There comes a time in every athletes career when they no longer have the stuff to keep competing at the top level. In some cases they never have it. In other cases they hit apogee and then begin descent. Some hang on for a while, some few quit at their peak, and others just keep going until no one will pay them. Here’s seven players who just need to end their NHL career now.

 

#7

Jarome Iginla, the future hall of fame right wing has done everything except hoist the Stanley Cup. His last two attempts at joining a winner resulted in him being routed as part of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and putting up a strong performance for the Boston Bruins while playing with a center who slept through the playoffs. But that was almost four years ago. This year he’s got all of 18 points in 59 games for an admittedly wretched Colorado Avalanche team.

#6

At age 30 Marc Staal may be the youngest guy looking towards the end of his career right now. Once well established in the top third of the NHL defensemen, he’s had more than his fair share of injuries, and unlike brothers Jordan and Eric, he’s not won a cup.  His ice time is declining, this year he’s played about two full minutes of ice time less than three seasons ago. That change takes him from well established among middle pairing defensemen, to roughly the average of better third pairing guys. He’s got four more years on his contract, and there is a very reach chance he gets bought out before it’s over.

#5

Niklas Kronwall is one of the Red Wings lifers, drafted 29th in 2000 the 36 year old Swede is very near the end of his tenure on ice. With the team in the last quarter of the season, and the end of the playoff streak a certainty, it won’t be much longer before Kronwall is as much a memory as the glory days of the best of Mike Ilitch’s tenure as owner. Ice time is down, he’s missed almost as many games as he’s played over this and last season, and his offense, never his forte for sure, is shrinking. At this point he needs to spend a day or two thinking about how much pain he thinks he’ll be able to tolerate in a decade.

#4

Ryan Callahan has almost hit the mountaintop as a Ranger and as a member of the Lightning, He’s one of those guys who teams love not just for the offense he used to contribute, but for his ability to play against anyone, first line, fourth line powerplay or penalty kill. He blocked shots, lifted wristers into the net, and played every breath of every shift. In just a couple weeks the Guelph Storm alum will turn 32. All the blocked shots, hits, and hard nights have take their toll.

#3

When you lay just 154 games in a five year period, the question as to if you fall on the stubborn or just plain crazy side of the line is probably answered emphatically without the need to resort to a psych eval. Matt Greene was once the best defenseman the Edmonton Oilers drafted in over a decade. By games played he still is. But of late playing has been the exception and not the rule. While there’s a decent chance the Los Angeles Kings will still be playing on May 13th, the odds of him playing on the date or within a week inside of it are not great.

 

#’s 2 & 1

Henrik and Daniel Sedin are not only well past their prime, they are an active detriment to the team they highlighted for so long. Gone are the days when they were a point a game players, vanished is the hundred plus point season. This year, the pair will be lucky to hit a hundred points combined. The two take a combined fourteen million a year. They are on the books for one more year, and I’m dreadfully certain they’ll at least start next season. Why? It isn’t just the remaining term, Daniel is still 24 points short of the 1000 point mark.

 

Dennis Seidenberg has been an invaluable bastion of calm, professional competence on the Boston Bruins blueline is done for the year. With any defenseman other than Seidenberg or Chara you’d shrug, examine the depth charts and medical reports and go forward. In this case however, especially with only one other veteran defender, Johnny Boychuk, that might not be an option for a team that in the words of its own leadership should compete for a Stanley Cup every year.

Option 1

Do nothing. Not precisely nothing, just don’t bring in any external talent. With Hamilton mending, and Joe Morrow doing well in the AHL you have high end draft picks waiting in the wings to fill minutes. Both are high end skaters, both have shown their pick wasn’t a waste. On the ice now are Boychuck, McQuaid, Krug, Bartkowski and Miller. The first four of them have seen playoff action under Julien and earned at least that much trust. Boychuck and McQuaid were part of the Stanley Cup win and know the game at the NHL level.

Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski are a little less familiar to fans. Krug is a small, undrafted highly mobile defenseman signed out of college as a free agent who burst onto the scene in the playoffs last year and is now the only defenseman to play in every game for the Bruins. Bartkowski’s journey is equally blue collar if of a slightly different path. Often overlooked is that the Pittsburgh native was a part of the trade that brought Seidenberg to Boston. After a false start or two Bartkowski stake a claim to to a roster spot and has been a solid contributor to the team. An interesting trivia note is that Bartkowski was supposed to be part of the aborted trade that would have brought Jarome Iginla to Boston last year.

Kevan Miller and to a lesser extent David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman are the internal candidates to help fill the roster spot while Hamilton is still recovering. While Hamilton is recovering, it is unlikely any moves will be made unless there is a major setback for the towering second year defender.  Elsewhere on the list are Tommy Cross and Chris Casto who have yet to even earn a recall.

Option 2:

The modest trade. The minutes you most want to fill are the defensive shutdown minutes which are a vast gulf that is just about impossible to fill based purely on talent or similar attributes because of the need for chemistry, and some might say synergy among those defending than pure objective skill. A trade for anyone under four million a year who could play some or all of the 2:36 a night of shorthanded time on ice Seidenberg has left unclaimed.

  • Mark Stuart, as a retread he would be familiar with all of the teams core players from Bergeron, Lucic and Krejci to Chara, Boychuk and Rask. He even played as part of an effective pairing with Boychuk. He’s tough as nails, the Jet’s aren’t going anywhere and would love a talent infusion. A couple middling draft picks for the pending (and inexpensive) UFA would do the trick.
  • Matt Greene, like Stuart is a pending UFA. With the pipeline from the Manchester Monarchs wide open the 30 year old blueliner has found his ice time reduced overall, but is still contributing a good 3:18 a night of shorthanded time on ice. At under 3 million a year, he wouldn’t break the bank and is unlikely to strip the farm bare.
  • Victor Bartley is a name that’s probably a bit under the radar anywhere outside Nashville Tennsessee and Ottawa, but Bruins brass is familiar with the 25 year old who had a ten game tour of duty with the Providence Bruins in the 2008-09 season. His on ice sv% is one of the higher ones on the Predators, and he plays solid shorthanded minutes for perhaps the most conservative minded coach in the NHL.
  • Jared Spurgeon, with 200 NHL games to his name the 25 year old is the 2nd highest paid defender for the Wild, and plays in all situations. I can’t imagine him being traded for picks alone, but for as a team that should be looking to tweak their offense, Spurgeon might find himself in a new zip code if Chuck Fletcher can find the right pieces to turn his collection of forwards into a contending team.

Next up, option 3.

The new Metropolitan division combines all five of the teams from the old Atlantic Division, two teams from the thoroughly shattered Southeast division, and one former central division team. After last season this will hands down be the hardest division to predict.

Carolina:We know that with a healthy backup the team is already better than it was last year. We know that adding Mike Komisarek (assuming he can stick to the NHL) will add a touch of belligerence. We know that the defense as a whole is suspect. We know it will be a lot of fun to watch a full season of Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Jeff Skinner, and Alex Semin as the teams nucleus.

Columbus: We know that they decided to take their move into the eastern conference seriously. With the addition of Nathan Horton and Marion Gaborik in the last several months, the team added to a solid defensive foundation. We know teams that underestimate them are in for a rough night. We know that even with the two year contract he signed that there is no certainty Bobrovsky will finish the deal in Columbus. We know if Ryan Murray makes the squad he’ll be in the perfect position to garner Calder consideration.

New Jersey:We know The Devils had the sort of negative off season attention that can sink the sales of a team. We know that the additions of Clowe, Jagr, and Ryder will give the team a different look than it had last season. We know that since Kovalchuk and Clarkson couldn’t drag the team into the playoffs this might not be a bad thing. We know someone has their head up their backside because Adam Henrique is still unsigned.

New York Islanders: We know this team made the playoffs last year, kept all its major components and added the physicality of one Cal Clutterbuck. We know that with defensive prospects like Griffin Reinhart, Calvin De Hann, and Scott Mayfield waiting in the wings the guys currently on the roster should keep one eye on the puck and the other looking over their shoulder. We know the team really needs to figure out a long term solution in net.

New York Rangers: We know the Rangers will have new coach this year. We know the new coach has an entirely different persona than the last coach. We Brad Richards needs to have a banner year while there is still time. We know sooner or later someone will figure out you don’t go deep in the playoffs playing your starting goalie 65+ games a season.

Philadelphia: We know that with the injection of Lecavalier and possibly Laughton into the lineup fans might be excused an excess of hope. We know the defense is still without an impact player. We know Ray Emery will battle his heart out between the pipes. We know no one knows what to expect out of Steve Mason. We know the Flyers will likely miss the playoffs.

Pittsburgh: We know the team didn’t do anything to correct its playoff attitude issues; same coach, same captain, same mix of ‘leaders’. We know that having the goalie see a sports psychologist is a step, but we also know complete rebuilds of a persons psyche can take years if they occur at all.

Washington: We know the Capitals have a limited window to win with the current core of Ovechkin,  Backstrom, Laich, Greene, Alzner, and Carlson, We know some of them might not be in D.C. if/when the Cup is hoisted by the local boys. We know Adam Oates is still on a short leash because in any sane universe George McFee is on an even shorter one. We know that the Capitals (probably don’t operate in a sane universe.

Yesterday we looked at the surprises the preliminary rosters had given us. Now, its time to look at who should be there over who is.

Forwards:

  • Jason Pominville, with a roster that will struggle for offense, at least compared to some, leaving out a the guy who finished seventh among American scorers last season, and second the season before is unabashedly embarrassing.
  • Brandon Dubinsky is one of the best two way forwards in the league. He’s capable of throttling the life out of opposing powerplays, winning faceoffs reliably, and will play physically against anyone. He’s well over a point a game internationally.
  • John Gaudreau makes the most sense of any non-NHL player for this Team USA squad to field. He’s money in the bank scoring goals, and is over a point per game at every level he’s played, USHL, NCAA, WJC and others.

Defense:

  • Alex Goligoski had his most productive season in points per game, despite having two of the top forwards traded mid season and no describable NHL quality centers on the team.
  • Torey Krug, unlike certain invitees, Krug played a significant number of his teams playoff games and managed to make the Bruins walking dead powerplay look like it had a pulse. Speedy, great passer, plays well against larger opponents (nearly everyone).
  • Matt Greene while offense is undoubtedly needed, a shut down defenseman who can hit like a freight train is never something to be without. Arguably the best American shutdown defenseman in the NHL, certainly top 3.

Goal:

  • Jack Campbell has international experience and even if he doesn’t make the final roster the organization should take a good look at him for next time around. It is unlikely Howard, Anderson or Miller will be at or near their top form as goalies in four years.

 

A quiet camp session with a few drills and scrimmages. The players had shuttle runs before getting on the ice. Some of the players seemed sharper today, a few others seemed to be wearing.

Adam Morrison had his best day in the net today, controlling rebounds along with the rest of his game.

Matthew Lindblad shows some smooth movement, made a couple real nice cross ice passes and is well aware of where other players are on the ice.

#85 Mitchell Dempsey #79 Matthew Lindblad #72 Chris Casto

#85 Mitchell Dempsey
#79 Matthew Lindblad
#72 Chris Casto

Zane Gotheberg, as he reminded me this was his fourth development camp, the first happening when he was just 17 , is best described in two words: crisp, consistent. Early in the camp or late, the beginning or middle of a session and its the same story.

#80 Brian Ferlin #83 Seth Griffith #88 Matt Grzlecyk

#80 Brian Ferlin
#83 Seth Griffith
#88 Matt Grzlecyk

Matt Grzelcyk showed more physicality than last year, also scored on a nifty backhand roofer.

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Wiley Sherman hustles up ice

Chris Casto reminds me of defensemen like Matt Greene of the Los Angeles Kings and Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins.

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal #82 Alex Cord #68 Colton Hargrove #90 Casey Bailey

#81 Malcolm Subban in goal
#82 Alex Cord
#66 Colton Hargrove
#90 Casey Bailey (Number obscured)

Wiley Sherman is a raw big body who will probably project to be about 225-230 for regular NHL play.

#50 Linus Arnesson #79 Matthew Lindblad

#50 Linus Arnesson
#79 Matthew Lindblad

Malcom Subban addressed the low points of his game between last year and his visibly in camp, and even more so in the jump in his stats. Interestingly he had three assists in the regular season, and one in seventeen playoff games and you don’t hear much about his puck handling ability.

Linus Arnesson apparently no one told him European defensemen aren’t supposed to play physically, or if they did he probably knocked them down three or four times.

Development camp is fun to watch because you get to see what the coaches and scouts see in players that might never show on the ice. Having been to camp the past several years I like larger groups than this better. With the larger groups there’s a wider spectrum of talent, and you can point to individual standouts much easier. I also find it is easier to concentrate on players. I also think that with the larger groups the players go at it a little hard trying to stand out.

There are a lot of teams that need a lot of help. Some of them have more than enough depth at one position. Some teams just can’t draft a position to save their lives, and others have been taking the same commuter rail as Ozzy Ozbourne for decades. For the most part these players have more value elsewhere than on the team who currently holds their rights.

Marc Staal

If only this guy could stay healthy. He’s almost certainly a Norris quality defenseman equally capable in all three zones, a great skater, and the focal point of all bad luck for the New York Rangers. He’s been concussed by his own brother, taken shots to the face, and likely had his roster spot taken by one of the New York Rangers younger, cheaper nearly as good defenders. The team really needs to get by draft, trade or free agency a couple forwards with grit. Staal is a hell of trade piece. A team like the Oilers, Avalanche, or Red Wings would be able to offer up a substantial reward.

Matt Greene

The Kings mostly learned how to play, and play well without him last season. He’s got one year left on a modest deal. He hits like a freight train, and the Kings worked Muzzin, Martinec, Voynov and the rest hard. A team that needs physicality and dependability would be well served to snatch up this rugged blueliner. The Kings need to add speed up front if they want to win another Cup while there core is young and healthy.

Paul Stastny

Moving Stastny might require taking on a bad contract, or possibly retaining some of his salary. At his pay grade it is unlikely the Avalanche resign him as he hasn’t led the team in scoring since the 2009-10 season, and has likely been edged out of a top two line center position by Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly. There are a lot of teams with different (read effective) systems that could reinvigorate the 44th pick int he 2005 draft and inspire performances closer to his World Championship level of play.

Zach Bogosian

Yes, another defenseman who might be better off elsewhere. The Jets need to get better depth up front, and Bogosian is apparently looking for a little bit more money than the Jets 2.0 ownership is willing to pay him. He’s big, he’s mobile he’s got good offense, he shoots right, he’s got almost 300 NHL games experience and he’s only 22. A deal involving him should be counted as a major deal. He might or might not ever reach the level of Doughty or Pietrangelo, but even if he doesn’t I can’t think of an NHL blueline that couldn’t fit him in.

Nino Niederreiter

The speedy, skilled forward for the Islanders clearly isn’t part of the teams long term plans. With a year left on his entry level deal, and him not turning 21 until September the right wing is still a true prospect who might intruige another team enough to part with something the now playoff conteder Islanders need, like perhaps a goalie prospect or as part of trade deal for a quality NHL starting goaltender.

Jordan Caron

This guy has had several chances to make it in the Bruins system, and he plays well might even say really well away from the puck. However he’s got absolutely zero confidence playing in the NHL right now. If he can get into a system and be told at the start of the season “the third/second line right wing slot is yours” and count on getting 12-14 minutes a night on a regular line plus a little penalty kill time he can almost certainly still be a twenty goal man, penalty killer and regular NHL player. The Bruins are just a bit too deep at forward for him to get that luxury right now.

It is no secret that Tyler Myers had a sensational rookie season. It is kind of hard not to notice a defenseman winning the Calder Trophy. It’s even harder when that lanky adolescent is compared to nearly every Norris trophy winner in the last quarter century. Unfortunately for pride of Houston Texas his career is currently on a Jonathan Cheechoo like trajectory. His point production has gone down each year of his career. Despite an enormous second contract he has been scratched twice already this season. In 12 games he has just 1 goal, and is a team worst minus nine, 30% worse than the next nearest player.

The question is what is to be done? A player who has the raw ability to walk into the NHL and win the Calder trophy especially as a defenseman, and then gets worse points to one of three things. The first is injury, which did happen, but after his sophomore season. The second is motivation, that is unfortunately not something that can really be measured unless a player comes into camp grossly out of shape and doesn’t participate in off ice conditioning. The third, is environment, specifically coaching.

The Buffalo Sabres have been a mediocre team for a full generation. The list of players they lost to free agency includes names like Danny Briere the point per playoff game stud, and trades the most recent of which was the indefensible dumping of Derek Roy for Ott,others you can name, and if you can’t Sabres fans can sing you their woe. Myers own mentor, now a Devil, is another one of those players lost to free agency or bad trades. So do the Sabres import a mentor for Myers? If Vishnovsky becomes available, is he the right guy for the job of reforming the Sabres “franchise” blueliner? Or maybe they make a move for a player like Kuba, or Girardi.

Or, is Myers in need of a fresh work address? Would exposure to John Carlson, Carl Alzner, and Roman Hamerlik be the cure for what ails him? Equally intriguing is what sort of player he could develop into if taken under the wing of guys like Pietreangelo, Chara, or hell, nearly all of the senior members of the Kings blueline. Rob Scuderi has won Cups in two very, very different systems, Drew Doughty is a phenomenal talent and still improving, Matt Greene too has the chops to help stabilize the tail spinning 22 year old.

Whatever is, wherever the repairs start, they need to find a way to get the youngsters confidence back in one way or another. They can start with his defensive work, or get him back in touch with the offensive abilities that so intrigued the NHL not long ago, and I leave that to whoever is lucky enough to work with him. The only must is a mentor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The trades in the first round were not hugely surprising, but added to the mystique. i can’t think of any of them even as bad trades. There were however two moves that just made me scratch my head.

The Edmonton Oilers are clearly still using the franchises last successful model. For those scoring at home, the last cup winning team for the Oilers was 1990. The sloppy fast math on that means 21 seasons have passed since the last time they hoisted Lord Stanley. Twenty one failures in a row with one model would indicate to most people that something needs to change. Clearly the Oilers organization is made of stern enough stuff to shrug off such mortal and pedestrian concerns.

In the last decades worth of drafts their scouting methods appear to be about as sound as blindfolding oneself at last call in a particularly seedy nightspot and expecting to leave with a ten. Sure it might happen, but the most successful defenseman they have drafted in that last decade is Matt Greene who played 151 games in an Oilers uniform. He’s won a Stanley Cup just a couple days back with the Los Angeles Kings.  Theo Peckham, taken in the second round of 2005 has played 156 games and recorded 17 points. Those are the two most successful defensemen drafted by the Oilers out of their last 33 defensemen drafted.

How is drafting another forward, however talented acceptable? The clearest possible needs were for quality defensemen who can get the puck out of their zone.

***

The next big surprise was that Rick Nash didn’t move. With all the quality players floating about and all the teams with two plus in the top sixty, it almost seemed like a missed opportunity for the Columbus Blue Jackets to retool.

***

When the Philadelphia Flyers were called to the podium, their team being booed loudly wasn’t a surprise. It was however a surprise with team with the most injury (and age) riddled defensive corps in the league mysteriously drafted a forward. Scott Laughton is likely to be quite good in the NHL. However for a team that may never get another shift from future hall of famer Chris Pronger, the 35 year old Kubina, the 37 year old Timonen, the soon to be 37 Lilja, certainly aren’t going to replace themselves. So what gives? Matt Finn, Olli Maatta, Jordan Schmaltz, a number of other quality defensive prospects were still on the board. Do they think Laughton will be the best bastion to protect the fragile and flighty Bryzgalov? Are they going to convert him to defense? Maybe in the future they’ll just skate forwards in all five skater positions? Your guess is as good as mine.