Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Post Trade Deadline NHL Power Rankings

The trade deadline passed yesterday, making it time for an updated power rankings. The previous rankings were done shortly after the all-star break based on a formula of PTS per game, goal differential, and PTS in the last 10 games. Personal bias is not a factor, this is a mathematical equation. We shall see how things work out after the deadline. The 2012 NHL trade deadline was boring and a major disappointment.

 1. NY Rangers (last rank #2): It would be safe to start engraving Henrik Lundqvist's name on the Vezina trophy. The team is probably smart not to have paid the hefty price for Rick Nash. They aren't deep enough at D to move one of their young guys for Nash, so perhaps the best deal they made was making no deal at all. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. They do have some trouble scoring.

 2. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #4): Kassian might end up being a good NHL player, but he's not Milan Lucic, and Cody Hodgson has been a valuable contributor on the team this season. The deal does not improve the Canucks this season, so it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to punt backwards if your window is right now. Most of the callers to Vancouver sportstalk radio yesterday afternoon were upset that Hodgson was moved, but I'm sure all Kassian needs to do is fight a few times, score a goal or two, and women will start throwing their underwear at him.

3. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #3): Detroit is not even a .500 team when Datsyuk is out of the line-up, but he should be back soon. The Wings did not make a significant deadline deal, except unloading Mike Commodore and recalling blue chip prospect Brendan Smith from the AHL. Kyle Quincey counts as their deadline deal, and that did fill a significant need. As a Wings fan I was hoping they would be able to get a serviceable forward who could score a few goals in the playoffs. Steve Simmons Tweeted "When the Red Wings give away a defenceman, you usually don't want him. See Bret Lebda." Steve, they also gave up Kyle Quincey for nothing then paid a 1st round pick to re-aquire him.

 4. St. Louis Blues (last rank #5): If Halak and Elliot were not splitting time, either one of them would be in contention to win the Vezina. As it stands, they may have to settle for the Jennings. If you can figure out how to score on this team, they are beatable, but that is easier said than done. All they did at the deadline was move minor league goalie Ben Bishop for a 2nd round pick. Again, if it ain't broke...

 5. Boston Bruins (last rank #1): Slipping. This team had been lights out for most of the season, but suddenly they are struggling. Krejci (2), Lucic (5), and Seguin (5) have combined for 12 PTS in 36 combined GP in Feburary. 0.3 PTS per game avg from those 3 guys in the last month does a lot to explain the team's dip.

 6. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #8): I thought they would add a player at the deadline as they often do, but with Malkin carrying this team on his back and running away with the MVP, who do they need?

 7. Nashville Predators (last rank #6): A 1st round pick is a heavy price to pay for a Paul Gaustad rental, but him in addition to Hall Gill and another Kostitsyn they probably did the most to improve their team in the short term. Steve Simmons did Tweet "Don't know what the question is but the answer is never two Kostitsyn brothers." The team was likely trying to send a message to Suter and Weber that they are committed to winning. As a Wings fan, I'm not happy that the two teams are currently slotted to play in the first round of the playoffs.

 8. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #19): Wow, this is one of the hottest teams in hockey and adding Antoine Vermette only makes them better. And yet, I'd be willing to wager money that they do not win a playoff series. I'm not a Mike Smith believer, even if he has put together some impressive stretches this season.

9. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #7): Slowly slipping. They might win a playoff series, but I don't have much confidence in this team. They are sticking with the philosopher poet Ilya Bryzgalov, which seemed to surprise some people, but honestly what choice did they have? With that monster contract, you either live by the Bryzgalov or die by the Bryzgalov (ponder that one Ilya). Personally I'd rather give Bobrovsky the majority of starts.

10. Ottawa Senators (last rank #22): This has been quite the roller coaster season for Sens fans. Two weeks ago people were starting to write them out of a playoff spot, and since then Erik Karlsson may have clinched the Norris trophy and personally turned the team around. Jason Spezza has experienced a resurrection. Ottawa has been trying to sell Spezza for the last two years and could not find a buyer. They aren't selling anymore.

11. New Jersey Devils (last rank #11): This is going to be a difficult team to play in the first round, even if they did overpay for the services of Marek Zidlicky (whose last name sounds like a sexually transmitted disease). Having said that, Zidlicky happens to be on my fantasy team, so here's to hoping he shoots the lights out in Jersey!

12. Dallas Stars (last rank #15): They just keep hanging around, and a strong week by Kari Lehtonen in the absence of Jamie Benn has them holding on to a playoff spot in a heated race for 8th in the West. They were never really sellers, they need a playoff spot for the revenue. $9 lower bowl tickets? Jesus Christ, I'm considering moving to Dallas...

 13. San Jose Sharks (last rank #9): If Daniel Winnik is the answer, what is the question? Some people really like TJ Galliardi, but Jamie McGinn is a steep price to pay. This team has a chance to win 1 or 2 rounds in the playoffs, but the window for Thornton and Marleau is starting to close. If they want to hoist a Cup, it had better be sooner rather than later.

14. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #28): They are on fire, and the young guys are clicking. Downie has been channeling his inner Stamkos since arriving in the Rocky mountains. They are currently sitting in 9th place, otherwise tied with 8th place Dallas. O'Reilly, Landeskog, and Jones deserve a lot of credit. Could be a playoff team. Traded Winnik and Gallardi for Jamie McGinn. Great move.

15. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #10): I don't think this team is winning a playoff series, despite their solid core. Unless Cory Crawford starts stopping pucks, they aren't going anywhere. They did not make any significant deals, so they are going to plow forward with what they've got.

16. Washington Capitals (last rank #13): This team absolutely sucks right now, aside from winning 2 games in a row. The Caps beating the Maple Leafs on Saturday seems to have had a traumatic effect on my Leaf fan buddy. The turtle race for 8th in the East currently favours Washington over Toronto.

 17. Florida Panthers (last rank #16): Not a team I like. If they make the playoffs, they will lose in the 1st round. Jerred Smithson and Wojtek Wolski aren't going to change that.

18. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #25): Were Perry and Getzlaf ever really available? Probably not, but they are better and in contention. Jonas Hiller seems to have finally recovered from his vertigo and the team is winning hockey games. The GM was likely trying to light a fire under his players with that trade talk earlier in the season, but I never believed Perry or Getzlaf were going anywhere.

19. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #14): Is Jeff Carter the answer? For Jack Johnson and a first round pick, he better be. The Dustin Brown rumours never made any sense, as he's a bargain at $3.2M. Teams should not be looking to move great contracts, especially if they fancy themselves a playoff contender.

20. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #24): Not sure why the Jets would move Johnny Oduya when they are in playoff contention. That deal did not improve the team this season, bringing in a 2nd and a 3rd pick next year. That being said, holding on to Oduya wasn't going to win them a playoff series, and unloading him is not going to make a difference in their hunt for a playoff spot. So on some level, it does make sense. A 2nd and 3rd is a nice price, but do you want a backwards move if you want to win right now?

21. Calgary Flames (last rank #18): We'll see how it goes. Normally this team is active near the deadline but this year they did nothing (unless you count adding "the Squid" Mike Calamari a few weeks ago). This is a bubble playoff team at best that will not win a round if they manage to squeeze in.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #12): I had been led to believe that Keith Aulie was really good and a future star. Aulie being shipped out of town was a bit of a shock, but they had to move a D man and he was going to be tough to re-sign. Better to move Aulie than Schenn, and at least Ashton Kucher (err Carter Ashton) is a power forward with medium offensive upside. Thought Burke would do more. Playoffs are a must, this team has holes, and Burke did nothing. Not smart. Leaf Nation may slowly be starting to turn on the beloved Burkie.

 23. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #27): Getting better playing well under Muller. They will win some games against teams fighting for a playoff spot, but this is not itself a playoff team. They do have several good young players, so the future is much brighter for Canes fans than say the good people of Columbus.

 24. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #20): I hate to splash cold water in the face of Habs fans who were Tweeting all sorts of Scott Gomez trade ideas, but not going to happen. That is one of the worst contracts in hockey. Sniff the smelling salts people. It was stupid to acquire him in the first place, and finding a sucker (err buyer) to take him off your hands is about as likely as receiving that million dollar cheque from Kenya you've been eagerly anticipating.

 25. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #29): Big winners on deadline day. A 1st round pick for Gaustad? Great. Cody Hodgson, smart add. This team should want to start winning soon and are in a position to contend for a playoff spot next season. Hindsight being 20/20, that Ville Leino contract was a bad idea.

26. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #21): Steve Yzerman loaded up on depth D men. Okay, hopefully this makes them better but they needed a goalie bad. Roloson is a nightmare. Steve Stamkos is ridiculously good, but I'm giving the Hart to Malkin (sadly I don't have a vote, but I should have a vote).

27. Minnesota Wild (last rank #17): How the mighty have fallen. The Wild were in first place in the NHL in late November, but the wheels have popped off the bus. This isn't even a playoff team, let alone the best in the league. I'm almost ashamed to have declared Yeo coach of the year in early December. Right now the Jack Adams is up for grabs.

 28. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #23): Hemsky, 2 years $10 million dollars. Okay, whatever floats their boat, but that is too much for that guy. Eventually they are going to need to replace Khabibulin, and I'm not convinced that guy should be Devin Dubnyk.

 29. NY Islanders (last rank #26): Struggling, but the team has a future. Nabokov has been playing far better than anyone expected, but they still need a goalie of the future. The number of Dipietro believers must get smaller and smaller every year.

 30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): They have set their re-build back 4 years at least. This GM shouldn't have a job in this league. Outing Nash for asking for a trade was a stupid move considering he's still on their roster.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hall Gill Traded To Nashville For Blake Geoffrion

Today the Montreal Canadiens traded UFA to be Hall Gill to the Nashville Predators for Blake Geoffrion and a second round draft pick. Certainly Habs fans of an older age will experience happy feelings at acquiring Boom Boom's grandson, but realistically his comparables are Jim Slater, Dave Steckel, and Steve Moore. He may become a useful NHL player, but his jersey will never hang from the roof. The 2nd round pick has roughly a 1/3 chance of playing at least 100 NHL games and a 1/5 chance of playing at least 400. The team acquired a future 3rd liner (maybe a low end 2nd liner) and a 19% chance at 400 NHL games for a rental. Not bad. I'd say this works out well for both teams.

Montreal is right to be selling. Good luck finding a buyer for Scott Gomez! They are probably stuck with that one...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Historical NHL Trade Deadline Analysis

Here is a review of NHL Trade deadlines going back to 2007. There are often deals made that help teams get to the Stanley Cup finals. Sure the deadline has failed to live up to the hype more often than not, there are still a number of impactful and significant deals that are made.


This was a dull trade deadline day. Not many deals of significance.

*Edmonton got a 1st and a 3rd (with Colton Teubert) for Dustin Penner. Nice haul.

*Vancouver sent a 3rd round pick and a guy for Max Lapierre, then sent almost the same deal to Florida for Chris Higgins. Both guys played key roles in getting Vancouver to the Stanley Cup finals.


Not much of consequence happened at the 2010 trade deadline. There were a large number of minor deals that few will ever remember and whose effects are already forgotten or will never be felt. The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks acquired Nick Boynton, but he would only go on to play 3 playoff games. Not a single first round pick changed hands.

*Lubomir Visnovsky was shipped from Edmonton to Anaheim for Ryan Whitney, a trade the Ducks have won largely due to injury.

*The Lightning traded Jeff Halpern to LA for Ted Purcell and a 3rd round pick, which was a terrible trade for the Kings. The 3rd rounder looks like a write-off, but Purcell was a great acquisition. Halpern had 2 PTS in 22 GP in a Kings jersey, Purcell has scored over 100 PTS in a Lightning jersey.


This year there were many more substantial moves than 2010. Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup, and picked up Bill Guerin

*Calgary traded a 1st round pick and Brandon Prust to Phoenix for Olli Jokinen and a 3rd round pick.

*Ottawa traded Antoine Vermette to Columbus for Pascal LeClaire and a 2nd round pick. Pascal went on to play 51 sub par games with Ottawa, where Vermette has scored 150 PTS for the Blue Jackets. Ottawa's best hope is that the pick, goaltender Robin Lehrner pans out.

*Philly traded Scottie Upshall and a 2nd round pick to Phoenix for Dan Carcillo, a trade that has never made much sense.

*The Leafs traded Antropov to New York for some draft picks, but the jury is still out on that one.

*Edmonton traded Erik Cole and a 5th round pick to Carolina for Patrick O'Sullivan and a 3rd round pick. Sully scored 40 PTS in 92 GP as an Oiler, where Cole scored 82 PTS in 139 GP for Carolina.


*Marian Hossa was traded from Atlanta to Pittsburgh for Angelo Esposito, Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, and a 1st round pick that turned into Dalton Leveille (who is in his 4th year of college, drafted out of tier II junior). This did not hurt Pittsburgh as much as it could have, because Esposito looks like a bust, and Armstrong and Christensen are 3rd liners. Pittsburgh made it to the finals.

*San Jose sent a 1st and Steve Bernier for Brian Campbell. The pick turned into Tyler Ennis. Bernier never developed into much more than a 4th line player. It was a great 1st round for Buffalo scoring Ennis and Tyler Myers.

*Brad Richards traded to Dallas for Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, and goaltender Mike Smith. Smith never developed into the long term solution that the team had hoped for and are still struggling with today. Jokinen was by far the best player the Lightning acquired in the deal, and they shipped him off to Carolina the next year. Jussi has scored 157 PTS in 230 GP for the Hurricanes.

*Detroit added Brad Stuart for a late 2nd round pick and won the Stanley Cup.

*Pittsburgh added Hall Gill from the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2nd and a 4th. Pittsburgh made it to the finals.

*Chicago traded Tuomo Ruutu for Andrew Ladd, which would help them win a cup in 2 years.


*Anaheim added Brad May and won the Stanley Cup.

*Montreal got Gorges and a pick that became Max Paccorietty to San Jose for Craig Rivet.

*Dennis Wideman went to Boston and Brad Boyes went to St.Louis.

*The rest of the trades included some big names, but none of the deals had any real significance.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Byron Bitz Is Not Cam Neely

If you have spent any time listening to Vancouver sportstalk radio over the last week, you might be convinced that Byron Bitz is the next Cam Neely rather than another Jeff Cowan. He has already been anointed with the nickname "Lord Byron", prompting me to scream at my radio "come on man!" The two hosts were marvelling at his size, grit, and offensive gifts. With 21 PTS in 90 career GP, this man is the next Todd Bertuzzi, a power forward with unique skills, which is I'm sure why Florida declined to make him a qualifying offer. Now that he seems recovered from his groin, hip, and hernia injuries that sidelined him for all of last season and part of this season, he's ready to be all that Vancouver wants him to be.

You know who Cam Neely is, but you might not remember Jeff Cowan. One game he scored a goal and a woman threw her bra out onto the ice, and the city went bananas for "Cowan the Brabarian". Cowan finished with 11 PTS in 88 games played in a Canucks jersey. He hasn't played in the NHL since, and is currently earning a paycheque in Germany. Vancouver is the same fan base that elected Rory Fitzpatrick to the NHL all-star game, though his NHL career ended 19 games after his 58 game stint with the Nucks. I'm not a Canucks hater, but this is not an entirely rational fan base. They get sucked into irrational hype at the drop of a puck. Is Byron Bitz the next great power forward? I won't hold my breath.

If You Hate Basketball, This Is The Worst Time For ESPN

Since ESPN's regular programming rarely delves into hockey, now is the worst time for those of us who hate basketball to tune in to their programming, on any platform. In the two months from the Super Bowl to the start of the baseball season, I completely tune out ESPN because they spend 90% of their time talking about the NBA or NCAA basketball, neither of which I care about. To make matters worse, the Team 1040 and 1040 in Vancouver syndicate several ESPN programs, so during my 3 hours of daily commuting, I'm bombarded with basketball.

This is a hockey market, but our two sports only radio stations are brutal. Vancouver needs TSN radio bad, where they actually talk about hockey beyond the Canucks.

Tiger Woods Teams Up With Tony Romo

Watching highlights from day 1 of the Pebble Beach pro am, it was cool to see Tiger golfing with Tony Romo, and I plan to tune to watch day 2. This is a year where I have predicted that Tiger will win a significant tournament (if not a major championship). Not sure that a pro am counts as substantial, but it would be nice to see Tiger and Tony win this thing. Tiger shot a 4 under 68 in his first round, which put him in 15th place with 87 golfers breaking par in pristine conditions. Romo is a secretly good golfer, who beat Tiger on 3 holes, but Woods obviously carried the group, as is standard in a pro am.

This may not be as exciting as the Happy Gilmore - Bob Barker pro am, which was filmed at Furry Creek near Vancouver (where I have golfed), but is still good television. Tony, show them you're a Tiger! Hey, that has extra significance considering that Romo has the same first name as Tony the Tiger who pumps Frosted Flakes. Isn't it ironic?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't Blame Spygate

To all those people saying that the Patriots have not won a Super Bowl since the "Spygate" controversy, you might be correct, but suggesting that is because they can no longer spy on their opponent is ludicrous. In the five years heading into Spygate, the Pats went 66-25 (including playoffs), since then they have gone 68-20 including an entire season without star QB Tom Brady. Their winning percentage was 72% in the 5 years prior when they were filming their opponents, and their win percent is 77% since the cameras have been taken away. They are a better team without them, which makes it ridiculous to say they only won those 3 Super Bowls because they cheated. Anyone making that claim either has an irrational hatred of the Pats or hasn't crunched the numbers. If Spygate made them champions, why'd they get better when the cameras were put away?

Also, don't think the Pats were the only team trying to pick signs. The Pats got caught because a jaded former employee ratted them out, but guaranteed other teams were doing that or something similar. Since putting the cameras away they have been a better team. Yes they were 3-0 in Super Bowls before and 0-2 after, but they were inches away from being 5-0 in those games. Saying they only won because of Spygate is on par with saying Brady only won because he was with Brigette Moynahan. That's as plausible a theory, that it's all Giselle's fault.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Post All-Star NHL Power Rankings

The All-Star game is over a week behind us and now begins the drive to the playoffs. The rankings below are not subjective to my personal opinions, but rather the result of a mathematical equation whose only bias is margin of error. The list never deviates from the formula, which this week was modified to include success in the last 10 games, where PTS per game (minus shootouts and overtime loss points) and goal differential still carry the most weight.

1. Boston Bruins (last rank #1): Simply the best, better than all the rest.

2. NY Rangers (last rank #2): It's too bad that Wade Redden would not clear re-entry waivers if called up, because the Rangers would be a better team if they could. Though I'm not sure how kind the AHL experience has been to his game.

3. Detroit Red Wings (last rank #4): The next two weeks without Howard will be a challenge. No team should ever have Ty Conklin as their starting goaltender, which helps make the case that perhaps nobody should have him as a back-up goaltender. Joey MacDonald lost to Phoenix tonight, so the team will be counting the days until Howard's return.

4. Vancouver Canucks (last rank #3): To listen to Vancouver Sportstalk radio you'd think the team was mired in a terrible slump, but really it has just been a streak of mediocrity. Nothing to worry about. Jannik Hansen has fallen off the map and the team really misses Sami Salo.

5. St. Louis Blues (last rank #5): When I added TJ Oshie to my fantasy team a few weeks ago, he arrived with significant expectations that he has fallen far short of. That being said, their goaltending has been so ridiculously spectacular that any scoring they get is just gravy.

6. Nashville Predators (last rank #11): This is a playoff team. There is no doubt. One of the hottest teams in hockey with one of the best goaltenders in hockey. They have a 50-50 chance of winning their first playoff series.

7. Philadelphia Flyers (last rank #6): Still holding despite key injuries all season. Like Pittsburgh, their support staff has made key contributions to winning hockey games.

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (last rank #9): Evgeni Malkin is my Hart Trophy favourite at this point in the season. Letang is back, Fleury is playing outstanding, and there are rumblings Crosby could be back soon. Stay tuned, they could be a contender.

9. San Jose Sharks (last rank #7): They are a strong team with a great chance at going 2 rounds in the postseason. Marleau and Clowe are clicking right now. It seems like somebody on that roster is always producing. They are deep enough to endure multiple cold streaks at any given moment in time.

10. Chicago Blackhawks (last rank #8): When you make Sam Gagner look like the best player the league has seen in 30 years, there's a problem. Their goaltending is struggling as this starts to feel like a team who will coast into the playoffs and lose in the first round. Tough to say of a team led by Toews, but it is what it is.

11. New Jersey Devils (last rank #16): They're hot, and they are a playoff team. If Parise goes anywhere, it will be on July 31st. Ilya Kovalchuck has 9 PTS in 3 GP already this month. This is a team that I would not be enthusiastic to play in the first round. Capable of producing an upset.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs (last rank #15): Back to back shutouts by James Reimer has the Leafs rolling again, as they start to cement their hold on a playoff spot. If they play New York or Boston in the first round, they will lose. If they play Florida or Washington, maybe there's a chance.

13. Washington Capitals (last rank #10): The best team not currently sitting in a playoff spot, these guys should make it to the big show and lose in the first round. Some rumours have Semin heading to Detroit to play with Datsyuk, but I'm not convinced the Wings want him. Besides, Bertuzzi and Franzen have been playing great with Pavel this year.

14. Los Angeles Kings (last rank #13): This team has way too much talent to have this much trouble scoring. Perhaps Mike Richards was not a bright idea, as his 26 PTS in 45 GP has to be considered a significant disappointment, but not quite as catastrophic as Penner's 12 PTS in 41 GP. Do they miss Ryan Smyth that much?

15. Dallas Stars (last rank #12): Jamie Benn is working his way into the NHL's elite tier. If this team makes the playoffs, it will be on the shoulders of Benn and goaltender Kari Lehtonen. They don't have a lot of pending UFA's of significant value, but they might consider shipping out a Souray or Grossman at the right price. They'll try to make the playoffs though. They need the money.

16. Florida Panthers (last rank #17): The worst team currently leading a division in points. They've got Brian Campbell playing 27-30 minutes most nights, really making him work for that $7M. Still two of Florida, Washington, and Ottawa will make the playoffs in my estimation.

17. Minnesota Wild (last rank #18): Marek Zidlicky the healthy scratch, though you can make the argument that this is a better team without him in the line-up. Regardless of their fast start, they are who we thought they were, a bubble playoff team.

18. Calgary Flames (last rank #22): Sarich, Jokinen, Stempniak, Moss, Hannan, and Jackman could all fetch a price if Calgary decides to be sellers. Right now they are 4 PTS out of a playoff spot, and surely they will fight with the Wild until the bitter end.

19. Phoenix Coyotes (last rank #19): This teams has a lot of assets to sell if they decide to sell; Doan, Whitney, Pyatt, Rosizval, Aucoin, Sauer, but they are struggling to stay alive as a franchise so there will be pressure to fight until the end. It doesn't do the team short term good to have a fire sale, and right now they have a short term outlook.

20. Montreal Canadiens (last rank #23): They are slowly getting better, but this is not a playoff team. Any team who actually trades for Scott Gomez at that price and that term is doomed to future failure. That's a team killing contract.

21. Tampa Bay Lightning (last rank #27): Don't look now but the Lightning are heating up and finally playing good hockey. Matt Garon has taken over the goaltending duties, and they are getting the most out of his skill set. Still, Garon is not the future. If Luongo flames out in the playoffs again, look for a possible trade on draft day.

22. Ottawa Senators (last rank #14): Currently rated as the worst team holding down a playoff spot. They are currently on a league high 6 game losing streak, as they fortunes seem to have completely collapsed leading into and following their city hosting all-star weekend.

23. Edmonton Oilers (last rank #25): Now that Sam Gagner has established himself as an elite player in this league, this team should be ready to rumble. With a player the calibre of Sam Gagner, this team can't lose, ever. He should fetch 3 first round picks on the open market. Of course, this is a sarcastic rendition of what the pundits were saying after is 8 point night.

24. Winnipeg Jets (last rank #21): They'll fight for the playoffs until the bitter end, but this is not the year. It might be useful to sell some assets and build for the future. They have some quality assets in place, like Evander Kane, who will be a star in this league.

25. Anaheim Mighty Ducks (last rank #28): They are slowly climbing out of the basement, but still the playoffs is an unlikely scenario. Getzlaf, Perry, and Ryan will all likely stay where they are. That trade talk was most likely the team trying to light a fire under their asses. Nobody wants to leave Anaheim. It's Cali baby!

26. NY Islanders (last rank #29): Showing some improvement and perhaps providing Islanders fans with some hope for next season. If DiPietro is a write-off, then they need Al Montoya to have a future, but it's not looking all that good. I can't remember a goalie as devastated by injuries over a longer period of time than Rick.D. Maybe he needs to change his style of play?

27. Carolina Hurricanes (last rank #26): I don't know how much this team expects to get for Tuomo Ruutu. The most I'd trade is a 2nd round pick and a C+ prospect.

28. Colorado Avalanche (last rank #20): They had been on a roll entering 2012, but the bottom has fallen out and they suck again. The hot and cold streaks of this team have been remarkable. If I were the GM, every player on this roster would be available, except maybe Landeskog and E.Johnson. I'm not sure I'd want to pay Matt Duchesne's asking price because I'm not sure he's worth that much.

29. Buffalo Sabres (last rank #24): Do you think that owner is pleased that he decided to fork out all that money in the off-season and bump the team budget right to the cap? The GM should probably be afraid for his job. That Leino contract was a bad idea.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets (last rank #30): The first pick will do this team some good, with any luck.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sam Gagner's 8 PTS Expose Problem In Chicago

Lost in the luster of Sam Gagner's rare and remarkable 8 point game this week, was that the Chicago Blackhawks were on the receiving end. This team 2 years removed from hoisting the Stanley Cup has now lost 5 straight and looks lost out on the ice. In an 8-4 rout, Toews, Kane, and Keith all had even +/- ratings with Bolland, Shaw, and Leddy bottoming out with -3s. This is a team that had a goaltending controversy earlier in the season when Emery was hot and Crawford was average, now both guys suck. So they didn't want to pay Antti Niemi (the goalie who actually won the Cup) $3.8M per season and they shipped him off so that they could pay Corey Crawford $2.6M? Not a bright move.

Do they miss Brian Campbell? There's no doubt they were happy to have Florida relieve them of his massive $7.1M contract (and the next 4 years of it for a 32 year old), considering Campbell's contract was a major contributing factor to Niemi and Byfuglien being moved out of town after their championship. However, Campbell is having an all-star season and is a big reason that Florida is competing for a playoff spot. Is he earning $7 million dollars? Maybe not, but he's a useful component and an excellent puck moving defenseman.

Ultimately the Blackhawks are 29-17-7 and 11 PTS ahead of the 9th place team in the west in February. They will make the playoffs; Toews, Keith, and Kane are outstanding players who will challenge for individual awards for years to come. But this team is not nearly as good as they were 2 years ago, and should not be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The fact that the struggling Edmonton Oilers just lit them up like a Christmas tree, and a mediocre player like Sam Gagner went on a run where he seemed to produce a goal every time he touched the puck; I wouldn't be in a rush to draft Blackhawks in my playoff pool.

For the record, I completely disagree with Sam Gagner getting all 3 stars, even for the best offensive game since the 80s. Eberle and Hall each had 4 points and made significant contributions to Gagner's output. ESPN's boxscore awarded Hall the 2nd star and Eberle the 3rd, which was the correct move.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Do The Toronto Maple Leafs Have A Goaltending Controversy?

It is February, the Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in a playoff spot, and they should be able to keep Florida, Tampa, and Winnipeg in their rear view mirror. There is a segment of Leaf Nation convinced that the team is in the midst of a goalie controversy, and those would be the people who set their expectations for James Reimer at the highest peak. In January Gustavsson was 7-3-1 with a 2.08 GAA and a .926 save percentage, ergo he has been the starting goaltender. Reimer has struggled since the concussion, with a few scattered good games and a number of bad games. However Gustavsson's quality play has made it difficult for him to get back in the net and get into a rhythm. It's not like Toronto is experiencing anything like the madness in St.Louis with two red hot keepers in Halak and Elliot.

If you happened to think that Reimer would challenge for the Vezina this season, then you would be more likely to think there is a goalie controversy in TO right now. But there is no controversy, just a team with two young goalies playing the hot hand. That's how it should be if you are fighting for a playoff spot. Go with whoever is getting you wins, and if that's neither than alternate starts until somebody gets hot. It is a standard formula used successfully for decades, across generations. Goalies tend to take longer to develop, often with greater variance in their performance than position players. You need to be patient with young goalies and know how to use them properly. You could even argue that the best course would be to send Reimer to the minors to get starts, if the nature of his contract allows him to be sent down without clearing waivers.

Last night Gustavsson blew a large 3rd period lead and Toronto lost. Tonight Reimer is starting against the same team, and has a shutout after two periods. So what happens if Reimer starts playing well and Gustavsson starts sitting on the bench for a few weeks because of 1 bad game? Alternating starts is the best way to keep both guys fresh so long as both are winning hockey games.