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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gold Medal Game Does Not Disappoint: Crosby, Bettman Plan Works To Perfection

We all got what we hoped for: A dramatic, hard fought final game.

Ryan Miller, who had been brilliant all tournament long, expected a ton of rubber to be sent his way.  He saw shots from all angles, all situations and had another strong performance.  It was tough to see him go away with less than what he deserved.

Luongo also played as expected, stopping most of the shots that hit him and was good enough not to lose.  Hockey Plumber still says Canada's best money goalie, the last two seasons running, never suited up during the games.

Canada played a smothering team defense.  They challenged everything, at every point on the ice, and the Americans had to work their tails off for any opportunities... and work they did.  Down two-nil, the U.S. kept plugging away.  Throwing shots at net whenever possible and they were rewarded.

Then late, with Miller on the bench, they punched in a heart-stopping, game tying goal.

Canada had to regroup after three periods of hockey and come out for OT in a game that the entire nation must have felt that they had sewn up just minutes before.

Yet, Canada had a secret weapon... a slight edge in the form of the best player in the world.  As any hockey fan in Philadelphia will tell you, Gary Bettman conspired with the IOC and set the table for his Golden Boy Sid.  Crosby pushed the gold medal winner past Miller 7:40 into overtime.

NBC then shocked the world by staying with the hockey medal presentations all the way through... without switching to a higher profile curling match.  What a gift from the peacock!

(photo Crosby: Getty Images)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gold Medal Game Favorites?

We have reached the penultimate stage of Olympic hockey in 2010.  Canada, playing at home, was expected to get here.  The U.S. is a bit of a surprise entrant in the gold medal round.

Certainly Canada will be favored to win, but should they be? Consider that the U.S. pushed Canada around in the final game of the preliminary round, and chased Marty Brodeur from the net for the duration of the games.  Additionally, Team USA has hammered their way into this game while Canada waltzed past a pathetic showing by Russia and then held on for dear life against a motivated Slovakian squad last night.

Consider also that goaltender Ryan Miller has been the best player on a well rounded U.S. team, while Roberto Luongo has not been seriously tested, and has, as Mike Milbury put it, "Not been brilliant" in his limited action thus far.

Late Friday night the Canadian crowd began chanting "We want the USA", but do they really?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tomas Vokoun? Say it Ain't So Randy!

We have searched and searched, but cannot find a reason anywhere for why the Florida Panthers would want to deal goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

After the team dropped it's fifth straight last week, Florida General Manager Randy Sexton said:
"There's no player off limits," Sexton said. "There are players we'd like to keep, but at the end of the day Wayne Gretzky was traded. We have to get better and get our team to the point where we want it to be. Sometimes you have to make hard decisions."
Naturally, since then there has been speculation surrounding all of the Panthers' top players.  Nathan Horton's dedication has been placed in to question, Steven Weiss has struggled to score lately, and David Booth's ability to absorb elbows to the head has raised doubts... kidding.  Many reasons have be cited for why the Panthers would like to move assets to start anew.

Yet, most disturbing has been the notion that Sexton would ask Vokoun to waive his "No Trade Clause" and deal away one of the few consistent performers in the Panthers line up.

Consider that going into the Olympic break, Vokoun leads all NHL netminders in save percentage and shutouts with seven (nearly 30% of the teams' wins). He has a 2.36 GAA and has faced more shots than any other goalie!

Half of the games that the Panthers have won are mostly because of Vokoun's heroics.  The other half are ENTIRELY because of Vokoun.  Can anyone tell us how Sexton could improve the team by trading the only player he has that could claim to be as good as anyone in the game?

Maybe Sexton just spoke out of frustration.  Maybe there will be no Florida fire sale.  Maybe the rumors are off the mark.  However, if Vokoun is moved at the deadline to a contender, that teams' entire fan base should line up outside the arena in Sunrise, FL to shake Sexton's hand the next morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Trade Deadline A

It was a little less hectic than expected, but it appears that a few deals were completed today.

Early in the day, Carolina shipped forward Matt Cullen to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Alexandre Picard and a second round draft pick. 

The Senators were looking for more scoring depth.  Cullen is a very capable third line and face off man, but not sure that he is everything that Ottawa needs.  Picard had been squeezed out with the Sens and will get a chance to develop with the Canes.

Later TSN reported that Chicago and Minnesota struck a larger deal. The Blackhawks send defenseman Cam Barker to the Wild for defenseman and impending UFA, Kim Johnsson and 2009 first round pick, Nick Leddy.

As everyone knows, Chicago will need to clear cap space for next season.  Barker, who is in the first year of a three year, $9.25 million deal almost had to be moved.  In return the Hawks receive a strong, rental replacement in Johnsson and a top prospect for the future.

Because of Chicago's deep blueline, Barker was pushed further down the depth chart than his skills might suggest he should be.  In Minnesota he will be given every opportunity to shine, as the Wild now have a top four defenseman locked up at a moderate price tag for the next couple of seasons. Everybody wins here.

TSN also reported that "The San Jose Sharks have traded forward Jody Shelley to the New York Rangers in exchange for a sixth round draft pick."

It would seem that the Rangers feel Shelley is more able to perform the duties of disgruntled enforcer Donald Brashear.  However, at a lower cost. We are told that Sean Avery helped sell this deal to GM Glen Sather by reminding him not to discount the importance of Shelley's "made for Wall Street" hairdo.

Friday Power Rankings

Remember, you can also see our rankings at:

The Capitals' win streak ends, but they maintain the top slot. San Jose stays close.  The Coyotes, yes, those Coyotes move near the top and the Senators continue upward. The Hurricanes are hot, but New Jersey, Buffalo and Calgary struggle.

1. (1) Washington Capitals
The Caps had their wins streak snapped at fourteen.  After a thrilling win in OT against Pittsburgh, Washington has lost consecutive games after falling just short in a pair of attempted comebacks. Does the GM G.M. really think that they will score five goals every night in the post season, or are defensive changes on the way?

2. (2) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks have not streaked like Washington, but they stay close in the race for the President's Trophy.  San Jose's big three of Thornton, Heatley and Marleau continue to produce, but their other forwards have struggled a bit.  If they don't heat up in the secondary scoring department, will we see another early round exit for the Sharks?

3. (5) Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes are as hot as ever.  They consistently shut down their opponents top scorers and frustrate them for sixty minutes.  Vrbata is on one of his famous hot streaks and he has brought along Matthew Lombardi along for the ride.  No one will want to face this Phoenix team in the playoffs.

4. (3) Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago has looked a bit pedestrian as of late.  The three goals they scored in regulation against Dallas is the most they have had in a game in the month of February.  The Blackhawks struggling to score goals? How can that be?

5. (8) Ottawa Senators
The Sens' win streak was nearly as long as Washington's, but of all teams, it was Toronto that halted Ottawa's at eleven games with a shutout thud.  The team bounced back by extending Calgary's slide and then started the Cap's new "losing streak" by beating the "Other Alexander", Semin and Co. in a high-flying 6-5 contest.

6. (4) Los Angeles Kings
The Kings had a nine game win streak snapped against Anaheim.  In return they nearly snapped Ryan Getzlaf's ankle.  L.A.'s young bunch is playing with confidence and swagger. There is a new "Showtime" in the Staples Center with no Kobe to be found.

7. (11) Colorado Avalanche
The Avs have won three straight after rallying to beat Atlanta in OT Wednesday.  Colorado endured a rough ending in January, but February has been much nicer losing only once since the flip of the calendar. Chris Stewart must be wearing a Joe Sakic sweater under his own, because he sure has played like Joe in the past week.

8. (6) Pittsburgh Penguins
After a long break Pittsburgh got caught by both looking ahead to their match-up against Ovechkin, and treacherous Mid-Atlantic weather conditions. After looking quite uninspired in a ugly loss to Montreal, they immediately departed for a plane and bus combo to get into Washington the next day.  The Pens jumped all over the Caps, but fell apart as the were dismantled in the third period.  Pittsburgh welcomed the floundering Isles for a tap in win to pull within one point of the division lead, but can they find a way to overtake New Jersey down the stretch?

9. (7) Vancouver Canucks
The twins have gone quiet, therefore so has the Vancouver offense. Luckily for them Roberto Luongo is the backstop.  His shutout of the Panthers may be just what the Canucks needed to get back on track before the break.

10. (10) New Jersey Devils
The Devils won the Kovalchuk sweepstakes butt have only won one game this month. Their offense is still anemic, as witnessed by their lone win was the only game in which they scored more than twice.  Ilya has yet to notch a goal and Parise is a bit banged up.  Lemaire's system is so stifling that he can keep his own club from scoring!

11. (9) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are O for February.  Loser of six straight, Buffalo's tight defense has been somewhat leaky.  Dropping games to Carolina, Boston and Columbus is a bit surprising.  They are falling and their goaltender likely will not get any rest during the Olympic break.

12. (12) Nashville Predators
The Preds have also slowed a bit recently.  Some nights the offense just isn't there and others the defense is a little too generous.  Patric Hornqvist has become the attack zone catalyst.  If he doesn't score, Nashville struggles.  Maybe help for him is on the way via trade?

13. (15) Dallas Stars
The Stars are still in the hunt. Awfully tough to beat at home, but a near pushover on the road, Dallas needs to find the same level of play when they are wearing their visiting whites.  Is Kari Lehtonen the answer? Does his arrival mean that they will deal Turco for a puck moving blueliner?

14. (14) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks strong play continues.  They have lost only one contest this month and seem energized now that Giggy isn't there to question his shared duty role.  Ryan Getzlaf gave the team a scare, but it appears that his boo boo isn't not as bad as first feared.  Much like last year, the Ducks are making a late push and could be a nightmare round one matchup for another division leader.

15. (13) Detroit Red Wings
The Wings are getting lots of bodies back, but it is doing them no good.  Detroit has lost four in a row with a hot Ottawa team waiting for them before the break.  What is the over/under on one of their Olympian Swedes going down with a fluke injury in Vancouver? Jimmy Howard looks like he will welcome the time off.

16. (19) Tampa Bay Lightning
It seems that Coach Rick Tocchet and his team are finally in sync.  Due to their last win streak, Tocchet must like Tampa's odds to make the playoffs.  You can bet that the new ownership situation will be a good thing for this franchise, as they have firm financial footing for the first time.

17. (18) Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers enjoyed their home and home with the Devils and have another with the Habs going in to the break.  Ray Emery has been shut down to rest his hip and it remains to be seen if they will make a deal to bring in some goaltending insurance. With or without Emery, Laviolette has this Phailadelphia team playing sound defense and is keeping the dumb penalties to a minimum.  How long can he contain Hartnell, Carcillo and crew?

18. (28) Boston Bruins
The Bruins lost ten in a row.  Now they are going for their fourth victory in a row before the break!  They have Lucic and Savard in the lineup at the same time and are looking like they are ready to get back to business for the stretch run.  They are trying to deal Michael Ryder, but does his two goal performance against Tampa give the team second thoughts?

19. (22) Montreal Canadiens
Montreal is dealing again.  Overpaying again. Causing the fans to groan again.  Yet, somehow, they are winning again in February.  Les Canadiens manhandled Pittsburgh and then halted Washington's super streak. They have played themselves into a position to where it will be difficult to move either Price or Halak, but the team will probably still be active at the deadline.  Got an atrocious contract???  The Bleu, Blanc et Rouge may want you!

20. (17) Minnesota Wild
The Wild need to keep the score low to win, but they can't always limit the opposition to two goals or less.  Thus, Minnesota can't win them all. The problem is the rest of the team has not been able to keep up with Latendresse, who has been an amazing acquisition.  Even if Havlat heats up, the Wild still need another consistent scorer.  Who doesn't? (Don't answer that Bruce Boudreau.)  The Wild are said to be interested in Ruslan Fedotenko. What? He doesn't score until after the playoffs start.

21. (20) St. Louis Blues
The Blues keep hanging around, but they may be better served selling off their veteran assets (read Tkachuk and Kariya) to bolster their youthful core.  They were said to be in on the Kovalchuk sale, and may be in a strong position to land him in the summer.  Clear some cap room while adding a few complimentary pieces along the way in effort to make a run next year. No?

22. (23) Atlanta Thrashers
Good news Thrashers fans.  Niclas Bergfors has out scored Kovalchuk 2-0 all by himself! Atlanta wins this deal, right?  Waddell did what he had to do and the team is moving on.  The team traded another first round pick in Lehtonen and received Dallas' top prospect in return.  Maybe they end up better in the long run.  Look for "Dealin' " Don Waddell to keep unloading impending UFAs... AND for the Thrashers to contend for the last playoff spot until the very end.

23. (27) Carolina Hurricanes
The Canes are hot! Winners of four straight, if it weren't for such an unbelievably bad start, Carolina would be looking to add to this team rather than sell off their free agents-to-be.  Matt Cullen was moved today, and a few others are extremely likely to be moved before March 3rd.  The Hurricanes will be back in contention next year, just a more youthful version of the team that made the ECF in 2008/09.

24. (16) Calgary Flames
After winning a pair of games last week, the Flames got back to losing again.  Calgary has enough forwards to ice two teams, but none of them seem to be able to score.  The team looks frustrated.  The Sutter upstairs ain't gonna fire the one behind the bench.  How long until fans start calling for both brothers to go?

25. (24) Columbus Blue Jackets
Hitch is gone, and so is the disastrously soft defensive play.  The Jackets have won  three in a row by shutting down their opponents.  Rick Nash has found the sticks with the goals in them again.  Will Filatov be back after the break to tantalize the Columbus faithful with his skills as well? New Coach Noel may have some bad suits, but he has his team playing well.

26. (25) New York Rangers
Super sniper Marian Gaborik has not been able to find a way to get injured during games, so he took drastic measures to make sure that he missed some time due to a practice injury.  All kidding aside, the rangers need the tanking Devils to find their lone victory in February. Lundqvist had to make 41 saves in that game to make it happen. The Rangers still are not getting consistent scoring.  Will Sather find anyone else to unload his big cap players on now that Gainey is gone?

27. (21) Florida Panthers
Five straight defeats have prompted another Florida sale. Randy Sexton announced that no player is unavailable for trade, and that he is ready to start over... again in South Florida.  Injuries have hampered the Panthers.  Booth missed significant time and now Nathan Horton is sidelined with a broken leg bone.  Would this story be different if they could keep their top guns on the ice together?
28. (26) New York Islanders
The Isles have gone cold again.  It looked for a while like they might contend for a playoffs spot, but that seems much less likely now.  The Isles are looking to retool their blueline.  Brendan Witt, the SUV killer, passed through waivers and Andy Sutton could be moved at the deadline.  The team also has some goaltending assets which they can use to bolster their defense.

29. (29) Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is competing every night, but the wins are not always there.  Brian Burke looks like he is just a few moves away from completing his overhaul of the roster. No playoffs in year one of the Burke area, but they show up for the fight, just like he wanted.
30. (30) Edmonton Oilers
The good news?  The Oilers are undefeated at home in February AND they snapped their long road losing streak by winning in Los Angeles on Thursday.  The bad news?  the season isn't over yet.  Edmonton will attempt to sell off every high-priced vet on the roster.  However, the tricky part will be finding another team to take them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Montreal Continues Season of Woe

Les Canadiens began their 2009 off-season with a massive amount of cap room and near limitless hope for renewal by their fervent fanbase.

Then the spending began. Rather than rehash each move made this off-season, let us summarize by mentioning that all of their fans hopes were dashed when the team started things off by trading for one of the worst contracts in NHL history in the form of Scott Gomez.

GM Bob Gainey did what amounted to nothing less than a favor to the NY Rangers when he risked much of Montreal's future on a player that had severely underperformed since his monster '05-'06 season in New Jersey.

The Candadiens other signings were only marginally better and the games began. After floundering much of the season and discovering that Carey Price, once thought to be the team's franchise goaltender, either stinks or isn't yet ready for prime time, Gainey resigned as GM.

Pierre Gauthier succeeded Gainey and must feel the pressure to "right the ship."  However, Gauthier started by trading away the team's second-round pick in 2011 for Dominic Moore.  Now, the selection is for next season's draft and Moore is a nice third line player, but he is also a guy that no one wanted this summer.

 Does any GM go into a draft hoping that their selection in the second becomes a serviceable third liner?  Why make this deal, and why would you want to start your tenure as GM with a move like this?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 Thrashers: Bird of a Different Feather

Atlanta traded their franchise cornerstone Ilya Kovalchuk. You've heard about that, no?  In return the team receive a pair of younger players that can pitch in now, a top prospect, but not the top prospect, and a first rounder. 

Thrashers fans may not have been thrilled with the return, but, if not, what did you hope for in a rental situation?

Once Kovalchuk was dealt, it was/is only a matter of time until most, if not all of Atlanta's impending UFAs are traded away.

Another number one pick by the Thrashers, goaltender Kari Lehtonen, was traded to the Stars for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick.  Conversely, Thrashers fans should be universally happy about this deal.  Lehtonen has career numbers that indicate that he can play; however, he has become so injury prone that he cannot be counted on.  Lehtonen had no appeared in a single game this season for the Thrashers.  He had become of little use to the team, but in return Atlanta received Dallas' top prospect and an additional draft pick.

Next up?  Defenseman Pavel Kubina and forward Colby Armstrong. Both will be in high demand, particularly Kubina who will fetch another attractive return. Speedster Max Afinogenov, whom the Thrashers picked up off the scrap heap, could also be dealt, as could Slava Kozlov.

What makes all of these moves unusual?  The team is still contending for a playoff spot.  GM Don Waddell has had the unenviable task of trading away the franchise, functioning as a deadline seller, while trying to bolster the team's remaining core and adding pieces to prepare for the stretch drive to the post-season.

It's a lot, and the amazing part...he just might do it. 

All is not lost in "Blueland".  Teams could do a lot worse that to build around Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian.  Atlanta has long-term pieces in Oduya, Hainsey, Antropov and Bergfors (who will be a RFA).  Waiting in the wings are Cormier, Vishnevskiy and Klingberg.

They will enter next season with a bevy of draft picks, young players and cap room galore.  Could they chase Kovalchuk again in July?  Maybe they use the cap room to sign a franchise netminder by paying for Evgeni Nabokov and don't forget super sniper Patrick Marleau, who is just one year older than Kovy will be an UFA also.

It just might be a fire sale is just what this franchise needed.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Power Rankings

Remember, you can also see our rankings at:

The Capitals cast their shadow over the rest of the league.  The Kings climb, as do the Senators. Calgary and Boston keep slipping, while there are signs of life in Carolina!

1. (3) Washington Capitals
The Caps have won a staggering twelve in a row!  They are not just winning but dominating each contest. The scary part: Ovechkin doesn't need to score for Washington to put up offensive numbers.

2. (1) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks stay near the top. Patrick Marleau continues to stay with the league leaders in goals, while his high flying teammates support him on the scoreboard nightly. The Sharks sacrificed some depth on their blueline in the off-season and are starting to get concerned as they head toward the stretch.  Look for them to make a move soon to bolster their D.

3. (2) Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks continue to impress.  They bring the same intensity against every opponent.  In some circles, questions still hang over their goal tending, but why? Niemi and Huet have been excellent all season long.

4. (11) Los Angeles Kings
Winners of eight straight, tying a club record, the Kings are smoking hot! Anze Kopitar has come back to life since Smyth returned to the lineup.  Doughty, Simmonds and the whole crew have really stepped up and L.A. is proving that they are a legit contender in the West.

5. (6) Phoenix Coyotes
It wasn't supposed to be like this.  Not this season.  Yet, the Coyotes keep rolling along.  Five wins in a row, despite losing Scottie Upshall.  Coach Dave Tippett should have his name engraved on the Jack Adams already.  Shane Doan has been Captain Extraordinaire.  Phoenix is not going away.

6. (9) Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh looks inspired again.  Crosby looks like he is after the Rocket Richard trophy for his collection. Malkin is back on track.  The Penguins want to win the division and it looks again like it may be within reach.

7. (8) Vancouver Canucks
Although he hasn't lit up the scoreboard, the Canucks have been white hot since the return of Pavol Demitra. They have hit a mini skid in February and are deadly at home. Vancouver looks like they will have to battle to the end with Colorado to keep that advantage in the post season.

8. (13) Ottawa Senators
Another streaking team, Ottawa has put together eleven in a row.  Vancouver thought they had the best team in Canada title sewn up, but the Sens have other plans.  Solid defense and great goal tending have pushed them to another level.

9. (4) Buffalo Sabres
Did we just mention great goal tending? Miller has been the standard of excellence in net this season, but the end of January and early February has been unkind to Miller and the Sabres. Buffalo is still in firm control of the division, which will guarantee them a top three seed, but the team will need to find itself again after the break.

10. (5) New Jersey Devils
The Devils have really struggled scoring goals lately.  Hopefully for them, the newly acquired sniper Kovalchuk  will be the cure for what Ilya's the offense.  (Sorry, couldn't resist)

11. (7) Colorado Avalanche
The Avs weren't supposed to be here either.  Even though they have suffered through a rough patch as of late, they will still be keeping things interesting by battling Vancouver to the finish.

12. (10) Nashville Predators
 Patric Hornqvist is good! Who would have believed that Nashville would be ahead of Detroit and keeping them at bay?  The Preds keep finding ways to win and could be a real headache in round one.

13. (12) Detroit Red Wings
It has been an awful season by Red Wing standards.  It appears that they are close to getting healthy again.  Will the Mule be able to kick down the door to the playoffs? As we head to the stretch, we will see if this team has really lost it, or if injuries just steered them off course for a while.

14. (18) Anaheim Ducks
The Ducks are beginning to play the kind of hockey everyone believed they would all along.  The New Year gave them new life.  They unloaded an unhappy Giguere and are moving forward in a positive direction.

15. (25) Dallas Stars
 Dallas has played a much more solid team game since mid January and are getting contributions from their leaders on each unit.  Alex Auld has done a decent job in replacing the soon to be move Turco. Financially troubled owner Tom Hicks is exploring a possible sale of the team. It's worked so far for the Coyotes situation...

16. (15) Calgary Flames
Trades or no trades, Calgary has struggled mightily, beating only bottom feeders Edmonton and Carolina since their January 9th win over the Canucks.  No more blaming Phaneuf and Jokinen... now what?

17. (20) Minnesota Wild
Guillaume Latendresse keeps showing them how it's done in the 'sota.  Latendresse will put up career number this season even if he has a massive letdown after the break... but not likely.  His acquisition shook the Wild out of their early season funk, and they keep climbing upward.

18. (17) Philadelphia Flyers
Dead in the water in December, the Flyers caught on to what new Coach Laviolette's system.  They have slowed a bit since, but are in the hunt again.

19. (26) Tampa Bay Lightning
Anther team that is rising and facing potential ownership change... what a formula! The Lightning are playing sound defensive hockey, but mysteriously struggle to score most nights.  Will the new owner actually deal Vinny???

20. (22) St. Louis Blues
Same ol' Blues.  Keep the score low.  They are just good enough to stay in the hunt, but not good enough to secure their place.  Aging forwards could be dealt at the deadline to bolster their younger core players for the future.

21. (23) Florida Panthers
David Booth is back from his head trauma courtesy of Mike Richards, but the streaky Panthers have lost another top flight forward in Nathan Horton thanks to a leg fracture.

22. (24) Montreal Canadiens
Les Habs have lost Cammalleri for six weeks.  "Backup" net minder Halak has been stellar and they will need him to be if Montreal has any hopes for getting to the post-season. Plekanic, who's great season has been one of the few bright spots for Montreal this year, becomes an UFA in July.  Will the Habs be able to re-sign him, or will he be dealt to a contender?

23. (21) Atlanta Thrashers
Thrasherland is reeling from the Kovalchuk trade.  They received a barely acceptable return for the franchise's best player.  Maybe they hope to re-ink Kovy after July 1, and they then would have received some free goodies fron New Jersey along the way.
24. (27) Columbus Blue Jackets
Also in the news this week for firing Coach Ken Hitchcock.  The Jackets have played slightly better lately.  Maybe a new voice in the locker room is what this young team needs.

25. (16) New York Rangers
The Rangers O checks out one night, the D the next.  Plagued by inconsistent play even King Henrik can't save this team from it's dismal season.  the Rangers have to be thrilled with the play and health of Marian Gaborik.  The team has plenty of young talent waiting in the wings... if only Sather had not taken up so much cap space with the Drurys and Reddens, etc...

26. (14) New York Islanders
Another streaky club, the Isles are on one of their "bad" streaks.  losers of six straight.  Putting blueliner Witt on waivers isn't gonna fix much.  No worries, inevitably a "good" streak is on the way.

27. (29) Carolina Hurricanes
Eric Staal was made Captain.  Since then both he and the team have ripped it up like a bunch of... uh... Hurricanes! February has tripped them up a bit, but they closed out January by winning four in a row!  Did they even win four in a month prior to the New Year? Well, they did win five in December!

28. (19) Boston Bruins
What is up with these Bruins? One win in their last ten games.  Injuries keep setting them back... but one win in ten? A looooong rest during the Olympic break might be just what the doctor ordered for Boston.

29. (28) Toronto Maple Leafs
New Year = New Team.  The Leafs sent more than a handful of players packing to land Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere.  Their new faces had a fantastic start in a shutout win over New Jersey.  How long can the new guys keep it going?

30. (30) Edmonton Oilers
Two wins in February!  Don't get your hopes up Edmonton, the Oilers still stink.  Yet, if they can get anything out of their impending fire sale, and couple the return with a shiny, new #1 overall selection, hope will return for the 2010-11 season.  Woo Hoo!

Not Breaking Down the Kovalchuk Trade

Everywhere you look, there are sites "Breaking down the trade".  We are not going to do that in this space.  Rather than analyzing what each component of this deal means to each club, and then trying to decipher who wins, etc... Hockey Plumber would like to take a look at this trade and ask a few questions.

In exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk, defenseman Anssi Salmela and a swap of 2010 second rounders, the Thrashers acquired defenseman John Oduya, forwards Niclas Bergfors, the more infamous than famous, Patrice Cormier and the Devils 2010 first rounder.  Got it? Good.

Obviously, New Jersey's offer was found to be most appealing to Don Waddell.  Just before the transaction, the Thrashers GM was forthcoming with the details of the contract offer that was made to the star winger that created an impasse.  Would you not love it if he were also forthcoming about the details of the other offers from L.A., Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and the surprise entrants St. Louis and Minnesota?

Of course that kind of information will never be shared, but how fantastic would it be for hockey fans to be able to comb through the other offers that were found to be less appealing?  Did L.A. offer J.J. and Frolov?  Did Philly insist that Atlanta take on Briere's albatross contract, or the same from the Rangers with Redden's inflated deal?  Just what exactly did the Blues and Wild propose?

While the Thrashers fans secretly hope for Kaptain Kovy to come back after July 1, the Devils fans are rejoicing tonight.  No doubt there are diehards, in Newark and beyond, scratching out new forward line combinations and giggling to themselves about their new hired gun... and even some that have started congratulating themselves on a possible Gold Medal and Stanley Cup 1-2 combo for Marty before he receives his rocking chair at center ice in the Prudential.

Those same Devils fans are mulling over the same questions that we all are:  Will Kovy accept playing the defensive game that their system demands?  Or will Coach Lemaire loosen things up a bit now that they have a bona fide sniper?  Will it matter?

The Devils improved themselves offensively, but the question that should be asked: Although they gave up the second least amount of regular season goals in 2008/09, wasn't it the Devils that got bounced by Carolina in Round One of the Playoffs last year by leaking 4 goals in three of their four losses?

Then rewind one more season.  Those same stingy Devils twice yielded 4 goals and even 5 goals two more times in losing to the Rangers in Round One as well. 

Who cares how many goals will Kovy score, the real concern will be how many will he PREVENT in the 2010 Playoffs?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Return for Kovalchuk

Per Kevin Allen's Twitter:

Atlanta Thrashers receive Oduya, Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a 1st-round pick for Kovalchuk

Kovalchuk A Done Deal?

From Spector's Hockey

USA TODAY's Kevin Allen reports via Twitter he's been told Ilya Kovalchuk will be dealt to an Eastern Conference team tonight and is awaiting confirmation the deal is completed.

TSN's Darren Dreger reports it won't be the Boston Bruins or NY Rangers as they're believed out of the bidding. He also said it's rumored the Montreal Canadiens might've gotten into it although he said there's no confirmation of this. They're still awaiting word from the Devils and Flyers.

Dreger saying FSN claiming Kovalchuk is headed to the New Jersey Devils.

Thoughts on Kovalchuk, Columbus, Olympic Hockey and... Other Stuff

No teams has better stock to offer for Kovalchuk than Philadelphia.  If the Thrashers can land Jeff Carter and literally, nearly anybody else from the Flyers organization, Atlanta scores a major victory! Consider that Carter is only 25 years old, is fantastic defensively, deadly on the PK and scored 46 goals last season and comes at a very reasonable cap number.  Carter does not have a no-movement clause to worry about, and with his addition there is no reason to push for a top level defenseman and a pick/prospect in addition.

Philly has expressed interest in Kovalchuk. If we were Don Waddell, we would be fixated on making a Carter deal happen.

The firing of Ken Hitchcock in Columbus was long overdue.  Hitch was a victim of his own success with the Jackets.  His disciplined style pushed Columbus into the playoffs last season for the first time.  If seems that his plays then looked back at last season and believed that they were responsible for their good run and tuned the good ol' coach out from the onset.  A guy like Tony Granato might be a great fit for this young team.  he would be demanding of the players, but without the generation gap.  i.e. Nikita Filatov would get a chance to learn from his mistakes while playing with the top six.

We made Russia our early favorite to win gold in Vancouver after looking at their "Murderers Row" top two lines.  However, at second glance Canada just has too much depth to favor anyone else.

Defending gold medalists Sweden without the Mule or the very vocal Mikael Samuelsson have to be expected to drop a few notches.  The US wasn't going to win with Komisarek and Martin, let alone without them.  Crosby will cross another thing on his to-do list this year.

  • Hockey Plumber says that J.S. Giguere will be waaaay more popular in Toronto than Dion Phaneuf this time next year.
  • The Carolina Hurricanes will sell some pieces off at the deadline and be better off for it next year.
  • Dallas will try to make major moves too, but will do more damage than good.  I've read a lot of reports that they have been dangling some of their young talent (Benn, Fistric and Neal) looking for some other team's puck moving defensemen.  They will be sorry giving up on any of their own guys.
  • Anytime Glen Sather does something smart... like dumping Gomez and turning his salary slot into Marian Gaborik... he is bound to make at least two really bad moves. Watch for Slats to at least try to give away some of his young talent for a quick "fix" at the deadline.    

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flames Keep Dealing: Starting To Look Like "Morans"?

In a deal which was reported nearly 24 hours early, Calgary shipped Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust to the Rangers in exchange for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. The trade supposedly was held up because the Flames wanted to have Jokinen on hand for last night's game.


If true, the strategy worked about as well as the Flames have played lately.  Jokinen and the rest of the Flames were ineffective, as the team lost for the tenth time in their last eleven games, getting shutout by visiting Philadelphia.

After this trade, it is evident that there is a plan in place in Calgary: Pray to still make the playoffs this season and then start over.

Jokinen wasn't working in Calgary, but they exchanged him for a malcontent in Kotalik, who essentially went AWOL in New York.  As a bonus, Kotalik has one more year at $3 million.  The Flames did acquired a hard working, "character guy" with decent hands in Higgins. Yet, he was having an off year with the Rangers and they had to package in Brandon Prust who was an energy guy/fighter/fan favorite, making it a wash.

At the conclusion of the season Calgary will have 8 regular forwards and 5 blueliners under contract.  They will have to figure out what to do with forwards Rene Bourque, Dustin Boyd, Craig Conroy, Eric Nystrom, tough guy Eric McGrattan, and nearly all of their recently acquired players: Ian White, Chris Higgins, Matt Stajan and Jamal Mayers.

All of those guys are not coming back and the Flames run the risk of having, in retrospect, traded Dion Phaneuf, Olie Jokinen, Brandon Prust, Fredrik Sjostrom,  hulking prospect Keith Aulie for essentially  Ales Kotalik and Niklas Hagman.  White will become a RFA, so they likely will retain him but, come July, will their fans look back fondly on what the team got out of these deals?

Not likely.

Monday, February 1, 2010

NHL Trade Talk

One team's old, stale, dead weight contract, is another's shiny, new... dead weight contract. No?

March 3rd is our favorite sports day. To borrow the Puck Daddy's term, it's "Hockey Christmas"! There are a ton of outlets speculating on the names that are likely to move at the NHL trade deadline. Names and reasons are bantered about, but they all seem to focus on the seller motivation and the potential bounty that those deals may yield. 

However, we want to take a closer look at some of those players and ask what would be the buyers motivation for the transaction.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers
Kovalchuk is the big name potentially on the market. If GM Don Waddell decides that he must be traded, it should trigger a number of deals to reinforce their remaining core. Kovy becomes a UFA after July 1.  It has been talked about that his agent is looking for a max contract type deal. He is entering his prime and should be seeking the most money that he can get, while he can get it.  However, there maybe three teams, as currently configured under the cap, that could pay max money. Atlanta incidentally is one of them. Kovalchuk is a true sniper, but is not always active as a backchecker. I ask, would you want your team to pay out Ovechkin money for a forward that doesn't score quite as much as the original Ov8, and regularly does not support the defensive side of the ice?  ... or furthermore, would you want your team to be forced to clear out other salary to pay him?

Colby Armstrong and Johan Hedberg, Atlanta Thrashers

If the Thrashers are forced to deal Kovalchuk, the sale will be on for any and all upcoming UFAs in Atlanta.  Dealing Kovalchuk may be a PR nightmare, but in the long run, it just may be a good thing for the on-ice product.  Armstrong and Hedberg both will become free agents after the season and Waddell should be able to get a decent return for either of them.  Armstrong is a fierce competitor and a fantastic third liner that can heat up and punch in his fair share of goals, as evidenced by his 22 goals last season.  Hedberg has been an ideal backup netminder.  Teams looking for insurance policy during the stretch drive could do much worse than the Moose! Hedberg is having an excellent season posting 12 wins, a 2.54  GAA and SV% of .916 and 1 shutout.  Both are playoff type players, who come at a nominal cost.

Ray Whitney, Carolina Hurricanes
Who doesn't want a hard nosed, gritty playoff veteran that can score in bunches? There is much speculation surrounding Whitney. The rumor is that Carolina is asking for a first round draft pick for this prized rental.  It's a steep price, but considering the market that will court the Canes for his services, all it takes is one team, no?  Just a few days ago it was thought that the disgruntled J.S. Giguere and Dion Phaneuf would be difficult to move because of their lofty price tags, yet one team took them both on.  Whitney will be a hot commodity at the deadline, but giving up a top selection for what could amount to a mid-tier rental winger, may not prove to be a wise choice.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, Toronto Maple Leafs
Didn't we just mention Toronto?  With the Phaneuf and Giguere deals the Leafs may not be in such a hurry to deal Poni, who has been one of the teams more consistent offensive players this season. Yet, if Burke doesn't see a place for him next season, he is a big body winger with decent hands and a very manageable cap number for the rest of the season.  If they are still looking to deal, the Leafs will be trying to recoup draft picks expended on Phil Kessel.  We don't see Ponikarovsky fetching a first round pick, but he does have considerable value. He is a consistent 20+ goal scorer who seems to improve a bit each season, he is not afraid to shoot the puck and plays a decent defensive game as well. Note the fact that he is one of the few Leaf forwards with a plus rating... honestly it says a lot considering how badly Toronto has been outscored this season. Nearly ten years his junior, Poni is a better trade value than the more highly touted Ray Whitney.

Lubomir Visnovsky, Edmonton Oilers
Visnovsky has a $6.5 million cap hit and has not been the same since his seperated shoulder and subsequent surgery to repair his labrum. What more needs to be said?  Two years ago he was an asset as a goal scorer in L.A., but after his shoulder boo boo, he scored only eight times last season and although he has nine more thus far this season, his salary is atrocious! Why take on someone else's money pit? (see Scott Gomez) To his credit Visnovsky is responsible in his own end.  He is one of the very few Edmonton players with a plus rating, which is a stellar mark on this awful defensive club.

Sheldon Souray, Edmonton Oilers
What could be said of Souray is almost a repeat of his teammate Visnovsky.  He has a $5.4 million cap number.  However, after suffering through an injury marred '07-'08 campaign, he had a big time season last year, but has struggled mightily this season.  Unlike Visnovsky, Souray is a liability in his own end, but bringing hulking size and a pure cannon of a shot.  Again, we wouldn't want to do Edmonton any favors and take on another overpriced blueliner, unless a team was confident enough that they could surround him with others who could make up for his defensive indiscretions and had plenty of room under the cap... can you say New Jersey or bust?

Marty Turco, Dallas Stars
Just two seasons ago Turco was willing his team to the Conference Finals.  Back then his unorthodox style and fashion conscience masks were endearing to the Dallas faithful. Yet, after a disastrous season last year, and only marginally better this season, the Stars do not seem to have much use for him any longer. He has been benched in favor of Alex Auld lately.  Turco becomes an UFA on July 1 and could be had on the cheap.  At this point, he would be a low risk addition to any club seeking a strong backup for the stretch run.  Additionally a change of venue could be just what Turco needs to rediscover his knack.

Raffi Torres, Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus is mired in a very disappointing season and will be motivated to move one of their few tradable upcoming UFA commodities in Torres.  After showing some serious promise early on with Edmonton, Torres has dealt with numerous injury problems and has not been able to recapture his former scoring touch.  By Blue Jacket standards, he is having a decent season, although he did spend some time out of the lineup again due to injury.  He has a relatively small cap number the rest of the way and he could be of some help to a legit contender in need of a power type winger.  He is a classic boom or bust rental, that should not cost all that much to obtain.

Other players that could be on the move:

Jaroslav Halak, Montreal Canadiens
Although there has been much talk about Halak being moved, why would the Canadiens trade away their best goaltender?  he has thoroughly outplayed Carey Price this season.

Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames
We predict that he will be traded in a multi-player deal well before the deadline to Toronto.  Kidding, just seeing if you were paying attention!

J.S. Giguere, Anaheim Ducks
to Toronto also! see Phaneuf above.
Matt Cullen, Scott Walker, Andrew Alberts, Carolina Hurricanes
All part of the anticipated Carolina fire sale.  Cullen and Walker are hard working forwards with plenty of playoff experience.  The Canes really like what they have seen from young blueliner Brett Carson and would like to give an extended look before he becomes a RFA.  Moving Alberts, who has one year remaining on his deal would be a logical choice, as he is very affordable and defensively sound, which will attract more than a few buyers at the deadline.

Players that may not be likely to move, but teams will inquire about due to their impending UFA status:

Saku Koivu and Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim, Maxim Afinogenov, Atlanta, Derek Morris, Boston, Marek Svatos, Colorado, Jere Lehtinen, Dallas, Jordan Leopold, Florida, Alexander Frolov, L.A., Tomas Plekanec, Montreal, Dan Hamhuis, Nashville, Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa, Sergei Gonchar and Jay McKee, Pittsburgh, Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis, Alex Tanguay and Antero Niittymaki, Tampa, Kyle Wellwood and Willie Mitchell, Vancouver, Brendan Morrison, Washington

Don't forget Vinnie Lecavalier because, well, he is always talked about!  Note to the Lightning: Trade him before other teams discover that he "just don't got it anymore!"