Feb 092009

The possibility certainly exists that 5 of the 6 post-lockout Stanley Cup finalists won’t make the playoffs this year.  Ottawa has all but been eliminated while Pittsburgh, Carolina, Edmonton and Anaheim all remain on the bubble.  Detroit is the only post-lockout conference winner to be securely in a playoff spot.  Is that a result of parity or mass mediocrity?

Brian Burke has a history of reacquiring players he knows well.  This is why he went after Brad May in a minor move and this is why I believe that there is a more than good chance that he’ll try to bring in the Sedin twins this summer if Vancouver fails to re-sign them.  But another player to look at is JS Giguere in Anaheim who has all but lost his job, at least in the short term, to Jonas Hiller, and the Ducks might be interested in shedding salary so they can fill in holes elsewhere in their lineup.  The only caveat is Giguere’s no trade clause but if he’ll likely waive it instead of being a backup.

Speaking of Leafs goaltending, Brian Burke and Ron Wilson put out the challenge to Vesa Toskala to improve his practice habits and in turn improve his game which has been mediocre at best this season.  How much has goaltending hurt the Leafs?  Well, they have the worst team save percentage this year at 87.5%.  If they could improve that to a measly 10th worst in the league, or 90.1%, the Leafs would have allowed 149 goals instead of 188 goals.  Combine that with their 155 goals for and they would have the same number of goals for and against as the Montreal Canadiens, who are sitting in 5th spot in the conference 15 points ahead of the Leafs.

Tampa couldn’t do it, Ottawa is failing at it, and Pittsburgh is on the verge of missing the playoffs because of it.  I am talking about spending a boat load of money on two or three mostly offensive oriented forwards.  Tampa spent a lot of money on Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis and failed to obtain much success.  Ottawa has seen their defense decimated and goaltending faulter because they have spent too much on Spezza, Heatley, Alfredsson (and to a lesser extent Fisher).  In Pittsburgh they have spent some money on defense and goaltending in addition to their big two of Crosby and Malking, but that meant that Crosby and Malkin are pretty much playing on their own.

I have said this before but it deserves mentioning again, I think Dave Tippett of the Dallas Stars is one of the most under rated coaches in the NHL.  This team not that long ago was the worst team in the NHL but post Sean Avery they have an outstanding 18-8-3 record which has propelled them into 5th spot in the western conference.

One of the most under rated defenseman in the NHL has to be Dennis Wideman who is having an outstanding season in Boston.  He ranks 6th in points and tied for 5th in goals by defensemen adn his +31 ranking is second in the league for any player.  If he continues to play like this into next season he’ll deserve some consideration for the Canadian Olympic team.

When I scan down the list of top point producers in the NHL this year I see a lot of familiar names but no on ever mentions the outstanding year that David Krejci is having with 56 points and sitting 12th in league scoring.  He is a big reason for the Bruin’s success and ability to survive injuries to Bergeron and Sturm.

Has Jason Blake played well enough to make him tradeable, or has he played so well the Leafs won’t want to trade him.  He is on pace for 30 goals, 65 points and for a guy who kills penalties as well he is more than earning his $4 million salary cap hit this year.

It is hard to be optimistic about the New York Islanders future when their leading point producers up front are Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Trent Hunter, Richard Park and Mike Comrie.  That is not a group of players to build a future around.

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.