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In this post, I want to talk about the Western Conference which is the Conference of Edmonton and Calgary.
The Western Conference is a powerful conference that has a lot of great and powerful teams which are contenders for winning the Stanley Cup. I believe that the entertaining matches will be from this conference again next season. In my opinion, this Conference is stronger than the eastern Conference, and you could see it with the playoffs series last season which was, in my opinion, more entertaining. Even though that in the end Pittsburgh from the Eastern Conference won the Stanley Cup, it was after Nashville gave them an excellent fight.
I think that some of the teams in that conference got weaken with the players that they lost to vegas and FA. In my opinion, despite this fact, there are still some elite teams in this conference that can win the Stanley Cup after Pittsburgh won it two consecutive times. I think that when we are looking at the potential of the teams, so Edmonton is at the top of the conference and in my opinion, Calgary is also one of the top teams in the conference.
I think that Edmonton has a great and balanced roster, they had depth in the offense and defense and also great goaltending. I believe that they will learn from last season playoffs and they will come from the gate stronger and more determined to get back to the post season and to reach higher than last season. I believe that we will see great things from Edmonton this season and the experience that they got last season will only help them. In my opinion, they will have a great season and will be at the top of the conference and Hopefully will get to the western finals or the Stanley cup finals.
Calgary also has a solid team but it"s not as good as Edmonton. They had a problem in the goaltending last season which caused them to lose the series against Anaheim last season. I think that the addition of Mike Smith will solve this issue and will make them a better team. In my opinion, Calgary become a mighty team, and they have the potential to get into the playoff and reach further them last year and Hopefully, we will see them getting further in the playoffs than last year.
In Conclusion, I think that the Western Conference is a powerful conference and a better than the Eastern Conference. I believe that Edmonton and Calgary has an excellent team that has the potential to go far in the regular season and the playoffs. I think that Edmonton is better than Calgary, but both of them should reach the playoffs and hopefully we will see them in higher stages in the playoffs. In my opinion, they can infiltrate into the top of the Conference, and we can expect great season especially from Edmonton.
As Flyers Prospect camp ended last week, we continue to look at the Flyers prospects in Part II of our series.
First, Nolan Patrick took to the ice on Monday. Well, that’s not the exciting news. The real exciting news is that the Flyers signed him to his three-year entry-level deal. He’ll earn $925,000 per season, but his contract does have bonuses. Those bonuses will count against the salary cap once he hits them. He’ll continue to skate throughout the summer, once his facial infection is healed and will work towards making the team in training camp
Several other prospects also aim to make the team out of training camp and one of those is Travis Sanheim.
This was Sanheim’s fourth development camp since being drafted by the Flyers. These past four years of playing in Juniors and last season on the Phantoms show that Sanheim has progressed and could be finally ready to join the Flyers’ blue line. "It's definitely a teaching camp," Sanheim said last week. "Even the development coaches have talked to me, making sure I slow stuff down and show the younger guys how to do it properly, not necessarily doing everything at full speed."
If the student has become the teacher at development camp, does that show the sign that he’s ready?
Since being drafted, Sanheim spent two years in Juniors. In his first year, he has the most points in the WHL for a defenseman posting 15 goals and 50 assists. He was also a +27. The following season for the Calgary Hitmen he scored another 15 goals and 53 assists, finishing with a +15. Last year he played his first full year in the AHL tallying 37 points. His coaches have spoken on his positioning, his poise and his ability to make the right plays at the right time.
Again, in GM Ron Hextall’s world, everything has to be earned. If Sanheim wants to suit up for the Flyers in October he knows he’ll have to fight for it. "It's going to come down to camp," he said.
"This year, obviously there's going to be some spots available, and we're going to be fighting for the job."
I’ve seen Sanheim play. He is a competitor. I still think he could put on a few more pounds of muscle given his height and current body weight, but as long as he’s fighting hard, I think he’ll be on the roster come opening night.
Okay, let’s quickly forget Frost’s twitter comment about the Flyers in 2013. I mean he was a 14 year old hockey fan and frankly I think it’s great!
This was one thing I did not expect the Flyers to do at the draft was trade for another first round pick. Frost was selected 27th overall back in June. Frost is a winger and that is something that the Flyers have lacked at the prospect level. For the past several years, the Flyers have been stacked at Center and Defense. It’s come to haunt them recently as they have failed to find that solid winger that would complement their center’s abilities. Alas, here we are.
Now we’re a year or two away from seeing Frost play on the wing with either Giroux or Patrick but there is still a reason to be excited. Frost, has played in the OHL the past couple of years. In his first year he only scored 7 goals, but blossomed the following year scoring 20 while adding 42 assists. Despite being ranked for a mid second to third round selection, the Flyers scouts saw something in Frost that made him jump the board and for the Flyers to trade up for him.
Frost has a good hockey sense. He plays two-way hockey and can create turnovers. Frost is also special at creating second and third chances which will frustrate the opposition. His acceleration has also improved from his rookie year in the OHL which has probably helped in his point production. As he’ll probably spend the next year in Juniors, he’ll continue to develop not only his speed but his positioning. Once he is ready to make the jump, he’ll be that missing piece on the Flyers wing that we armchair GMs have been screaming for the last couple of seasons.
I don’t want to rule out a shot of Frost making the team next season because I think it’s a good possibility. I think Hextall trading up just to select him in the first round when he was projected to fall late in the second can attest to that theory. We’ll have to see how his season in Juniors will go.
In my previous blog we talked about goalie Carter Hart. As great of a prospect that Hart is, the Flyers have struck gold because Felix Sandstrom is a fantastic prospect as well. Despite being 20 years old and being able to play in the AHL next season, Sandstrom has decided to spend one more year in Sweden. “I’m in a good position at home in Sweden,” Sandstrom said. “I get to play a lot. Really like my goalie coach there, too. I’m in a good position at home. No reason to rush. I think I need one more year to develop more and be even more ready to come over here.”
You can’t fault a player for wanting more time to develop, especially in a place where they call home and feel more comfortable. It worked for Peter Forsberg.
I think you can sense that in the future Hextall is going to be looking at a Hart/Sandstrom tandem. If their potential were to translate perfectly to the NHL, this could be the best tandem in the NHL and something that other teams would fear.
Last year, Sandstrom compiled a 14-7 record, 2.25 goals-against average and .908 save percentage with two shutouts. He had a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage in 13 post season games but his team lost in the finals. In 2016 he won the WJC best Goalie award. He has two gold medals at the J18 level and a silver medal at the SHL level.
He also had a good development camp, showing how he can be flashing in the crease.
Sandstrom is right though, he does have a lot to improve and develop on but he does have a high ceiling. Although I personally rank Hart over Sandstrom, you can never tell how their play and potential will transition at the NHL level, but I think both of them in net will be a glorious site to see once it does happen.
Stay tuned for Part III on the Flyers prospects later this week.
Follow me on Twitter @iban3zhead
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Frequently, the importance of carrying momentum over an intermission can be heard being talked about. I thought it were possible to measure this harmony with algebra, so I tried to do that. I choose to analyze a very specific question:
If the regulation of a game ends in a tie, other than 0-0, how frequently would the team that tied the game with the last regulation goal win in overtime.
We would define the team that tied the game as the one having the momentum. We would define the other team as the one trying to show resilience. For answering the question, we analyzed the outcome of games of seasons 2007/08-2016/17 (including the ongoing playoffs). We discard the games that end in a shootout, because their outcome depend truly more on the skill of the shooting players/goaltenders rather than the whatever momentum might've been accrued.
The results of the analysis are displayed in the table below, per season, per the time frame during which the last tying goal was scored: in the last two, five, or ten minutes, in the last period, or in one of the first two. The numbers show the percentage of wins by the team having the momentum and the number of games falling into that specific segment. Also we display a separate column and a separate row for playoffs game, although a finer granularity is not really possible because of the sample size (as of 5/1/17).
Season 2 5 10 20 1st/2nd total totalPO2007 54.2/24 57.9/19 52.9/34 53.8/13 52.6/38 53.9/128 31.2/162008 43.5/23 48.1/27 45.2/31 53.8/13 40.0/40 44.8/134 25.0/162009 42.9/28 56.5/23 72.7/22 64.7/17 53.7/41 56.5/131 58.8/172010 48.6/37 54.2/24 47.1/34 40.7/27 56.8/44 50.0/166 59.1/222011 50.0/24 45.8/24 43.5/23 72.0/25 47.7/44 51.4/140 37.5/242012 62.5/16 33.3/15 50.0/22 50.0/14 57.9/19 51.2/86 53.8/262013 58.1/43 43.5/23 34.6/26 45.5/22 44.1/34 46.6/148 70.8/242014 51.7/29 65.2/23 55.3/38 46.7/15 60.5/43 56.8/148 57.9/192015 60.0/40 46.7/30 44.4/36 45.8/24 39.6/48 47.2/178 52.6/192016 43.6/39 50.0/28 60.5/38 48.1/27 61.8/68 54.5/200 63.2/19totalPO 61.4/44 46.7/30 55.8/43 68.4/19 40.9/66 52.0/202 52.0/202total 51.5/303 50.4/236 50.7/304 51.8/197 51.8/419 51.3/1459 52.0/202We see that there is no specific "momentum" nor "resilience" capability overall, there is practically no indication on how the OT would end based on which team scored the last GTG. The only two moderate exceptions with decent sample sizes are the second and the sixth columns of the penultimate row. The GTG-scoring team is 27-17 (61.4%) in case it scored the tying goal in the last two minutes, however if the GTG was scored before the last period, as it happened in 66 games, the momentum would obviously not carry over two or more intermissions, and the tying team is 27-39 (40.9%) in these games.Here is how it looks on a graph:We can see all lines wobbling slightly above the 50 mark. Insufficiently above. Even if we observe the extra 1.3% chance overall (2.0% in playoffs) - wouldn't it be more related to the home/away advantage? I haven't looked at this aspect yet. Maybe another time.
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What We Know:
New Jersey Devils will change their look entirely
What We Know:
Edmonton Oilers adopting their orange alternate as their new primary home jersey
What We Speculate:
Ottawa Senators adopting their black alternates as their new primary home jersey
What We Speculate:
Calgary Flames switching to their retro uniforms
What We Speculate:
Colorado Avalanche retiring their current uniforms
Pittsburgh Penguins jersey leak
Vegas Golden Knights new uniforms
Also Hype But Still Highly Speculated:
San Jose Sharks secondary marks
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After years of low attendance, poor revenue, and controversy with the City of Glendale the Arizona Coyotes may be moving to a direction of stability. On Monday the Coyotes announced a proposal for a new hockey facility. The plans are for a 16,000 seat NHL arena and a 4,000 seat multi sport arena and practice facility. This complex will be shared with the Arizona Sun Devils.
This is a strong step in the right direction. It is a proposal, not a solidified agreement. That will come if and when the Coyotes met all the requirements. Is this the beginning of positive things in Arizona or is this the final straw that sends the team packing. Lets hope this solves the poor attendance problems caused by a less than convenient location in Glendale. The Coyotes deserve a break, but they will need fan support and this proposal. Otherwise they will be gone.
- Steven Stamkos left Tuesday nights game against the Detroit Red Wings with a lower-body injury. The incident happened in the first period, and he did not return to the game. Details are unknown at this time.
- The Winnipeg Jets are on the move. Tuesday nights shutout victory over the Chicago Blackhawks has moved the Jets into second place in the very difficult Central Division.
- The Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday inducted three players (Eric Lindros, Sergei Makarov and Rogie Vachon) and one builder (Pat Quinn) – and also honored two media members (Sam Rosen and Bob Verdi) – as part of its class of 2016.
- Michael Grabner scored twice to lead the Rangers to their seventh win in their past eight outings and to a 12-4-0 record overall (24 points), tied with the Blackhawks (11-3-2, 24 points) for second in the NHL behind the Canadiens (13-2-1, 27 points). This marks just the second time in New York’s 90-year history that they have won 12 of their first 16 games to start a season; the other instance came in 2015-16 when they began 12-2-2. Grabner, who shares second in the NHL in goals, has 10-3—13 through 16 games this season, eclipsing his goal total from 2015-16 (9-9—18 in 80 GP w/ TOR).
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What a first few days of the NHL season! Austin Matthews and Connor McDavid are showing why they were taken number 1 overall. Toronto continues to suffer bad loses. The Penguins are flying without Sidney Crosby right now.
Here are my thoughts on the teams after the first week:
1- Washington Capitals (ranking last week: 1) - Caps lost in a shootout to the Penguins. They are still one of, if not the best team in the league. Over the next few weeks, we will find out how good they are.
2- Pittsburgh Penguins (2) - The Pens won the Stanley Cup last year. They beat the best team regular season team in the league last season. With a healthy Crosby, this team could challenge them the Capitals are the best team in the league this year.
3- San Jose Sharks (4) - Newcomers Boedker and Schlemko looked good in a good game against the Kings. No reason to doubt this team right now.
4- St. Louis Blues (6) - Two division wins to start the year? Things are looking good! Grabbing Nail Yakupov for basically nothing looks GREAT right now!
5- Nashville Predators (7) - Any questions on if PK Subban fits in this system?
6- Tampa Bay Lightning (8) - Nikita Kucherov is back, but questions on defense after a poor showing against a Red Wings team that struggled to score last year arise.
7- Florida Panthers (5) - Johnathon Huberdeau is a big lost to this team.
8- Chicago Blackhawks (3) - Let's face it: The 'Hawks did not look good through two games. The talent level of roster suggested they are still a good team. They need to start acting like it.
9- Anaheim Ducks (9) - Not a lot of evidence in either direction on the return of Randy Carlyle. We'll see how they look in a few games.
10- Dallas Stars (11) - Not a bad start beating the Ducks in the first game of the year.
11- New York Rangers (13) - Maybe this deep team can score enough to not rely on King Henrik as hard in the past. Brandon Pirri looks like a steal right now.
12- New York Islanders (12) - So-so game against the Rangers hopefully won't be the norm for this team with high expectations.
13- Philadelphia Flyers (14) - Did you stay up to watch the game against the Kings? Maybe you should make an effort to watch this team.
14- Montreal Canadiens (15) - Carey Price is not back just yet...
15- Boston Bruins (19) - I know it's the Jackets, but the offense, particularly Brad Marchand (who is WAY underpaid this year at $4.5 mil) is rolling.
16- Edmonton Oilers (18) - Captain Connor McDavid. 'Nough said.
17- Minnesota Wild (16) - Thoughts on Eric Staal thus far: playing better than last year. What does that say about his play this year though?
18- Los Angeles Kings (10) - Watch out: Johnathon Quick is on IR. Carey Price effect?
19- New Jersey Devils (17) - Cory Schneider is still Cory Schneider. The Devils still can't score. What else is new?
20- Carolina Hurricanes (20) - Kids could be a shocker this year. The 'Canes can score, but can they score against good goalies?
21- Ottawa Senators (21) - I'm not sure how to feel about the Senators. They did basically nothing in the offseason, which is not a good thing. But they are fun to watch so far.
22- Toronto Maple Leafs (28) - Austin Matthews is a huge star in the making. Will Nylander looks good on his wing. The future is bright in Toronto.
23- Detroit Red Wings (23) - They put up four on the Lightning (including the weirdest goal of the year, maybe all time). Does this mean the offense is going to last?
24- Winnipeg Jets (24) - Conner Hellybuck is bound to experience some growing pains. Jets miss Trouba. That is obvious.
25- Calgary Flames (25) - Brain Elliot has looked like very Flames goalie since Miikka Kipursoff. Not a good sign.
26- Columbus Blue Jackets (26) - Seth Jones looks good. The offense is not bad. The rest of the defense is...?
27- Colorado Avalanche (27) -
28- Buffalo Sabres (22) - Jack Eichel and Evander Kane missing a significant period of time puts this team back into the rebuild mode. Maybe next year is the year?
29- Arizona Coyotes (29) - Still not going to be a playoff year for the young Coyotes. They should be fun to watch, though. And they should steal some games against some of the better teams around the league.
30- Vancouver Canucks (30) - Year by year, I question the management of the Canucks more and more. Now you lose Etem? Maybe they don't value young players at all.
Floral, Saskatchewan, is listed as a ghost town on Wikipedia. A local farmer maintains what is left of the town, which consists of now defunct church and school buildings. Much of the cemetery consists of unmarked graves, and it would surprise many to learn that many of the bodies in said graves bear a famous name. That name is one that is near and dear to all of us who call ourselves hockey fans. For, you see, although no one could have known it at the time, on this very date 88 years ago, the course of the sport of hockey was changed in that tiny, now abandoned village. That was the date that the world welcomed the great Gordie Howe.
I always give my best effort to be open-minded when dealing with things such as player ranking lists. Like anyone else, I have my own opinions, and while it may be generally hard to sway me, I enjoy a good discussion centered around such lists. I can hear out a well-reasoned opinion even if I don't ultimately agree. There are few positions that I consider to be completely unassailable. However, there are only four skaters for which I could really consider any argument as the greatest ever. I would also find it very hard to stomach the idea of any one of those guys being ranked outside of the top four. It should go without saying that Mr. Hockey is one of those four players.
No matter how you slice it, he is among the elite of the elite in the sport of hockey. If you want single-season performance, Gordie Howe is your man. Six times, he was named as the NHL's most valuable player six times and as the WHA's MVP once. He led the NHL in goals five times, assists three times, and points six times. He was named to the NHL's first or second all-star team a whopping 21 times and to the WHA's first all-star team twice. If you want longevity, the sheer number of all-star selections is a good starting point. Then, consider the fact that he played until he was 52 and was still effective right up until the end of his career. The second oldest player in NHL history retired at 48, and Jaromir Jagr, who is now the second-oldest forward in history is still eight years behind Howe. Is toughness important to you? Gordie Howe is still your man. The trifecta of a goal, assist, and a fight is called a "Gordie Howe hat trick." Scarcely has a player ever had such an impact on so many aspects of the sport.
One man who testified to the complete, well-rounded nature of Mr. Hockey's game was a man who could probably fairly be called Howe's biggest rival: Maurice "Rocket" Richard. There were plenty of comparisons between the two. Both played right wing. Both wore jersey number #9. Both were known for their fiery tempers. If those things were not enough to permanently link the two to one another, an altercation during Howe's rookie season left it beyond any doubt. After being shoved by Richard during a game, Howe turned around and knocked the rocket out cold with a single punch. The Stanley Cup finals linker them further, with Howe's Red Wings and Richard's Canadiens squaring off four times in the 1950'sYet, despite the comparisons, the battles between their teams, and that run-in between the two, there was an immense respect. When Richard retired in 1960, he paid tribute to his former rival saying, "Gordie could do everything."
Something that many are unaware of, however, is that Richard, and all of us almost did not get a chance to see what Mr. Hockey was capable of. In the 1950 playoffs, a failed attempt to check Toronto's Ted Kennedy sent Howe head first into the boards.The results were nearly fatal, not only to Howe's career, but to Howe himself. After the impact, he lay motionless on the ice, unconscious and bleeding. His skull was fractured, and surgery was required to relieve the pressure on his brain and save his life. As we now know, it took a lot more than a fractured skull to keep Gordie Howe down: the next season, he won his first scoring title and began to establish himself as -- at the very least -- the greatest player of his era.
In 1971, Mr. Hockey retired, and the hockey world thought it had seen the last of its great superstar. His wrist was in bad enough shape that to continue to play would require surgery, and Howe found retirement preferable. He held nearly every offensive career record there was. There was nothing left to do, right? Wrong. Two years later, Mrs. Hockey, Colleen Howe came up with a plan to allow the Houston Aeros to choose 19-year old Marty Howe and 18-year-old Mark Howe in the WHA's professional draft, and then sign Gordie, allowing her husband to fulfill a lifelong dream of one day playing with his sons. Suddenly, the idea of the surgery seemed worth it, and Gordie returned to the ice. The WHA's MVP award was renamed in his honor, and he captured the trophy in the 1973-74 season.
The trio of Howes would ultimately play together for seven seasons: four with the Aeros, two with the New England Whalers in the WHA, and one final season with the freshly renamed and now NHL member Harftford Whalers. The significance of that one final season in the NHL should not be overlooked. Since the season ended in 1980, it meant that Gordie Howe had played in the NHL for at leas part of each of five separate decades, establishing a legacy that looks untouchable.
Sadly, I do not know how aware Mr. Hockey might be of the significance of this day. I do not know how sharp his memories of his career may now be. I had the privilege of personally corresponding with his son Marty several months ago, and I was sadly given the news that Gordie is unable to retain anything for more than about 30 seconds. The ravages of age, dementia, and a stroke have taken their toll on this once strong and proud man. Nonetheless, today, I wish you a happy birthday, Mr. Hockey. Even if you do not recall all of it, we do. We have not forgotten you or your accomplishments, and neither has the game. We never will.
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My latest on a former teammate who just committed to playing for Babson college next season.
Josh announced on Monday February 1st that he was committing to play for the Babson Beavers next season in the NEHC. Beck who started skating at three years old has always been one of the smaller players on most of his teams. Josh has been able to prove his doubters wrong for much of his life, many thought he would never make varsity at Scituate high school as a freshman. He not only made the team as freshman, but went on to have an incredible career with the Sailors. Beck was a consistent offensive threat through his four years with the Sailors, and was often one of the fastest skaters on the ice. He capped off his great career with the Sailors as a senior captain, making the varsity team all four years.
Josh faced a difficult decision as the end of his senior year was on the horizon, was he going to play junior hockey or go to college. Beck didn't have any definant offers from schools and at best could try and walk on somewhere. Josh decided to take a year off and play Juniors for the Baystate Breakers. Once again he was met with the same doubters telling him that he was just wasting his time playing for the Breakers. Josh brought his hard working attitude to the Breakers looking to make an immediate impact on that roster. He was one of the hardest working players on the Breakers never missing a work out, and for that he was named a captain of the team. Despite the teams struggles Beck remained a bright spot for the Breakers organization. In 32 regular season games for the Breakers he scored 15 goals and had 27 points for the Breakers. He also had five goals and eight points in only three playoff games. Josh was also named an all-star in the USPHL last season scoring a goal in the 18u all-star game. The Breakers were sold off to the Syracuse Stars at the end of last season leaving Beck with another tough decision on where to go next.
Beck described a very difficult decision about taking one more year off, but he decided to take some online classes in the summer and the fall to stay up to speed. Josh joined Seacoast College Prep in the USHS, he was looking to show everyone that he could do it. So far this season Beck has 34 goals and 31 assists for 65 points in 48 games. He has been named an assistant captain of the team and has continued his hard work. That hard work finally paid off when Beck committed to play for Babson on Monday. As a former teammate it is good to see someone work so hard and want something so bad to finally get it. Congratulations Josh you've earned it, keep working hard and stay hungry.
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We are approximately halfway through the 2015-16 NHL season, and this is a point that we frequently see awards predictions given. As such, I want to make some predictions of my own, and tell you who I think would win the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Selke, and Calder Trophies if the season ended today. A couple of these are the same as what I predicted in the preseason, but others have changed. So, without further ado, here are the guys I think are worthy to pose with the trophies after the awards banquet this summer.
Winner: Patrick Kane; Finalists: Erki Karlsson and Alex Ovechkin
Not long ago, I made the case as to why Karlsson should win the Hart. Truth be told, I still believe everything I said, but with Chicago holding up much better in the standings, and Ottawa currently just outside the playoff picture, I think the close battle goes to Kane. What both of those guys have done this season has been incredible, and I think they're head and shoulders above the field for now. As for Ovi, he seems to have gotten himself back on track from a fairly slow start, and now leads the league in goals. Somehow, I think another 50-goal season is a foregone conclusion.
Winner: Erik Karlsson; Finalists: Drew Doughty and Ryan Suter
There's a reason these three guys lead the league in time on ice per game: they are highly effective, and their coaches trust them greatly. All three of these guys are quite deserving, but I think Karlsson is all but a lock here. He is having an offensive season for the ages from the blue line, still on pace for nearly 90 points, even after something of a dropoff in scoring by his team. Unless someone goes off in a way as obvious as a nuclear bomb, no one is dethroning the reigning Norris holder this season.
Winner: Braden Holtby; Finalists: Corey Crawford and Roberto Luongo
Right now, the Washington Capitals have the best record in the league. While he's not the only reason, Braden Holtby is a huge reason for that. I think this is a tossup between him and Luongo at this point, and Luongo has been gaining a lot of ground as of late during the Panthers' recent tear. If the vote were held today, I would not really be shocked or offended by either of these guys winning. I think Crawford is a bit behind, but his six shutouts are a league high, and he has helped keep the Blackhawks in the contender category.
Winner: Patrice Bergeron; Finalists: Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews
Honestly, this trophy is a lot harder to call, because the kinds of contributions that win it do not show up on a score sheet. I still feel pretty comfortable going with these three guys, however, because they have established a reputation for defensive excellence, and their teams are outperforming expectations. Bergeron's reputation is the highest, and it is well-deserved. I think he will give Bob Gainey company with his fourth Selke.
Winner: Artemi Panarin; Finalists: Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin
Last season's rookie class received a lot of hype, and rightfully so. This year's group can still give them a run for their money. I believe Panarin will win it because he is running away with the rookie scoring race, but he is certainly not the only quality newcomer in the NHL. Larkin has the best plus-minus rating in the league and looks like a future Selke winner. Eichel is proving that the excitement over his arrival was justified.
It probably goes without saying that a lot of this will change in the second half of the season, but as of this moment, that is the way I see it playing out. How close or far will I end up being? Time will tell.
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Who’s hot and who is NOT
Eastern Conference – Week 2
Fire, Fire! FIRE!!!!
Let us keep the Montreal Canadians on top here, at 10-2-0 and 20 points, Montreal continues to impress and make noise in the each. At this point, they still remain the top contender in the each for a playoff run. Carey Price, who has been amazing, will be sidelined with a lower body injury. Hopefully for the Habs, this is nothing serious and they can continue their impressive run. 3-0-0 Mike Condon looks to settle in as the starter with youngster Dustin Tokarski to back him up…. Montreal’s net is crazy deep, although he is not eligible to play remember they also have Zach Fucale in their system (future trades for Montreal? Who knows!)
I will nab the Pittsburgh Penguins here; the Pens have who their last four games after a dreadful start to their season. The took on the red hot Predators and Capitals to snag 2 of those four and then stole two more from some strugglers in the east. Evgeni Malkin has put up ten points to this point and Phil Kessel is slowly finding his stride, he is up to 6 points 4 of which are goals. Marc-Andre Fleury has put up some great numbers and is 4-1 in his last 5 games. As long as this group stays healthy and continues to build chemistry, expect the Penguins to start getting a little pesky once again.
Boston has been playing good hockey of late as they have also won 4 in a row. Jonas Gustavsson is 3-0-0 playing well behind Tuukka Rask who sits 3-3-1. David Krejci has been a force to be recon with putting up 15 points in just 10 games. The Bruins are on a terror since starting the season 0-3-0, Boston is 6-0-1 in their last 7 games, do not expect them to slow down much in the month of November.
Players to be aware of –
David Krejci – Krejci continues his rampage for Boston with 15 points and 10 of those 15 have come during the Bruins current 6-0-1 run. Expect Krejci to slow down some, but not too much.
Ryan O’Reilly – Ryan had been turning on the heat for the Buffalo Sabers of late. The 24-year-old has put up 10 points in his last 5 games. The Sabers are 2-3-0 in their last 5 games and 2 of those 3 losses were by only 1 goal.
Mark Stone – Stone is having a quite season alongside the Ottawa Senators. Stone had 13 points on the season and 5 points in his last 4 games. The right winger is trying to make a new for himself as a point producer as he has 64 last season, he is current 51 points shy of that mark, but well on his way.
Erik Karlsson – Erik has been impressive in his young career, and the 7-year vet continues to shine. Although he has yet to put a puck in the net, he has helped his team 11 times to do so. The sens just split a home and home with Detroit and have a tough test in Montreal coming up. Look for Karlsson to continue to shine and add a few more helpers and may a goal in this next week.
Dion Phaneuf – Dion has played well in his last few games, 3 assists in 4 games. Phaneuf has not played too great in Toronto since 2011-12, this could be a good year for the 30-year-old or a trade year. Toronto and new coach Mike Babcock will continue to watch and see how Dion leads the team up to the trade deadline.
P.K. Subban – P.K continues to play solid on the back end for Montreal. PK has 11 points (1G,10A) and is a +10 for Montreal. Look for Subban to step up with Carey Price injured and young goaltenders Tokarski and Condon in net.
In the nettttt – Goaltending—
Henrik Lundqvist – 5-2-2 Record - .934 save percentage – 1.87 goals against average – 0 shutouts – 280 of 297 shots stopped. Lundqvist is playing solid in net as he has allowed 2 or less goals in the last 5 games and in 8 of 9 games.
Marc-Andre Fleury – 6-4-0 Record - .942 save percentage – 1.71 goals against average – 2 shutouts – 275 of 291 shots stopped. Fleury is on a 3 game winning streak and has allowed only 2 goals in those 3 games stopping 92 of 94 shots.
Corey Schneider – 6-2-1 Record - .919 save percentage – 2.17 goals against average – 0 shutouts – 227 of 247 shots stopped. Schneider is 4-1 in his last 5 games.
As we inch closer to winter, some teams and players are playing in the cold a little soon!
The Toronto Maple Leafs are tops on this week’s cold list. The Maple Leafs have not been good for quite some time and I do not expect that to change until they get a new leader in the locker room. I think Dion Phanuef’s welcome is long gone and I expect to see him moved at the latest the NHL draft, but in the 2015-16 years. Toronto has lost their last 4 games sit 1-7-2 and have been out-scored 20 to 35.
The Columbus Blue Jackets looked like they had started to turn a corner winning 2 in a row…. Until now, Columbus has lost two straight and have a league worst 2-10-0 record. Jack Johnson is seemingly invisible as he sports 1 point and a -6 on the back end of things… Is Johnson another player that could be targeted for a move at this trade deadline?
The Flyers have been less than spectacular to start this season. At 4-4-2 the Flyers have lost two in a row, and Steve Mason continues to play salty in net with a .900 Save percentage and 3.39 goals against. Flyer fans are waiting for both Wayne Simmonds and Claude Giroux to break out, but that won’t save their Defense or goaltending. Could the Flyers look at a defenseman like Dustin Byfuglien or Jack Johnson? Even if they don’t, the Flyers need a change somewhere before they end up good friends with Toronto and Columbus.
Let’s look at which players are struggling off the hop.
James Vans Riemsdyk – Toronto has never been the place to be for James and has struggled quite a bit. Although the last two seasons were decent. James has 4 goals and 1 assists this season so far. He could be another name on the market place around trade deadline, yet he will not be a cheap trade regardless of his stats.
Claude Giroux – You Flyer fans had to know I was coming after picking on the Flyers not too long ago. Captain Claude has not started this season off well by any means. After back to back seasons that panned out nicely, Giroux is struggling to find the net consistently. He sits 3 goals two assists -4 and 2 of those 3 goals came in one game. I expect Giroux and Wayne Simmonds to find some consistency soon, otherwise, the Flyers are not looking too hot.
Ryan Johansen – Johansen has been a no show in the past five games with nothing but a -2 to show. Johansen is one key to why the Blue Jackets continue to struggle, weird enough, Ryan was out for the only 2 wins the Blue Jackets have this season.
Jonathan Bernier – 0-6-1 Record - .889 Save percentage – 3.02 goals against average – 0 Shutouts – 170 of 189 shots stopped. Bernier continues to struggle as a starter in Toronto, his name could possibly end up in trade rumors everywhere.
Steve Mason – 2-3-3 Record - .900 save percentage – 3.39 goals against average – 0 shutouts – 181 of 201 shots stopped. Mason looks shaky to begin this season; could an offensive strike help the 27-year-old find confidence?
Sergei Bobrovski – 2-8-0 Record - .865 save percentage – 3.97 goals against average – 0 shutouts – 224 of 259 shots stopped. Bob’s was on the rise with 2 wins, but came back down after two losses. He was pulled in the last game Columbus played after allowing 3 goals on 11 shots.
Jack Johnson – Johnson is having a terrible start to the season in 12 games he has produced 1 points and a -6. Sadly, I do not expect Johnson to shake this funk unless the Blue Jackets magic pull off .500 or better at the end of November.
Kris Letang – Normally a force that doesn’t stop in Pittsburgh, Letang has had a quiet week. In his past 5 games, Kris has managed 0 points and a -1. The 28-year-old has 4 points on his 11 games season and is a -4. While the Penguins find offence, expect Letang to catch a whiff of that confidence.
The ENTIRE Detroit Red Wing Defense – Highest scoring defensemen, Niklas Kronwall, 4 points. The Wings are finding ways to win games, but no thanks to anyone on D….
**All stats are as of 10/31/15**
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By now anyone who follows the NHL knows Chicago Blackhawk star forward Patrick Kane has been the focus of a rape investigation this summer. It's not something we've written about here at Boston Pucks, nor do I plan on having anything to say about the very serious nature of the allegations he's facing. But it's something that certainly most hockey die-hards have been keeping an eye on leading up to the start of the 2015-2016 season.
Until recently nothing on-ice related to his situation had developed in regards to Patrick Kane's standing with the team. Sure, people have wondered if he'd start the season on the ice or under suspension but essentially the team and Kane have been silent on where they are at. But the chatter is now starting to leak. According to the Chicago Sun-Times there have been at least 5 teams who have contacted the Blackhawks saying they'd be willing to make a trade for the superstar forward. And what's worse; the articles source states Kane has "disrespected the team and his teammates", and that "the Hawks have run out of patience".
This season Patrick Kane's new eight-year, $84 million contract kicks in. His cap hit is huge, $10.5 million per season. Neither of those figures will be a problem for a team with cap room looking to make a massive splash by trading for him but the real risk comes in the form of Patrick Kane's character.
If he survives the rape investigation would another team even want him? Yes. Just like Michael Vick, Adrian Peterson, and Ben Roethlisberger of the NFL, players can serve time (or not) and come back and play. Team owners know the financial value of a 3-time Stanley Cup champion like Kane and it only takes one of the 30 owners to be willing to take a chance on Kane. That would most certainly happen.
Unfortunately for Kane no matter how much on-ice success he's had helping lead Chicago to glory there is always a limit. Put bluntly; in the harsh business world that is professional sports the Chicago Blackhawks can look at Kane's on-ice performance and easily conclude they got what they wanted out of him and his personal issues aren't worth it anymore. He's far more expendable and easier to get over after winning them three Stanley Cups should they want to sever their ties. No trade would happen while the investigation is ongoing. The case could get settled, he could win or lose, or worst case do prison time. No team will take him until there is a legal conclusion. But there's no doubt he's going to be fighting hard off the ice for his on-ice livelihood and freedom. There's a good chance it won't end with him putting a #88 sweater back on in Chicago.
http://BostonPucks.com is written by two life-long Bruin fans who enjoy the NHL, beer, rock music, and writing about the sport they love. Check us out for more articles and takes on everything from around the NHL.
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The NHL has been notorious for what has been dooped as the “sophomore slump.” Players who light up the league in their first season in the most skilled league in the World, only to fail to live up to the same levels of success they had during their first year.
The latest example of this phenomenon is Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. The 19-year-old took home the Calder Trophy last season after leading all rookies with 63 points. However, this season, like the rest of his Avs teammates, he is having a disappointing go having put up just 20 points in 32 games, which at that pace would see a dip of 12 points this season for a total of 51.
However, while MacKinnon seems to be struggling to perform at the same level he did last season, there have been a collection of sophomore players who are trending in the opposite direction. Instead of slumping in year two, they have elevated their play to a new level and are quickly becoming important parts of their NHL clubs.
The sixth-overall pick in 2013 put up an impressive 22 goals in his rookie campaign and added another 12 assists on a Calgary Flames team that did just slightly better than their Alberta counterparts, the Oilers. This year the team rushed out to a start that not many predicted prior to opening day. However, since then the Flames have cooled off, but Monahan still looks to eclipse the impressive numbers he amassed last season. Through the first 35 games the 20-year-old has 11 goals and 21 points and is on pace to hit the 25 goal mark and 49 points. It’s not a huge number, but is a 44% increase on last year’s point total and is on pace for the second most goals on the team behind Jiri Hudler.
Nelson broke into the league last season with the New York Islanders and put up 26 points in 72 games. Fast-forward to this season and the former 2010 first-round pick is becoming one of the go-to-guys for the Islanders. Through his team’s first 33 games he has helped his team find a spot among the top of the Eastern Conference with his 14 goals and 27 points. His ice-time has risen over 2:30 to where it was last year and Nelson has been making every last minute count. Nelson is on pace for 67 points just two points behind the paces of both John Tavares and Kyle Okposo for top spot on the team.
The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t seemed to really skip a beat since the departure of long-time Bolt, Martin St. Louis last season. A big part of the reason is because of the play of Tyler Johnson. The 24-year-old has helped his team become among the elites in the East. Johnson had a very impressive rookie season finishing second in voting behind MacKinnon. He tied the Avs centre with 24 goals last year including five shorthanded. He put up a very impressive 50 points playing in all 82 games.
This season though he’s on pace to shatter those totals, he currently has 10 goals and 34 points in 34 games, on pace for 81, after missing one game earlier this season. He is also second in the NHL with a plus-20. But what might be most shocking is that the Spokane, WA native was never drafted, but rather signed by the Lightning in 2011 as a free agent.
The Lightning are quickly becoming the new Detroit Red Wings, finding a way to be successful at the hands of their own homegrown talent and Nikita Kucherov is another example of that. The 21-year-old Russian was drafted by the Bolts in the second round 58th overall in 2011 and is third in team scoring behind Steven Stamkos and Johnson. The right winger has 13 goals and 30 points in 35 games after putting up just 18 points in 52 games in his rookie season. The 5-foot-11, 171 pounder had 24 points in 17 games in the AHL last season earning a call up from the team and he now seems to have earned a permanent spot with the big club.
It took some time for Sami Vatanen to finally get a shot with the Anaheim Ducks after being drafted in the fourth round 106th overall in 2009, but the 23-year-old now looks like a steal of a pick. After playing 48 games with the Ducks and registering 21 points, the Finish blueliner made the team out of training camp and is quickly making a name for himself. In the team’s first 35 games, the right-hander has nine goals and 24 points, trailing only Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler. He is on pace for 56 points, 20 more points that Cam Fowler had last season, leading all Duck defenders.
A player is expected to learn a lot and develop during his first season in the NHL. But entering year-two, rarely are players expected to become the most valuable pieces of their teams, but the few players above are quickly doing so. These players have not only avoided the “sophomore slump,” but rather have been part of a “sophomore sizzle.”
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Photo Courtesy of Jeff Gross/Getty Images
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Claude Giroux is one of the best players in the game today, there is no doubt about that. On the other hand, Jakub Voracek is still an under-the-radar type of guy to most teams and fans in the league. Together they have formed one of the leagues best duos. However, it has been a struggle to find a good winger that fit on the Philadelphia Flyers top line with them. Scott Hartnell got most of those minutes last season, but even he was juggled around a bit. After trading Hartnell the identity of the Flyers lines had changed. No one was really sure who would go where, and that still seems to be the case with head coach Craig Berube already changing the lines between and even during games.
Brayden Schenn has also been given a chance there at the start of these past two seasons. The natural center turned left-wing due to the Flyers logic has yet to gel anywhere. The constant yo-yoing his position hasn’t allowed any stability in the youngster’s development. Once again he was given less than a two game tryout as the top line left wing before being dropped back down to the second line.
Enter Michael Raffl. The Austrian winger signed a one-year deal with the Flyers during he 2013 offseason and was re-signed for two more years this past March due to his performance. Prior to joining the Philadelphia organization, Raffl played for Leksands IF in the Swedish Hockey League, comparable to AHL level in North America. In his two seasons there, he scored 34 goals and 35 assists for 69 points in 88 games, with 46 of those points coming in the 2012-13 season in just 49 games. Raffl played just two games for the Phantoms, Philadelphia’s AHL club, and tallied three points in two games. Raffl also got a look during the 2014 Olympics, tallying 3 points in Austria’s 4 games.
To read the rest of this article, head on over to 2PS. There are charts! Oooooh, charts.
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Hi there folks. The dog days of summer are finally winding down, and I hope you all enjoyed your summer as much as I did. But, with the NHL season looming, the leaves on the trees will soon fade to brown and the lights in the arenas will turn on and our favourite superstars will hit the ice once again. The Montreal Canadiens enjoyed an offseason that could be be described as "transitional". We all knew Brian Gionta likely wouldn't be brought back and we'd have a new captain for this season, but the real surprise came when Gionta's apparent successor, Josh Gorges was traded to Buffalo a day after Gionta signed with the Sabres. Personally I am a Gorges fan as he gave his heart and soul to the Habs, but unfortunately the way Gorges plays, it tends to wear you down faster and it showed in the Eastern Final against the New York Rangers. Saying that, he will bring great leadership to the Sabres along with sturdy defensive capability and Sabres fans are going to love him.
Who do I think will be named captain? P.K Subban is an easy choice but I think choosing him right now would put too much pressure on the young superstar. It would make sense though, and I feel like if that's the way it plays out then it would work out fine, but there is always that possibility that Subban could crumble under the microscope. Brendan Gallagher is also a name that I've been seeing pop up in articles about the vacant captaincy and I'd be fine with that choice. He is a tenacious forward who is his coach's favourite player and the opposing coach's most hated, He drives the net like a bat out of hell and doesn't back down from anything, all while being a smart and efficient player. Super friendly with an infectious smile off the ice, he'd be a perfect choice if it weren't for his mere 2 years of NHL experience. Then again. the Colorado Avalanche named Gabriel Landeskog captain just before his second year and they experience tremendous success last season. But to me the obvious choice is Andrei Markov. The long time Canadiens defenceman just signed a new deal this summer that will likely take him into retirement so it would make perfect sense. The offensive minded Markov will be playing full time with P.K Subban this season so it seems, so his offensive numbers should rise, especially if he his named captain considering he is often labeled as more of an "on-ice leader" as opposed to a "locker room guy". His shy demeanor may have had something to do with him turning down the offer to become captain in 2010, but general feeling is he would accept the offer this time around. There are other candidates like Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec out there, but Markov or Subban would be my first two choices.
2014 Draft Picks:
26th overall: Nikita Scherbak, RW
2015 Team: Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Projection: Top 6 forward
Scherbak was expected to be picked in the top half of the draft but fell to the Habs at 26th. He was an outstanding offensive player in his first year with the Saskatoon Blades, leading the rookie scoring race by 19 points and at the same time leading a sub par Blades teams in points.
"Bergevin felt that the talented winger’s potential was too good to pass on him with their first round selection. His overall game improved as the season progressed and he was the best player available according to the team’s scouting group.
His playmaking, vision, and shot are top notch but his acceleration and defensive play need more development. He possesses top line skills but is not aggressive enough around the net and can be a perimeter player at times. The young Russian is a quick study with a high hockey IQ, is a strong character, and adapts well to new surroundings. He was able to explain the Blades systems to the coaching staff after sitting in the stands watching the team practice while awaiting his visa to be issued and being cleared to play. Scherbak could eventually be a great fit with Alex Galchenyuk as they both think and see the game the same way."
73rd overall: Brett Lernout, D
2015 Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Projection: 6-7 defenceman
This is a player that the Canadiens have been needing to draft for a long time. A hulking defenceman who clears the crease, has a big shot, can hit and is just a nasty competitor who is difficult to play against. Trevor Timmins (Canadiens director of Amateur Scouting) felt so highly about this prospect that the Canadiens flipped two picks (3rd & 4th round) to the Arizona Coyotes for the pick (3rd round) used to select Lernout.
"His skating is very good for a big man. It allows him to have excellent gap control and keep solid positioning defensively. The big man thrives to make life miserable for opposing forwards down low and is not afraid to drop the gloves with anyone. His offensive upside could be better than expected with his booming point shot and passing skills. Lernout definitely fits a big need on the Canadiens’ defense corps."
125th overall: Nicholas Koberstein, D
2015 team: Olds Grizzlys (AJHL)
Projection: solid NHL defenceman
Kobserstein won't be rushed to turn pro, that's for sure. The 18 year old defender will play this season with the Grizzlys before heading off to the NCAA's Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks in 2016.
"Koberstein is a puck-mover that skates well with good offensive upside and plays aggressively in all three zones. The defenseman played in all the important situations for his team as a 17-year-old and will be the captain of his team this coming season. His character and work ethic as well as leadership qualities are a good match for Montreal’s criteria for their prospects. This has the potential to be a sleeper pick by Timmins at the 2014 NHL draft."
147th overall: Daniel Audette, C
2015 team: Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Projection: depth/AHL forward
At first glance, Audette is a very small centre with flashy offensive talent. Timmins felt that the organization could not overlook his talent despite his small stature or the team could miss out on another possible Brendan Gallagher-type prospect.
"Audette is a playmaker with good vision and patience when waiting for openings. His overall offensive skills are very solid but he can be a defensive liability at times and needs big improvement away from the puck. His size leaves him not aggressive in the corners and can stay to the perimeter while avoiding the dirty areas. He can finish but seems to create more plays handling the puck. His skating will need more speed as he gains weight to play at the pro level."
177th overall: Hayden Hawkey, G
2015 team: Omaha Lancers (USHL)
6-1, 180 lbs
Projection: solid NHL backup
Hawkey was the USHL goaltender of the year and the first goalie in 12 years to have a sub 2.00 goals against average in the USHL. This was another selection with a five-year development plan. Timmins likes the fact that the young netminder was returning to the Omaha Lancers for another year at the junior level before heading to Providence College in 2015-16"Hawley is very quick laterally, possesses solid positioning, and is technically sound, but he needs to work on his rebound control and play the puck. He is still a very raw talent but has the work ethic and drive to succeed. The 18-year-old could be a potential starter at the NHL level but a long road ahead before reaching that upside."
207th overall: Jake Evans, C
2015 team: Notre Dame FIghting Irish
Projection: 4th line centre
The last pick for the Canadiens at the draft, Evans hopes to hone his skills over the next four years at Notre Dame. Timmins believes this prospect will evolve into the type of player that teams need in order to win championships: character, determination, grit and difficult to play against.
Evans is a solid two-way player with a strong character, above average faceoff skill and is physically engaged in all three zones. His skating is good but needs better acceleration to be more of an offensive threat when carrying the puck at the pro level. His hockey IQ is very good, he sees the ice well, and makes good passing decisions. He does however need to use his shot more often.
Additions: P.A Parenteau, Manny Malholtra, Tom Gilbert, Jiri Sekac
Subtractions: Daniel Briere(COL), Brian Gionta(BUF), Josh Gorges(BUF), George Parros, Douglas Murray, Thomas Vanek(MIN), Devan Dubnyk, Ryan White(PHI), Francis Boullion
LW C RW
Max Pacioretty David Desharnais P.A Parenteau
Alex Galchenyuk Tomas Plekanec Brendan Gallagher
Brandon Prust Lars Eller Rene Bourque
Michael Bournival Manny Malholtra Dale Weise
Extras: Travis Moen
P.K Subban Andrei Markov
Alexei Emelin Tom Gilbert
Nathan Beaulieu Mike Weaver
Extras: Davis Drewiske, Jarrod Tinordi
Starting Goalie: Carey Price
Back Up Goalie: Peter Budaj
3rd String: Dustin Tokarski
Remember how I described the Habs' offseason as transitional? Well one look at the depth chart and you'll see why. Montreal will heavily rely on their young guns this season as studs Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher should see jumps in their point categories this season as they look to accept more offensive burden. Rene Bourque was great in the playoffs, but if he doesn't contribute at the same pace then I'd expect a trade in order to fill the spot on the right side, or Bourque could be moved for a pick or a prospect to allow Jiri Sekac some NHL minutes. The former KHL winger was a highly sought after free agent this summer before he decided to sign with the Canadiens. Sekac is said to have NHL level talent with decent defensive ability and he will get a great chance to make the team through training camp, but I suspect he will be sent to Hamilton so he can adjust to North American style ice. Look for Sekac to be called up should there be an injury or trade. I like the addition of P.A Parenteau too, as he will be looking to bounce back from an injury plagued season. Manny Malholtra was brought in to bring some character and grit to the 4th line, but Malholtra's value really shines through at the faceoff cirlce as he is one of the NHL's best in that category.
The departure of Josh Gorges opens up some room on the left side, meaning Alexei Emelin can return to his natural position. Canadiens will need to rely on young Nathan Beaulieu to play consistently during the season, something he did in the playoffs. Beaulieu's growth between the playoffs and this season may really relieve the burn of the Gorges trade. Also look for him to play some power play time with Tom Gilbert on the 2nd defence pairing. Gilbert had a rebound season in Florida last year after jumping from Edmonton to Minnesota. With Gilbert, the Habs get someone who can play the right side of the ice naturally and play on the 2nd powerplay pairing (last season it was Emelin-Boullion- ouch). Right now, I am uncertain about Gilbert because he's been shaky in the past and we don't really have anyone else who can come up right now and play those minutes besides Beaulieu, who is a rookie.
It's never really a problem when you have 3 good goalies. If it is, then it's a really good problem to have. Carey Price is the undisputed starter of this team and is a superstar in his own right. Peter Budaj was extremely helpful when called upon, and Dustin Tokarski was lights out in the playoffs after Price went down. I think we will see Tokarski start with the Hamilton Bulldogs this year but I don't think the Canadiens would be hesitant to trade/waive Budaj if he was outplayed in training camp.
Awards & Highlights:
Carey Price: Olympic Gold Medalist, named best Goaltender of Tournament by IIHF
P.K Subban, Olympic Gold Medalist, signed 8 year $72m contract in August 2014
Tomas Plekanec: Named captain of Czech Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team
Max Pacioretty: Named to USA Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team
Peter Budaj: Named to Slovenia Men's Olympic Ice Hockey team
Acquired Mike Weaver from Florida Panthers
Acquired Dale Weise from Vancouver Canucks
Acquired Thomas Vanek from New York Islanders
Projection: I'm horrible at predicting the standings, but I'll give it a shot anyway. I think the Canadiens will finish 2nd in the Atlantic division this year under the Bruins and ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs
Until next time,
Seeing I have already rather the “Top 5 Goalies” for your fantasy leagues this year, I will move onto a position that seems to be lacking in comparison to others in the league. Here you will get your Top 5 Left Wingers for fantasy purposes in 2013-14.
To keep it in context, these are the scoring categories I base my rankings on:
Blocked Shots: 0.25
This should help summarize how I look at some of the players I will be looking into:
Here is a look on who you should be focusing on to fill your LW slots this year, in reverse order.
5) Chris Kunitz
Too many people use the word “Crosby” when referring to Kunitz, the fact of the matter is, he is a fantasy owners dream. I’m not negating the “Crosby Factor” either as obviously when you play with the world’s best, it’s bound to have its benefits! For a pure fantasy standpoint, Kunitz offers much more than Goals and Assists! Kunitz should give you a steady games played as he is usually good for the 75-80 games a year and I wold say anywhere from 30-35 goals a season. Kunitz should always hover around the 60-70 point range, but in this format it’s not only that that makes him lethal. Fantasy intangibles that go overlooked with Kunitz are the amount of hits he lays (157 last year) his +/- (+25) and a pretty stellar Power Play Points number (22). You throw those numbers in with his Goal and Assist production and you have a bona fide star in the fantasy world! I see Kunitz slotting in approx. 2.05-2.10 FPG this year.
4) Gabriel Landeskog
Landeskog, in his young NHL career, has become a Fantasy stud. Playing on a young and dynamic Avs team he is ever present the main scoring categories. The great thing about Gabe is that he is a hitting machine, he plays that great wall game that you need in a winger and he lays the body. I see him putting upwards of 200 hits this season! Hits aren’t all he offers as I see him, this season, grabbing somewhere around 28-30 Goals, 40-45 Assists and likely a solid +/- in the 20-25 range. At this rate the young Avalanche captain should grab you an upward trend in points for a long time to come! Expect Gabe to grab you a nice 2.05-2.10 FPG this year
3) Taylor Hall
Hall really broke out on a sub-par Oilers team last year. With 80 Points last year he was an absolute joy to watch. I see him building on last year and surpassing it in 2014-15. Although hall plays with “reckless abandonment” he doesn’t quite grab you the hit and block totals one would expect, and in the last few years it’s been hard to be a + player in Oil Country (-15 last season). Where hall lacks in those categories he more than makes up in what I see as certainly 30+ goals with another 55-60 assists. I think Edmonton will be a much better team this year and can see Hall pushing the 100 point plateau with 90-92 points this year. I expect 2.15-2.20 FPG from Hallsy this season.
2) Zach Parise
Parise, unfortunately last year, missed a bit of time playing in only 67 contests. Although his game totals weren’t there he still managed 29 Goals and 27 Assists. If projecting him to play 75-82 games this year I see Parise having an explosive season with some talented line mates. Parise loves to shoot the puck, that’s money in the bank for Fantasy owners. Last season in his 67 games he had a staggering 245 Shots on Goal, add in a good 25 Power Play Points and a nice +/- and Parise is your #2 LW on the year. I expect you’ll see 2.25-2.30 FPG.
1) Jamie Benn
What else is there to say about Jamie Benn, he’s just downright filthy in the fantasy world. After a season with Seguin as his pivot he grabbed a cool 79 points with 34 of them goals. After a full season on chemistry behind them I see Benn capable of the 40 goals and 100 point mark this year. Not only does he fill the stat sheet with Goals and Assists he’s a full stat sheet monster with numbers like: 279 Shots on Goal, 118 hits, 60 Blocked Shots, +21, 3 Short Handed Points and 19 Power Play Points. Those numbers speak for themselves and this year I expect growth in every category! Benn will likely grab you a whopping 2.4-2.5 FPG this year, grab him early!
Soon I will be also putting in my Top 5 for the remaining positions C, RW and D!
Thanks again for reading and would love to answer any questions!
With training camp a little over two months away the Sabres will have a lot of roster spots up for battle. New GM Tim Murray and Head Coach Ted Nolan have stated since day one ice time will be earned not given. If the tone of prospect development camp was a slight insight into training camp, the coaching staff will be pushing competition and physicality hard. The goal of the Sabres offseason was to get harder to play against. I think they achieved their goal, perhaps too well and taking them out of potentially being involved for a top 2 draft pick in 2015.
On the bubble:
Going into camp a lot of players find themselves in a "prove it" situation. One player in particular is Patrick Kaleta. PK36 got into trouble with the NHL and then wore out his welcome with Regier and Rolston. Kaleta was on the verge of being recalled from being sent to the corner (Rochester) for being bad; when the Buffalo native tore his ACL ending his season. Kaleta has always been a favorite among fans. Kaleta is the type of hard to play against player GMTM is looking for, but he needs to clean up his game. He needs to go back to just being a hard player instead of a cheap player. If he shows he can clean his game up in camp I think he makes the opening night roster. Here are some other players that are on the bubble of the NHL/AHL/CHL:
-Andre Benoit, Matt Ellis, Brian Flynn, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jake McCabe, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Zac Dalpe, Nic Deslauries, Torrey Mitchell, Chad Ruhwedel, and Mark Pysyk
The Sabres blue line has only three players locked in to roster spots in the persons of Tyler Myers and newly acquired Andrej Meszaros and Josh Gorges. The remaining three spots are up for grabs between Weber, Pysyk, Risto, Beniot, Zadorov, Ruhwedel and McCabe. The future is bright on the Sabres blue line however I don't think the future is now. Pysyk, McCabe, and as hard is it may be to do Ristolainen will be sent back for more seasoning. Risto and Pysyk still have a good chance of squeezing into the final roster, especially Risto if he can build on his strong development camp. Zadorov is pretty much a lock to be sent back to London for one more season. This paves the way for Weber, Beniot, and Ruhwedel to fill the remaining spots. If the Sabres carry a 7th defenseman on the roster then I think the Sabres will either keep McCabe up with the big squad and let Pysyk and Risto play in Rochester. Also don't rule out another signing before camp starts like Benoit.
The top 9 for the Sabres in 2014-15 are pretty set with Girgensons, Gionta, Reinhart, Ennis, Stewart, Stafford, Foligno, Hodgson, and Moulson. The battle will come on the 4th line and depth players to fill in the 23 man roster. Flynn, Kaleta, McCormick, Deslauries, Mitchell, Dalpe, Grigorenko, and Ellis will all battle for these spots. Grigo is likely on his way to Rochester play top minutes and prove his attitude is changed. The 4th line battle will be so close and interesting to watch throughout camp. I know it's the 4th line, but the 4th line plays a pivotal part in today's NHL. Especially in Nolan's system of rolling 4 lines.
Enroth and Neuvirth. Hackett will not return from his ACL tear until January at the earliest or he would enter the conversation.
Projected pre camp roster:
Extra: Mitchell, Flynn, McCabe
Doug Wilson's comments today indicate he wants to trade everyone 30 and over for prospects and picks. Ill bold the comments and give my thoughts.
"I want players that want to play here, not just live here." Said in reference to player who wanted to return, not current
Most Shark fans think it is Setoguchi after hearing it is a former Shark who wants to come back.
"There has been a lot of roster turnover in the last 12 months, and there will be more going forward"
There has? TJ Galiardi, Ryane Clowe, Michael Handzus, Scott Gomez and now, Dan Boyle and Havlat. Other than Clowe and Boyle, none were impact players and Wilson for years has made perplexing decisions to give bloated contracts to spare parts on the bottom 6 and bottom D pairing, while letting good parts go, or trading them.
Trading Ehrhoff for nothing and replacing him with used goods and useless players like Huskins, Wallin, Vandermeer, Colin White, and numerous call up's who were downright awful like Semenov, Davison.
Letting bottom 6 guys who make a difference like Malhotra, Winnik, Mcginn go, but always filling the blanks with garbage like Burish, Kennedy, or past their prime players like Handzus or a 43 year old Claude Lemieux,
"When you're in a rebuild there's no panic or rush, so you do it at the right time. ... we're building for the future."
"When you assume it's any one of the players we move, you get picks for next year or prospects, which you can use as assets to acquire"
"But I don't want to diminish the opportunity for the young guys to take over this team ... because they've earned the right."
"The day I let Mike Ricci go was not a happy day. But I think the honesty of my job is to do what's right for the organization"
"It's going to be a challenge, but you go into is with eyes wide open,"
Instead of doing the right thing and going out and getting good players, you want to blow it up and rebuild? We don't need to rebuild. We have solid youth movement. Couture and Hertl at center, Nieto and Wingels on the wings. Vlasic and Braun on defense. Stalock in net. Tierney, a neast of a prospect who I think will do great things, and Mueller, who looks like another Vlasic in the system. All these guys are very young and great players. We also have a solid mix of Middling age guys like Burns and Pavelski and Torres, and Vets named Thornton and Marleau who are still playing elite Hockey at age 35 and signed with you for hometown discounts with the assurances that they would end their careers here. Going back on your word so soon Wilson? Unless you are planning on trading EVERYONE, there is no way this team is in "rebuild" mode. If you do plan on trading everyone, you should be fired before you can ruin the team. Already hundreds of Sharks season ticket holders on twitter voiced their support of keeping Thornton and not doing anything too rash. You lost in 7 games to the Stanley cup champs, and mostly due to an unfortunate injury to your Olympic gold medal best in the league defensive defenseman and one of the best puck movers in the game, Vlasic.
This season going into the playoffs, just about EVERY sharks fan was praying nobody on defense got hurt, or we were done like dinner(And look what happens). We were also praying Niemi would be moved for just about anyone given how bad he played all season and every previous playoff for us.
Niemi is a huge momentum killer due to his liability and inability to make routine saves, have a crappy glove hand, blocker side(in fact, any puck 18 inches off the ice is a true danger of going in), bad lateral movement, and bad rebound control....and he plays the puck like it is a bouncing grenade. Sharks fans everywhere break out in sweat every time he leaves te net to play the puck. He usually manages to give it to whoever the closest opposing player is
An illustration of where goals were scored against him this past season.
Niemi let in almost 4 goals a game on average in the playoffs. FOUR. And a lot of them were routine saves for anyone with Lateral movement or a quick glove hand.
Our defense lacked anyone who can play more than 20 minutes a night without it showing except Vlasic. And Guess who goes down? Vlasic, the Iron man who never misses games. Meaning extra time on ice needs to be given to geriatric Hannan and Stuart, and Boyle, who has been sheltered at even strength and is obviously loing a step every month. Irwin and Braun were our best two defenders after Vlasic went down, and Braun looks afraid to even try anything because he has to support Stuart so much and Irwin was at best, a #6, but better than 3 of our vets.
The "New" system TMac wanted to employ with speed requires quick puck movement from defense to already streaking forwards, and chip and chase when you can't streak in. A virtual impossibility once Vlasic went down. The other half of the game is puck possession and board play. Something we were #2 in the league at all year. Want to guess who was #1? Yup, the kings.
The Forwards had to come all the way back to support defense so much that the kings were able to clog the center and force a chip and chase. Which, against anyone else, would have been fine since we are the #2 possession and board team in the league. Against the kings? No.
Yes, the powerplay was torrid. And who was the coach who continued to send out the exact same arrangement of players? Dan Boyle was once deadly with his quick release, but fumbled or hesitated on so many perfect Thornton saucer passes that the shooting lanes closed before he could do anything. More than 10 times, Quick's amazing glove hand robbed Pavelski or Marleau from a perfect Thornton pass that looked like a sure goal.
The bottom line is, if the players were ignoring the coach, he would have benched them a few shifts to get their attention. The only guy who was benched or lost powerplay time was Burns in game 6. And it is simply because Burns follows no system. Nobody knows what he is doing out there. he creates organized chaos up front because of that unpredictability. And Speaking of coaching, Why was Thornton given 75% defensive zone draws in the last 3 games like a checking forward? Pavelski got 20 more faceoffs in the last 3 games, and still did not win as many draws a Thornton. And Pavelski is the guy touted to be the all purpose two way player who gets all the important defensive zone draws. When the game is tied, fine, but when you need a goal, you start Jumbo joe, who wins all faceoffs, in the offensive zone.
I could and have been going on about this for weeks. but the bottom line is this. If you blow the team up right now when they are a piece away from winning it all instead of going out and getting a Niskanen UFA, you are stupid. Plain and simple. Look at Edmonton, Buffalo, Florida and the Islanders and tell me how well their rebuild is doing after giving their top players away. If you trade one of Thornton, Marleau or Pavelski, it better not be just to trade them. The return should be a top pairing left side defenseman like Keith Yandle or Roman Josi who can eat big minutes if an injury happens. We also have a hole up front with Burns being moved back to defense. I'd suggest Stastny so we can keep Pavelski on wing, but who knows with you.
The Bruins choked a 3-0 lead once after Krejci's injury changed the complection of the series and won the cup the next year, and the Sharks can do it too. All you need to do is get over your fear of impact UFA's. You have the cap room thanks to all the hometown discounts(Something many teams would kill for). You just need to pull the trigger.
In the past few years, you signed extensions at a hometown discount to Ehrhoff, Michalek, etc, only to turn around and ship them out at a whim, making players demand no movement clauses and no trade clauses if they are to take a hometown discount. Now immediately after signing two of the greatest loyal players ever to wear Sharks uniforms, you want to force them out of their no movement clauses?
Hate to break it to you, but if you do this, your reputation is about to take a huge nosedive in all subsquent negotiations with anyone. Not that it will matter since you will lose your Job as fast as MOC did when he traded Thornton and nobody will ever hire you again.
A Message to Hasso Plattner the Sharks owner. If the hundreds of season ticket holders telling you on twitter they will not renew if you trade away their loyal favorite players is not enough for you to step in and make sure nothing rash is done, then maybe you should remember the 3000 season ticket cancellations the year the Sharks traded fan favorite Owen Nolan to Toronto.
The Blackhawks enter a tough building where they won in last year’s WCF, but unfortunately have not done so in this year’s. That changes tonight!
The pressure is on the Kings and if the beloved Blackhawks force a Game 7, lookout!
Coach Q’s Game 5 adjustment of re-mixing his top 4 D, underscores the luxury he has… two top shutdown pairs. The Kings aren’t quite there. So if Q can roll two dangerous lines, as he did in Game 5, this will negate Sutter’s home ice last change advantage. I also expect Q to keep the line of Saad, Shaw and Kaner together. The other forward lines will probably be 1st line of Bicks, Captain, and Big Hoss; 3rd line of Sharpie, Backhandzus and Regin; and finally the 4th line of Bollig, Krugs and Smitty. With that said watch for Krugs and Smitty to be mixed in the upper lines as needed.
So here are my keys for the Mighty Blackhawks to win this game:
1) Crow has to play better. Enough said.
2) “Kneel down to the Saad Father”, Can he play two games in row like he did in Game 5? Really it’s not a question, it is a MUST.
3) Kaner too had a really strong Game 5. The Kings will try to put bodies on Saad to stop him. If they do, guess what… Kaner must be the finisher.
4) Big Hoss and Sharpie need a breakout game from a points standpoint. If the Blackhawks are able to get any point production from these two, there will be a Game 7.
5) The Blackhawks must stay out of the penalty box and if given the opportunity to go on the Power Play, they must score.
Since it is a “Feel Good Friday”, and I have confidence in my veins, I’m predicting another OT special… Blackhawks 3, Kings 2.
Let’s hear your thoughts…
Very simple wish list that I would like to see the Wings go out and do this year.
First, Jimmy Howard has been less than stellar and frankly has had two average seasons. It is time to make a change in goal.
Trade Jimmy Howard and a young forward to the Winnipeg Jets for Evander Kane. Kane is alienated in Winnipeg and he is supposedly being dangled this offseason. The Jets have putrid netminding. With average goaltending this season they would have been in the mix for a playoff spot.
Sign local boy Ryan Miller. I am not one of those who feels that Miller is the second coming but he would be an upgrade over Howard.
Jonas Gustafsson was solid in net but is an UFA and Mrazak deserves to be the backup and groomed for the eventual starting job.
Daniel Alfredsson delivered as promised and the hope is that he will come back for one more year.
Sign Dan Boyle to run the power play. He is slipping but IMHO he has a few years left, time for the solid bunch of defensive prospects we have in the pipeline to continue to grow.
Thank Dan Cleary, Todd Bertuzzi, Mikael Samuelsson and Kyle Quincey for their service and show them the door. Youth must be served, al of these guys except possibly Quincey are done and in Quincey's case we have better options.
Let go of David Legwand. We gave up top prospect Jarnkrok for him, we needed more than a month of hockey and five playoff games to show for it, but there is no room for him on the team.
That is about it. I have read a lot of folks say that we need to buy out Franzen but at a 4 million a year cap hit his contract is not unreasonable, just too long. I cannot think of a scenario where buying him out makes sense.
This would mean the Wings would start the year with:
Nyquist Datsyuk Kane
Franzen Zetterberg Alfredsson
Tatar Sheahan Jurco
Abdelkader Helm Miller
Others Weiss, Andersson Glendening
In my opinion we would have strengthened our forwards, defense, goaltending, and power play. If Alfie rides off into the sunset then we should seriously make a run at keeping Legwand.
As many of you know the company, Cooper Canada Ltd. use to be a very popular and common name associated with hockey equipment. I'm sure almost all of you who ever played hockey in 70's or later owned or used at least one piece of Cooper hockey equipment. The name was everywhere! This is a brief history of one of the greatest hockey equipment manufacturers ever.
Cooper was started in 1949 when Jack Charles Cooper bought a company by the name of General Leather Goods which prior to the purchase had made ski and snowshoe harnesses. Due to the Great Depression they started to venture into the manufacture of hockey equipment such as shin guards and gloves. As the years went by they also ventured into other sports such as Lacrosse and Baseball. Cooper was responsible for many innovations that you see today such as pioneering the usage of team-colored hockey equipment such as goalie leg pads as well as the use of nylon, high density foam, and modern plastics into their equipment. During it's hay-day in the 1970's and 1980's Cooper virtually dominated the hockey equipment market, especially in the goaltending equipment area with Cooper leather leg pads and popular goalie catchers such as the Cooper GM6. However, Cooper was also criticized for some of it's products such as the XL7 helmet which was deemed unsafe by the NHL. Regardless, Cooper remained popular through the 1980's.
The hockey division of Cooper was eventually acquired by Canster Sports Inc., the parent company of Bauer Hockey in 1990. Bauer was eventually bought out by Nike a mere 5 years later. Within a few years the Cooper name was phased out from usage on Bauer Hockey's equipment.
Today, you can still find Cooper hockey equipment on sites like eBay as well as hockey auction sites. Sometimes you can even find unused Cooper equipment. I personally found a pair of unopened Cooper SA95 goalie arm guards on eBay and bought them. They were quite stiff of course but now they are broken in pretty well. Cooper equipment continues to be highly sought after by collectors and hockey folk alike especially goaltender leg pads and helmets. Most of the equipment I currently own is of Cooper origin.
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After another up and down Caps season, there was a familiar smell of defeat in the playoffs, and another game 7 where a team filled with talent forgot to show up. You'll hear many take the easy route and bash the MVP Ovechkin, some may go in other directions and say the team lacked grit, or inexperience in net. Regardless of what people think the Caps like the other 29 teams that feel short of Lord Stanley had a lack of something. And this is the time of the year to fix those gaps.
Free Agency starts July 5th and the Caps have a few holes they need to fill. Whether they can do it by inking a player in free agency or by making a trade, the Caps are in need of another defenseman, and another top six forward (preferably a center). These are some free agents I would be interested in if I were the GM in the capital.
Damien Brunner- The 27 year old Swiss winger played his first NHL season last year with the Detroit Red Wings after playing his first eight professional seasons in the Swiss national league. In his first season Brunner put up solid numbers in the regular season (26 points in 44 games) as well as a solid performance in the post season (9 points in 14 games).
Brunner is a very skilled offensive forward, and has very good playmaking ability as well as being a solid shooter. he's a bit undersized, but makes up with it in his fast hands and skating ability. Brunner also always seems like he knows what he wants to do with the puck. He certainly isn't going to win any Selke trophies for his defensive play, but the Caps need top 6 scoring forwards and Brunner is a guy I wouldn't mind taking a shot at.
What's he worth? I'd be willing to give Brunner 3 years for 7.5 million (Cap hit of 2.5 million per year).
Andrew Ference- This rugged 34 year old defenseman won't wow you with his size, but Ference is a reliable and physical defender that has been on some very successful Boston Bruins teams, including one that won a Stanley Cup.
Like stated earlier at only 5'10 Ference may not intimidate with his size, but he plays a physical game and can break down his opponents. He also doesn't have a very long reach, but he always seems to play forwards very well whether it be on the rush, in the corners, or in settled situations. Ference's game isn't limited to his defensive prowess either. he is a good skater and is a solid passer from the blue line as well. He won't put up huge offensive numbers but he makes smart plays and gets the puck to open men. Ference is someone the Caps could really use on their blue line.
What's he worth? I'd be willing to give Ference 3 years for 9 million (Cap hit of 3 million per year).
Valtteri Filppula- Another Red Wing on the list, the 29 year old center has had a solid career thus far in Detroit, already winning a Stanley Cup. Filppula seemed to really be coming on after a huge season before the lockout, but then after his lack luster season this year some people are wondering what will come in the next few years for Filppula.
Filppula is a solid two way center with a very high hockey IQ. He is also an excellent skater and a very good passer. Filppula is very good in the faceoff circle and can be used on both the power play and penalty kill. The incredibly skilled forward has already shown he can put up big numbers, but can he do it consistently?
What's he worth? I'd be willing to give Filppula 2 years for 7 million (Cap hit of 3.5 million per year).
Rob Scuderi- This nose to the grindstone 34 year old defenseman has already won two Stanley Cups with two different teams (Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles). He led the L.A. Kings in blocked shots this year and is a solid sized defenseman who is all about hard work and winning games.
Scuderi is a prototypical defensive defenseman and really won't do much offensively. He'll block shots and get himself in the right position to make key plays on defense. But as of now with guys like Green, Carlson, and Orlov the Caps have some puck movers. They need guys who can be shutdown defensemen in their own end which outside of Alzner no one really is. Scuderi would greatly help the Caps on defense if signed. It wouldn't surprise me if Scuderi wins another cup in the next few years, hopefully he'll be with the Caps for his 3rd.
What's he worth? I'd be willing to give Scuderi 3 years for 11.25 million (Cap hit of 3.75 million per year).
Stephen Weiss- This 30 year old center from Florida has had some great years with less than top talent around him and doesn't get as much recognition as deserved playing in Florida. He was steadily putting together some great seasons with the Panthers, but didn't have a great year this year due to injury.
Weiss plays a solid two way game and is a solid skater who gets himself into high scoring areas. A former 4th overall pick Weiss really is the complete package. He's a very skilled player, plays excellent defense, and plays with a ton of grit by blocking shots and finishing off checks. He's a player any coach would love to have. and a player I know Adam Oates would love to coach.
What's he worth? I'd be willing to give Weiss 2 years for 8 million (Cap hit of 4 million per year.
With the acquisition of Dave Bolland, it looks like Tyler Bozak will not be returning to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the upcoming season, unless Leafs GM Dave Nonis makes a few more trades to free up some salary.
The Leafs only have $16M of cap space remaining and only have 12 players currently signed. Toronto has a long list of players to either re-sign or let go to the free agent market before the start of the season in October. Those players include Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Clarke MacArthur, Tyler Bozak, Ryan Hamilton, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson, Mark Fraser, Ryan O'Byrne, Mike Kostka, and the newly acquired Jonathan Bernier.
Assuming the Maple Leafs use one of their two compliance buy-outs on Mike Komisarek, that will free up another $3.5M to get their cap space to just around $20M. But some of those guys on that list are due for a significant pay increase. Kadri, Franson, and Bernier are the most important targets, as well as Colborne and Gunnarsson in the mix too. On the plus side all five of those players are restricted free agents, so there isn't a rush to get them signed in the next week before the market opens up for unrestricted free agents.
It would look like the Leafs aren't going to sign any of their four unrestricted free agents. MacArthur and Bozak are both probably too rich for the Leafs to sign, and O'Byrne and Kostka were seldom used by coach Randy Carlyle down the stretch, so there doesn't seem to be a pressing need to sign either of those players.
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-- The Boston Bruins are making the Chicago Blackhawks look a lot like the Penguins did in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 4 is huge for the Hawks (says Captain Obvious) but it will be even more difficult to win if Marian Hossa is out of the line-up again. Either way, it will be interesting to see if Chicago can make any adjustments to help them out of the sleeper hold the Bruins have started to apply. Coach Quenneville probably shouldn't ask Dan Bylsma for any advice on that front.
-- Speaking of Bylsma, as we all know he got a vote of confidence from GM Ray Shero by receiving a contract extension a couple of days after the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs. The comments from reliable sources seem to indicate that Mario and the ownership believe strongly in Shero as GM and Shero believes in Bylsma. The players like Bylsma too. Now that we have acknowledged the good feelings toward eachother by all of those involved, let's see if they ALL can't find a way to get back to the finals next year.
-- Speed is important but relative. I read a lot of comments about how slow the Penguins looked...especially their trade deadline acquisitions (The Turtle Trio?)...in the series against the Islanders and Bruins. When you lose you almost always look slower...most of the time because you are not controlling the game...thus you are chasing after the other team who has the puck. But the important thing, in my opinion, is that it's not speed that makes the difference, it's positioning. If you ask a guy that's slower than you might want (or need) to play a certain type of game that's so dependent on speed, he's gonna look and potentially be, snail slow when the opposition goes the other way. Bylsma is either going to need to get more players that can execute his style of play more consistently...or change his style. You can't keep pounding square pegs into round holes and expect there not to be a big mess as a result.
-- Speaking of big messes...did anybody see the jacket Don Cherry had on?
-- What are we to make of the Flyers signing of Mark Streit? OK...he has an offensive upside, even at 35 (will be 36 in Dec) but he's not exactly known for his play in the defensive zone. He was a -14 last season in New York and a -27 the year before. Sure, The Isles haven't been a great even strength team, but his defensive teammate Lubomir Visnovsky was a +12 last year. I'm sure it's part of other things the Flyers will do to bolster their defense this off season...so maybe we hold off judgement until we see more from them?
-- I was eating in a local restaurant the other day and happened to notice the two guys sitting at the bar looked very familiar. Upon closer inspection (which was more obvious than I would have liked) I saw that it was James Neal and Paul Martin. I was thinking of casually going over to ask them for autographs for my son but then more people started to arrive at the restaurant and I got the sense they probably just wanted to enjoy their dinner. I did ask the guy who waited on me if they came in often and he said 'Pretty often. I think they like it here 'cause they don't get bothered much. Kris Letang is usually with them.' I wonder if it was just coincidence or if maybe James and Paul are trying to get used to what it might be like next year?
If you follow me on twitter, you are already well aware as to how I feel about the way Alain vigneault has been steering the ship that is the Canucks over his tenure, but more specifically the last year and a half. Today I received this gem, which sums it up perfectly. I honestly could not have better expressed how I feel about the job Vigneault is doing any better myself. So kick back, crack open a pack of your favourite lozenges and enjoy the hell out of this guest article written by Kirk Paul.
IT’S ALL PART OF THE PROCESS…I think…
By Kirk Paul.
“It’s all part of the plan.” Uttered famously by the late Heath Ledger’s iconic Joker in “The Dark Knight”, this phrase could be applied to the Vancouver Canucks – if you swapped the word “Plan” for “process”. Yes, it was the mantra during that magical 2010-2011 season, one that brought the team within a game of winning it all. But since that gut-wrenching loss to the Bruins, that “process” has become less and less apparent to those not employed by the Vancouver Canucks.
Let me be clear: I am a die hard Canuck fan – have been since I watched Pavel Bure score that legendary breakaway goal against Mike Vernon and the Calgary Flames that spearheaded the run to the 94’ cup final. Beyond my own personal aspirations, I have wanted nothing more than to witness The Canucks hoist Lord Stanley’s mug. This is not a smear campaign, rather an impassioned plea by a fan that can no longer sit idly by, and silent, while my team squanders their last few chances to finally reach the Promised Land.
I have tweeted relentlessly on twitter my disdain for Alain Vigneault, and have made no secret of my desire to see someone else behind the bench. A great many have taken me to task on this, rubbing my nose in stats, and that seemingly answerless question (to them) of who could possibly replace the most successful coach in Vancouver Canucks history. My answer? Anybody. I don’t mean you just flip a coin (although that would be ironic) to select the next coach, but you bring in the best candidate available and go from there.
I’m not going to re-hash the history of new coaches who have come in late, taken a team on the verge of greatness, and given them that one last nudge across the finish line. You know what, screw it, I am. Larry Robinson and last year’s cup winning coach Darryl Sutter being the best examples of this, and I’m probably overlooking a few more. I’m not suggesting the Canucks simply axe AV, and bring in, “a closer”, but would that be the worst thing that could happen?
Look, The Canucks may not have a pure “country club” atmosphere in the dressing room, but it may have an even worse affliction: Inmates running the asylum. During that 2011 season, AV and his coaching staff handed the keys to the dressing room over to the players. Nobody questioned this at the time because the team was virtually infallible during that season.
Unfortunately, like a Dad allowing their sixteen year old to drive his Ferrari, eventually they develop an air of invincibility, and after a year of no hiccups, they wrap it around a tree. I’m not suggesting The Canuck players have wrapped the car around a tree, but it’s getting close. When your coach has relinquished authority, inevitably, the inmates take over the asylum completely. Think about it, if your boss empowered you at work, telling you, you had complete autonomy, then tried to persuade you to do things “his way” once again, would you be receptive? An element of respect has been lost. You no longer view this person as an authority figure. That barrier has been breached and there is no going back.
Even without this, I believe Coach V’s act has worn thin in that dressing room. Well-documented spats with various players are well known to any fan of this team. From Shane O’brien, to Willie Mitchell, Cody Hogdson, not to mention the alleged (or outright) feud with Ryan Kesler, these are not isolated incidents. There’s always some issue with some player, and when that occurs over a span of years, I think it’s clear that there is one constant in all of this, and its “Mr. Gant”. Speaking of arrogant, if that’s not Vigneault’s middle name, he should have it legally changed because it would suit him better than just about anything else.
In fact, arrogance has become a corner stone of the entire Canuck’s organization. Increasing, I feel like a child being condescended to on a regular basis by this regime. Not even during the Burke era did I come to feel this way. For all of his bluster, and arrogance, Burke never took the paying customers for granted. Yes, his battles with the media are well known, but he never made it seem as though he disregards the fans as this regime appears to.
The amount of incredulity that Gillis conveys whenever he or his staff is questioned on the many unorthodox, and frankly, ridiculous seeming methods this team employs is infuriating. You are sports franchise – not the CIA. Drop the smug attitude and start recognizing faults. Remember those? Oh, that’s right, it’s all part of “the process”. When did mediocrity become part of that process? When did the status quo of indifference become an acceptable practice?
It’s a good thing Vigneault is not forced to sit down during games, because if he did he would be in great discomfort due to the horseshoes he has crammed up his ass. Has AV’s success been a product of his coaching methods, or luck? I’m not diluted enough to suggest he isn't a good coach, because no one garners that much success if he is inept, but make no mistake about it, luck has played major role during his time in Van.
During his first season behind the Canucks bench, Vigneault wasn't even required to show up. Let’s face it; neither was the rest of the team because Roberto Luongo was the team. He was that good. The following year the Canucks missed the playoffs entirely – due to injuries and the delicate pregnancy of Lu’s wife. Dave Nonis lost his job over this, but incoming GM gave AV a stay of execution. I don’t know if that decision came on a Sunday, but it was black indeed.
The next two years the Canucks proceeded to go on all fat diet as the Blackhawks crammed enough humble pie down Vancouver's throat to choke King Kong and Jay Feaster combined, during the 09’ and 2010 playoffs. Joel Quenville took AV to school, as “the greatest coach in Canucks history” failed to adjust his style on both occasions to defeat Coach Q. Of course, there were a few Luongo bed-wettings and defensive crumbling’s mixed in there to be sure, but this isn’t about those.
Which brings me to that infamous opening round series with the Blackhawks during the 2011 run. In first three game’s, the tables had turned. The Canucks were on the verge of going cowboy on those Indian’s – gun to the heads of the natives, finger on the trigger, ready blast when – BAM. Before Vigneault was able to finish sucking on his latest lozenge, the series was tied and going to a seventh and deciding game.
How does this happen? How can a presidents trophy, Jack Adam’s winning coach fail to prepare his Stanley cup contending team on THREE occasions to eliminate their stripped down greatest rival in the first round? Was it arrogance? Oh - There’s that word again – or did Coach Q just adjust accordingly and devise a new game plan, like a Stanley cup winning coach should?
Game 7’s are always a crapshoot, but of course, as this franchise is known to do, it did things the absolute hardest way possible, giving up a late shorthanded goal to Toews, and ultimately winning it in OT. But not before Luongo made a job-saving stop on Patrick Sharp to facilitate this, which just counts as another time Lu directly saved AV from the chopping block.
I’m not going to summarize the Stanley Cup final and what happened, but it stands to reason when a team gets blown out on the road on three occasions, and the coach fails to adjust (once again) that it underscores a fundamental flaw that Coach V has yet to prove he can correct.
Last year was much of the same. Being confident (not arrogant) they would have D.Sedin back for the playoffs saw the Canucks completely unprepared for the defensive-minded Kings, and red-hot Jonathan Quick. You can argue that Quick, an opposing goalie spared AV this time, as Quick’s performance, and ensuing play during the Kings run was the perfect built-in excuse to bring that happy-go lucky Coach V back into the fold.
This season we have seen much of the same. A coach who calls out players on the limp, that makes a mockery of his goaltending decisions, and is virtually mute behind the bench. I’m tired of the status quo, and I know I’m not the vocal minority. I’m becoming increasingly disillusioned by this franchise, and the way it does business. Again, I know I am not alone.
I’ve had enough of the excuses and the rhetoric, which pollutes radio airwaves and kills trees to sell papers. Mostly, I’m just sad that a franchise I have been a fan of for 25 years is flushing their best chances to win a cup down the toilet. Fans deserve better. Hell, the players deserve better. Unfortunately, whether this franchise ever wins a cup or not is up in the air – along with AV’s coin. It’s anyone’s guess which side it will land on.
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