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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Oilers Trade Gilbert to the Wild for Schultz – Who Got The Best Deal?

Tom Gilbert was in his sixth season for the Oilers but on Monday he found out that he would be moving to another place, a place that he knows—“home.” Gilbert was born and raised in Bloomington which is within 30 minutes of the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul where the Wild play. Upon being questioned about how it felt to be at the Center, Gilbert declared: “It feels like home.” In exchange for Gilbert the Oilers received Nick Schultz who was in his tenth year with the Wild, and like Gilbert who had only played for the Oilers, Schultz had only played for the Wild in his career. Schultz was born in Saskatchewan so moving to Canada won’t be a big deal for him; however, the trade itself was a shock to both he and his former teammates. Gilbert and Schultz are the same age, 29. On the ice Gilbert is a two-way player while Schultz is defensive-minded.

Why did the trade take place?

From the Oiler’s standpoint I believe that there were several reasons why Lowe and Tambellini decided to trade Gilbert.

First, Gilbert had been injured and Jeff Petry was given more ice time and has played very well and continues to improve. Lowe, Tabellini, and Renney feel that Petry will be able to develop into a move offensive-minded defenseman and they are satisfied with his overall play.

Second, Gilbert’s offensive output had been declining each year since 2008-2009, however, it is true that he was doing better earlier this year.

Third, Schultz has two years left on his contract after this year and then he will be an unrestricted free agent. In those two years he will make 7 million. Gilbert also has two years remaining on his contract before he will be an unrestricted free agent. He will make 8 million in the next two years. Therefore, the Oilers will save some money and they are going to need to if they want to sign Eberle, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins for long-term deals (after next year for Eberle and Hall, and the following year for Nugent-Hopkins). Oiler management also probably feels that Gilbert has been making more than he deserved considering the last three years. I do.

Fourth, Petry is only 24 years old and Gilbert is 29.

Fifth, Schultz is 29 but has a solid track record and reputation for being tough defensively. The Oilers need to be better in their own end and Schultz will help with that task. Some of the other defensemen should learn from him. 

From the Wild’s perspective, they wanted a more offensive-minded defenseman who could move the puck quickly and help the team score goals; and, they wanted that type of player because they had just traded disgruntled defenseman Marek Zidlicky (to the Devils in exchange for Nick Palmieri, Kurtis Foster, Stephane Veilleux, and one or two draft picks, with one being conditional). The Wild also know that having a hometown boy playing for them will help bring fans into the building. It is very likely that Gilbert will work harder and his game should improve. The Wild had been pretty stale for over two months and the team really needed some changes, and besides the Zidlicky and Shultz trades they dealt defenseman Greg Zanon to the Bruins for defenseman Steven Kampfer. 

Gilbert knows at least a couple of his new teammates: Kurtis Foster played for the Oilers last year, and of course Kyle Brodziak played two full seasons as an Oiler, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009.

Nick Schultz will see a couple of faces that he knows too: Andy Sutton was playing for the Wild during Schultz’s first year with the team, and Cam Barker was with the Wild in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.   

Who Got The Best Deal?

In this trade you can toss a coin. It is going to depend on Gilbert and Schultz themselves, and if both perform as expected then the Oil and the Wild will get what they want. Gilbert will be inspired by family and friends and Schultz will be inspired by the young Oilers who really want to win. It will be interesting to see the results and hopefully they will both do well.

TJ Stanley


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Senators Trade Draft Pick To Blues For Bishop — Who Got The Best Deal?

On Sunday, the Senators traded a 2nd Round draft pick in 2013 in exchange for Blues minor-league goalie Ben Bishop. Bishop is a tall guy at 6' 7'' but is only 215 pounds.

He played seven games for the Blues in the 2010-2011 season and had three wins and four losses, and in those games his Save Percentage was .899, GAA 2.76, and he had one shutout. Two years prior he had six games with the Blues and did not do as well. Besides those two stints in the NHL, from 2007 and onward he was with the Blues AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen. He posted good numbers for the Rivermen but he has yet to prove that he can be a regular NHL net-minder.

Why did Ottawa, Bryan Murray (VP and GM) and Cyril Leeder (President) want another goalie? Four days ago starter Craig Anderson lacerated a tendon in his pinky finger while in his kitchen. He has undergone surgery and if the Senators are wise they will not rush him into the line-up before he is 100 percent. Honestly, I don’t expect to see Anderson on the ice until next year, although it would depend on the extent of the injury. Bishop was obtained just in case Alex Auld (Senator’s normal back-up this year) or Robin Lehner (great prospect) get injured or are unable to play for some other reason. 

Auld is a 31 year old journeyman goaltender who has played for the Canucks, Panthers, Coyotes, Bruins, Senators, Stars, Rangers, Canadiens, and now he is with the Senators a second time. He has moved around due to playing well, and not poorly, although this year is probably the worst of his career. In 14 games his Save Percentage is .884, his GAA is 3.35, and he has yet to register a shutout. Bryan Murray made the right move in bringing Auld back for this year (based on his career and good performance last year in Montreal) but it has back-fired on him due to Auld’s less than stellar season. Murray and coach Paul MacLean should have sent Auld to the minors as a wake-up call and given Lehner more time with the Senators this year. Furthermore, MacLean is guilty of overplaying Anderson this year.

Lehner was given the call to start in net in this past Sunday’s game against the Islanders and he played outstanding, making 28 saves and being named the 1st Star of the game! Lehner is 20 years old and a big guy at 6' 3'' and 220 pounds. He is a little taller and heavier than fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist. In the two games that Lehner has played in this year his Save Percentage is outstanding at .927 and his GAA is 2.00. I believe that he will become an elite goalie if they work with him properly and fairly, but I am worried about that due to Rick Wamsley being the goaltending coach. Please allow me to explain.

Wamsley was working for the Blues for four years prior to getting the goaltending coach position with the Senators in the summer of 2010. Brian Elliott had always played well for the Senators and in the 2009-2010 season (before Wamsley was there), in 55 games, his Save Percentage was .909, his GAA was 2.57, and he had 5 shutouts. Then Wamsley came and was working with Elliott and his numbers were not as good—but still better than Wamsley himself had ever done in the NHL. Anyway, the Senators decided to trade Elliott to the Avalanche for Anderson; and, I must state that the Avalanche went forth to make one of the worst decisions I have ever seen by not making an effort to sign Elliott after last year. He had only played 12 games for them and you can’t expect a guy to turn your team around in 12 games, and especially after a big move to Colorado! They knew he was a good goalie otherwise they would not have traded for him! It just does not make sense at all! The Blues, coincidentally Wamsley’s team before the Senators, jumped at the chance to sign Elliott and the rest is history! 

Anyway, Wamsley working with Lehner concerns me, and especially because Wamsley was a journeyman goalie who really belonged in the minors. In about 14 years in the NHL he never had a Save Percentage of .900 or over, and his career GAA is 3.34—brutal! Let us hope that Lehner doesn’t listen to him too much.

If I was coaching the Senators I would play Lehner right now and continue to play him because he is the best that the Senators have. If he has a bad game then let someone else have a start. Let Auld know that he is going to sit unless he works harder and plays better like he did for the Canadiens last year.

Who Got the Best Deal in the Trade?

Ottawa wanted a little extra security in net for the upcoming playoffs because Anderson might not play again this year. With Lehner in the system I really don’t think it was an emergency situation but Murray felt is was necessary. It was a safe move that does not cost the team much money and only one draft pick. Therefore, it was a good trade for Ottawa.

The Blues have Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak so they felt that it wouldn’t hurt them to trade Bishop and get some young talent in the 2013 draft. The Blues need some scoring forwards so it was a good gamble to do the trade.

In this trade it appears that both teams made the right move. 

TJ Stanley


Monday, February 27, 2012

Rangers Trade Wolski to the Panthers — Who Got the Best Deal?

On Saturday the Panthers obtained Wojtek Wolski from the New York Rangers in exchange for their 3rd Round pick in the 2013 draft and also minor-league defenseman Mike Vernace.

Wolski is a 6' 3" 215 pound left-winger and is definitely an NHL-caliber player, although the Rangers only used him in nine games this season. He is 26 years old and played in the OHL before beginning his NHL career with the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005-2006 season; although, he only played nine games before being sent back to the OHL. The following year he was with the Avalanche and played four straight seasons and compiled excellent stats each year, with his best performance being in 2009-2010 when he had 47 points in 62 games and was +15. He was then traded to Phoenix and played for parts of two seasons before being acquired by the Rangers in January of 2011. Last year for the Rangers he accumulated 19 points in 37 games. Wolski is making 3.8 million this year and will be a restricted free agent this summer. If he plays well for the Panthers I am sure that he will sign a new contract with them before he is actually a free agent. In fact, he already scored one goal in his first game with the Panthers on Saturday (they won), although he was held pointless in their game on Sunday (in which they also won). Due to losing four games in a row, the Panthers had lost possession of their lead in the Southeast Division and along with that third spot in the Eastern Conference; however, since Wolski has arrived they have won two in a row and regained the Division lead (over the Jets) and their third-ranked playoff spot. The Capitals are actually a bigger threat to the Panthers as compared to the Jets and it is going to be interesting to see how the three-way battle unfolds. The Caps are favored of course. 

Who got the best deal in this trade?

I think it is obvious that Dale Tallon, VP and GM of the Panthers, easily came out on top in this trade because all that he had to surrender to get Wolski was a 3rd Round draft pick and a minor-league defenseman. Wolski will continue to help the Panthers reach their playoff goal and he should improve once he gets settled.  It is surprising that Ranger coach John Tortorella did not utilize Wolski much this year because I really don’t see the Rangers as a team with that much depth—contrary to Tortorella who claimed that they could not fit Wolski into the line-up. Everybody knows that Lundqvist is the biggest reason the Rangers are leading the Eastern Conference. I think that Glen Sather, President and GM of the Rangers, just wanted to get rid of Wolski’s salary and to receive something in return. If some Ranger players are injured before or during the playoffs then he is definitely going to regret the trade—big time!   

One last note, Tallon has done well for the Panthers in the last two years, but it makes it a lot easier when unrestricted free agents want to live in Florida.

TJ Stanley

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Penguin’s Malkin Does It Again!

On Saturday Evgeni Malkin proved once again that he is currently the best player in the world. In the game against the Lightning he had a hat-trick and one assist, giving him 77 points on the year and a 4 point lead over Steven Stamkos in the scoring race. Stamkos was held pointless in the game and has not done well in any of the four games against the Penguins this year. Note that due to injury Malkin has played seven fewer games than Stamkos and that makes Malkin’s stats much more impressive. Without question, Malkin will win the Hart Trophy this year, and other teams had better get prepared because Malkin “is the man” when it comes to playoff hockey. I discuss this in my article entitled “Malkin the Best in the World – Penguins Could Win the Cup!” and you can find that in the Pittsburgh section.

Okay, let’s take a look at this fantastic goal by Malkin. Please click on the link to watch and after the video is over please click the back arrow in your browser to come back to my site. Thanks to YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IpdcG8a5Qk

TJ Stanley

Tambellini, Lowe, and Flames Twitter Post About Hemsky

In a previous article entitled:  Oilers – “Burning Oil” And In Need Of A “Change,” I discussed the primary problem with the Edmonton Oilers and that problem is management. General Manager Steve Tambellini and President Kevin Lowe are preventing the rebuilding that they profess is in progress! Any Oiler fan would be doing better at rebuilding than these guys—anybody! Nobody could do any worse in drafts, trades, and contract negotiations—except Lowe’s buddy Brian Burke (being sarcastic with the “buddy”). Before I continue, I want to state that Lowe was one of my favorite players (and still is) and I believe that he is really a good guy but he has not done well in his positions as General Manger and President of Hockey Operations with the Oilers. He provided a lot of great moments as a player and I choose to keep those.   

Yesterday, Tambellini and Lowe “pulled their own pants down” and showed their insanity by extending Ales Hemsky’s contract for two years for the whopping amount of 10 million! I know it is so unbelievable that you have to shake your head and wonder why life is not fair?

Calgary Flames Twitter Post

According to the Associated Press, not long after the details were revealed about Hemsky’s new contract extension, comments were posted on the Flames verified Twitter account and they were:

“$10 Million over two year for Hemsky is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long, long time. I hope it happens. Whatajoke”

Later, the Flames posted another message trying to cover-up for the first one. They said:

“We apologize for a tweet that was sent out from our account inadvertently. We are looking into the matter.”

You know, the word “inadvertently” means “unintentionally” so they might not have realized that it was being posted for everyone to see, but whoever from the Flames who stated it was expressing their true feelings—and it would not even surprise me if it was GM Jay Feaster who made the mistake. Whatever the case, it is a disgrace for one team to publicly ridicule another team over the amount that they are paying a player. Media and fans have the right to voice their opinions but for one team to do that to another team is totally unacceptable. Honestly, the Flames never did have any manners and that is why Semenko had to break player’s noses over and over and over again.

The Hemsky Contract

Let’s have a look at just how insane this contract is and also talk about a couple of other options that Tambellini and Lowe should have exercised instead.

As everyone knows, Hemsky has had major injury problems over the past three years, but did you realize that in nine years he has only played close to a full season once? That was in 2005-2006 when he played 81 games. This year he has played 48 games, has only 27 points, and is -13! Last year he played 47 games and in the 2009-2010 season he played only 22 games. We are looking at a guy who has a major issue with injuries and who really is not performing like a legitimate 5 million dollar NHL player would play. Yet the Oilers offer him a 10 million dollar gift!

It is so absurd that I have to question why have they given him such a huge payout on his two upcoming years? The only thing that I can think of is that they don’t want to admit error for not committing themselves to trading him, no matter what, both last year and this year. They attempted to trade him but they wanted far too much, and every GM in the league knows it and so do the fans. Tambellini’s reported excuse is that Hemsky is now playing well with Hall—so what, look at the guy’s injuries and output!

The Oilers should have traded Hemsky last year even if they had to “take a big loss” but they were too greedy and stupid. They traded Dustin Penner instead and it was a mistake because he was improving every year and playing very well for the team. He is not doing well in Los Angeles and I believe that nervousness is a factor and adjusting to new people. He will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and hard work this year would have meant many millions more on a new contract with whatever team he signs with. Why didn’t Tambellini and Lowe offer Hemsky and a draft pick to the goal-starved Kings in exchange for Penner? That would have been a great trade for the Oilers and they could have given Penner the 10 million for two years!

The Oilers also could have traded Hemsky to many other teams in the league and taken draft picks in exchange. That would have been better than carrying a frequently injured player and filling his pockets. The fans don’t like it and neither do the players who are contributing a lot more than Hemsky! Let us talk about that now.

Hemsky’s Salary Compared to Other Oilers

How does Hemsky’s 5 million per year compare to other Oiler player salaries. Well, Ryan Jones is worth more than Hemsky and yet the Oilers tried to low-ball Jones on a contract during the latter part of last year; but, Jones held-out until the season was over and was able to get a measly 1.5 million a year! Hemsky is getting over three times what Jones is getting and Jones has played 58 of 61 games, kills penalties and has two short-handed goals, and has the fourth best shooting percentage on the team. Ryan Smyth has played all 61 games this year and has been an important player and he is making 4.5 million. Gagner is making 2.275 million, and Hall, Eberle, and Nugent-Hopkins have entry-level contracts and are subsequently making less (not considering bonuses). Shockingly, Shawn Horcoff is making 6.5 million a year, and in his 61 games he has 30 points and has the worst plus-minus on the team at -19! Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney are two other grossly overpaid Oilers since they are both making 5 million!

The fact is that Tambellini and Lowe are paying some players too much and are then trying to compensate by snubbing other players. Stupidity combined with stinginess makes the Oilers the worst-managed team in the NHL!

The Oilers are also doing an utterly abominable job regarding player development. Oiler fans really need to seriously consider if they want to pay to support the nonsense that is taking place. If Tambellini and Lowe  have no intention on pleasing the fans then why support them at all?

TJ Stanley


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wild Trade Zidlicky to the Devils -- Who Got The Best Deal?

On Friday the Minnesota Wild traded disgruntled defenseman Marek Zidlicky to the Devils in exchange for Nick Palmieri, Kurtis Foster, Stephane Veilleux, the Devils 2nd Round pick in the 2012 draft, and a conditional 3rd Round pick in 2013 (with the condition being that the pick will be surrendered to the Wild if the Devils make it to the Eastern Conference Finals this year and also if Zidlicky was to play in 75 % or more of the playoff games in the first two rounds leading to the finals).  

Palmieri is 22 years old and should be able to improve his game and be a regular starter in the NHL for many years. Kurtis Foster is 30 years old and a big guy but is not a top defenseman and I don’t expect his career to last much longer. You have to feel sorry for the guy because Minnesota will be his six team since the 2008-2009 season. Veilleux is 30 years old and a “throw-in” in the deal.

Zidlicky is a very good offensive defenseman, although he is 35 years old. He did not get along with Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, and subsequently waived his no-trade clause. The trade had to happen for the good of the team. Zidlicky should feel extremely comfortable going to New Jersey because Patrik Elias has known him since they were 14 years old and they have played hockey together on Czech national teams. Elias is also 35 years old and still playing very well. Both Zidlicky and Elias will be unrestricted free agents after next season so the Devils will have them at least for the rest of this year and next year. After that who knows and it will be interesting to see.

Who got the best deal in this trade?

New Jersey is playing extremely well but Lou Lamoriello (GM) wanted to obtain an offensive-minded defenseman who could make their power-play more productive, and in Zidlicky they have filled that role. The Devils can make a serious run for the Cup this year and Zidlicky can improve their chances, and therefore it was a good trade for New Jersey. The only player who the Devils gave up who probably had significant value was Palmieri. The one or two draft picks in the trade may or may not turn out to be NHL players; however, Zidlicky had to be moved so the Wild made the right decision in making the trade.

All said, this trade will likely prove beneficial for both teams, the Devils immediately and the Wild probably later.

TJ Stanley  


Canucks Almost Ready For Stanley Cup Run

This past Thursday the Canucks beat the Red Wings in a shootout and subsequently broke the 23 home wins in a row streak that the Wings had accumulated—it was an all-time record streak. Daniel Sedin scored with 15 seconds left in regulation to take it to overtime, an OT that the Canucks dominated. In the shootout Burrows was the only goal-scorer. This victory was a big accomplishment for Vancouver but I believe that they still need to do more and I will discuss that below.   

In a previous article (“Canucks – Scheider, Luongo & The Red Wings”) I presented the following analysis, and after reading it we shall talk about the shots on goal in Thursday’s game.

“RED WINGS PROBLEM

Vigneault and his staff need to get together and spend a lot of time examining tapes and working with the team so that they can play a lot better against the Red Wings. Unless the Sharks play the Red Wings in the playoffs and beat them for the third straight year, the Canucks are likely to face the Wings, and that would be a problem because the Wings are out-shooting the Canucks by a wide margin every game. Here are the results of the first three meetings in the regular season between the Canucks and Wings, and also the date of the fourth meeting. By the way, I am aware of the strength of the Blues this year but both the Canucks and Red Wings have been successful against them thus far.

Game 1:  October 13, 2011. Vancouver at Detroit and the Wings won 2-0. The Wings had 37 shots on net while the Canucks only had 25 shots.

Game 2:  December 21, 2011. Detroit at Vancouver and the Canucks won the game 4-2 but Detroit had 40 shots on goal as compared to Vancouver’s 25 shots.

Game 3:  February 2, 2012. Detroit at Vancouver and the Wings won the game 4-3 in a shootout. Detroit had 43 shots on goal while the Canucks once again had 25 shots (for the third game in a row against the Wings).

Game 4:  Will be played February 23rd in Detroit.   

As I stated, that is a huge difference in offensive output between the two teams. It has been the great goaltending of Luongo and Schneider that have kept them in these games. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks make some changes before the next game against the Wings in February.”

THURSDAY’S (FEBRUARY 23RD) GAME

You can see that Thursday’s game was extremely important despite just being a regular season game. Vancouver had to turn things around in the “shots on goal” category because it generally reflects which team controls the play and wins. In this game the Canucks actually did out-shoot the Red Wings 36 to 31, and the Canucks controlled the first period, part of the third, and dominated in overtime. This win was huge because the Canucks were on the offense much of the time and gained confidence; however, I must mention that Pavel Datsyuk did not play in the game (recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery) so the Canucks still need to try to control a game against the Wings when he is in the line-up. But, that will not occur this year unless the teams meet in the playoffs—and there is a good chance that it will happen. The win this past Thursday was also important because the teams are battling for the top spot in the league and the Presidents Trophy; and, the Presidents Trophy is important because it gives the winner home ice advantage throughout the playoffs; and, the team also gets a $350 000 cash prize.

Question:  Did the Canucks look at video and consciously make changes for Thursday’s game or was it a letdown on the Red Wings part? Whatever the case, I believe that the Canucks need to do more work regarding the Red Wings by carefully examining other teams who have been more successful against the Wings including the Blackhawks, Sharks, Islanders, Blues and Flames. Canuck coaching staff must take the time to do this and make any necessary adjustments so that they can be applied in the playoffs if need be. If they don’t then the team is going to have to rely too much on luck to beat the Red Wings.  

This year the Canucks have beaten the Bruins, Blackhawks, and now the Red Wings so all of that helps them have confidence for the post-season; and, they just might meet all three of these teams in the playoffs this year. The Canucks should make it to the Western Final and could go back to the Finals and even win the Stanley Cup. They learned some valuable and hard lessons last year, including how bad it feels to lose a Cup that they should have won.

TJ Stanley


Friday, February 24, 2012

Blue Jackets Trade Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson and Draft Pick

As I stated in a previous article, we could expect Jeff “baby” Carter to be traded before the deadline. The baby was asking for a trade rather than doing his best for Columbus. Carter was traded on Thursday to the goal-starved Kings in exchange for Jack Johnson and a 1st Round draft pick in either 2012 or 2013—whatever year Columbus prefers. I was hoping that the Kings would have went for Nash and left Carter for Brian Burke because Toronto would have been the perfect place for Carter—on a losing team near to his hometown. It is said that the trade is “pending” until the players undergo medical examinations but I don’t see a problem with Carter since he has been back for nine games after coming off a shoulder injury. Let’s take a look at the trade and see who came out on top.

Jeff Carter is a tall guy with a huge reach and he can put the puck in the net. He stated that he was very happy to go to Los Angeles so that is a huge plus for the Kings because he wouldn’t work hard unless he was in a place that he liked. I believe that he will be a tremendous help to the Kings and that it might be enough to get them in the playoffs—they are in 10th spot as of Friday, February 24th. The Kings absolutely had to shake things up and Carter will be a spark. Dustin Penner was supposed to be putting the puck in the net for the Kings but something is wrong and who knows what it is? It could be nervousness, an issue with the Kings, or maybe he has his mind on the big contract that he will be offered when he is a free agent? He would have done himself a favor in that regard if he had played as well for the Kings as he did for the Oilers. Maybe the Oilers should get him back in exchange for Hemsky and a lower draft pick? Both will be free agents this summer so it would be a good trade.

Jack Johnson indicated that he was happy to go to Columbus but I don’t know how much truth there is in his statement. I don’t know too many people who would rather live in Columbus than in Los Angeles; however, he was born in Indiana (neighboring state to Ohio) so maybe he really is happy to move? Johnson has talent and can skate for a big guy, but I have a problem with his plus-minus stats. Every single year he has been in minus figures (six years) and in fact this year’s -12 is his best year yet (besides his first year when he only played five games and was -5). In considering all factors, Johnson is not near as valuable as Carter, and therefore, the draft choice is going to be extremely important in this trade. I expect Columbus to take the draft pick this year and it will be interesting to see who is left by the time the pick comes around.  

In this trade Columbus took a huge gamble because Carter is definitely more valuable than Johnson, and you never know if a draft pick is going to turn into a good NHL player or not. Therefore, the big winner of this trade is Los Angeles, unless, Columbus gets lucky by selecting a player in the draft who turns-out to be a great player. A good player would not be enough to give Columbus the “winner” designation in this trade—the draft pick has to turn out to be an excellent player.

I believe that the Kings should now go for Rick Nash who would probably be happy to go to Los Angeles now that he has been informed that he would be traded if Columbus could get the right deal. If the Kings don’t go for Nash I suggest that they go for another scorer and move some players who are not performing as well as they should be.  

TJ Stanley


Thursday, February 23, 2012

NHL Poll - Lucic Toughest, But I Would Add Dirty Too

In the NHLPA poll Milan Lucic obtained the most votes from fellow players as being the toughest guy in the league. Of the players who voted, 20 percent picked Lucic while second place went to teammate Chara who had 17 percent of the vote, and wouldn't you guess it, Thornton took third place with 11 percent. I watched an interview with Lucic regarding the matter and he couldn’t help but grin and smile because he was so proud of himself.

I wonder if the players were able to vote on who the dirtiest player in the league is? Lucic would rate right up there in that category too. In another article I might talk about all of the dirty players in the league, but I want to focus on Lucic here since he was voted the toughest and loves to fight and also to injure players with dirty hits (check out his hit on Ryan Miller in my article entitled: “Concussions, Crosby, NHL Rules, Shanahan, and Milbury.” This is located in the Pittsburgh section and also in the NHL section).

Well, on Mar.4, 2010 Colton Orr clearly beat Lucic in a fight and Lucic looked scared to me at the end because he had taken some big punches. Let us have a look at Lucic getting what he deserved and hopefully he will get it more often in the future. Too bad Dave Semenko wasn't around to pummel Lucic. Lucic would not be standing at all! Thanks to YouTube.

Please click the link and after the video is over please click the back arrow in your browser to return to my site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1SIq0zXnsQ

TJ Stanley


NHL Eastern Conference Update – Caps Lose, Jets and Lightning Not Out Yet!

On Wednesday the Ottawa Senators handed the Capitals a 5-2 defeat, and in a game that Ovechkin did not play due to a lower body injury. The Capitals have continued to squander valuable opportunities to take the eighth and final playoff spot from the Leafs and you have to wonder about the desire of the Cap players since they have a huge amount of talent on the team. Regarding the Leafs, with their poor play they have opened the door and now have to fend-off three teams instead of just the Capitals—the Jets and Lightning being the other two. I don’t like the Leafs’ chances at all and they will get what they deserve.

As of Thursday morning, the Eastern Conference standings regarding the eighth and final playoff spot are:

Toronto holds the 8th spot with 65 points in 60 games played.

Winnipeg is in 9th with 65 points but with 62 games played.

Washington is in 10th with 63 points in 60 games played.

Tampa bay is in 11th with 60 points but have only played 59 games.

In a previous article, “NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture,” I predicted that New Jersey would make the playoffs and be a huge threat to every team in the Conference except the Bruins—based on past games played this year. I stated that the Devils can actually win the Conference and even win the Stanley Cup if their goaltending improves (which it has been). I also predicted that the Senators would make the playoffs. The only team that has not come through in my predictions has been the Capitals, and it really is a surprise to everyone. I feel that they are still going to take the eighth playoff spot from the Leafs and then not look back; however, anything can happen because now the Jets and Lightning have been brought back into the picture due to poor play by Washington. Honestly, I would much prefer the Lightning or the Jets in the playoffs than the Capitals. 

The Winnipeg Jets just won’t go away and they have decided to battle right until the end, thanks to the inspiration from the great fans in Winnipeg. The players believe that they can make it and they just might.

The Lightning have made four trades in the last week, and at least three of the four trades were excellent and beneficial for the team now and in the long-run. Yes, I am saying now as well because any time you can get rid of a dirty bastard like Steve Downie it is a great inspiration to the team. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos must be celebrating; and, in fact, Stamkos notched his 41st and 42nd goals the night of the trade! Nobody will catch Stamkos in goals now because Malkin is the closest to him and he has 33, nine behind. However, Malkin is still the favorite to win the Hart Trophy because he has 73 points to Stamkos’ 70, and Malkin has played six fewer games. If Stamkos can continue his pace and get the Lightning in the playoffs then it could be a lot closer. I say this because the biggest problem with the Lightning has been poor goaltending, especially Roloson.   

Well, with the Capitals squandering many opportunities we have a very tight battle in the Eastern Conference, just as we have in the Western Conference. It will be exciting to see who wants it more!

TJ Stanley


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blue Jackets Trade Vermette to Coyotes, and Jeff Carter?

Today the Columbus Blue Jackets traded Center Antoine Vermette to Phoenix in exchange for a Second Round pick in the 2012 draft, a Fourth or Fifth Round pick in the 2013 draft (if the Coyotes win a playoff round this year it will be a Fourth Round pick), and goaltender Curtis McElhinney.

Who got the best of the deal? Let’s take a look.

Coyotes President Mike Nealy and VP and GM Don Maloney wanted more strength at the Center position, and Vermette is known to be a good two-way player who can take face-offs, kill penalties, and even play on the power-play. The question is can Vermette turn his game around after being in the midst of a very dismal season? Recapping his career, he played almost four years with the Senators before being traded to Columbus, and in that year before the trade occurred he only had 28 points in 62 games and was -12.  He did well in Columbus for three years but this current year (yes, the fourth year again) he only had 27 points in 60 games and was -17. Will he be able to legitimately get back into form, and I mean more than just getting better stats due to being on a better team? He is 29 years old and that is something to take into account, although he should have a handful of good years left if he focuses on his health and conditioning. Another thing that the Coyotes needed to consider is the effect that a trade would have on the team, a team that has been playing extremely well together lately. Sometimes adjustments can cause problems and sometimes everything clicks. Finally, I should mention that Vermette is in the second year of a five-year contract so they have him locked-in and that is obviously a benefit.

In the other camp, Columbus’ owner McConnell, President Mike Priest, and General Manager Scott Howson want to start over and bring in a lot of new young talent. In my opinion, moving Vermette was an excellent trade for the Blue Jackets because they will get two draft picks and also an extra goalie. If it was me, I would have asked for someone else instead of McElhinney because he is extremely unpredictable and just had abdominal surgery this past January. Before the injury he played 25 games for the Portland Pirates of the AHL (Coyote affiliate), and had a .907 Save Percentage. Hopefully he will be able to recover well and improve his game. Unlike many other people, I don’t believe that goaltending is Columbus’ biggest problem—please see my explanation including stats in the article entitled:  “Trade Rick Nash?”

All said, in my opinion today’s trade could prove to be good for both the Blue Jackets (future) and the Coyotes (now), however, I definitely give the nod to the Blue Jackets who could get some good young talent and they will also have an extra goaltender just in case.

Jeff Carter and Rick Nash:

Jeff Carter apparently wants to be traded. In my opinion get rid of the baby as soon as possible before he causes any more problems. Due to his previous good years with the Flyers they should be able to get substantial return. We can expect Carter to be traded before the deadline, but as for Nash, who knows. Rick Nash should never have been put on the block in my opinion, and now he obviously feels expendable and that is not good. They should have focused on Carter and Vermette and built around Nash with the many good draft picks that they will get this year, and next year. Now that Nash is being shopped-around, I believe that the Los Angeles Kings should go for him tomorrow. The Kings just lost tonight to the Avalanche by a score of 4-1 and they need to turn things around right now if they want to make the playoffs. With the players that they have there is no excuse for not being able to put the puck in the net.

TJ Stanley


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lightning Trade Downie and Quincey

Well, to everybody’s surprise Steve Yzerman (Lightning VP and GM) just made his third and fourth trades within five days. Previously I have criticized Yzerman / Management (see “Goalie Gonna Need Some Shades”) and also praised him / Management for their two trades earlier this week (see “Trades: Yzerman's Lightning and the Flyers”); and, on the two deals made today I highly commend the Lightning on the first one and we will have to wait and see regarding the second one. Allow me to explain the trades and my standpoints.

On Tuesday morning, Yzerman traded Steve Downie (24 years old) to Colorado in exchange for defenseman Kyle Quincey (26 years old). This trade was outstanding for the Lightning for two reasons: first, because Yzerman had just traded defenseman Pavel Kubina to the Flyers and his team is in need of much better defense; and, second, because Steve Downie is one of the dirtiest players in the league—if not the dirtiest—and he was --15 for the year. We are going to watch four video clips of Downie in a moment so that you can see that he is a player that needs to be banished from the NHL for life! Kyle Quincey is not the cleanest player in the league (61st in penalty minutes this year), however, he is in a different class as compared to Downie. Quincey had played pretty well for the Avalanche in coming off a previous season in which he only played 21 games. He is -1 for the year and only four of five regular players on the Avalanche had a better plus-minus. He had 23 points in 54 games. The Avalanche have actually done surprisingly well considering Matt Duchene missed 20 games due to injury. So, in acquiring Quincey it appeared that Yzerman had filled a void on his team and also moved a player who does not even belong in the NHL or any other league. I don’t know why the Avalanche want Downie because he is under 200 lbs and he cannot beat the toughest fighters in the league? And, why get rid of a decent defenseman when your team needs better defense? Furthermore, I have to take a shot at Colorado for giving up on Brian Elliot so quickly at the end of last year. The St. Louis Blues were certainly happy to take Elliot for nothing and everyone know how fantastic he has played this year. All said, Colorado made a terrible move in obtaining Downie and Tampa Bay was fortunate to get rid of him in exchange for a decent defenseman.  

Okay, I am going to talk about the second trade in a moment so please come back after watching the video clips on Downie. One clip I am providing on site and the other three you need to click the links to watch and then after watching click the back arrow in your browser to come back to my site. Sorry, but if I have too many videos it slows things up too much.

Here is Downie purposely trying to injure Crosby when he was not near the puck. It is hard to believe! On the third slow-motion replay at the end of the video you really see just how purposeful and painful it was. Thanks to YouTube.

Please click the link and after the video is over please click the back arrow in your browser to return to my site.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHeh3tyUL10

Below is a link to a video of Downie’s vicious hit against Lovejoy of the Penguins in April of 2011 -- it is utterly BRUTAL!

Please remember to click the back arrow on your browser to come back and see the other video clips and read the rest of the article.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKM9s230HiE

Below is a link to a video of another Downie blindside hit similar to the one in the Pittsburgh game above. This one is when he was playing for the Flyers.

Once again, please click the back arrow in your browser after watching.


Now let us take a look at Downie slashing a referee when he was in the AHL and with the Norfolk Admirals. He was given an automatic game misconduct and a 20 game suspension. It was claimed that he was trying to slash the stick on the opposing player and accidentally hit the ref. That looks like that is what happened but he should not have tried to hack the other guy’s stick out of his hands.

Once again, please click the back arrow in your browser after watching.


One last note on Downie, he had a brutal history of violence when he was in the OHL, even knocking out teeth of one of his younger teammates with a crosscheck. Without question, Downie is an individual that should not be allowed to play hockey.

Okay, now let us get to Yzerman’s second trade. This trade came today as well and he sent the newly-acquired Quincey to Detroit in exchange for the Red Wings First Round draft pick in the upcoming 2012 draft, as well as minor league defenseman Sebastien Piche (who is 24 years old). Yzerman, Jeff Vinik (Owner and Governor), and Tod Leiweke (Chief Ex. Officer) had discussed the issue and Yzerman indicated that they just could not resist getting another First Round pick. Well, it is risky to trade a defenseman who has proven to be pretty solid and who can play on the left or right side; however, the draft will be comprised of a number of good players this year and Tampa Bay management might be able to do better. It is a “might,” and especially due to the fact that Detroit is going to finish high in the standings and the draft pick will be near the last or the last in the Round. Tampa Bay made a mistake at last year’s draft by picking three Russian forwards in their first three picks before finally going for a goalie in Round Six (which was their fourth pick). It was a mistake because they are weakest in net by far and should have gone for the top goalie prospect John Gibson. Anyway, it will be very interesting to see the Lightning’s draft choices this year. I would be extremely surprised if they don’t go for defensemen and at least one top goalie prospect.

By the way, in my opinion the Lightning should give Sebastien Piche a shot at the NHL to see how he does.   

Regarding Quincey going to the Red Wings, he is not new to the team because he started his NHL career with them but only played in 13 games in three years. Therefore, the integration of Quincey should go fairly smoothly, and obtaining him might prove to be a great move for Detroit and one that helps them win the Stanley Cup this year.

TJ Stanley


Monday, February 20, 2012

The Finnish Flash Selanne Passes Shanahan In Goals

Congratulations to Teemu Selanne for passing Brendan Shanahan in the all-time “career goals” category! I must say that Shanahan deserves to be passed due to his dishonestly in his current position as “NHL Senior Vice President Player Safety.” Selanne now has 657 goals and that puts him 12th in“career goals”—and only 4 goals behind Jaromir Jagr. Selanne could catch Jagr this year in goals but he won’t ever catch Jagr in “career points” because Jagr is 247 points ahead. In turn, Jagr is 233 goals and 1217 points behind Gretzky, and that tells you just how amazing "The Great One" was!
Let’s take a look at the goal that Selanne scored to overtake Shanahan in goals scored. This goal is typical of Selanne’s hard work and touch around the net. Hats off to “The Finish Flash!”
Thanks to YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjyOpR3rr74

TJ Stanley


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lightning Trade Kubina to Flyers and Moore to the Sharks

Steve Yzerman, Vice President and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, finally made a couple of good managing moves and he did so by trading Dominic Moore (last Thursday) and Pavel Kubina (on Saturday). If you are wondering why I use the word “finally” please read my article: “Goalie Gonna Need Some Shades”—let me just say Roloson, Mike Smith and John Gibson.

I am going to begin by discussing the recent trades by Yzerman and then I shall provide some deserved criticism towards the management team of the Philadelphia Flyers.  

Last Thursday, February 16, Yzerman traded Dominic Moore to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a Second Round pick in the upcoming 2012 draft. Moore is 31 years old and only has 19 points in 56 games this year, and in the plus-minus category he was -10. Furthermore, Moore is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Thus said, this was an excellent trade for Yzerman, but it gets even better.

On Saturday, February 18, Yzerman traded Pavel Kubina to the Flyers in exchange for a Second Round draft pick in either 2012 or 2013, a Fourth Round pick in the 2013 draft, and Jon Kalinski who is a forward currently playing in the minors. Sounds good, but when you consider that Kubina is 34 years old and that he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer—it is an outstanding move for Steve Yzerman and the Lightning.

On the other hand, it was an absolutely insane move by Philadelphia because they are trading away their future. The “Chairman” of the Flyers is Snider, the President is Peter Luukko, the Senior Vice President is Bobby Clarke, and the General Manager is Paul Holmgren. These guys already proved themselves insane last summer when they convinced themselves that Ilya Bryzagalov could lead them to a Stanley Cup, and they subsequently bestowed upon him a 9 year contract worth a whopping 51 million! That contract is hard to bloody believe considering his total collapse last year in the First Round of the playoffs against the Red Wings (when he was with the Coyotes)! The Wings won four straight and it was one of the worst playoff performances by a goalie that I have ever seen. Bryzgalov played well during the regular season but it was the first really good year he had ever had in his entire career! In fact, Anaheim put Bryzgalov on waivers and that is how he ended-up in Phoenix. He was going to be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011 so he had to go somewhere but you would think that Flyers management would have done their research better rather than offering long-term contract worth 51 million to an average goaltender! All they had to do was examine his career stats and circumstances. What has Bryzgalov done this year? He has played 40 games and his Save Percentage is not great at .900, his GAA is 2.79 and he has only 2 shutouts. Subsequently, coach Laviolette has had to play Bobrovsky 24 games this year, but he too has been equally “average” and currently has the identical Save Percentage of .900. All said, Snider, Luukko, Clarke and Holmgren are reaping the rewards of stupidity and let them squirm in it! They will suffer even more in the upcoming playoffs unless Bryzgalov is able to conquer his nervousness and play like he did last year in the regular season for the Coyotes.

If you are a Flyer fan, yes, I am aware of the Flyers also obtaining Nicklas Grossman last week from Dallas for Second and Third Round draft picks. They are trying to get the biggest defensemen possible to clear the way for Bryzgalov, but, note that Grossman will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It hardly makes sense to give away two high draft picks if you might lose the guy anyway. Flyer management is trying to cover-up for their overwhelming contract mistake with Bryzgalov and they also must feel that this year is their only chance to win the Stanley Cup? Giving away four high draft picks in two trades is sacrificing their future and you can be assured that the Flyers will eventually pay for it big time.

TJ Stanley


Friday, February 17, 2012

Don Cherry vs. Brian Burke

Brian Burke’s current battle with Don Cherry is pretty absurd in my opinion. Why? Management and players in the NHL are making a lot of money because they are in the public eye as part of professional competition, and since they are competing and fans are paying, every fan has the right to be critical and so do commentators and analysts. If Burke does not like Don Cherry’s comments about Ron Wilson—too bad! There is a very good chance that the Leafs will miss the playoffs again and much of the blame rests on Burke himself and also on Ron Wilson. Burke wants special treatment that he does not deserve. I have a solution to the problem: Shove a soother in Burke’s mouth!

TJ Stanley


Toronto – Health Advice for Leaf Fans

Maple Leaf fans, I am going to talk about the Leafs playoff situation and provide some humorous suggestions to lighten-up the situation and help you make it through the rest of the season without suffering too much stress-related damage. By the way, Toronto was my favorite team for many years and I am still a Leaf fan but Brian Burke has soured my experience and I can’t wait for the day when he is fired. You Leaf fans have a lot of dedication for staying with the team so long and you deserve better! It is hard to believe that the Leafs have not been in the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season. That being said, now I am going give a quick rundown of the current standings in the Eastern Conference and subsequently put some additional stress in your life; however, I will provide you with some health advice to deal with the rollercoaster ride that the Leaf’s have taken you on and will continue to take you on until you find out whether they are going to make the playoffs or not.

As of the morning of Friday, February 17, the Leafs still have the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference—with 64 points in 58 games. The bad news is that they have only won one game in the last five (including the 5-0 humiliation at the hands of the Canadiens) and that there are two teams breathing down their necks and three others that still have a chance to catch them.

The Capitals have 61 points and two games in hand on Toronto. The Winnipeg Jets just won a game and they now have 60 points in 59 games. Sorry, but I have to say that I am predicting that the Capitals will turn it on very soon and not look back at the Jets and Leafs—but I hope not. There are three other teams that are not quite out of the picture yet, and they are the Lightning who have 56 points in 57 games, the Islanders who also have 56 points in 57 games, and the Canadiens who have 56 points in 58 games.

HOW ARE YOU FEELING? STRESSED!!!

Okay, here is my health advice. Consult your medical doctor and ask him or her if the following treatments would be suitable for you—ha, ha, ha.

The Leafs have been up and down and it has been like a rollercoaster ride. For the rough ride you might want to consider Gravol.

For the tremendous stress you might want to take mega-doses of B-Complex vitamins and extra B-12 to be sure.

Keep plenty of clean towels handy—you know the type I mean—because things are not looking that promising for the Leafs and you want to catch the tears so they don’t burn your skin!

If you plan on forsaking the Gravol, stress vitamins and towels, you might want to consider drinking beer or vodka to get through the ordeal! Don't drink and drive.

TJ Stanley


Thursday, February 16, 2012

NHL Western Conference Playoff Picture

Yesterday we examined the Eastern Conference playoff picture and it is very interesting indeed. Stats and current performance indicate that an underdog (who happens to be in sixth spot right now) could come out of the Eastern Conference and might even go all the way and win the Stanley Cup—check out the article to see which team.

Today, let us take a look at how the Western Conference is shaping-up. I am going to repeat the top part of yesterday’s article which explains how the playoff positions are determined and how the teams are matched in the playoffs. Then I shall present the current Western Conference standings as of the morning of Thursday, February 16th. Finally, I will comment on the performance of the teams and state who I believe will comprise the eight who will be playoff-bound. If you disagree please leave a comment and tell me why.

The top teams in each of the three Western Conference Divisions (Central, Northwest, and Pacific) are automatically seeded 1, 2 and 3 in the standings and all will make the playoffs no matter what. Then the top five other teams in points make the playoffs too.

In the playoffs the #1 seed plays the #8 seed, the #2 seed plays the #7 seed, the #3 seed plays the #6 seed, and the #4 seed plays the #5 seed. The highest seed always gets home ice advantage. The same type of procedure is carried over into the 2nd Round and the 3rd Round; and, then the winner of the Western Conference goes to the Stanley Cup Finals to meet the winner of the Eastern Conference. 

NHL Western Conference Standings as of Thursday, February 16.

Detroit Red Wings:  58 games played and 80 points. Central Division leader and #1 seed.

Vancouver Canucks:  57 games played and 78 points. Northwest Division leader and #2.

San Jose Sharks:  54 games played and 68 points. Pacific Division leader and #3.

St. Louis Blues:  56 games played and 75 points. Central Division.

Nashville Predators:  57 games played and 72 points. Central Division.

Chicago Blackhawks:  57 games played and 65 points. Central Division.

Los Angeles Kings:  57 games played and 65 points. Pacific Division.

Phoenix Coyotes:  57 games played and 63 points. Pacific Division.

Calgary Flames:  57 games played and 62 points. Northwest Division

Colorado Avalanche:  58 games played and 60 points. Northwest Division

Dallas Stars:  56 games played and 59 points. Pacific Division.

Minnesota Wild:  56 games played and 58 points. Northwest Division

Anaheim Ducks:  57 games played and 57 points. Pacific Division.

Edmonton Oilers:  56 games played and 50 points. Northwest Division

Columbus Blue Jackets:  57 games played and 40 points. Central Division

Okay, now I would like to share what I am seeing and my predictions regarding which eight teams will be in the Western Conference playoffs.

It is obvious that Detroit, Vancouver, and St. Louis will be in the playoffs, and so will Nashville and San Jose barring a complete collapse. San Jose is currently the #3 seed (or 3rd seed if you prefer it stated that way) as the leader of the Pacific Division; however, they could be overtaken if they falter and the Kings or Coyotes put together some winning streaks. Yet, even if that highly unlikely event occurred the Sharks will most assuredly make the playoffs because they have only played 54 games and still have 68 points (which is currently good for 5th in the Conference). 

That leaves us with three playoff spots open out of the eight and the teams in contention to get those are the Kings, Coyotes, Blackhawks, Flames, Avalanche, Stars, Wild and Ducks. The Oilers and Blue Jackets are out of the race.

In my opinion, the Kings and Coyotes are going to take hold of two of the last three spots. Despite Chicago’s terrible losing streak (1-8-1) they could recover and get the last spot—I hope not. If they do get into the playoffs, four of the five teams in the Central Division will be playoff-bound. Only Columbus will have fallen short, far short.

Anaheim is on another winning streak and is only 6 points behind Phoenix, 8 points behind Los Angeles, and 8 points behind Chicago. All four teams have played 57 games. If the Ducks continue to improve they can overcome the deficit and make the playoffs. Selanne and Perry are leading the team while Getzlaf has been coasting almost the entire year, and that explains his disgraceful -13 stat. Chicago will meet the Blue Jackets and the Wild two more times each and that is in the Hawks favor, but they are in a slump and it is sometimes hard to break out of one.

In my opinion, the Flames, Stars, Avalanche and Wild do not have enough firepower to win enough games and make the playoffs.

Can an underdog win the Western Conference? I checked stats on the Kings, Coyotes, Ducks and Blackhawks to see how these four teams have played this year against the Red Wings, Canucks, Blues and Sharks. I was actually a little surprised at some of the results.

Los Angeles Kings

Kings vs. Red Wings – 2-0 in games for the Red Wings.

Kings vs. Canucks – 2-1 in games for the Kings.

Kings vs. Blues – 2-1 in games for the Kings.

Kings vs. Sharks – 2-1 in games for Sharks (although last game was a SO)

Phoenix Coyotes

Coyotes vs. Red Wings – 3-1 in games for the Red Wings (some close games here).

Coyotes vs. Canucks – 2-0 in games for the Canucks.

Coyotes vs. Blues – 2-0 in games for the Blues.

Coyotes vs. Sharks – 2-1 in games for the Coyotes.

Anaheim Ducks

Ducks vs. Red Wings – 3-0 in games for the Red Wings.

Ducks vs. Canucks – 2-1 in games for the Ducks.

Ducks vs. Blues – 1-1

Ducks vs. Sharks – 3-1 in games for the Ducks.

Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks vs. Red Wings – 1-1

Blackhawks vs. Canucks – 2-1 in games for Canucks

Blackhawks vs. Blues – 1-1

Blackhawks vs. Sharks – 2-1 in games for Blackhawks.

After considering the stats, Chicago or Phoenix could give Detroit a problem in the 1st Round. If it is Phoenix again it will not be near as easy as last year because Mike Smith will play a lot better than Bryzgalov did last year. Bryzgalov’s performance in that series was one of the worst ever. We must consider that the Sharks have knocked-off the Red Wings two years in a row and they could meet again in Round 2. The Sharks are the biggest threat to the Red Wings, and the Blackhawks are another threat and could meet the Wings in the 1st Round. The Red Wings have handled the Canucks this year so the Canucks had better hope that the Sharks take care of them.

Chicago would give Vancouver a major problem just as they have done for the last three years. The Canucks should be able to overcome anyone else in the 1st and 2nd Rounds. In the regular season Anaheim has proven troublesome for the Canucks, both last year and this year.

The Blues could be beaten by Los Angeles, Anaheim or Chicago.

In my opinion, either Detroit or Vancouver will win the Western Conference; however, there are some real possibilities for upsets as confirmed by the stats.

Just like last year it is a war to see who will get the last three playoff spots in the West. May the best teams win!

TJ Stanley


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NHL Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

Let’s take a look at how the Eastern Conference playoff picture is shaping-up. To start, I will explain how the playoff positions are determined and how the teams are matched in the playoffs. Then I shall present the current Eastern Conference standings as of the morning of Wednesday, February 15th. Finally, I will comment on the performance of the teams and state who I believe will comprise the eight who will be playoff-bound. If you disagree please leave a comment and tell me why.

The top teams in each of the three Eastern Conference Divisions (Atlantic, Northeast and Southeast) are automatically seeded 1, 2 and 3 in the standings and all will make the playoffs no matter what. Then the top five other teams in points make the playoffs too. The Panthers could actually finish 9th in the Eastern Conference but if they are at the top of their Division they would be in the playoffs and in fact be the #3 seed (or 3rd seed if you prefer it stated way). In the playoffs the #1 seed plays the #8 seed, the #2 seed plays the #7 seed, the #3 seed plays the #6 seed, and the #4 seed plays the #5 seed. The highest seed always gets home ice advantage. The same type of procedure is carried over into the 2nd Round and the 3rd Round; and, then the winner of the Eastern Conference goes to the Stanley Cup Finals to meet the winner of the Western Conference.  

NHL Eastern Conference Standings as of Wednesday, February 15.


New York Rangers:  55 games played and 79 points. Atlantic Division leader and #1.

Boston Bruins:  54 games played and 70 points. Northeast Division leader and #2.

Florida Panthers:  55 games played and 65 points. Southeast Division leader and #3.

Philadelphia Flyers:  56 games played and 69 points. Atlantic Division.

Pittsburgh Penguins:  56 games played and 69 points. Atlantic Division.

New Jersey Devils:  56 games played and 68 points. Atlantic Division.

Ottawa Senators:  59 games played and 66 points. Northeast Division.

Toronto Maple Leafs:  57 games played and 62 points. Northeast Division.

Washington Capitals:  56 games played and 61 points. Southeast Division.

Winnipeg Jets:  58 games played and 58 points. Southeast Division.

New York Islanders:  56 games played and 56 points. Atlantic Division.

Montreal Canadiens:  57 games played and 55 points. Northeast Division.

Tampa Bay Lightning:  56 games played and 54 points. Southeast Division.

Buffalo Sabres:  56 games played and 54 points. Northeast Division.

Carolina Hurricanes:  57 games played and 53 points. Southeast Division.
 

Okay, now I would like to share what I am seeing and my predictions regarding which eight teams will be in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The New York Rangers, the Boston Bruins, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins will all make the playoffs—as everyone knows.

The New Jersey Devils will almost surely make the playoffs, barring a total collapse. The Devils have played great since the All-Star break and I highly doubt that they will fall apart. Remember last year they made a hard run at the playoffs after a horrible start and gave some teams a scare despite falling short. I believe that the Devils can do a lot of damage in the playoffs and could even go all the way if they get great goaltending—which they have not had this year. Am I crazy? Let us look at the Devils record against the Bruins, the Rangers, the Flyers, and the Penguins. The only team out of those four that New Jersey does not want to meet is Boston. Boston has won all three games this year, and two of them very convincingly. The Devils have split the four games against the Flyers, have won two out of three against the Rangers, and have won three out of four against the Penguins! So, clearly, the Devils would love to play anyone but the Bruins. The Devils will probably have to finish in 6th spot or higher to avoid a 1st Round meeting with Boston, and then hope that Boston is eliminated.

The Florida Panthers are currently on top of the Southeast Division and are therefore the #3 seed. The Capitals are only 4 points behind (but have played one more game). I believe that the Caps will find a way to win the Division. If I am right about that the Panthers could still make the playoffs if they keep playing well. Florida currently has one less point than the Senators but 4 games in hand.

Yes, that brings me to the Senators. They were tired from the All-Star break but appear to have recovered and beat the Lightning 4-0 on Tuesday. Ottawa should be strong enough to hold their ground and get the 7th or 8th playoff spot.

Toronto fans, I am sorry but I believe that the Leafs are going to fall short yet again. They are playing horribly right now: losing four games in a row including the 5-0 loss to Montreal.

The Islanders or the Canadiens could pull off a huge upset and make the playoffs if they put together some winning streaks and had some help in the form of the Senators, Panthers or Capitals collapsing.

The tension and excitement is building and it will be interesting to see who will earn the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

TJ Stanley


Monday, February 13, 2012

Oilers - Gagner Trade Talk

Honestly, it surprises me to hear people talking about trading Gagner (rather than signing him to a long-term deal), and if the Oilers are considering it I would be shocked. Come this summer Gagner will be a restricted free agent, which means that if the Oilers don’t offer him a big contract before that time he would have no choice but to consider offers from other teams; however, since he is a restricted free agent the Oilers can match any offer and keep him on the team. Or, the Oilers can let him go to another team and receive a little compensation in the form of draft picks. Gagner is only 22 years old and why trade a great player who is part of the team’s core? The declared plan of the Oilers is to keep the core players together and build around them so that the ultimate prize—the Stanley Cup—can be won again! Oiler’s owner Daryl Katz, and president Kevin Lowe, need to stay true to the plan rather than trading away the team’s chance to win the Cup. However, in my opinion they already broke the plan by trading Dustin Penner last year. You have to have some big forwards and Dustin was improving every year, and in fact he was easily the team’s leading scorer in the 2009-2010 season with 63 points. I am still stunned!

If you don’t know of Gagner’s background, let me just say that he was absolutely awesome in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and also in his one year in the OHL. He was then drafted by the Oilers in 2007 (their 1st Round pick which was the 6th pick overall) and in his first season (2007-2008) he had 49 points in 79 games. In 2008-2009 he had 41 points in 76 games, in 2009-2010 he had 41 points in 68 games, and last year he had 42 points in 68 games. Thus far this year he has 36 points in 48 games, missing 7 games due to injury. True, he was struggling some up until the record 8 point night, but some of it was due to coming back from an injury and less ice time, and yes, some of it was mental. Note that Gagner is only one of three players on the team who is “plus” in the “plus-minus” category. He is +2, Eberle is +4 and Sutton is +2.  

Anyway, if the Oilers were to trade Gagner rather than locking him long-term it would be a humongous mistake just as letting go of Penner was a mistake (and we all know that he was traded because he was entering into the last year on his contract and Tambellini did not want to spend too much money). The Oilers should try to keep Gagner, Eberle, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins (wait and see how he does next year and how his small body holds-up) and go forward to take a run at the Cup. However, when Eberle is a restricted free agent (following the end of next year) the Oilers are going to have a hard time keeping him because they won’t want to spend what he is worth. If Eberle stays with the Oilers (they pay him enough or match a contract offer) it won’t be forever. You could expect him to leave as soon as he gets unrestricted free agent status, not only for more money but also because he is bitter that the Oilers did not allow him to play in the 2009-2010 season.

Finally, Oiler owners and GM’s have made more than their share of mistakes throughout the team’s history and let us hope that they will not focus entirely on money and try to keep the remaining core players together. The fans deserve a winner!

TJ Stanley


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goalie Gonna Need Some Shades!

The hockey trade winds are blowing strong and there is also a lot of talk about players who will be free agents this summer. The media and fans are trying to predict what will happen but there are so many possibilities that much of it is purely guesswork. However, we can be sure that one team is going to go for a goalie and most likely by signing an unrestricted free agent this summer; or, perhaps even a restricted free agent (although there is only one that may be let go by their team). As the title of this article indicates, the goalie will be going to a place where he can enjoy the sun, and that place is Tampa, Florida. The Lightning are really suffering in net and, barring a miracle, they will miss the playoffs, which is a far cry from last year when they took the Bruins to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Could Lightning GM Steve Yzerman trade for a goalie? There is a rumor that he is interested in Jonathan Bernier of the Kings, and I think that it would be an excellent move to get Bernier despite the tough year that he has had thus far. Bernier is only 23 years old and the Kings have not played him enough this year. Not playing him has damaged his confidence, and subsequently his development has been hindered. However, the Kings know that he is valuable and they would want one player and one or two draft picks as well (depending the Round and year or years). That being the case, I believe that Yzerman is more likely to wait and sign one of the unrestricted free agents that will be available this summer. We are going to take a look at the unrestricted and restricted goalie free agents that Yzerman has before him, and we will be able to see who he would try to land. However, first I would like to describe the situation that Yzerman has gotten himself into because then you will fully understand his dire need of a solid goaltender.   

Yzerman made the mistake of not making much of an effort to keep Mike Smith, and of course we know that Mike is doing very well in Phoenix. Yzerman had decided to give Dwayne Roloson a one-year contract and is paying him a whopping $3 million this year, which is far too much for a 42 year old who lets in too many easy goals. Honestly, Roli is playing brutal this year and has a .882 Save Percentage, a 3.65 Goals Against Average, and only 1 shutout. Truth be known, he has not posted outstanding numbers since he was with the Wild in the 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 seasons. The Lightning’s “back-up goalie” (who has played more than Roli) is Mathieu Garon and he has been “average.” He has a .902 Save Percentage, a 2.92 Goals Against Average, and only 1 shutout. And, at 34 years of age Garon is no spring chicken either. Finally, I must add that Yzerman decided not to take the top goalie prospect in the 2011 draft, John Gibson, but instead opted for three forwards and then had his next pick in Round 6 and finally selected a goalie. Gibson went early in Round 2 to Anaheim, who really needs him, but not near as bad as the Lightning need a goalie. So, missing on Gibson was another mistake by Yzerman. All said, he has forced himself into a position where he simply has to get an experienced goaltender. Below are the unrestricted and restricted free agents that are before him. 

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT GOALIES

1. Jonas Gustavsson – Toronto

2. Martin Biron – New York Rangers

3. Chris Mason – Winnipeg

4. Antero Niittymaki – San Jose (playing in the AHL right now)

5. Martin Brodeur – New Jersey

RESTRICTED

1. Tuukka Rask – Boston

2.  Cory Schneider - Vancouver

In my opinion, Yzerman is going to do whatever he can to sign Jonas Gustavsson who is currently with the Leafs. Gustavsson is 27 years old and his stats in 30 games this year are:  a .909 Save Percentage, a 2.75 GAA and 3 shutouts.

If Yzerman strikes-out with Gustavsson he is likely going to go for Martin Biron who is currently with the Rangers. Biron is getting up there in age, at 34 years old, but he is playing the best hockey of his career. In 14 games his has a Save Percentage of .919, a GAA of 2.03 and 2 shutouts.

If Yzerman does not get Biron, he will then likely go for Chris Mason. Mason is 35 years old and has played 15 games this year for the Jets. He has a Save Percentage of .913, and GAA of 2.26 and 2 shutouts.

Yzerman also has the option to get Antero Niittymaki. Niittymaki played for the Lightning in the 2009-2010 season, and in 49 games he had a .909 Save Percentage. He was traded to the Sharks and played 24 games last year but this year he was demoted to the Shark’s AHL team. He would definitely be the least expensive of the goalies available. Niittymaki is 32 years old and he would be a decent NHL back-up goalie if he put more dedication into his game.   

Finally, for unrestricted free agents, Martin Brodeur is available and he indicated last month that he is probably going to play next year. He will be 40 years old in May. Yzerman should have learned his lesson in paying Roli a lot more than he was worth so I highly doubt he will make the same mistake again.

Now, what about the two restricted free agent goalies?

Yzerman will not likely have an opportunity to get Tuukka Rask from Boston, because the Bruins would be insane to not keep the 24 year old. Thus far this year in his 20 games he has a Save Percentage of .932, a GAA of 2.01 and 3 shutouts. Tim Thomas has one more year on his contract and the Bruins will rest their hopes with Rask and not Thomas because Tim is already 37 years old. Thomas’ contract is good for one more year after this one and his contract allows the Bruins to trade him by this July. The Bruins would not trade him to the Lightning, but wouldn’t it be something if Thomas ended up with them the following year!

Will Yzerman try to get Cory Schneider? Schneider might be available because the Canucks have brainwashed themselves into thinking that Luongo is one of the best goalies in the league, and they just might convince themselves that they can’t trade the guy. If a team wants Schneider they will pay dearly for him, and besides the contract they will have to pay the Canucks compensation in the form of draft picks. If I was the Canucks I would trade Luongo this year as soon as possible and then sign Schneider to a big long-term contract. Too bad the Canucks did not unload Luongo on Philly last year because the Flyers were willing to open their bank to get a goalie, and they in fact did so in behalf of Bryzgalov: giving him a 9 year deal worth a whopping 51 million! That contract is hard to bloody believe considering his total collapse last year (when he was with the Coyotes) in the first round of the playoffs against the Red Wings! The Wings won four straight and it was one of the worst playoff performances by a goalie that I have ever seen. Furthermore, Bryzgalov had never proven himself to be more than average, and in fact the Ducks had put him on waivers and that is when the Coyotes picked him up. Yes, Bryzgalov was pretty good last year in regular season, but it was because free agent status was coming and he was putting in more effort. Also, he had a pretty good defensive team in front of him. By the way, Schneider’s numbers for this year are:  21 games, a Save Percentage of .928, a GAA of 2.27 and 2 shutouts.  

It will be extremely interesting to see which goalie is going to be buying some shades and enjoying the sunshine in Tampa, not to mention the satisfaction of having a bank account overflowing with money.  

TJ Stanley