Sep 122007
 

Based on the same forumula as the western conference ratings, here are the eastern conference ratings. As usual, if you disagree feel free to post your thoughts and if you can back up your arguement, who knows, maybe you can get me to change my mind.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Ottawa 10 6 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 53.2
Buffalo 8 8 6 7 8 7 8 7 6 52.8
Pittsburgh 10 8 6 8 7 6 7 6 6 52.5
NY Rangers 9 7 8 6 7 6 9 6 6 52.2
Toronto 7 8 7 8 9 7 6 6 6 50.7
Philadelphia 8 8 6 7 7 7 7 7 6 50.3
Florida 7 6 5 7 7 6 9 6 7 49.5
New Jersey 7 6 7 6 6 7 9 6 10 49.5
Montreal 7 6 6 7 7 7 8 7 6 48.8
Atlanta 9 6 7 7 5 6 8 6 5 48.0
Carolina 8 7 7 6 7 8 6 6 6 47.0
NY Islanders 6 7 7 6 7 6 8 5 6 46.8
Boston 7 6 6 7 7 6 7 6 6 46.5
Tampa 9 6 6 8 6 6 6 5 6 46.5
Washington 8 6 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 45.2
Sep 052007
 

Ok, it’s time to get back in hockey mode and start looking to the upcoming season which is less than a month away. But first, let me look at a handful of good and bad off season moves.

The Good

Ryan Whitney: While Whitney doesn’t get the media attention of his teammate forwards Crosby, Malkin and Staal, he is one of the best young defensemen in the NHL and had an excelleny year last year with 14 goals, 59 points and a +9. The Penguins made a very smart move locking up Whitney for the next 6 years at a respectable $4 million per season. In a few years they could have a Norris contender in Whitney for about half of what other top defensemen will be making.

Tomas Vokoun: For a price of a couple of draft picks the Florida Panthers went out and picked up one of the best goalies in the NHL. Florida had mediocre goaltending last year and missed the playoffs by 6 points. With Vokoun in net and with some improvement from some of their other young players I expect the Panthers will have an excellent shot at a playoff spot this season and will contend for the division title.

Smyth/Hannan: The Avalanche are a team that made a big splash in the free agent pool but aren’t getting a lot of recognition for doing so. Not only did they sign two excellent players, but they may have signed the most valuable of the top free agents. Ryan Smyth and Joe Sakic will provide the Avalanche the best leadership both on and off the ice than any other pair in the NHL and Hannan is a nice defensive defenseman that should help out the Avalanche in their own end. If Budaj continues his improvement in goal, the Avalanche could be cup contenders once again.

Toskala: The price was fairly high but the Leafs addressed their most pressing need with the acquisition of Vesa Toskala. While Toskala is still unproven as an NHL starting goalie, he will most certainly be better than Aubin and will give coach Maurice with a pair of goalies (with Raycroft) so that he can go with the hot hand. The Leafs missed the playoffs by a single point and adding Toskala should easily make up that point and get them into the playoffs.

Keenan: The Calgary Flames big spash of the summer was bringing in an experienced, hard nosed coach in Mike Keenan. Keenan will have the team playing harder, tougher and better defensively which is what took them to the Stanley Cup finals a few years back. Keenan will coach more like how Sutter did and I expect the Flames will be an improved team this upcoming season because of it.

Preissing/Handzus/Nagy/Calder/Stuart – There were rumours that the Kings were going to get into the fight for the high priced free agents (Drury, Briere, Gomez, Smyth) but instead they probably went the smarter route and signed a number of cheaper second tier players. The Kings have some quality talent in Cammaleri, Frolov, Kopitar and others so didn’t really need more talent. What they really needed was some depth and experience to mentor that young talent and take some pressure off them and that is exactly what they added.

Todd White – I don’t know why, but I just really like this move by the Atlanta Thrashers. White is a good two-way player who has enough skill to skate with the talented players that the Thrashers have (he has played with Hossa in Ottawa too) and because he is smart defensively he complements those offensive players perfectly. The Thrashers didn’t have a lot of money to spend but made a smart move in signing White to a $2.375 million/year four year deal.

The Bad Moves

Drury – I like Chris Drury. He is a good, solid, 2-way player with good leadership skills. Problem is, he is a second line player now being paid like a first line star. He might score the Rangers 30 goals and get 65 points, but that isn’t the kind of output I would expect from a $7 million player. For that money they could have signed Peca for the leadership and defensive ability, kept Nylander to keep the successfull Jagr-Nylander-Straka trio in tact (and be certain to keep Jagr happy), plus had some money left over to bring in a quality defenseman.

Hartnell – Hartnell will certainly bring some toughness to the Flyers who have converted themselves to a softer team recently but $4.2 million for a guy who will get you 20-25 goals and 40-45 points? That’s a bit much

Lang – There are some teams out there that can just never seem to make a smart move or the mvoes they make never work out. One of those teams is the Blackhawks. They made a splash a few years ago signing Khabibulin but he has been a flop. Last year they made a splash trading for and signing Havlat and while he started off great, he got injured as he always does. This year they didn’t make quite the same sized splash signing Lang to a 2 year $8 million contract but the return on investment will be just as bad. Lang’s production has fallen from 79 points in 2003-04 to 62 points in 2005-06 to 52 points last year and at 36 years of age, that is more likely an irreversable trend than not and Lang has never brought much else to the game than his offensive abilities. Lang is done as an effective player in the NHL and the Blackhawks just made another bad move.

Toskala – Trading for Toskala was a smart move by the Leafs, giving an unproven goalie (as a starter) an extension at $4 million per year was not a smart move. I just don’t see the benefit to signing Toskala now to that large contract rather than waiting to see how he does as a starter. Even if Toskala came in played excellent and took over the starting role from Raycroft (as the Leafs hope he will do), it is unlikely that he would command much more than $4 million if they signed him in January but the risk would be dramatically lowered. It just smells Gerberesk.

Hamrlik – It is questionable whether Hamrlik will be worth his $5.5 million salary cap hit next season, but I am almost certain he will not be worth anywhere near that $5.5 million salary cap hit 4 years from now at age 36. From Kovalev to Samsonov and now to Hamrlik, Montreal seems to be good for one bad signing every summer.

LA Kings goaltending – While I think the Kings made some good moves at forward and defense, they failed to address their most pressing need of a top goalie. Until they do so, they will be a mediocre team at best and all but certain to miss the playoffs.

Other questioinable moves: Briere ($$, length of contract). Timonen ($$, length of contract). Sarich ($$). Penner (cost of compensation). Rafalski (length of contrtact), Nylander ($$, length of contract).

Apr 052007
 

With the Rangers win over Montreal both the Rangers and Lightning have clinched a playoff spot. The final playoff spot will come down to Toronto, Montreal and the Islanders.

Montreal will get in if they beat Toronto Saturday. They will also get in if they get an OT loss and the Islanders don’t win both of their final games.

Toronto gets in if they beat Montreal in regulation and the Islanders get no more than 2 points in their final 2 games.

If the Islanders win both of their games they get in so long as the Canadiens don’t win on Saturday. If the Islanders get 3 points in their final 2 games they will get in only if Toronto wins in regulation.

Apr 032007
 

Tuesday’s results:
Islanders 3, Rangers 2 (SO)
Leafs 3, Flyers 2 (OT)
Tampa 3, Carolina 2
Montreal 2, Boston 0

Updated Standings:
6. NY Rangers (92) – vsMTL, atPIT
7. Tampa Bay (92) – vsFLA, atATL
8. Montreal (90) – atNYR, atTOR
9. Toronto (89) – atNYI, vsMTL
10. NY Islanders (86) – vsTOR, atPHI, atNJ
11. Carolina (86) – vsATL, vsFLA (eliminated)

To Get In:
NY Rangers: A Rangers win or a Leafs loss (in regulation or OT)
Tampa: A Tampa win or an OT loss, or a loss by the leafs (in regulation or OT)
Montreal: Getting a point against the Leafs on Saturday (win or OT/SO loss), or beating Rangers Thursday with the Leafs losing to Islanders.
Toronto: These combinations will get the Leafs in the playoffs:

  • Winning both games in regulation. One of Tampa, Montreal or the Rangers would be eliminated pending other results
  • Leafs win both games but one or both of them in OT and either Tampa loses both in regulation or Rangers lose both with at least one of the two losses in regulation.
  • Lose to Isles Thursday, Rangers defeat Canadiens in regulation and Leafs defeat Canadiens in regulation Saturday. Result: Leafs in, Montreal out.

Islanders: Must win all 3 games with Montreal getting no more than one point or go 2-0-1 including beating the Leafs in regulation and Montreal losing both their games in regulation.
Carolina: Eliminated.

I think those are all the scenarios. If I missed anything let me know.

The other eastern conference race is the battle for tops in the Atlantic division between Pittsburgh and New Jersey and the battle for home ice advantage in the 4 vs 5 seed matchup between Ottawa and either Pittsburgh and New Jersey. The standings currently are:

New Jersey (104) – at Phi, vs NYI
Ottawa (103) – vs Pit, at Bos
Pittsburgh (101) – at Ott, vs NYR

New Jersey clinches top spot in the Atlantic and second seed bu picking up a point against either the Flyers or Islanders. That should happen so the battle is between Pittsburgh and Ottawa for home ice in the first round. For Pittsburgh to gain home ice they need to beat Ottawa Thursday, and then do one point better against the Rangers than whatever Ottawa does against the Bruins. i.e. Ottawa loses, Pittsburgh just needs an OTL. Ottawa gets an OTL, then Pittsburgh must win. That is unless Ottawa get an OTL vs Pittsburgh on Thursday. In that case the Penguins need to beat the Rangers with the Bruins beating the Senators.

Apr 012007
 

With the Rangers and Carolina winning tonight here is how the playoff race in the east looks right now and their games remaining.

6. NY Rangers (91) – atNYI, vsPTL, atPIT
7. Tampa Bay (90) – vsCAR, vsFLA, atATL
8. Montreal (88) – vsBOS, atNYR, atTOR
9. Toronto (87) – vsPHI, atNYI, vsMTL
10. Carolina (86) – atTB, vsATL, vsFLA
11. NY Islanders (84) – vsNYR, vsTOR, atPHI, atNJ

With so many teams still in the race and so games being played against each other and with the crazy 3 point games there are far too many scenarios to figure out how each of these teams can make or miss the playoffs but here are some of what each team needs to do to make the playoffs or what can happen for them to miss.

To get in the playoffs:

Rangers: One more win and they are in.
Tampa: 1-0-1 guarantees a playoff spot. 1-2-0 gets them a spot so long as Montreal doesn’t go 2-0-1 and Toronto goes 3-0-0.
Montreal: 2-0-1 and they are in.
Toronto: 3-0-0 and they are in so long as they defeat Montreal in regulation.
Carolina: Need to go 3-0-0 and get some help. Specifically, no more than 2 of the following can occur:
-Rangers get a win
-Tampa gets a win
-Montreal gets 2 wins
-Leafs go 3-0-0
Islanders: Need to go 4-0-0 and get some help. Specifically, no more than 2 of the following can occur:
-Rangers get a win
-Tampa gets a win
-Montreal gets 4 points
-Toronto goes 2-0-1 with the OTL in the game against the Islanders.

Teams will be out if:

Islanders: Lose any 2 games.
Carolina: Lose any 2 games or lose a single game with Montreal winning a game or Toronto winning 2 games or the Islanders going 3-0-1.
Toronto: Go winless or just win a single game with Montreal getting a single point.
Montreal: Go 0-3-0.
Tampa: Go 0-3-0 and 2 of the following occur:
-Montreal gets 3 points
-Toronto gets 4 points
-Carolina gets 5 points
-NY Islanders go 3-0-1
Rangers: Need to lose all 3 games and three of the following to occur:
-Tampa gets a point
-Montreal gets 3 points
-Toronto goes 2-0-1
-Carolina goes 3-0-0
-Islanders go 3-0-1

Aug 072006
 

I have just decided that it is time I start something new here. Who knows if I’ll continue with it but I am starting it and that is, well, a start. I am going to begin writing ‘Behind the Numbers’ articles in which I will analyse a player based on that players statistics. I am going to try to focus on players whose statistics might not back up common perception of that player or whose statistics might not warrant the salary that player just received or something along those lines. The first of hopefully many Behind the Numbers articles will focus on Sergei Samsonov.

I’ve debated the merits of the Sergei Samsonov signing by the Montreal Canadiens in the comments section of this website as well as elsewhere and I still believe that signing Samsonov for $3.5 million per year was a bad move. Common perception of Samsonov is that he is a highly skilled, goal scoring forward who will bring some much needed offense to the Canadiens. Unfortunately for the Canadiens the numbers don’t back that up. The numbers show him to be just an average, second line kind of winger.

Samsonov has played 8 seasons in the NHL. His first 3 years of his career he averaged 22 goals and 48 points. His next 2 seasons he averaged 29 goals and 73 points. Then in 2002-03 he missed most of the season due to injury and played just 8 games. In 2003-04 he scored 17 goals, 40 points in 58 games and last year he scored 23 goals and 53 points for Boston and Edmonton. In 533 career games he has scored 169 goals and 392 points. Prorate that to and 82 game schedule and you get 26 goals and 60 points. To put that into perspective Ray Whitney’s career 82 game average is 24 goals and 63 points. Ray Whitney is actually a pretty good comparison for Samsonov. Both are small left wingers with good speed and puck handling skills but not quite so adept defensively. But even that 24 goal, 60 point average that Samsonov has put up so far in his career might be a bit misleading considering he has only twice scored more than 53 points.

Is a 25 goal, 55 point guy who isn’t great defensively worth $3.5 million per season? Is Samsonov going to solve the woes of the Montreal offense which was the 11th worst in the NHL? In my mind the answer to both those questions is ‘No!’

(BTW, the same story can be written about last years signing of Kovalev who got a $4.5 million per year contract and who has never scored more than 26 goals and 66 points when not playing with Mario Lemieux.)

Apr 202006
 

Here are my eastern conference predictions. I really hate taking all the favourites but aside from an outside chance of Montreal upsetting Carolina I just can’t see any of the other underdogs winning barring unexpected key injuries.

Just a note: The predictions are my predictions, not my algorithms. I am retiring the algorithm for the season as I don’t think it makes sense to use in the playoffs. I also likely won’t be making predictions on every game since it is really the series that matters. I may post some comments each day on the previous nights results and that nights games but it will depend on how busy I am with other stuff.

Ottawa vs Tampa

Season Series:
October 21: Ottawa 4 at Tampa 1
November 3: Tampa 2 at Ottawa 4
March 6: Ottawa 4 at Tampa 0
March 14: Tampa 3 at Ottawa 4

Ottawa swept the season series and that might be a good indication of what might happen in this playoff series. This is the dream match up for Ottawa as I think Montreal would have given them a much bigger challenge. For both teams the key to the series is goaltending. If Tampa wants any change of winning they need to have Grahame or Burke come up with a several excellent games. Unfortunately for Tampa that hasn’t happened with a whole lot of consistency this year. Grahame has 5 shut outs this year which shows he can be a good goalie but while he can shut out a team one night he can give up 6 goals the next. The key for Ottawa is getting good goaltending from Ray Emery. In March they got excellent goaltending from Emery but in April he was mostly horrible. He apparently has a bit of a hip injury that might be taking away some of this quickness so if I am Tampa I pepper him with as many shots as I can. That will be their only hope to win this series. Prediction: Ottawa in 5.

Carolina vs Montreal

Season Series:
December 31: Montreal 3 at Carolina 5
January 23: Montreal 3 at Carolina 7
January 31: Carolina 8 at Montreal 2
March 15: Carolina 5 at Montreal 1

This is one of those series which I think could definitely end up in an upset despite the fact that Carolina went completely nuts vs Montreal in the regular season out scoring the Canadiens by a 25-9 score in their 4 games. The first 3 of those games has the departed and struggling Jose Theodore in net and the last had David Aebischer. Huet has been the much better goalie and should be the Habs main goalie in the playoffs so that should help. Huet’s outstanding goaltending got the Canadiens into the playoffs and they will only go as far as Huet takes them in the playoffs. For the Hurricanes they key their success will be how Doug Weight and Mark Recchi play. These two guys were traded for to add some depth to the Hurricanes offense, particularly after Erik Cole went down, but they haven’t produced a whole lot up until now. These two veterans need to take some pressure off of Eric Staal to produce all the offense. If they can do that the Hurricanes could go deep into the playoffs. Prediction: Hurricanes in 7

New Jersey vs New York Rangers

Season Series:
October 8: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 3 (OT)
October 13: New Jersey 1 at NY Rangers 4
November 3: NY Rangers 4 at New Jersey 2
November 5: New Jersey 2 at NY Rangers 3 (OT)
December 20: New Jersey 3 at NY Rangers 1
January 22: New Jersey 1 at NY Rangers 3
March 4: NY Rangers 1 at New Jersey 2
April 9: NY Rangers 2 at New Jersey 3

This is the only battle amongst division rivals in the first round of the playoffs and it should be fun series to watch. Both teams have good goalies. Both teams have pretty good defences despite not having a bunch of big name players. And both teams have a top line that can score in bunches. In my mind the key to this series will be who can shut down the opposing teams top line the best. Can the Devils keep Jagr to no more than a point a game? Can the Rangers shut down the trio of Gionta, Gomez and Elias all of whom have been awesome in the push for the playoffs? Those are the keys to this series. Prediction: Devils in 6

Buffalo Sabres vs Philadelphia Flyers

Season Series:
December 19: Buffalo 2 at Philadelphia 1 (SO)
February 2: Philadelphia 2 at Buffalo 4
March 11: Buffalo 6 at Philadelphia 5
April 7: Philadelphia 4 at Buffalo 2

I really like Buffalo to win this series. I just think they are a better all round team and I think Buffalo’s speed will give the Flyers defence fits. The only concern one might have for the Sabres is goaltending. Generally Ryan Miller has had a very good rookie season but he struggled a bit in late March and early April. He picked his game up in his last 3 starts of the season so he should have his confidence back. If Miller can give they Sabres good goaltending Buffalo will be a very tough team to beat in the playoffs. There are two keys to the Flyers success. The first is Forsberg’s health. If Forsberg isn’t healthy and playing at his top level the Flyers will struggle to get the offence needed to win. The other key to the Flyers is goaltending. Of course this is nothing new as the Flyers haven’t had top quality goaltending for years and it has never been adequately addressed by GM Bobby Clarke. Goaltending is key in the NHL and if you don’t have it you won’t win and I just don’t think Esche and Niittymaki are good enough to take a team deep into the playoffs though anyone can get hot for a short period of time and win a series.. Prediciton: Buffalo in 6.

Mar 092006
 

Two minor trades have been announced so far. Montreal adds some toughness and defense depth by acquiring Todd Simpson from Chicago for a 6th round pick. The New Jersey Devils have acquried their second defensemen in 2 days by picking up Brad Lukowich from the Islanders for a 3rd round pick. I really like what the Devils are doing by adding Klee and Lukowich. I thought last year the Devils tried too hard trying to replace Niedermayers offense by adding Malakhov and McGillis but now they are getting back to more typical New Jersey players by adding more defensively responsible players. And Lukowich is a defensive defenseman and a good one. I am sure Tampa is missing his stability on the blue line this year. Because of these trades I am slowly moving the Devils up the Cup contender list.

Mar 082006
 

A couple more trades have occurred over the last couple hours:

1. Luke Richardson to Toronto for 5th round pick and conditional 4th round pick

2. Sharks get Nieminen from Rangers for a 3rd round pick.

3. Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel to L.A. Kings for Denis Grebeshkov and Jeff Tambellini and conditional 3rd round pick

4. Montreal trades Jose Theodore to Colorado for David Aebischer

At this point in his career Luke Richardson isn’t much more than a 5th/6th or depth defenseman but what this deal might be is a precursor to another in which Klee, Berg or Khavanov get moved with Klee being the most likely.

Nieminen is a role player and a 3rd line type of guy. He’s nothing special but every team needs guys like this for depth and penalty killing. This might be a precursor to the trading of Alyn MacAuley who is rumoured to be on the block because he is the Sharks only soon to be UFA. MacAuley provides more offense than Nieminen but plays a similar 2-way, penalty killing role.

The Islanders picked up a couple of pretty good prospects in Grebeshkov and Tambellini but it cost them two pretty good players off of their roster and that is going to hurt and chance they had of getting back in the playoff race. Parrish is a goal scorer with 24 goals and 41 points so far this year and will add some much needed offense to the Kings lineup which was too dependent on Demitra who was severely missed when injured. Parrish is unrestricted free agent at seasons end. Brent Sopel is a solid defenseman as well and will certainly help the Kings especially on the power play with his good shot. Sopel is signed through next season so it gives the Kings some stability on defense going forward. This trade should help the Kings maintain a playoff position but I am still not sold on their goaltending. But you never know, maybe this too is a precursor to another deal. There were rumours of the Kings going after Luongo. Maybe this deal allows them to include a Sopel, Tim Gleason or Joe Corvo in a package for Luongo.

I don’t like the Theodore trade from a Colorado point of view, especially for this season. Theodore just hasn’t been very good this year and is currently injured. He also has a pretty hefty contract taking away some salary cap flexibility for several more years. That said, if Theodore can return to form of a few years ago this could work out well. They have had some luck with former Montreal goalies in the past so who knows. Maybe the change of scenery will do Theodore good. As for Montreal Theodore had worn out his welcome and as good as Huet has been he just isn’t going to cut it. Aebischer has suffered some inconsistancy issues but he is still relatively young with this being only his second season in the NHL as a starter. Most importantly for Montreal is they rid themselves of a hefty contract on a guy who had become a bit of a side show and a distraction for the team.