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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For Those of Us With Lives: Your Weekly NHL Up-To-Speed (10-20-10 to 10-27-10)

The KHL is drawin' 'em like bugs to a light.  I'm just waiting for some coach to go over there and revive his career, a la Bobby Valentine.  I'd suggest Melrose, but I think you actually have to have a career in order to revive it.

The News
It rained hatties over the week, with Stevie Stam, Alfie, and a bunch of guys without nicknames (Rene Bourque, John Tavares, Brad Richardson, Alexander Semin, and Lee Stempniak) all posting trifectas over a span of three days.  I guess the '80s really are back.  Now if someone could just tell Fred Savage before he starts shooting.

Starting to see a lot of articles like Mike Chen's again, analyzing controversial hits side-by-side and looking at the NHL suspensions that have been levied.  To be honest, I'm tired of even debating the point.  The league has a Wheel of Discipline.  Guess what?  It has always had a Wheel of Discipline.  It's just more fashionable to talk about it right now.  We can choose to be outraged, or acknowledge that there is little we can do outside of getting outraged and just deal with it.

Big-time props to Alfie, by the way, scoring all 1,000 points on a roller-coaster of a team in Canada's capital.  All three goals were things of beauty, even the empty-netter:

Not much else for hockey highlights.  I guess everybody has to just stop sucking.

As Steve Buscemi says in Fargo, "Whoops!"

Self-Important Thoughts Section
- Just realized the refs really blew the whole Rypien thing.  That was definitely a hold.

- Torts: "We are in the process of creating our identity as a hockey club."  First off, shouldn't you be doing that in the preseason?  Secondly, any identity involving Derek Boogaard getting paid $1.65 million and playing 3 minutes per game, rolling Ruslan Fedotenko like a scoring threat, and seriously considering Erik Christensen as your top center needs to seek counseling.

- More trouble in Ranger paradise.  Torts and Sather at loggerheads, Fonzie needs to go out in a blaze of glory, killing Sather with a water bottle.  Help us all, Fonzie, or sit on it.

- Hartnell received a haircut.  He looks like a ginger preppy, aka geppy.

- There's nothing more satisfying than hearing Bob Probert's voice call to us from the afterlife.  What's that, Bob?  "Bettman's a friggin' asshole."  RIP, sir.

- Steven Tyler is so soulful.  Seriously though, Steven Tyler and a cappella have all the compatibility of a wolverine and Teddy Ruxpin.

- Next source for snooty assholes who drink 5 dollar bottles of water?  The moon.

Tweet of the Week
Slow week on the funny, peeps...
"For sale: one in-home bowling alley, slightly stained with preacher blood.  #DanEllisGarageSale"
- Fake Dan Ellis (@fakedanellis)

Fantasy Time (Yahoo standard scoring)
Top Goalies Last Week
Jaroslav Halak - 2 GP, 2 W, 0.99 GAA, 96.4 SV%, 1 SHO --- 95% owned
Carey Price - 3 GP, 2 W, 1.65 GAA, 92.6 SV%, 1 SHO --- 80% owned
Martin Brodeur - 3 GP, 1 W, 1.59 GAA, 94.7 SV%, 1 SHO --- 99% owned

Top Left Wings Last Week
Thomas Vanek - 4 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 0, 2 PIM, 3 PPP, 15 SOG --- 95% owned
Scott Hartnell - 4 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 3, 16 PIM, 0 PPP, 7 SOG --- 79% owned
Dany Heatley - 3 GP, 1 G, 3 A, -1, 6 PIM, 4 PPP, 8 SOG --- 100% owned

Top Right Wings Last Week
Rene Bourque - 4 GP, 5 G, 2 A, 1, 6 PIM, 2 PPP, 18 SOG --- 66% owned
Daniel Briere - 4 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 3, 6 PIM, 2 PPP, 19 SOG --- 93% owned
Milan Hejduk - 3 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 0, 4 PIM, 3 PPP, 14 SOG --- 29% owned

Top Centers Last Week
Henrik Zetterberg - 2 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 5, 0 PIM, 2 PPP, 11 SOG --- 99% owned
Steven Stamkos - 3 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 3, 2 PIM, 2 PPP, 11 SOG --- 100% owned
Anze Kopitar - 4 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 0, 0 PIM, 3 PPP, 16 SOG --- 96% owned

Top Defensemen Last Week
Steve Montador - 4 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 5, 4 PIM, 1 PPP, 13 SOG --- 23% owned
Dustin Byfuglien - 3 GP, 1 G, 2 A, -2, 19 PIM, 2 PPP, 12 SOG --- 73% owned
Lubomir Visnovsky - 4 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 1, 6 PIM, 0 PPP, 6 SOG --- 81% owned

Advice:  Jump on the Bourque and Hejduk bandwagons immediately.  Wings (especially on the right side) are too thin to let go.  Both players are legit talent.  Ignore the Steve Montador thing; 7 of those shots were in one game, and he's had mini-hot streaks before.  Nothing to get over-confident about.  Byfuglien is always intriguing, but his recent value was all because of the pims.  I dropped Visnovsky earlier this week, and looking at his shot and power-play point totals, I'd do it again.  

Have a fun, safe Halloween.  Remember, always wear a costume you'd be willing to get drunk in.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

For Those of Us With Lives: Your Weekly NHL Up-To-Speed (10-13-10 to 10-20-10)

Obviously, this is just one big misunderstanding.  That's the Order of Canada, silly!

The News
Rick Rypien did something.

The New Jersey Devils have already split up Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, a tandem I was pretty suspicious of (Note: look at the comments section) from the start.  Will this solve their problems?  I think what will make the bigger difference is when Brodeur rights the ship.

The Ducks have finally showed some life, but I don't like that their scoring is housed in the top line and they can't seem to stop allowing shots.  They have yet to give up fewer than 30.
Note: And of course, they did it the same day I wrote this...and lost...against the Blue Jackets.  Congrats.

Derek Boogaard apparently has a blog.  Color me surprised that it doesn't involve incomplete sentences and written rendering of fart noises.  One of the first things he did in New York?  Took a tour on the double decker bus.  Next stop?  Climbing the Empire State Building and swatting away helicopters.

I'm not given to stroking my ego too much, but I did post an okay/not bad article on Behind the Net that my mother liked and Gabe put on the front page.  Traditionalists will like it because it advocates outdoor hockey.  Look out for some commenter named Bourque77, though; she/he's mounted an anti-rink crusade.  Because apparently outdoor rinks are "inferior."  What?

Otherwise, water is wet, Megan Fox/Brad Pitt is hot (we are equal-opportunity pervs here), and I'm kicking myself for not getting Steven Stamkos.

One quick note: I mentioned last week that I didn't think Wisniewski's act merited the suspension.  It is pretty easy to make that comment in a hetero society, and it wasn't the right comment.  Thanks to people such as James Gordon (@SensReporter) I can see how mimicking a BJ is homophobic.  I was wrong to downplay it.  I apologize.  Oh, and Wisniewski's a douche.

Watch this freakin' pass and goal at about 5:13; that is what we call "threading the needle":


Avery giving Mike Komisarek a bit of chop suey:


I am utterly horrified...at Fedotenko.  I've never seen him so upset.

Malkin gets his Bobby Orr on:


In my mind, this was far cooler than the Brent Burns goal.

Two non-hockey videos that were way too funny to let go...

Favre gets one in the "Little Wrangler":


I love a well-refereed game:


Self-Important Thoughts Section
- I, for one, am planning a Maple Leafs parade route.

- Would he call it "Luongo underwear?"

- CrowdWave technology is a great way to forget your goalie is Brian Boucher.

- Vanilla Ice on his new show for Do It Yourself Network: "I'm passionate about renovating homes."  Word to your mother.

- I have to say, I did not expect there to be a site devoted to tubby Val Kilmer.  I think he and Jeff Bridges are switching places, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsey Lohan did a few years back.

Tweets of the Week
"Only 2 more punches on my Subway Club card and I get a free photo of Jared blowing himself"
- Rob Huebel (@robhuebel)

"Is everyone wearing their green ribbons for Escrow Awareness Month?"
- Fake Dan Ellis (@fakedanellis)

"Charlize Theron is filming a movie in the next town over tomorrow & next Tues. Finally God has listened & now I can make my move."
- Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy) to which I responded "Hopefully it's not Monster 2."

Fantasy Time (Yahoo standard scoring)
Top Goalies last week
Tomas Vokoun - 2 GP, 2 W, 0.00 GAA, 100 SV%, 2 SHO --- 95% owned
Tim Thomas - 2 GP, 2 W, 1.00 GAA, 97.1 SV%, 0 SHO --- 61% owned
Brent Johnson - 3 GP, 3 W, 1.65 GAA, 94.3 SV%, 0 SHO --- 31% owned

Top Left Wings last week
Patrick Sharp - 4 GP, 5 G, 1 A, -1, 0 PIM, 2 PPP, 20 SOG --- 89% owned
Daniel Sedin - 4 GP, 4 G, 2 A, 0, 0 PIM, 3 PPP, 12 SOG --- 100% owned
Bobby Ryan - 3 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5, 4 PIM, 1 PPP, 8 SOG --- 99% owned

Top Right Wings last week
Corey Perry - 3 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 5, 4 PIM, 3 PPP, 13 SOG --- 99% owned
Chris Stewart - 3 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 0, 9 PIM, 2 PPP, 7 SOG --- 96% owned
Antti Miettinen - 3 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 1, 4 PIM, 3 PPP, 11 SOG --- 9% owned

Top Centers last week
Steven Stamkos - 4 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 2, 6 PIM, 3 PPP, 18 SOG --- 100% owned
Sidney Crosby - 4 GP, 4 G, 3 A, 0, 2 PIM, 4 PPP, 18 SOG --- 100% owned
Ryan Getzlaf - 3 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 5, 0 PIM, 4 PPP, 4 SOG --- 98% owned

Top Defensemen last week
Kris Letang - 4 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 6, 17 PIM, 1 PPP, 9 SOG --- 73% owned
Alex Goligoski - 4 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 2, 2 PIM, 4 PPP, 9 SOG --- 96% owned
Marek Zidlicky - 3 GP, 1 G, 3 A, -1, 2 PIM, 3 PPP, 5 SOG --- 40% owned

Advice: Don't touch the Wild, just like I said don't touch the Islanders last week.  They are like those "Hot Hands" hand warmers: toasty one moment, bags of sand the next.  Most of these are of the "nothing to see here, move along" variety, in part because good players are actually playing good.  That being said, I'd take a shot at Letang if he were available, even if he's not a huge powerplay producer.  He could be.  Step away from the Brent Johnson.

Take the plunge on Tim Thomas if you can, by the way.  The Bruins are kind of a 'tweener team, and they didn't hesitate to hand the reins to Rask when Thomas struggled last year, but Thomas was more a victim of phenomenal (and a bit lucky) goaltending on Rask's part rather than being horrible.  Remember he's only a year removed from the Vezina.

See you around.  RIP David the Gnome.

Rypien Him a New One

Rick Rypien needs to be suspended for the rest of the season. Period.

Rick Rypien, if you're that upset that you're can't hang with the rest of the goons in the league - but also that your hockey-relevant skills are utterly sub-par - that you have to attack a fan that is SIMPLY CLAPPING that your sorry excuse for talent is being removed from the game, you have no place on the ice.

This is Todd Bertuzzi disgusting. Its not as violent as Todd Bertuzzi, but it is just as stomach-turning and game-tarnishing. Rick Rypien, if you want to attack the fans, grow about 9 inches and I'm sure The King will be glad to have your act on board his circus down in Southeast Miami.

... but wait, another thought just occurred to me. I've heard of this thing called "'roid rage." Maybe Rick Rypien and Alexander Ovechkin have the same hookup. Hmm... Nah, Rypien's not good enough to be suspected of being on the juice. He's just a whiny little [expletive deleted] that got his [expletive deleted] beat and felt the need to unleash his frustration elsewhere.

Once again, fighting reveals its true value to the game of hockey.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NHL Preview: Northeast Division Defense

Boston Bruins
Defensemen
Zdeno Chara - Andrew Ference
Dennis Seidenberg - Mark Stuart
Johnny Boychuk - Matt Hunwick

Goaltender
Tuuka Rask - Tim Thomas

This is the most consistent set of blueliners in an otherwise rather deep crop of Northeast defensemen. I gave the edge to Boston because Chara will be a Norris candidate, while Toronto has a few guys that might be and Tyler Myers may be some day. Additionally, Rask played very solidly as a young goalie and if he suffers a slump, the Bruins have a Vezina Trophy winner keeping the bench warm.

Buffalo Sabres
Defensemen
Tyler Meyers - Shaone Morrison
Jordan Leopold - Steve Montador
Andrej Sekera - Craig Rivet

Goaltender
Ryan Miller - Patrick Lalime

Tyler Myers is a young, up-and-coming stud and will likely be a Norris Trophy candidate some day. The only reason I don't have the Sabres up higher is because we have only seen one season of young Tyler. The other guys are very solid -- Morrison, Leopold, Montador, Sekera, and Rivet aren't going to hurt the Sabres.

That said, the Sabres have the best goalie in the division -- and one of the best in the NHL in Sparty the Goalie. The returning Vezina Trophy winner has a steady blueline in front of him. Expect another fantastic year from Sparty -- and keep an eye on Myers.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Defensemen
Tomas Kaberle - Dion Phaneuf
Mike Komisarek - Luke Schenn
Francois Beauchemin - Jeff Finger

Goaltender
Jean-Sebastien Giguere - Jonas Gustavsson

Toronto is starting to put together a very respectable team on the blueline and are decent in net. They should start to shut some teams down with these respectable defensive pairings and if Phaneuf and Schenn can find the game that they are capable of playing, this team could be very scary in the back -- and that's even with Jeff Finger on the team!
Note: Finger has been since waived.

Giggy and the Monster are both capable goalies who have even more upside. If either of these guys find their games, the Maple Leafs may have the most stout defense in the Northeast. However, if neither of these guys find their game (or injuries linger for the Monster), this could be a very bad team, especially without much scoring up top.

Montreal Canadiens
Defensemen
Jaroslav Spacek - Roman Hamrlik
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Ryan O'Byrne

Goaltender
Carey Price - Alex Auld

The Candiens defense is pretty respectable. P.K. Subban is an interesting blueliner. He's young with a rocket of a slap shot and could be a stud waiting in the wings. Hal Gill is Hal Gill, which really isn't all that bad for a third-pair guy. Spacek and Hamrlik have been top-pair guys for quite a while.

Now we get to the netminding situation. Umm.... Hmm... Yeah... Carey Price is apparently the man again in Montreal, and he needn't worry about Jaroslav Halak taking his net from him -- not from St. Louis. As a Carey Price fan, this must make you incredibly enthusiastic. As a Montreal Canadiens fan, this must make you incredibly worried. Price is going to get his shot...again. If not, I guess Alex Auld is okay -- nah, not so much. Price better man up.

Ottawa Senators

Defensemen
Sergei Gonchar - Chris Phillips
Chris Campoli - Matt Carkner
Erik Karlsson - Brian Lee

Goaltender
Brian Elliott - Pascal Leclaire

The Senators goaltending and blueline situation is just as precarious as the Canadiens goaltending situation. Gonchar is awesome if this were 1998 and you were in a bet with your best buddy that a Senators blueliner wouldn't add 20 power play goals this season. A more respectable bet might be Gonchar going minus-15 this season, though Chris Phillips is a respectable pairing for him.

In net, Brian Elliott might as well be Billy Elliott and Pascal Leclaire has a lot of questions to answer.

Northeast Division Defense Rankings
1. Boston Bruins
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
4. Montreal Canadiens
5. Ottawa Senators

Sunday, October 17, 2010

NHL Preview: Northwest Division Defense

This is my metaphor for the Flames being their own worst enemy.  Amiright?

Vancouver Canucks
Defensemen
Alexander Edler - Christian Ehrhoff
Dan Hamhuis - Kevin Bieksa
Andrew Alberts - Keith Ballard

Goaltender
Roberto Luongo

With the exception of Alberts, all of these defensemen are sound, two-way players, maybe not having the flash of the forward lines but supplying a sturdy base for what those forwards create.  Ehrhoff was a pleasant surprise last year, and he has the ability to duplicate last season.  Edler has a very similar skill set to Ehrhoff, and is equally capable of doing what Ehrhoff's done.  Hamhuis was a savvy add, essentially taking Willie Mitchell's place and adding a bit of offense.  Bieksa's shot is underrated, and Keith Ballard would be top 4 on any other team in the league.  Luongo, of course, is a regular season stalwart, and there's little reason for him to regress.  Playoffs?  Don't talk to me about playoffs...we're just trying to win a game.

Colorado Avalanche
Defensemen
Scott Hannan - Kyle Quincey
Kyle Cumiskey - Jonas Holos
John-Michael Liles - Ryan Wilson

Goaltender
Craig Anderson

The Avs have an interesting blend of offensive and defensive defensemen, which worked just fine for them last year.  You essentially have to think of this group as including Adam Foote, who has slowed down and won't be playing every game.  Foote is more of a figurehead nowadays, kind of like Derian Hatcher's last year where he could be effective one moment, pylon-esque the next (though, to be fair, Hatcher was wearing orange in the end).  The biggest problem is physicality, which takes a pretty big hit (pun intended) if Foote is scratched.  Anderson was the big surprise last year, and I think there a quite a few who think he'll regress.  That rests squarely on this unit and the scoring, but I'd lean towards saying that this group can recapture the magic.

Calgary Flames
Defensemen
Robyn Regehr - Ian White
Jay Bouwmeester - Steve Staios
Mark Giordano - Cory Sarich

Goaltender
Miikka Kiprusoff

It was pretty close between the Flames and Oilers, but I have to give the Flames the edge because not even Oilers fans know who their main goalie will be this year.  Regehr and White go unappreciated in this unit, only occasionally noticed when one of them takes it off the dome.  I like them, though.  Bouwmeester can't possibly be as bad as he was last year, can he?  Kipper played above himself last year, so expect him to come back to earth a bit, but he's still a good goalie who can steal games.

Edmonton Oilers
Defensemen
Ryan Whitney - Kurtis Foster
Ladislav Smid - Tom Gilbert
Theo Peckham - Jim Vandermeer

Goaltender
Nikolai Khabibulin - Jeff Deslauriers

Buoyed by the solid player of 'Bulin early this year, the Oilers have shown flashes of talent that suggest good things for the future.  That being said, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves, as the defensive unit is not particularly good defensively and will yield a lot of opportunities for opponents.  What they're best at is generating offense, and at any given point Whitney, Foster, or Gilbert can lead a fairly potent powerplay.  Smid and Vandermeer are "hard hat" players that will go to work for the team, but they aren't enough to shut down some of the better offenses in the Northwest.  The goalie situation, regardless of how it looks right now, is constantly in flux, and without options that bode well for the next couple of years.

Minnesota Wild
Defensemen
Brent Burns - Greg Zanon
Nick Schultz - Marek Zidlicky
Cam Barker - Justin Falk

Goaltender
Niklas Backstrom

What kind of baffles me is that the personnel here is almost identical to the pre-Todd Richards years, despite the fact that Richards has tried to revamp and remove the previously defensive-minded Minnesota system.  Under Richards' tutelage, this group has looked out-of-place and outmatched at times.  Burns is a talented player when healthy, but even he looks lost out there.  Backstrom has also suffered with the shift, and in general I won't think highly of this unit until they get back to the old style.

The Northwest has a couple of very strong teams, one marginal team, and one that could surprise, and the defensive units reflect that.  While stifling defense is not characteristic of this division, don't be surprised to see at least one Vezina candidate come out of here.

Northwest Division Defense Rankings
1. Vancouver Canucks
2. Colorado Avalanche
3. Calgary Flames
4. Edmonton Oilers
5. Minnesota Wild

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Pens' Net Outcome

The Scene: I'm sitting in my living room, wearing my baby-blue Marc-Andre Fleury jersey, watching (with great satisfaction) Simon Gagne come 'home' to Philly and beat the Phlyers 3-2.

The Situation: Marc-Andre Fleury will sit for Friday night's game against the New York Islanders, and quite possibly - according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report on Thursday - for Saturday's tilt against the hated Phlyers.

I'm here to tell you that this is not a long-term problem. Pittsburgh fans, for some reason, go all Philadelphia when it comes to Marc-Andre Fleury. They look for problems no matter what when it comes to the Pens' netminder. I can't think of another Pittsburgh sports figure that has drawn this much active searching for criticism since maybe Kordell Stewart. But, like (the original) Slash, Fleury has done his best to earn Pittsburgh fans' ire in the early stages of this year.

Despite his slow start, I maintain that this is the transition year for Fleury. He's already shown his ability to come up enormous when it matters most. But, while my BN colleague Weagz' pointed out earlier today that Fleury should already be "grown up," I think this year's growing pains are intended - they are being prompted by the Pens' front office and coaching staff because Fleury clearly has more potential than he is living up to at present.

Everyone knows that goaltenders are odd creatures. They are said to mature into their true selves as they get closer to age 30. Fleury, at age 25, is getting there, but has also been a starter from a very early age. Now, the guys paying the bills have put the pressure on him to lift his game. He's changed his practice and gameday regimens in response, and his relationship with goaltending coach Gilles Meloche has been tweaked. All of this change is bound to wreck havoc on even the sturdiest-minded netminder (a contradiction in terms, I know). The point, though, is that by early December, Marc-Andre Fleury will emerge a stronger presence between the pipes, and then look 'aht, Atlantic Division!

My Philadelphia phan counterparts can attest to my "tolerance" of Marc-Andre Fleury to this point. I have been on record for the past several years for combining Fleury's potential and skill with his inconsistency, pretty much guaranteeing that if he were to give up one goal, he'd give up four. It has been either a shutout level of play, or something that leaves Pens fans thanking the hockey deities for a high-powered offense to overcome his play (especially his playing of the puck behind the net).

So, remember. You heard it hear first. Fleury's (apparent) benching is not unexpected by this Pens fan. But neither will his second-half dominance be a shock to me. Marc-Andre Fleury will be this year's Conn-Smythe Award winner.

Note:  I'm adding some graphics for Rankin's argument.  Cam Ward, a goalie many agree has played well for the Hurricanes, is a useful comparison for Fleury because they both became regulars at roughly the same time.  The save percentages shown are split between even-strength and penalty-kill save percentages.  The win percentages are of games started during this period.  Click on the pictures for larger/clearer images.  --- Matteau



Kinda Preseason Predictions

Well, it’s time once again (at least it was last week) to make our ridiculous predictions for this season’s preseason prediction. Being the stout hockey observer that you obviously are, you can tell that the season has already started. Ya know what, I’m working with a bunch of monkeys here--so it took me a while to compile this half-cooked predictions. All predictions are based on equal parts hockey insight and homerism. It should be noted that all predictions were made during week 1. Thus, MTWRA wanted to make it abundantly clear to you guys that his Toronto prediction was made when they were 0-0, not 3-0. I, personally, really like the Leafs chances to win at least 4 games this year.

Regular Season
There are some consistent themes in our regular season predictions (VERY FEW). But, we have all made similar observations.
· We all have the Washington Capitals as the top seed in the East
· We all have the Buffalo Sabres, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, though not all of us agree that each team is going to win their division.
· We all have the Atlanta Thrashers, Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders missing the playoffs.
· We all have the San Jose Sharks winning the Pacific Division (although not all of us agree that they will earn the top seed out west).
· We all agree that the Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks will make the playoffs, although the position to which they place is very much in the air.
· We all agree that the Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, and Minnesota Wild will not make the playoffs.
Note: Click on the photos to see an enlarged version.
This means that we all see the last few playoff spots shaking out this way.
· In the East, the Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs will be battling it out for 4 playoff spots. Based on a weighted ranking of places, the four gurus of Bettman’s Nightmare expect the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and Carolina Hurricanes to fill these four spots.
· In the West, the Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues will be battling it out for 2 playoff spots. Based on a weighted ranking of places, the four gurus of Bettman’s Nightmare expect the Los Angeles Kings, and the St. Louis Blues to fill these two spots.
Postseason:
The only real consistent theme is that two of our gurus expect the Colorado Avalanche to win the west, but lose to their eastern conference counterpart. Our gurus see any of the following teams winning the east: New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Out west, our gurus like the aforementioned Colorado Avalanche, the San Jose Sharks, and the Vancouver Canucks.

Awards:
In keeping with the cooperation that is Bettman’s Nightmare--none of us see the post-season awards shaking out the same way.
Stanley Cup: New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and San Jose Sharks
President’s Cup: Washington Capitals (4)
Hart Trophy: Alexander Ovechkin (2), Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos
Vezina Trophy: Craig Anderson, Ilya Bryzgalov, Roberto Luongo, and Ryan Miller
Norris Trophy: Drew Doughty, Christian Ehrhoff, Mike Green, Chris Pronger
Calder Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky, John Carlson, Jordan Eberle, Tyler Seguin
Selke Trophy: Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, Joe Thornton
Adams Trophy: Joe Sacco (2), Guy Boucher, Ron Wilson
Conn Smythe Trophy: Marc-Andre Fleury, Claude Giroux, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski

Individual Picks (click on photo to enlarge):



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

For Those of Us With Lives: Your Weekly NHL Up-To-Speed (10-06-10 to 10-13-10)

This is going to be my main regular contribution during the NHL season.  For the next week or so, we'll be sprinkling in the remaining previews, but then we'll lock into a less exhaustive (for us and you) approach.  The thinking is it saves us both time, without losing pertinent detail.

The News
As you can see, Mike Ribeiro's having a great time in the Lone Star State.  Sporting the orange pajamas after a few too many wine coolers at a Dallas sushi bar, Ribeiro gives us a 21st century interpretation of an ages-old axiom: "Sunday is a day of arrest."  No word if there will be any repercussions; apparently, he was there with his wife and a friend, and he might just have been guilty by association.  Also a part of the group was a guy whose name was Wayne but he spelled it "Wane."  Highly suspicious.  Tuck in your shirt, Mikey.

James Wisniewski mimicked a blowjob to Sean Avery, which means Avery is doing his job as per usual.  It turns out, an act like that equals a suspension for two games.  In other words, this hit by Niklas Hjalmarsson and Wisniewski's BJ are equally bad in the Wheel of Justice.  The argument was that kids watch the games.  My counter-argument is that kids wouldn't know what Wizzer was doing, and if they did they've already been "corrupted."  I think the NFL offers a good template: hit them in the wallet.  Wizzer will lose some money, but haven't the Islanders suffered enough without having to lose another player?

Bunch of kids rocking it hard early in the season:

Jordan Eberle


Sergei Bobrovsky


Derek Stepan


None of these guys are the second coming, but keep an eye out and see where they're at in the next couple of months.  The Oilers in general have looked pretty lively, the Rangers don't believe in giving prospects PT, and I'm starting to think more and more that any good goaltending in Philly is more a function of those defensemen and defensive forwards than it is the guys between the pipes.

Slap fight:


That is the play...of...the week...werrrr!

Self-Important Thoughts Section
- Keith Jones, between periods of the first game (Wild-'Canes), expressed admiration for Mikko Koivu not diving during a high-stick.  Jonesy promptly followed that by noting that he dove all the time.  Followed that by saying "But it's a new league."  I'll give him an 'A' for the introduction, maybe a 'D' for the body, and an 'F' for the conclusion.  Weak sauce, Jonesy

- John Forslund and Billy Jaffe bored the feces out of me on Versus.  You would have thought it was a 0-0 game if you hadn't looked at the scoreboard.

- There was major space in the Stockholm arenas between the fans and the player benches.  Swedes are so friggin' smart.

- NHL.com's Matt Cubeta actually uttered the words "[Derek Stepan] could be a nice sleeper playing on a line with Ruslan Fedotenko and Sean Avery."  Yeah, don't break that line up.

- Red Wings, don't tell me you're going to split starts between Howard's Jimmy and Chris Osmediocre.

- One week down, and I've already seen two headlines where somebody's "pair" helped their team to victory.  I'm a child.

- Another gem from Versus: Brian Engblom predicting 50 goals for Phil Kessel, only to be trumped by Jonesy predicting 50 for Bobby Ryan.  And here I was just going to joke about Engblom being on crack...

- Jerry Seinfeld must be tired of seeing all the ways in which his "European carry-all/man purse" joke has been ripped off lately.

- Physics lesson: the Miller Lite vortex only works if the bottle is completely upside down.

Tweets of the Week
"When he retires, all Geno Malkin interviews should go in a museum"
- Puck Daddy's Sean Leahy (@Sean_Leahy)

"stan lee created superheroes for every nhl team. can't wait to see calgary's: soft, overpaid veteran forward man. #nhlsuperheroes"
- Two Line Pass and Puck Daddy's Ryan Lambert (@twolinepass)

Fantasy Time (Yahoo standard scoring)
Top Goalies last week
Nikolai Khabibulin - 2 GP, 2 W, 1.00 GAA, 96.9 SV%, 1 SHO --- 62% owned
Tim Thomas - 1 GP, 1 W, 0.00 GAA, 100.0 SV%, 1 SHO --- 48% owned
Roberto Luongo - 2 GP, 1 W, 0.96 GAA, 97.3 SV%, 0 SHO --- 100% owned

Top Left Wings last week
Alexander Ovechkin - 3 GP, 3 G, 2 A, +2, 4 PIM, 1 PPP, 16 SOG --- 100% owned
Blake Comeau - 2 GP, 3 G, 1 A, +3, 4 PIM, 1 PPP, 8 SOG --- 10% owned
Josh Bailey - 2 GP, 1 G, 3 A, +1, 0 PIM, 2 PPP, 10 SOG --- 10% owned

Top Right Wings last week
Marian Hossa - 3 GP, 3 G, 2 A, +4, 4 PIM, 2 PPP, 11 SOG --- 98% owned
Todd Bertuzzi - 3 GP, 1 G, 4 A, +3, 2 PIM, 0 PPP, 7 SOG --- 24% owned
Johan Franzen - 3 GP, 3 G, 1 A, +3, 0 PIM, 0 PPP, 10 SOG --- 97% owned

Top Centers last week
Derek Roy - 3 GP, 4 G, 1 A, +2, 4 PIM, 1 PPP, 10 SOG --- 87% owned
Pavel Datsyuk - 3 GP, 2 G, 1 A, +2, 5 PIM, 1 PPP, 12 SOG --- 99% owned
Doug Weight - 2 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 0 +/-, 2 PIM, 3 PPP, 6 SOG --- 3% owned

Top Defensemen last week
Nicklas Lidstrom - 3 GP, 0 G, 3 A, +4, 0 PIM, 2 PPP, 8 SOG --- 99% owned
John-Michael Liles - 3 GP, 0 G, 5 A, +4, 0 PIM, 1 PPP, 5 SOG --- 56% owned
Jordan Leopold - 3 GP, 2 G, 2 A, +1, 2 PIM, 1 PPP, 10 SOG --- 26% owned

Advice:  Don't trust the Islanders or Leopold yet; most of those points came in a single game.  The Islanders can't play the Rangers every night (kidding, but seriously, 6 goals?).  Bertuzzi, Khabibulin, and Thomas would make for great speculative adds, if you have the space.

I'll catch you all later.  Watch Versus, they need the money.

Monday, October 11, 2010

NHL Preview: Atlantic Division Defense

Beaten, bruised, relegated to minor-league millionaire status, possibly suspended for mimicking BJ's...the Atlantic defenses have been put through the blender already this year.  And Rick DiPietro's actually healthy.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Defensemen
Paul Martin - Kris Letang
Brooks Orpik - Zbynek Michalek
Alex Goligoski - Ben Lovejoy

Goaltender
Marc-Andre Fleury

It pains me to put this group on top, but I have to grudgingly admit that they have redeemable qualities.  Paul Martin had long been under-appreciated as a sound, two-way player, and Letang and Golisoski's offensive talents match up admirably with the defensive work of Orpik and Michalek.  While neither Letang nor Goligoski have "taken off," they both have the possibility of giving positive contributions to the powerplay.  

Fleury has always been a bit of a liability, but he's also been just good enough to stay the #1 goalie.  His stats will look better this year because Michalek will block 1 million shots.

Philadelphia Flyers
Defensemen
Chris Pronger - Matt Carle
Kimmo Timonen - Braydon Coburn
Andrej Meszaros - Sean O'Donnell

Goaltender
Brian Boucher - Sergei Bobrovsky

I think this one hurts more.  Now, we do have to keep in mind that Pronger is a bit gimpy right now, but the real reason this group is below the Pens is because a majority of these guys are about as consistent as Eli Manning.  Overall, as they proved in the spring last year, they can be the best unit in hockey, but they can absolutely disappear during the regular season.

Please don't make me talk about their goalies.  Okay, one sentence: Michael Leighton hurts but he's not that good anyways, Boosh is Boosh, and Flyers fans should consider calling the Russian guy "Robertrovsky."

New York Rangers
Defensemen
Marc Staal - Michal Rozsival
Michael Del Zotto - Dan Girardi
Steve Eminger - Mike Sauer

Goaltender
Henrik Lundqvist

You know what?  Screw the Devils.  Because I do think the Rangers have a lot of promise but I won't quite say they're there yet.  Securing Marc Staal was a smart (gasp!) move by Slats, the Redden move makes me feel all warm and mushy inside, and Dan Girardi is a smart player when he's not letting Carcillo beat on Gaborik.  MDZ is a future offensive stud, and even Rozy has his moments.

Not much to say about King Henrik, except to point out that he wins games the Rangers shouldn't.

New Jersey Devils
Defensemen
Anton Volchenkov - Mark Fraser
Henrik Tallinder - Andy Greene
Matt Taormina - Colin White

Goaltender
Martin Brodeur

I'm trying not to put too much into the beginning of the year, because this is supposed to be a preview, but if the first couple of games have been any indication, the Devils are a different team.  Volchenkov might block 1 million shots and rack up 500 hits, but he still won't be able to make up for the fact that almost none of these guys know how to move a puck.  Maybe Taormina makes me change my mind...or maybe Taormina adds to the recent Devils history of middle-sized, middle-talented defensemen.

Brodeur is who we thought he was.  He won't be as bad as he has been so far, but this might be the first year of his career that we genuinely wonder if he's tailing off.

New York Islanders
Defensemen
Mike Mottau - James Wisniewski
Mark Eaton - Radek Martinek
Milan Jurcina - Andrew MacDonald

Goaltender
Rick DiPietro - Dwayne Roloson

BJ's aside, the Islanders were absolutely crushed by the loss of Mark Streit, but reports suggest that he could return in time for the playoffs...mmm...can't hold it...tchhhh...BWAHAHAHAHA

This group is a smattering of bit parts that slipped off the rosters of teams all over the league.  Combined, I think these guys have played for all 30 NHL teams, and are getting prepped for sweeping the European leagues as well.

There's a part of me that is a little happy that DiPietro has a chance to prove he was a bad pick for reasons outside of his injuries.  And let me be the one to say that it is a crime that Dwayne Roloson's career has had to take pit stops in every godawful team in the league.  He's always been better than he will ever get credit for.

Overall, the Atlantic defenses could be a worse lot, but they also could be a lot better.  The goalies alone put them ahead of the Southeast, and underrated talent makes this division still one of the defensively-tougher divisions in the League.

Atlantic Division Defense Rankings
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Philadelphia Flyers
3. New York Rangers
4. New Jersey Devils
5. New York Islanders

Saturday, October 9, 2010

NHL Preview: Southeast Division Defense

Wrapping up our previews here at BN, I know we cheated a bit, but come on; Tim Brent is not scoring 82 goals this year.  Never trust anyone whose name is two first names.  We're putting this sucker on overdrive, mashing the defensive pairing with the goalies to provide you with a holistic concept of defense.  Sounds philosophical, but we really are trying to wrap it up.  Without further ado, the Southeast Division defense (snicker):

Atlanta Thrashers
Defensemen
Zach Bogosian - Johnny Oduya
Dustin Byfuglien - Tobias Enstrom
Brent Sopel - Ron Hainsey

Goaltender
Chris Mason - Ondrej Pavelec

So, I'm picking the Thrashers first, and you might be thinking this is a joke.  The only joke is that the top defense in this division would be near the bottom in most of the others.  I'm going with the Thrashers because they have a solid mix of potential, awareness, and scoring.  Say what you will about Big Buff, but he has a booming slapshot that automatically gives this team some offense from the point.  Bogosian is a rising two-way player who was 1st in hits and 3rd in blocked shots among rookie defensemen.  He's still susceptible to mental lapses, but at 20 years old and one full season under his belt, he can take the next step this year.  Enstrom and Oduya are quietly two of the better defensemen in this group, and Ron Hainsey has (gasp) added some defense to his skill set (his defensive GVT was ahead of Ed Jovanovski last year).

The goaltending situation was unfortunately complicated by the scary Pavelec incident yesterday, but Chris Mason is an underrated goaltender who, unlike Dan Ellis, can hold his own as the guy.  He plays even better in a time-share, so getting Pavelec back is a priority.  I'm going out on a limb here, but for the first time in Atlanta Thrashers history I might believe in their defense.

Washington Capitals
Defensemen
Mike Green - Jeff Schultz
John Carlson - Tom Poti
John Erskine - Karl Alzner

Goaltender
Michal Neuvirth - Semyon Varlamov

I know, I know, it was risky to put Washington below Atlanta, maybe it will be motivation.  Besides, being the Devil's Advocate can be fun.  In all seriousness, the Capitals have a world-class defenseman surrounded by a supporting cast and a couple of intriguing rookies.  John Carlson and Karl Alzner could develop into excellent players themselves, but I'm not going to jump the gun.  I'll just stick to naming one of them as a sleeper.  If they get a full season of promising play, this group will be tops next year, no doubt.  Another question mark is the young goalie tandem of Neuvirth and Varlamov, which is complicated by an early injury to Varlamov.  We just don't know what to expect of them right now.  In general, there's still too much uncertainty for me to give them top billing, but the potential is so high I can't bear to put them lower than the next team.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Defensemen
Victor Hedman - Brett Clark
Pavel Kubina - Mike Lundin
Randy Jones - Michael Vernace

Goaltender
Mike Smith - Dan Ellis

I've always had a soft spot for the Lightning...when I was a kid I loved their jerseys and Darren Puppa.  In some circles, we called his catch glove the Puppa Scoopa.  Anyways, that hasn't colored my judgment too much, but I have to say that the Lightning improved themselves substantially by bringing back an oldie in Kubina, a voluminous shot-blocker in Clark, and an intriguing talent in Jones.  All three of these guys can make solid contributions when healthy, and I think Ohlund (who's currently injured) can rebound from a bad year if he has support from his mates.  The pairings have holes in them, though, and then there's the question of goalies.

I'm of the belief that the goaltending can work for Tampa this time around.  Both Ellis and Smith have excelled in time-shares in the past, and I think having Clark blocking shots and Kubina clearing creases can help them.

Carolina Hurricanes
Defensemen
Joni Pitkanen - Joe Corvo
Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Anton Babchuk - Jay Harrison

Goaltender
Cam Ward

This team will figure it out (again) one day.  Pitkanen, Corvo, and Gleason are all second-pairing defensemen, at best, but in Carolina they swallow a ton of minutes.  I think Carolina's management knows this full well, because when they had the chance to play McBain last year (due to injuries) they gave him all he could carry. Babchuk coming back into the fold improves this unit offensively, but his defensive was unremarkable at best in his season debut and could become a cause for concern.  I'm high on Jamie McBain, of course, and he had a number of stellar plays so far.  That being said, if Carolina continues to give its best minutes with its top line to Pitkanen and Corvo, Cam Ward's going to have his work cut out for him.  And really, this season for the 'Canes rests squarely on Ward's shoulders.  Can he be the guy who's carried them through otherwise-unwinnable games?  Or will he be plagued by injuries and inconsistency?  He looks good so far, but if you are banking on that you clearly don't know the definition of "inconsistency."

Florida Panthers
Defensemen
Bryan McCabe - Dmitry Kulikov
Bryan Allen - Dennis Wideman
Mike Weaver - Jason Garrison

Goaltender
Tomas Vokoun

Florida is nominally rebuilding, but a truly rebuilding team would have found a way to get Erik Gudbranson minutes.  Gudbranson had a solid preseason and deserved better than to get shipped down before a cup o' tea.  That being said, the kid's only 18 so I'll give them a break.  Kulikov, their first-rounder from a couple of years back, is going to get big minutes to help him get experience, and he deserves it, but in general he's the only exciting thing going here.  McCabe is really hitting the age wall these days, though there are moments when you can remember the time he was a Norris-level player.  Wideman can make me laugh sometimes.  Weaver was a sneaky-good add for Florida, as he was an underrated penalty-killer for St. Louis, but it's really a zero-sum gain after the loss of Dennis Seidenberg.

Vokoun, of course, is the hard-hat star on this team, and I think it's a shame that guys like him will never get their due.  If there is justice in the world, the Penguins will flip Marc-Andre Fleury for Vokoun just to make things right.

In general, talking about the Southeast's defense is a painful undertaking, but it gives me an opportunity to hope for the future.  Truth is, I like defense, and I don't think it's good hockey without it.  Let's hope one or more of these teams gives us good hockey this year.

Southeast Division Defense Rankings
1. Atlanta Thrashers
2. Washington Capitals
3. Tampa Bay Lightning
4. Carolina Hurricanes
5. Florida Panthers

Friday, October 8, 2010

New Format, I Think

So, to this point BN has been very analytical in nature, which works great when I have the time.  I don't.  I just started a PhD program and now I'm finding I have little energy to throw together data and info to be truly introspective and smartypants.  I still like having season previews and predictions, because it makes us feel good when we're right about Darrol Powe sucking (me) or riding the white horse into Flyers fans perversions (Forsberg, Weagz).  Same could be said about Mike Comrie (Rankin's) or Lube Visnovsky (Cosby), but I digress.

The new format is a frenetic, once-a-week mishmash of goals, a couple players to watch because they either suck a bit or rock a lot, sarcasm, and an update of our individual predictions versus where things really stand. Since Rankin's usually come out Sunday, I'll probably be doing mine on a Wednesday or Thursday.  When I have the time, I might throw in some random commentary or a deeper piece on something.

It's just popped into my head, so it's worth mentioning before I forget: Joe Thornton has a really tall face.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NHL Preview: Pacific Division

The NHL’s Pacific Division is two years into the reign of the San Jose Sharks. From where I sit, this has no chance of changing in the 2010-2011 season. While the Division on the whole will be more competitive than in years passed—perhaps even generating four of eight playoff spots in the West—San Jose will have little competition for its top spot.


The big question for San Jose this year will be leadership. The “C” remains unassigned for the Sharks. I suspect that Joe Thornton will resume the post he once held in Boston. But then, given Jumbo Joe’s tendency to disappear come the post-season, my suggestion that the team will lack leadership is given that much more weight. The Sharks are as talented a group as they come, and they upgraded their goaltending in the offseason by bringing in Antti Niemi. But the best they seem capable of is baby steps during their perennial visits to the playoffs. True to this template, maybe I’ll give them a 7-game loss in the West Finals this season.

Finishing second for the 2010-2011 season, we will have the no-longer-surprising Phoenix Coyotes. The Desert Dogs have the netminding to carry a sub-par offensive team to a run at the preseason, as Ilya Bryzgalov did with Phoenix’s 2.57 goals scored per game last year. The Coyotes’ addition of scoring winger Ray Whitney for this year should help the offensive effort, though. Outside of San Jose, the Pacific Division simply does not boast enough offensive firepower to knock Phoenix from its newfound success.

On the strength of goaltending, I’m going to take the Anaheim Ducks to move up to third place in the Pacific after missing the playoffs last year. Jonas Hiller had a solid 2008-2009 season in his first shot at significant NHL playing time, and had an even more impressive run in the post-season that year. With last year came the Olympics, and Hiller’s mind would likely have been a bit scattered as he represented his native Switzerland in international play (and we all know what slaves them goaltenders are to habit and routine). Look for Hiller to have a strong year in 2010-2011, with the help of newly signed Andy “Big & Filthy” Sutton and Paul Mara playing in front of him on the blue line.

Because Dallas is looking more and more like a candidate for the NHL’s upcoming European expansion, we have the Los Angeles Kings placing fourth in the Pacific for 2010-2011. I’m not sold on Jonathan Quick as a “bull by the horns” type of netminder. And neither does Anze Kopitar seem like he is every going to emerge as a truly reliable scoring threat. The Kings may well compete for a playoff spot again this year, but I think it is just as likely that they sink back into relative hockey obscurity by the end of the coming season.

Which leaves only Dallas to round out the Pacific. The Stars bring nothing to the table offensively, and they are chock full of backup goaltenders to start the season. I’m thinking sub-500 for Dallas in 2010-2011.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NHL Preview: Central Division Forwards

Ahh, the Central Division. Home of the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks. I just puked all over my new Hextall t-shirt.

Chicago Blackhawks
Tomas Kopecky - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Troy Brouwer - Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane
Viktor Stalberg - Dave Bolland - Fernando Pisani
Bryan Bickell - Jake Dowell - Jack Skille

While the "core" group of forwards remains for the defending champs, we saw plenty of departures up front from this group over the summer. Specifically, the Hawks come into this season without the services of Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, John Madden, Ben Eager, Colin Fraser, and Adam Burish. Hmm, who's left to call Pronger funny names? Despite these departures, the Blackhawks are dangerous up front. Toews and Kane lead the way in this department with Sharp and Hossa rounding out most of the scoring. Two guys that are going to have to step it up this year are Troy Brouwer and Dave Bolland. Brouwer put up a decent regular season last year (40 points), while Bolland got hot during the playoffs (16 points in 22 games). It looks like there's a void for a scoring winger on that 2nd line. Overall, this is still a dangerous group of forwards but they lack depth compared to last season.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Kristian Huselius - Antoine Vermette - Rick Nash
Nikita Filatov - Derick Brassard - Jakub Voracek
Ethan Moreau - Samuel Pahlsson - R. J. Umberger
Jared Boll - Andrew Murray - Chris Clark

While Antoine Vermette and Kristian Huselius had good statistical years last season (27G, 38A and 23G, 40A, respectively), I can't help but look at this lineup and think once again that Rick Nash doesn't have an adequate supporting cast around him. What would prove me wrong? Well, there are plenty of young developing forwards in the top 6 here, so one could always play the "potential" card. For example, 3rd-year man Jakub Voracek looks to improve on a 50-point campaign last year while leading what is a young and talented 2nd line. R.J. Umberger will likely be moved around a bit throughout this lineup. He's a guy who can fill in on top-line duty if needed, provide secondary scoring on a 2nd line, or be in more of a defensive checking role on the 3rd line. Long-time Oiler Ethan Moreau will provide a veteran presence to this lineup. Overall, we can expect this group to perform similarly to last year's group, unless the young forwards develop faster than expected. Columbus fans should just be happy that the Fat Man didn't eat Nikita Filatov before his departure.

This burger could have been Nikita Filatov.

Detroit Red Wings
Henrik Zetterberg - Pavel Datsyuk - Tomas Holmstrom
Johan Franzen -Valtteri Filppula - Todd Bertuzzi
Dan Cleary - Mike Modano - Jiri Hudler
Patrick Eaves - Kris Draper - Darren Helm

I know that our resident editor hates the Red Wings, but it's hard to look at this lineup and not be at least a little intrigued. Coach Babcock has the freedom to mix and match throughout this entire lineup, and he probably will. It remains to be seen how much gas is left in the tank for newcomer Mike Modano (prediction: not much), but that won't matter very much. The Red Wings got Jiri Hudler back from the KHL, where he had a point-a-game campaign last year. The guy still looks like a mutant, though. Overall, this is a group with plenty of scoring ability, well-roundedness, and depth, and Matteau hates that.

Nashville Predators
Steve Sullivan - Cal O'Reilly - Patric Hornqvist
Colin Wilson - Matthew Lombardi - Martin Erat
J.P. Dumont - David Legwand - Joel Ward
Sergei Kostitsyn - Marcel Goc - Jordin Tootoo

Let's be clear about this lineup: I hate it. They don't have a legit first line, the middle of the lineup seems disjointed, and there's a Kostitsyn on the 4th line. But, let's also be clear about the fact that Barry Trotz will prove me wrong by once again making due with a mediocre group, waving his magic wand, and allowing this team to be competitive. Realistically, this isn't a group that's going to score a ton of goals. They were 18th in goals scored last year, and I don't see many reasons to think that will improve. However, they might get decent scoring support throughout the lineup, but the strength of their team clearly lies outside of the forward department.

St. Louis Blues
T.J. Oshie - Andy McDonald - Patrik Berglund
David Perron - David Backes - Brad Boyes
Alex Steen - Jay McClement - B. J. Crombeen
Brad Winchester - Vladimir Sobotka - Cam Janssen

Warning: here's where my bias will be apparent. Whenever you have a guy tell the media that in preparation for the Olympics, he's trying to fight every Canadian from the Olympic roster he can, that guy jumps to "elite" status. I don't care if David Backes finishes with 4 goals and 8 assists this year. He's awesome. He'll be joined by T.J. Oshie, a scrappy little guy who will look to improve upon a 18G, 30A 2nd year. Brad Boyes had a disappointing season last year compared to his previous 2 seasons of 33 and 43 goals. He'll need to have a rebound season to help along youngsters Patrik Berglund and David Perron. One acquisition I like is Vladimir Sobotka. He was fiesty for the Bruins in the playoffs last year, and I think his rough upbringing along the docks in Baltimore will do him well in the NHL. Overall, this is still a young group that has some growing to do. But, if the pieces come together, they might surprise some people.

Central Division Forward Rankings
1. Detroit Red Wings
2. Chicago Blackhawks
3. St. Louis Blues
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. Nashville Predators

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Thought of the Day

These two players need to meet.  Seriously.  Severin Blindenbacher of the Stars and Korbinian Holzer of the Leafs.  With their powers combined, they are Korbinian Blindenbacher.  Actually, I feel like if they met they would unleash broadswords and start swinging.  I haven't felt this way since Tore Vikingstad.