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Mid Summer Landshark Hockey Update

by chewy 27. July 2010 14:33
 

Since the Free Agent Frenzy has died down, it's been slow on the news front in the NHL; however, fantasy hockey season will be upon us very shortly.   So, I wanted to give a quick update on what to expect from Landshark Hockey in the coming weeks and months.

 

First off, we'll be releasing a brand new feature in September.  It's a complete Mock Draft module.  To help you prepare for your own fantasy draft, there is nothing better than practice.  I'm only aware of 1 other site that has such a feature, and I think ours will have some unique benefits.  For example, you can draft any time you wish (you don't have to schedule and hope other guys show up).  The Draft will randomly assign draft tendencies to your opponents, which you can override and configure as you wish.  More to come on this in the next couple weeks.  We're looking for Beta Testers who would like to give it an early spin.  If you're interested, email me at chewy@landsharkhockey.com.

 

We're in the process of putting together our fantasy hockey draft rankings right now, which should be available towards the end of August.  We'll be rating the top 100+ forwards, 50+ defensemen, and 40+ goalies, along with commentary to help you prepare your lists.  Blog posts and articles should start coming out in a couple weeks to help you start to formulate your lists. 

 

Speaking of which, we've recently enhanced our Draft Guru functionality to better help you prepare your own draft lists.  We've upgraded the drag and drop capabilities to help it run faster.  More features will be added in the next couple weeks there as well.

 

Fantasy Hockey Drafts will be here soon.  Check back in a couple weeks and we'll be there to help you dominate once again.

Conn Smythe Favorites - Part 2

by chewy 14. May 2010 08:37
 

In terms of excitement and surprise, Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs did not disappoint.  It also presented us with a mixed bag of candidates for this year's Conn Smythe Trophy.  Most of the early favorites have been eliminated, paving the road for some unlikely heroes as we look ahead to Round 3.

 

1. Jaroslav Halak

If Halak can keep this level of play up through another two rounds, we can end the discussion here.  He has put in a performance for the ages in toppling two of the most feared offensive forces in the world.  He enters round 3 with a .933 save percentage.  With every game that goes by, he makes Carey Price look more and more like trade bait this summer.

 

2. Michael Cammalleri

Despite Halak's brilliance, he hasn't done it alone.  Cammalleri managed to outshine the likes of Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin in round 1, then do the same to Crosby and Malkin in round 2.  He should have the offensive stage all to himself in Round 3 to build on his league leading 12 goals.  He needs just 7 more to tie the all time goal scoring record in the playoffs.  The way he's rolling now, he may get there this round.

 

3. Jonathan Toews

Toews has been everything for the Blackhawks this postseason.  From killing penalties to winning faceoffs, he has been a dominant force.  A glimpse at the scoring leaders shows his name on top, with 20 points in 12 games.  The Chicago captain has definitely turned his game up a notch in the playoffs so far.

 

4. Joe Pavelski

The one thing holding Pavelski back so far is the lack of games to pad his stats.  He has a whopping 9 goals in 11 games, but has played 3 fewer contests than Cammalleri.  That shouldn't be a factor in round 3, as he should expect this series to go the limit against the Hawks.  He'll be facing a tough challenge, going up against the Chicago defense, but he's exceeded expectations in every game so far.

 

5. Mike Richards

Richards has taken control of the Flyers destiny, leading them back from a 3-0 deficit to potentially make history in Round 2.  He leads the Flyers with 16 points in 11 games.  Should they pull off the comeback, Richards will gain his spot among the legends.

 

6. Antti Niemi

If the Blackhawks make it past the high-scoring Sharks, you will most likely see his name climb up the list of candidates pretty quickly.  He's been solid in his rookie playoff run so far, posting a 2.57 GAA and .909 save percentage to complement his 2 shutouts. 

 

7. Evgeni Nabokov

Yes, he's turned in a couple of stinkers, but on the whole, Nabokov has given San Jose the goaltending they've needed to get through two tough rounds.  His 2.43 GAA is among the league leaders, and nearly matches Halak in that category.

 

8. Chris Pronger

You can't discount the role that Pronger has played in leading this Flyer team to one of the most memorable comebacks of all time.  In addition to playing to hard-hitting shutdown role against the opponents' top lines, he has managed to put up 4 goals and 11 points in 11 games so far.  Tonight's outcome may depend on Pronger's peformance.

 

9. Joe Thornton

He's one step closer to get those dang monkeys off his back.  For the Sharks to advance to the finals, they'll need Thornton to control the game and put up some numbers.  If he does so, expect him to be near the top of this list after round 3.

 

10. Brian Gionta

If Cammalleri ever starts to slow down, it's no mystery who Montreal will turn to in order to carry the load offensively.  He potted 6 goals against the Penguins and has 12 points in 14 games.

 

 

Note the obvious omission of any Bruins on this list: Should Boston pull out game 7, you can slide Tuukka Rask onto the radar.  Other than Rask, it's been a pretty well-balanced effort by Boston, with no single skater standing out above the rest.

The 17 Year Steel Town Circle

by chewy 13. May 2010 09:37
 

The year was 1993.  Health Care Reform was the big issue dominating news.  In sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates had a losing season and the Penguins were poised to make their 3rd straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Somebody hit the gas on that DeLorean and let's get it up to 88 MPH…

 

Having grown up in Pittsburgh, I've been blessed to see some of the greatest offensive talents in NHL history dominate the score sheet for the past 25 years.  Since 1987, the Penguins have produced the Art Ross Trophy winner in 14 of 22 seasons, between the likes of Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby, and Malkin.  We've also been privileged enough to see them lift the Cup 3 times in that span, albeit never on home ice.

 

However, with such great talent, and great expectations, we've also been witness to 2 of the most surprising and disappointing playoff letdowns of the past several decades.  1993 and 2010.  The similarities are striking and (as a Pens fan), painful to recount.  But in order to heal, we must first face our fears.  So let the therapy begin.

 

After 2 straight Cup victories, the Pens were primed to three-peat in 1993, featuring one of the most talented rosters ever fielded in hockey and coached by the all-time great Scotty Bowman.   Lemieux, Francis, Jagr, Mullen, Murphy, Trottier, Barrasso, Stevens, Tocchett, Naslund… that's 5 current Hall of Famers, and a couple more likely candidates on the horizon.  It was assumed that this cast of all-stars would roll over the low seeded Islanders in the second round, who finished the season 32 points shy of  the 1st place Pens.

 

Fast forward 17 years and the story line sound familiar.  Coming off 2 straight appearances in the finals and defending the Cup in Round 2 against the 8th seeded Canadiens, it was a foregone conclusion that the Pens would roll over Montreal.

 

The two series played out in similar fashion.  The Pens badly outshot their underdog opponent, but came up against a hot goaltender and some opportunistic scoring, while getting inconsistent goaltending on their end of the rink.  1993 featured the 5' 10'' Glen Healy standing tall, as the two teams traded close games down to a game 7 finale in Mellon Arena.  Tom Barrasso was embarassing in that series, giving up 19 goals in the final 4 games.  2010 gave us a much taller Jaroslav Halak (5' 11'') once again standing on his head to frustrate an all-star Penguin lineup into a game 7 let down.  Meanwhile Marc-Andre Fleury struggled, and was ultimately pulled in the final contest.

 

It's hard to say which image will give Penguins fans more nightmares over the coming years:  Dave Volek's half-court slapshot sneaking past Tom Barrasso in overtime, or Sergei Gonchar standing still while Travis Moen skates around him for a short-handed back-breaking 4th goal.  Either way, Pittsburgh fans walk away shaking their heads wandering how such a talented team can fall to such an inferior opponent.

 

1993 and 2010 may ultimately give us something even more significant to remember.  That is, a Montreal roster only good enough to finish 3rd in their division, may be on the brink of lifting the Stanley Cup once again.   And oh yeah - the Pirates are still looking for that winning season.

2013 Hall of Fame Dilemma

by chewy 10. May 2010 15:26
 

There is no doubt that we are looking at a serious turnover in the stars in the NHL.  In the past several seasons, we have witnessed some of the all time greatest players ever to lace up the skates call it quits.  Two of the last three years have featured incredible Hall of Fame induction classes welcomed in Toronto.  The 2004 class was inducted in 07 with the likes of Ron Francis, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier and Scott Stevens.  The talent in that crew was matched two seasons later when 2006 gave us Brett Hull, Brian Leetch, Luc Robitaille, and Steve Yzerman.  While both of those groups will be remembered as two of the all-time great entries, the voters will have their work cut out for them more than ever in 2013, when this year's potential crew comes due. 

 

While perusing the names of possible retirees this summer, just try and pare this list down to four.  Perhaps the committee should consider a rule that would allow them defer a spot by a year or two.  After all, only two players were admitted in 2008.  Maybe we can cash in those vacancies when a class like this comes along.   I've ranked the players in the order that I would place them on my ballot:

 

Niklas Lidstrom

The good news for the other men below him is that he hasn't made up his mind yet.  However, the moment he does decide to hang up the skates and bring an end to his Norris Trophy reign of terror, he will be the first automatic name on the ballot.  No need to list his credentials here.

 

Jaromir Jagr

There was talk that he might be making a return to the NHL next season, but he put an end to that talk by signing with the KHL once again.  Jagr finished his impressive NHL career just one point shy of 1600, which is good enough for 9th all time.  He's 12th all time in goals. He has a couple of Stanley Cups on his resume to go along with 5 Art Ross Trophies, 3 Pearsons, and a Hart.

 

Scott Niedermeyer

You name the trophy, I'll show you his name on it.  (ok, he hasn't won the Vezina.  Yet.)  Niedermeyer is the definition of winner in the NHL.  He's famously the only player to have won the Stanley Cup (4 times), World Junior gold, Memorial Cup, IIHF World Championship gold, the World Cup,  and Olympic Gold (twice).  He has also claimed the Norris and Conn Smythe.

 

Now here is where the debate begins…

 

Teemu Selanne

For my money, Selanne gets the final spot on the first ballot, over a couple of long-standing American icons.  Selanne kicked off his career with a rookie record 76 goal season, which may never be matched again.  Assuming 2010 was his last, he will end his career with 606 goals (17th all time), and 1260 points (35th all time).  His name is engraved on the Cup with Anaheim.  Had he been more healthy, he could have finished in the top 10 of goal scorers.

 

[2013 Hall of Fame cutoff here]….

 

Mike Modano

Modano clearly has the Hall of Fame reputation and credentials.  He just picked the wrong season to retire.  He has Selanne beat in points (1359 - 23rd all time), but falls short in goals (557 - 24th).  He has been a model of consistency in his 20+ seasons, scoring at about a point a game pace for most of his career, and he got his Cup with the Stars.  The one point that puts him slightly behind Selanne is the lack of a memorable, stand-out season.  He has 0 personal trophies on his shelf, and never finished top 3 in goals or assists for a season.

 

Chris Chelios

Admittedly, Chelios is not a fan favorite here.  However, as observer, it's hard to deny his contributions to the game over the past 30 or so years.  3 Stanley Cups and 3 Norris Trophies span his 1651 games played (placing him 4th all time in that category).  Now if we could just get him to shake hands in the playoffs after a loss the way he does after a win…

 

Peter Forsberg

Of course, it seems like he's been retired for 5 years now, but technically, he's never filed the papers until now.  Forsberg leaves the game as one of the greatest "what might have been" stories ever.  His individual stats don't stack up to the other greats, due to the host of injuries he's played through, unless you count it at a per-game basis. His 885 points in 706 games is impressive (putting in him the top 10 of all time in points per game), but not as impressive as his 171 playoff points in 151 games.  He's won the Calder, Art Ross, and Hart Trophies.  He also has two Olympic gold medals and two Stanley Cup rings with Colorado.

 

And for good measure, here are couple other names who would be considered worthy candidates in any other class:

 

Rod Brindamour

Brind'amour is what every hockey player in the world wants to be.  He sits 16th all time in games played, and is around 50th all time in goals and assists.  He won the Cup with the Hurricanes, and has claimed the Selke twice.  Perhaps in an extra year or two, the Hall will free up a spot for Rod.

 

Keith Tkachuk

With so many legends winding down their careers, it would be easy to overlook Tkachuk.  However, there aren't too many names on the all-time goal scorers list ahead of him who aren't already inducted.  Tkachuk finishes his stellar career with 538 goals, placing him 30th.  In case you care, that's more than guys named Mahovlich, Trottier, Perrault, Mullen, and even Jean Beliveau.  Unfortunately for Tkachuk, he spent most of his years on non-playoff teams and never got a shot at the Cup.

Race for the Rocket

by chewy 29. March 2010 15:40
 

With 2 weeks left to go, several of the NHL awards are all but decided.  Dave Tippet is the clear favorite to win the Jack Adams.  Matt Duchesne is a fairly good bet for the Calder.  And who's going to stand in the way of Pavel Datsyuk capturing his 5th straight Lady Byng?   However,  it appears that the race for the Rocket Richard trophy may come down to the final game.  So who's the favorite to capture the goal scoring title?  Let's take a look at handicapping the favorites, in order of the current standings:

 

1. Sidney Crosby (47)

Crosby made it publicly known before the season started that he decided to score more goals.  Apparently, he's just able to decide things and they happen, as he currently sits on top of the league with 47 tallies.  He's a lock for 50 this season, but can he outpace the competition?

 

Games Remaining: 6 (TB, ATL, WAS, NYI, ATL, NYI)

Last 10 Games:  3 goals.  Crosby went on a 7 game dry spell before putting 2 goals on the board against Toronto last night.

What it will take:  Of the top 3, Crosby has one less game, but the competition isn't all that daunting.  With 2 games against the Thrashers and Islanders, there's plenty of opportunity to put up big totals.  The one factor that most affect his chances is the health of teammate Evgeni Malkin.  Crosby's numbers have been significantly better with his partner in the lineup.  If Malkin returns from his foot injury soon, it could give #87 the boost he needs.

 

2. Alex Ovechkin (46)

Clearly, had he not suffered injuries, and multiple episodes of stupid on ice behavior, this race would probably have been decided already.  He's played 10 less games than Crosby, yet sits only 1 goal back.

 

Games Remaining: 7 (OTT, ATL, COB, BOS, PIT, ATL, BOS)

Last 10 Games: 4 goals.  Just like the man above him, Ovechkin has dried up a bit in March.  

What it will take: Ovechkin has one extra game to catch Crosby, assuming he's not suspended again.  His schedule isn't terribly challenging either, as he also gets two shots at Atlanta and a go at Columbus.  Circle April 6th on the calendar, when Pittsburgh and Washington face off.  Both players will be extra inspired.  A few questions from the media leading up to that game may be all the fire Ovie needs to put him over the top.

 

3. Steven Stamkos (45)

The surprise entry in the sweepstakes is young Steven Stamkos.  I guess it's not terribly surprising, as the trend over the past 5 years is that the young guns are running the show.  Stamkos showed in the second half of last season that he would live up to his pre-draft hype.  This year, he's clearly arrived as a superstar and he's right in the running for the goal lead.

 

Games Remaining: 7 (COB, PIT, NYR, CAR, OTT, FLA, FLA)

Last 10 Games: 4 goals.  Stamkos went on a crazy tear at the start of March, then slowed down a bit. He has 3 in his last 4 games, so he's heating back up.

What it will take: Stamkos has the momentum on his side, and the strength of schedule.  He gets a shot at Columbus, Carolina, and finishes the year with 2 matches against a Florida team who will have nothing to play for.

 

4. Patrick Marleau (42)

Marleau shocked the league by tearing out of the gate to start the season.  He was at the top of the pack midway through, but has cooled off a bit in the past couple of months.  He's still within reach of the top, but only if the leaders struggle, get suspended, or are rested in the final week.

 

5. Dany Heatley, Marian Gaborik, Ilya Kovalchuk (39)

Oddly enough, 3 of the men heavily favored to win this trophy before the season started are all lingering at 39 goals a piece.  It's conceivable that any one of these stars can go on a tear, put up a couple of hat tricks this week and find themselves near the top as we close out the season.  The problem is, the leaders won't roll over for them, so don't bet on it happening.

 

 

So who will come out on top?

While all eyes, and most bets will be on Crosby and Ovechkin to battle to the finish, my money is on Mr. Stamkos to be hoisting the trophy in Vegas this summer.  With Tampa most likely being eliminated with about a week to go, his teammates and coaches may give him extra opportunities to pad the stats against some weak competition.  Either way, I'm betting we see all 3 men hit the 50 goal marker, with Stamkos edging them out by 1.

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