Monday, March 31, 2008

Chelios Wants to Play in 2010 Olympics?

1) As many might have read the ageless Chris Chelios is already making plans to play 2 additional NHL seasons so he would be eligible to play in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Pictured here is Chris displaying one of his Olympic medals.

2) The 'ageless wonder' who is currently in his 24th season and at 46 years old is by far the oldest player in the league. For those who are mathematically challenged, Chris would be 48 when the Vancouver games are played. The 2010 Games would be the fifth Olympics for Chris Chelios, who played for the U.S. in 1984, 1998, 2002, and 2006.

3) When asked about it the Detroit defensemen said: "If need be, I'm going to be honest, I would love to play in those Olympics," Chelios said "Because I think it's going to be one of the best ever. To have the greatest players in the world and the fact that it's going to be in North America. ... I kind of compare myself to a relief pitcher in baseball where I play a role in penalty kill and defensive situations. Realistically, with the way my minutes are down ... but I thought the same thing prior to the last Olympics (2006) and because of injuries on teammates on Detroit I was given the opportunity to play and I was fortunate enough to be named to the team.

4) Despite his long list of successes in the NHL:

  • three Stanley Cup championships

  • three Norris trophies as the league's top defenceman and

  • five first-team NHL all-star selections

the Chicago-born Chelios takes special pride in the fact that he's witnessed/been a part of first-hand the growth of hockey in the U.S. to where it now ranks as one of the world's hockey powers.
He's played in four Olympics, in 1984 in Sarajevo as a collegian, then in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, 2002 in Salt Lake City and 2006 in Turin, Italy.

5) So how realistic are his chances? Well, we wouldn't count him out, but as in many sports where a player participates at an advanced age, many times the player seems to 'lose it' almost over night. We see it in baseball when a hitter suddenly finds himself no longer able to catch up with a good fastball, or Football player who seems to not be able to recover from those nagging injuries quite so quickly anymore. That said, Chelios has lasted this long not only on his talent, but also his incredible will/desire to perform at his peak. That peak may not be nearly as high as it was when he won his last Norris Trophy in 1996 its still significantly higher than many 1/2 his age. Good luck Chris!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Can Brent Sutter Survive Spring Swoon?

1) Now, normally it would be idiotic to believe that a playoff bound team's coach would be in trouble, but these are the New Jersey Devils, and more specifically Lou Lamarello. It is actually the exact time of year when Lou fires his coaches; right before the post season. It worked once when Robbie Ftorek was relieved of his coaching duties before the 2000 post season when his replacement, Larry Robinson guided the team to its 2nd Cup.

2) Last year when the Devils unexpectedly dismissed now-Bruins coach Claude Julian with only 3 games remaining and the team seemingly in better position than it is now, it didn't quite work out as well with Lou himself taking over and losing in the second round to the Senators in 5 games. It would seem that this result would dissuade Lou from making this kind of move once again, but the way the Devils have been playing lately it would surprise no one, especially the players who have grown accustomed to coaching turmoil in Jersey despite their significant on ice success the past 13 years, that Lou would fire yet another coach before the playoffs.

3) The Devils are in a bit of a funk right now, having won just 4 times in the past 10 games, falling out of the division race and now fighting to stay in the top 4 (assuring themselves of home ice in the first round) In fact they have yet to even secure a playoff spot, and the way the teams below them have been playing lately Sutter's sextet better get their ship righted else 'The Rock' may be empty after next week! Therefore if we were Sutter we wouldn't be feeling all that secure right now!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Down The Stretch We Come!

1) The seemingly never-ending NHL season is winding downward fast. The end of the regular season is April 6th, a mere 11 days away. Most teams have 5 or so games remaining. Playoff spot battle will probably come down to the final buzzer of the final games on Sunday 4/6, but at this juncture its probably safe to say that 11 teams are 'out of it', while the other 19 teams battle for the 16 playoff slots.

2) In the East the interesting battles that seem to be shaping up are:

  • Fight for the final 2 slots. 3 teams: Philadelphia, Boston and Washington are fighting it out for the 7th and 8th slots. with 88, 86, and 84 points each respectively. Ordinarily we'd say that Philly is a safe bet to get in, however their remaining schedule against other Atlantic teams is going to make it tough, while Washington holding up the rear of these 3 only plays relatively weak SE division foes, 3 of those at home. While Boston is playing the poorest of the 3 and has tough games against the NE division and Devils remaining. This race is the reason we don't bet on sports!

  • Battle for tops in the East- With all 3 divisions apparently all but settled, the remaining interest will be with who wins the conference regular season title, giving themselves home ice for the first 3 rounds of the playoffs. Carolina will win the SE, Pittsburgh the Atlantic, and Montreal the NE (for the first time in over a decade!) Only 1 point separates the pens from the Habs. On paper at least the Canadiens seem to have a slight edge in schedule, with 2 games each remaining with the Maple Leafs and Sabres, but those games are never gimmes so it is likely to go down to the final game when the pens visit the Flyers (who may be fighting fr their playoff lives!)

3) Here are the races of interest in the West:

  • Battle for the bottom spots: Four teams, Vancouver, Colorado, Nashville and Edmonton are fighting for the final 2 slots, with a mere 3 points separating the 4 teams. (The Canucks have a game in hand on the other 3) Of the 4 we'd say the Canucks have an inside track on one of the slots with that game in hand AND 4 home games left. While the Oilers would be the long shot with 3 points out and only one of their remaining games at the Rexall Center. That leaves the Preds and Avs fighting for the last spot. Colorado has a 2 point edge right now, but the Predator schedule seems much friendlier, with games left against weak Central opponents Columbus, St. Louis(2) and Chicago, but only 1 is at home. If forced to guess we'd say the Canucks and Preds get in, but its NOT going to be an easy road to get there!

  • Battle for the NW division. Calgary-90, and The Wild-89 are battling to see who will finish 3rd or 6th in the tough Western Conference. With 4 of their 5 games remaining(including one with the Flames) we'd give the slight edge to the Wild, but as with the other races, its gonna be a fun finish!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Unexpected Surprise?!?

1) When the San Jose Sharks announced late last summer that they were signing UFA forward Jeremy Roenick we at FAUXRUMORS believed that to be a very poor decision by GM Doug Wilson. At the time we not only believed that JR was about 'done' in his career, but more importantly would be a bad influence on the relatively young Shark lineup. Upsetting their chemistry, and any meager input offensively would be significantly negated by his locker room presence.

2) We are not afraid to call ourselves out when we are wrong, and in this instance anyway, we believe our initial assessment was apparently inaccurate/wrong. Thus far Roenick not only has been anything but a distraction, but in fact has been a POSITIVE influence in the Shark locker room. Our source in the Bay area tells that JR has been doing a great job taking the young guys under his wing. He has NOT had a negative attitude, and been supportive of Ron Wilson's defense-first approach, and been the guy to talk with the media to take some of the pressure off the younger guys in the room earlier in the season when things weren't going as well as they have recently.

3) Add to that the fact that JR has put up some very respectable numbers. Not in our wildest fantasies did we see JR scoring double digits in goals(he has 13) The HUGE number that sticks out is the fact that of those 13, 9 are game Winners! That's simply an incredible figure and no one is even on the same planet with respect of % of goals to game winners as Roenick. Which means that not only is JR contributing offensively, he's doing it when it counts most.

4) Of course we have to temper this enthusiasm about Roenick's accomplishments with the fact that every team/player' season is defined these days by how they do in the post season. If you have a great regular year and flop in the playoffs, it usually is remembered more by folks than if the reverse played out. Therefore we will wait to see if JR can continue to contribute and be the consummate team player he has been this regular season for the Sharks. We have to say that thus far, we have been unexpectedly surprised!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mailing It In?

1) It came to our attention as we watched the Atlanta Thrashers 'go through the motions' of playing out the string of their remaining schedule. Seeing how they slept walked through their game with the Capitals last Friday, then again last night against the Flyers. That perhaps they weren't the only ones who are both out of it AND apparently have given up. Perhaps its not the best or only gauge, but its illustrative to a large degree to go through how these teams have fared the past 2-3 weeks.

2) Here are the teams that we believe are in the dumper/mailing it in:

  • Atlanta- The aforementioned Thrashers are clearly in the tank having won a mere 2 games in the past 3 weeks. If not for their resident super star Ilya Kovulchuk, who now has 50 goals, they'd probably be winless, and have zero fans left. Amazingly in the midst of this downward spiral and despite for calls by many, including us, that Don Waddell needs to be fired, amazingly their current owner decided NOW was the time to give the incompetent boob a vote of confidence. If we were fans of the team, we'd now be worried that our team was being run by someone not in close touch with reality. Continued bad times are probably ahead in Atlanta. Bets now being taken of how long until the city losses its NHL franchise(again)

  • Islanders- Another Eastern team that may help (in a bad way) determine who makes the playoffs/ascends playoff position down the stretch. After a wonderful run the first 2/3 of the season the Isles lack of scoring, a few injuries and in-house feuding have taken its toll. Like Atlanta, they have only 2 wins the past 3 weeks and a mere 4 points (Atlanta has 7). Nolan and co. have apparently run out of gas a few strides before the finish line. Allowing their opposition to skate away with relatively easy 2 points nightly. Its the first Chinks in the Nolan armour that we've seen. Also thus far the call-ups/kids have not been all that impressive. (Okposo has only has played one game) Ironically they are likely to finish where many (including us) anticipated; at or near the bottom

  • LA- Have been near or at the bottom of whole season. Briefly (when Robert Blake got hurt and appeared about to be traded) the Kings went on a mini tear (for them), only to return to their previous habit of losing thereafter. Two wins in the past 3 weeks SHOULD as we wrote previously, doom Marc Crawfords chances of returning. It also SHOULD give Lombardi pause in trying to retain Blake beyond this season. They may also want to get an NHL goalie to start next year.

  • St. Louis- Unlike the other listed teams, this one is indeed a surprise. We, and many others, saw the Blues as having turned the corner on their past poor performances. However the past month or so they have returned to their losing ways going an abysmal 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. Other than the Kings, if we were a Western Conference team in need of points we'd want to see St Louis right now. It appears that John Davidson and co. have a lot more work cut out for them than some previously thought. It may also cost Andy Murray his job

3) Here are the teams that deserve commendation for NOT mailing it in. Are clearly out of it(or have little chance) yet are playing hard/well:

  • Edmonton- With 5 points separating them from the 8th spot its unlikely the Oil will make the posts season, but we are impressed that instead of giving up (like the above teams) they have played themselves back into the playoff race with 8 wins in their last 10. Despite their injuries McTavish's sextet is no pushover and should be proud of the job they've done. Craig has earned another season behind the bench

  • Toronto- Were given up for dead a few weeks ago after the trade deadline. The Toronto media had them buried even before that. It seemed that the team puled together after the deadline and made a late rush to try to make the post season. Albeit probably too late. Its also helped that Vesa Toskala has played brilliantly for them. It gives the team at least one less position to worry about next season.

  • Columbus- The Jackets seemed to fade around the All-Star break, probably dooming their playoff hopes, but they still have refused to die and go away like the above teams have. Coach Hitchcock deserves credit to not allowing his team to fold up its tent and go home, but play hard/compete nightly. Hopefully for their fans this means better days are ahead in Columbus

  • Florida- A big surprise to us until we did some research and discovered this is the panthers M.O. the past few seasons: Play like crap/mediocre all year then get hot in March and fall short of the playoffs(again). They are probably still in it, but they will need a lot of help AND stay as hot as they've been lately(Winning 7 strait). Its also probably enough to save Jack Martin's job.

4) One would think, Thank God that they have the draft lottery, else these down ward spirals would be looked upon suspiciously. Certainly a team wouldn't intentionally lose because even the 30th place finisher only has a 40% chance at getting the 1st overall pick, right?. However, it can't be overlooked that only finishing in the bottom 5 gives a team a shot at that pick. (A team can't move up more than 4 slots if they win the lottery so the 6th worst team can't pick higher than 2nd)

5) We're NOT saying that any of these teams are intentionally tanking it for a pick. (Ironically the Oilers have incentive to NOT suck. They traded this years 1st round pick to Anaheim as part of the Penner compensation). However, our position, though radical and controversial, would eliminate all possible doubt, and no longer reward failure/incompetence. That is do what was done in the 'Crosby sweepstakes (2005 draft). Have ALL teams' draft order determined equally by a lottery. It would b a great/exciting show, like then, to have every team a chance at the 1st pick, and it eliminates once and for all any chance that teams would be disincentivized from playing their best/best players at all times!

Monday, March 17, 2008

We Did It!

1) The NHL's decision to give Chris Pronger an 8 game suspension was undoubtedly significantly influenced by the outcry of us(the fans)! In this new world of blogging and Internet communication its harder for the powers that be to bamboozle the folks. We have access to the facts that we may have been unable to gather before. If this were 10 years ago its unlikely that the Pronger incident would even be known by any other than a few Canuck fans. Few would see the play, and fewer would write about it.

2) With Utube disseminating the infraction AND more importantly, with us bloggers discussing it, it was far more difficult for the NHL and the old Boys club(Campbell/Burke) to get away with an obvious double standard of glossing over Prongers 'stomp', while leveling the longest suspension in history to Chris Simon for an eerily similar act.

3) It all started last week. Thursday morning fans (who didn't watch the game) awoke to see the Pronger incident. Then we bloggers, having seen the replays weighed in wondering if pronger would get 30 games like Simon. We balked at the initial NHL decision to give Pronger "the benefit of the doubt"/the replays were inconclusive, etc. We knew soon thereafter when the NHL started to feel the heat when they suddenly said they had "new" video evidence that they would now review. As we mentioned then, and maintain now, that's total Bullshit! The NHL has the best/all the possible tapes/angles of every game. They simply used that as an excuse to cover their asses when they knew they had to reassess their earlier decision.

4) As for the 8 game suspension. We strongly disagree that this is sufficient. Some are now saying that Simon got too stiff a suspension and that Pronger's is more appropriate. Sorry, the NHL actually got the Simon suspension length correct. Perhaps for not the right reason, but it was what he deserved for his reckless actions, especially for a repeat offender. As we noted in our Friday entry, after the recent skate injury incidents, it should have been clear that they are very dangerous, and any time one is used as a weapon, like in these two instances, the league needs to come down hard with its punishment. Pronger, like Simon is a repeat offender and as such deserved much the same degree of punitive action against him. As we have mentioned time and time again, the NHL's system of justice is flawed beyond belief and this incident merely helps illustrate is utter inanity!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pronger to Get 30 game Suspension?

1) In case anyone missed it, last evening Anaheim defensemen Chris Pronger decided to 'pull a Chris Simon' and stomp on the opposition with his skate. You can watch it here. In the video Pronger clearly can be seen 'stomping his skate against the leg of prone Vancouver forward Ryan Kesler. There is no mistaking this as anything but a deliberate action.

2) For those who may have forgotten, earlier this season Former Islander forward Chris Simon did a similar action against Pittsburgh Penguin agitator extraordinaire Rutuu. watch that one here. At the time we at FAUXRUMORS took a very strong position that Simon deserved severe punishment. It could be argued that Pronger's actions are worse. The other similarity is that BOTH Simon and Pronger are repeat offenders. Its not like Pronger has been an angel his whole career. Add to all that the fact that we witnessed earlier this season what a skate can do when it accidentally hits a vulnerable area To blatantly/deliberately use your skate as a weapon should get swift and severe punishment!

3) Therefore we feel that the heat is now on the NHL to show that justice is indeed blind. It was relatively easy to throw the book at Simon. He was a 4th line marginal goon who had done similar stunts in the recent past. Pronger on the other hand is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate defenseman. A super star on the Stanley Cup winning team. Will the NHL give Pronger a double digit suspension or as they did in last years playoffs, (twice) a one game slap on the wrist? As we discuss in our post last fall, there is undoubtedly a disparity in the NHL justice system. Anything less than what Simon received would only confirm what we at FAUXRUMORS have suspected about NHL justice; Its 2 tiered and a total joke!
UPDATE: We have read late this morning that apparently "New footage" has surfaced and the league is taking a "new look" at the Pronger stomp. To that we say Bullshit! What happened is the league started getting heat. Thanks to U-Tube, many fans saw the incident and were wondering what we were; How come Simon got 30 games and Pronger got nothing? What we expect will happen: Pronger sits for a game or two, maximum to placate those of us who demand equality!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What Should Happen April 7th!

1) That date of course is the first day of the off season for 14 non playoff teams. In our opinion here are what we feel are the moves that should be done the instant the season is completed. Of course all the options below are entirely our subjective (albeit an educated one) ) opinion.

2) Here are the No-Brainer moves that SHOULD occur:

  • John Tortorella- Fired! Recent player uprisings(Vaclev Prospal) and Andre Roy are just symptoms of the disease that IS the John Tortorella coaching style. Ask about 80% or more of his players and they're likely to say Torts is an asshole, or worse. Where once he commanded respect, now he commands disdain. His type of style wears thin quickly. Jay Feaster was in error retaining the abrasive coach beyond last season when it was clear he lost the team. The only unknown this year was IF Tortorella's head would explode during a game or one of his players would actually try to murder him. We feel there is no need to push the envelope beyond this season and its time for the Lightning to cut ties with the man who guided them to a Cup 4 years ago.

  • Jacques Martin- Fired! After 3 seasons of missing the playoffs and significantly underachieving this year its time to replace Martin. His GM grade is still incomplete, but if we were the owners we'd cut ties entirely with the underachieving coach and find a replacement GM who can the hire Martin's replacement and get this team back in the posts season for the first time in 8 years! Their roster (Largely assembled by Martin's predecessors) should be good enough to make the playoffs in the weak East. The combination of his ineptitude here and his significant underachieving in Ottawa should indicate that Jacques is NOT the answer.

  • Don Waddell- Fired! This amazingly incompetent GM became the team's amazingly incompetent coach after 6 games this year. Initially they turned things around, but now are finishing up the season just as it started; with total futility. It would be a slap to the fans (are there any left?) to allow Waddell to hire (his replacement) a new coach. The owners, like in Florida, need to make a clean sweep to give their fans any hope that things will be different going forward.

  • Mark Crawford- Fired! One poor season we would have excused, especially when Crawford has had previous success in Colorado and to a lesser extent in Vancouver. However two consecutive very bad seasons can not be allowed to go unanswered. A change behind the bench (along with an actual NHL goalie) would go a long way toward getting the Kings back into the post season. Like Florida,they have a very good nucleus of young players, and with the right guidance they could be the comeback team of 08-09, but we don't believe Crawford should be given another chance to lead them there.

  • Andy Murray - Fired! We didn't initially feel this necessary, BUT With the melt down in the stretch run the Blues have been the worst team over the last month or so. Things looked promising up until the All-Star break, but with only 1 win in their last 10 the Blues seem to be playing out the string. Not what a team that's supposed to be turning it around can be allowed to do. Time for a new coach in St. Louis.

  • Garth Snow- Fired! This probably won't happen, but it should. He makes the perfect tool for a manipulative owner. Knowing Snow wouldn't even be given an asst GM's position with any other team, Wang knows he can pretty much have Garth do what is asked. The problem is that the moves he has made haven't improved the Isles. Last summer's acquisitions, as we expected, proved to be a mere shuffling of the Titanic deck chairs and scoring would be a problem. (They are last in the entire NHL!) Perhaps their improbable 8th finish last spring gave the team cover for its actual ineptitude. Its unlikely that will happen again this time around. With THN rating Isles prospects 24th, a quick turn around is unlikely, but the first step would be to find a REAL GM to reconstruct this franchise floundering without a rudder!

3) These are 6 moves that should NOT wait any longer than the day after the last game. Teams like these owe it to their fans to show that they 'get it' and are trying to improve their clubs so they can compete next season. In reality probably only 1-2 of these will occur, with the firing or Tortorella Martin and Crawford as the most possible.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Dynamic Russian Duo: So Who's Better?

1) Before this season there was no comparison. Clearly Ovechkin was the superior player, right? Well don't look now, but Evgeny (Gino) Malkin is now his equal and some may even be whispering that in the end he may yet prove to be the better all around player once their collective careers are through.

2) Its probably a tad too early to make that kind of statement, but few would have thought even 2 months ago that it was possible that the two were on the same plane. Sure Malkin was proving to be quite a capable forward. An excellent secondary threat after Crosby. However once Sid went down with an ankle injury in January, Evgeny's career really took off. Once the shackles of being in the background was gone, Malkin stepped up his game to a new level. Even surpassing Ovechkin for the league lead in points at differing points the past 2 weeks.

3)The two will ever be linked as they went 1-2 in the 2004 NHL Entry draft. Ovechkin was the prize everyone coveted, but most believed that Malkin was going to be a significantly good player in his own right. He has had the 'misfortune' of not only being drafted with Ovechkin, but to then have to be coupled with Sidney Crosby. That has proven to be a blessing and a curse. A blessing since he has had much less pressure to perform and has had a frequent talented player to hook up with (something Ovechkin did not have his first 2 seasons) A curse in that Malkin's depth of talent was easily over looked with his immensely talented teammate getting the lion's share of the press coverage/accolades.

4) To go through each player's strengths and to say one is 'better' than the other in a particular area diminishes the other's ability, but for the sake of this argument, we will attempt to do so anyway. To say that one is better might connote that the other is deficient. However this is not true of any of the areas we will look toward as differences between the players
  • Goal scoring- With 152+ goals in his first 3 seasons (more than any NHL-er over this span by far!) AO has the clear edge here, BUT Malkin has shown a keen sense for the net and is no slouch at finding the twine either. (71+ in his first 2 years) He doesn't have nearly the shot, and probably won't score 60 in his career, but he is a danger to score every time he takes a shift, and is on pace to score 40+. Its just not fair to compare him to the most prolific scorer to come out of Russia since Pavel Bure. Edge Ovechkin
  • Play making- Much like the goal scoring issue, its unfortunate we have to choose here, but so far Malkin has the edge. Through their respective first 2 seasons (Malkin's is on-going) Ovechkin had 87 assists, while Malkin has 106 helpers. Ovechkin however is no puck hog despite his enormous number of shots. He can/has made numerous amazing passes. Unfortunately until this season he had almost no one who had the ability to finish those into goals, while Malkin had/has a bevy of top forwards to set up. Still, Malkin looks like he will become/is a perennial 60+ assist guy, while Ovechkin probably won't approach that figure. Edge Malkin
  • Physicality- Another area which would seem at first brush to favour Ovechkin, but after watching Malkin play the difference is not as enormous as first thought. Clearly Ovechkin is a freight train on skates. Outside of Zdeno Chara, few if any defenders have been able to handle him one on one without coming out of it worse for wear. However, at 6'3" 200, Malkin is no shrinking violet. He also plays with an edge and can take/give a hit. He doesn't play like he's a missile shot out of a cannon like Ovechkin, but at some point that aspect of Alex's game will either result in injury or he will have to tone it down to extend his career. For now though, its a significant part of the Power forwards ' power' game. Edge Ovechkin
  • Potential- Here is where things become 100% subjective. Predicting how 2 careers will proceed is near impossible. Suffice to say though that IF both remain relatively healthy both will be near the top of the league in goals and points for the next decade. Could, as some recently have asked, Ovechkin become the Best LW of all time? While it appears that Ovechkin with his 13 yr extension is in DC to stay, it is unknown whether Malkin will be affordable/amenable to give a home town discount to remain a Penguin long term. In a salary capped NHL its hard enough to keep one super star, let alone several and compete (See Tampa Bay). Does he want to be second fiddle, which he would always be in Pittsburgh? Regardless of where he plays it appears that we have only seen the tip of the iceberg of what Malkin might be able to do in the NHL. Scoring titles and a case full of trophies would not be surprising. Either way, there is little doubt both will provide many seasons of excellance. Edge: The NHL/Fans!!

5) What has become abundantly clear is that these two will be dominating the NHL for many years to come. So much for the silly argument that the transfer agreement has reduced the talent that Russia is sending the NHL. We will be just fine, You (Russia) can keep Yashin, we'll take these two!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Power Rankings! Stretch Run Edition

1) When we last did these it was at the All star break a month ago. It seems longer with all the recent changes. As always we will order each team according to its current 'Power' standing using its over all record and highly factoring in its recent month trend to get there. Last months placement is in parentheses

1 Anaheim Duck-(7)The defending champs have been looking like the team to beat. With the roster finally set with the addition of Selanne(Who didn't seem to lose a step) the Ducks look very much the power house team they were last season. If they can remain healthy they will be our playoff favourites. Right now they are our top seed in this poll!

2 San Jose Shark-(3) Move up 1 slot.If not for the Ducks much improved play they'd be on top. The addition of Campbell seems to have been the missing link the franchise has needed. Cheechoo seems reborn the second half, and with Nabby providing top notch tending, they are most definitely a Cup threat

3 Dallas Star-(10) Back to the top slot in their incredibly competitive division. The addition of Brad Richards has paid immediate dividends. If Modano, Turco and friends can maintain their nice even distribution of road and home records, they can not be discounted as a Cup candidate. Certainly we're sure Marty would like to shake the whispers that he's not a good/clutch playoff goalie

4 NJ Devils-(9) Marty not only deserved his All-star starting selection he should now be getting Hart attention. Along with Zac Parise, Brodeur has helped move the Devils into contention not only for the Atlantic, but also for the East itself, playing almost all their games, in the top in all goalie categories and second only to Nabokov in wins. If the Devils win the Eastern Conference he will be our choice as Vezina AND Hart!

5 Calgary Flame-(8) In a virtual tie for the division with the Wild. The Flames continue to play well both at home and away from the Saddledome. Jerome Iginla continues to have a solid season, leading the way. Meanwhile Dion Phaneuf with his big extension in pocket, continues to play well at both ends, and it appear that Miikka Kiprusoff who by his standards was having an ordinary season, is playing better as of late. As always, can Iron Mike Keenan stop himself from causing team turmoil, especially when it comes to his goalies?

6 Montreal Canadians(4)- Moving down 2 slots. Only because of the better play of the other teams in the poll, not because the Habs have played any less impressively the past month. Although their trade of previous starting goalie Huet for a late 2nd rounder was a bit of a surprise, the team hasn't missed a beat with Price. Alexei Kovalev is quietly having one of his best seasons. They have even been winning at the Bell Centre, where they had issues earlier this season. Successful teams need to win at home.

7 Pittsburgh Penguins- (6) As we prophetically wrote last time, the injury to Crosby will force others to step up their game. We didn't realize how right we'd be, with the emergence of Evgeny Malkin to prominence. He has taken the Pens on his back and pulled them right into the top spot in the East. His name is now being spoken along with Alex Ovechkin as a Hart candidate. No way does he get to this point if Sid is playing. Now that Crosby is back and the newly acquired Marian Hossa is set to play, it will be interesting how the Pens do. Additionally M-A Fleury has made a very nice return giving the Pens 2 quality starters to choose from. A very dangerous team!

8 NY Rangers (20)- The boys from Manhatten have not lost in regulation in a couple of weeks. Surging them in our poll 12 slots as they battle both for a playoff berth as well as the possibility of the division itself. The team made only tweaks at the deadline, not upsetting the line as is. The play of youngsters Callahan, Girardi, Dawes have impressed, but the play of Marc Staal has been a big story. Getting increasing quality ice time from Tom Renney as the season has progressed, he appears to be every bit as good as advertised. The Rangers have a rock on the backline to build from.

9 Ottawa Senators (5)- At first it was injuries that hurt the sens, but as of late its been inconsistent play which has plagued the boys from Kanata the last few weeks. Knocking them out of the top spot in the East and out of division lead (by the slimmest of margins) It cost them their coach's job, though we don't blame Paddock for the poor play and mediocre goaltending. The team thus far has not responded to the coaching change. Why would they? The coach wasn't the issue. We no longer feel the sens are a legit Cup threat. They have solid scoring from 1 line, and good blueliners, but too many holes elsewhere(especially between the pipes!)

10 Boston Bruins- (12) The killer B's looked quite impressive the past few weeks. Losing their first regulation game(in fine fashion 10-2 to the caps) in 2 weeks. placing the Bruins right smack in the middle of the playoff picture. With Tim Thomas playing extraordinary, coupled with Norris calibre D from Big Z, and the wizardry of assist leader Marc Savard, the Bruins should stay in the race and not be a playoff pushover.

11 Carolina Hurricanes (22)- The boys from Tobacco Road have finally started playing like many expected all year. Staving off a furious run (so far) by the Caps to overtake them in the anemic SE division. Cam Ward, who until the last month or so has looked like a back up goalie, has been playing lights out and one of the primary reasons the team has only lost 2 of its last 10. Giving credit where its due, Sergei Samsonov given up for dead (by many including us) is playing like he should and helping to make up for the loss of team captain Rod Brind'amour.

12 Minnesota Wild-(11) The Wild basicly stay put from their previous position. They have played just a tad over .500 the past 2 weeks holding on to the top spot in the black and blue NW division. If the Slovak sniper, Marian Gaborik can stay healthy, and the Finnish Niklas Backstrom can continue to give the team quality net minding the Wild should stay competative with the Flames for the Smyth, oops the NW crown.

13 Colorado Avalanche(17)-Just when you think that the team has turned the corner something else seems to go wrong with this team. A week or so ago things looked so promising. The team had nearly all its injured back (Sakic, Smyth, Statsny, etc) then they unexpectedly signed Peter Forsberg, then add Adam Foote and Ruslan Salei at the trade deadline. Then boom, in one game the lose BOTH Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth to season ending injuries. To their credit they remain in the playoff hunt, and still possess enough to make it, but their overall post season success potential has dropped.

14 Nashville Predator-(15) Continue to be the surprise of the season in our opinion. We didn't see this team as being a playoff team. Now, 2/3 into the season and the preds hold down the 8th spot in the West. We can't given enough credit to Barry Trotz, whom we have been critical in the past. David Legwand and Jason Arnott continue to pacing the team offensively and the no-name combo of Mason and Ellis have been very solid in goal.

15 Washington Capitals-(14) Since last month they have played a bit more then .500. and find themselves a mere 2 points from the 8th spot and 3 from the division lead. They STILL have not lost back to back games in regulation since Bruce Boudreau took over on Thanksgiving. To GMGM's credit he went out and adressed team needs on deadline day. Acquiring a younger starting goalie in Chris Huet, a reliable/vet forward who can win faceoffs in Fedorov, and an in your face aggitator in Cooke. All without giving up much of anything. The order remains tall, but any team that has the best player on the planet on its team (Alex Ovechkin leadng the league in goals and points) can't be written off.

16 Detroit Red Wing (1)-Wow, have the mighty fallen! Seems strange to not have the Wings in one of the top positions, but a series of injuries, inconsistent/lackadazacal play have pulled the Wings back to Earth. Thankfully for them they built up such an enormous lead that a month of poor play hasn't hurt them in the standings as of yet. They still maintain the top overall spot. With the return of many of the injured shortly we forsee Detroit back to their winning ways, but they will have to work hard to get back that winning swagger they had through the first half.

17 Philadelphia Flyers-(2) After a big surge up our poll last month that put them atop the Atlantic, injuries have caught up with the Broad Street bullies and now they cling to the 8th spot in the East. Marty Biron has played like the back up he's been all his career, while Nittymaki looks like he should be playing on the other side of the parking lot for the Phantoms. A healthy Flyer team should make the post season, but if the injuries continue and Biron can't handle the load/pressure of carrying a team Phillie may be on the outside looking in, come April.

18 Phoenix Coyote-(16) The Desert Dogs continue to play well, and stay in the playoff race. As of today they are a mere 3 points out of the 8th position. If they fail to make it, they have only themselves to blame as their sub .500 home record would be a huge reason why they wouldn't be playing beyond early April. Still, Wayne and his crew should be proud! Not only has the addition of Bryzgolov propelled the team, but captain Shane Doan is having an excellant season, and if Peter Mueller were playing in a big American or ANY Canadien market his name would be out front for the Calder. He's a future super-star in this league!

19 Chicago Black Hawk-(25) Just when we were about to write off the boys from Shy-town, they come back with a nice spurt to make a go of it. Four points may be a tall order, but don't tell that to the kids who have been playing thier hearts out. As we have written, the future looks bright with rising stars Towes and Kane, etc. Towes would have been a shoe-in as Calder if he'd stayed healthy. Kane remains in the top 3. They may not make it and just be spoilers down the stretch, but better look out next year!

20 Buffalo Sabres-(28) Just when we thought they were ready to step up, they fall back again. Overall the past month has been a good one in upstate NY, putting the Sabres back into playoff contention from obscurity. Tomas Vanek finally realized he's being paid 7+ million, so he might want to actually play like it. His emergence from a season long slumber coincided with the surge back to playoff contention. The loss of Campbell through trade and Tallinder from injury might hurt their chances

21 NY Islanders-(19) The boys from the Island drop down a couple of spots this time around. Have been quite the streaky team as of late. Losing several in a row, followed by a winning streak of 6, then another losing stretch. Winning enough to stay right there in the hunt for 8th. Surprisingly the team MVP, DiPietro has been quite ordinary his past dozen games or so. with a save % well below .900. If they are to have a shot at the post season he will have to resume his Vezina caliber play that he displayed earlier in the season when some even mentioned his name in early Hart discussions. Else, the Isles are toast.

22 Vancouver Canuck-(18) Perhaps we placed them a bit lower than they deserve. They have played pretty well as of late. A repeat as division winner isn't looking very likely right now, but they remain only 2 points from 8th spot and with Luongo in goal we wouldn't bet against Alain Vigneault's squad despite the addition of Matt Pettinger

23 Toronto Maple Leafs-(29) "Team-Turmoil." Drama surrounded them as the deadline loomed only to have all their players with no trade clauses invoke them and remain on the sinking ship. To their credit they have played quite well the past few weeks. Enough that some(until this week) thought that the Leaf had a playoff shot. Vesa Toskala has played well and appears to be solidly their goalie of the forseeable future. The next deadline for possible/attempted deals by Cliff Fletcher will be draft day. Also, if Matts Sundin does NOT resign with Toronto this summer it would make his decision to remain and not play in the post season for another team all the more inane, and we will lose significant respect for the super Swede!

24 Columbus Blue Jackets-(13) Time has run out on Cindarella. Despite a valient effort the Jackets didn't appear to be quite ready to compete for their first playoff spot. Its a shame too as their fan base, which had been one of the more loyal/patient despite the bungling of McClean in years past, is becoming a bit less patient/supportive(attendence-wise) slipping from 17th 2 seasons ago to 28th this year!

25 Edmonton Oiler-(21) The Oil remain competative and any team that believes that they are an easy mark for 2 points are very mistaken. Credit for a nice job by McTavish the past few months to keep the team working hard every night despite the fact that they suffered a series of significant injuries that snuffed out any chance at the post season. Even Dustin Penner has played better as of late giving Lowe hope that he spent wisely on the young power forward. Sill, if the Oil fall into the bottom 5 in the league it will hurt to see Brian Burke with their potential lottery pick this June!

26 St. Louis Blue-(23) Much like Columbus, were perhaps a bit ahead of themselves in thinking they were ready to compete with the big boys. Still many positives on this rebuilding season in the midwest. The past few weeks haven't been too good, but like Edmonton, there won't be any easy games to be won against the Blues down the stretch.

27 Florida Panthers-(27) This team should be better! Ownership is getting inpatient and said that missing the playoffs is unacceptable. We agree. Jack Martin is toast in our opinion. The revolving GM door is about to swing once again in south Fla. Hopefully this next time they'll pick someone who is competant. We like the nucleus of forwards and defense they have assembled. With proper coaching/roster tinkering this team SHOULD contend very soon!

28 Atlanta Thrashers-(26) Seem no longer interested. Are playing out the string. If we were in need of 2 points this is the team we'd want to play right now. Since the Hossa trade they have completely stopped playing. Like his counterpart in Florida, Don Waddell should be canned the day the season mercifully ends. They do have some really good players, but need new direction in the front office if this team is to survive in Hot-lanta.

29 Los Angeles King-(30) Was it a coincidence that the Kings played MUCH better after Robert (don't call me Beretta)Blake got injured? We don't believe so. He did other teams a favor when he refused to waive his no trade clause as we believe his days of being an impact(positively) player are over. He probably should retire. As for the rest of the team, we love their nucleus of forwards. If they could fine themselves a good starting goalie like Phoenix did, this team could be the surrpise of 2008-2009!

30 TB Lightning- (24) The Lighting have competely quit on coach Tortorella. After the Vaclav Propal fiasco of 2 weeks ago where they publicly had it out(forcing his trade to Philly) the Lightning have stopped caring it seems. Much like Atlanta, we'd want to play TB if we desperatly needed to win a game right now. Its LONG past time John Tortorella is fired. Jay Feaster may be making himself vulnerable with his stubbornness about letting the former Cup winning coach go. However as MANY, including us as early as October, have said, coaches such as John are successful in one place only a short time, then the players begin to tune out the bullshit. Its time for Torts to move his show to another town. We have no doubt he'll find work quickly, and the Lightning instantly will be better for it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

West Still Best!

1) If there was ANY doubt about which of the conferences was superior we were treated to a nice demonstration last evening that put an exclamation point on that. Two of the East's best teams (sans NJ) were in action against two of the top West teams. Fans were treated to exciting passionate hockey, and in both instances( Sj-6- Mtl 4, Ana-3- Ott-1) the West appeared to be the superior team.

2) This is of course a non scientific opinion, but when you're pitting best against best you can get a pretty good gauge of which conference is the better. Now, to be fair BOTH East teams were on the road, but if you add last night's admittedly snap shot observation to a season long worth of numbers that we crunched and you get a clear picture of where the dominance lies. Through last night in head to head competition the West is a staggering 76-43-12! To add to that figure only 2 teams out West have losing records against the East. Chicago, and ironically the aforementioned San Jose (Largely due to a very poor road trip through the competitive Atlantic division late last month) Meanwhile only 4 East clubs are over .500 against the West, with Pitt(8-1-1) by far the best East-vs West team.

3) The West seems to have become even stronger after the trade deadline with Colorado (Foote/Salei/Forsberg), Dallas (Richards) SJ (Campbell) acquiring big names, many from the East, to bolster their already strong lineups. We also have to mention the current NHL schedule where teams don't all play each other each season and in an unbalanced fashion (Some home, some away) makes it impossible to make a scientific/concrete statement , BUT the above numbers can NOT be ignored.

4) Although we're not privy to what FR2's Power rankings will show (For the record we don't edit contributors posts) we can't imagine that it won't be top-heavy with Western teams. Now does this mean that the Cup winner will be coming from the West? Well, as we mention all the time we wouldn't bet on any sporting event! However if we had to, we'd place our bets that the Cup stays in the Western Conference. This also unfortunately means that 1 or 2 teams that would easily be playoff teams in the East will be watching come April, AND 1-2 very good teams will be out in the first round out West! Regardless, its clear once again that in 2007-08 West Is Best!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Good-Bad-Ugly of The Trade Deadline?

1) With the aftermath of the deadline behind us we decided to take a look at the idea of this 'deadline' as well as the merits or the 'rental'. Firstly, why even have a trade deadline? Well, proponents will tell you that every major sports league has one to ensure roster stability in the last part of the seasons. To lessen a major sell off of teams that are soon to miss the post season for teams that will make the playoffs. The NHL has recently moved its deadline to an earlier point, yet it still is much later than the other major sports.

2) The earlier date along with the salary cap and, OT loss points- induced parity, have created fewer teams that are true sellers. Add to that the enormous number of players with no trade clauses(1 in 6 players has one, and about half of the top players do!) and it makes the deadline less of an issue than it used to be. No longer are there 10 teams willing to sell off a quarter of their rosters to start a 'rebuild'. Back then there was a veritable cacophony of indignation against both the late trade line and the rental concept.

3) As for our take on teams being able to 'rent' a player for a playoff run. We have NO problem with it at all. Its a team's and players option to do. If a team believes it benefits them to mortgage the future to 'go for it' its their choice. As some have pointed out in recent weeks, the last 10 or so Cup winners have NOT been teams that have made big deadline day splashes. However that has not stopped teams from trying to add that proverbial 'missing link' they feel they are in need of to take their squad to the next level

4) We also don't believe there should be any prohibition from teams resigning players they have traded at the deadline. Unless there is direct evidence of collusion of a deal in place before they were traded, the player should have every right to play where he chooses once he become a UFA, and not be penalized because his team felt the need to trade him.

5) As to the deadline itself, we also have no issue with its current placement. Ideally we liked it where it was. Usually by mid March many more teams knew where they stood with respect to post season chances/the need to look towards the next season. However, we feel it better to keep the deadline where it is now then to move it where many have suggested, after the X-mas holiday trade freeze/the New Year. At the very least it creates/generates excitement/positive press coverage for the league, as well as excites almost all but the most curmudgeony fans.
6) Ed Note: FR2 tells us that their post deadline Power rankings will be out this week. probably the last prior to the post season. Look for it!
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