Posts Tagged ‘NHL free agency 2011’

David Booth, now of the Vancouver Canucks, will be looking for a fresh start.

It’s quite clear now that this happened that the much maligned Marco Sturm signing was a calculated affair from the get-go.  With several teams struggling to keep their payrolls in balance, the one-year contract Sturm signed with the Canucks will represent a sea change for managers in a new NHL where trading in the old sense of the word seems an impossibility.  In the NBA, where players are no longer seen as human, but rather, as the ridiculous contracts they signed based on a potential that quickly evaporated before the ink of the signature even dried,  GM’s had this one figured out a while ago in fact.  Canucks GM, Mike Gillis, who has a global perspective on how to run his team, even once citing Manchester United as the mold for the Canucks, has surely been paying attention.

When the Los Angeles Lakers needed some front court help back in 2008, they traded Kwame Brown (and his expiring contract) to the Memphis Grizzlies, along with the rights to Pau Gasol’s brother Marc for the elder Gasol, Pau.  At the time, fans were screaming about how the Grizzlies made a mockery of the process, handed the Lakers a championship, and lost badly in the trade.  When Kwame Brown’s contract expired at the end of the season, however, the franchise had some breathing room to sign younger players and move the franchise forward into what is now considered one of the best young teams in the NBA.  These trades, in varying forms, have now become so common-place that teams are no longer said to be trading players but rather, as in the Eddy Curry trade to Minnesota last season, “contracts”, and specifically those of the “expiring” variety.

Now, the NBA’s salary structure is flawed, which is why there is a work stoppage, and the NHL is certainly headed in that direction to some extent, but it does explain how, for now at least, Mike Gillis has restructured how the NHL’s GM’s will be seeing trade scenarios and indeed free agent frenzy week in the NHL.  When the Canucks signed Sturm for one year at $2 million, nothing seemed to make any sense anymore.  It was a hearkening back to the days of Pat Quinn who refused to give up on a core, preferring instead to sign players past their prime to support what he believed to be a contending team.  The Sturm signing was everything but.  It was brilliant, in fact.

Gillis pretended to want Sturm’s services, but what he really wanted was to have a chip to play in the open trade market after everyone signed players he had a passing interest in for money he wasn’t willing to offer.  And, since there seems to be some unwritten embargo on signing restricted free agents as Gillis learned in the David Backes fiasco three seasons ago, the only other option was to do what he did.  He signed Sturm in order to, at some point, relieve a team of a David Booth-type player by combining his and Michael Samuelsson’s expiring contracts to the $4.5 million or so that represents the average money a Booth-type player makes in the NHL.

Higgins, like Luongo and Ballard before him, has taken some time but found a home with the Canucks. Project Booth is next.

And what exactly is a “Booth-type player”?  He is a player that at some point was considered to be a breakout star but over the years since his signing, through injury or a loss of hunger, has become a reminder of a poor decision.  The Canucks already relieved Florida of three such players in Keith Ballard, Chris Higgins and Roberto Luongo.  Are they expecting the same thing out of David Booth, who is signed through to 2015?  One would have to think so in light of the Canucks’ current salary structure.  He makes roughly the same as Ballard, and has 4 years remaining on the contract meaning the Canucks are making something of a commitment to developing this player as well.  He has already scored 30 goals in the NHL.  He has played with the American youth team with none other than fellow Michigan star, Ryan Kesler. He will be 27 in November.

Thus, in the climate of the stoic, old guard of of NHL GM’s, Gillis has produced another innovative redefinition of how we can view personnel .  His trading of Sturm to Florida is transparent both ways.  On the one hand, Florida unloads a player whose contract and production no longer fit in with the team’s current direction (two if you count Reinprecht’s $2 million at the AHL level), and the Canucks unload two “expiring contracts” while receiving a player who needs a change, and was willing to wave his no-trade clause to go to the Canucks.  Samuelsson didn’t play a game in the Stanley Cup finals and Sturm was never going to play more than the 4 token games he played with Vancouver in the beginning of the season.  Reinprecht was toiling away in San Antonio for the Panther’s minor league affiliate, and Booth is a player who was losing his way in Florida, but one who had the team on the hook for some $20 million dollars.  Win-win, but perhaps more importantly, the NHL just learned another way to spend money during free agent frenzy week.


Read Full Post »

It will be up to Pavel Datsyuk to stay healthy and take control of more games next season in Detroit.


Longtime Red Wing, Kris Draper should see his number retired in Detroit after years of service.

Brian Rafalski, D (retirement)
Kris Draper, RW (retirement)
Derek Meech, D
Mike Modano, C (retirement, rumoured)


Chris Connor, RW
Mike Commodore, D
Garnet Exelby, D
Ian White, D
Ty Conklin, G


How long can Nick Lidstrom keep doing it in Detroit? As long as he wants to.

Nicklas Lidstrom, D:  The granddaddy of NHL elite defensemen will be 42 next year, but he’s playing some of the best hockey of his career now.  The Norris trophy winner will have another Lidstromesque season with plenty of points from the back end.  If the Wings can fix their leaky goaltending situation, he’ll be back on the plus side with many Wings who had off years in that department.

Henrik Zetterberg, C:  Mr. consistency tends to get points in any venue on the road, or at home, every month, early or late in the season.  Much like the Sedins in that sense, Zetterberg doesn’t do anything flashy and won’t have Ovechkin-like nights, but he’s automatic for a goal or a helper every time he’s in the lineup.

Pavel Datsyuk, C:  Datsyuk spent much of the season on the IR last season and was still in the running for the Selke award at the end of the year.  Expect Pavel to return to his old self in 2011-2012 and have the season everyone knows and loves.  He could break 100 points with something to prove in Detroit.

Johan Franzen, LW/RW:  Franzen owners were laughing on January 2nd, 2011 when the big Swede pulled a Joe Malone and scored 5 goals, becoming the first Wing to do so since Sergei Federov did it back in 1996 and the first in the NHL since Marion Gaborik back in 2007.  He’s a perennial 25 goal, 50 point man with occasional outbursts like against the Sens last year.


Ian White, D:  Not much of a sleeper here, since White has played for half of the NHL market it seems, but it’s worth mentioning that White slides in nicely where another diminutive defenseman, Brian Rafalski, once played.  The Rafalski comparison is apt with White.  They’re both about the same size, move the puck with precision and have solid point shots (although I’d give the edge to White here).  This should be a nice fit with the Red Wings where White will pick up around 40 points.


Jimmy Howard will have to tighten the gaps next season in order for the Red Wings to have a chance

Jiri Hudler, LW/RW:   If anyone needs further proof that the KHL is not as strong a league as the NHL, Hudler is a point-a-game player in the KHL and half as effective in the NHL.  Perhaps that’s a sign of being on a deeper team because surely Hudler is capable of more than the 40 points a season he currently gets with the Red Wings, but as it stands he’s a depth scoring winger on the team playing behind other skilled forwards.  He can be quite inconsistent as well.

Todd Bertuzzi, RW/LW:  The aging winger has carved himself a niche in Detroit late in his career, and still shows some signs of the old Bert of Vancouver lore, but his lazy play on D as well as some bad penalties make him a player to be used with caution.  For the 15 minutes a game that he plays, however, he is still remarkably productive.

Jimmy Howard, G:  Howard has had his fair share of good games in Motor City, but doubts remain as to his ability to carry a team the full season and into the playoffs.  As capable of stealing the show as he is capable of being ventilated for 9 goals, Howard still has to learn the game between the pipes and between the ears.


Henrik Zetterberg is Mr. Consistency for the Wings.

Hattrick Payne says:  The Wings have essentially the same parts as previous seasons, so there is no reason to believe they won’t have the same type of success they’ve enjoyed over the years.  There are some holes in the lineup here though, for example, who is going to replace the checking of long-time Wing, Kris Draper.  Is Ian White truly the next Rafalski?  And, can Howard back the Wings to 40 wins in 2011-2012?  I think this is a playoff team, but I’m not sure the Wings haven’t stopped considering their roster.  They should be good to go in 2011, but expect some modifications closer to the trade deadline when they need that extra push to get them to elite status again.   That should be enough time to see if Nabokov still has gas in the tank on Long Island.

Claude Lebut Says: Since the Wings have something against French players, I’m not going to do them any favours in this review.  They are old.  They lost to the San Jose Sharks in the playoffs after San Jose even tried to lose the series.  They have a weak goalie, and the rest of the defense is too predictable.  They have lost good checkers in the off-season and the team was 23rd last year in goals against with a pretty average penalty kill.  They might score goals, but they will let them in next season too.  I see playoffs, but I see problems in Detroit.

Mark Twain says:  Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

Read Full Post »

It's up to Malkin to return to his form of two seasons ago, and lead the Pens... Crosby or no Crosby.


The Pens will rely on the development of Jordan Staal to replace the hard checking Maxime Talbot, gone to the Flyers.

Maxime Talbot, C
Michael Rupp, C
Corey Potter, D
Brett Sterling, LW
Eric Godard, RW


Steve Sullivan, C
Steve MacIntyre, LW
Colin McDonald, RW
Jason Williams, RW
Alexandre Picard, D
Boris Valabik, D


His fantasy numbers are solid on average, but when he's hot there's nobody better than Marc-Andre Fleury.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G:  “The Flower” as he’s known in Pittsburgh will once again receive the lion’s share of the minutes in the cage in Pittsburgh and will likely win a fair share of games.  His 36 wins of a year ago are attainable, since he’ll play about 5 more games.  If the team doesn’t have Malkin or Crosby to begin the season, Fleury’s role will be all that much more important.

Evgeni Malkin, C:  Reports indicate that Malkin is officially cleared and 100% ready to begin 2011.  His last two seasons were cut unmercifully short by injury and he’ll be looking to bounce back to 100 point form.  Crosby looks doubtful, so expect Malkin to take the ball and run with it, so to speak.

Chris Letang, D:  He’ll be among the leaders in points for Defensemen.  Take him for his 50 and expect 60.  Crosby’s head injury means everyone is going to have to step up.


A big season from Jordan Staal could mean the difference in Pittsburgh's fortunes in 2011-2012.

Jordan Staal, C:  It’s about that time in Staal’s career when, as a player, he takes the next step.  He is a lock for 50 points under past circumstances, but with Pittsburgh missing a few pieces offensively, more will be expected from the big man.  At 6’4″, the young Staal plays a similar game to a player familiar to Canucks followers, Trevor Linden.  Look for his totals to jump to 65 points and his name mentioned among Selke finalists if Pittsburgh exceeds all expectations, particularly if Crosby misses any prolonged period of time.

Chris Kunitz, LW: Kunitz is another Penguin who has had injury prone seasons the last couple of years.  He’s healthy again and should provide the Pens with some secondary scoring in the neighbourhood of 55 points this coming season.


Sidney Crosby, C:  Yup, you guessed it, beware Sid the kid this season, but by the same token, take him for around 80 points.  He is capable of so much more, in the 150 points zone, but considering his concussion problems, which most believe started at the Winter Classic when David Steckel inadvertently blind-sided him, you really have to consider the Sedins, Ovechkin or Malkin at the number one spot over Crosby this year.  You’ve been warned.


The Pens will need even the likes of Aaron Asham to keep doing their thing in Pittsburgh.

Hattrick Payne says:  This team has somehow been getting it done for years with an understated lineup after their top 3 players.  An improvement in Jordan Staal is not only expected, but mandatory if this team is to keep its foothold in the Eastern Conference.  Any missing offence from Sidney’s eerily lengthy absence from the lineup is going to have to be made up by quality goaltending and timely scoring from the remaining forwards.  They happen to be blessed with not only the best forward in the game in Crosby, however, but also the second best one in Malkin, and one of the finest goaltenders in Marc-Andre Fleury.  The team will hold, and not signing Jagr was a blessing in disguise.  Malkin will relish the opportunity to be out of the shadow of Crosby, Letang will lead the back end and Fleury will anchor the D.  They won’t be great, but they’ll be good enough until Crosby returns to keep them firmly in a playoff spot, but the spare parts on the wings and last pairings on D are still a bit of a running joke.

Claude Lebut says:  I can see where Pittsburgh can make the playoffs again with this team as-is, but it doesn’t take an expert to tell you that without Sydney Crosby to start the year things are a lot more difficult.  Hattrick is right though.  Malkin has to do some serious looking in the mirror and take more of the leadership load on his shoulders this year.  He has to be the Malkin of old in order for the team to still be competitive.  Really, everyone does.  One setback in any of the positions and Pittsburgh is headed down the standings very quickly.  They are riding a tight rope right now in Pittsburgh.  I think they will keep the balance, but it won’t look easy.  Maybe starting the year without Crosby will light a fire under everyone else, so it could be a blessing in disguise.  They will need some time to adjust this season but they should be there at the end of the year.

Mark Twain Says: A round man cannot be expected to fit in a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.

Read Full Post »

Hossa and the Hawks are looking good for a shot at a better season in '11-'12.


The addition of self-proclaimed Canucks hater, Danny Carcillo, means the Hawks have a goon who can take a regular shift as opposed to 4 goons who could not.

As of August 25th, no Hawk free agent has
signed with any other team in the NHL.
That said, the total of unsigned Hawks
is 9, and they are all assumed to have
no place in Chicago.


 Jamal Mayers, C (grinder)
Brett Maclean, C (Veteran 2-way centre)
Rostislav Olesz, C/RW  (Playmaker)
Andrew Brunette, RW  (veteran scorer)
Daniel Carcillo, RW  (shift-disturber)
Sami Lepisto, D  (offensive)
Steve Montador, D (all-around)
Sean O’Donnell, D  (physical)


Jonathan Toews, C:  He is an elite-level defensive centre iceman who can make solid offensive choices as well as neutralize a top forward on another line.  Lots of powerplay points, plus/minus stays high, avoids injury, and leads his team by example. Probably does more for the Hawks than he does on paper, but on paper he’s just fine.  75 points.

Patrick Kane, RW:  Kane had a bit of a tough season last year with a high ankle sprain that cost him around 10 games and a wrist injury which was threatening his start of camp.  He still looked a little off in the playoffs against Vancouver too.  He’s  ready to go and should get around 80 points this season because he is good enough to get points even when he’s not playing well.  One of these days though…  he’s going to explode for like 120 points.  Maybe this season is the one.

Duncan Keith should have a better season in 2011-12. Good thing he's perfected his ice dance routine.

Patrick Sharp, C:  As I do this, I’m thinking aw man… who is going to beat this team?  Sharp is another player good for 70 points on Chicago.  On any other team he’s racking up around 90.

Duncan Keith, D:  Is Keith a 45 point guy or a 69 point guy?  The truth is always in the middle.  He will have 57 points this year in a resurgent season for the Chicago Blackhawks.  He’s too good a skater not to bounce back.

Corey Crawford, G:  Now with Marty Turco cleared out of town, the Blackhawks belong to Crawford.  He is actually a better goalie than what they had in Anti Niemmi.  Take him high and let him win you 45 games.


Is there any Hawk who better embodies the spirit of Chicago than the fearless Dave Bolland? A healthy 2011 will do wonders for Bolland and the Hawks.

Marian Hossa, RW: “I’m looking forward to playing 82 games and seeing what I can do in those 82 games.” (Source: Chicago Tribune).  What else do you need to know?  After two injury plagued seasons in Chicago, some people might be thinking that he’s too old.  Those people are wrong.  Take him for 80 points.

Dave Bolland, C:  The surface hasn’t been scratched yet with this player.  Just look at his ’11 playoffs.  He shuts down the Sedins and scores 2 goals adding 4 assists…. in 4 games!  They don’t play Vancouver every day, but Bolland will get a good start this year and contribute to the league’s best offense with 60 points.  Gets lots of 2nd unit PP time as well.


Brent Seabrook, D:  I have a funny feeling about Brent this year.  I can’t explain it other than to say that he’s known as a possession player who skates well and moves the puck out of his own zone flawlessly.  The Hawks don’t have to overuse him this year like they did last year because they got some help through free agency so his role might be simplified.  Meanwhile Keith will pick up the slack.  I think he’ll drop back down to 35 points this year.

Viktor Stalberg, LW:  I’ve heard people saying he’s going to have a breakout season, but with so many scoring options in Chicago they can afford to let him develop at his own pace. And what a pace!  He can blow by anybody and when his hands catch up with his feet, he could replace Hossa when he goes into full decline.  Hossa is a long way away from that yet.


Jonathan Toews and his Hawks have big goals for '11-'12. And they will likely achieve them.

Claude Lebut says:  The Hawks have retooled specifically to kill Canucks players, I’m convinced.  They already hate them, so adding Carcillo to the mix can’t hurt considering they see each other so often every year.  What a great rivalry!  They are also going to put the boots to Detroit, San Jose, and Los Angeles.  Don’t bet against the Hawks this year because they are definitely back in championship form.  Once they realize the team they have, they will be on top of the standings all year long, and have to be my favourite for the West.  Top to bottom the best team in the NHL.

Hattrick Payne says:  Provided the Hawks can keep Kane, Bolland, Sharp, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook, Crawford and Toews healthy… wait a minute…. that’s an entire team.  This Hawks team is coming in to 2011 with a few essential pieces in place.  Number one, they have scoring depth in spades.  They get scoring from everyone in their lineup except maybe Crawford.  Number two they have the goaltending they need to win games.  Corey Crawford will be mentioned among the elite by the end of the season.  Number three, they have the defense from the forwards to the defenders.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the chip is back on the shoulder.  They took a beating all season long last year from teams trying to knock them off the top.  They now have a little more muscle in the lineup to contend with a seemingly grittier NHL, as most teams opt for a bit more sandpaper in their lineup (and after Boston showed how refs swallow their whistles in the playoffs, why not?).   The chip is firmly rested on the Hawks shoulder, and its nastier than ever.  The taste of an early round defeat is something still racing around in this still-young team’s head.  Blackhawks not headed down… but up.

edmund hoff says: Canucks Killers huh? Maybe…I come back from vacation and I see LeBut proclaiming the Hawks of this year as the next coming. They will put the boot to Detroit, San Jose and LA? Get real Claude. They can have an arms-race with the Canucks all they want, but there are just too many good teams in the West to say that they will win the Western Conference. That distinction goes to either San Jose, LA, or the Canucks. Why you ask? Well I don’t trust Corey Crawford plain and simple.  Yes he had a great season last year, but I’m never one of these people who jump on 1 year wonders. Especially in the Goalie position, I’ve seen this far too often over the years; the Theodore’s, DiPietro’s, The Mason’s…which one? Chris or Steve? Doesn’t matter they both suck. So for all the firepower they have up front and the grit they brought in to take down the other Elite Teams of the West, at the end of the regular season; the highest they will be ranked is 3rd, but realistically 5th. Because the difference between Chicago and the rest of the Elite Teams in the West is that the other teams HAVE a PROVEN Goalie, and they also have the firepower and grit. 2 out of 3 isn’t bad, but 3 out of 3 is better. Nuff said.

Mark Twain says:  Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one’s head.

Read Full Post »

Right now there are 62 players who can say they were born in La Belle Province and also put on an NHL jersey for a living, or, 10 more

Two Quebec born players battling for on-ice supremacy. Bergeron won this time, is it Luongo’s turn next?

French Canadian players than the entire country of Sweden.  The province of Quebec has supplied the league with some of the best hockey players in the history of the game of hockey but they used to get more attention when their names were Belliveau, Richard, Lafleur, Plante, Roy and of course, Lemieux (no, not Claude).  Even though that level of athlete comes along maybe once or twice a generation you can look around the NHL right now and see quite a few French-Canadian players contributing on top lines and putting up big-time numbers.

LW Depth Chart:   Marleau, Tanguay, Gagne, Perron

LW: Patrick Marleau, SJ, Aneroid, SK
GP         G            A          TOT         +/-           PIM
1035    357     409       766        19               341

Marleau, shown here scoring against fellow 1997 draft pick, Roberto Luongo, has had an impressive NHL career.

Marleau was born in Saskatchewan, and played junior hockey with the Seattle Thunderbirds.  He was drafted second overall behind future teammate Joe Thornton, but he still leads the Sharks all-time in goals, assists, and points.  He learned how to play the game from then-Sharks coach Daryl Sutter who is a big believer in the defensive game first.  Now he plays the two-way game as well as anyone in the league.  I don’t think he speaks very much French, but he is a Canadian national team member whose French roots are undeniable.  Like so many Canadian hockey players, Marleau is a farm boy who made it big.  Sometimes he gets some critique about his play in the big games, but that only means his team counts on him the most to win the big games.  He will go down as the greatest player to ever pull on a Sharks jersey, as well as having an outside chance for a hall-of-fame place when all is said and done.  After 13 years in the league, all with the Sharks, the veteran winger who can play centre is still going strong with his two-way play, and big time wheels.

“haut” stuff

I’m not the biggest Lecavalier fan actually, but if I’m making a hockey team I have to consider that putting my favourite Fench centre, Danny Briere on this first line would cause a size mismatch problem every night.  Lecavalier is is giant at 6’4″ and can take some of the physical pressure of the two wingers on this line, kind of like he does in Tampa already.  To tell you the truth, this line was already an experiment in Tampa when Tanguay played one season there.  It wasn’t really a failure then either, even if Tanguay had his worst statistical season and Tampa missed the playoffs.  Tanguay separated his shoulder at the end of the season in Montreal the year before, and he had a hard time coming back from it, even though he played a full season in Tampa the next year.

Anyway, this is about Vinny, so let’s talk about the big man from Ile Bizard, which is pretty much a laid back island off the shore of the

Sometimes number one picks work out… sometimes they become… a nurse?

mainland of Montreal, filled with parks, beaches and other destinations where people like to get married.  I had no idea there was even a hockey rink there.  When Tampa Bay drafted him first overall in 1998, then-owner Art Williams declared that he would be “the Michael Jordan of hockey”.  Well, that never happened, but at least Vinny didn’t exactly end up the next Alexandre Daigle either.  Vinny isn’t the most reliable defensively but he has great vision on the ice and has been a pretty consistent offensive producer in the regular season and playoffs.  Other than recovering from a Matt Cooke cheap shot, he’s been one of the best centres in the league, never mind French centres, for the last ten years or so.  Now with Yzerman as the GM, Tampa looks like it could contend as long as they stay healthy, and Vinny Lecavalier will be a big part of any run they make.

Waiting for a line change:

Daniel Briere,  PHI,  Gatineau, PQ GP: 743   G:  264     A:  330      TOT: 594    +/- : -10     PIM: 617
You won’t find a more clutch player than Briere, great powerplay specialist, impressive playoff performer, fast and smart with the puck.

Patrice Bergeron, BOS, Ancienne-Lorette, PQ — GP: 456   G:  121     A:  216    TOT: 337    +/- : +10     PIM: 142
Solid 2-way centre, scores timely goals, can shutdown anyone, drives to the net with measure, doesn’t back down from anyone, excellent leadership, very tough on faceoffs

Stastny and Duchene the next Sakic and Forsberg?

Matt Duchene, COL, Haliburton, ON — GP: 161  G:  51     A:  71      TOT: 122    +/- :-7    PIM: 49
Powerful skater, can get around defenders with ease, plays 2-way game, skilled passer, plays big minutes in every situation, has star-potential, but plays behind Stastny right now.  Born in Ontario, but French ancestry undeniable.  Colorado is hoping he can provide the team with a second line centre who plays like a first liner like the good old days with Sakic and Forsberg.  

RW Depth Chart:  St. Louis, Giroux, Pominville, Dumont

Martin St. Louis, TB, Laval, PQ
GP         G            A        TOT          +/-           PIM:
854      298       480      778        +15          250

“Too small” Martin St. Louis, takes this Seidenberg licking and keeps ticking in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

Everyone said this guy from the provincial capital couldn`t survive at the NHL level because he was too small.  Everyone was wrong. He proved himself at all the different levels, from Nationals, to AHL to NHL to playoffs when he won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004.  He was in tears when his team was taken out by Boston in 7 games this season after a playoff run which saw him collect 10 goals and 10 assists in 18 games.

The guy might not level people with a huge hit, or take one himself (although he`s been super durable in his 13 year pro career), but this guy is clutch, clutch, clutch!  He’s pretty speedy and likes to create lots of plays off the wing, as well as make a few chances happen for himself.  He doesn’t take a lot of stupid penalties and he leads his team in the locker room and on the ice. This is exactly the kind of guy who wouldn’t have survived in the league 10 years ago, but since the rule changes, he’s been allowed to play his game and we’re all pretty lucky for it.  Probably a first ballot hall-of-famer when it’s all over.  Hopefully not for a long time yet.

Claude Giroux, although not born in Quebec, grew up playing hockey in Hearst, Ontario, which but he definitely has the French flair for the game.  I think within a few seasons Claude will be at the top of the RW list for French Canadians.  Giroux played for the Gatineaux Olympique for three seasons, he has French background, and he is talented so he makes the cut here.

Hopping over the boards:

Claude Giroux, PHI, Hearst, ON — GP:  208   G:  50    A:  100   TOT:  150     +/-:  +22    PIM:  84
He’s still a pass-first guy, but he has a huge list of moves that get fans out of their seats in Philly.  He’s not a big man, but he’s a dangerous offensive player with huge heart.  His numbers are going to keep going up, and he’s probably the main reason why Philly is ok with letting Carter and Richards.  Maybe Philly’s next captain?

Jason Pominville, BUF, Repentigny, PQ — GP: 459   G:  145    A:  213   TOT:  358    +/- :+47    PIM: 127
reliable defensively, is outstanding when he’s hot, good stickhandler, and powerful first stride, but needs to add bulk and grit

Jean-Pierre Dumont, NSH, Montreal, PQ  — GP: 822   G:  214    A:  309   TOT: 523    +/- :-2    PIM: 364
best days are behind him, but can still give you 20 goals if he’s right, has big body, crashes the net well, good solid veteran leader, excellent hands

Goal Depth Chart: (Luongo), Fleury, Bernier, Brodeur

Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT, Sorel, PQ  —  GP:  367       W: 184           L:  126        T/O:  37      SV% : .908        GAA: 2.74        SO:  19

Without this save against Kane the Canucks would have been left to ponder another early exit but is he “french” enough?

Ah, I can already hear the haters.  I can see the reason why people see Luongo as a facade of a goalie.  He must be the only goalie in the

Martin Brodeur was counting down the days until the end of the season in 2011

history of the game to have allowed more than 7 goals in the playoffs twice and still made the Stanley Cup Finals racking up 4 shutouts along the way.  I, myself, sometimes can’t seem to understand how he can be so dominant, then lose so badly the next game.  I’m not a coach, so I don’t have any solutions, but I can say that even if he isn’t Francophone, the guy is the best Québécois goalie going right now. Give him some credit for growing up 4 blocks away from Marty Brodeur… that’s the closest you can get to being French-Canadian.  Remember, Patrick Roy has Irish blood, yet he is considered the best French-Canadian goalie of all time.  Still, this is an “All French Team” as some readers have been pointing out to me these days, so I’m going to take Luongo out of the equation and look for the goalies with the French roots.  And since this is a list about right now, I’m giving Martin Brodeur a rest for a change

Luongo will, eventually, smile with a Stanley Cup in arms and then Quebec will call him “French”. .

Even though Luongo is the next closest thing to a hall-of-famer in the making that the NHL has in terms of this generation’s goalies and without him the Canucks wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near the finals, he’s considered an Italian-Canadian born in Montreal.  When he is on, he is far and away the best technical goaltender in the league (when he’s off, he’s about the worst).  He’s much better because of a french goalie coach, Rogie Melanson, but let’s talk about Le Francophone, and not players born in Montreal, otherwise I’m opening up a discussion on Corey Crawford and several other notable players.

Marc-Andre Fleury is the goalie almost as talked about as Louie for his inconsistent play with Pittsburgh.  He has the ability to make some crazy saves look pretty routine, but he also lets in some softies once in a while too.  He is still money when he’s counted on.  This season when Pittsburgh lost Sid and Evgeni Malkin, it was “The Flower” who put the team on his back and won games in steel-town.  He won a Stanley Cup and made another finals, plus he’s a national team member.  Give Fleury some credit – he’s French-Canada’s number one goalie going right now.

Fleury can make even the best look silly

Laval’s Jonathan Bernier is no hall-of-famer and he can’t hold Marty’s jock strap in terms of credentials.  I know this and I’m not handing him the torch here.  Still, right now he’s good enough to mention over Marty Brodeur these days.  The pool has been pretty deep for years with guys like Giguere, Biron, Lalime, Theodore, Garon and Leclaire all being mentioned at one time or another in the conversation of “who’s next after Marty?” Well, this kid is the real deal and will star for somebody in the near future.  L.A. will probably do what Vancouver did this season with Luongo.  Bernier will see about 20 starts, giving Quick the rest for the deep run, and the NHL will see this kid’s amazing game.  Is he going to be the next Martin Brodeur?  Probably not.  But if you asked the Devils to trade Marty straight up for Jonathan, they’d do it faster than you can say “poutine”.


Bernier the “next-one”… but in L.A.?

Jonathan Bernier, LA, Laval, PQ    —  GP:  32  W: 15   L:  11  T/O:  3      SV% : .911       GAA: 2.56   SO:4   Still learning the game.  Makes quick reflex saves and shakes off bad goals.  Never seems to let in the next goal after a bad one.  Is capable of playing big minutes and can win games on his own.  Still pretty young, so might play for another team with Quick locked in the cage for the Kings.

Is it purely mental for Marty?

Martin Brodeur:   GP:  1132     W:  625      L:  350     T/O:  137      SV%: .913       GAA:  2.22    SO:  116

NHL’s all-time leader in several goaltending categories, and  first ballot hall-of-famer  Martin Brodeur plays a high-risk high reward game.  Possesses the best hybrid game in the history of the game and sublime stickhandling.  Gotten a bit careless in his later stages of his career.  Is he mentally in need of focus or has he lost a step?  2012 will tell you if he has any gas in the tank.

 Defence Depth Chart:  Letang, Vlasic, Bergeron, Demers, Robidas, Noreau

Chris Letang, PIT, Montreal, PQ:  
GP         G            A        TOT       +/-           PIM:
299      29         100      129         +5            203

Kris Letang showing off some of those old-school French-Canadian defender moves

The list gets a little thin on the back end, which tells me that Quebecers like to score the goals, or stop the pucks but don’t enjoy chasing people around and fishing the pucks out of the net.  Even the finest Quebec-born defenseman who ever played, Raymond Borque, was a guy who liked pushing the pace of the game and scoring big goals.  410 to be exact.  In fact most of the great Quebec-born D-men, like Eric Desjardins, Carol Vadnais,  Sylvain Cote,  Serge Savard, Dave Tallon, Doug Harvey, Steve Duchesne and Guy Lapointe are synonymous with turning defence to offense.

So, even though this generation is more of a stay-at-home bunch, there are still some pretty good ones to choose from. To me, Kris Letang is in the tradition of terrific Québécois playing in the NHL.  He kind of has it all.  He’ll hit you, block shots, make stick plays, he’ll make the soft passes out of the neutral zone, he’ll slide one over for the forwards to bang home, he’ll slap home the big powerplay goal, and he’ll deke out a few guys, making them look silly en route to scoring a goal.  He also plays big time minutes for Pittsburgh and leads by example on and off the ice.  He’s my first choice in French-Canadian defenseman for my team.

Also Patrolling the Blue Line:

Marc-Eduard Vlasic  SJ, Montreal, PQ :  — GP: 389   G:  18   A:  92    TOT: 110     +/- :+51    PIM: 135
rarely noticed for errors, plays stay-at-home positional game, moves puck swiftly out of defensive zone, can play in any situation

Marc-Andre Bergeron, TB, Hauterive, PQ— GP: 422   G:  77    A:  125    TOT: 202   +/- :-14   PIM: 185
can play either D or LW, can really crank it from the point, supreme speed, good powerplay instincts

Jason Demers, SJ, Dorval, PQ:   — GP: 126   G:  6    A:  39    TOT: 45    +/- :+24     PIM: 49
plays a really clean game, with few mistakes, can move the puck beautifully out of his zone with stretch passes, can play physically, is extremely mobile

 Stephane Robidas, DAL, Sherbrooke, PQ: — GP: 724   G:  45      A:  161     TOT: 206     +/- :+1    PIM: 555
big game player, lots of poise, is not spectacular but is solid all-around, has good offensive instincts, lots of experience

Maxim Noreau, NJ, Montreal, PQ:  — GP: 6     G:  0    A:  0    TOT: 0   +/- :-1    PIM: 0
still waiting for chance at NHL, has massive potential offensively, should help the Devils in 2011/12 with mobility on back end, deft puckhandling abilities for a d-man 


Read Full Post »

If Vancouver had the team which started the playoffs against Chicago, all healthy against Boston? We'll never know.

Another season has gone by and it’s time to look at the balance of things, and once again, it was a good year of firsts for the Vancouver Canucks.  They finished first overall in the league in points, goals, goals against, penalty killing, wins, and financials for the first time in franchise history.  For all intents and purposes, the Canucks, and not the Canadiens, Rangers, Leafs or any number of other teams, were the darlings of the league.  They started the free agent frenzy in 2010 by shoring up key areas on the team, and are probably the main reason why teams in the league are climbing all over themselves to sign players this year.  The model has been set.  Sign the right players and your team can make the finals, which is exactly what Vancouver did last season.

The Stanley Cup Finals are very difficult to make, let alone, win, as the Canucks proved this past season.  A return trip to the finals in this day and age is almost unthinkable, particularly in a city where the team goes all the way once every generation or so.  History tells us that after making the finals in 82 and again in 94 it took all of two seasons for the team to be revamped, and the coach to get fired after advancing no further than round 2 ever again.  In the 80’s the teams suffered miserable seasons, well below .500 until the cigar chomping icon, Pat Quinn arrived in town, and after Quinn took the team to the promised land, the team lingered in sub-mediocrity through rebuilding seasons with the likes of Mike Keenan, Mark Messier, Tom Renney and Alex Mogilny, until Brian Burke could rebuild the team the right way with draft picks and young players.  The question is now, what do the current Canucks do about the window of opportunity which will not be open much longer than the next 3 seasons?  History may not be on their side, or is it?

Coach:  Alain Vigneault

AV looks on in disgust as his Canucks leave Boston tied 2-2, the beginning of the end

I’m going to come right out and say it; Alain Vigneault is an excellent coach.  He may well be the right coach for this particular group.  He knows how to motivate them, and when to get them to play at their peak.  Vancouver was one Hamhuis away from winning this whole thing, and the man to thank would have been AV.  Or…. perhaps…. he didn’t pull Luongo for the 3rd period of game 3 and start Schneider in game 4.  He didn’t give Ballard enough confidence to play effectively.  He wasn’t brave enough to split the Sedins during the season and playoffs so that they couldn’t be so easily shut down.  And, perhaps, he isn’t patient or creative enough with gifted scorers or playmakers like Michael Grabner, Mats Sundin, Pavol Demitra and Ballard, and so the team struggles to score sometimes.  It’s all just speculation, and it’s easy to second guess when all a team needed was one stinkin’ game.  Alain Vigneault is the winningest coach in Canucks franchise history.  Has gotten more out of Burrows, Kesler, and the Sedins than any other coach might have.  He gets plenty out of key players like LaPierre or Jannick Hansen and his timely use of Chris Tanev, or Aaron Rome, shows that he’s got a good gut for how to coach this game.  The Canucks can win the big one with this guy behind the bench.

The difficulties start when we’re looking at the other coaches.  Is Melanson the right coach for Luongo and Schneider?  Why are the players constantly battling injuries on the back end?  Does it have something to do with player selection?  Why couldn’t the Canucks find a way to score goals against Tim Thomas?  He set a new NHL record for shutouts in the Finals against the highest scoring team in the league.  When was the last time you heard a Canucks player compliment his own coaching staff? Too many questions here.   They say in sports “the truly good coaches win the close ones”.

I’m still a doubter.

Goaltending: Roberto Luongo, Corey Schneider

Luongo was fishing for answers against Chicago again, and later, Boston.

The Captaincy experiment didn’t work, as many predicted, so Lu was stripped of the C and it was given to Henrik.  A full time goalie coach in Rogie Melanson was brought in to help keep Lu’s game simpler and more technically sound, which paid dividends.  His head seemed better than it was in years.  His stats indicated he was seeing the puck better than ever, and he was… except… in losses and away from home.  Let’s get something straight here.  Roberto Luongo is a first ballot hall-of-famer when it will all be said and done.  He will play productive hockey for another 6 or 7 years, rack up another 200-240 regular season wins, another 40 or so playoff wins and quite possibly, win a Stanley Cup.  He will have more regular season wins than Patrick Roy, and before father time catches up with him, in the ballpark for playoff wins along with the likes of Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante.  He is already 18th and climbing on the all-time list for shutouts, and third all-time in save percentage to none other than Dominik Hasek, and Tim Thomas who, at the age of 37, one wonders how long he can continue his pace and, if he does, gives credence to the 10 year contract Luongo has.  If Luongo plays as well as Thomas into his late 30’s, he well could finish first in wins and shutouts, both regular season and playoffs.  The key with goalies, folks, is patience.

He got his team to a Stanley Cup finals.

He was brilliant in games 7 against Chicago, and 5 against San Jose.  Brilliant.  He had two enormous game-stealing performances, shutouts I might add, against Boston in the finals and, one might say, he was directly responsible for winning the third game the Canucks won.  In the final game, the Canucks, the whole team, looked out of gas, undermanned and depleted.

He did what he could.

For those of you who were too busy crying in your beer to notice, or occupied burning police cars, a screened Marchant pass to an open Bergeron who slaps it past two more screens wasn’t an easy save.  A Marchant wraparound when Luongo is tied up by his own forward and can’t get across in time to stop it was a defensive miscue, again, not his fault.  A shorthanded breakaway should never happen, but a blown goaltender interference call when Bergeron’s dive carries him through Luongo and the net should happen even less.  3-0 B’s on opportunistic, hungry goals the Canucks forwards weren’t getting, simply put.  Luongo pulled for the extra attacker, 4-0 B’s on an empty net.

That’s how it happened.  It was a hockey game.  Look at this goalie and ask yourself if you’d rather have anyone else for this team?  Will Schneider be the answer for 40 wins a year, guaranteed?  No.  Luongo is a horse, and he will get his due eventually with retired numbers, and a hall-of-fame pass.

Schneider will prove to be a useful chip in the trade market.  Goaltending on the farm is phenomenal.  I think we’re okay here.


Defence:  Currently Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, Sami Salo, Andrew Alberts, Chris Tanev, Alexander Sulzer, Aaron Rome, Alex Edler

Alexander Sulzer will no longer don the powder blue with the Monkey Island skeleton of the Milwaukee Admirals.

While Sulzer may not be the second coming of Christian Ehrhoff, he is much in the same mold.  Sulzer is mobile, possesses a huge shot, and has nice passing abilities out of his own zone.  Like Ehrhoff, and most of the Canucks, he’s not hulking or intimidating, but is mobile, strong on the puck, has good leadership and is physical when needed.  If there were ever a time to get excited about a castaway German player who has 1 career NHL goal, it’s with Sulzer, who will likely continue to cost the Canucks $4 million dollars of Keith Ballard’s rear on the bench.  It’s a project worth trying, and Gillis knows that the key to free agency this year is not big spending, but finding the right fit for the team.  Sulzer is that, if nothing else.

As for the other D-men, it’s encouraging to see the return of Kevin Bieksa.  Bieksa received a lot of the spotlight this past cup Finals, and deservedly so.  He had a career season, vaulting him into consideration for any teams top-2 defencemen.  I’ve always been of the belief that Bieksa, not Luongo, Kesler, or Sedin, should have been the number one choice for captaincy of this team.  He is the blue-line captain, and will continue to rise in excellence provided our best defenceman, Dan Hamhuis, plays injury free.  The Hamhuis/Bieksa combination is the best shutdown pair in the NHL right now, with all due respect to Keith and Seabrook.  They are mobile, physical, and intelligent heads up players who score timely goals, get timely hits, and beat people up in timely fashion.  I don’t think Patrick Marleau will be picking fights anytime soon, at any rate.

Salo will contemplate his career on a yearly basis henceforth. Naturally, he will never be injured again.

As for Salo’s return next year, he will be a welcome addition to the blueline again.  Much like Niklas Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne, Trevor Linded when he played and any number of veteran players nearing the end of their roads as players, Sami will, no doubt, evaluate his career on a yearly basis from now on, which makes perfect sense.  I highly doubt the heavy shooting Finn will play big minutes in the regular season, essentially reserving his strength for the post-season when the Canucks will try to win one for the old guy.  He is, still, and remarkably I suppose, a very competent defender.  A full season with Sami Salo in the lineup will help the second unit powerplay, provided the Canucks can get someone to replace Ehrhoff to quarterback the first. Rome, Ballard, Sulzer, Tanev, Alberts, are all nice pieces, but the first unit powerplay must be manned by someone who can change the game with a shot or a precision pass.

Enter Edler.

Edler must continue to develop into an offensive weapon, as well as play the body more frequently if the Canucks are to take the next step.

This must be the year Alex Edler puts everything together for himself on this team.  Before being severely injured last season, big Al was on pace for about 65 points, or, 15 more than Christian Ehrhoff.  This is the season that Edler becomes the dominant number 1 defenceman everyone dreams about, and the reason the Canucks will be taking care of their payroll so that they can re-sign him to an extension as soon as possible.  He is a big hitting, heady player, who must play the full season in order for this team to continue to succeed.  If Edler plays to his potential, the Canucks will be a whole new kind of dangerous, and a force to be reckoned with, yet again.


Forwards:  Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alexandre Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond,  Mikael Samuelsson, Manny Malhotra, Jannik Hansen, Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre

Injuries and questions mark the Vancouver Canucks' 2011 training camp

There are definite question marks for the Canucks headed into the 2011/12 season.  The health issues surrounding Mason Raymond (cracked vertebrae), Manny Malhotra (eye), an aging Mikael Samuelsson (Sports Hernia), Ryan Kesler (groin) and even Henrik Sedin (back) in addition to the Canucks not having signed Jannik Hansen to a contract yet, make this group speculative after two players on the first line.  The Canucks suffer from a lack of secondary scoring, that much is certain.  Kesler is a scoring centre with limited playmaking abilities, so he needs a playmaking winger to play alongside him.  Samuelsson, and Raymond ,even when healthy, were not the answers.

Nobody wanted to win more than Ryan Kesler last year

Last season Kesler, now a Selke winner, scored goals, shutdown opponents, played the body and put the team on his back an entire series until he pulled up lame against San Jose and became useless against a physical Boston team.  The Sedins did the bulk of the scoring in the regular season, and carried the team past San Jose until they became injured and shut down against a more aggressive and physical Boston team.  Other teams were paying attention.  Chicago, San Jose, Edmonton, have all loaded up on grit and muscle to combat the Western Conference champs.  The fear the Canucks must have now is that teams will be keying in on the Sedins and Kesler with brute force, hoping to injure them and daring their powerplay to make them pay.

The strategy certainly worked for Boston.

Cody, I have a feeling we're not in Brampton anymore.

There must be improvement then in the likes of Jannik Hansen, provided he signs, and one must believe that this is the final year that Cody Hodgson is given a chance to make this lineup.  With Center Malhotra and Lapierre presumably holding down the 3rd to 4th line roles, one might be tempted to believe that Hodgson will see some time up top with Kesler and Higgins on the second line.  This would make some sense, as Hodgson has offensive abilities but few defensive ones, and learning the centre position from one of the best in Kesler,  who may be asked to make up for the kid’s liabilities on defence, might be a good thing for the team.  He hasn’t really proven anything at the AHL level with the Moose, so gift wrapping this kid a position on the team doesn’t seem level with his track record yet.

Hodgson notwithstanding, the Canucks are going to have to hope for similar seasons from the Sedins and Kesler, and hope for health from Samuelsson. Unfortunately, it appears as though everyone had career years, so I’m predicting a downturn in goals from the Canucks, who seemed solved by the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Other scouts will have a good long look at that tape and realize that the Sedins are really not that hard to stop, and Kesler is just a matter of putting heavy bodies on him to slow him down.  It’s possible that Kesler could take another step in his development, but I believe him to have peaked, and the Canucks will have to look elsewhere for some scoring in the lineup.  Something needs to give.


GM: Mike Gillis

There is reason for optimism in Vancouver, if you`re Mike Gillis

They say you are the sum of your parts sometimes, and in this case, it is true.  Gillis has built a respectable management team from directors of personnel to scouting staff, right through to coaches and players.  He is impossibly confident, and while he may not ooze charisma, is a man of great integrity and solid ideals.  His model comes from influences around the world, including Manchester United’s mold for success at the international level for football. He is visionary in the way he manages cap space and has made timely moves to improve the roster.  He has not been hasty or impatient with the development of players, and he has rewarded players who have shown commitment to team principles and community ideals.  The Canucks have climbed Forbes list of franchise net worth every year he has been here.  His team made the Stanley Cup, and beat the hated Blackhawks.

Gillis is, in short, the finest GM the city of Vancouver has ever known.

Both Lapierre and Higgins were re-signed by Mike Gillis this summer.

His moves this summer have not been as flashy as last year when he landed Hamhuis and Malhotra, but he had less wiggle room to play with this year.  His biggest moves have been related to re-signing core players like Bieksa, Salo and now Higgins and Lapierre, while he has taken a few flyers on some forwards on the scrap heap, like Marco Sturm.  One wouldn’t say it’s been an increbibly mind-blowing haul of free agents, but keeping your own players is good for the team and loyal fan base, and overall the Canucks have been active.

He is going to have to do something about the forward situation irrespective of the new additions.  He has assets in Schneider and Hodgson with which he can swing a deal or two, and the potential always exists for a major shakeup if something horrible goes wrong.  In all, Gillis has managed to make every player on the Canucks valuable by virtue of their success in the playoffs.

The track record is now in place, so there isn’t much left to prove now, other than competing every year for the Stanley Cup.


Overall, next season looks pretty bright for the Vancouver Canucks, despite the nagging injuries and question marks at forward depth positions.  It might be best if the Canucks coast for a bit during the regular season and end up 3rd or 4th in the conference.  With the team mostly in tact, they might be a good sleeper come playoff time.

Canucks 2011-2012 prediction:  3rd place in conference, Eliminated in conference finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, AV fired, replaced by Craig MacTavish at the end of 2012.

Read Full Post »

For the 2012 version click here

It’s getting a little ridiculous these days with all the dumb money being invested in NHL players other people wouldn’t pay.  I still want to blame Garth Snow, because I think he started it when he signed Rick DiPietro to a contract that will see him play hockey until he’s old enough to be teammate with his kids.    That’s why the Islander’s get two trophies named after them, one for dumbest free agent signing GM in the league, and one for the worst goalie contract of the year.  The other awards I’m calling the Christian Ehrhoff award for the worst defenceman signing of the year, even though he doesn’t win it.  I think it’s a much higher honour to have a trophy named after you.  After that, I have an award for worst forward contract of the year, and I’m naming it the Heatley award, and in honour of the GM who actually managed to find a trading partner for Dany Heatley’s stupid contract, the shrewdest GM of the free agent season award is named the Doug Wilson.

The Rick DiPietro Trophy for Most Outsandingly Bad Goalie Contract 2011:

Bryzgalov, like Raskolnikov, lets pride separate him from society


Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA – 9 years, $51 million

Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA – 9 years, $51 million

Ilya Bryzgalov – PHA 9 years – $51 million

DiPietro only has 15 years left at a cap hit of 4.5 million dollars, so it doesn’t get much worse than that.  Or does it?  How about 9 years at 5.6 for a goalie whose claim to fame is reading Dostoevsky on the bench?   Ilya Bryzgalov wins the DiPietro because Philly was always going to be better with a bad goalie and Richards and Carter, than they are with Jagr and an okay goalie in Bryzgalov.  Philly just made the Luongo contract look a lot more respectable than before.  Throw in the the front-load, and Ilya is taking home a cool 10 million dollars next season.  No one even comes close.

Winner:  Ilya Bryzgalov, PHA

auf wiedersehen Christian Ehrhoff

The Brian Campbell Award for Incredible Waste of Money for a Defenceman 2011:


Christian Ehrhoff, BUF – 10 years, $40 million;

James Wisniewski, FLA – 6 years, $33 Million;

Andrei Markov, MTL – 3 years $17.25 million

It goes without saying that Ehrhoff’s contract is so stupid that he should already be the winner of this by becoming the richest defenceman in the league for one season next year when he makes 10,000,000 dollars.  That’s more than Chara, Keith, Lidstrom, and Pronger.  Even so, I can’t believe the money these D-men are getting nowadays.  The true winner of the dumb-dumb award for defenceman contracts is Montreal’s Markov, who gets paid $5.75 million a year!  That put him in the top 11 cap hit for defencemen in the whole league.  This is for a guy who destroyed his surgically repaired knee last year, I mean come on!  He’s like a slow poor man’s Zubov, who is starting to get old.  The Canadians could have kept the right to sign Wisniewski, for a lot cheaper and get a d-man who is 5 years younger.  This is not a good deal for this desperate club.

Winner:  Andrei Markov, MTL

The Dany Heatley Award for Moronic Spending on a Useless Forward 2011


Ville Leino, BUF – 6 years, $27 million;  

Brooks Laich, WAS – 6 years, $27 million;

Tim Connolly, TOR – 2 years, $9.5 million

Leino is still a little unproven to me, but I have to say he was pretty impressive when Philly went to the cup in 2010.  Giving Laich the

why the flyers don’t mind spending $3.5 million on a washed up 39 year old…. sales!

same contract as Ville doesn’t make sense, but he’s a pretty good leader in the room and Washington need those tough gritty scorers so I get the idea there.  Still 6 years seems like a long time.  For me it was a toss up between a few guys on this list.  I’m not sure the Brad Richards deal is so bad when you look at the guys that make his kind of money.  He has around 800 career points and a playoff MVP, so I think he is kind of proven.  I don’t know about the Jagr return, but the team will make the money back on jersey sales probably.  What I don’t like is Tim Connoly’s contract for Toronto.  I know how desperate this team is for a centre who can make the plays for Kessel, but this guy is injured more than Sami Salo at an obstacle course.  The two years seems ok to swallow, but I remember the Canucks regret signing Pavol Demitra for around the same money.  If you look at the 2012 list of free agents though, I can see where Burkie is coming from, so I kind of get that he needed something there, but Connolly is a softer centre than a Rolo.  Toronto better have a good med staff.

Winner:  Tim Connolly TOR

Garth Snow Award for GM Who Failed His Fans the Most During the Free Agent Frenzy 2011:

Charles Wang and his drinking buddy, Garth Snow should let real hockey people run the storied franchise.


Garth Snow, NYI;    

Brian Burke, TOR;    

Bryan Murray, OTT

Snow traded for Ehrhoff to get the rights to sign him, lost a fourth round pick, then traded him to Buffalo to get another fourth round pick, probably lower on the totem pole than the one they gave up.  So, basically, Snow lost a few positions on the draft order in the fourth round of 2012.  After that, he moved his payroll into 2012 and thought about how many more years he had left to pay DiPietro.  Only 1 or 2 at the rate he’s going, because he won’t be signing off on cheques much longer in New York if the kids don’t improve.  Signing Trevor Gillies and Marty Reasoner is something, but it’s not like he’s doing much down on the Island.  Burkey lost Brad Richards because he was saying hi to Canadian troops on Canada Day, and didn’t want to pay any front loaded money.  The best player available for the next 2 years won’t go to Toronto because he’s too stubborn to play the game.  Then he signs Connolly for only 2 million less than he could have signed

Do something Brian, seriously… Connolly is bunk.

Richards.  Pretty dumb.  Finally, Ottawa probably doesn’t have any money to spend, but they do have over $18 million of cap room to buy something to improve their team.  This is a bad, bad team which isn’t going to get any better by sitting around and hoping Spezza keep developing.  Still pretty hard to deny Brian Burke his credit.  He likes credit for things.

Winner:  Brian Burke, TOR

The Doug Wilson Award for Excellence as a GM During NHL Free Agent Frenzy 2011


Dale Tallon, FLA;  

Doug Wilson, SJ;  

Steve Tambellini, EDM

Doug Wilson moved Heatley, so the award is named after him, but he didn’t do much after that, or did he?  One thing he did do I haven’t seen for a long time.  He traded a guy who just sign with his team!  Devon Setoguchi signs for 3 years then is shipped to one of the worst teams in the league.   In return, the Sharks get a big, nasty D-man in Brent Burns.  He signs Handzus from L.A. and Jim Vandermeer to shore up the D a bit, then trades the biggest floater on his roster, and worst contract in the league in Dany Heatley, for a guy with serious wheels and a better cap hit.  Tallon in Florida basically signed 2 lines and a top 3 for his back end.  We’ll see how all this works out, but I really like Jovocop coming back to Florida to finish his career as captain, and Upshall is a winner who will help with leadership and good goals.  Fleischmann could be a

Maybe the Oilers know what they’re doing after all….

point-a-game if it works out, and they still have David Booth.  If your team sucks, you should do something about it and Tallon did something. Another team that sucks is the Edmonton Oilers… for now.  While these kids improve, they’re going to need some beef on the lines to protect them from all the cheap shot artists in the league.  Tambellini just made his team a lot tougher to play by adding Josh Green, a big winger with some D and grit, Eric Belanger, a faceoff veteran like Manny Malhotra, Corey Potter, a younger D-Man with a huge shot, Cam Barker, another tough D-man with a shot, Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk, two guys who like to beat up Canucks.  I really like what Brian Campbell did, but he took a big risk in the locker room by signing and trading Setoguchi like that.  I think the GM who really deserves this award is the GM whose team is going to be a lot better in the future years because of the guys he signed as well as the guys he’s stockpiling.  Or the one who wants Eager fans to come out more often.


Steve Tambellini, EDM

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: