1. Washington Capitals
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
1. Washington Capitals
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Naturally it's not good that the Wings replaced Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler with the likes of Todd effin' Bertuzzi, but few teams can match the Red Wings defense (Lidstrom-Rafalski-Kronwall) and unstoppable winning tradition.
1. Philadelphia Flyers
While most of the Twitterverse mocked Philly for sending their farm system to Anaheim for Chris Pronger, I cringed for very different reasons. It was almost as if Paul Holmgren heard my claims that the Flyers were going from a bunch of meathead goons to a bunch of Downy soft forwards. Now, the Flyers are big and bad again and Pronger could not be a more fitting – almost archetypal - D guy for that team.
Pronger-Coburn-Timonen is the best defensive trio in the Eastern Conference. With Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and a handful of quality support players, the Flyers shouldn’t struggle to light up the scoreboard, either. As always, though, the Flyers had to build a beautiful house on a foundation of flimsy goaltending.
While I think Ray Emery was good enough to at least be on an NHL roster last year (and Brain Boucher is a solid backup), it is humorous that the team is once again rolling the dice in net.
They’ll get by gloriously in the regular season … but in the playoffs? I have my doubts.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have a better chance to win the Cup than the Atlantic Division this season.
On its face, that’s a ridiculous statement but the Penguins have been slow starters since the beginning of the Crosby era and I expect that trend to continue. With Max Talbot sidelined for quite a while and a team that must be a little banged up from two straight deep playoff runs, the Penguins might sputter a bit with that big silver chalice-shaped target on their backs.
But don’t bet against them when the games start to matter.
3. New Jersey Devils
Speaking of never betting against someone, how can you doubt the Devils at this point? I’ve been stunned to read all of the Chicken Little talk about New Jersey after they lost not-so-essential players like John Madden and Brian Gionta. Look, they’re both nice players but why would those two land a death blow on a team that somehow remained contenders after losing Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski since the salary cap was instituted?
Like some Raid-proof roach infestation, the Devils will continue defy expectations and make it to the playoffs again. And much like their spiritual insect brethren, it won’t be pretty … especially with Jacques Lemaire in charge.
4. New York Rangers
“Boy, if Marian Gaborik could just stay healthy the Rangers would see a huge upgrade.”
“If only Lindsay Lohan could calm down on the crank for a bit, she could be the next great starlet.”
“If only Al Gore could emulate true human emotions, he’d be a hell of a candidate.”
“It’s too bad time machines aren’t real because then Britney Spears could un-ruin her life.”
“If US banks didn’t destroy America …”
Wow, the “if game” really IS fun!
5. New York Islanders
Take solace in John Tavares.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Instead of going team-by-team, let's stick some gut reactions into tidy divisional formats. Then at the end I'll share wild guesses on playoff seeding and maybe a blindfolded dart throw at a Stanley Cup champion. You're WELCOME.
Reach for the TUMS: Not too much beyond Iggy, have you SEEN Olli Jokinen?, Kipper could simply be on a free fall.
3. Minnesota Wild
So...: The Oilers could scrap their way into a playoff spot, but my gut feeling is that they'll tease for a few months and then putter their way to a golf course.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
- If things work out well, I should have a daily feature (but that might be a big if to get everyone coordinated) that will (hopefully) bring a fresh-ish take on "link dumps"/headline type posts. Hopefully.
- I'm going to finish up my season previews ("Gut Reactions") although I'm going to change the format from team-by-team to division-by-division. This may be the only thing I can truly guarantee.
- Finally, I hope to involve the team bloggers in a spirited but brief little feature to preview the NHL season in true CLS fashion.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
16-1 (451) - Florida Panthers - Toni Lydman
16-2 (452) - Colorado Avalanche - Dan Ellis
16-3 (453) - Chicago Blackhawks - Justin Abdelkader (Acquired from Montreal)
16-4 (454) - Anaheim Ducks - John Mitchell
16-5 (455) - Buffalo Sabres - Brent Johnson
16-6 (456) - Boston Bruins - Petteri Nokelainen
16-7 (457) - Ottawa Senators - Brian Boucher
16-8 (458) - San Jose Sharks - Jimmy Howard
16-9 (459) - Toronto Maple Leafs - John Madden
16-10 (460) - New Jersey Devils - Richard Park
16-11 (461) - Colorado Avalanche (Acquired from New York Rangers): Cody McLeod
16-12 (462) - Carolina Hurricanes - Derek Boogaard
16-13 (463) - Minnesota North Stars - Erik Ersberg
16-14 (464) - Boston Bruins (Acquired from Los Angeles, via Edmonton) - Stephane Yelle
16-15 (465) - Toronto Maple Leafs (Acquired from Detroit, via Edmonton): Sergei Kostitsyn
Symbolic of Radek Bonk being gobbled up by the KHL???
16-16 (466) - Philadelphia Flyers (Acquired from Columbus): Cory Murphy
16-17 (467) - Washington Capitals: Fredrik Modin
16-18 (468) - Pittsburgh Penguins: Jarkko Ruutu
16-19 (469) - Phoenix Coyotes: Radek Bonk
16-20 (470) - St. Louis Blues: Tom Kostopoulos
16-21 (471) - Atlanta Thrashers: Mike Comrie
16-22 (472) - Nashville Predators: Cal O'Reilly
16-23 (473) - New York Rangers (Acquired from Colorado Avalanche, via Edmonton): Karlis Skrastins
16-24 (474) - St. Louis Blues (Acquired from Philadelphia): Anssi Salmela
16-25 (475) - New York Islanders: Mathieu Schneider
16-26 (476) - Chicago Blackhawks: Matt Bradley
16-27 (477) - Dallas Stars: Bryce Salvador
16-28 (478) - Tampa Bay Lightning: Brad Lukowich
16-29 (479) - Vancouver Canucks: Travis Moen
16-30 (480) - Calgary Flames: Bruno Gervais
Thursday, September 17, 2009
- The post-whistle shtick is really obnoxious, especially online. It would be interesting if the rough stuff truly carried over during the game or wasn't something that happened after every whistle. Instead, all it does is needlessly slow the game down to a screeching halt.
- Many people had issues with an unintentional penalty that often happened in NHL '09. Sometimes you would receive an interference call because the game assumed you were going for a hit when you were actually attempting a one-timer.
- The neutral zone passing in this game (and much of the quick passes "into space") can be downright horrific at times. I tried to make reasonable breakout passes and they would speed senselessly to an icing violation frequently.
- Is it too much to ask for icon passing or being able to switch to the exact player you want? Sometimes I feel most comfortable playing defense with a forward, but the game assumes that I want to go for checks constantly and therefore only allows me to use a defenseman at crucial times.
- The teammate AI could still use some work. If the game is going to hang you out to dry by curbing much of the passing accuracy, then it hurts that much more when a player skates far out of your zone when you're under durress. That can be VERY frustrating.
- Despite the unintended penalties, I think the board play is pretty fun. It allows you to stage a much more effective forecheck and also gives you a little more time to set up a cycle game. (Shocking that I'd find that appealing, right?)
- It seems like EA's done a solid job of cutting down on some of the more insufferable glitches from '09. I stopped playing online a while with the last update, since the game devolved into an exploit war.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Now that most of the "heavy lifting" is done, let's finish the main posts (I'll probably put together an all-in-one post to make it easier to navigate the information) with a more philosophical, open-ended piece. The Things You Should Ask Yourself
1. Which positions are emphasized and deemphasized in this draft?
In leagues where all forwards are classified as simply "F" (instead of positions like C, LW, RW) that won't matter. But in the Yahoo! leagues and many others, it pays off to draft equally talented wingers early in drafts because those ranks tend to dry up mighty quickly.
Mike Green? The Drew Brees of fantasy hockey in that he could, conceivably, be a first round pick. Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov, Zdeno Chara, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, Dion Phaneuf and a handful of others can make a difference.
It's also important to remember how injuries can affect numbers. Brenden Morrow and Paul Stastny should have much better seasons, but you probably already knew that. However, what you might forget is that with their renewed playing time, another player has to suffer.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Although it is not the #1 factor in selecting a player, my general rule is: when in doubt, draft a guy who will go into the season with the undeniable motivation of filthy, sweaty gobs of money. With that in mind, here is a list of THE MOST NOTABLE players whose contracts will expire after this season.
2010-11 RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS of note
Saturday, September 12, 2009
After all, Heatley is absolutely the real deal. Anyone who thinks he will be a "bust" is allowing their (understandably negative) feelings get in the way of the fact that Heatley is absolutely one of the top five goal scorers in the league. He could genuinely flirt with joining Alex Ovechkin in the ultra-rare 60 Goal Club.
15-2 (422) - Vancouver Canucks - Ladislav Smid
15-3 (423) - Tampa Bay Lightning - Blake Comeau
15-4 (424) - Dallas Stars - Andrew Ference
15-5 (425) - Chicago Blackhawks - Chris Butler
15-6 (426) - New York Islanders - Nick Boynton
15-7 (427) - St. Louis Blues - Sean Bergenheim (Acquired from Philadelphia)
15-8 (428) - Dallas Stars - Jason Chimera (Acquired from Edmonton)
15-9 (429) - Nashville Predators - Josh Bailey
15-10 (430) - Atlanta Thrashers - Daniel Carcillo
15-11 (431) - St. Louis Blues - Eric Belanger
15-12 (432) - Phoenix Coyotes - Manny Fernandez
15-13 (433) - Pittsburgh Penguins - Michael Leighton
15-14 (434) - Washington Capitals - Jeff Schultz
15-15 (435) - Columbus Blue Jackets - B. J. Crombeen
15-16 (436) - Dallas Stars - Jason LaBarbera (Acquired from Detroit, via Edmonton)
15-17 (437) - Los Angeles Kings - David Legwand
15-18 (438) - Toronto Maple Leafs - Nicklas Grossman (Acquired from Minnesota)
15-19 (439) - Carolina Hurricanes - Rafi Torres
15-20 (440) - New York Rangers - Artem Anisimov
15-21 (441) - New Jersey Devils - Steve Downie
15-22 (442) - Toronto Maple Leafs - Alex Auld
15-23 (443) - San Jose Sharks - Paul Gaustad
15-24 (444) - Ottawa Senators - Ryan Shannon
15-25 (445) - Boston Bruins - Boris Valabik
15-26 (446) - Philadelphia Flyers - Scott Gomez (Acquired from Buffalo)
15-27 (447) - Anaheim Ducks - Steve Staios
15-28 (448) - Chicago Blackhawks - Mathieu Garon (Acquired from Montreal)
15-29 (449) - Colorado Avalanche - Kurt Sauer
15-30 (450) - Florida Panthers - Mike Rupp
Thursday, September 10, 2009
So you could say that being a Caps fan - or at least a hockey fan - wasn't so much a choice as it was a birthright. I was indoctrinated right from the womb, really. There's even a story that my mother would attend games while pregnant with me and I would proceed to kick to "Let's Go Caps!"...I only kind of believe it.
So my upbringing was a rather unique one, entirely Caps-centric in a city of Redskins fans - but it was ingrained in me from such a young age that it becomes hard to pick out just one memory that defines hockey's place in my life. It's really more of a collage of sights and sounds and events that turned me into the obsessive nutjob I'm proud to be today.
I remember my sister and I getting little replica jersey t-shirts from the Junior Fan Club and proudly wearing them as often as I could, begging to wear them to school and to bed and then wondering why they weren't clean when I got to go to games. We had a pile of pom-poms in a basket in our basement, souvenirs of past playoff series that would occasionally make cameos in whatever make believe dress-up games we would be involved in on any given day; the number of times I pranced around with white plastic hair is too high to count. On the wall was a growth poster featuring a very young, very large Scott Stevens in full uniform and on skates. I remember gazing up at it and thinking he was a giant, an impression that was probably not helped by the fact that the poster was hung about a foot off the ground. Yet because of that poster Stevens was probably one of the first players I recognized just by looking at his face - and one of my earliest favorites for that exact reason.
It had the strange, scooped-out roof that in my mind looked like it had been crushed by a giant rear end and the parking lots named after patriotic symbols like 'Stars and Stripes' and 'Eagle'. There was the huge video screen in the middle of the arena, the first of its kind, and smaller computerized screens in the corner with funny little cartoons that acted out penalties or implored the crowd to cheer. The concourse smelled like popcorn and cotton candy and cigarette smoke - of course this was back in the days when you were allowed to smoke in arenas. And the building was always filled with noise of some kind or another, whether it was the organ or the cheering of the crowd or the wandering trumpeter who appeared in different sections throughout the game.
Back then I didn't really understand the concept of "other teams" the way I do today. I knew I hated the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, but aside from a few select faces of evil (Lemieux, Hextall, Ulf Samuelsson, etc.) I couldn't have named players even on those teams - and outside of the Patrick Division, forget it. Hockey was very personal to me. I honestly believed that when I went to a game or watched it on TV the Caps couldn't possibly lose; if I cheered loud enough they would score. And when they got knocked out of the playoffs, as seemed to be their tradition, hockey ceased to exist until fall. I don't even remember actually watching the Stanley Cup being awarded until the Rangers won it in 1994.
Well...that or the hatred of the Penguins. It's a toss-up.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Many leagues have specific, largely predictable categories that tend to be dominated by the same general group of players. In fact, some players are only useful IF those categories are included. The following list is meant to give you a quick guide to guys who can help you win certain categories.
Hank Zetterberg gets points, SOG, FW, a good plus/minus AND typically is a LW/C. Awesome!
Guys who could be highly ranked next year with just a slight improvement in FO%
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
14-1 (391) - Florida Panthers - Nik Zherdev
14-2 (392) - Detroit Red Wings - Kent Huskins (Acquired from Colorado)
14-3 (393) - Montreal Canadiens - Christopher Higgins
14-4 (394) - Anaheim Ducks - Kris Draper
14-5 (395) - Philadelphia Flyers - Ryan Parent (Acquired from Buffalo)
14-6 (396) - Boston Bruins - Eric Fehr
14-7 (397) - Ottawa Senators - Kris Russell
14-8 (398) - San Jose Sharks - Pierre Marc Bouchard
14-9 (399) - Minnesota North Stars (Acquired from Toronto) - Josh Gorges
14-10 (400) - New Jersey Devils - Stephane Veilleux
14-11 (401) - New York Rangers - Freddie Sjostrom
14-12 (402) - Carolina Hurricanes - Andrew Alberts
14-13 (403) - Minnesota North Stars - Joel Ward
14-14 (404) - Los Angeles Kings - Wayne Simmonds
14-16 (406) - Columbus Blue Jackets - Daniel Paille
14-17 (407) - Montreal Canadiens (Acquired from Washington): Pascal LeClaire
14-18 (408) - Pittsburgh Penguins: Milan Jurcina
14-19 (409) - Phoenix Coyotes: Marty Reasoner
14-20 (410) - St. Louis Blues: Tomas Plekanec
14-21 (411) - Atlanta Thrashers: Jordin Tootoo
14-22 (412) - Nashville Predators: Petr Sykora
14-23 (413) - Toronto Maple Leafs (Acquired from Edmonton): Mike Grier
14-24 (414) - St. Louis Blues (Acquired from Philadelphia): Roman Hamrlik
14-25 (415) - New York Islanders: Brendan Shanahan
14-26 (416) - Montreal Canadiens (Acquired from Chicago): Rostislav Klesla
14-27 (417) - Dallas Stars: Jeff Halpern
14-28 (418) - Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrej Meszaros
14-29 (419) - Vancouver Canucks: Evgeny Artyukhin
14-30 (420) - Calgary Flames: Dustin Boyd
Keep in mind that these are assessments made without painstaking research and are not meant to be "official" predictions. Whatever that means, anyway...
The Vancouver Canucks' hopes are hitched to three workhorses for the forseeable future. For at least the next 5 years, Vancouver goes as Roberto Luongo and the Sedins go. Whatever you may say about the crazy lifetime contracts being thrown around, there are worse players to have locked up for the remainder of their best days than Bobby Lou.
So, the good news is that the Canucks locked up their best players for fairly reasonable cap hits.
The bad news is that the 2010 Olympics are going to completely screw them over.
In last year's BoC bubble updates, my main theory was that the main thing non-elite teams was the difficulty of their remaining schedules. Well, by that train of thought, it's very difficult for me to justify the idea of the Canucks winning their division.
On the bright side, though, I find it hard to imagine Vancouver missing the playoffs entirely. This team is considerably stronger than Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado even with the handicap of their fairly insane road schedule.
Photoshop by Katchop
The Canucks won't be blowing many teams out, as even their best forwards (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows) tend to get their points by grinding other teams to dust.
Even after losing heart-and-soul D Matt Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canucks have one of the deepest groups of blueliners in the NHL. It doesn't get much better than Kevin Bieska - Sami Salo - Wille Mitchell -Alex Edler - Mathieu Schneider - Christian Ehrhoff - Shane O'Brien. It wouldn't be surprising if one of those seven ended up in a salary dump, but either way that's a versatile bunch.
And, of course, the Canucks feature arguably the world's greatest goaltender in Luongo. To make him look even more world class, they brought in Andrew Raycroft, a guy who inexplicably remains in the NHL while guys likeManny Fernandez wait in UFA limbo. If Luongo is injured again next season, it's pretty hard to imagine the Canucks opting for Raycroft over their solid prospect Corey Schneider.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the Canucks but a rough schedule will derail Vancouver's division title hopes.
Lightly researched, impulsive prediction: #2 in the Northwest Division, #5 in the Western Conference
Monday, September 7, 2009
Please note: These are based on general categories and aren't by any means scientific. They're also subject to change
Solid workhorse guys
Risky but interesting
Clear Backups worth a gander (or FA pickup later on)
Thursday, September 3, 2009
For as long as I can remember, I have been a Maple Leafs fan. As a kid growing up in Northern Ontario, it was kind of forced upon me. Every year, my parents always got two sets of tickets to Maple Leaf Gardens, one set against the glass in the gold section, and one set of center ice reds.
It was the 1992 season, and I was sitting with my dad against the glass at the Gardens during the Leafs warmup. At the time, my heroes on the team were similar to other fans, as they boasted the likes of Gilmour, Clark, and Potvin. This day was a bit different however, as a lesser known player, Mike Krushelnyski, didn't know that he would change a kids life with a small little gesture.
As the players were skating around, I was banging on the glass and yelling out all of the players names as they went by. When Mike went by, I couldn't pronounce his name, and I guess he heard because he tapped on the glass with his stick as he went by. I asked my dad how to pronounce it, and when he came by the next time, I yelled it out properly. Once again, he must have heard, because he winked at me when he skated by, went and picked up a puck, and threw it over the glass to me.
When I told my mom what had happened, she told me that I should write him a letter thanking him for what he did. Little did I know then that it was a general letter that was sent back from the Leafs, but included was a signed photo of Krushelnyski. I got the picture framed and it still sits in my room to this day with the puck that he threw me.