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Best of the Brothers

by chewy 9. February 2010 12:47

When you look across the rosters in the NHL, it's remarkable to note just how many brothers there are suited up in the NHL these days.  A quick glance at some of the European Olympic rosters next week with demonstrate just how prevalent the family ties have become: Sedins, Ruutus, Koivus, Lundqvists, Kostitsyns, Hossas, and the list goes on.  With all the blood connections in the league these days, it's hardly even noteworthy to see two brothers face off against each other.  So, the question remains, which set of the brothers represent the best pair (or trio) in the NHL today?  Here are my picks, brother:



9. Kostitsyns (Sergei & Andrei)

Though it's questionable if both brothers will remain in the NHL for long, they're the 2nd best duo playing on the same roster.


8. Kronwalls (Henrik & Staffan)

The Swedish defensemen are two of the hardest hitting players in the league today. 


7. Michaleks (Zbynek & Milan)

Though they play different positions, these big Czech players are still emerging as stars in the league.


6. Millers (Ryan & Drew)

The only goalie / skater combo on the list (since Joel Lundqvist left the NHL).  Ryan obviously carries the weight for these two.


5. Ruutus (Tuomo & Jarkko)

Imagine the scrums at the table with these kids growing up.  Most irritating (and fun to watch) pair on the list.  Tuomo is an all-around good player.


4. Niedermeyers (Scott & Rob)

This may be the last season for both of these long-tenured players.  One's heading for the Hall of Fame, the other is a fine role player in his own right.  Most Cups on this list by far.


3. Koivus (Saku & Mikko)

The Koivu brothers will be key contributors to team Finland over the next couple of weeks.  Both are complete players and great leaders.  Mikko's a little more deadly with his shot.


2. Sedins (Henrik & Daniel)

Though they've never played on separate teams, Henrik proved this season that he can survive (and thrive) without his twin.  Hard to imagine them in different sweaters.  The Sedins may ultimately do battle with the likes of the Espositos, Stastnys, Sutters and Savards as one of the best sets of bros of all time.


1.  Staals (Eric, Jordan & Marc)

Much like the Sedins, the story of the Staals is quickly becoming legendary.  With one more on the way, they could rival the Sutters for sheer quantity of NHL stars.  Eric is already a superstar with a Cup to his name.  Jordan also wears a Stanley Ring and would be a #1 center in almost any town but Pittsburgh.  Marc is a steady presence on the New York blue line, and youngster Jared's fate is yet to be determined.  All told, the Staal family crest gets the top spot for best brothers in the league today.

The Coaching Plank

by chewy 22. December 2009 11:25

It's been a pretty good year so far for job security in the NHL ranks compared to recent history, but nothing lasts forever.  Last season, 1/3 of the teams changed coaches.  This year, (not counting Gretzky "stepping down"), only one coach has been fired so far, and the results of that move haven't been spectacular.  So, it remains to be seen how many more dominoes will fall this season. 


Part of the reason for the lack of management changes can be explained by a look at the standings.  Many of the bottom feeders are either in a rebuilding mode already (Toronto, NY Isles) or have made coaching changes in the past year or so already (Edmonton, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Montreal).  That's not to say that these bosses are exempt from the nervous whims of their GM's.  Speaking of which, we have also gone a long stretch without a GM change, and when that happens, coaches are often let go when the new boss arrives.  There are a handful of GM's who have to be considered on a short leash, making their coaches at risk as well.  Meanwhile, many of the coaches who could have been considered to be at risk before the season started have started to turn their teams around this year (LA, Florida, Buffalo, Nashville).


With that in mind, here are the coaches most likely to be looking for work by the end of the season:


1. Ken Hitchcock - Columbus

After making the postseason for the first time last year, expectations were high in Ohio that the Blue Jackets had finally turned the corner.  So far this season, they've taken a major step back.  Hitchcock's signature over the years has been a stingy defense, from his days in Dallas and Philadelphia, to his first several seasons in Columbus.  Nearing the half way point of this season, his Jackets are dead last in goals allowed.  Aside from Nash, this team isn't built to win games by scoring a bunch of goals.  Add to that the fact that they've won just one game in their last 10, and it wouldn't be surprised to hear that Hitchcock is being handed his papers before I finish typing this sentence.


2. Bob Gainey / Jacques Martin - Montreal

Poor Jacques Martin.  After suffering through heartbreak, instability, and failure in Florida over the past three seasons, he left the sun and fun of South Florida to be placed on a sinking ship in the heart of hockey.  There are too many things going against his chances of being a permanent resident in Montreal. 


First off, Bob Gainey torpedoed this team over the past year.  He took a team that challenged for the Presidents Trophy a couple seasons back, let half the squad walk, and did a patchwork job of assembling an overpaid roster this summer. Not surprisingly, the results have not been grand.  The Canadiens have been less than mediocre this season.  If it weren't for their amazing record in overtime, they'd be floating in the basement with the Hurricanes.  If things continue to slide into the Olympic break, don't be surprised to see a new GM show up this spring.  And a new GM typically means a new coach.


Add to that fact that there is new ownership in town, and new owners tend to want to bring their own guy in, particularly when things haven't gone to plan.  All told, Martin may have a very short tenure in Montreal.


3. Glen Sather (GM) - NY Rangers

This is more of an indictment of Sather than it is of the coaching, but the GM shouldn't be very comfortable in front of the fireplace this Christmas.  After all, Sather is one of the longest tenured GMs in the NHL and what does he have to show for it?  At least for the past few seasons, the team has been a playoff participant, but little more than that.  At some point, Messier's going to come knocking on the door once again and he'll be granted the chance to do better.  While the Rangers haven't been horrible this season, they're currently out of the playoff list.  They're basically a losing streak / injury to Gaborik away from inevitable change in New York.

Biggest Surprises of the Season (so far)

by chewy 7. December 2009 21:28

Every NHL season inevitably brings us many twists and turns that no expert could have seen coming.  If this weren't the case, it wouldn't be very interesting to watch.  This year is certainly no exception.  We're  about 1/3 of the way through the 09-10 campaign, and here are a handful of the biggest surprises so far:


The Good


Strong Starts Out West

It's a tossup for which is more surprising: Los Angeles or Colorado.  Most observers expected LA to be in the running for the playoffs this year, but nobody expected them to push the Sharks for the Division Title.  The overdue emergence of Kopitar as a top 10 scorer isn't shocking, but compared to his performance last year, it is a surprise.  As for the Avalanche, they were picked by most to challenge for the first overall draft selection.  Instead, they're a fair bet to reclaim their long-held grip on the Northwest division title.  A big part of their success so far has been the surprising play of newcomer Craig Anderson.   Both LA and Colorado are currently in the top 10 of points in the league, a feat that none could have predicted.


The Return of Richards

In terms of personal performances, to me the most surprising is the resurgence of Brad Richards.  I had all but written him off as a top notch forward in the NHL.  After several mediocre seasons, punctuated by various injuries, I didn't see how he would ever return the point-per-game player he was during the Lightning's Cup run in 2006.  But here he is, back in the top 10 and carrying the load for the Stars.  Hats off.


The Bad


Redwings - Outside Looking In

Coming out of the lockout, I (and many others) predicted (or was that prayed for?) the inevitable demise of the Redwings.  After all, the team whose payroll resembled the Yankees couldn't possibly compete if forced to play on equal footing.  Year after year, Holland made us look silly, until the point where we came to believe this franchise was infallible.  Now, after 2 consecutive years in the finals, we're looking at the possibility of Detroit actually missing the playoffs.  Something they haven't done in 20 years.  Through 27 games, the Wings already have piled up 10 losses.  And there's no real cause for optimism (or pessism, depending on your perspective).  The biggest injury they're dealing with is Franzen, and he's not due back for months yet.  It may be time to come to terms with the possibility of a postseason without the Wings.


Hurricane Demise

A few teams have struggled more than expected to start the season, but none compare to the shockingly awful start by the Canes.  Carolina seemed to be back on the upswing after rallying late last season and driving their way into the semifinals.  Apparently they're still hurting from the smack laid down by the Pens last spring, as they've shown absolutely no signs of life this season.  Injuries to Staal and Ward have only made things worse.  The defense is the worst they've seen since moving from Hartford.  What's particularly surprising about their start is that they didn't really change much in their lineup from last year.  There's still time to turn this around, but at this point, they're looking to lock in last place by the Olympic break.


Eric Staal, Martin Havlat, Steve Mason

Tough to pick who has been the most disappointing surprise in terms of individuals this season, but these guys are all in the running.  Injuries have further scarred the situation for Staal and Havlat, but these guys should have been sent to their rooms without desert long before that even happened.  Maybe I'm especially bitter because I drafted 2 of these guys and it's killing me now.


The Stupid


Ovechkin Finally Suspended

One of the most surprising events of the season is that the league finally got the pills to suspend Ovechkin 2 games after yet another blatant attempt to injure another player.  It's too bad they passed on the opportunity when he did the exact same thing to Gonchar in last year's playoffs, or a week ago when he boarded Kaleta from behind, or any one of other countless cheap shots he's laid on his unsuspecting opposition.  Campbell's job isn't easy, but he's made criticizing his decisions easy by clearly biasing his punishments based on the box office draw of the accused.

If I owned an NHL Team

by chewy 23. November 2009 09:03

It's a thought that most hockey fans ponder from time to time.  What would you do if you owned and operated your own franchise?  What if you could buy your favorite team and do things your way?  What would you do differently?  Being a hockey fan myself, I too have pondered such a question.  And here are a few things that I came up with, in that magical fairytale world where I owned my own NHL team:


Return to the Wooden Stick

Sure, my players may hate me for it, and the Players Union would undoubtedly protest, but this is my dream, so back off.  The first rule I would implement for my team is no hybrid sticks.   Only wooden sticks are allowed on my team.  Every time I see a play gone wrong because a hybrid stick snapped in half, I lose my mind (which is typically about once a period). 


I like to play the odds.  If you count the number of offensive chances that are ruined for a broken stick, and throw in the number of scoring chances given up to the other team (even worse) for broken sticks, it's a pretty big deal.  Compare that to the minimal advantage you may gain using a hybrid stick, and there's no way it's close.  The hybrid may let you shoot it harder, but that doesn't necessarily translate into goals. 


It would take a bold owner/manager to mandate wooden sticks on his team, and it probably won't happen.  That is, until I get my team.



No Trade and No Movement Clauses

Again, my players would hate me for it, but I would put a halt to the no trade, and especially the no-movement clause.  It castrates the future GM's ability to run his team.  GMs who hand these out like candy have no regard for the future, and are only concerned with saving their job for the next year.  As owner, I would veto these, with few exceptions.  In the rare cases where it's my superstar player, I would tie the no move clause to a couple of things:

1. If the player asks for a trade, the clause is null and void (see Dany Heatley)

2. It would be tied to performance.  If the player has less than a point per game for the past season, his no-trade clause is no-good, for example.  That way, you don't have dead weight tying up your books.

3. Finally, in the event that I need to trade the guy, the contract would stipulate that he could specify 5 teams up front that he's willing to waive it for.  That way, I have something to work with, and he still has some say in his destiny.



Players on the IR Assigned to PR duties

When a player is placed on long-term injured reserved, they're basically being paid to do nothing but heal.  There's more to those 6 million dollar salaries than showing up for games.  It's assumed that the players are there to represent the team in the community and promote the organization.  On my team, if a player is on the IR, he should spend a good bit of that time making appearances in the community.  Sign some autographs, shakes some hands, hold a baby or two.  It's the least you can do for the $20,000 a day you're being paid to stay home while your teammates are on the road earning their pay.  If a player is injured, and you put down $100 a seat, I think it's reasonable that the guy could hang out in the lobby between periods, before and after the game, to meet the fans who really pay his salary.



No More Cheerleaders

This isn't the NFL.  What a disgrace.



Bring back the Organ

For those who grew up on it, you know what I mean.  Can Cotton-eyed Joe and give me the live tunes.



So, what would you do differently if you owned a team?

Future Hall of Famers

by chewy 10. November 2009 11:34

With one of the greatest sets of players ever to enter the Hall of Fame last night, it seems like an appropriate time to look ahead at what is to come for the Hall.  Recent retirees like Sakic, Sundin (and possibly Roenick) are pretty much a lock when their wait period ends, but what about current NHL players?  Which players have already earned their spots and which ones are the most likely to do so through the rest of their careers?  Let's break it down.


First, let's look at the players who have stamped their ticket already.  In other words, if these players were to retire today, they should be guaranteed a spot in the Hall, based on their accomplishments so far.   (Note: I'm excluding guys like Belfour who aren't technically retired, but obviously aren't coming back to pro hockey any time soon)


1. Martin Brodeur - Arguably the best goaltender of all time, and he's not done yet.  No discussion needed.


2. Niklas Lidstrom - Again, one of the best at his position of all time.  6 Norris and 1 Conn Smythe, puts him up with the elite D in the Hall.


3. Jaromir Jagr - 9th all time in points, plus a couple of Cups and a handful of Art Ross Trophies have secured his spot.  He may come back to add to his totals next season.


4. Marc Recchi - Probably one of the most underrated players of all time.  Hard to believe he's 14th all time in points and will probably climb another spot this season.


5. Chris Chelios - I'm no fan of Chelios, but you'd be a moron to argue against him getting into the Hall of Fame.  4th all time in games played and 3 Norris Trophies, along with 3 Cup rings, and he's still trying to play more.


6. Brendan Shanahan - 11th all time in goals, and could rise to 10th if he plays again this season.   Also sits 23rd in all time points.


7. Mike Modano - Highest scoring American player of all time and 29th overall.  Won a Cup and holds every record for the Stars franchise.


8. Teemu Selanne - 18th all time in goals, 41st in points.  Won a Cup.  His rookie season alone should have earned him consideration.


9. Scott Niedermeyer - Niedermeyer has won everything possible in his career, including: 2 Cups, Conn Smythe, Norris, Olympic Gold, World Cup Gold, & Junior Gold


10. Chris Osgood - Some may dispute his ticket being stamped, but you need to consider the facts.  10th all time in wins.  23rd all time in shutouts.   8th in playoff wins and 4th in playoff shutouts.  He's scored a goal and won 3 Cups.  Osgood is Hall material.


11. Sergei Fedorov - Fedorov has won 3 Cups and 1 Hart Trophy.  He's top 50 in all time points and 13th in playoff points.


12. Peter Forsberg - While injuries have held him back, he's still top 100 in points.  More importantly, he ranks 17th in playoff points and 20th in playoff goals.  He may be back for more shortly.


13. Rod Brind'Amour - Brind'Amour may be considered borderline by some, but consider: he's top 50 in all time points with 1165 and counting.  He's won a pair of Selke's and a Stanley Cup.  He's also considered one of the best captains in the game.


14. Chris Pronger - While not a popular choice for many, it's hard to argue against him.  He's won Hart and Norris.  He's taken the Cup.  He's a proven scorer and one of the most intimidating players in the game.  He's still got a few more good years to build on his reputation.





Now, let's look at the guys who are most likely to earn a spot in the Hall, based on what we've seen from them so far.  With some of the older guys on this list, they're a Cup win or a few good seasons away from locking up a spot.  Some of the younger guys aren't quite guaranteed a spot yet, since injuries could always end a career early.  Here's my shot at the 10 most likely to make the Hall:


1. Keith Tkachuk - Tkachuk is borderline right now with 1000 plus points.   He's currently ranked 31 all time in goals.  The one thing missing on his resume is a Cup win.  A couple more 20+ goal seasons should  cement his spot either way.


2. Paul Kariya - Like Tkachuk, the one thing holding Kariya back is his name on the Cup.  He came close in 2003.  He's top 80 in points all time and will likely crack 1000 points this season.  A couple more decent years of point production will get him into the Hall without much debate.


3. Jarome Iginla - Iginla is just about into the top 100 in all time points, and he still has plenty of good years left to come.  His all around game is another plus that should earn him a spot.  Like Tkachuk and Kariya, a Cup win would certainly help his cause.


4. Sidney Crosby - Already won a Cup and is well on his way to a guaranteed Hall of Fame career.   No reason to doubt he'll be there some day.


5. Alex Ovechkin - Just 5 years into his career, and already looking like a sure thing for the Hall.  2 Hart trophies already.  His aggressive style of play is the one thing that may cut this party short.  Think Eric Lindros.


6. Vincent Lecavalier - Already has the Cup on his resume and is a proven scorer who will steadily climb the all time list over the next  10 years.


7. Evgeni Malkin - It's only his fourth season, so this may be premature, but there's no reason to doubt he'll get there some day.  Already has a Cup, Conn Smythe, and Art Ross in his collection.


8. Joe Thornton - The biggest factor holding Thornton back is clearly the lack of playoff success.  No doubt if he keeps up his pace, he'll have the points to get there in a few years.  If the Sharks can break through and win the Cup, he'll be a lock.


9. Ilya Kovalchuk - Kovalchuk has averaged about 40 goals over his first 7 NHL seasons.  If he can keep up his pace, he has a good shot at finishing in the top 10 of all time, and will be a no brainer for the Hall.  Imagine where he would be already on a better team.


10. Marian Hossa - Sure, Hossa has been on the wrong side of the Cup handshake two years in a row, but he's in his prime and should have a few more shots at it with the Hawks.  He's already over 700 points in his career, and seems likely to get there.



Finally, here are a few more guys who I think will be borderline candidates when their time is up in a couple of seasons:

1. Rob Blake

2. Doug Weight

3. Mathieu Schneider

4. Evgeni Nabokov

5. Daniel Alfredsson

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