potential trade pieces of the last three months, and whatever they go after with those pieces, they players they bring back should be defensemen. Maybe they make a trade with the Hurricanes that brings them Faulk or a wealth of prospects from a team like Nashville. Sell, sell, sell should be the mantra of the team. Pretty much everyone on that team over the age of 25 should be made available, with the possible exception of Erik Johnson who would likely fetch as big a return as anyone but MacKinnon.

 

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.

Bonus Question:

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?

Filling out the Team USA roster will require a mix of youth, international experience, and attitude. The Russians, the Canadians, and the upper echelon of European teams will not be intimidated by half the roster returning, or even two thirds. Part of what will be needed is a bit of familiarity, so anyone who has played with likely players wins the tie breaker over complete outsiders.

Top Priority:

  • Craig Anderson, he’s played with Erik Johnson, he’s the best goaltender in the NHL this season, and he’s got enough of a different style from both Miller and Quick that if the coach has to make a change, the opposition will have to make adjustments.
  • Dustin Byfuglien, big body, can play defense and forward, has won the Stanley Cup has played with Patrick Kane.
  • Jason Pominville, an infusion of skill is needed and this guy has it.
  • John Carlson, is highly talented, knows the tendencies of several of the big names from some of the other national teams.
  • Max Pacioretty has turned into one of the most interesting players in the NHL. Almost a point per game player on a team that has been injury prone over the last two seasons.

Priority:

  • Kevin Shattenkirk, has played well in the very defensive system in St Louis, has also played in the more free wheeling Colorado system in the past.
  • Seth Jones, has won World Junior gold, will likely be part of team USA for years to come, even if he only plays seven or eight minutes a game, good experience for the future.
  • Alex Galchenyuk, has played with Jones internationally, and plays with Pacioretty on the Habs.
  • Rob Scuderi, no international experience, but has won Stanley Cup’s in two radically different systems, the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among the leaders for US born defenseman in shorthanded ice time.
  • James van Riemsdyk has had solid international experience, currently playing with 2010 Silver Medalist Phil Kessel.

Possible:

  • Alex Goligoski, the Dallas Defenseman gets overlooked a lot, but it should be noted he’s putting up almost identical offensive numbers on the far less talented Dallas team as he did with the Penguins. Has a small amount of international experience.
  • Justin Faulk, great young defenseman burdened by a poor defensive team. Has played under the flag, plays in all situations, like Jones will likely be around for the next three Olympic cycles, has played with Gleason.
  • Drew Stafford, scored 52 points in 62 games including 31 goals two seasons ago, plays with Pominville, some international experience.
  • Erik Cole, former Olympian, World Championship experience, two time thirty goal scorer, played briefly with Galchenyuk, and a season with Pacioretty.
  • John Gaudreau, speedy little pure goal scorer,
  • John Gibson, WJC tournament MVP, stud goaltender.
  • Rocco Grimaldi, speedy, agile, had two goals in the WJC win over Sweden.
  • Blake Wheeler, great reach, good speed, plays in all situations.
  • J.T. Miller, played in on the WJC gold team with Gibson, Gaudreau, Grimaldi, Jones, playing for the Rangers and getting compliments from John Tortorello.

Long Shots:

  • Emerson Etem has proved himself at the junior level in the WHL, he’s yet to make a big mark in the NHL, but he’s got speed to burn and plays on the same team as Bobby Ryan, some games for the NAHL national team.
  • Tyler Myers if he can somehow get his grove back he’s undeniably talented, has developed some aggression, and is both a good skater and puck handler.
  • Brandon Dubinsky, has had a downturn in production lately, but had a good World Championship and is a great two way player.
  • Jack McCabe, captain of the gold team, solid defender, but the defense is the area where the team is likely to have the least turnover.
  • Jimmy Howard no slight on his talent, but he’s about the fourth best American goaltender in the NHL right now. National development team veteran.
  • T.J. Oshie, depending on how the top lines shake down he might find himself tapped to captain the penalty kill effort, also plays with Backes, some national experience, plays physical.
  • Kyle Palmeri has a hat trick this season, and half of his goals have been game winners, national experience, and plays with Bobby Ryan.
  • Paul Gaustad, incredible faceoff man, great penalty killer, like Oshie could end up as a “role player”, team guy.

Given the eventual composition of Teams Canada and Russia, ensuring there is a viable penalty kill, players at all positions who can skate, and guys who won’t wilt under physical play or the bright lights of Olympic play take priority over pure skill with questionable fortitude. With a deep enough team, playing against the weaker teams gets easier because you can use your whole bench and stay reasonably fresh for the games where one bad five minute stretch can bounce you from the metal round.

 

 

Just about four years ago the US and Canada put on two of the best hockey games of the last quarter century. But, like all teams that team USA is not the one we’ll see in a few years. If I’m playing general manager, there are some players I do bring back, and others I just say no to, at least as of now.

The No’s:

  • Ryan Malone would not be on the short list today. His production has trailed off, he’s not been especially healthy the last few seasons, and he’ll be thirty four before this year is over. Great guy, if he hangs up the skates before the Olympics, he might get tapped for an assistant coaches spot.
  • Chris Drury, nice guy, already retired.
  • Tim Thomas, while its nice to think he’d be back to world beating shape after a year off, it is unlikely.
  • Ryan Whitney, hasn’t played even when healthy for a woeful Oilers club this season.
  • Jamie Langenbrunner, has experienced a notable decline in the past few years, will turn 38 this summer, and has had injury issues,
  • Brian Rafalski, retired.

The Maybe’s:

  • Erik Johnson, is admittedly playing on a poor team, but not especially productive offensively which isn’t how offensive defenseman earn their pay.
  • Phil Kessel enormously hot and cold, not a great two way player and has struggled to score goals this season which is what he’s paid to do.
  • Ryan Kesler, good faceoff man, good passer, physical, good skater, can’t stay healthy to save his soul.
  • Ryan Callahan, well above average for two way play, but prone to long slumps offensively, and injuries as well.
  • Joe Pavelski, seems to have declining returns in the playoffs. That could be the team, that could be his doing, but I lean towards team.
  • Paul Stastny, did not impress me during the last Olympic’s, has had declining production since them, but did have solid World Championship numbers in 2011-12.

The Shortlist:

  • Ryan Miller, while his heroics a the last Olympics seem ot be the last time he played at an elite level, you have to take into consideration the quality of the team in front of him. A quality that has gotten the longest tenured coach in the NHL booted this season.
  • Jonathan Quick, anyone who needs to know why should simply look at last seasons record, both his individual stats, Cup win and the number of games he only gave up one goal in.
  • Tim Gleason, anyone who can be a plus player with all the years he’s spent on the defensively woeful Carolina Hurricanes.
  • Jack Johnson has a boatload of international experience, will probably have been named Captain of the Blue Jackets by then, offensively talented.
  • Brooks Orpik solid two way defenseman with a double handful of physicality, some international experience and would be among the teams elder statesmen.
  • Ryan Suter a top ten defenseman in the NHL, no-brainer.
  • David Backes, certainly one of the best American forwards in the league.
  • Dustin Brown, great mix of skill and physicality.
  • Patrick Kane almost certainly the best pure goal score from the USA, and has a maturing game away from the puck. Knows how to win.
  • Zach Parise versatile, talented and lots and lots of international experience.
  • Bobby Ryan perennial thirty goal scores do not grow on trees, willing to play physical, willing to shoot.

That would be my starting point based on the 2010 Olympic roster. The next post will focus on filling the roster out. I’ve counted out as many as twelve players I expect to put together a pool of about twenty players including at least two or three goalies.

More games, more hockey Americana to enjoy.

Tonight in God’s waiting room the Sunshine State the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will square off, no word on early bird specials at the concessions:

  • Seeing Red are Scott Clemmensen, Peter Mueller, George Parros, Drew Shore, and Jack Skille
  • Flashing across the ice in White and Blue are, Ryan Malone, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen, Adam Hall, Matt Carle, Brian Lee, and Matt Taormina.

Toronto’s home squad are hoping to be inhospitable hosts to their fellow Ontario team as the Karlsson and Speazza deprived Senators roll into town. The twoWant will be looking to leapfrog Montreal and tie Boston in points for a share of the Northeast lead.

  • Casting a vote is likely team USA goaltender Craig Anderson, backed up by Ben Bishop, Mike Lundin owns a piece of the blueline while Jim O’Brien and Erik Condra make their way as forwards.
  • Toronto’s Americans are rearguards John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek, the forwards are Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, David Steckel, and Mike Brown.

The Philadelphia Flyers will be bringing a very Canadian squad to Montreal:

  • The only American on the Flyers roster is Tom Sestito, the pride of Rome New York (we’re not counting the traitor Couturier who plays for Canada internationally.)
  • The 20% American roster of the Habs includes possible Olympians Alex Galchenyuk and Max “Tweets At The Movies” Pacioretty, team captain Brian Gionta, Eric Cole, and blueliner Francis Bouillon

Wang’s “not really for sale” Islanders host the equally financially stable Devils tonight:

  • Rick Dipietro is on pace to pass last years total games played, Joe Finley and Brian Strait will skate in front of the crease, Kyle Oksoso leads the American presence with Marty Reasoner as its elder statesman, and Colin McDonald and Keith Aucoin round out the roster.
  • First round draft pick Stefan Matteau and Stephen Gionta will be joined by Bobby Butler, Mark Fayne, Andy Greene, and Peter Harrold are the Devils Americans.

Anaheim will stop to roost in Nashville for the night.

  • Bobby Ryan and Nick Bonino will be in the lineup for the Ducks and Patrick Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, will be out there with Nate Guenin and Ben Lovejoy.
  • Hal Gill stands on the blueline for the Predators, the nearly as tall Paul Gaustad plays pivot, and with them are Colin Wilson, Craig Smith and the teams longest tenured American David Legwand.

The Blue Jackets are looking to look their best for their new General Manager, while the Coyotes hope to slip past the idle Wings.

  • Jack Johnson leads the blueline with James Wisniewski, John Moore and Tim Erixon, while the forwards are missing the injured Cam Atkinson, RJ Umberger, Brandon Dubinsky, Jared Boll, and Nick Foligno will all look to make their presence felt.
  • Keith Yandle, a probable Olympian, Chris Summers and David Moss are the American contingent for the desert dogs.

In a battle of bottom feeders the Oilers and Avalanche will square off.

  • Erik  Johnson leads the Avs blueline, assisted by Matt Hunwick while Aaron Palushaj represents the forwards.
  • Edmonton occasionally lets Ryan Whitney on the ice along with blueliners Core Potter and Jeff Petry and forward Chris Vandevelde.