Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wake Me When It's Over

Is anyone else bored by the Second Round of the playoffs?? I mean, there are three series at 3-0, there's a threat of the Flyers going up 3-1 on the Canadiens tonight and Dallas could close out the Sharks tonight, as well. Could this be the quickest amount of time from the start of a round to the end of a round since the seven-game series was put into play?? Someone get the Elias Sports Bureau on that.

But what is going on here?? Are the match-ups really this uneven?? Are teams like the Sharks, Avalanche, and Rangers really this unmatched against their opponents?? It's just amazing that we could have three sweeps in a single round of the playoffs.

Granted, this could provide good things, like the Stanley Cup being presented earlier than mid-June. That's always a plus, especially if Dallas makes it to the Finals because that Texas heat could be killer on ice conditions. Plus, we could have very well-rested teams, which will result in high tempo hockey for the later rounds of the playoffs since most of the teams will be fresh.

The bad side of things, like the ice conditions, is that we have one series drag out. Let's assume that the sweeps happen, some how, I feel that the Habs/Flyers series will drag out to seven games, which will be killer for the schedule being every other day and creating a big void for hockey fans. Also, for a Caps fan like myself-- the possibility of an all Pennsylvania Eastern Conference Final.

Like my buddy Brandon said, we can only hope that an arena imploded if that happens...with Pierre Maguire in it.

Whatever may become of this-- let's just hope that there's something around the corner in ways of excitement, because so far; the second round has been a letdown.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why The NHL Needs Sean Avery

There was a question posed to me by a friend about what I thought about the whole Sean Avery fiasco that seems to be happening now in the NHL with his antics against Martin Brodeur in the first round of the playoffs. The more and more I think about it, the more and more I think the NHL needs more Sean Avery-esque players in the league. Not many more, but just enough to keep the drama of each game at a high level and makes people more inclined to watch.

Avery is a different type of player. Sure, he's an antagonist, but much more than that-- he can actually play the game. Avery is a scorer, passer, and can draw penalties to give his team a man-advantage, which more often than now-- they'll convert on.

The whole "Avery Rule" is blown out of proportion. It's not like it's a new rule, it's the same old Rule 78 that has been on the books for as far as many people can remember. The NHL just told the refs to actually call it and enforce it. What Avery did was so unorthodox and out of the blue, no one could really know what to do. At that point, you just look on in amazement of what's happening and then just take it in stride.

Avery is the guy who you'd love to have on your team, but hate him when he's playing against your team. He gets under people's skin like no one else and really bugs the hell out of the opposition so much that it often throws a team off their game plan, which opens it up for Avery's squad. Granted, he beaks off more than some people can stomach, but that's what makes Avery who he is.

This is why when the Rangers moved onto the second round-- the main focus was on what the Penguins would do to Avery. Now how they'll contain Gomez and Drury, not how they'll solve Lundqvist-- but what would they do to Avery. It takes all the pressure off the top guys for the Rangers and focuses on what can be done about Avery.

Plus, more people will be watching to see what happens. It has been hyped up and people will be inclined to watch. This is why more players like Avery will be needed. They'll draw attention to the game and allow the drama of "What will happen next" to any game, which will boost ratings, and give more attention to the sport.

Just because he doesn't have the accomplishments of others who beak off as frequently as him, Avery is make out as a villian by fans and media alike. I'm sure he could care less because what he is doing is effective enough to get his teams wins and that's all that is needed for him-- to win the game.

Plus, he dated Elisha Cuthbert, so he's alright in my books.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The John Druce Award

The trophies seem to be coming out of the woodworks in the recent years. Remember the ill-fated Mark Messier Leadership Award?? Yeah, neither do I. However, I think the idea of having the John Druce Award is very meaningful.

For Washington Capitals fans, Druce stepped into the role of goal-scorer for the Caps after Dino Ciccarelli went out with a knee injury. Druce racked up 14 goals and three assists in 15 games for the Caps as they made it all the way to the Wales Conference Finals. For the rest of his career, Druce only had three more playoff goals and three more playoff assists in 37 games after that 1990 Playoffs.

So, the premise for the Druce Award is simple. It is given out to the most unlikely guy to pot the most points for his team in the playoffs. However, the player must have a minimum of two rounds under his belt to be considered. Since we're in the second round, here's a look at some candidates in the early going.

-Johan Franzen, Detroit: On a team with Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and even Nicklas Lidstrom; Franzen leads the team with seven goals and ten points this playoffs. Franzen is tied for second this playoffs for points.

-Joe Pavelski, San Jose: Pavelski leads the Sharks with eight points, which could be the reason they are struggling when a veritable unknown is leading the team with a former Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner (Joe Thornton) and former Richard Trophy winner (Jonathan Cheechoo) on it.

-Vaclav Prospal, Philadelphia: The trade from Tampa hasn't slowed Prospal down, who is only two points behind teammate Daniel Briere for overall points lead in the playoffs. Prospal had 14 points in 18 games when he came over from Tampa.

That's just an early look. It seems that the big time players are filling their roles, which causes the Druce Award to be a toughy. We'll get through it and make it come together as an amazing thing that will take the hockey world by storm.....or not.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Overtime Love

If you hadn't heard by now, the Philadelphia Phantoms defeated the Albany River Rats in Game Five of the AHL Eastern Semis. That may not sound like much, but when I tell you that it was in the 5th overtime on the 101st Phantoms' shot-- it gets a little more impressive. The game was the longest in AHL History, surpassing the May 30, 2003 contest between the Houston Aeros and Hamilton Bulldogs by eight minutes and two seconds (82:58 to 74:56).

The highlights of the game include Albany's Michael Leighton saving 98 shots and Ryan Potulny scoring in dramtic fashion five hours and 38 minutes after the opening face-off.

There's something about overtimes in the playoffs that are fantastic. Maybe it's because you never know when it's going to end or you never know who could be the unlikely hero. You have your long marathon games like the Caps and Flyers had for Game Four of last round, then you have your quick and dirty finishes like the Habs and Flyers had during Game One of this round which took under a minute.

Granted, it wasn't a pro game that has had the longest overtime this season.

The Michigan Division I High School final between Marquette Senior High School and Orchard Lake St. Mary's went to 8 OTs at 1-1, before determining that it's best to call it a draw and have co-state champions. For kids who are not even 18, that's exhausting. Though this brought about the "why do we need everyone to be a winner" debate, but it is what it is.

It's hard not to love overtime. It's the most nerve-wracking, high-tempo, high-drama event in sports today. When your team wins, it's the biggest sigh of relief and greatest joy when it's over. If your team loses, then you have the worst taste in your mouth and biggest heartbreak in the world after the fact.

We've had 11 overtime games in the 52 games, which for you math-a-magicians is 21% of the games, which means every fifth game goes into overtime. That should create all kinds of drama for this year's playoffs, especially as the rounds go on. To compare to last year, this year's playoffs only need six more to match the 17 of the 2007 Cup playoffs.

So whether it's the NHL playoffs, AHL playoffs, the Michigan State Championships or whatever hockey it is....enjoy the overtime periods and respect the drama that comes with it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick and Dirty Playoff Picks

The first round is done that create some interesting match-ups for Round Two. A couple of upsets with the Stars taking out the Cup Champion Ducks and the Flyers edging out the Capitals, but the match-ups should bring about some interesting stories as they continue onward. With that, I bring you this.


(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Philadelphia Flyers-- Montreal in Six Games
Why?? The Flyers had a great run, but their lack of speedy defense will be their downfall against the speedy Habs forwards. Plus, the Habs are going to be determined to prove that the First Round hiccup against the Bruins was just some rust that needed to be brushed off.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) New York Rangers-- New York in Six Games
Why?? Goaltending will be key in this series and I think Henrik Lundqvist is a better goalie than Marc-Andre Fleury. Add that to the Pens not facing a tough enough opponent in the First Round and the Sean Avery Factor and it seems that Sidney Crosby will have to wait another year for his Cup shot.


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche-- Colorado in Seven Games
Why?? The Red Wings looked weak against the Predators, while the Avs seem to be kicking it into an extra gear with all their studs in their line-up. Jose Theodore is the hot goalie in the playoffs and could be able to carry the Avs back to the conference finals.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (5) Dallas Stars-- Dallas in Six Games
Why?? The Stars have the monkey off their back when it comes to winning in the playoff again. Add that to the difficulty the Sharks had with a very mediorce Flames team, the Stars could very well be the dark horse Cup contenders.

Last round, I was three for eight, so your results will probably vary-- mostly to the better, I hope. At least I wasn't like the Orb. They start tonight-- so go ahead and sit back and enjoy this round as we get closer and closer to the Cup.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's Next For The Flames

The Flames best players were their best players in this series. The problem is, the three top players were really the only ones to show up in any way shape or form. There's plenty to wonder in Cowtown of what went wrong, how to right the wrong, and what to do with some key free agents.

Secondary scoring is something that will have to be addressed this summer. Jarome Iginla was amazing, potting 50 goals and 98 points, while the next highest player was 20 goals and 21 points behind him. Daymond Langkow was the alternate goal scorer and should get a contract offer on that point alone. The second leading point getting, Kristian Huselius, may have fallen out of favor with the Calgary brass due to his play down the stretch. Owen Nolan's play in the playoffs and down the stretch could get him another contract if he wants to come back, while Craig Conroy may come back at a lower cost.

Defensively, the Flames could have been much better, but Dion Phaneuf showed that he will be the anchor for many years to come. Robyn Regehr and Adrian Aucoin will help nurture him to an even higher level of play and leadership before their tenures are done. However, the defense will really need to help out their goaltending, as the Flames were giving up many more goals than desired.

Of course, Miikka Kiprusoff has plenty of rough patches this season. He wasn't named a Vezina finalist for the first time in four years, which should come as no surprise due to his 2.69 GAA and only two shutouts to his credit. Something will have to be addressed when it comes to their youngsters in net, as well. Brent Krahn and Curtis McElhinney are UFAs this summer and if they want to keep their goaltending prospects, they should get thei act together in regards to how they want to develop them.

Another thing to look at is the special teams for the Flames. The Flames were 20th on the PK and 19th on the PP this season, which could be their Achilles heel if they can't get it fixed in time. They have the tools to make a great power play and penalty kill, but they need to be consistent in order to get a better rank and have a more favorable opponent in the playoffs.

The Flames were the only Western Conference Canadian team to make the playoffs, so they can be proud of that. The problem is they will need to be able to get past the first round to really show how successful they have become.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What's Next For The Capitals

It was strong effort, a strong run, but it came up short for the Washington Capitals. However, it's something for this young team, who was left for dead in November, can build off of and take as a learning experience. It took overtime in Game Seven to end the dream season-- but now it's time to see where they can go in order to advance as a team.

First and foremost, Caps' GM George McPhee needs to extend contracts to Cristobal Huet, Matt Cooke, and Sergei Fedorov. These three acquisitions at the deadline proved to be nothing but good for the Caps and should be able to help the Caps more so over a full season. Especially with Huet, who was amazing down the stretch for the Caps and allowed them to get into the position they were in.

Secondly, the Caps need to look to the free agent market or trade pipeline in order to get some solid defenders in the mix. Granted, the Caps defense wasn't horrible this season, there's too many inexperienced players in the starting line-up. Bring in one good, experienced defenseman, who can sit back and play defense, and the Caps should be good on that aspect.

The offense was the big x-factor for the Caps, with Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin showing their muscle through the season and in he playoffs. Ovechkin is in Washington for 13 more years, Semin and Backstrom have contracts through the '09-'10 season-- so the goal-scoring should be set. They will have to get role players like Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, Boyd Gordon, and Matt Bradley under contract as well.

There are one or two holes to sure-up before the Caps can make a large push to the Stanley Cup, but to push as hard as they did and give it all they had until the last goal is a great start for this young team. It's almost a good thing this Caps squad did lose, so they will now know how it feels and they will have that hunger to win at all cost.

Game Seven Drama Begins

If the playoffs in the NHL weren't dramatic enough, tonight's games feature two Game Sevens and potentially two upsets. Last night's Game Seven between Montreal and Boston was anticlimactic with a 5-0 Montreal blow out, but tonight's games should bring a little more drama and little better action.

In the East, the "Cinderella" Washington Capitals will try to see if they can ride the momentum of a big win in Philadelphia Monday night and if the result of the 1988 Patrick Division Semi-Finals can repeat itself. For the Flyers, they hope they can regain their winning ways and not have a 3-1 lead slip away. It's been quite a turnaround for the Flyers this year too, going from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to one win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

Out West, the Calgary Flames look to make it to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but will have to deal with the San Jose Sharks' home crowd. For the Flames to be successful, they will need to get everyone on the roster to contribute in one way or another. For the Sharks, the thought of playoff failure of recent past is haunting them, which could lead to a big change if they can't get out of the first round this season.

The drama of a Game Seven, even in the first round, is something that puts me on the edge of my seat. Two of the past three Stanley Cup finals have gone to a Game Seven, which puts even more drama into the spotlight. There's just something about the game that makes me want to cheer, boo, and maybe throw something at the TV. Don't lie, we all do it. For me, I get up in arms when a regular season game is on, much less a Game Seven playoff game.

Personally, tonight could see two of the teams I'm pulling for either move on or eliminated. Granted, there could be a split, but I'm thinking it's all or nothing for me. I've already got one team out, so it would be horrible for me to lose anymore. Let's just hope my armchair GM/Coaching doesn't get too out of hand tonight.

What's Next For The Bruins

The comeback for the Bruins did not happen as planned, but they had plenty to build off on. With some of the slumps they had, the Bruins were lucky to get into the playoffs at all and pushed the East leading Montreal Canadiens to the brink.

Most, if not all, of that can be contributed to Claude Julien's coaching. Julien was brought in and made a big impact on how the team was coached. Julien made the team buy into his system, which translated into success on the ice. Though they did have some rough patches, Julien was able to get the team to persevere through it all and get a playoff spot. There's no question why he's a front-runner for the Jack Adams Award.

One of the things Julien and GM Peter Chiarelli may need to look at is getting some kind of secondary scoring for the Bruins. Marc Savard and Marco Sturm were really the only guys up front consistently contributing. Phil Kessel started to show signs of life in the playoffs and Chuck Kobasew was potting goals here and there, but more will be needed to stay competitive. If the Bruins can find another forward to contribute, the team could be a well-rounded offensive threat.

Defensively, Zdeno Chara was sound both on the back-end and in creating offense. Dennis Wideman was also a pleasant surprise, putting up a career year in goals, assists, points, and plus/minus. Mark Stuart and Aaron Ward were both very sound on the blue line, but Andrew Ference could be the the weak link for the Bruins blue line. The main thing for the Bruins is to get Ward and Wideman under contract in order to keep this core group of blue liners in tact.

We joke on the Show all the time that the Bruins need a goalie, especially considering the amount they have on their roster now. That said, in the absence of Manny Fernandez to a knee injury, Tim Thomas took the reigns and ran with it. He showed that he has what it took to be a starter in the NHL. After being acquired from Phoenix, Alex Auld played reasonably well when called upon by the team. Auld is a UFA this season, but this display may warrant him a small contract. That said, with Fernandez and Thomas under contract for another season and Tuukka Rask waiting on the sidelines-- it could be a very crowded crease in Beantown.

It could be considered a success for some, a disappointment for others; but it's a start. If the Bruins can some loose ends tied up, they could get back to their glory days.

Monday, April 21, 2008

What's Next For The Ducks

It wasn't meant to be for the Anaheim Ducks to repeat as Stanley Cup champions again. Now, there are plenty of questions that are leading into the off-season and leading into the '08-'09 season.

The obvious question is what's next for Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. Both took their time this season to figure out if they were going to come back for a "last hoorah" and go for another Cup. This season, the Samuelis, owners of the Ducks, as well as GM Brian Burke won't be as patient. Selanne is a free agent, so the Ducks can veto a return for him, but Niedermayer is contractually obligated for another year, which will make Burke force the issue for a decision.

That is if Burke is still around. Though he has a year left on his contract with the Ducks, Burke's name has been brought up for the Maple Leafs and Canucks vacant GM positions. Burke has repeatedly said that he will stay in Anaheim, but the business of hockey is always changing, so you never know what's around the corner.

The offense will be a big concern for the Ducks, as they were ranked 16th of all playoff teams in goals for and tied for 27th in goals for (205). The definites for next season is the fact the Ducks have most of their key cogs signed up for a while. Ryan Getzlaf and Chris Kunitz have been re-signed, and Corey Perry is the last to be re-signed. This core group of players will lead the Ducks into the future. Doug Weight is the only other forward, aside from Selanne, whom is a UFA this summer. Perry, Ryan Carter, Drew Miller and Brian Sutherby are RFAs of the rostered players. With the young core in tact, goal scoring should become more prevalent, injuries aside.

Defensively, the Ducks are solid with only Joe DiPenta as a UFA. The rest of the blue line is re-signed for next season, so it's up to Niedermayer to see how intact it will be. The defense was very crucial this season, helping the Ducks to the 2nd least goals given up (191), only behind Detroit (184).

In net, J-S Giguere had his problems with injuries, but still racked up 35 wins and a 2.12 GAA. The surprise in net was the play of Jonas Hiller. The Swiss netminder went 10-7-1 with a .927 save percentage and 2.06 GAA. This performance may have gotten the RFA netminder another contract.

It wasn't meant to be for the Ducks, with a slow start, but strong second half. The chemistry didn't seem to be there when the Ducks needed it the most. The Ducks will be the most looked after team this off-season, especially considering all the questions surrounding the former Cup champs.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

What's Next For The Predators

A fourth straight first-round exit and new ownership could bring extreme changes in Music City, USA and could see a different look for the Predators come the beginning of the '08-'09 campaign. The Predators have only faced two teams in their ventures to playoffs, losing to the Red Wings twice in six games and the Sharks twice in five games. There's 12 other teams out there to face, so maybe next year the Preds could beat one of them if they faced them in the playoffs.

First thing is first though, what's going to happen with David Poile and Barry Trotz. Poile seems to be alright in his position, as he has built up this team to a playoff team mixing development and key free agents to make a successful squad. Odds are Trotz's days behind the Nashville bench are over. He has been the only coach in the teams 10 season existence, but it almost seems that it's time for a change, which should probably happen very soon.

After the front office moves are figured out, the Preds NEED to get Dan Ellis under contract. Ellis stole the #1 job from Chris Mason this season and in the playoffs, he faced an average of 40 shots a game and kept the team in the games night-in and night-out. Maybe the Preds could see if they can unload Mason to a team looking for goaltending and go into next season with Ellis and Pekka Rinne.

Up front, J-P Dumont was key for the Preds offense this season, while Jason Arnott continue his consistent scoring ability. The Preds should be worried about Alexander Radulov, not only for hurting his own teammates, but also because his production is not up to the snuff the brass may have wanted. It could be a learning curve, but it seems that much was made of Radulov, but not too much has been delivered. Look for Martin Erat to get an extension after his display this season.

Defensively, the Preds definitely missed the presence of Kimmo Timonen; however it allowed Marek Zidlicky to get back into his groove, gave Ryan Suter a time to shine, and put Shea Weber in a leadership position. Expect big extensions for Suter and Weber quickly, as both are RFAs and will definitely get some offer sheets if July 1st rolls around and they are unprotected.

As a whole, you add Steve Sullivan back into the line-up and a few cogs here and there-- the Preds could actually be a team to be reckoned with. Of course, that seems to be the same rally-cry year after year with Nashville, but that's something you have to keep saying and ultimately it'll come true.

What's Next For The Wild

The Wild are the first team out of the Western Conference to be eliminated and the first divisional leader to be ousted as well. Going into the series with the Avalanche, it looked very promising as the Wild took the season series 5-3, but the lack of production after going up two game to one (only four goals in the last three games) ultimately became the demise for the team from the State of Hockey.

In order to keep the scoring going, they'll need to get their second-leading goal-scorer Brian Rolston under a new contract. In order to do that, they would have to cut ties with Pavol Demitra, which seems to be heading that way anyway-- so that works out perfectly. Also, they'll have to get P-M Bouchard under a new deal to help build for the future. On top of that, they have to hope that Marian Gaborik can build off his career year in all categories (42g, 41a, 83p) and slowly started to get the leadership qualities the team was hoping he could develop.

On the blue line, Brent Burns developed into a great two-way defenseman leading all defensemen in points for the Wild and leading in plus/minus as well. Though injuries to Kurtis Foster and Nick Schultz hindered the Wild in the playoffs, the lack of production from Kim Johnsson all season and bad defensive play by Sean Hill and Martin Skoula didn't help the team's cause either. Hill, Petteri Nummelin, and Keith Carney are all UFA this summer, with Carney being my choice as the only one to get re-signed.

As a first year starter, Niklas Backstrom was huge. With a 33-13-8 record and a .920 save percentage, Backstrom solidified his place into the #1 goalie realm. Josh Harding has a rough sophomore campaign, going 11-15-2, but played well with a 2.94 GAA and .908 save percentage. Both are in their contract year in '08-'09, but I can see them being the goaltending tandem for the Wild for many years to come.

With a new owner in Craig Leipold, who knows if Doug Riseborough and Jacques Lemaire will still be at the helms of the Minnesota Wild, especially after a quick playoff exit. Lemaire could go just to start a new movement behind the bench and a fresh start. Though you can't blame anyone for the defeat, they just ran into a hot team down the stretch and it's never easy when coming out of the Northwest Division.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's Next For The Devils

After a halfway decent regular season, the lack of scoring and lack of strong defense became the demise for the New Jersey Devils, so now it's back to the drawing board for Lou Lamoriello to see where they went wrong, where they can improve, and how to get further next year.

Offense will have to be addressed, as of all 16 playoff teams, the Devils were 15th in goals for and in the league, they were 26th with their 206 goals on the season. The only upside to the offense was Zach Parise putting up a 30-goal season and John Madden potting his first 20-goal season since the '00-'01 campaign. However, Patrik Elias had a big drop-off in production, while Brian Gionta hasn't found the scoring touch that allowed up to put up 89 points in '05-'06. Many can attribute this to losing Scott Gomez to free agency this summer.

Also, with the first round exit, you have to wonder why the Devils didn't utilize Kevin Weekes more. The Devils didn't re-sign Scott Clemmensen in lieu of getting a veteran like Weekes in as a back-up to Martin Brodeur to maybe save Brodeur from starting 70+ games this year. Brodeur played 77 games this year and you have to wonder if he was more than a bit tired this season, especially when it came to the playoffs. You have to wonder if the Weekes had a couple more starts here and there, could the Devils have extended their run??

The defense was a bit of a surprise, as the Devils let up under 200 goals for the first time since the lockout. Even with the loss of Brian Rafalski, guys like Paul Martin and Johnny Oduya took control of the defense and made the Devils look pretty good, even without the big names on the blue line. In addition, both Martin and Oduya were able to help with making the first pass out of the zone to create offense from the back-end.

Brent Sutter's first venture behind an NHL bench was a trying one at first, but it got better and better as the season went on. I think as Sutter gets more and more comfortable with his team and with what he needs to do in order to win, he could be a great coach in the NHL. The Devils and Lamoriello just need to give him some more time to flourish before cutting ties with him.

This summer, offense should be something that the Devils should focus on. They'll have plenty of options out there, though whether they want to spend the money will be the true "wait and see" point. Another "wait and see" point is whether or not Kevin Weekes will get more time next season, especially with the flame-out the Devils had this playoffs. They'll have plenty of time to look back and think about what went wrong, as they are the second team in the league and in the Eastern Conference to be out of the playoffs.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Razor Dulled in Ottawa

The Senators made a step into looking into next year as GM Bryan Murray said that Ray Emery is not in his plans for the Senators next season. This is after Emery was the center of many conflicts this season due to his tardiness for practice, as well as off-ice issues that seeped into the dressing room. As stated in the CBA, the Senators can buy out the rest of Emery's almost $3.2M contract at only 1/3rd of the price since Emery is under-26.

To say Emery was a distraction could be considered as an understatement of the year candidate. I wouldn't go as far as saying he was a "cancer" as many people would, but he did ruffle some feathers in the locker room with his antics off the ice. Also, it seemed that he wanted to be the center of attention with the way he dressed and the car he drove, which didn't help his cause when he may have wanted to maintain a low-key persona after all of the hub-bub went down.

The big question is, what is next for Emery?? With the lack of goaltending talent on the free agent market this summer, Emery could be a very hot property. However, what coach and GM would be willing to take the drama that comes with Emery?? The risk/reward is definitely something that has to be taken into account, because when Emery is on, he is a great goalie. Yet, this season he never really showed the sparks of greatness that helped him get the Sens to the Cup. Many wonder if his wrist/hand injury healed completely or if it's still bugging him.

So here goes Ray Emery-- more than likely trying to find a new spot in the hockey lexicon and maybe trying to get his career back on the right track before it was derailed by this past season. He seems to be learning as he goes along, though in some cases he learns a little too late for his own good.

For the Senators, it'll be a chance for them to promote Brian Elliott or Jeff Glass in order for them to back-up Martin Gerber. Granted, the idea of a young back-up could cause much panic for the Senators, especially should Gerber go down to injury. Expect some UFA shopping for a cheap back-up on the Senators wish-list.

The drama continues to unfold in Canada's capitol, which should only create more storylines by the time the Draft rolls around.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What's Next For Ottawa

Well, thankfully for the Senators, the season that became so promising and ended in what could be called one of the biggest failures in history of the game has finally ceased and now it's time to step back and figure out what's going to happen next. It's obviously easier said that done, but it's worth speculating on since the Sens will have more time than any playoff team to figure out how to right the ship that has gone amazingly off course.

First, I think trying to cut anchor with Ray Emery will be on the top of any list. Emery's distraction to the team is what started to bring this team down from the inside. No one knows what goes on in the lockerroom, but from media reports it seems that Razor wasn't the best fit for this team. Plus, Martin Gerber has more than held his own when it came to being the top dog in Ottawa. Granted, Gerber had some shaky times, but that does happen from time to time.

Which leads me to the second point which is trying to figure out why the defense was so absurdly bad this season after being a big part of what got the Sens to the Cup Finals a season previous. Wade Redden is sure gone considering his streakiness this season and unbelievable
downturn in his stock this season won't warrant the price tag is will be asking. With that money, they could re-sign Mike Commodore if they wanted to in order to have grit in the defensive end and a stay-at-home blue liner to aide Gerber.

Third, figuring out what's going on behind the bench. Bryan Murray has said that he's not going to go back behind the bench for another season. Who's going to be heading up the Sens next season?? Bob Hartley's name been thrown out there, Peter Laviolette's future in Carolina could lead him to Ottawa, and who knows what's going to happen in Long Island with Ted Nolan. However, Murray will have some time to look over all candidates thoroughly before making the right choice.

Finally, no more "300" parodies. Who are the ad-wizards who came up with that one??

For Senators fans, the hope is that next season can last a little longer and not drop off like it did in the second-half of the season this season. That, and they need to hire Stan Wong to help out with the injuries problem. He's a miracle worker.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is It 11:55 Already For The Caps??

The one thing I was very concerned with when it came to the Capitals in the playoffs is what's going to happen with the defense. They had plenty of guys to move the puck, but would there be enough guys to stay back and help not only to cover for the rushing playmakers, but to help out Cristobal Huet if he needed someone on odd-men rushes. On top of that, experience in the playoffs and dealing with the pressure would probably have helped to.

The past two games for the Caps, you can see that the inexperience is there, as well as the sloppiness and not having guys cover for the rushers. The giveaway in Game Two that led to the Jeff Carter goal and the giveaway in Game Three that led to the Mike Richards penalty-shot goal are two prime examples of sloppy play on the back-end.

The blame can't be put squarely on the defense, though they are giving up an insane amount of shots, but the offensive guys who need to be on their game aren't kicking it into high gear. Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Semin have been very stagnant during this series and will have to be clutch in order to make the Caps believe again. These guys will have to get a sense of urgency in order to up their game and the game around them.

Whatever may happen, I don't think you can call this season a disappointment by any stretch of the imagination. The way the Caps surged from December to now has been one of the best Cinderella stories in the NHL and proved the team could be a winner again. They re-energize a very dormant DC hockey area and put all eyes on the US Nation's Capitol for the hockey world to focus on. Not only that, but they made Journey quite relevant again.

It has been a helluva ride. I definitely hope it doesn't stop here, but if it does-- sobeit. It made the Caps winners again, it make the Caps relevant again, and it gave the youngsters a very good sense of what is at hand when dealing with a playoff situation.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Jumping Onto The Bandwagon Early

I've decided that I'll go ahead and be a trendsetter. Instead of waiting back, I'm officially going to back the Los Angeles Kings as the next team to strike it big in the NHL. Much the way the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals have made it, so too should the Kings in the next two to three seasons. And why not, this is a team that is only missing a few components to be the next success story.

First off, the Kings will have to clear up their goaltending situation. The Dan Cloutier experience, which could be my next band name (maybe with Cloutier in it), bombed badly. Adding insult to injury, they lost Mathieu Garon to the Oilers, Jason LaBarbera was inconsistent and got hurt, and Jonathan Bernier was sent down to protect him from a shelling. However, there seems to be light, Cloutier will probably get bought out, Bernier looks to be the next Carey Price story, LaBarbera will likely be ready for the full season this fall, and Erik Ersberg played surprisingly well down the stretch.

With that out of the way, the defense will be the next thing to look at. Jack Johnson is obviously the future and will need some time to bloom into that premier defenseman. With the #2 pick in the Draft in June, odds are the Kings will also pick up Drew Doughty to help bulk up the blue line. Lubomir Visnovsky and Tom Preissing will have to be the gap between the youngsters and Rob Blake to make the transition a little smoother.

The last problem could be behind the bench. Marc Crawford doesn't seem to be the right fit for this young team. The blending of ideals isn't clicking and I wouldn't be surprised if Crawford was going to get canned if the team doesn't get off to a good start in '08-'09. Who they could replace him with, who can say. The move could be quicker if another team ditches their say, the Islanders. It'll be Crawford's time to shine if he can't get something going.

The only thing the Kings won't have to worry about is offense. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Alexander Frolov have lead the way. Patrick O'Sullivan made a big surge before the end of the season, while Mike Cammalleri's stock may have dropped, but with him becoming a UFA at the end of the '09 season, it may not be a trouble to ditch him.

It could be happy days again in Los Angeles. They may have lost some fan base due to the Anaheim Ducks winning the Cup last season, but if this young team can make some noise, the stars will surely shine bright in the Staples Center.

So, there you are LA Kings and fans. The Scotty Wazz Seal of Approval. It could either be a good thing or the kiss of death for an entire franchise-- either way, it'll be a great thing to wait and see for. If it does mean good things, let it be known that I was the first to believe. Maybe you can invite me to a game and I can schmooze with the stars and maybe hook-up with Ellen Page....hey, a guy can dream.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Mock (Rough) Draft-- Lotto Edition

The ping-pong balls have been bounced, the order is selected; now let the speculation begin. Last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the NHL Draft Lottery making them the #1 pick for the NHL Draft in Ottawa this June. Since we know the top 14 order, let me go ahead and start the mock-drafting with the lotto picks

1. Tampa Bay Lightning select Steve Stamkos, Sarnia Sting (OHL)-- Stamkos can be a franchise player and has plenty of the tools to break into the NHL after his first camp. He has the right size and could learn a lot from another #1 pick, Vinny Lecavalier, on how to deal with the pressure.

2. Los Angeles Kings select Drew Doughty, Guelph Storm (OHL)-- Doughty is built like a brickhouse at 5'11 and 213 pounds. With Jack Johnson already back there, Doughty is another cog that could be used to solidify the Kings defense for years to come.

3. Atlanta Thrashers select Luke Schenn, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)-- Scheen is a solid defenseman who will help ease the pain of the Thrashers trading away Braydon Coburn. His right hand shot will also help out the left-handed heavy blue line in Blueland.

4. St. Louis Blues select Kyle Beach, Everett Silvertips (WHL)-- Beach has made his mark on the WHL, which will help entice the Blues on picking him up. Beach is very much like a current Blue, Keith Tkachuk, in that he can score, muck it up on the boards, and drop the gloves when needed.

5. New York Islanders select Zach Bogosian, Peterborough Petes (OHL)-- While the future in net and up-front seem to be in check, Bogosian can bring a young puck-moving defenseman to help out with the duties that could arise for the Isles down the road.

That's the way I'm seeing the lotto picks. As we get into lulls of the playoffs, I'll get a little more in-depth, complex-- full of sleepers and disappointments and the full draft board through the first round by the Cup finals....stay tuned.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quick and Dirty Playoff Picks

Now, I could be that guy and analyze every portion of the NHL playoff match-ups, giving the ins and outs-- but why bore you with all that mumbo-jumbo. You want predictions, you want picks, you want the meat and potatoes-- all killer, no filler. Welp, drive-thru to the second window because your order is, am I hungry now or what??


(1) Montreal Canadiens vs. (8) Boston Bruins-- Montreal in Five Games
Why?? Look, the Habs took all eight games from the Bruins and are on a roll with Carey Price anchoring the team from the pipes. With Alex Kovalev playing great and everyone chipping in for the Habs; the Bruins don't stand a chance.

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators-- Pittsburgh in Six Games
Why?? The Senators are depleted and one of the worst teams since American Thanksgiving. Though they dominated the Pens in the regular season, the Pens will have too much fire power for the Sens to handle and the media frenzy behind the scenes will wear Ottawa down.

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers-- Washington in Seven Games
Why?? The Caps are the hottest team in the playoffs, but the Flyers are always a tough team to play against. Alex Ovechkin will have a lot to prove, as will Cristobal Huet so expect both to be on top of their games and squeak this series out in the distance.

(4) New Jersey Devils vs. (5) New York Rangers-- New Jersey in Five Games
Why?? The offense for the Rangers hasn't been the most consistent and you have to wonder which Jaromir Jagr will show up. It should be a goaltending duel, but you never bet against Martin Brodeur in situations like these.


(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Nashville Predators-- Detroit in Five Games
Why?? The Wings are going to overpower the Preds from the word go and won't let up. They have plenty to prove because of their recent playoff woes, so they should be out for blood.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Calgary Flames-- Calgary in Six Games
Why?? The Flames are far more physical and should throw the Sharks off their game. Evgeni Nabokov doesn't have the best playoff history, while the Flames could be underestimated and be able to shed the underdog label if they get out to a quick series start.

(3) Minnesota Wild vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche-- Minnesota in Seven Games
Why?? The Wild have a team build for defensive playoff hockey and the wheels to get goals when needed. Niklas Backstrom should be solid, while Marian Gaborik will be the main focus. While the Avs have everyone healthy, I don't think they can contain the speed, nor be able to dictate the flow of the game like the Wild will.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Dallas Stars-- Anaheim in Seven Games
Why?? The Ducks have been on fire after a slow start and getting Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer back. The only reason the Stars will be in it is if Marty Turco can stand on his head like he did last year against the Vancouver Canucks in the first round.

The playoffs begin on Wednesday, so strap in, throw the remote out, and enjoy.

New Direction

So, with the the old way this blog was going to hell and the other things just not working as I wanted-- I figured I'll make this a personal hockey musing and ranting page. Granted, this probably going to be ignored and we'll start all over again-- but what can ya do?? Let's see how this works.

All of this will probably be put into words on Face Off Hockey Show....but deal with it.