Should Philly Trade for a Defenseman Before the Start of the Season?

August 9, 2012 by Sami  
Filed under NHL Players

Well I was wrong about Nashville not being able to match Philly’s offer sheet to Weber.  It’s been reported that Andrej Meszaros is done for the majority of the season with an Achilles tear.  It is a blow to a defensive corps that does not look nearly as intimidating from the Stanley Cup final team.  No Pronger, Carle to TB, aging Timonen…  Now this seems to be quite worrisome to many people who are expecting Philly to make a splash before the start of the season.  I don’t feel that Philly really has to worry that quickly, they have already given up one of their younger players in James Van Riemsdyk to acquire Luke Schenn.  Schenn should benefit from starting fresh start away from the fickle Maple Leaf fans.

They say Defence win championships and I agree that you absolutely need it to get the Cup, however I don’t feel that you need amazing defence to get to the playoffs.  Especially after you have a look at Philly’s offense, they can outscore most teams in a goal fest.  Philly’s defence is alright and should be able to hold down the fort for many of the games this season.  One cause for concern is that they have a terribly streaky goaltender (Bryzgalov) with a backup veteran in Leighton.  It is difficult to predict how the goaltending will shape up; Bobrovsky took care of the load for a stretch in the middle of last season.

If Philly was prepared to unload their next 4 first round picks for Weber, they will be ready to deal draft picks this season and should be able to acquire a defenseman as teams fall out of the playoff picture.  A couple of years ago, Montreal was able to acquire Wizniewski for a second round draft pick from the Islanders.  Also Meszaros should be back at some point in the season.

It is for these reasons that I feel that Philly does not need to address their defence dilemma ASAP but rather see how the team and especially goaltending perform through the start of the season and address the need accordingly.

2012 Free Agency – Minnesota and Unsigned Free Agents

July 9, 2012 by Sami  
Filed under NHL Players

Minnesota Homerun?

Most people feel that Minnesota won free agency as they got the 2 biggest names in the pool this year: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  Both are fantastic players with lots of character but were they worth their huge contracts?  I hold the opinion that they are fantastic support players and not necessarily face of a franchise material.

New Jersey was coming off a Cup Final run however I can’t think of one game where Parise grabbed everyone on his back.  Henrique scored the crucial goals that sent teams packing and Kovalchuk did as much as he could on a bad back. Zubrus played like a player possessed that went back in time a few years.  The defence had held up as a group and the sum of the parts didn’t equal the whole.

Suter is a fantastic defenseman but is he the go-to guy?  He has been playing under the shadow of Weber and in front of one of the best goaltenders in the league in Rinne.  In Minnesota, he finds himself with an older competent goalie in Backstrom but has been fighting injuries the last couple of years.  He is coming to a defensive corps that is relatively unknown, so it his opportunity to step up to the plate.

I feel that Minnesota’s success depends on Mikko Koivu, much like last season.  They were tearing up the league until he got injured and they never really recovered from there.

There are still fish in the pool?

Many players have signed over the free agency however there is still some talent that can change a team that is available.

There has been a lot of knocks on Alex Semin and Andrei Kostitsyn.  As much as there is a knock on character of both of these players, they are both players that possess incredible talent (Semin more than Kostitsyn).  If playing with the right players, they can thrive.  Put either next to a good playmaker where they just have to get free and shoot, they will rack up the points.  Both possess deadly wrist shots.  If the rumours are true that Detroit wants Semin, it would be very interesting what would happen if he were to play with a Datsyuk or a Zetterberg.

It was just a few days ago where commentators were commending Semin on placing himself in front of shots in the Boston series on a defence first, counterpunch system that the Capitals had adopted.  If he were to play on a team that can carry the puck and did not have to worry about the identity crisis, he and Kostitsyn can be effective.  However both players do take nights off but there are many players who do.

One player that stands out in the free agent pool that doesn’t take nights off and oozes character is Shane Doan.  He will decide today if he wants to stay in Phoenix based on the security of the team. If he does go into proper free agency, I would sign him in a heartbeat.  I suspect 29 teams would as well.

Erik Karlsson signs a 7 year $45.5 million contract with the Ottawa Senators

June 21, 2012 by Sami  
Filed under Hockey Columns, NHL Players

The Ottawa Senators signed superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson to a 7 year contract with a $6.5 million cap hit per season.  This contract that comes in the heels of a terrific 78 point season, which was 25 points more than the next defensive point leader in Brian Campbell.

There are a couple of answers that come from this contract.  The first being that we have a ceiling on what RFA defensemen such as PK Subban, Mike Green, Dmitry Kulikov and Shea Weber will be getting this season.  Weber was extremely fortunate last season during arbitration that the arbitrator considered just the amount that Christian Ehrhoff signed for through the 2012 season instead of looking at the entire contract and how front loaded contract was.

The other answer that we are getting is that one fantastic year at a contract season is enough to secure your future and give you a chance at big money.  The contract after an entry level contract was traditionally more affordable than signing a player once they get to the UFA years.  This has changed; the pioneer of it was Rick Nash’s contract in Columbus who got paid way more than was expected out of a second contract.

This contract validates that Erik Karlsson is now the franchise player in Ottawa and is the face of the franchise, a title previously held by Daniel Alfredsson. Let’s have a look at the franchise players of each team:

  • Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara
  • Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson
  • Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller
  • Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel
  • Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
  • New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin
  • Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
  • New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk
  • New York Islanders: John Tavares
  • Florida Panthers: Stephen Weiss
  • Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin
  • Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
  • Winnipeg Jets: Ondrej Pavelec/ Evander Kane/ Dustin Byfuglien
  • Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal
  • St.Louis Blues: David Backes / Alex Pietrangelo
  • Nashville Predators: Pekka Rinne / Shea Weber
  • Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk/ Henrik Zetterberg
  • Chicago Blackhawks: Jonathan Toews
  • Columbus BlueJackets: Rick Nash (until he is traded)
  • Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan/Mike Smith
  • San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
  • Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar/Jonathan Quick/Drew Doughty
  • Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn
  • Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf/Corey Perry
  • Vancouver Canucks: Henrik/Daniel Sedin
  • Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
  • Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duschene
  • Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu
  • Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall/Jordan Eberle

There are not too many defensemen that you can consider as franchise players for their teams in the league at this time, the only team that comes to mind is the Boston Bruins with Zdeno Chara as their face.  There are other teams there is a core of players that you consider as the franchise at this time and there are a few teams that have D that fits into the puzzle.  This shows how Ottawa is now one of the rare teams in the NHL.

Blackhawks Sign Kris Versteeg Avoid Crisis

July 7, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under NHL Players

It appears that the Chicago Blackhawks have avoided the potential crisis of losing a couple of their young stars because of some botched qualifying offers.

Chicago was able to sign Cam barker to a 3-year $9.25Million extension yesterday and it appears that they have accomplished the same deal with Kris Versteeg according to Marty Baceda’s Twitter feed. Baceda indicates that he interviewed Versteeg personally and that he had indeed signed a 3-year $9.25Million deal.

This deal has now also been confirmed by Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune.

Now, the next problem for the Blackhawks is trying to skirt the salary cap – they’re already against the cap, with no second goalie,  and are currently relying on Cristobal Huet to tend the net as the starter.

With so little cap space and a certain requirement in goal, it begs the question as to who the Blackhawks will trade in order to fill that void? suggests that Versteeg, Patrick Sharp and/or Cam Barker are potential trade bait.

Why Playoff Hockey Offers The Best Entertainment Value

May 9, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns, NHL Players

jussi-jokinenOne of the reasons why the NHL continues to grow in popularity, especially in television viewership is the excitement that continues to be brought to the game by a host of fantastic young stars.

While we have seen the tide turning for a few years now, it has not been since the mid-1980′s that the National Hockey League has had as many bonafide young stars as it does today!

Playoff Hockey

What’s more, the NHL playoffs offer hockey fans the chance to see these young stars perform at the peak of intensity and pressure. The best example thus far in the playoffs was, of course, Game 3 of the Penguins vs. Capitals series where both Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin scored hat tricks for their respective teams. But, there is certainly evidence of talented youngsters leading the charge in all of the series’.

Some of the most poignant examples are:

  • Ryan Getzlaf, who is tied for the lead in playoff scoring, and Jonas Hiller have led the 8th seeded Anaheim Ducks past the President’s Trophy winning San Jose Sharks and at least to a six game series with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings.
  • Cam Ward and Eric Staal have put the Carolina Hurricanes on their young, but capable, shoulders and carried the team past the New Jersey Devils and into a 3-1 series lead over the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins.

The Unlikely Hero

Adding to the already exciting story of NHL playoff hockey, it seems that in every playoff year, there emerges an unlikely hero of sorts.

Often, it is a young goaltender that emerges with a fantastic playoff performance, such as Cam Ward did in 2006 on his way to Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe honors. The same could be said for Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy, and Tony Esposito among a few others.

However, the more unlikely heroes are those forwards whose names rarely mark the score sheet during the regular season but somehow when the pressure is turned up in the playoffs, manage to bring their game to new heights.

The Legend of John Druce

The most prolific example of such an unlikely hero is that of John Druce. In the 1989-1990 season Druce managed just 8 Goals and 3 Assists. But it was the playoffs that year when Druce made a name for himself, scoring 14 goals and three assists for 17 points in just 15 games. NHL Director of Corporate Communications, Mike DiLorenzo may have said it best for NY Ranger fans when he noted “That John Druce broke my heart”.

Last season’s unlikely playoff hero was undoubtedly Philadelphia Flyer forward R.J Umberger (Now with Columbus). Umberger notched 10 goals in last year’s 17 game playoff run with Philadelphia after scoring just 13 times in 72 regular season games for the Flyers.

Not to disappoint fans this season, the emergence of an unlikely playoff hero has come to fruition.

Jussi Jokinen of the Carolina Hurricanes was discarded twice by NHL teams this season and manged to score just 7 goals in 71 games split between Tampa Bay and Carolina. However, in just 11 playoff games, Jokinen has scored 6 goals – including 3 game winning goals and 1 game tying goal.

Of course, true hockey fans would watch playoff hockey without the unlikely hero stories or the emergence of a young superstar goaltender, but it is these stories that round out the entertainment value of playoff hockey, start water cooler conversations and deepen fan relationships with their teams.

Is there any better entertainment in the world than playoff hockey?

I think not.

Curtis Joseph Chases All-Time Loss Record

March 28, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns, NHL Players

joseph_curtisWith Martin Gerber’s referee shoving episode earning him a 3-game suspension, Curtis Joseph found himself looking at three straight starts.

Interestingly enough that may be just enough starts to break an NHL record this season.

Collecting his 351st career loss on Friday night, Curtis Joseph moved within one loss of Gump Worsley’s career loss record for goaltenders.

While the all-time record for losses by an NHL goaltender is not an enviable position to be in, Joseph also ranks 4th all-time in wins with 453 NHL victories.

Considering the length of Joseph’s career, it is obvious that the losses are the bi-product of a long career backstopping a host of mediocre teams rather than poor performance.

The Year of The Goalie

In a year when Martin Brodeur has set the record for most career wins, and has been hailed by many as the best goaltender in history, there is one category other than career losses where Joseph leads Brodeur. Joseph (26,707) has had more shots against him than Brodeur (24,842). in fact, Patrick Roy (28,353) is the only goaltender in history with more shots against than Joseph.

In his 19 seasons, Joseph has made nearly 54,000 saves, allowed more than 2500 goals against and has a career goals against average (GAA) of 2.79. Joseph was an NHL All-Star on two occasions in 1994 and 2000

Joseph’s worst full season came in 2006-2007 when he held the fort for a very poor Phoenix Coyotes team, and finished the season with 321 losses and a 3.19 GAA.

With those statistics and without winning a Stanley Cup, does Joseph deserve a shot at the Hall of Fame?

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