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How much will teams be willing to pay Shane Doan, pictured above receiving the Mark Messier award for leadership?

This is prior to the stupid contract some team is going to draw up for Shane Doan who, last I heard, was in the $7 million stratosphere.  This represents the final season players can abuse the wormholes in the current CBA which allow for front loaded contracts, variable terms, and indefinite lengths essentially making the NHLPA and its player agents the sporting version of mortgage brokering.

The Rick Dipietro award for worst goaltender contract of 2012:

If the NHL season ever gets underway in 2012, Johan and Marty will combine to the most experienced tandem in the game, ever.

This was not a strong year for candidates in this category, at least, not as strong as last years crop of fools.  Perhaps it was the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov at 9 years for over $50 million dollars which made a few GM’s check their head before signing the next goalie of the future.  Vancouver’s signing of RFA Corey at $4 million per over the next 3 seasons and Minnesota’s signing of young Josh Harding at $5.7 over three years represents a sensible management of player assets.

The signing of Martin Brodeur for $9 million over two seasons is one thing, but the signing of his backup of last year, Johan Hedberg for the same term means the Devils are depending on two guys who have a combined age of 80 years old when the season opens in 2012.  I just don’t see how New Jersey hasn’t found a young backup goalie who could learn from Marty as he declines in age.  The next two seasons would have represented a perfect opportunity to find someone to carry the torch when he retires, now the team will be looking for two goalies in 2014 after Marty and Johan both call it quits.

It’s not the cost of the contract, it’s the price the team is paying in development.  Hedberg at any amount over say, a Jonas Gustavsson or anyone on their farm doesn’t bode well for the future of goaltending in Jersey.

Winner of the Rick Dipietro Award:   Johan Hedberg– 2 years / $2.8 million

The Brian Campbell award for worst contract for a defenseman:

Ryan Suter will need to prove that he has an A-game without Shea Weber.

Got a kid in hockey?  Make sure he becomes a defenseman.  It’s silly what these guys are getting paid nowadays but I suppose it makes sense.  If you have a lot of guys who can play 30 minutes and neutralize sublime skill for that length of time, teams win more 2-1 games, GM’s and Coaches stay employed, everybody is happy.  Well, not quite everybody.  The fans go home and get to ponder what has happened to the game that Bettman wanted to turn into a speed and skill game and how it became, once again, over-coached, over-defended, and over-ground to its generic, robotic self that it seems to be these days.

A quick look at this year’s Stanley Cup semi-finals will tell you what you need to know about how the game is trending.  If you have a team which doesn’t have any marquee talent up front, where do you load up?  In goal and on defense, even if the price kills you to look at it.  Is any D-man worth a cap hit of $7.5 million over 13 seasons?  You could count them on one hand and still have some digits leftover.  Is Ryan Suter on that hand?

I didn’t think so.

Winner of the Brian Campbell award:  Ryan Suter– $98 million/13 years.

The Dany Heatley Award for worst contract for a forward:

With the extinction of “the goon” through the institution of the instigator penalty, stars like Giroux and Crosby can’t focus solely on scoring, and risk injury moreso than stars of the past.

Heatley’s contract is a $7.5 million dollar hit for the Wild, but at least it’s off the books in a mere two seasons from now at which point we’ll have to consider renaming the award.  I’m hoping what I say next doesn’t come true, I really am, but this needs to be mentioned.  We can’t go back to goonery hockey, I know this, but consider this.  Without the goons protecting the stars, and on every team there was one close at hand since the Gretzky/Kurri/Semenko model (it’s like one of those matching games where you try to figure out which one doesn’t match… could it be any more obvious why semenko was on that line?  Dave Semenko fought Muhammed Ali for chrissakes!) it is open season on the best players on the game.  All of the concussion and post concussion syndrome issues we’ve seen in top end talent since Eric Lindros was illegally checked by Scott Stevens (yup, I just did), is as a direct result of the extinction of the hockey goon.  Listen, it’s biological.  If you remove the natural predator in any ecosystem, what ends up happening is that the prey suddenly grows exponentially in its population.  That’s why there are so many pigeons and rats in urban centres, because they are keenly aware that eagles, condors, hawks and snakes tend to avoid people.

In hockey equivalence you have your rats on every team.  In fact, most teams are entirely composed of rats.  Think the Dustin Brown’s, Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler’s and Todd Marchand’s of the NHL world and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s not safe for the talent to ooze when the rats are out looking to infect the game with their plague.  What these rats need is a good beating from a legitimate face breaker, and I mean a real one, one which we haven’t seen since the likes of Gino Odjick, or Bob Probert.  A true psycho who plays the game not to hurt anyone at random, but punish people with broken orbital bones, noses and jaws when they get out of line without being called an instigator.

That’s the only way you can then justify paying Sidney Crosby $104.4 million dollars over the next 13 seasons playing 8 games a year against Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and the recently buffed Ottawa — big physical teams who like to aim for stars.  It’s a matter of time before Crosby is concussed again, likely by a rat, and that will spell the end of hockey in Pittsburgh where Sid the Kid has them on the hook for nearly 1/6th of their cap space over the next decade.

Prior to any stupid Shane Doan deal, Sidney Crosby’s contract is a ticking time bomb.

Winner of the Dany Heatley award:  Sidney Crosby $104.4 million/13 years

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There will be some new bloods in the Western Conference Finals for the first time in a long time. Kings and Coyotes, both of your team has finally arrived. It’s too bad that only one team will make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, but both organizations should be proud of what they have accomplished thus far.

The Kings Swept the Blues? Who saw this coming? The reason for this was probably the lost of Halak on the Blues side.

Brian Elliott – Can’t stop them all

All due respect to Elliott, he is a good goalie, but throughout the regular season and the first round of the playoffs, the Blues had 2 goalies to share the work load. This means less pressure to succeed and more rest for them both so they both can stay on top of their games. With all the pressure on Elliott’s shoulders, he simply couldn’t do it.

This is a WARNING TO THE CANUCKS!!! Think twice before trading Luongo and put all your money on Schneider. Cory is a good kid, but if you make him your #1, than there question becomes can he take the pressure? And to the Canucks fans that EXPECT to win a Stanley Cup every year, and jeer Luongo…shut it…

You must be a bunch of bandwagoners because you obviously don’t remember all the crap goaltending we had before Luongo…your precious Canucks became a legitimate contender once we got him fromFlorida.

The Yotes defeat the team that most, except me, predicted to come out of the West? Why is that? Some will make the excuse that they ran into a hot goaltender…well Rinne is no slouch either folks…

Their D let them down…nope; they have one of the best D, if not the best D, in the league…

There Forwards couldn’t score…they did score…

What than? Karma baby…and they messed up with team chemistry…bringing in guys like Radulov, the other Kostitsyn…and Weber’s audition for WWE in the first round.

I honestly thought that the team that got them to the playoffs was a lot better

Team Chemistry – the missing ingredient in the second round

without these 2 chumps. I know management was trying to add pieces that would push the team to the Stanley Cup and adding the “best player not in the NHL” was the most logical choice.

But to be frank, this is like adding an AHL person…they DO not play at the elite level like the NHL, that’s why the best players in the world PLAY in the NHL. Any second liner in the NHL is better than ANY firstliner in the other leagues around the world.

You have to give credit where credit is due. Mike Smith was stellar in net and the forwards, lead by Mr. Doan, got the job done by working hard and getting dirty goals in front of the net. Nashville simply did not have the answer to clear people from the front to let Pekka make the saves needed.

This is why they call this the Wild West; any team in the West can make it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the Eastern Conference might have Great Individual players, but Hockey is a team game and when it comes to that, the West has the BEST hockey teams.

Now to our two combatants, both fought hard to get here and they have proved the doubters wrong (I for one did not expect to see Phoenix here). Will they both be one year wonders? Only time will tell, but for now…lets enjoy it shall we?

Los Angeles Kings vs. Phoenix Coyotes

The breakdown:

Will the Kings pull a Roadrunner and frustrate Mike Smith and the Yotes in to doing something stupid like sitting on a rocket? Only time will tell.

Both teams have great goaltending = wash

Quick has been awesome for a longtime, he was just waiting for the team to catch up to his awesomeness. Smith is flourishing with the system that the Yotes are using.

Both teams have great forwards = wash

Big Bodies that can hit and shoot with smaller guys that can skate and shoot; the word of the day folks…is SHOOT, you can’t score unless you shoot!!! Carter and Richards…words to live by…

Like Method Man – Dustin Brown has come to bring the pain hardcore to the brain

Both have great captains that lead by example = wash

Both use what they were born with to make life miserable for the other team. What they were born with are balls. (Sorry to any ladies that are reading this and who maybe offended by the fact that they were born without balls, I for one appreciate the fact that you weren’t born with balls)

The Kings have a better D than Phoenix = Advantage Kings

Tis true Phoenix, everyone knows this. This does not mean that your D isn’t good, or even great, it just means your Defense are less better than the Kings D. and yes, that first word is spelt correctly…I wanted to use “Tis”.

Hold the presses – We have a sighting of Darryl Sutter smiling

The Kings have a better Coach than Phoenix = Advantage Kings

Darryl Sutter, what a hockey mind he has, he can read the plays and adapt on the fly.

The Coyotes have a better system than LA = Advantage Coyotes

They might not have any household or sexy names like other teams, but what they do have is a system that works…and steamy eyes Pyatt. When Taylor Pyatt was playing in Vancouver, all the girls were talking about how steamy his eyes where. I have to admit I got lost in them once or twice, I can say that because I’m secure in my sexuality. This is the system that made Bryzgalov look like Lundqvist or Quick. Yeah…should’ve have thought of that before they signed him to that long contract eh Flyers?

Huh? What? Sorry…there was a Debbie Gibson song going through my mind…yeah, that’s it

The Coyotes have an advantage in the Intangibles = Advantage Coyotes?

Why the question mark at the end? Because that’s why it’s called Intangibles…it might hurt you just as much as it can help you. What do I think would fall into the Intangible categories? Well there is:

–         What they ate the day of the game, if they ate the wrong thing they might have to go to the dressing room during the game because of “equipment problems”. We all know what that means…squishy poop

–         Wear and Tear on the body

–         Etc.

Both teams seem to be an even match, so you would think that this would be a hard series to predict. To me it comes down to some simple things. Quick does not really rely on a system to help him to stop shots; he has natural talent. LA is too well coached and if Phoenix wins the 1st game, Sutter will adapt because his coaching style is more dynamic than Tippets fixed structure. LA has a balanced attack that is spread all over, so they will come in waves that will wear you down in a long series.

to a hell of a series coming our way – enjoy it hockey fans

By the way I’m explaining the reasons; it is pretty obvious that I have chosen the Kings to come out of the West, unlike my colleagues. But like my colleagues, a warning…do not take the Coyotes lightly.

I choose the Kings in 5 hard fought games

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Ker Plunk - where strategy meets toothpicks

Well I’m 1.5 for 4 so it hasn’t gone my way so far for my Western Conference Predictions, but at least my write up part of how the series will look like was correct. Small comfort I know…but you have to stay positive about stuff right?

The Western Conference now will not be a shot’em up extravaganza like a Left 4 Dead 2 game, but more of a slow methodical game like Ker Plunk.

So here we go with my analysis of the Western Conference Semi-Finals….

…ROUND 2…FIGHT!!!

St. Louis Blues vs. Los Angeles Kings

I have to give LA huge credit for coming together as a team and beating my Canucks. They deserved to win. You cannot fault the Canucks goalie tandem for this series lost, the D was bad and we didn’t score much. Yes, if we had Hodgson on the team we wouldn’t have been so bad and would’ve had some secondary scoring. But who, and be honest now, would have predicted that Daniel would be out with a concussion or Kesler would have been a no show? Regardless, that is now the past and this Stanley Cup run is no longer about my Canucks.

The Kings vs. The Blues… this is gonna be hard because I like both teams.

Both teams have great goaltending. Quick vs. Elliot…no Halak? Hope not. Can Quick continue his stellar play in net? Here’s thinking that he will. Elliot was good in the series against The Sharks, but the San Jose Sharks are NOT the Canucks. No one coming into the Playoffs are saying “Ohhh…No…we have to face the Sharks”. I’m not saying that St. Louis were looking past them, but they just focused on playing their game and knowing if they did, they will knock out the Sharks. The Sharks have iffy goaltending, like I stated before…Niemi is a one hit wonder. In this series, they will be going up against a future Vezina winning goalie in Quick; so goals will be harder to come by.

Both teams play a hardnosed checking game which leaves no room for error for their respective opponents. So this will be a wash.

Jonathan Quick stretching while an ice girl skates by - had to do it, too funny not to

So this series has to go to which team has the offence to make a difference? Which team has a game changer on their team? I see Dustin Brown as the difference in this game like he was in the 1st series. He can hit, score timely goals and give his team a shot of energy when they need it the most. Believe me, they will need it in this series; when you take 40 shots on net and nothing is going in and every time you have the puck…someone is on you like white on rice…I never did like brown rice…the team will need their captain to show them how to stay the course and don’t lose heart.

My Pick, as much as I like the Blues organization from top to bottom; I have to pick the Kings to win this one in 6. Book it Danno!!

Phoenix Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators

Welcome to the Second round Mr. Doan, we have a table ready for you.

Shane Doan crashing the net - He will need to do a lot of this if the Yotes plan on making a series out of this series

Congrats to the Coyotes for making it to the second round, it’s been a long time coming. I’m one of the few people from Canada who wishes that your team will stay in sunny Arizona because my friends and I would love to visit Phoenix next year to watch some hockey in the fall and help fill up some seats in your arena. It costs the same as watching the game here in Vancouver as it is to flying to Phoenix and watching the game there.

Ok, back to hockey…

The surprise of the Playoffs has to be Mike Smith backstopping the Coyotes to the second round. Did anyone see this coming? Sure did; he was pretty darn good in the regular season also and the fact that they played against Leaky Crawford helped them out lots. Chicago, your organization seriously needs a goalie, and no…you cannot have one of ours.

Saying that, Pekka is no Crawford and the Preds D is second to none. It will be hard for the Yotes offence to get through Nashville’s tight checking defense. Doan and company will need to keep punishing the opposing team with hits to wear them down if they hope to get to the net for some dirty scoring chances.

Weber shoots a Laser at something. What is that something? I don't know, that's why I said something...

Who wants to block a booming shot from the point a la Weber? I don’t, I don’t…unless you are paying me millions of dollars a year to do it. Not many people in the league would either, but if you wish to win in the playoffs…just drop down and hope that it doesn’t catch you in the wrong place. Scoring for either team will be at a premium due to the solid goaltending from both ends of the rink so it goes without saying that whatever scoring chances either team has, they better finish it. I do have a feeling that this will be the longest series in NHL history with every game going to at least two overtimes. Both goalies will have a combined 5 shutouts for this series. Just kidding…only 4 shutouts…the 5th game will be a high scoring affair; the score will be 3-2.

Phoenix or Predators? My money is on…The Preds in 5.

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