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Showing posts from September, 2006

It's never too early to hand out awards...

As we head into the final countdown before NHL Opening Night next week, it's time to log those all-important predictions before the first puck drops. Yesterday I posted my calls for divisional winners, so now it's time for the regular season awards: Presidents' Trophy (Best Overall Record ): In a close one, I'll go with the Carolina Hurricanes here - more due to the weakness of their division than anything else. Art Ross Trophy (Top Point Scorer): Jaromir Jagr , New York Rangers Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Evgeni Malkin , Pittsburgh Penguins Frank J. Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward): Kris Draper , Detroit Red Wings Hart Memorial Trophy (Most Valuable Player): Chris Pronger , Anaheim Ducks Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year): Jim Playfair , Calgary Flames James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top Defenseman): Chris Pronger , Anaheim Ducks Maurice Richard Trophy (Top Goal Scorer): Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers Vezina Trophy

Time to break out the Magic 8-Ball...

We're less than a week away from Opening Night of the 2006-7 NHL Regular Season, so it's time to start laying some predictions out there. Today's dose - your division winners: Atlantic: I'll take the New York Rangers in a typically tight race. They've made some nice additions, and if Henrik Lundqvist can avoid a sophomore slump, the Rangers should fare well. Northeast: This division is a bit of a mess, as Ottawa and Buffalo have each lost key components from last season. Boston and Montreal have some encouraging new faces, but plenty of holes yet to fill. Toronto is a bit of a basket case, so not much different there. In the end, I'll go with the Ottawa Senators to repeat, based on their superior offensive production, which over the course of a regular season should gain them consistent points. Southeast: I keep waiting for the Thrashers to make that great step forward, but until their defense steps up, it's just not going to happen. Signi

Get your draft on...

Hear ye, hear ye, come all ye loyal and true hockey fans to what has got to be the oldest hockey pool on the net, Gilles Carmel's Usenet/WWW Hockey Draft . It's a wonderfully simple setup that is now in its 19th year , attracting participants from around the globe. Hop over and draft your team, already!  

"C" ain't for Crosby, that's good enough for me...

They say that sometimes the best trades are the ones that don't get made, and to stretch that a bit, I'd say the Pittsburgh Penguins just named the best possible captain for the upcoming season. The Penguins should be better than last year certainly, but they are still not playoff-caliber, and naming Sidney Crosby as captain right now, as so many fans desire, would needlessly add to the pressure surrounding him heading into the new season. Countless rookie sensations go through a sophomore slump, so let Sid the Kid continue his on-ice development without having the added distraction of locker room leadership and taking the brunt of the media relations. Remember, Crosby just turned 19: Steve Yzerman was 21 when he was named captain of the Red Wings, while Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky were 22 when they donned the "C" in Pittsburgh and Edmonton respectively. There will be plenty of time in the years ahead for Sid to create his legacy as captain of the Pengui

A day late and a ruble short

In a classic example of closing the barn door long after the horse has bolted, the Russian Hockey Federation has banned Evgeni Malkin from playing for any other team than Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which he abandoned in Finland a few weeks ago. Other than disqualifying him from playing on Russian national teams, it's unclear what possible effect this could have on his near-term future with the Pittsburgh Penguins . Based on recent history , I would think Malkin has more to worry about from unofficial Russian organizations than the RHF.  

If you see a nail, find a Hammer

In light of Bobby Clarke igniting the Offer Sheet War amongst NHL general managers, I'd like to highlight a potential target for another such deal: Dan Hamhuis of the Nashville Predators . Hamhuis is a solid defenseman entering his third NHL season. In 162 games, he's racked up 14 goals and 50 assists, and finished with a respectable +11 plus/minus rating last season. With the departure of veterans Brendan Witt and Danny Markov , "Hammer" is expected to play a major role on what many expect to be a Stanley Cup-contending team. According to The Tennessean , he made $900,000 last year and is looking for a significant raise, but his agent and the Predators remain far apart in negotiations. So who'd be interested in a 23 year old, talented two-way blueliner who logged over 22 minutes a game last season? You'd think teams would be stumbling over each other to make an offer. But let's take a look at some of the obvious candidates: Edmonton Oilers :

Somebody get him a tie and clipboard...

Help me understand something here. The Vancouver Canucks resigned Trevor Linden today, for a very modest salary of $600,000 plus potential bonuses of another $200,000. The Canucks statement contains the usual blurbs about their excitement at bringing back such a critical part of their team. But really, has there been a more consistently overrated player in the last 10 years than this guy? His first 8 years in the league, he looked like the consummate power forward, and was a huge part of the Canucks' run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals . But since a knee injury in 1996-97, his productivity fell off a cliff; he hasn't scored 20 goals in a season since that time, and has usually been on the negative side of the +/- rating. Sure, he still walks and talks like a top caliber player (and served for a long time as NHLPA President), but shouldn't he behind a bench somewhere by now?  

BJ's "Get Carter"

Very interesting news out of Columbus this afternoon, where the Blue Jackets have reportedly signed Anson Carter to a one-year deal for $2.5 million. Columbus wasn't generally discussed as a possible destination for the former Canuck, and whether they are able to resolve the Nikolai Zherdev situation or not, this is a nice addition to a team aspiring to its first playoff berth. It's strange to see a 30-goal scoring forward in his prime get only a $2.5 million deal, when you see players like J.P. Dumont or Mike York in comparison. But the player market is a dynamic one, and at this point, there were few bidders left for Carter's services. You have to wonder if Vancouver was taken out of the running by their decision to retain Ryan Kesler, and once that happened, Carter saw his stock declining further. Either way, it's a nice pickup for Columbus, which should put them solidly in the middle of the Central division behind Detroit and Nashville, but well ahead of Chi

Bobby Clarke, have you been reading this blog?

Normally I'm not a big fan of Flyers GM Bobby Clarke, but over the last couple days he has breathed life into a long-dead aspect of the NHL player market: restricted free agency (RFA). Back in July I mused as to whether GM's would leverage RFA to competitive purposes , and at long last, Clarke yesterday extended a $1.9 million, 1 year offer sheet to Ryan Kesler , a young centerman with Vancouver who scored all of 10 goals last season in 82 games. The salary is more than twice what Kesler was rumored to get from Vancouver in a new contract, so clearly Clarke was intent on putting some pressure on the Canucks to either let the Flyers have him, or soak up some valuable cap space by overpaying the youngster. With Anson Carter still available, that reduces Vancouver's ability to sign both Kesler and Carter - and Clarke would be interested in having one, if not both, in orange & black this fall. This marks the first time an RFA has had an offer made to them since 1999,

Those wacky, wacky, Islanders...

If figures that a day after I post a question about who made the worst off-season move this summer, the New York Islanders stun the hockey world with a mind boggling 15 year contract with goaltender Rick DiPietro . This move is dumb on so many levels, it's hard to know where to start: 1) The Islanders have been hamstrung for years by the 10-year deal they gave Alexei Yashin in 2001. Now they want to lock up a goalie for 15 years? 2) By locking in 15 years of salary, both sides of the deal have taken tremendous risks. If DiPietro isn't one of the better goalies in the game, then the Islanders will overpay for years on end. If salaries around the league appreciate at a decent rate, then within a few years DiPietro will be one of the lower-paid starters around the league, whether he wins a few Vezinas or not. 3) This decision appears to have been made by a committee of front office staff, led by owner Charles Wang. This is always a bad sign for a franchise, let alone

So who crushed your dreams?

Forget all the talk about which teams have made the offseason moves that put them in place for contention this year, and let's focus on the opposite end of the spectrum for a while. 10 years from now, which team's fans are going to look back at this summer and say, "yup, that's when they pretty much killed our chances..." After all, for the diehard fan, the terrible trades and signings are every bit as memorable as the great ones. What Red Wings fan can ever forgive the Adam Oates for Bernie Federko deal? Canuck fans can trace their woes back to the housecleaning trades of early 1998, when Vancouver swept Martin Gelinas, Kirk McLean and Mike Sillinger out of the locker room for basically scraps. Certainly last season's winner in this category had to be the Boston Bruins, for giving up on Joe Thornton and then watching him lead the league in scoring. So who left a turd in the punchbowl for their fans this summer? The nominees are... 1. Mike Keenan m

Don't Cry For Me, British Columbia...

Normally, when a top player leaves his team, whether by trade or free agency, those left behind offer the usual somber platitudes that "he can't be replaced," or that "we all have to step up" to make up for their dearly departed comrade. Not so for Vancouver Canucks center Brendan Morrison ... In this interview with a local paper, Morrison basically said the loss of Todd Bertuzzi could result in increased production for himself, since "when you play with those guys (meaning Bertuzzi and Marcus Naslund ), the tendency is just to get them the puck." I don't know, Brendan, but I'm guessing that Bertuzzi's physical presence helped open up plenty of scoring chances for you as well, and opposing defenses will be able to direct more attention your way now that he's playing on the opposite corner of the continent.  

Bloggers on the March

I wanted to draw your attention to an excellent piece over at Off Wing Opinion that proposes some guidelines for NHL teams to use in issuing press passes to bloggers. Hopefully some best practices can be put in place across the league, which ultimately will help both the NHL and its fans benefit from this still-developing medium. Back in 1997, I wrote columns for one of the early online hockey magazines, which was then called In the Crease . We were fortunate enough to have an editor with connections to the league through a player on the Colorado Avalanche, and I was able to score press passes to cover three fantastic games: Red Wings vs. Avalanche on March 26, 1997 (better known as the Brawl in Hockeytown ), and Games 1 & 2 of the 1998 Stanley Cup Finals . At the time, I was the beneficiary of good relationships and connections that got my foot in the door, and the Red Wings treated me with the utmost professionalism. What's occuring now is the realization that the onli

Mark Bell Makes An Impact

The San Jose Sharks were certainly looking for some wicked hits when they acquired Mark Bell from the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this summer, but I don't think this is what they had in mind. In a nutshell, Bell was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving and hit-and-run after a wreck on Monday. Apparently he was found by police "less than half a mile away" from the accident scene, and cooperated with officers.