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Off Into the Sunset...

by Chewbacca 17. June 2009 05:09

As we look back at the 2008-09 season, it's interesting the note the players that no longer appear on the stats sheet.  Let's take a look at the notable retirees, as well as those that you may have missed who have played their last shift in the NHL.  (At least until they come out of retirement next year.)

 

The Hall of Fame Class:

 

Jaromir Jagr - We have to be hesitant to include him, because he still has plenty of hockey to play.  It's just questionable whether he'll choose to do it on this side of the ocean.  Either way, he's a sure Hall of Famer, who had a remarkable, if not storybook, career.

 

Peter Forsberg - It's hard to gage when he actually stopped playing, if in fact he has.  Forsberg may be remembered more for the games he didn't play (which were many), than the amazing things he did when his many ailments allowed him to lace up his delicate skates.

 

Dominic Hasek - Seems to be the year of the flaky Europeans.  Hasek is one of the top goalies of all time, and a no brainer for the Hall of Fame.  He is one of the few players who you can apply the phrase "pull a …" and fill in the guys name.

 

Glen Wesley - Borderline candidate for the Hall, but soldiered through a remarkably long career, winning a Stanley Cup along the way.

 

The Gone, but sure to be back Class:

 

Ray Emery - may be returning as soon as next season to aggravate a new fanbase.  Gives Sean Avery a run for his money in terms of off-ice antics.

 

Alex Radulov - took the money and ran off to Russia, but he's sure to be back as soon as that well runs dry.  Again, could be as early as next season.  This guy still has a lot of goals to score in the NHL.

 

Eric Johnson - missed the scoresheet due to a golf outing gone awry.  Obviously has a long career ahead of him, which will resume this fall.

 

Fading off into the Sunset:

 

Martin Straka - had a great run in Pittsburgh and a decent finish in New York.  The Rangers missed his scoring this season, but it's hard to imagine seeing him back in the league at his age.

 

Glen Murray - enjoyed some fantastic seasons on Joe Thornton's wing, but faded steadily after he left. 

 

Geoff Sanderson - Never got the recognition he deserved, mostly because he spent his career playing for losing, small market teams.  He donned 9 different NHL sweaters and registered 700 points.

 

Stu Barnes - Was a fan favorite wherever he played.  Particularly in Pittsburgh, Florida and Dallas.  Also spent time with the Jets and Sabres during his 1136 games in the league.

 

Dallas Drake - Finally won a Stanley cup in his last of more than 1000 games played in the league.

 

Josef Stumpel - Played in almost 1000 games and recorded a career high 79 points with LA in '98.  Stumpel moved on to the KHL last season to end his career.

 

Alexei Zhitnik - Zhitnik was the #1 defenseman for the Sabres for a decade, before bouncing around in the end.  He also moved back to Russia last season.

 

Chris Simon - One entry from the "will not be missed" category.  Simon was known more for his poor sportsmanship than his contributions over his 15 year NHL stay.

 

Bates Battaglia - Won't be missed by many, unless you're a Canes fan.  Was a key player in the 2002 run to the finals, and has always been a favorite at Landshark Hockey

 

Bryan Berard - showed guts by giving back an insurance settlement to return to the NHL with one good eye.  Marian Hossa's high stick cut short a potential Hall of Fame defenseman's career.

 

 

And who could forget about…

Ladislav Nagy, Randy Robitaille, Bryan Smolinski, Martin Gelinas, and David Vyborny

Where's the Hate?

by Chewbacca 8. June 2009 13:33

You would think that this year's Stanley Cup Finals had all the makings of a series to remember.  First rematch in decades.  The two most talented teams going head to head for a second straight year.  MVP candidates, Norris Trophy finalist, the top players in the game.  Add to it, the storyline of Hossa changing allegiance, and you should have a remarkably intense series.  But it's just not there. 

 

While games 1-4 have been hard-fought, they have been quite forgettable.  The series as a whole has been a major let down after the dogfights and battles of the first 2 rounds.  There's one thing that this series is lacking that it has no excuse for… Where's the hate?  The fans are feeling it (thanks largely to Hossa).  The media has tried to drum it up.  But when it comes to the teams, there's just nothing there.  The superstars and front offices of these two franchises have been groomed and polished to a fault, which keeps you out of trouble, but generates very little interest from a fan perspective.  When it comes to class, you just can't top Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Crosby, Bylsma, etc.  But it's just down-right boring.  Any question that gets asked in regards to the other team results in a short statement of praise for the opposition.  I can't imagine the players are actually this unemotional about this series, they've just been trained too well on how to respond.

 

So while the hockey world can be pleased with the fact that we're witnessing the best two teams in the world do battle, don't be surprised when the casual fan yawns and turns on SportsCenter to catch the latest NFL off-season rumors.  It's time for NHL stars to let down their guard and trash talk a little.  Maybe then, we'll all get a little more excited about the product on the ice.

Conn Smythe Favorites - Part 5

by Chewbacca 29. May 2009 04:07

Conn Smythe Trophy

The Conference Finals are over and we're down to the final 2.  And I'm not just talking about teams left in the playoffs.  Barring a miraculous performance over the next 2 weeks, the trophy has come down to Crosby versus Malkin.   The two superstars are tied in points with 28.  That's already the highest point total for any player in years, and the finals haven't even begun. 

 

 Statistics wise, it's a wash.  Sid is better in plus minus, but that statistic is a joke.  He's won many more faceoffs, which is a big factor.   Malkin holds the edge in game winners (3 to 1) and OT goals (1 to 0).   These stats obviously mean a lot in the playoffs.

 

So, you really have to go beyond statistics to make an informed decision.  Having watched every game of the post season that these guys have played, it's still too close to call.  Game to game you get a different lean.  If the trophy were awarded today, flip a coin and it comes up Malkin.  Mostly because he's offered more excitement in recent games.  That could all change when the finals begin.  So, forget Crosby versus  Ovechkin.  The real story of the 2009 playoffs will come down to Crosby versus Malkin for the Conn Smythe.

 

However, since history shows that the Trophy is often awarded to the wrong guy, we'll take a peek at the top guys who are next in line.

 

  1. Franzen - Though he doesn't have a prayer to catch Sid or Geno in points, he does have an outside shot at finishing with more goals and more game winners.  If he comes up huge with a couple of OT goals in this series, he may actually get some talk.
  2. Osgood - About the only justifiable way to hold the trophy back from the big 2 is to give it to a goalie.  This seems to happen few years when the voters can't decide between more deserving skaters (Cam Ward in 06, Patrick Roy in 01).  Osgood's numbers are good enough to merit the thought, although they're not nearly as good as they were during last year's run.
  3. Lidstrom - At almost a point a game from the back end, the case could be made for Lidstrom, especially given his dominance all over the ice.  The fact that they fared well in 2 games without him doesn't support his cause; however, if he misses a couple games to start this series, Detroit will falter, and voters should take notice of his absence.
  4. Ovechkin - Sure, they've never given the trophy to a player who didn't make the finals, but hey, they gave him the All-Star breakaway trophy when he didn't score a goal and they're going to give him the league MVP trophy, despite trailing Malkin in every important category, so why not let the Great 8 love fest be taken to the next level?

The Osgood Rap

by Chewbacca 28. May 2009 09:16

It's time.  Time for Redwings fans and haters alike, all around the world, to find a new whipping boy.  Chris Osgood just doesn't qualify any more.  (Not that he ever should have in the first place.)  It's a rap that I never understood.  Why, for over a decade, has Osgood been classified as a 2nd-rate goalie, the weak link on a Detroit powerhouse.  He's easily the most underrated, underpaid, over-criticized player of the past 20 years.  With yet another trip to the Cup finals on his resume, even the most cynical Osgood basher has to wake up and find a new target.

 

Consider the stats: 3 Stanley Cups victories and counting.  Several All-Star appearances.  10th all time in wins.  2nd goalie ever to score a goal.  Career win-loss: 363-195.  Career GAA: 2.43.  It just doesn't get much better than this.  Ever.  And yet, he continues to be one of the lowest paid goalies in the league.  It seemed that after making the All-Star team again last season, and receiving serious consideration for the Conn Smythe after posting a 1.55 GAA in last year's Cup win, that the talk would let up.  But the haters came back again this spring.

 

After taking his team to yet another Stanley Cup Final showdown,  it's time to move on.  In fact, it's time to start building Osgood's case for the Hall of Fame.  Maybe after he's inducted, people will stop blaming him for Detroit's next 2 game losing streak.

 

So, if by some blessing from God, Detroit loses to Pittsburgh in the finals, let's hope the blame goes to Datsyuk for scoring only 1 goal, or Chris Chelios for being a cranky old jerk who can't skate and coughs up the puck every time he touches it, or the Dan Cleary, for not being European.  Just leave poor old Osgood alone this time.

Fantasy Review: Career Years

by Chewbacca 22. May 2009 09:07

As the 3rd round of the playoffs in underway, we are entering that stressful time of the year, where, for the first time in 8 months, we have evenings with no hockey.  To help us through this trying period, let's take some time to look back on a few top 10 lists from the 2008-09 NHL season.  Better yet, as Nigel Tufnel would say, this one goes to 11.

 

So, here are the top 11 players who had career years in 2008-09:  

 

  1. Zach Parise - Through his first 4 NHL seasons, Parise has been on a steady climb up the scoring sheet, going from 32 to 62 to 65 points, before skyrocketing to 94 this year.  His goals have likewise risen, landing him at 45 this season.  He has officially reached the elite echelon of scorers, but don’t be surprised if he busts the 100 point mark next year and sets another career high.
  2. Jeff Carter - Carter's career has proceeded on schedule, the same as Parise's.  Carter also took a major jump in his point total this season, going from 53 to 84. Even more impressive was his goal total, climbing to 46 and threatening to take the Rocket Richard trophy.  Look for Carter to stay in the 40 goal range over the next few seasons, as he enters the prime of his career.
  3. Tim Thomas - Thomas qualified for tops on this list 2 years ago, when he busted out with a 30 win performance.  He bested those numbers this year by racking up 36 wins in only 54 games.  His 2.10 GAA and .933 save percentage make him a lock for the Vezina Trophy.
  4. Mike Cammalleri - Although he only topped his previous high by 2 points, it seems like more given his lousy 47 point performance from a year ago.  Sitting next to Iginla for a season certainly contributed to his impressive 39 goal, 82 point season.
  5. Dennis Wideman - Anyone caught drafting Dennis Wideman last season would have been laughed at.  Pass on him next year, and you'll be laughed at.  Wideman jumped to 50 this season and logged a ton of minutes playing for the surprisingly high-scoring Bruins.  This dwarfs his previous high of 36 points set a season ago.
  6. Todd White - It's unusual for a player to set a career high in his 12th season, playing for his 5th team.  But that's just what White did, going from 37 points in 08 to 73 points in 09.  Fantasy owners shouldn't expect this to happen again, especially if Kovalchuk ends up leaving town sometime soon.  Count on White dropping back into the 50 point territory next season.
  7. Martin Havlat - Havlat finally came through on his promise of being a top-notch scorer this season, primarily because this is the first time he topped 80 games played.  Havlat registered 29 goals and 77 points, and was the top scorer on a high-powered Blackhawks offense.  As long as he stays healthy, expect him to build on this high mark next season and beyond.
  8. Ryan Suter - Suter is another fourth year player who has climbed steadily each season.  Suter topped out at 45 points this year, but do not expect that to be the end.  He is quickly becoming an elite defenseman, and may soon be challenging Mike Green for tops in scoring among defense.  If he had more scoring help in Nashville, he might have done so in 09.
  9. Scott Clemmensen - If this had been written in March, Clemmensen would have been at the top of the list.  Unfortunately (for him), Marty Brodeur had a record to break, and Clemmensen found himself in the minors, despite keeping the Devils on top with his work in net.  This season, he set a career high with 40 games played and 25 wins, compared to a record 3 wins in 04 and 05.  Though he won't be replacing Brodeur permanently, he may have earned a look from another club or two.
  10. Rick Nash - Slowly and steadily, Nash keeps topping his own bests, at least in points.  He still hasn't gotten back to the 41 goals he scored as a sophomore, but he came stinkin' close this year with 40.  He's now in the habit of setting other players up as well these days, which accounts for his 39 assists (compared to his sophomore total of 16).  Nash may never go much higher than a point-per-game, but expect him to remain in the 40 goal range for the next 5 seasons or more.
  11. Jamie Langenbrunner - Langenbrunner has been playing NHL hockey since 1994, but never has he approached a point-per-game production until this season.  He topped out this year at 69 points, besting his previous mark of 60, set in 2007.  If you cashed in on his sweet run this year, count your money and go home, as he won't get near this mark again.

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