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Hot Starts / Slow Starts

by chewy 5. October 2009 07:48
 

It's certainly too soon to draw an conclusions, good or bad, from what's transpired so far this season, but there were definitely a few surprises that came out of opening weekend this season.  Some of them may point to a trend, while others may be classified as a blip on the radar.

 

Hot Starts

 

Blues own the Wings

The fact that Blues won both games against the Wings this weekend was a bit surprising.  The fact that the Wings blew the lead in both games is more shocking.  So, are the Wings in trouble or are the Blues that good?  I've bet against the Wings before to start a season, and it never pays off.  Sure they're down a few players from last season, but they'll recover just fine.  If anything, we're starting to see that yes, the Blues have finally become a good team once again.  St. Louis showed last season that their young stars have arrived and it looks like this season, their veterans are playing great.  Add to that a solid start from Chris Mason in net, and that's a great formula for a winning season.  If you picked the Blues to miss the playoffs this year, you're probably going to look silly.

 

Avalanche Back on Top (?)

A quick glance at the league standings so the Colorado Avalanche as the top team with two wins, 8 goals for and 2 goals against.  Looks like the Avalanche are back to their glory days of league domination. 

And they won't miss Sakic one bit.  And Kazakhstan should win gold this winter.

From a fantasy perspective, feel free to ride this wave as long as it lasts.  Wolski and Hejduk may be available in your pool, but they won't be for long.  Wolski traditionally gets off to a strong start, so grab him until he cools off, but don't mortgage your team to load up on Avalanche.  This won't last long.

 

Brooks Laich

Yes, he's developing into a decent forward, but seeing his name in the top 5 scorers will be a distant memory in a week or two.  Still, he's probably available in your league, and as long as he's seeing occasional duty with Ovechkin and Backstrom, why not ride it?

 

Slow Starts

 

Hurricanes looking awful

Many prognosticators (myself included) expected the Hurricanes to have a pretty good season.  So far, we're looking like fools.  The Hurricanes didn't just lose their first two games, they looked like they weren't even trying.  2 goals for and 9 goals against.  Maybe they're still hurting from the smack down the Penguins laid on them last spring.  My advice (if you're in my pool) is to drop all Hurricanes right away from your roster.  If you're not in my pool, hang tight.  This team is well balanced, well coached (despite what you saw this weekend), and will recover just fine.

 

Canucks drop 2

The Canucks opened the season on the road with two losses in their division.  That doesn't bode well for a team with a messed up travel schedule.  Luongo is going to have to be the best goalie in the league for this team to be successful, and so far, he's casting some doubt.  If the slide continues, feel free to jump off the Canuck bandwagon and join me in the minority who see this team missing the playoffs this year.

 

Fantasy Wire

From a fantasy perspective, you can learn a little from players who get off to a slow start, but you shouldn't pay much attention to players who come out of the gate slowly in the first two or three games.  Remember, Getzlaf didn't register a point in the first week last season, before going on a tear in week 2.  Hold tight to your draft picks and check back in another week before bailing on your early picks.

Nine Fine Lines

by chewy 25. September 2009 06:05
 

Several of the finest lines in the NHL were split up in the offseason, opening the door for some emerging combinations to take the stage for the 2009-10 season.  Although most of these threesomes won't be matched up on a regular basis, it's a great option for the coaches to assemble these lines when they're in need of a late game goal.  Here are the top 9 finest (potential) lines in hockey:

 

9 - Spezza / Alfredsson / Kovalev

At some point this season, the third slot may read Michalek or Cheechoo, but out of the shoot, Kovalev will replace Heatley on what used to be one of the top 3 lines in the game.  If Kovalev can turn back the clock and find motivation, this could be a dominating line once again in Canada's capital.

 

8 - Lecavalier / St. Louis / Tanguay

Once again, the third piece in this puzzle is interchangeable, with Stamkos being a prime candidate.  Either way, the Lightning will be putting all their offensive hopes on one strong first line, as they have for the last several seasons.  St. Louis should keep up his consistent scoring, and Lecavalier is due for a good year, making this a potentially explosive all-Canadian front three.

 

7 - Toews / Kane / Hossa

While this line won't even have the chance to meet until late December, it should be worth the wait.  When healthy, Hossa will be the best player on a great team, featuring a whole lot of offensive talent.  Toews and Kane are about to reach the upper echelon, and this line could be unstoppable by the end of the season.

 

6 - Datsyuk / Zetterberg / Franzen

What's not to like about this threesome?  Put them out there to score or kill penalties, and you'll be equally pleased.  With Franzen's goalscoring progression over the past couple seasons, you can't even say who's the weak link on this line.   Probably because there is no weak link on this line. 

 

5 - Carter / Richards / Gagne

Two brilliant goal scorers flanking the total package in the middle.  This line wins games.  Problem is, with Carter and Richards both taking draws, and with so much talent on lines 2 & 3, these guys will rarely see time together.  Even so, the Flyers could easily make a case for placing a second line in the top 10.

 

4 - Thornton / Heatley / Setoguchi

What was already one of the strongest lines in the game last year just got more deadly.  And this is a line you will actually see together to start the season.  If Heatley can keep his head on straight, this line will be downright scary.  And if the Sharks can somehow resist trading Marleau, they could have the best 1-2 punch in top lines in the NHL.

 

3 - Crosby / Malkin / Kunitz

OK.  You could replace Kunitz with Fedotenko, Guerin, Coach Bylsma, or a pair of old wet shoes, and you'd still have to rank the line in the top 3.  Crosby and Malkin showed last season and throughout the playoffs that when paired together, goals will be scored.  Imagine if they landed a top 10 winger in Pittsburgh.

 

2 - Getzlaf / Ryan / Perry

Like the Sharks line, this group may likely stay together for much of the season.  Which is great news if you've drafted one or more of them.  All three of these guys will top 30 goals and the trio should top 100 combined.  That's a lot of scoring on one line.

 

1 - Ovechkin / Backstrom / Semin

If Semin stays healthy, this is undoubtedly the best line in hockey.  Two amazing goal scorers, getting dishes from an outstanding playmaker.  And all three are just entering their prime.  This trio could combine for 300+ points this season, and be the first team since Pittsburgh in 1996 to post 3 100 point scorers.

A Ship Without a Captain

by chewy 16. September 2009 14:13
 

 

Quick.  What do you think of when you hear these names:

Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, NY Islanders, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Mapleleafs.

 

Teams likely to miss the playoffs?  (SJ doesn't quite fit)

Cool Jerseys?  (Islanders are kind a lame)

Teams that disappointed last season?  (True, though Toronto didn't have high expectations)

 

These are all teams that are entering the pre-season without a captain in their lineup.  And, it's probably not a coincidence that most of these teams seem to be just a little lost among their NHL brethren.  Consider the teams with solid, undisputed captains in their lineup, and how steady those franchises are: Iginla in Calgary, Niedermeyer in Anaheim, Chara in Boston, Lidstrom in Detroit, etc.  Meanwhile, the teams without a C on a sweater each have problems to deal with that often center around character and team identity.  It shows the importance of having a strong captain on the roster.  Some of these teams may begin (and possibly finish) the season with no captain.  History shows that doesn't result in success.  Here is a team-by-team look at the teams in need of a leader.

 

Florida Panthers

The Panthers have been without a captain since trading Olli Jokinen in 2008.  Prior to that, they had no captain for a season.  The team hasn't had a quality leader since Scott Mellanby left in 2001.  Of all the teams in this list, the Panthers may be the team most in need of a strong captain.   The team is running with 3 assistants: Bryan Allen, Cory Stillman, and Stephen Weiss.  Perhaps they're waiting for one of the younger stars to emerge, but it hasn't happened yet.  Stillman, Allen, or Keith Ballard seem like the most likely candidates to assume the position at some point, but Florida seems to be content to shun the letter altogether.

Best Bet: Cory Stillman

 

Minnesota Wild

The Wild have never had a permanent captain in their history.  They've also never had much success in the playoffs.  They have steadily rotated the C, almost on a monthly basis.  Perhaps that will change with the new regime entering the state.  Over the last several years, Mikko Koivu has held the role more often than any other and seems to be the most likely player to get the honor, if the philosophy changes.  He has demonstrated quality leadership on the team and would certainly make a good captain.

Best Bet: Mikko Koivu

 

Montreal Canadiens

The captaincy of the Canadiens has been a hot topic lately, as it always is when the position opens up.  The Canadiens hold this designation in high regard, and many players run from the responsibility.  Just ask Andrei Markov.  With a total overhaul of the team, there are a number of possible candidates, and it seems likely that Gainey will wait a few months to see who emerges from the pack. 

Best Bet: Mike Cammalleri

 

NY Islanders

The Islanders lost their captain when Bill Guerin was moved to the Penguins last season.  The Islanders traditionally fill the role quickly, but have gone a couple seasons in their history with no captain.  It seems likely the role will ultimately go to John Tavares, but don't expect it to happen this year.  It would be silly to lay that burden on a guy who's already expected to save a franchise as a teenager.  Most likely, the team will either hold off on naming a guy, or they'll bridge the gap with a veteran for a year or two until Tavares is deemed ready. 

Best Bet: Brendan Witt

 

San Jose

It's anybody's guess what the Sharks management will do next in an attempt to reverse the ugly trend of crushed expectations.  After ripping the C off of Marleau's chest this summer, it was surprising to see that he wasn't in the deal that brought Heatley across.  Is it finally time for Joe Thornton to step up and take the captaincy?  If not, why?  Thornton is 30 now and without excuse.  He is the leader of the Sharks, C or no C.  It's possible that the Sharks could turn to more of a role player as their captain, but it seems like it's Joe's time - now or never.

Best Bet: Joe Thornton

 

Toronto

Mats Sundin held the C for over a decade, and it has yet to find a new home.  In fact, at this point, only Tomas Kaberle is listed as an assistant.  The team seems headed in the right direction, but is in need of an identity and a clear-cut leader.  It may be too much to ask at the age of 19, but all signs seem to point to Luke Schenn being the face of this franchise for many years to come.   Much like the situation in New York, it may be best to keep the seat warm for a year or two before sewing it on Schenn's sweater.  Look for the job to be handed to a veteran this fall.

Best Bet: Tomas Kaberle

New Rule Proposal - Unopposed Faceoffs

by chewy 31. July 2009 07:19

I'm not on the NHL competition committee (yet), but if I were, one area that I would want to revisit is the puck over the glass rule.  It doesn't seem like the punishment fits the crime when a defenseman inadvertently clears the puck over the glass and has to sit for 2 minutes.  Is that really equal to an elbow to the face or hauling down a player from behind?  The idea of keeping the offending team on the ice after an icing call was a good start at a "minor" punishment.  Seems like there needs to be a middle ground between that and the 2 minute minor.  Particularly in situations like the puck over the glass.  So here's my proposal…

 

The Unopposed faceoff.

 

The idea is simple, the offending team doesn't get to place a player in the faceoff circle.  It's like a free kick in soccer, but you still have the puck being dropped.  The player on the other team would not be allowed to move the puck forward off the faceoff.  They would have to pull it back, but would have a free faceoff win.  (Otherwise, it would turn into a free slapshot).   This would still be a major deterrent to stop defensemen from clearing the puck.  A free, clean faceoff win in the offensive zone is a major advantage.

 

This could potentially be applied in other areas, beyond the puck over the glass. 

  • Player in defensive zone freezing the puck
  • Goalie playing the puck in the trapezoid (another stupid 2 minute minor rule)
  • Team is late in making a line change / buying time for a tired player

 

Thoughts from the gallery?  I think this could work.

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

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