Nov 022008
 

- Add a new team into the Mats Sundin sweepstakes: the Ducks. That’s right, the perpetually financially strained team is reportedly making a pitch to Sundin, and with the Ducks so close to the cap they’re going to have to shed salary (again). This time, the casualty may be Chris Kunitz, the former Ducks alternate captain who hasn’t quite lived up to his $3.5m price-tag since signing it. No doubt that the Ducks would prefer to trade Kunitz to an Eastern Conference team, but Brian Burke continues to put himself in situations in which he has absolutely no leverage – Mathieu Schneider was dealt for close to nothing, Ken Klee and Ilya Bryzgalov were lost through waivers, but the Ducks continue to spend, most recently Bret Hedican. I think Sundin is a long shot to land on the Ducks, because the Ducks’ offer won’t come close to the Canucks’ offer in terms of money and length. However, should the Ducks find themselves atop the Pacific come Christmas time (unlikely considering the way the Sharks are playing), it is a very attractive option.

– After Brendan Shanahan gave up hopes in returning to the Rangers, especially after their hot start, he’s starting to look at other options, and those teams include Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, Montreal, and Boston, all of them east teams, but all of them close to the cap. Colorado has also figured into the mix, and I think that’s where we may see Shanahan end up. The Avs have always been an enticing franchise for veteran free agents to play for, and although that may not be the case these days, don’t forget that the Avs still have Joe Sakic, who still has a considerable amount of pull, and the two played together at Salt Lake.

– The Jackets have tried everything, including moving Rick Nash to centre during practise, but it still hasn’t ignited a potentially high-octane offense. Since the first days of the franchise the team has always lacked a playmaking centre for Nash to play with, even though RJ Umberger (I predicted he would be a bust alongside Nash) and Kristian Huselius were signed, it still didn’t work. Derick Brassard is playing well, but he’s not quite ready for number one centre duties yet. This has prompted the Jackets to revive their search for a number one centre… and I don’t think it’s going to happen this year.

Nikolai Khabibulin is making a strong case for himself to stay, and the Hawks must be giddy about his rising stock. The Hawks seem to be fairing well with both Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet, which means that another $6m on the Hawks’ roster, Martin Havlat, could be out the door instead. The injury-prone winger will be an UFA this summer, which makes him an attractive trade bait, especially if (a big one at that) he manages to stay healthy at least until the trade deadline.

Mathieu Garon is also playing fairly well, despite the Oilers’ recent cold streak. There haven’t been any public grumblings from Dwayne Roloson, but it’s common knowledge that the 39-year old veteran doesn’t like playing second fiddle. There have been, unsurprisingly, no takers so far, and it’ll be a long season for Roloson from the bench. The Oilers are eager to get Roloson’s $3.667m cap hit off their books, paving the way for Jeff Deslauriers to handle backup duties full-time.

Rumours courtesy of Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun.

Sep 202008
 

The Thrashers were interested in Mathieu Schneider, but felt that given the veteran’s price tag and current skill set it was just too expensive. Don Waddell claims that Schneider’s age was not a factor in the decision.

Nikolai Khabibulin is looking forward to the start of the season, but admits he was surprised when the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet to a multi-year deal. He also admits that even though he hasn’t been at his best, he didn’t have a “championship calibre” team in front of him either. Not exactly the words management wants to hear, but Khabibulin has to make do with what he’s got in front of him (and it’s not bad) and hope to land another fat contract. Meanwhile, veteran Keith Carney has been invited to camp.

The Jackets are prepared to possibly enter the season with rookie Derick Brassard as their new number one centre. Ken Hitchcock reportedly liked Brassard and Kristian Huselius on the top line with Rick Nash, while the second line consisted of rookie Jakub Voracek, RJ Umberger, and Fredrik Modin.

The Stars have also tinkered with their lineup, with Mike Modano lining up to the left of Brad Richards and Sean Avery. It gives Modano some playing time in the top six and getting him away from the checking line role that’s better suited for someone else.

Marian Gaborik certainly isn’t helping his own case after being listed as day-to-day with a pulled right quad. The sniping winger is expected to land a lucrative contract this summer – whether it’s with the Wild or someone else remains to be seen. The injury-prone winger has to have another healthy season if he wants to cash in big time.

It’s obvious, so don’t expect Martin Brodeur to play 77 games like he did last year. Both Brodeur and Brent Sutter admitted that the games took a toll on the veteran goalie, and that Avery didn’t help in that department either. Look for Kevin Weekes to do a little more than usual last year to collect his six-figure paycheque.

Tom Renney and the Rangers remain mum on Brendan Shanahan, and says that his focus is now on training camp.

Derian Hatcher‘s career seems to be in jeopardy due to a bum knee, and Wayne Fish believes that it’ll really hurt the team’s chances this year (I beg to differ), but claims that with the addition of Ossi Vaananen and camp invite Bryan Berard it should lessen the pain (Fish is comparing the “irreplaceable” Hatcher to two journeymen? Okay.)

The Sharks are ready to open up their camp with the following lines:
Marleau – Thornton – Clowe
Michalek – Pavelski – Cheechoo
Goc – Mitchell – Grier
Plihal – Roenick – Setoguchi
Ron Wilson also had Patrick Marleau on Joe Thornton‘s wing in order to get his game going last year, but it didn’t last.

The Blues kicked off their training camp with a snooze, and I daresay that the rest of the season wouldn’t be too different. Coach Andy Murray suggested that the Blues could start the season with rookie Patrick Berglund on the top line with Paul Kariya. Murray also acknowledged that the losses of Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, and Bryce Salvador, all three great locker room guys, means that veterans Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, neither been known as vocal captains, will need to step up.

Move aside “Seen Stamkos.” It’s time for “WWGRD?” in Tampa. Now that wunderkind Steve Stamkos is officially signed the focus moves to training camp. For the Lightning, who had a major overhaul in its front office staff and approach to the new season, it’s a chance to capitalize on a resurgence of interest in Lightning hockey. Just ask yourself, What Would Gary Roberts Do?

The Caps are excited and raring to go. So much so that they had to ask sophomore Nicklas Backstrom, who was early and the first on the ice, to get off after half an hour for precautionary reasons. When your rookies are that excited, you know your team is in good spirits, and for the Caps, why shouldn’t they?

Aug 242008
 

Rather slow news day, but a couple quick rumours:

Andrej Meszaros has yet to sign, and could still be given an offer sheet. Meszaros reportedly has a standing offer from the KHL for $4m/year, but is still willing to negotiate with the Sens, in the hopes of reaching an agreement before camp. It’s a little odd that he hasn’t signed already, considering how “close” both sides said they were. I’m not expecting to see Meszaros in anything but a Sens uniform, however.

Vitaly Vishnevksi has been placed on waivers by the Devils to clear some cap room. The Devils have only roughly $1m in cap space and will need at least triple that for emergency purposes to open the season. However, it remains to be seen is Vishnevski, who has two years remaining (including this year), will be bought out, or simply demoted.

Josef Boumedienne makes his return to the NHL as a Leaf on a two-way contract. He is signed purely for depth purposes, and is not necessarily a sign that Bryan McCabe is moving for sure.

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

Aug 102008
 

For Garth Snow and the Islanders, their search for a new head coach to replace Ted Nolan has come down to three candidates: Bob Hartley, Paul Maurice, or the AHL’s Scott Gordon.

Hartley’s NHL coaching career started in 1998 in Colorado, whose strong QMJHL and AHL records had caught the eye of then-GM Pierre Lacroix. He enjoyed 4 very successful years in Denver, including a 52-16-10-4 record and a Stanley Cup win in 2001. He was fired the following season in 2002 after a slow start, and joined the Thrashers a month later. Although he had gone from a perennial contender to a basement dweller, it didn’t stop Hartley from winning. In 2007, the Thrashers set a franchise record with 41 wins and their first ever playoff birth. But once again, despite his success the previous season, his Thrashers were off to a cold start and he was fired by Don Waddell after going pointless in six straight games. Despite all this success, depending on who you ask, Hartley isn’t exactly an angel. In 2005, against the Lightning, Thrasher Eric Boulton elbowed Paul Ranger in the head, resulting in a concussion and a fractured jaw. Boulton was subsequently suspended for six games, but it didn’t stop John Tortorella from lambasting the enforcer, saying that “no one wants to see him on the ice.” After the suspension, Boulton pleaded innocence, and claimed that he was only doing what he was told to do, implying that a frustrated Hartley had told him to get out there and headhunt. After all, Boulton is an enforcer and that’s what he’s employed by NHL teams to do. It was never definite whether or not Hartley asked Boulton to headhunt, but Hartley was under fire for a short while and since then the Thrashers and Lightning have enjoyed quite the rivalry.

To be honest, I never liked Maurice. He did a great job in Carolina, but I thought from the beginning that he was a terrible choice for the Leafs. Despite his successes, it’s always been overlooked that he is a poor special teams tactician. Throughout his coaching career, Maurice’s teams have traditionally never been good at killing penalties. In 2001, the Hurricanes had the second-best PK% in the league, but it all went downhill from there. When the Hurricanes made the finals in 2002, they were tied with the Devils with the worst PK% for playoff-bound teams in the East, with 83.7%. In his next full years, Carolina would rank 24th on the PK. In his first season with the Leafs, they had a 17.7% PP (17th) and 78.5% PK (27th). This year, their PP was 17.8% (15th) and PK 78.1% (29th). It can be argued that Maurice didn’t have the right players to work with (Peter Laviolette hasn’t exactly gotten the Canes’ PK out of the basement yet either), but I don’t think it’s a valid excuse for a playoff contender to finish near dead last in the league. He was under a lot of scrutiny in Toronto, and perhaps a move to a less hockey-crazed city would be a good change of scenery and hopefully be able to repeat the successes he had while in Carolina.

Gordon is the least well-known of the three, but is apparently well-respected in hockey circles. The former netminder enjoyed three successful years at Boston College, and started his coaching career in the IHL before moving onto the ECHL then head coach for Providence in the AHL in 2003. The 45-year old was the winner of the Louis Pieri Memorial Award, annually given to the best coach in the AHL. Considering the recent success of promoting AHL coaches (ie. Bruce Boudreau), it could be a good idea to take Gordon over the other two.

Sep 282007
 

New Jersey Devils
Strengths:
-Martin Brodeur
Weaknesses:
-No longer have that anchor on defense.
Question Marks:
-Can the Devils defensive system work without a stud defenseman?
-Can Elias and Gionta regain the chemistry of the past couple years without Gomez?
-Can Parise improve on last years break out season.
Outlook:
The Devils success over the past decade has largely been due to having stellar goaltending and a nearly as stellar defense. But over the past 3 or 4 years they have lost Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski off their defence and the question is, can they be just as successful without that stud defenseman? Making matters worse is defenseman Colin White has suffered a significant eye injury and when he will return is still uncertain. That is going to put a lot of pressure on an unspectacular crew of Paul Martin, Karel Rachunek, Vitaly Vishnevski, Richard Matvichuk, Johnny Oduya and Andy Greene. To make maters worse the Devils lost on of their top offensive players in Scott Gomez this summer. The Devils anchored by Martin Brodeur still should make the playoffs this year but it is far from certain and a key injury or two could see them fall out of the top eight in the eastern conference.

New York Islanders
Strengths:
-Rick DiPietro is an emerging star goalie
Weaknesses:
-No top end talent anywhere in front of DiPietro
-Lost a lot of key players to free agency.
Question Marks:
-Can the hodge podge of second tier free agents come together quickly as a cohesive unit?
-Can Rick DiPietro take his game up another notch.
Outlook:
The Islanders have lost Alexei Yashin, Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti and Sean Hill from the team that finished last year. That is a lot of holes to fill for a team that just barely made the playoffs. They did make some decent acquisitions in Fedotenko, Guerin, Comrie, Vasicek and Sutton but it is hard to say there is a quality first line player among them. Can Bill Guerin score 36 goals with Mike Comrie as his center like he did last year when he played mostly with Doug Weight, a true playmaking center? I don’t think so. The only saving grace for this team is goalie Rick DiPietro. DiPietro is a good enough goalie that he may be able to keep the Islanders within shooting distance of the playoffs though in the end they will probably end up closer to the basement than a playoff spot.

New York Rangers
Strengths:
-Deep and talented group of forwards.
-Lundqvist is an elite level goalie.
Weaknesses:
-A serviceable but unspectacular group of defense.
Question Marks:
-How will the new lineup come together?
-Will Jagr form the same chemistry with Gomez that he had with Nylander?
-Will Sean Avery wear out his welcome and become a disturbance in the dressing room?
Outlook:
With all the big roster moves the Rangers made in the off season they sure would like to see them as prime Stanley Cup contenders this season. That should be the case, but many people thought that should be the case last year too, but instead they floundered at times, finished only 6th in the eastern conference and were ousted from the playoffs in the second round. If they have learned their lesson and can learn to play a bit more consistent and reliable hockey they should be a contender this year. Chris Drury’s experience and leadership should definitely help them out in this area. In the end the Rangers will compete with Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Buffalo for top spot in the eastern conference and likely for the chance to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.

Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths:
-Added a lot of talent in the off season.
-Briere and Gagne should form a potent duo
-Depth of forwards
Weaknesses:
-Questionable defence
-I am not yet sold on Biron as a starting goalie.
Question Marks:
-Can Biron be a quality starting goalie?
-How quickly can this completely revamped lineup come together as a team.
Outlook:
There is no doubt that the Flyers will be one of the most improved teams in the NHL. You can’t add Briere, Hartnell, Lupul, Timonen, and Jason Smith without improving your team. The Flyers now have a lot of depth at the forward position and are capable of putting out 3 lines which can score and Timonen should do wonders in the transition game and helping the power play. Whether they can make the playoffs or not will depend in large part on Biron playing like a quality starting goalie for 55+ games and young defensemen like Braydon Coburn, Lasse Kukkonen, Alex Picard, and Randy Jones becoming reliable defensemen. A playoff spot is not a sure thing with this newly formed team but they should be good enough to be in the hunt which is a dramatic improvement over last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Strengths:
-Incredible young talent
-Maybe the best offence in the league
Weaknesses:
-Defensive ability and play – lack a true shut down defenseman
-Average goaltending.
Question Marks:
-Can Marc-Andre Fleury become a consistent reliable #1 goalie?
-Can Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin repeat stellar rookie seasons?
-How much is left in the tanks of veterans Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and Darryl Sydor?
Outlook:
The Penguins are arguable the most talented team in the NHL as Crosby and Malkin are two superstar talents and Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney probably form the best pair of offensive defenseman in the NHL. The Penguins are going to score goals and score a lot of them. The big question is, can they reduce their goals against. Former first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury showed some improvements in goal last year but the Penguins were still only an average team in terms of goals against. If they can improve on that a bit (and that is partly why they brought in Darryl Sydor) then the Penguins have to be considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup.

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
Apr 242007
 

Time for the second round predictions. Like the first round, the second round features some intriguing matchups and also like the first round, none of those match ups are divisional rivals.

  1. NY Rangers at Buffalo

    NY Rangers (road) Buffalo (home)
    Predicted Winner Buffalo (Good)
    Fair Odds +135 -155
    Overall Record 42-30-10 53-22-7
    Home/Road Record 21-15-5 28-10-3
    Last 10 Games 7-2-1 7-3-0
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/14: NY Rangers 4 at Buffalo 7
    • 2006/11/05: Buffalo 4 at NY Rangers 3 (OT)
    • 2006/11/26: Buffalo 3 at NY Rangers 2 (OT)
    • 2006/12/01: NY Rangers 3 at Buffalo 4 (SO)

    My Opinion: Buffalo has been my pick to win the east before the season and they are still my pick though I think the Rangers could give them a challenge. With Jagr, Straka, Nylander and Shanahan the Rangers have 4 legitimate threats offensively, Sean Avery has given them a valuable boost in the ultra-pest category and he has also played great hockey too. The Rangers also have a servicable group of defensemen that are more of the stay at home defensvie minded variety which is probably better against a deep and talented offensive team in Buffalo. And most importantly what the Rangers have is some of the best goaltending in the NHL over the past 2-3 months.. With Buffalo having a deeper set of forwards and a better group of defensemen the Rangers are going to need Lundqvist to substantially out play Ryan Miller if they are to win. Problem is Miller is a very good goalie too so I think Buffalo will win this series. My Prediction: Buffalo in 7

  2. Ottawa at New Jersey

    Ottawa (road) New Jersey (home)
    Predicted Winner New Jersey (Some)
    Fair Odds +110 -111
    Overall Record 48-25-9 49-24-9
    Home/Road Record 23-12-6 25-10-6
    Last 10 Games 6-2-2 6-3-1
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/21: New Jersey 1 at Ottawa 8
    • 2006/11/17: Ottawa 2 at New Jersey 3
    • 2007/01/06: New Jersey 3 at Ottawa 2
    • 2007/04/03: Ottawa 1 at New Jersey 2 (SO)

    My OpinionOttawa looked very good in defeating Pittsburgh relatively easily but I think the Senators are going to be in tough now against New Jersey. The defense first, rely on exceptional goaltending style of play the the Devils play seems to be a challenge for Ottawa to overcome. In the first game of the season series Ottawa trounced the Devils 8-1 but only mustered 5 goals in the final 3 games. Ottawa has also struggled to generate offense against other defense-first, top goaltending teams losing 1-2 to Calgary and 2-1 to Vancouver. As for the Devils they looked off their game early in the Tampa series but rounded into form late in the series winning 3 straight games to take the series in 6 games. Ottawa has a lot more secondary scoring than Tampa did so that should be a bigger challenge for the Devils but Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley didn’t have good series against the Penguins either. That has to change if the Senators are to have any chance against the Devils. The Devils also have two lines producing goals which bodes well because you know that Volchenkov and Phillips will do a good job at shutting down one of them. Getting that second line scoring will be key and if the Devils get that they should win this series. My Prediction: Devils in 6

  3. San Jose at Detroit

    San Jose (road) Detroit (home)
    Predicted Winner Detroit (Some)
    Fair Odds +120 -125
    Overall Record 51-26-5 50-19-13
    Home/Road Record 26-14-1 29-4-8
    Last 10 Games 7-1-2 5-1-4
    Past Games
    • 2006/10/19: Detroit 1 at San Jose 5
    • 2006/10/25: San Jose 1 at Detroit 2
    • 2006/12/02: San Jose 3 at Detroit 2
    • 2007/01/04: Detroit 4 at San Jose 9

    My Opinion: I was not sold on the Red Wings going into the playoffs but the way they dominated the Flames at both ends of the rink was very impressive. If it weren’t for Kipprusoff it could have been a sweep for the Wings. But San Jose looked very good against a strong Nashville team as well so I think this might be a dandy of a series. San Jose will provide more of an offensive threat than the Flames did, but their goaltending isn’t near as good. The Wings are better defensively than the Predators and more experienced but may not have the raw talent than Nashville had. But I don’t beleive that raw talent is what wins in the playoffs. Smart team play, hard work, dedication, depth and experience is what wins in the playoffs and I think the Wings have a bit more of that than the Sharks. My Prediction: Wings in 7

  4. Vancouver at Anaheim

    Vancouver (road) Anaheim (home)
    Predicted Winner Anaheim (Some)
    Fair Odds +117 -120
    Overall Record 49-26-7 48-20-14
    Home/Road Record 23-15-3 26-6-9
    Last 10 Games 6-3-1 5-3-2
    Past Games
    • 2006/11/09: Anaheim 6 at Vancouver 0
    • 2006/11/30: Anaheim 2 at Vancouver 1
    • 2007/02/20: Vancouver 3 at Anaheim 2 (OT)
    • 2007/03/11: Vancouver 2 at Anaheim 4
  5. My Opinion: I am still not sold on Anaheim being a typical Stanley Cup winning team as I think they lack depth on defense and have a lot of young and relatively inexperienced forwards. But, they fairly easily defeated Minnesota and I think should relatively easily defeat the Canucks. The reason is, those two teams are ideal match ups for the Ducks. With a high dependence on just a few defensemen I think they are better suited to play against one line teams like the Wild and Canucks than deep, talented teams like Nashville, San Jose or Detroit. As we saw in the Dallas series, if you can shut down the Sedin line you go a long way to completely shutting down Vancouver’s offense. I think the Ducks can mostly do that just like they shut down the Wild’s offense. The Ducks should be able to generate more offense against Luongo than the Stars did so I think this is the end of the line for the Canucks. My Prediction: Ducks in 5

Apr 102007
 

When writing up these first round matchups I realized that not one of them features a divisional rivalry. I am too lazy to check but I am not sure that has ever happened before. Anyway, here are my eastern conference predictions.

NY Islanders at Buffalo

NY Islanders (road) Buffalo (home)
Predicted Winner Buffalo (Good)
Fair Odds +137 -159
Overall Record 40-30-12 53-22-7
Home/Road Record 18-17-6 28-10-3
Last 10 Games 6-3-1 7-3-0
Past Games
  • 2006/10/26: Buffalo 3 at NY Islanders 0
  • 2007/01/01: NY Islanders 1 at Buffalo 3
  • 2007/01/27: Buffalo 3 at NY Islanders 5
  • 2007/03/30: NY Islanders 4 at Buffalo 6

Through some gritty play, some surprise goaltending and some luck the Islanders managed to find their way into the playoffs but unfortunately for them in the first round they are going to play the best team in the east just as they are getting healthy for the first time in a long time. In other words, it is going to be real tough for the Islanders to move on to the next round. That said, if Dubielewicz can provide quality goaltending like he has the past week I think the Islanders could steal a few games. The Islanders may not have any superstars on their team but they have some very good, hard working players like Blake, Smyth, Hunter, Witt, Hill, etc. and should make the Sabres work for their wins. But in the end, the Sabres have by far the better talent, depth and probably goaltending.
My Prediction: Sabres in 6

Tampa Bay at New Jersey

Tampa Bay (road) New Jersey (home)
Predicted Winner New Jersey (Good)
Fair Odds +129 -140
Overall Record 44-33-5 49-24-9
Home/Road Record 22-15-4 25-10-6
Last 10 Games 5-4-1 6-3-1
Past Games
  • 2007/01/18: Tampa Bay 3 at New Jersey 2 (SO)
  • 2007/01/26: New Jersey 2 at Tampa Bay 0
  • 2007/02/11: Tampa Bay 4 at New Jersey 1
  • 2007/03/22: New Jersey 1 at Tampa Bay 3

Those who read my blog will know that I do not think that Tampa is a very good team. Tampa is really just a 4 player team of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards and Boyle. Their goaltending is weak, they don’t have a lot of quality depth and if it werent for their shootout play they wouldn’t have been close to making the playoffs. All that said, Tampa has beaten the Devils 3 times this year including both games in New Jersey (one by a shootout) so who knows, maybe they have a chance. Plus, I am not completely sold on the Devils either. But even so, I think between Brodeur and their defensive oriented game the Devils play they will shut down Tampa’s big 3 forwards and New Jersey will get enough offense to put away the Lightning fairly easily.
My Prediction: New Jersey in 5

NY Rangers at Atlanta

NY Rangers (road) Atlanta (home)
Predicted Winner Atlanta (Some)
Fair Odds +121 -127
Overall Record 42-30-10 43-28-11
Home/Road Record 21-15-5 23-12-6
Last 10 Games 7-2-1 6-3-1
Past Games
  • 2006/11/10: NY Rangers 5 at Atlanta 2
  • 2006/11/28: Atlanta 5 at NY Rangers 4 (OT)
  • 2007/01/20: Atlanta 3 at NY Rangers 1
  • 2007/03/16: NY Rangers 1 at Atlanta 2 (OT)

This is a real interesting series between two fairly similar clubs. Both teams are using second year goalies (Lundqvist, Lehtonen) with real promising careers ahead of them. Both teams rely heavily on 4 forwards (Jagr, Straka, Nylander, Shanahan vs Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk and Tkachuk) for offense with 3 of them being European and both teams have decent, though relatively anonymous group of defensemen. The Rangers have a super pest in Sean Avery and the Thrashers have gritty veteren forward Scott Mellanby. For the Rangers I really like that Lundqvist is going into the playoffs playing the best hockey of his season if not his young career and that might be the difference. But I also think that the Thrashers have a little more experience and leadership with guys like Mellanby, Holik, Rucchin, DeVries as well as coach Hartley and that bodes well for the Thrashers. This should be an exciting and long playoff series but in the end I’ll go with the team with home ice advantage.
My Prediction: Thrashers in 7

Pittsburgh at Ottawa

Pittsburgh (road) Ottawa (home)
Predicted Winner Ottawa (Good)
Fair Odds +129 -140
Overall Record 47-24-11 48-25-9
Home/Road Record 21-14-6 25-13-3
Last 10 Games 6-3-1 6-2-2
Past Games
  • 2006/11/10: Ottawa 6 at Pittsburgh 3
  • 2007/03/06: Pittsburgh 5 at Ottawa 4 (SO)
  • 2007/03/18: Ottawa 3 at Pittsburgh 4 (SO)
  • 2007/04/05: Pittsburgh 3 at Ottawa 2

In some ways this is kind of like the San Jose-Nashville series in the west where both teams are quality offensive teams but both teams have their question marks. For Nashville it was their small, soft players and for San Jose it was relying heavily on a couple of young defensemen. In this series it is lack of leadership and grit for the Senators along with carrying the heavy burden of numerous playoff failures in the past. For Pittsburgh it is depending heavily on 3 forwards aged 20 and under a 22 year old goalie and a second year defenseman in Ryan Whitney. I normally would not want to pick a team with that much youth but Crosby and Malkin are rare talents that might be the exception to the rule and Ottawa isn’t exactly a veteren laden, playoff hardened team. Ottawa has their own 21 year old defenseman, a 24 year old second year goalie, and a 23 year old number one center and most of the rest of their team just 25-26 years of age. But what I think will be the difference in this series is the veteren leadership that the Penguins have that the Senators don’t. Between Roberts and Recchi the Penguins might have the two best playoff experienced leaders in the game. Recchi has a pair of Stanley Cups and 135 games of playoff experience. Roberts has a Stanley Cup and 114 games of NHL experience. Ottawa doesn’t have an equivalent and if those two guys can keep Pittsburgh’s young players focused and confident I like Pittsburgh’s chances in this series. Before I make my prediction I will add that it will be critically important for both teams to stay out of the penalty box as both teams have the ability to be especially devastating on the power play.
My Prediction: Pittsburgh in 6

Oct 032006
 

As I was driving home tonight I was listening to the Team 1200 sports radio station here in Ottawa and apparently there is some outrage and misunderstanding about the Mogilny decision today. The announcers were talking about how there are probably 29 other teams who are upset at this decision. Let me say that this is probably not the case and the reason is simple.

The over age 35 and in the second or later year of a multi-year contract rule where the players salary will count against the cap regardless of where or even if he is playing was put in place to stop teams from circumventing the salary cap. Here is how a team might be able to do that.

They could sign 38 year old player X to a 5 year contract that pays him $3 million in year 1 and $500,000 in years 2,3,4 and 5. The average salary will then be just $1 million and the salary cap hit would be just $1 million in year 1 of that contract. There could also be a wink-wink-nudge-nudge agreement between the player and the team that after year 1 the player will retire. If the over 35, multi-year contract rule was not in place the player just made $3 million and the team only counted $1 million against the cap effectively allowing the team to sign another $2 million player. The rule was not in place to shaft a team if one of their older players got seriously injured and could not play.

As for other teams GMs being upset. Do you think the Carolina Hurricanes would be upset at this decision if Rod Brind’amour gets seriously injured this year and can’t play again? Brind’amour just signed a 5 year contract. Do you think the Los Angeles Kings would be upset with this decision if Rob Blake, the guy who signed a 2 year $12 million contract, got injured next month and couldn’t play again? Do you think the St. Louis Blues will be upset considering they have signed Weight for 2 years and $7 million? There are a number of other teams in similar situations. Do you think any of them will be upset at the decision?

On a side note, I wonder which will be the first team to offer a 34 year old a 10 year contract at $5 million per year for the first 5 years and$500,000 for the last 5 years. Makes you think that maybe the biggest mistake the Islanders made in the DiPietro deal is not making it a 20 or 25 year deal with a bunch of $500,000 years at the end of the contract to drop the average salary even more. I mean, they have already committed the real dollars, why not reduce the salary cap dollars in the process.