Nov 242008
 

It is no surprise that the Leafs have trade a defenseman since they had an abundance of them. What might be a surprise is they did so when they are suffer from several injuries on defense (Van Ryn, Frogren and Colaiacovo himself) and possibly just days before Brian Burke takes over as GM.

If you subscribe to the theory that the team who gets the best player wins the trade, you have to give the edge to the Leafs. But I am not convinced that the Blues didn’t do very well in this trade. Yes Colaiacovo had his health issues and it seemed apparent than new coach Ron Wilson wasn’t enamored with his conditioning but Colaiacovo is still highly talented and can play a physical brand of hockey. If the Blues can get him on the right track they could have a very good top 4 defenseman on their hands.

Also, Alex Steen is a very useful player. His offense hasn’t developed as many would have liked, and this year was definitely a step back when he had the opportunity to do so much more, but even if he only gets you 30-40 points he can still be a solid defensive player and penalty killer.

In Stempniak the Leafs get another skilled forward and although scoring hasn’t been a problem so far this year they do have a lack of (perceived or otherwise) young skilled top 6 level forwards. Stempniak is should fit that role and he has the speed and skill that Fletcher has been adding to this team ever since he took over from John Ferguson Jr.

Interestingly enough, likely incoming GM Brian Burke is more known for wanting to play a big physical game so who knows what he is going to think of guys like Grabovsky, Stempniak, etc.

Aug 162008
 

The Hockey News’ Rankings in the Yearly Yearbook were released, and for the West they’re as follows:

1 Detroit Red Wings
2 San Jose Sharks
3 Minnesota Wild
4 Dallas Stars
5 Anaheim Ducks
6 Edmonton Oilers
7 Chicago Blackhawks
8 Calgary Flames
9 Nashville Predators
10 Phoenix Coyotes
11 Vancouver Canucks
12 Columbus Blue Jackets
13 Los Angeles Kings
14 Colorado Avalanche
15 St. Louis Blues

Detroit at the top is an absolute no-brainer. They won the Cup and somehow got better by adding Marian Hossa. They’ve got Pavel Datsyuk locked up for awhile, and it’s hard to see Henrik Zetterberg not follow suit. Niklas Kronwall, and to a lesser extent, Jonathan Ericsson, look to take over Nicklas Lidstrom‘s mantle when he retires. They’re going to remain a powerhouse for years to come.

I have a hard time believing Minnesota will finish atop the Northwest Division. They lost key offensive pieces in Pavol Demitra and Brian Rolston, and replaced them with two aging veterans (Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette) and a mid-level winger in Antti Miettinen. Their biggest acquisition is Marek Zidlicky, but the Flames have improved more – Calgary’s the early division favourite.

I don’t think the Oilers will finish that high. Adding Lubomir Visnovsky was huge, but they will miss Jarret Stoll‘s shot on the PP. Erik Cole was also another nice add, but I don’t think Visnovsky and Cole makes them better than the Coyotes. Their biggest question mark remains in net, and with some quality goaltending in the West that might be their downfall.

The Coyotes to me are a playoff team – they’ve got a talented forwards, a responsible captain, a respectable defense highlighted by a rejuvenated Ed Jovanovski, and good goaltending from Ilya Bryzgalov. The dogs have tons going for them, and with Kyle Turris expected to make the squad out of training camp the team will be loaded with offense, led by the newly-acquired Olli Jokinen, who might get his first taste of playoff hockey this season.

How the Kings are ahead of the Avs and Blues is beyond me. Technically, they don’t even exist in the NHL because they’ve yet to reach the salary floor. Even with they do be re-signing all their RFAs, their team is laughable at best, and just might win the Calder Cup. This team needs at least two more season to grow before they’re even a playoff contender – it looks like they’re going for the John Tavares sweepstakes and rebuilding Pittsburgh-style.

The Avs, even without Joe Sakic for most of the season, remained competitive until the late stages of the season. Should Sakic retire, they don’t have a player to take over as captain or offensive dynamo yet, although Paul Stastny comes close. A healthy Ryan Smyth and having Adam Foote for a whole season, with some of Darcy Tucker‘s toughness, will make them a respectable squad, but like the Oilers, their biggest question mark remains in net.

Stay tuned for the East.