Dec 042008
 

There’s been a lot of talk about Sean Avery‘s recent comments and its suspension but I think there’s still some issues to discuss. There’s been some talk about the league’s motivations behind the suspension, considering that a hit from behind to the head these days gets you only 3 games. Here are some things to take into consideration as well.

1 – Avery’s smart. He knows what he has to do to drum up some excitement. A while ago he made a comment about how villains and heroes sell and he has no problem playing the villain. He relishes that role. A part of me actually thinks that he’s trying to leave a legacy the size of his ego – after all, there is already a “Sean Avery” rule. While his comment was a generalization, there’s no mistaking that it was directed at Dion Phaneuf and Elisha Cuthbert. The only thing that’s a little confusing is that he’s trying to build excitement for a game against the Flames in Calgary. To my knowledge, nobody ever needs to build up excitement for a hockey game in Canada. It’s built-in. If the game had been in Dallas, it might’ve been a little different.

2 – I didn’t find his comments that crude. It’s an off-hand comment that guys often say to each other to get the blood boiling. There have been a lot worse things said on the ice, and the line between trash talk and personal attacks is pretty fine. Denis Gauthier and Georges Laraque have both claimed to be victims of racial slurs. However, the fact that he choose to premeditate his comments and say it off ice in front of cameras was what got him into trouble. Had he said the same comments on the ice, there wouldn’t have been any ramifications at all.

3 – I think an often overlooked aspect in a physical game like this is escalation. It’s going to sound a little crazy, but what if the league wanted to protect Avery? Phaneuf and Jarome Iginla chose to ignore his comments, but you have to remember that, as non-factor as it was, Todd Bertuzzi is on the same team. Avery was asking the Flames to feed him his lunch, there’s no question about that. There’s a general bounty on all pests in the league, and perhaps none may be bigger than Jarkko Ruutu‘s, but only because Avery can still be an effective hockey player without his big mouth. What if Paul Mara had gone completely nuts and decided to pummel Ruutu whether he wanted to or not in that Rangers-Senators game? Had something happened to Avery, there would’ve been talk about the league’s clear disregard for player safety.

4 – The NHL is suspending Avery on the basis that his comments were detrimental to the league and game. What if he had just said, “Phaneuf should stop falling in love with my sloppy seconds”? Would that have made a difference? That in itself is a personal attack, albeit public, but at least Avery didn’t mention “NHL,” or “league,” or “other players.” I think that if he had chosen his comments a little more wisely, after all, he is often under the league microscope, he wouldn’t have been suspended. The comparisons to the other leagues about trash talk are baseless because of each sport’s unique culture. The cross-references to the NBA or NFL or MLB are all moot points. However, how many games Avery gets suspended for will raise further questions of disciplinary action and set a precedent for comments like these.

5 – The Stars have pretty much banished Avery. There’s no way Avery would want to come back to a team that has left him out to dry. It’s hard to stick up for a guy that is supposedly a cancer in the locker room, but he is their teammate. The fact that a traditionally close-knit team like the Stars have refused to stick up for a teammate tells us how dysfunctional that locker room really is. The Stars can’t buy out Avery until June and there won’t be many takers for Avery. The best solution for the Stars is to send him to the minor leagues and let his play do the talking before he gets another chance in the league. Brett Hull needs to find a way to offset his mistake.

Anyway, this topic has been beaten to death, and it’s time to move on. For the Stars, it’s time to right the ship. If they can’t put together a string of good games, changes are in the making. It may be time for the Stars to look outside of their organization for help.

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.

Oct 132008
 

The National Hockey League announced today that 19-year old Alexei Cherepanov has passed away. The Russian winger was hailed to be the next coming of Pavel Bure, and was drafted by the New York Rangers in the 1st round, 17th overall in the 2007 draft.

Cherepanov collapsed on the bench in a KHL game. An investigation is underway to determine the cause.

We at HockeyAnalysis send our deepest condolences.

Oct 132008
 

- Marian Gaborik‘s name will be a fixture in the rumour mill from now on, and I can safely say that at least 10 teams are seriously interested in his services. The sniper has recently rejected a multi-year contract (6+ years) at around $8m/season (although the folks at Hockey Central don’t believe this rumour). The Gaborik camp is reportedly looking for a contract that will pay him $10m/season, or somewhere close to that neighbourhood. Doug Risebrough isn’t a man who just throws money around – he did lose Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston this summer after all – but if there’s any player he should throw money at, it’s at Gaborik. The franchise player is the key to the Wild’s offense, but growing frustration with management and coaching strategies means that Gaborik may bolt at the first sign. I don’t think the Wild will deal him anytime soon, hoping that a good season may help Gaborik change his mind. I think the earliest Gaborik will be moving is at the deadline.

- Brendan Shanahan continues to work out at the Rangers’ facilities, but the Rangers are currently on a tear and is not too keen on moving bodies right now to accomodate him. Shanahan has voiced a strong preference to re-sign with the Rangers, and reportedly has had other offers from around the league and KHL but he doesn’t seem too interested. It’ll be awhile before anything new pops up, but as of now Shanahan has a better chance of returning to the NHL than Mats Sundin.

- I wrote earlier this year about the Bolts’ inexperienced and below average blueline. It looks like they’ve finally caught on and Marek Malik, a former Ranger, is expected to practise with the Lightning on a tryout basis. Rumour is that there is a 1-year, $1m contract on the table, but nothing is for sure. If signed, Malik will bring experience, stability, and leadership to the squad, all three of which are unsurprisingly lacking on the Bolts’ blue line.

Oct 042008
 

- Mike Smith proved that he can handle the load. And it also proved that the Lightning need more time to gel together, after their choppy game. Speaking of turnovers, Andrej Meszaros played one of his more subpar games. I still question whether or not he deserves the ‘A’. The Lightning couldn’t get anything going, and none of the lines other than the top line showed any real chemistry. If it wasn’t for Smith the game could’ve been a blowout had the Rangers not been so rusty.

- The Rangers’ top line looks good, but the second line, other than Brandon Dubinsky, were relatively soft. Nigel Dawes was caught standing too still on the powerplay and failed to really connect on any of his passes, and Nikolai Zherdev once again showed that he has the talent but he’s never really quite “there.”

- From what I saw, Janne Niskala could be a major gamebreaker for the Lightning this year. He’s got great poise with the puck, good patience, and like Marc Crawford said (who provided a good commentary), 19 goals in the AHL is quite something.

- I noted in the Rangers’ preview that they need to work on their powerplay. And they still do. Even with Paul Mara‘s rocket shot and the addition of Wade Redden, their powerplay was still an abysmal 1-7. The Lightning took a lot of dumb penalties and were often caught hooking and tripping when a much smoother Rangers team controlled the tempo. The Bolts have some work to do.

- Steve Stamkos looked great. He didn’t figure in the scoresheet and played only a little over 8 minutes, but he made a key defensive stop on Naslund and showed off some great speed. He could’ve had a goal but a rolling puck was quickly snatched by Henrik Lundqvist, who had a relatively quiet game.

- Matt Carle led all skaters with 29 minutes. He sure didn’t look like a guy who deserved 29 minutes out there. Look for Barry Melrose to use him a lot, and judging from the shift charts and ice times Melrose doesn’t give too much work to his bottom feeders.

- Martin Gerber wasn’t as sharp as the Sens would’ve liked, but they were outplayed in two periods by a better Penguins squad. The Sens were caught way too flat-footed and had Sergei Gonchar or Ryan Whitney been healthy the Pens wouldn’t have struck out 7 times on the powerplay.

- The Sens’ penalties means they played much of the first period with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza on the bench. A couple of months ago, I posted that Henrik Zetterberg is a better player than Alexander Ovechkin because Zetterberg is the more complete player. He is talented enough to play in all situations of the game, a sign of a true superstar. The Pens started to deploy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on their PK, and it showed. The Sens then followed suit on a shorthanded marker by Spezza. No team will ever win the Stanley Cup if their best players can’t play in all situations of the game.

- The HNIC crew, especially Mike Milbury, say that Spezza needs to stop showboating and being too fancy if he wants to be a truly elite player. While this is true, some players just have to be that flashy. They’re good enough to pull off their moves, but if you restrain them you really take away that aspect of their game. I think that’s what happened with Jacques Martin and Spezza. Some players, you just have to turn them loose. Turnovers will be a key aspect of their game, but don’t let the opponent dictate what weapons you employ.

- The stadiums were awfully quiet. Reports say sold-out crowds, but the game in Stockholm looked liked the fans totaled less than a thousand. Definitely not a regular season opener atmosphere, and it really showed for the Sens and Lightning, both of whom were the designated home teams.

Oct 022008
 

Much ado has been made about the Canucks making Roberto Luongo their captain. The move was very surprising, considering goalies are not allowed to wear the traditional ‘C’ on their jersey and there hasn’t been a goalie captain since Bill Durnan in the 1940s. One of the reasons it became illegal was because of the inefficiency of being both a captain and a goalie. Captains are designated by their respective teams to provide an on-ice voice for the team with the refs, and because the game is so fluid and the refs are constantly moving, it made it very difficult for goalies to talk to them, in part because of the very small area on the ice the goalie patrols. They can’t wander the length of the ice as most players do, and if the referee was at the other end of the rink it would be impossible to talk to them, since goalies cannot cross the red line.

I can’t help but think this move by the Canucks is a ploy to show Luongo that this is his team. Willie Mitchell has been named as the guy who would talk to the refs on a nightly basis, but the Canucks still elected to give Mitchell an ‘A’, even though he would be fulfilling the traditional duties of a player wearing the ‘C’. It goes without question that this is Luongo’s team – no one else in the league is as crucial to their team’s success as Luongo. By officially naming him captain is a mere formality that really doesn’t carry much substance, other than re-affirm the fact that Vancouver wants Luongo to stay, and will do anything to please him and accomodate his needs. But it also means that no one in the Vancouver locker room has really stepped into the captain’s void left by Markus Naslund, which has led to a committee of three players wearing A’s on a nightly basis: Mitchell, Ryan Kesler, and Mattias Ohlund.

Perhaps at the end of the day the letters don’t quite mean anything – Mitchell will talk to the refs and Luongo continues to stop the pucks. The world keeps spinning.

EDIT: The Lightning have named Martin St. Louis and, surprisingly, Andrej Meszaros as their alternate captains for this year. The Rangers have yet to name a captain, although all signs point towards Chris Drury and Mike Richards is the front-runner in Philadelphia. The Wild and Sabres are expected to continue their rotating captaincy. The Panthers, Kings, Thrashers, and Leafs have yet to name their captains for the upcoming season.

EDIT #2: The Rangers have officially named Drury their captain, while Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez will serve as the alternates. May I also add that all three players may potentially play on the same line?

Oct 022008
 

The first season of the new CBA saw the once high-spending Rangers build their team from within, and for once the new Rangers squad, under the meticulous Tom Renney, were bringing them back to respectability. Little did everyone know that this strategy would be shortlived, as the Rangers splurged on the market the following year, signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury to multi-million, multi-year deals that saw both players take up a total of $14.5m combined. It remains to be seen if the Rangers’ two centres can build on their disappointing Blueshirt debut, and if the Rangers’ big spending this year, Wade Redden, will find more success than his last couple of seasons in Ottawa.

Say what you want about Jaromir Jagr, but even in some of his worst games it’s hard to replace his production. Now that Jagr is gone, there is no one on the Rangers’ squad that brings quite the same scoring pedigree as Jagr. Nikolai Zherdev comes close, but the enigmatic winger has a tendency to disappear for stretches and Markus Naslund hasn’t had the same wrist shot after wrist surgery. Gomez and Drury will have to return to their pre-Ranger forms and earn their paycheques, or face the wrath of a fickle Manhattan crowd. Perhaps the two forwards that can make the most difference in the Ranger lineup this year are second years Nigel Dawes and Brandon Dubinsky. Dawes, a marginal player on the fabled North Dakota Canadian World Junior squad, slowly played himself onto the team and has become one of the Rangers’ fastest weapons, while Dubinsky, who really clicked with Jagr near the end of the season, is looking to build on his 40-point rookie season in which he appeared in all 82 games, itself an already impressive feat. Perhaps another body that the Rangers will miss is Sean Avery‘s. The no-holds barred player whose antics caused multiple frustrations for the other team, but when Glen Sather didn’t budge, even though the Rangers had a much better record with Avery in the lineup than without. Aaron Voros and Pat Rissmiller were signed to vacate his spot, but neither players brings as much agitating or scoring ability to the team. Petr Prucha is also expected to rebound, after posing a paltry 17 points after back to back 40+ point seasons. The Rangers offense is talented, there’s no question about that, but the Rangers are banking an awful lot of their core offense (Drury, Gomez, Naslund, and Zherdev) on 4 players that have had disappointing seasons of sorts last year. It’s a little risky, but perhaps a change of scenery and new wingers might ignite a latent offense (25th overall, 22nd PP last year).

The biggest name coming out of New York these days is Redden. The former Senator hasn’t been the same since Zdeno Chara left, and there was some talk about them re-uniting in Boston, but it was the Rangers, to one’s surprise, that were able to cough up big money ($6.5m) to land him. Time will tell if Redden is really worth the money, after the Sens made it clear he wasn’t going to get a cent over what Chris Phillips ($3.5m) was making. The talent is there, but Redden needs to be more consistent and be more careful with the puck if the Rangers are to be successful. Michal Rozsival returns once again after testing the free agent waters, and both sides are glad to be re-united. With Redden, they could potentially combine to be the best pair in the East, rounded up by the ever-emerging Marc Staal and the steady yet underrated Dmitri Kalinin. Dan Girardi and Paul Mara round out a very good defensive corps (4th overall, 6th PK).

No goalie since Mike Richter has captured the hearts of Rangers fans, but Henrik Lundqvist has just done that. “King Henrik,” as the fans call him, exploded onto the hockey radar and has since then transplanted himself as one of the best goalies in the East. If it wasn’t for Martin Brodeur, the East would be completely under King Henrik’s reign. This is one part of this talented team that Renney doesn’t have to worry about consistency issues. It was the emergence of Lundqvist that allowed the Rangers to cut loose long forgotten prospect Al Montoya, which means that Stephen Valiquette will be back to backup Lundqvist, although it is safe to say Valiquette won’t be seeing much game time.

The Rangers have only about $2m cap room left, but it hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning. After the Drury, Gomez, and Redden signings, it looks like the Rangers are back to their free-spending ways, and had been heavily linked to Mats Sundin, which would have culminated in them trading away Gomez. While that rumour has died down, the focus now shifts to Brendan Shanahan, who has been in talks with the Rangers over the summer about a contract, but he has not been invited to training camp yet and with the Rangers’ tight cap they have little room for him, and signing him would mean that an extra body would have to be moved. So far management has shown confidence in Zherdev and Naslund, but still are legitimate question marks and it would not be surprising if Sather starts looking for help if the Rangers have a poor October.

The Rangers are well-rounded in all aspects of the game. They have two solid two-way centres with good playmaking abilities, wingers that can really shoot the puck, a strong PK unit, a well-rounded defense, and an elite goalie. The problem for the Rangers is putting it all together into a winning team.

Projected lineup:
Markus Naslund – Scott Gomez – Chris Drury
Nigel Dawes – Brandon Dubinsky – Nikolai Zherdev
Patrick Rissmiller – Dan Fritsche – Petr Prucha
Aaron Voros – Blair Betts – Ryan Callahan

Michal Rozsival – Wade Redden
Paul Mara – Marc Staal
Dmitri Kalinin – Daniel Girardi

Henrik Lundqvist – Stephen Valiquette

scratches: Colton Orr, Lauri Korpikoski, Fredrik Sjostrom

Coach: Tom Renney
GM: Glen Sather

Predicted finish: 3rd Atlantic, 5th East

Sep 272008
 

Old news, but Mathieu Schneider is now a Thrasher, pending physicals on Brad Larsen and Ken Klee, the players going the other way. Klee and Larsen are in the last years of their contracts and were not part of the Thrashers’ plans going forward. Schneider makes the Thrashers defense better, but they won’t be making the playoffs anytime soon. It also means that perhaps Atlanta isn’t too interested in finish first in the draft sweepstakes. Don Waddell was not interested in Schneider through waivers saying he was too expensive and wasn’t the right fit. The Thrashers’ payroll increased by about $4m in the deal. So much for Waddell’s explanation.

It looks like David Bolland has an uphill battle to get the coveted second line centre spot behind Jonathan Toews, and coach Denis Savard has noted his current top six are Toews, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd, Martin Havlat, Dustin Byfuglien, and Patrick Sharp. Savard put Kane at centre for a couple shifts but didn’t like what he saw, and the Hawks may end up with either Ladd or Sharp at centre. Kyle Beach made a good impression in his pro debut, but the hot-headed junior star will be hard-pressed to stick around. Keith Carney might also make the team.

Ken Hitchcock
is really liking what he sees from Jakub Voracek and Derick Brassard. The Jackets were absolutely dangerous offensively against the Predators last night, and more impressive were the plays of Fedor Tyutin and Kris Russell. Russell, still listed at a paltry 165 lbs., needs to put on more bulk to play in a tougher West. Courtesy of Michael Arace, the Jackets’ strategy for the season. Nothing too special, but have a gander anyway:
1. Keep the tempo high
- short shifts
- fast changes
2. Make the goalie work
- funnel the puck
- real traffic
3. Outwork the opposition
- on contact, our 2nd before their 2nd
4. Manage the puck the right way
5. Pack mentality
- 5 up, 5 back
6. Check to score
- the harder we check, the more we score

In Florida, on a radio poll Peter DeBoer was voted as the coach who would do the best job this season. Todd McLellan of San Jose finished second, Scott Gordon on Long Island third, and Jon Anderson in Atlanta fourth. There’s definitely a hometown bias there, McLellan will be blowing the other three out of the water by virtue of having a very good team.

In a very un-Nashville like move, the Preds may be giving the second line right wing spot to Patrick Hornqvist, who has spent the last three years in the Swedish leagues. Alexander Radulov‘s defection and Steve Sullivan‘s injury history means that there are a lot of holes to fill up front.

Forget about having two all-star centres on separate lines. Like the Sharks who are putting Patrick Marleau on Joe Thornton‘s wing, the Rangers have followed suit and have lined up Chris Drury on Scott Gomez‘s right wing, despite the fact that Drury had a better face-off winning percentage. Markus Naslund is the third of the trio. This means that Brandon Dubinsky, who had a lot of success last year on spot shifts with Jaromir Jagr, will have to step up after being pegged as the team’s number two. He will have Nikolai Zherdev and Nigel Dawes as linemates.

The Blues absolutely destroyed the Thrashers, scoring 9 goals. The Blues aren’t supposed to a high-scoring team this year, but they got production from all four lines. This might be a preview of what’s to come this season:
Stempniak – McDonald – Boyes
Kariya – Berglund – Perron
Tkachuk – Oshie – Backes
King – McClement – Porter
As noted before, Patrick Berglund is set to centre Paul Kariya and the pair has looked good. Keith Tkachuk seems to have moved back to his original left wing position and Jay McClement may be ill-suited for a fourth line role considering his offensive game is better than his defensive game.

Barry Melrose likes what he’s seeing from Evgeny Artyukhin (I think it was a mistake letting him go in the beginning) and may see himself on Steve Stamkos‘ line. Jussi Jokinen, who has been the subject of many trade rumours this summer, has moved to centre on the third line and is making it hard for management to cut him. Radim Vrbata has apparently been invisible and is dropping on the depth charts.

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?

Sep 132008
 

The Habs’ acquisition of Robert Lang from Chicago means a couple things:

1. Mats Sundin will not be a Hab. That is with utmost certainty after Bob Gainey made that clear in his press conference. Lang will be slotted into the third line, which means that Kyle Chipchura, who is expected to make the squad, may start the season in the AHL unless he has a good camp.

2. Chicago will still be looking to dump salary, but it looks like they may actually start the season with a Cristobal Huet-Nikolai Khabibulin tandem as Dale Tallon had suggested they would. By dumping Lang’s $4m salary, the Hawks are roughly $1.5m under the cap, good enough to start the season, but a little dangerous should the need for injury replacements arise early in the season. The Hawks are saddled with a lot of sub-$1m rookie contracts, which makes creating room a lot more difficult because it would have to involve multiple players. There is still a chance that Khabibulin ($6.75m) get moved, and if he does that means the Hawks will have plenty of cap room to play around with. The Khabibulin to LA rumours won’t die down until he is actually moved.

3. The dominoes are starting to fall. The Habs decided to move on after Sundin stated that he will not be making a decision prior to camp, which means that more teams will do the same. A lot of players, notably Brendan Shanahan and Mathieu Schneider, will find out their new homes in the coming weeks. I would think that both players would be dealt before camp begins, although under the new CBA it looks like more and more GMs are hesitant to pull the trigger and willing to be patient. Mark Parrish, another player who is looking for a new home, may find one soon after he complained that Sundin’s indecisiveness was holding up league transactions.

4. Now that the Habs have made the first move, other East teams may do the same. The Rangers could be busy in the coming weeks, perhaps signing Shanahan or acquiring Schneider, but then of course should they choose to do that they’d have to dump some salary too.

5. The Canucks are in a tight spot. While having $10m to spend is a luxury, it’ll be interesting to see how they spend it. There were rumours flying around that should Sundin land in the Big Apple that Gomez could be in a Canucks uniform, but now that seems less likely than ever. Parrish is on the Canucks’ radar and could find himself there very soon.