Monday, November 3, 2008

Can the '09 Leafs make the finals? Here are some all time favourite underdog teams:

2003 Minnesota Wild
Andrew Brunette - Cliff Ronning - Marion Gaborik
Anti Laaksonen - Sergei Zholtok - Pascal Dupuis
Jim Dowd - Wes Walz - Richard Park
P-M Bouchard - Darby Hendrickson - Matt Johnson

Filip Kuba - Brad Bombardir
Andrei Zyuzin - Willie Mitchell
Lubomir Sekeras -Nik Schultz

Dwayne Roloson
Manny Fernandez

(*Jeremy Stevenson, Stephane Veilleux, Jason Marshall, Brad Brown)

This was a defense first, Jacques Lemaire team that got hot and cold tandem goaltending from two good guys. Gaborik was the spark of their offense in the playoffs and regular season but it was scoring from everywhere that made their unlikely run possible.

Memorable moments:
Darby Hendrikson's long slap shot goal on Cloutier, game 7
Richard Park's OT winner on Patrick Roy, game 6
Andrew Brunnette's series winning OT deke on Patrick Roy, game 7

Star Players - 1
Offense - C+
Defense - A+
Goaltending - A-
Expectations - 12th-15th in the West
Reality - 6th in West
Result - 2 playoff upsets, Western Conference Final loss to Anaheim

1999 Toronto Maple Leafs

Freddy Modin - Mats Sundin - Steve Thomas
Sergei Berezin - Yannick Perrault - Gary Valk
Derick King - Igor Korelev - Mike Johnson
Steve Sullivan - Alyn McCauley - Tie Domi

Bryan Berard - Dimitri Yushkevich
Sylvain Cote - Alexander Karpovstev
Tomas Kaberle - Danny Markov

Curtis Joseph
Glen Healey

(*Kris King, Chris McAllister, Todd Warriner, Dallas Eakins, Lonny Bohonos)

Pat Quinn coached run and gun team scored more goals than anyone despite only having 1 big name guy up front in Sundin. Cujo bailed this team out of a lot of situations because of their aggressive offensive style of play.

Memorable moments:
Steve Thomas scores 2 in the third to beat Philadelphia, game 1
Lonny Bohonos plays in his 1st playoff game in the middle of the 2nd round, scores on Wregget early
Sergei Berezins OT winner vs Pittsburgh
Gary Valk's series clinching goal vs Wregget, game 6 sending the Leafs to the final 4

Star Players - 1
Offense - A+ (first in the league)
Defense - B-
Goaltending - A
Expectations - 7th-10th in East
Reality - 4th in East
Result - 2 Playoff series wins, loss in Eastern Finals to Buffalo

1996 Florida Panthers

Tom Fitzgerald - Stu Barnes - Scott Melanby
Dave Lowry - Rob Niederymyer - Ray Sheppard
Johan Garpenlov - Marty Straka - Bill Lindsay
Jody Hull - Brian Skrudland - Mike Hough

Robert Svehla - Jason Wooley
Ed Jovonovski - Gord Murphy
Rhett Warrener - Paul Laus

John Vanbiesbrook
Mark Fitzpatrick

(*Radek Dvorak, Terry Carkner)

This team was the biggest underdog of all. This was a team without a star that got very hot goaltending in the playoffs and a good team effort from everyone. They are the ultimate Cinderella story, wish they'd won it all. Dave Lowry's 17 playoff points led the way, followed by Stu Barnes and Ray Sheppard each with 16. This was not a team of star players just a lot of guys contributing much like the '99 Leafs and '03 Wild.

Memorable moments:
Scott Melanby killing the rat (Patrick Roy getting the rubber rats)
Ed Jovonovski's devestating hits in the Philly series
John Vanbiesbrook's performance
(sorry no specific moments for this team, too long ago)

Star Players - 0
Offense - B-
Defense - A-
Goaltending - A+
Expectations - 7th-10th in East
Reality - 4th in East
Result - 3 playoff series wins, Loss in Stanley Cup final to Avalanche

Keeping in mind how all these teams did it, by getting contibution from everyone, solid goaltending and great coaching - realistically could the Leafs of '09 be the next underdog story of the NHL? Sadly none of these teams won the Stanley Cup.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Bruins underrated! They'll be a force in the East

I bought the Hockey News big late August issue today, which features all their predictions on standings, awards etc. (By the way THN picked 7 of the 8 teams I picked in the West to make the playoffs, the only difference being that they picked Edmonton and not Phoenix. I had Edmonton down as 9th). But I was surprised to see that they put the Boston Bruins down as a 10th place team in the East, after I picked them to place first!

I'm going to go into a more elaborate breakdown of why the Bruins are so good. Aparently everyone else is not seeing it...

Potential lines:

Sturm - Savard - Kobasew *Sturm and Kobasew scored 27 and 22 goals respectively last season. And Savard is an assist machine, and a very dominant centre. This isn't going to be a top 5 first line in the league, but the key to Boston's success is going to be their depth, getting scoring from everywhere.

Lucic - Bergeron - Kessel *These are the guys I think all the 'experts' are overlooking. All three guys have tons of talent. And the way Lucic plays it gives the B's an explosive power forward in the making to go along with super talented finesse guys. Boston almost beat Montreal in the first round last year and they played the whole time without the injured Bergeron who has potential to put up point per game type numbers this year. The prospect of having Savard and Bergeron as a 1-2 punch down the middle putting up 95 and 75 points would be an incredible combo and it could happen.

Axelsson - Krejci - Ryder *Even if Ryder doesn't return to 30 goal form, let's say he's good for close to 20. He makes a good 2nd-3rd line support winger with the types of talented centre's the B's can throw out there. Krejci was a force vs. Montreal in the playoffs and he's another one of those guys who is poised for a big year. 27 points in 56 games last year is a 40 point pace, and this year he should be a regular in the line up the whole season, its conceivable that he could post 40 or 50 points and be very productive. Axelsson as always will be a solid support winger playing his aggresive style and chipping in the odd goal.

The fourth liners will be determined in camp but it should be made up of guys like Schaeffer - a decent depth scorer who can play 1st-3rd line duties in the event of injuries, Shawn Thornton - a solid veteran, Sobotka - 21 year old could be ready to take on a bigger role with the team, Nokelainen - 22 year old put up 10 points in his rookie season, he won't become a star but could still be good on the fourth line, Jeremy Reich - played in about half the games last year he scored just 2 goals, could take on the same type of role this year.


Chara - Wideman * Chara logs huge minutes, and I don't think I need to explain to anyone how good he is. You could argue right now that he's the next most valuable d-man in the league to Nik Lidstrom. Dennis Wideman is another gem. Great two-way defensman who makes smart plays.

Ward - Ference * Really solid 3-4 d-men. Don't think they're that great? Well let me ask you, how many teams in the East can say they have a better 2nd pairing than these two? Not many, if any, these guys are good defensive players.

Hnidy, Alberts, Mark Stuart * These guys make #5,6,7 on the B's blueline and they're all decent. Good enough that if the Bruins run into some injury trouble, these guys could be counted on to take on a bigger role short term.


Tim Thomas *Now for a long while I was one of Timmy's biggest critics. I'm still not crazy about him because he does tend to play a very streaky game. But the good news is that when Thomas gets cold he'll have someone who can step in who he didn't have last year due to injury - Manny Fernandez! I can definitely see these two playing as a tandem. Fernandez is used to the tandem system from his days with Rolly in Minnesota and I think the two of them could make a good combo. Don't forget that Thomas was an All-Star last season, and he did get hot and steal some games, and he outplayed Price/Halak in the playoffs last year.

In conclusion, Boston = good. 1st place in the East you heard it here first, take that one to the bank.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Top NHL Goalies

Here is one of Dr.Hockey's famous top ------- list's. Recently at work several of us got into an arguement of where Chris Osgood fits in terms of league's top goaltending. The debate had people's opinions ranging from 4th best to 25th. So it inspired this list.

Criteria - This is NOT a list of who I would want to build around. This is not a list of talent only. It's basically, if I had a cup contending team, who would I want between the pipes the most this season. Consistancy is taken into account, as well as previous success, some potential if for example a young goalie is on the cusp and has made big strides in recent years (Pascal Leclaire for example). It's who the top guys would be this year for the regular season and playoff's.

1. Henrik Lunqvist - This guy was virtually unbeatable last year and has gotten better every year he's been in the league. Now entering his prime, which I think will last a long time, King Henrik is ready to dethrown the great Marty Brodeur and win the Vezina trophy. He alone makes an average team capable of winning a playoff round. He makes a good team great. He makes the Rangers a Stanley Cup contender.

2. Martin Brodeur - He's Marty Brodeur. A lot of people look at a sub-par performance against New York in last year's playoffs, but he was dynamite in the regular season and he makes New Jersey a threat every year. Once again, he's Marty Brodeur. Do I need to go on?

3. Evgeni Nabokov - Hard to argue with his 2.14 GAA last season (third in the league behind Osgood and Giguere). Nabokov has lightning fast reflexes, great positional play, and he dominates games. He was a vezina finalist last year with Lunqvist.

4. JS Giguere - Two trips to the finals in the last five years, and a Conn Smythe with the losing 2003 Ducks, Giggy has that ability to do win games on his own. He is a huge goalie, and he's also so positionally sound and handles his rebounds so well that the only way to score on him is if the shot is tipped, and even then, he usually gets a piece of it. 2.12 GAA last season, he's put up similar numbers in each of his last 2 seasons.

5. Marty Turco - Everyone questions Turco because he has never won a Stanley Cup. Although being a champion is a big testiment to a starting goalie, its not everything and I predict Turco will win at least one Stanley Cup in his career. Take for example his 2007 playoffs. He lost in the first round to the Canucks and everyone gave Turco a hard time, despite having posted 3 shutout wins, a GAA of 1.30, and a SV% of .952! These are among the most amazing single series stats for a goalie in NHL history. The Stars were just unable to score. Turco was equally as impressive going three rounds last year with a 2.08 GAA and .922 Sv%, but was unable to single handedly beat the Red Wings. Although he tried, stealing two wins away from the '08 champs.

6. Miika Kiprusoff - I know he's coming off an off year. And I know THN has Luongo and Toskala rated ahead of him (among others), but I don't think a guy who has been a top goalie in the NHL for the past 5 years will have back to back bad seasons. Kipper has been to the finals and has been through some tough playoff rounds. He's got unreal reactions and if he gets his game back to his Kipper level he's as good as any goalie in the NHL.

7. Roberto Luongo - Great big guy has always been called a top goalie in the NHL. I can't argue with that, although he's only really had 1 spectacular season, that being 2006-07 where he was a Vezina and Hart trophy nominee. The excuse for Luongo has always been that he's been so good but plays on such a bad team. People can argue either way about this guy but I don't think anyone can question that when he's on, he's absolutely dominant.

8. Chris Osgood - The much debated Osgood is your 2008 Stanley Cup champ. One guy I work with said the Red Wings would have won with Raycroft in net. Well the notion that the Red Wings were so good that they could have won with, let's say "average" goaltending is absurd. How many great teams have not won because their goaltending has been just average? Remember when St.Louis was a power house and Roman Turek got shelled in the conference finals? Or the 2006 Red Wings who were shocked by the Edmonton Oilers in the first round, Legace was just average that year.

Let's put to rest the notion that Osgood is an average NHL goalie, or not a top 10. Yes the Red Wings are a good team, yes Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Brian Rafalski do their part to neutralize the oppositions offense. On some night's its true, Ozzy will face just 17 or 18 shots, turn away all but one and have a really easy time. And its true, a lot of average goalies could put up really respectable numbers with the Red Wings. But to lead the NHL in GAA in the regular season and the playoffs? If its all the team in front of him and not Ozzy then shouldn't Hasek have been rated 2nd in those categories? How come Hasek was 2 and 2 against the Predators then Osgood came in, finished off that series with 2 wins, swept the Avalanche, and took the first three games against the Stars before finally losing his first of ten playoff games. Oh, almost forgot after that he went on to shut-out the Penguins in the first two games of the finals. You need a great goalie to win the Stanley Cup, period.

Fact is, Chris Osgood completely revamped his style. He went from being a stand-up goalie for years to becoming a butterfly goalie, and he was rewarded with his best season in a decade. Ozzy is a positionally sound goalie, who handles his own rebounds so well that he makes it easy for the d-men in front of him (and yes, a lot of the time they make it easy for him too). But picked by the GM's to go to the All-star game last year, and then winning the Stanley Cup and Jennings trophy, Osgood is undoubtably a top 10 goalie in the NHL right now and the only veteran of 10 or more years to have never finished any lower than 5th in his conference (and that includes his days in New York and St.Louis). The guy is just a winner.

9. Rick Dipietro - Kind of a Luongo syndrome, in that he faces 40 shots a night on one of the worst teams, much like Roberto did in Florida. The tough part about rating a goalie like this is that, when you face 44 shots, its excusable to allow 3 or 4 of them, and of course you're going to make 3 or 4 highlight reel saves along the way. But that being said, I still say Ricky is an amazing talent, and the reason the NYI made the post season in 2007. That season he made countless highlight reel stops and even put up 40+ save shutouts on a couple of occasions. That kind of dominance can't be ignored. Ricky will have his work cut out for him again this season in New York.

10. Ryan Miller - Miller was a workhorse last year appearing in 76 games. He was the goalie of record in 73 of those games going 36-27-10 on a team that missed the playoffs! He posted a solid 2.64 GAA and a less than spectacular .904 SV% but was respectable in both categories. Miller did struggle for a stretch in the middle of last season, but was great for the most part as he was in 2007. He has to be considered one of the league's best.

11. Pascal Leclaire - We should just change his name to Mr.Shutouts. And on the Blue Jackets, wow. This guy has been an up and comer for a couple years and last year he was turning heads with the way he was playing. He'll be a force this season.

12. Vesa Toskala - Leafs goalie was listed as the 7th best goalie in THN's list of the NHL's top 50 players. (good list). He was always considered a good goalie with the Sharks and last year in Toronto he was the heart of the Leafs for most of the season. He'll win some games this year on a Leafs team with very little expectations.

13. Tomas Vokoun - I've always considered him to be a top ten, but there's no one ahead of him I can move him down for. Vokoun is a great goalie though with a .919 Sv% last year and not a lot of help in front of him.

14. Ilya Bryzgalov - Bryz was a monster in net for Phoenix last year after they stole him off waivers from the Ducks. Bryz is a dominant force. He's a beast. This guy, what can I say about this guy?

15. MA Fleury - Went to the finals last year. He's got those wicked reactions. I think he's capable of a lot but being a small goalie the puck sometimes finds a way to beat him, even if he gets a big piece (ie Zetterbergs 3rd period goal, game 6 of the finals). When Fleury is on his game and has his reactions going he gives Pittsburgh the type of 'tending they need to go far. If he can keep if consistent this upcoming season, he could be a champion.

16. Dan Ellis - Preds record with Ellis in net: 23-10-3. Preds record with Mason in net: 18-22-6. Oh and his .924 SV% was good for first in the NHL, not to mention a 2.34 GAA. Holy! How is this guy not a top 10? Well, if he can match those numbers again this year, or even come close I would have to consider him a top 10 for next years list. But duplicating things you do in your first year isn't always easy, ask Jim Carey, Andrew Raycroft, and Cam Ward...

17. Cam Ward - Before Ward, the previous Conn Smythe winner was Brad Richards who was dead last in the NHL in +/- last season, considered to be overpaid and was traded at the deadline. The next Conn Smythe winner after Ward was Scott Niedermyer who last season was retired for half the year and came back a shadow of his old self, he was hardly effective at all against Dallas in the playoffs. And then there is Ward who came off the bench to takeover as starter, got hot and won the Cup and Conn Smythe in 2006. Since then he hasn't played at that level for any consistant amount of time, but he has gone through stretches of greatness. Conn Smythe curse? Look out Zetts. I should mention about Ward though, if he can get consistant, he could be a force again and make the Hurricanes a playoff team again.

18. Nik Backstrom - Backstrom only put up a 33-13-8 record last year with a 2.31 GAA and .920 SV% last season. That's all. That's practically Vezina worthy. Some argue that his numbers are a product of Jacques Lemaires defensive trap. But with a save percentage so solid to go along with his other numbers, its hard to take away anything from Backstrom. Any of Lemaires trapping teames have relied heavily on solid goaltending, and although Minnesota had some good scorers and young guys up front, they didn't have a ton and needed Backstrom to do what he did in order to make it in the strong Western conference.

19. Martin Biron - The other Marty B was dynamite in the playoffs last year taking the Flyers to the final four. The turnaround from last overall in the league to where they got last year after picking up Biron at the deadline of 2007 was amazing, and Biron was a huge part of it giving the Flyers players confidence in their goaltending, and much needed stability in goal.

20. Cristobal Huet - Would have liked to put him higher on the list, but again, ahead of who? Still Huet put up really solid numbers in Montreal last year then went to Washington and just refused to lose getting them a last minute playoff spot. Huet joining Chicago this year makes a lot of sense, and he could be the difference with this young team potentially making the playoffs this upcoming season.

Honourable mentions in order of division -


Manny Legace - good goalie, All-star last year, but a non-spectacular goalie on a non-competitive team doesn't make him anything to look out for this year. I think he'll be a little uninspired by mid-season but will win a few games here and there.

Ty Conklin - great numbers last year with Pittsburgh, now comes in to back up Chris Osgood, I could actually see him get close to 30 starts next season, and he should put up good numbers yet again. Biggest knock on Conklin is that he doesn't have that clutch goalie reputation and It'll be hard to forget the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.

North West:

Mathieu Garon - I couldn't put this guy in the top 20 although he was a good goalie and estblished himself as Edmonton's starter last year. He's still a pretty young goalie and could still break out, but I don't think he'll ever be at that level to be a champion. Still he's a good holdover goalie for Oilers.

North East:

Marty Gerber - Not consistant enough. Obviously.

Timmy Thomas - Good goalie, for a big man he does move well at times, but he tends to get on cold streaks. Still he was an all-star and he got the Bruins into the playoffs. Look for him to have another really good season tandeming with Fernandez.

Carey Price - Good young goalie. He put up great numbers last year on a first place Habs team. He was able to get a couple shutouts and showed off his great reactions. But as I said about Price, and as was the case with Raycroft, Jim Carey and others in the past, its tough for a young goalie to step into the NHL and make that difference right away. Even MA Fleury needed to go back down a couple times before establishing himself as a legit starter. Now I don't think that will be the case for Price, I also wouldn't feel comfortable with this kid as my starter if I were a contending team, at least not without a reliable veteran back-up. Price's gaff's against the Bruins won't be forgotten or his puck toss to RJ Umberger, his playoff errors just pile up in my mind and there's no way I could put him in the top 20.

South East:

Kari Lehtinen - Kari is a good goalie, its too bad he's stuck in Atlanta. I've seen him let in some really strange goals, and even when Atlanta did make the playoffs I felt that Johan Hedberg stepped in and did a better job. In fact, Hedberg might still be slightly better than Atlanta's 5th overall draft pick/project. I could see Kari being traded somewhere at some point in his career and playing inspired, and maybe living up to his potential. As of right now, too many holes.

Mike Smith - He almost made the list. Smitty was a dynamite back up and now we'll see how well he handles the bulk of the workload in Tampa with Kolzig coming in for 20-30 games to back him up.

Jose Theodore - Last year, Jose had a 2nd coming, returning to his old form, but then absolutely fell apart in the playoffs. I still think he's another good goalie, when he's on his game he's a solid NHL starter.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Red Wings too Good! No Fair! Not Fair for other Teams!!!

The Red Wings are too good! Its no fair. RRRr, I can't stand the goodness that is the Red Wings. They're so great. They are my early pick to win the cup in 2009. I know I'm taking the easy road by choosing last years winner, but you'll find that very few experts are picking the Red Wings to win. In fact most magazine's I've read and people I've talked to have the Sharks listed as the favourites. Well, after looking at the Red Wings line up, I don't know how that's possible.

Holmstrom - Zetterberg - Hossa (that's a top 3 first line in the league)
Fillpula - Datsyuk - Franzen (That would be considered a damn good first line, nevermind 2nd)
Hudler - Draper - Cleary (Well this is just getting silly)
Maltby - Helm - Samuelson (Grind line? This could easily be a quality 2nd line on a lot of teams)

Lidstrom - Rafalski (I'm not even gonna go into why they're so good)
Kronvall - Stuart (No fair! They're cheating! Kronvall and Stuart a top pairing on 25 teams!)
Lebda - Lilja (What? 2 average guys on the Wings? Too bad they only play 5 mins/night)

Osgood (Only goalie with 10+ years experience to never finish lower than 5th in the league including days in NYI and St.Louis, NYI especially amazing b/c before Osgood arrived they had missed the post season for 6 straight years)
Ty Conklin (decent back up, actually put up amazing #'s with Pitty last season)

Coached by Mike Babcock, I just can't pick against this stacked team.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Predictions for Leafs scoring 2008-09

If the team goes into the season as it is right now (minus McCabe and/or anything they get in return for him and with Frogren), here are my predictions for how many points each player will put up:

Line up:

Hagman - Antropov - Steen
Blake - Grabovski - Kulemin
Ponikarovsky - Bell - Mayers
Tlusty - Stajan - Moore
*Devereux, Hollweg

Kaberle - Kubina
Colaiacovo - Finger
Frogren - Stralman
*White, Kronvall


Antropov - 24 G, 37 A, 61 Pts
Kaberle - 12 G, 45 A, 57 Pts
Steen - 21 G, 31 A, 52 Pts
Kubina - 13 G, 29 A, 42 Pts
Hagman - 23 G, 17 A, 40 Pts
Blake - 23 G, 16 A, 39 Pts
Tlusty - 13 G, 25 A, 38 Pts
Stajan - 12 G, 24 A, 36 Pts
Ponikarovski - 14 G, 18 A, 32 Pts
Grabovski - 10 G, 19 A, 29 Pts
Bell - 11 G, 16 A, 27 Pts
Kulemin - 8 G, 16 A, 24 Pts
Stralman - 4 G, 19 A, 23 Pts
Colaiacovo - 3 G, 17 A, 20 Pts
Mayers - 7 G, 10 A, 17 Pts
Moore - 5 G, 10 A, 15 Pts
Finger - 4 G, 9 A, 13 Pts
Devereux - 4 G, 8 A, 12 Pts
White - 3 G, 8 A, 11 Pts
Hollweg - 1 G, 5 A, 6 Pts
Frogren - 0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts
Toskala - 0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts
Kronvall - 0 G, 2 A, 2 Pts
Joseph - 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts

This totals for 215 goals, which would put the Leafs in the bottom 8-10 in the league in goals for typically (using the past couple years avearge to go by). I think that's fair.

Monday, July 14, 2008


After only 2 seasons back in the NHL Ted Nolan was fired by Garth Snow today for what Snow called "philosophical differences".

So for the record, that's three seasons in the NHL for Nolan and he's been fired after 2 of them. There has to be more to this story, Nolan got the Islanders into the playoffs when no one thought they would in 2007 (almost no one, Doc Hock? Yeah I sniped that before the season started) and then had a bad season this past year, but this time with a very depleted line up. That Islanders team missed the playoffs despite coaching.

This is very surprising and after hearing Jason Blakes comments raving about Nolan, and apparetnly everyone who has played for this guy says he is really a great coach, this seems like an odd move by an odd organization.

So now we have some questions?

Is there behind the scenes reasons for his firing like in Buffalo over a decade ago? (I think No. The comments made by Nolan and Snow seemed to indicate they're leaving eachother on good terms).

Is anyone going to hire Nolan again, or is his character going to be questioned around the league?(My guess is yes, how do you win the Jack Adams trophy and also get fired, only to return years later and immediately lose your job again?!)

Who is going to coach the Islanders? (My hope is Paul Maurice, I think he's a really smart guy and he deserves another shot. I think with the right mix of guys he can get average players to do great things. Maybe he'd be a good fit on the Island).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Players rumoured to be on the block

Hey Doc Hock back with another amazing post. This summer and at last seasons deadline all the guys who were rumoured to be moved were almost all moved! Camalleri, Jokinen, Tanguay, Brad Richards all traded. Here are the guys who are on the block right now:

Sorry I don't have a source here, but I believe Patrick Marleau is NOT on the block anymore, but there were rumours that the Sharks were looking for a potential shake up with their forwards, the article I had read (it was from the Toronto Sun) had speculated on Milan Michalek potentially being the guy they move. Not sure how valid that is, but the Sharks have made a few key moves bringing in Rob Blake for example, so its possible they're done this offseason.

According to various reports the Carolina Hurricanes are shopping defensman Frantisek Kaberle for forward depth. They can afford it after having brought Joni Pitkanen over from Edmonton. One team that was rumoured to be interested was Ottawa but they have since signed Jason Smith. I think Kaberle might start the season off with the 'Canes as most teams are starting to have their rosters set for next season but look for these rumours to persist as the season goes on.

The Anaheim Ducks are apparently shopping defensman Matthieu Schneider. At close to $6 million on the cap this season Schneider could be tough to move, but he is a great player and I'm sure there is interest out there for a complete player like Matty. Since its a pure salary cutting move by Brian Burke its possible he could be had for a tier-2 scorer, and maybe a draft pick on top of that. The Schneider for Glen Murray rumours quickly died, Murray is still on the block(2 years and counting now)

Jay Bouwmeister's name has come up since he supposedly is not happy with the direction the team is going after losing their captain Oli Jokinen. Jay-Bo is heading for arbitration which is often a sign that things aren't going well between a player and a team. Since Pitkanen was traded for Erik Cole, I expect Bouwmeister to go for a player of at least that calibre if he is dealt. If Jay-Bo is singed to a one-year contract you can expect the trade romours to swirl throughout the season especially if Florida struggles early on.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Remaining UFA's and where they might go:

There's still a few players that could be useful to some teams, let's get right to it:

Grizzled Veterans

Kevyn Adams - Here's a guy who is still 33, didn't really have his best season with Chicago, he wasn't really a force with Phoenix, I would say he played his last good hockey with the 'Canes a few years ago but he could still provide some cheap 4th line help to a team looking to fill a roster spot. He has worn the "A" in his career and kills penalties.

I'll throw a guess out there for Kevyn, ummmm...... Pittsburgh doesn't like the looks of their depth at training camp and Shero signs Adams to a 1 year deal in September.

Stephane Yelle - Same type of guy as Adams. I would say at 34 Yelle still actually has a lot to offer. I thought he was excellent in the playoffs last year, and Yelle has always been a good playoff type guy. He only scored 3 goals in 74 games last year as a 4th liner with the Flames, but scored 2 in the playoffs in 7 games.

I really think he should be picked up by someone, maybe the Red Wings to replace Dallas Drake as a 4th liner....? Maybe the Dallas Stars if Stu Barnes retires? (*Note on Stu, he hasn't said this publicaly but my friend talked to him and Stu said he would only play for Dallas or retire, he doesn't feel like moving his family right now.)

Yannick Perrault - I know everyone thinks he's the greatest face-off man since sliced bread. But keep in mind, his percentage is outstanding because he only takes 10 draws a night, and wins 7. The real top two faceoff men in the league (not just according to me but also the SUN media poll, in which 300+ players and managers were polled) are Rod Brind'Amour, and Mats Sundin. As for Yannick, he didn't look good with Chicago last year, maybe at 37 years old if he's willing to take on a defensive role somewhere, he can still play.

Same thing with Adams and Yelle, Yannick is a decent depth pick up, and I could see him going somewhere as late as October or even in November. Another possibility - retire.

Peter Forsberg - 34 years old, and I want to emphasize the word "old". If Peter still feels the way he did before he'd be most comfortable with a multi year deal. Why wouldn't he? With his health that's the best way to ensure more finacial security.

I want to say he'll go back to Colorado or just play in Sweden or retire. But who knows, what's the market for Forsberg now? He put up over an assist per game with Avs last season, he obviously can still play. Maybe some team will offer him $3-4 million per season on a 2 year deal.

Under 30's

Jason Williams - What's wrong with this guy? Does anybody know? He's still only 27 years old. Maybe he wants way too much money, but I'm shocked no one has jumped on him. In 2006 with the Red Wings he put up 58 points! Then he bounced around in 2007 between Philadephia and Chicago and registered just 32 points. But then last year in an injury plagued season he posted close to a point per game 36 poitns in 43 games. Thats a 70 point pace last I checked.

This guy was high on my radar going into free agency and I still think whoever gets him is getting a good heads up centreman and product of the Detroit Red Wings organization. I would like to say he should play for the Leafs but Cliff seems to be done with free agency. Good fit anywhere though.

Joseph Vasicek - He'll be 28 by the time the season starts, he put up 36 points as one of the Islanders top scorers last year. I still think for someone willing to take a shot, he could be affordable and could still regain his touch that saw him score 45 points under Maurice's Hurricanes in 2004.

No speculation, might even go to Europe.

Okay well that's it for today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leafs Forwards

Continuing with the Leafs I'll post potential lines for their forwards:

In the paper today the possible lines were listed like this:

Blake - Antropov - Steen
Hagman - Grabovski - Kulemin
Tlusty - Stajan - Mayers
Poni - Moore - Devereux

Spare: Bell

Well I find this kind of laughable. I kind of like what they have going on on the top 2 lines, but Mark Bell out of the line up? Pfffff. And Ron Wilson said he might want to get some type of grind line going which would feature Jamal Mayers, possibly Nik Hagman, although Hagman might be used in a scoring position on the top line. Here's my lines:

Hagman - Antropov - Steen (all feisty, tough, smart defensively, solid 2 way line)
Blake - Grabovski - Kulemin (need for speed, some good scoring potential)
Poni - Bell - Mayers (Grind line, tough, fast, though Poni's gotta step up the physical stuff)
Tlusty - Stajan - Moore (don't worry all you Stajan lovers, I see this team rolling 4 solid and Matty will get out there on the PK)

Spare: Devereux (interchangeable with Moore)

Penalty Killing units:

Antropov - Hagman
Finger - Kubina

Stajan - Steen
Kaberle - Frogren

Moore - Mayers
Finger - Kubina

Power Play Units:

Hagman - Antropov - Blake
Kaberle - Kubina

Poni - Stajan - Steen
Colaiacovo - Stralman (assuming McCabe is gone)

Leafs Defense

First one quick thing, looks like I was right all along about Demitra going to Vancouver. Some radio station said that he will be signing a 3 year deal worth $12 million. More to follow on that.


Today I'd like to write some more about the Toronto Maple Leafs. Specifically their defense. As it stands right now they have 10 NHL calibre defensman, who will be on the team next year? Check this out:

1) Tomas Kaberle: Well barring any shocking trade (which Kaberle would have to agree to - NTC) Kaberle will be on the team next year as the teams #1 defensman. Any dummy knows that.

2) Pavel Kubina: The Leafs still have a window to trade this guy before his NTC kicks back in August. I would expect him to be on the team next season. Here's a guy who finished with over 40 pts last season. 11 Goals and 29 assists and was + 5. Not bad. In fact when you look at what other high profile d-men did last season, Kubina stacked up well. And given the amount of money that ws thrown around at UFA defensman this summer, Kubina's salary which was once considered overpayed is now about right for a guy who plays big minutes and throws the body. Down the stretch (trade deadline and on) Pavel Kubina was the Leafs top defensman on a lot of nights and on a lot of nights he was the Leafs top player. (Most notably his 2 goal performance in which he scored the OT winner from behind the net....anyone wanna help me with who that was against?)

Just to compare statistically, look at how Kubina faired compaired to some other NHL defensmen:

Kubina: GP 72, G 11, A 29, PTS 40, + 5, mins 23:55, GWG 4
Whitney GP 76, G 12, A 28, PTS 40, -2, mins 22:26 , GWG 1
Redden GP 80, G 6, A 32, PTS 38, + 11, mins 22:12, GWG 1
Pronger GP 72, G 12, A 31, PTS 43, -1, mins 26:00, GWG 4
Timonen GP 80, G 8, A 36, PTS 44, E, mins 23:34, GWG 1

Not saying he's necessarily better than Pronger, and there are other d-men who put up over 50 points this season, but clearly the stats would indicate that Kubina is in the same echelon with a lot of these players. Consider that Kubina logged big minutes on a team that finished 24th out of 30 and was +5 compaired to Whitney or Pronger or Timonen who were all on team's with good records. Also Kubina's 4 game winners is no fluke as he was clutch after the trade deadline as mentioned.

Kubina should be on the team if you listen to the comments made by Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson but I don't see him as an untouchable and I could see Fletcher moving him while the window is open and his NTC is not in effect if there is a deal that he can't refuse. I imagine it would have to include a top prospect or a good young roster player.

3) Anton Stralman: Here's a guy who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season, he's still really young and still needs to work on his game. Along with Kaberle, Kubina, and McCabe, Stralman has the most offensive potential. He'll be on the team.

4) Jeff Finger: Avs leader in blocked shots and hits last season. Also the Avs leader in ice time (on average per game) in the playoffs. Howeve Finger was benched for 5 games in the playoffs in favour of the more veteran players. According to Leafs TV's Paul Hendrick's (I play hockey with this guy, or rather against) It was Al Coates and Ron Wilson who pushed Fletcher to sign Finger and although there has been a lot of heat from Leafs fans over the Finger signing, there's no doubt Finger will be on the team and I think a lot of Leafs fans might change their opinion by mid season. On the other hand Wilson, Coates, and I could be wrong about Finger....We'll have to wait and see how he performs.

5) Jonas Frogren: This is an interesting one. He was Stralmans defense partner with the Swedish National team and was considered one of the top defensive defensman from the SEL. We'll see how he faires in the NHL but as a defensive, strong positional player he should have an easier time adapting. I'm not expecting him to be a stud but a solid 5-6 guy, kind of like what Lilja is for the Red Wings. He may or may not make the team.

6)Ian White: Logic would suggest that White should be on the team again. However with this logjam I could see him being one of the guys bumped out. Ian White has his ups and downs. He's a good puck handler and with time and space he can pick up some speed and rush well and make good passes. But his size is an issue and he gets beat in the corners, loses a lot of battles, gets
caught out of position etc. These are exactly the types of things Finger, Frogren, and Schenn are not known for.

7)Bryan McCabe: I think the Frogren and Finger signings would indicate what has been speculated for a long time. McCabe is done in T.O. Fletcher has to honour McCabe's contract and invite him to training camp, but he has no obligation to play McCabe. I would bet money that McCabe will eventually waive the NMC and I have no idea what kind of return the Leafs will get for him. (More on this when McCabe trade rumours start swirling)

8)Carlo Colaiacovo: Coco! I love Coco, I like his open ice hits, remember when he leveled Bertuzzi at centre ice 3 years ago. Remember when he decked Guerin cutting across the middle, 3 years ago. Too bad this guy is always hurt, he actually missed the last 8 games of last season with some type of tear in his leg. He's dealt with concussions, and all sorts of injuries. I think if he could stay healthy he's a top 4 for sure, but we'll see what happens there.

9)Staffan Kronvall: Good player. He's been NHL ready for a while now, I would like to see him get in there and get some more NHL games under his belt. He could be a valuable defensman. He likes to hit, maybe doesn't posess the offensive capabilities of his brother but certainly likes to play with that physical edge. I could see since Fletcher has been mostly drafting and trading and signing for speed and/or size that Kronvall might get the edge over a small guy like Ian White. On the other hand Kronvall has always been a bit lower on the depth chart so he'll need to have a monster camp to leap frog some of these guys. I see him starting with the Marlies as a top 2 guy in the AHL.

10)Luke Schenn: Luuuuke! I went to the draft in Ottawa and I was pumped to see the Maple Leafs move up in the draft to take Schenn. Schenn likes to hit and and plays a good defensive game. I don't think he'll make the team because of the depth but this could be better for his development. On the other hand, who knows, if he comes out and is one of the top guys at camp its possible that he makes the team. Ron Wilson said in his press conference before Schenn had even been drafted that there is nothing wrong in today's NHL with having an 18 year old defensman step right into the NHL and start learning at that level. I especially think this would be true for a defensive d-man who is already positionally sound and just needs to work on his size (in terms of weight) and speed, as opposed to an offensive d-man who still needs to learrn the game.

So that's it for today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Leafs Re-Sign Stajan/Power Forwards in the North West

Matt Stajan signed a 2 year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs worth $3.5 million over 2 years. Alex Steen who is probably worth more to the Leafs and has more first line potential signed an extension a few month's ago worth $3.4 million over 2 years proving that it pays to wait it out until the summer. Although that little bit of money doesn't really make a big difference.

Two veteran power forwards signed out west with Bertuzzi going to Calgary and Nolan going to the Minnesota Wild. I like these signings for both teams, I thought Nolan was really good last year in the playoffs and probably still has some good hockey left in him. His deal was worth $2.75 million on average per season for 2 years while Bertuzzi's deal is worth $1.95 million for one year, a very affordable signing for the Flames.

As it stands right now the West is looking really strong here are some free agents still lingering out there and speculation on where they might sign:

Pavol Demitra: Canucks - reason being the Gillis connection
Florida Panthers - reason being the Panthers need for a #1 Centre after dealing away Jokinen and the rumours from earlier in June that Demitra would be most intersted in signing with a Southern, warmer city.

Brendan Shanahan - Earlier speculation that the Red Wings would bring him back seems to be done since they don't have the cap space or roster space after signing Hossa and still having to get Filppula under contract (scheduled for arbitration). It's also been said that the Rangers don't have any room to bring Shanahan back.

So where will Shanahan end up? He could be a good fit in Pittsburgh with Roberts gone, especially if he wants to play for a team that should be in contention again. Other then that I haven't really heard anything about Shanahan but I'll keep you posted.

Keep checking this blog I'll be adding more UFA's to this list and updating throughout the summer.