Mar 032013
 

1) What a gong show of a week for the Calgary Flames. At first glance, Jay Feaster’s 2 year $10 million offer sheet to Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly was… understandable. But then news broke that the Flames had not done their due diligence on the CBA. And by not doing their due diligence, had risked losing 1st and 3rd round picks in exchange for O’Reilly being claimed off of waivers by another team. As embarrassing as the Flames’ on-ice product has been over the past several seasons, management just set a new standard of incompetence. *Clap, Clap, Clap* Continue reading »

Feb 172013
 

1) The Ducks kept rolling this week thanks in large part entirely because of 30 year old “rookie” Viktor Fasth. Fasth has won his first 8 NHL starts and has all but stolen Jonas Hiller’s job. It isn’t exactly fair to say the Ducks resurgence this year is all due to Fasth, but his .933 SV% and 1.78 GAA sure doesn’t hurt. Keep an eye on this guy. In a shortened season a goaltender this hot will make a significant difference in playoff seeding.  Continue reading »

Feb 102013
 

1) Jordan Schroeder scored his first two NHL goals in a 5-1 romp over the Flames on Saturday, capping of a 3 point week. Schroeder has been steadily improving all season long and has settled in nicely as the Canucks current 2nd line pivot. His steady two-way play has been a huge boon in Ryan Kesler’s absence, helping the Canucks pick up 3 wins over divisional opponents this week. Continue reading »

Feb 032013
 

1) For several years now, the Flames’ ownership has insisted on trying to ice a “playoff” team. But they simply do not have the depth to do this. Instead of rebuilding the proper way (see: Penguins, Oilers, Blackhawks etc…), the Flames went out and gave big money to Dennis Wideman, Jiri Hudler, and Roman Cervenka. None of these guys are gamechangers and wont help the Flames make the playoffs this season. However, despite their best efforts, the Flames may still finish low enough in the standings to get a lottery pick. At 1-3-2 through 6 games, this is looking quite likely. Continue reading »

Sep 032012
 

1.) Vancouver Canucks: The biggest problem the Canucks have heading into the 2012-13 season is that they have two of the top goalies in the world under contract. The back-to-back defending President Trophy winners shored up their d-core with the addition of Jason Garrison and should see youngster Chris Tanev patrolling the back end on a nightly basis. Ryan Kesler’s injury is worrisome, but his early season absence is mitigated by the overall weakness of the Northwest division.

2.) Los Angeles Kings: The Kings emerged as a powerhouse team during the 2011-12 post season. And with almost the entire Stanley Cup winning roster returning for the 2012-13 season, there is every reason to believe the Kings will finish atop their division. It will be interesting to see whether the Kings can maintain the torrid offensive output which saw them cruise to the cup last spring, but with Jonathan Quick between the pipes the Kings will have an opportunity to win each and every game. Continue reading »

Apr 232012
 

Brad Richardson’s tying goal, with four Canucks and Cory Schneider within an arm’s reach, should never have happened. That a fourth-liner like Richardson can outwork Henrik Sedin, Alex Edler, Keith Ballard, and David Booth is, well, astounding. This is the second time in the past two playoffs that an eighth seed has knocked off a one seed (Habs in 2010), but this has already been an unpredictable playoffs (even for hockey standards). What’s worrying is that the Kings have dispatched the two-time Presidents’ Trophy champs so quickly, and that the series wasn’t won by talent, but by sheer focus and work ethic.

Continue reading »

Apr 112012
 

Jonathan Quick can only stop the Vancouver offense for so long, now with Daniel Sedin back in the lineup. True, the Kings have been defensive stalwarts against the Canucks (season series split 2-2, three one-goal games), and have fared well against them in the regular season, but the last time the two teams met in 2010, the Canucks polished them off in six games. The two teams haven’t changed much since – the Canucks have only tinkered with their bottom six in the past couple years, hoping to stumble on a winning formula, while the Kings have added new faces (Richards, Carter), but the results have been nothing short of disappointing.

Continue reading »

Oct 062011
 

Hockey… Is… Back… I have waited three and a half long months to finally write those three words. But lo and behold the real world has conspired to prevent either myself or Jason from actively watching and blogging the fantastic opening night games. Luckily the magic of PVR will allow me to watch some puck at 2:45 tomorrow morning when I get off work.

In past years the NHL has kicked off their season’s with overseas games. Although entertaining, they rarely featured marquee match ups. Well, while the NHL is still trying to expand the game in Europe, we are going to be treated to three fantastic matches here at home. Here are some things to look for while enjoying the return of the best damn game around.

Continue reading »

Aug 202011
 

I love talking about prospects because there’s never any one consensus. Even for a home run like Sidney Crosby, in 2005 no one was exactly how good this kid could be. Was he a 400 ft. home run or a never-seen-before 600 ft. home run? Some thought he was a franchise player, while others thought Crosby could be even more than a franchise player.

Talking prospects with hockey observers is an exercise in sifting through bullshit weeding out biases. It’s way too easy to get excited by the 17 year-old 6’5″ giant who’s being compared to Pronger, but also the mysterious Russian kid your team took a gamble on in the sixth round. You comb the Internet for whatever you can find about your team’s mysterious prospect, but then you realize the biggest problem with scouting reports is that there’s rarely anything negative. So you’re reading about this kid with “decent hands” and “good speed” without realizing that those words mean nothing without a proper context. Meanwhile, the team’s hyping up the prospects to make some money and when you’ve finally absorbed all the information, you’re probably ready to declare some fourth round pick a gem when he’s still the third scoring option as an over-ager on his junior team. When you get to this point, you might as well make wearing rose-coloured glasses mandatory. (I should add that it’s really easy to fall into that trap. Why do you think we have Leafs fans?)

I had issues with ESPN’s piece which ranked the league’s best pipelines (covered by Puck Daddy) but most of them were relatively minor and ESPN’s hockey coverage has already become a running joke. But with the way vancitydan at Nucks Misconduct responded, you’d think Grant Sonier had personally insulted him. For the most part I agree with him that ESPN doesn’t give Vancouver enough credit, but I hardly think the Canucks’ pipeline is all that desirable either.

vancitydan then compares previous regimes to Gillis’ track record, how we got “lucky” when Kesler fell to 23 when he was ranked just 16th among North American skaters, then slams Nonis (who has the best track record of the three) for a “horrible” ’06 draft only to yield a “good pick” in Grabner. I have to agree the 2007 draft was a disaster but without Nonis the Canucks also wouldn’t have Edler, Hansen, Schneider, or Raymond. Gillis gets a good rep for being a good GM but his character-driven draft strategy hasn’t fared to well either. The biggest finds weren’t through the draft, but rather through free agent signings.

(If you don’t want to read me rant on Canucks prospects, feel free to skip to the last paragaraph.)

I don’t expect much from Steven Anthony (not this one), a player who I got to see every now and again over the past two years. He’s skilled, but he’s also small and that works in the Q, but his defensive deficiencies and general lack of hockey awareness holds him back. He had his best year in his fourth major junior season, and was still under a point per game despite having Jurco, Huberdeau, Galiev, Beaulieu, and Despres. Remember Prab Rai? Everyone was jacked up to get him and he’s going to have a hard enough time cracking the Moose roster. Darren Archibald comes in a similar fashion, in that he’s only ever been a point per game player as an overager.

The two I would agree on would be Anton Rodin and Bill Sweatt, the more talented (and still playing) of the two Sweatt brothers. With the Canucks’ luck with Swedes, Rodin’s an intriguing prospect, highly touted both in Sweden and overseas. It’s rare when two sides come to a consensus so that’s usually a good thing. (A lot of Swedish scouts were unconvinced by Brunnstrom). Sweatt’s a potential late bloomer and I’ll usually give college kids a couple more years because their development comes at a much more slower (arguably steadier) pace than junior players. There’s some potential there but I wouldn’t play him anywhere the bottom six so that’s a big enough hurdle there: to be good enough to be considered a top six NHL-calibre winger.

Jordan Schroeder’s an interesting case. The general consensus in 2009 when the Canucks drafted him was that he was a steal. THN had him ranked 8th, and his main asset was that he would be great for the “new NHL.” But that was 2009, when scouts thought good skating ability is enough to get by, but that’s just not the case, since there’s just as many kids with good skating ability but are considerably bigger than Schroeder. He had a tough year with the Moose and was moved all over the lineup. Scouting is about perception, and while vancitydan fawns over Schroeder’s highlight reel, I can point out just as many reasons why Schroeder won’t be an impact NHLer.

0:43-:050 – There’s no way Schroeder lays out anyone in the NHL and the victim, Andy Bohmbach, is a lanky forward with zero future in the NHL. Also notice how when Schroeder goes to the net he still tends to stay on the perimeter.
2:47 – That’s awful coverage against Hershey’s Ashton Rome. He wasn’t anywhere near the play. We know he’s magic with the puck but hockey’s mostly played without the puck on your stick.
3:10 – Against the Marlies it looks like Schroeder really wanted that puck.
3:29 – He gets hammered right after he releases his shot. He won’t get that shot off at the NHL level.
3:53 – He can’t even catch Bill Thomas on a partial breakaway, even with highly touted footspeed and “new NHL” toolbox. (I could do this forever)

Kevin Connauton, Yann Sauve look to be keepers and Eddie Lack seems like a really great find, but the rest aren’t especially noteworthy. Nicklas Jensen appears to be the only notable from our 2011 class, and even then he’s not a prospect with a particularly high ceiling. You could already see the brimming optimism vancitydan has for Honzik, who has been compared to Pekka Rinne, although it had been previously established that Anthony was a Crosby type, further proof that player-to-player comparisons are ridiculous and futile. The same goes for Labate and Grenier – they’re projects at best.

I think you have to be really careful about hyping up prospects for your own team because you have to be aware that 29 other fanbases are doing the exact same with their players. But like vancitydan said, it’s “just an opinion though,” to which I’d like to just add, “perception isn’t always reality.”

Jul 112011
 

Hey guys. I am very excited to be joining Jason here at armchairhockey.net, the best kept secret on the internet! (Now let us fix that!) He provides in depth analysis of all things hockey; hopefully I can contribute something here and there. To kick things off, here are some musings on the Free Agency Period in the same vein as Elliotte Friedman’s 30 thoughts (which happens to be the best blog in hockey.)

-The Florida Panthers certainly emerged as the biggest players during this year’s free agency period. Dave Tallon has acquired no less than 11 NHL players in the span of a few short weeks. Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Thomas Kopecky, and Angelo Esposito were all brought in via trade while Jose Theodore, Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc, Thomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim, and Matt Bradley all signed as free agents. But how many more games will they win without Thomas Vokoun in net? The Answer: not many. It is easy to applaud Dave Tallon for his work so far this offseason, but the harsh reality is that he let his best player walk for nothing. Moreover not a single player brought in makes market value or less.

-On another note relating to Florida (and several other teams… cough… Buffalo…), NHL GM’s should be scared at the current trend of contracts/contract negotiations. Several years back Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe had a very public spat over offer-sheets. Well, old Burkie was right. Lowe essentially killed the “2nd” contract. Traditionally, talented youngsters would sign a 2-3 year contract after their initial ELC. A good example is Shea Weber signing a $4.5 mill 2nd contract. Compare that to what Drew Doughty is likely to sign for this off season. With the death of the 2nd contract, the NHL has seen a startling rise in the price tag for young players. The actions of a few GM’s this offseason, including Tallon, have simply jacked up the prices further. A new trend has been set, one in which mediocre free agents are wildly overpaid to allow a team to reach the new Salary Cap floor. These are two dangerous trends that need to be rectified in the next CBA.

-In what world does it make sense that Thomas Fleischmann makes only $500 000 less than Ryan Kesler? Or that Scottie Upshall makes $1 million more than Alex Burrows.

-Buffalo was another big player during this free agency period, although most of their moves were made via trade. Bringing in Christian Erhoff and Robyn Reghr should do wonders to insulate Tyler Myers on the back end. However it will be important for Buffalo to ensure Marc-Andre Gragnani is not buried in the depth charts. After all he did lead the Sabres in post-season scoring last year.

-Did I mention that Erhoff, a 50 point d-man, will be making $18 million over the next two seasons? For comparisons sake, Crosby will make $17.4.

-While Buffalo is now the highest spending team in the league, I would be surprised with a top-4 finish in the East. They lack star power up front and will have a tough time dealing with Philly, Boston, Pitty, and Washington.

-If Kevin Bieksa can continue playing like he did during the Canucks recent cup run, $4.6 over 5 years is going to look beautiful. James Wisniewski, a d-man cut from the same mould, signed for more money and more term in CBJ. Mike Gillis may be the best GM in the NHL when it comes to convincing players to take hometown discounts.

-Washington took huge strides in the East, establishing themselves as the sole team to beat. Retaining Brooks Laich was a must for GM George McPhee. Bringing in Joel Ward for some added grit/depth was a solid move. It also never hurts to have the best UFA goalie (and in my opinion a top 5 goalie in the NHL) ask to play for only $1.5 million. Based on the Vokoun move alone, George McPhee “won” Free Agency.

-While I was not surprised to see Dwayne Roloson re-sign in Tampa, I was surprised that Yzerman did not make a play for his future replacement. Cory Schneider and Jonathan Bernier are the most likely targets. However neither will come cheap. I don’t believe Dustin Tokarski is their answer.

-Sigh… another two years of Andrew Alberts. That being said, I don’t think the coaching staff can possibly deny Chris Tanev a full time spot on the Canucks roster this October. The kid has ice in his veins.

-I would give Mike Gillis a solid B for his efforts this offseason. My biggest fear was that the Canucks would not make any changes, unfortunately this largely turned out to be the case. However re-signing Bieksa, Maxime Lapierre, and Chris Higgins were musts in my opinion. I could have done without Andrew Alberts and Marco Sturm along with their combined $3.725 cap hit.

-While most of their moves were made via trade, Philly has to be mentioned here. Did any team do more to shake up their core? No. Did Philly improve as a team? Maybe. With so many moves it is difficult to tell. Right now I would say the first couple of months will be a big adjustment as they learn to live without Mike Richards, although they very well may have acquired Mike Richards 2.0 in Braydon Schenn.

-I cant wait for the first time Philadelphia plays in Pittsburgh. Maxime Talbot and Jaromir Jagr should bring food testers with them on that road trip.

-I was very surprised Winnipeg did not make more moves this offseason. I understand that there must have been a lot to deal with the relocation, but every team in their division got better (with the exception of Tampa, who was already much better). Bringing in some familiar faces in Tanner Glass and Rick Rypien was a start, but neither would look out of place as full time AHL’ers. Trading for Eric Fehr was a good move, but not enough. I foresee a rough season playing against Carolina, Tampa, Florida, and Washington.

-Glen Sather is at it again! The same guy who made Scott Gomez and Chris Drury $7 million per season players is getting ready to shell out $12 million to Brad Richards next year. I don’t care if his annual cap hit is only $6.66 million. Brad Richards is simply not that valuable. Both Henrik and Daniel combined will make $12.2 million next season. Good job Glenn.

-That “fair” cap hit may even come back to bite the NYR in the ass as there are rumblings that Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan could both be awarded similar deals in arbitration.

-Of all the years to take a player to arbitration, this year has to be the worse. What is Sather going to say when Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky’s agents point to the newly signed contracts of Ville Leino and Thomas Fleischmann? Under the current market prices, both players will fetch upwards of $5 million. Let’s hope everyone comes to their senses before the hearing and they get a reasonable deal done.

-My steal of Free Agency has got to be Zenon Konopka to Ottawa for 1 year at $700 000. This guy is a good Canadian kid who will fight, check, and chip in about 15-20 points a year playing on your teams 4th line. Oh yea, he is also one of the better faceoff men in the league. He instantly improves any team’s bottom 6.

-I will end my musings with Thomas Kaberle to Carolina for 3years and $4.25 million per. I have to say I am glad he got his money. He was one of the more reliable dmen in the league for a long time, despite playing on one of the worse teams in the league. Ron Wilson is a poor coach, and Kaberle should not take it personally that he did not succeed under him. With Kaberle and Joni Pitkanen manning the points, I could see a big boost in Carolina’s PP% this season.