Monday, January 21, 2013

2012-13 Western Conference Preview


Couple of powerhouses here. Patrick Kane seems to have comeback to the NHL with a newfound focus, and despite not playing with Toews, should be putting up monster numbers. Marian Hossa has allegedly completely recovered from his terrifying incident with Raffi Torres in last years playoffs. The question is will they be able to compete with the new beasts of the Central, the St. Louis Blues. Should both teams stay healthy, this battle for the top of the division should be exciting. Expect the Red Wings, after being decimated on the blue line to try and survive on their above average forward depth. The Predators are likely to settle in nicely in the 3rd spot after losing Suter in the offseason to the Minnesota Wild. And the Blue Jackets are still a thing.

Potential impact players: Sergei Bobrovsky, Artem Anisimov, Marian Hossa, Pekka Rinne, David Backes, Jaro Halak

Drink of the division: Tequila sunrise. The red (wings) was (were) on the top for a while, but now it's on the way down.


Not nearly as much movement here, aside from the Dallas Stars picking up some key free agents and dropping some dead weight in Steve Ott. The shortened season may help the aging Stars, however the compressed season may hurt them. Expect the Kings to fail to live up to the hype as it is very unlikely that Jonathan Quick will be able to replicate his success from last years postseason. Not that he won't be strong, but his run in the playoffs would be tough for anyone to replicate. There is a lot of decent talent here, but we will have to wait and see who rises to the top as pretty much any team could get hot and win the division in a shortened season. Ryan Getzlaf is very bald.

Potential impact players: Mike Smith, Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Marleau, Jamie Benn, Shane Doan, Jonas Hiller, Teemu Selanne

Drink of the division: Franzia: we could be looking at a wicked hangover in LA.


Lots of moving and shaking here. What's going on with Luongo? Will Parise and Suter put Minnesota over the top? How long until Colorado breaks out? Are all of Calgary's free agent signings enough to make them dangerous? In order: Nobody knows, but he will probably be traded eventually; probably; another 2 years or so; and no. Minnesota looks very strong but could use an upgrade in net. Suter is a solid defensive defenseman and should help provide help for the tandem in goal. Vancouver looks to be on a slight downswing after running this division for so many years. Not that they won't continue to be strong, just simply no longer the powerhouse they once were. Oh and Edmonton Oilers.

Potential impact players: Zach Parise, Gabriel Landeskog, Luongo/Schneider, Jarome Iginla, Justin Schultz, Jordan Eberle

Drink of the division: flaming Dr. Pepper. Put the Flames out before you even start enjoying it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Look Ahead: 2012-2013 Eastern Conference

Eastern Conference Preview (by Division)

We're at the starting line for a short, action packed season.  Expect to see more groin strains, less fans at Islanders games, and the leafs still not making the playoffs.  Here's our look at the (b)eastern conference:

Northeast Division
A lot of teams have something to prove here...  Goaltending will be the biggest focus in the Northeast, starting with Rask in Boston.  Their success depends on Rask repeating his success from two years ago, and as long as he can keep his political views to himself, they should find themselves on their way to another division title.  Toronto is looking to solidify their netminding, hoping that Scrivens or Reimer can become a force in the crease.  Between the media attention and trade rumors (Bobby Lou), I think it'll be too much for the Leafs to make it into the playoffs (finally).  Ottawa has found a trio of potential number ones, but expect to see them deal one of Bishop, Lehner, and Anderson.  Trading one of these for a quality skater could launch them past the first round of playoffs this year.  Montreal and Buffalo just need to hope last season is truly behind their goaltenders and things get back on track.  

Players who can make or break their team:  Tyler Seguin, Alexei Kovalev, Scrivens/Reimer, Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Miller

Drink of the Division:  Corona, for Gomez of course (and all of that sun and sand in Alaska).

Atlantic Division
Probably a biased opinion, but the Atlantic is always an exciting division to watch and a fight to the end.  Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the Rangers have made moves to top last season, while the Islanders sign AHL tough guys and New Jersey gets older in goal.  This division will be ruled by whoever can get hot and stay hot.  If Crosby can stay healthy and return to form and Malkin/Neal both have at least mediocre seasons, Pitt will stay on top.  Philly needs folks like Read and Couturier to have repeat seasons, while the Rangers need their star power to stay stars into the playoffs.  The Islanders have a very young core that could step up in the short season and launch them into the playoffs, but another Oilers-esque season could very well be on the horizon.  The Devils need to find Parise's goal scoring and leadership to stand a chance, espeically with their goaltenders only getting older.  Trading one of their 8 NHL defensemen for a winger could be coming very soon.

Players that can make or break their team:  Sidney Crosby (obviously), Ilya Bryzgalov (obviously), Rick Nash (obviously), Travis Hamonic (not obviously), and whoever is on the Devils top line with Zajac and Kovalchuk.

Drink of the Division:  Long Island Iced Tea, because it will mess you up, just like the Atlantic Division will be.

Southeast Division
A good amount of roster changes here, all by teams looking to take control of the #1 spot in the south east.  Key signings/trades for each team start with the Staal family reunion in Carolina.  This duo, Alexander Semin, and the maturity of the defense (McBain, Faulk) will hopefully send them back to the playoffs.  Washington has brought in Mike Ribeiro to help Backstrom and Greene bounce back into successful seasons.  Winnipeg is looking to Olli Jokinen to bring winning hockey back (finally).  Down in Florida, the Panthers want to build on top of last year's success.  Cornerstone George Parros's mustache should be that catalyst, along with the late signing Kulikov needing to fill in Jason Garrison's skates.  Tampa Bay thinks they finally have a solution for their netminding problems- former Predator Anders Lindback.  Blake and Adam will be rooting him and Steven Stamkos on to hopefully improve the team's awful goal differential.  

Players that can make or break their team:  Alexander Semin, Mike Green, Evander Kane, Kris Versteeg, Anders Lindback

Drink of the Division:  Caribou Lou, because everyone always seems to forget about the Southeast, just like they forget about what happened last night.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Current NHL CBA Situation is Totally Fucked

"We're not making money, and that's one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we're spending right now. [The Wild's] revenues are fine. We're down a little bit in attendance, but we're up in sponsorships, we're up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we're generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild's] biggest expense by far is player salaries."

That's Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold speaking to the local Star Tribune this past spring. 

$196 million dollars

That's how much money Leipold committed to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter just a few months later when they signed their respective 13-year, $98-million-dollar deals.

Why would Leipold, after imploring that expenses were "the issue," choose to add two behemoth contracts and a fat chunk of red to his expenses just months before a possible labor dispute?

Here are some quotes from just after he signed the two stars.

"We’re going to get a Winter Classic. We’re an exciting team. We’ve got a lot of really interesting personalities on our team now. Obviously, we’re a great market. We’ve always known that. We’re a great team, we’ve got good players. We’re everything."

"This is a game changer. We're overnight changing who we are. We're changing our identity.


I remember talking to (COO) Matt Majka. I said, 'Matt can you do it? How much more can you sell?' This is a business decision. He said, 'I can't even answer that. I have no comparable situation to use. This is like starting over. I can only tell you it's going to be huge.' 

That was it. That was the decision. And we said OK.


We are going to be able to skip ahead four or five steps of development and recruiting costs to get to a place that could take us three years to get to, and we can do it now."

The signings signal a desire to win and to make money, with equal emphasis on both parts. It's a gamble of the gargantuan variety for Leipold that stands to pay enormous dividends, but is also a drastic risk.

This upcoming season, the Wild were hoping to start the process of transforming from a stable, community-driven team to an elite entertainment force in the Western Conference. Exciting, fast, and winners.

However, they're not there yet. They've missed the playoffs four straight seasons and as a middling team have been unable to acquire premiere talent through the draft. They've been stuck in a rut.

Faced with a lockout and with his recent signings looming on his mind, one has to wonder what approach Leipold is taking in regards to the CBA negotiations.

Struggling teams such as Columbus, Anaheim, and the New York Islanders stand to benefit from holding out as long as possible for increased revenue sharing. They don't necessarily want to take money from other teams, they just don't want to be in the red year after year.

Successful teams like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver would probably rather keep as much of their money as possible. They're not trying to hoard, it's just business.

Where does the money for the increased revenue sharing come from then, if the successful teams want to keep the money they've made but help their fellow owners? The share that belongs to the players. If the owners up their share, they can use the extra cash to help each other out without feeling like they're dipping into their own money.

So where does Minnesota stand on this issue as a team that, if there's a 2012-13 season, probably won't see a dime from revenue-sharing and probably will turn a profit? The same place as Los Angeles, carrying momentum off their Cup win, and Florida, thanks to their first playoff berth in over a decade. All three teams really want this season to happen.

That would seem to categorize them with the successful clubs who stand to miss out on a lot of money if the season doesn't happen, but it's not quite like that. The Wild, Kings, Panthers were all unprofitable last season. They stand to move into the league's top half in revenue, but that's nowhere near as certain as it is for the Leafs, Habs, and Canucks. Missing a season isn't a huge long-term financial concern for those markets. Conservative, realistic bookkeeping would dictate that without their respective recent surges, the Minnesota, Los Angeles, and Florida would continue to operate in the red.

Is a missed season enough to offset those surges? It might be. In that case, those teams might actually regress further into unprofitability in 2013-14. A lockout would take a lot of wind out of their sails.

For Leipold's wallet and hockey in Florida as a whole, it could prove debilitating. The Kings' situation is less urgent, though they stand to miss out on a great opportunity to grow, especially if the new-look Lakers take back what little thunder the Kings were able to steal.

Further complicating the issue, the argument that a season needs to happen has to be least compelling to teams barely in the black if the players don't sweeten the revenue pot. It's possible clubs like Calgary, Boston, and Philadelphia that each made less than $4 million last season would actually end up in the red as a result of the revenue sharing process.

Taking every team's individual financial situation into account and combining them into one all-encompassing, unanimously-approved proposal has to be excruciating.

The owners are negotiating with and against each other in order to come up with a proposal that will allow them to negotiate with and against the players. The owners and players also need to work together to keep both groups happy. For the sake of the sport, this isn't a battle either side can afford to drastically lose.

It's a frustratingly shitty situation, and that's just revenue sharing.

The two sides are also, internally and against each other, debating the salary cap floor, front-loaded contracts, guaranteed money, and a number of other issues.

And they're supposed to get everything together in the next two weeks?

That's totally fucked.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Prospect Report: Jacob Trouba (D)

Current team: USA National Development Team (USHL)
2012 Stats: 22 GP, 4-14-18 33 PIM
Central Scouting Rank: 9
Likely Destinations: Toronto Maple Leafs (5th Overall), Anaheim Ducks (6th Overall), Washington Capitals (11th Overall)

Coming up next is our report on Central Scouting's highest rated American prospect (Alexander Galchenyuk doesn't count, so don't even be a smartass and tell me how he is technically American).

Trouba is a Rochester, Michigan native and is your prototypical American defenseman, above average skill to go with massive truculence and size. Trouba is never afraid of a conflict, and at over six foot, it's easy to see why. Trouba will only continue to get larger and more aggressive, and when it comes to top defenseman prospects, these are the only parts of their game you can count on. Trouba has been repeatedly praised for the fact that his size is not wasted. He combines it with good, but sometimes inconsistent decision making ability to create separation and remove opposing players from the puck.

Trouba has been assessed by International Scouting Services as the potentially best stay-at-home defender in the class, if not the best defenseman, stating "For his size, Trouba skates extremely well and his transitional skating is near flawless." These are two skills that cannot be undersold as an NHL defenseman. They are paramount.

For those who disfavor the taste of international tournaments, you may have not been aware of Team USA's play in this years U-18 tournament. Their defensemen stole the show, and Trouba was the headline player.

With no glaring weakness it's hard to project where he goes in the draft. As pointed out in the Yakupov profile, defensemen can be unpredictable, so even with his ability, Trouba could be taken earlier than deserved or slide to anywhere in the top 15 or so. For my money, the Anaheim Ducks might be drooling to see him drop to their spot at 6th Overall. If not, look for Washington, or Ottawa to snag him up before too long. But there's always the "Big, bad American" factor that Brian Burke just about faints when he has a chance to draft.

While the above video compares him to Dion Phaneuf, I find that insulting for an extremely talented player, and think of him as a guy who compares better to Chris Pronger. It is a stretch to think that he will reach Pronger's level in the NHL, but on the right team, he could be just as impactful.

Unfortunately, he chose to go to Michigan, so I will hate him forever. Such a shame.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Western Conference Finals Wrapup

For a 5 game series, this got nasty. Los Angeles continued their winning ways on the road by picking up games 1 and 2 in the desert, putting 8 goals behind Phoenix's staunch goaltender, Mike Smith. For the first time ever, most likely, the name "Cloutier" was trending on Twitter, following Jonathan Quick's half-ice folly when he allowed a goal from center ice in game 1. Any hockey historian, or frankly any long-time fan can tell you that in that moment, we saw a thousand scenarios that all resulted in the Kings season crumbling. Dustin Brown came out quickly and played some of his best hockey in this series, posting 2 points in game 1, including the game winning goal.

Game 2 was a 4-0 no-doubter which saw Jeff Carter potting his first career hat trick. (Even when I make jokes, my predictions are pretty solid. Go me.) Clear frustration began to break through for the Coyotes, taking 56 penalty minutes in the game. Mike Smith took a penalty after a vicious slash to the back of Dustin Brown's knee. The slash has raised some controversy as Brown was accused of embellishing, and even took the consequent penalty for it, but either way, the message was clear. Brown was getting under their skin. Earlier in the game, Phoenix Captain Shane Doan was sent off for a game misconduct for a hit from behind.

Game 3 found the Kings behind on the scoreboard for the first time in the month of May, as Phoenix took a 1-0 lead. It didn't last long as Anze Kopitar tied it on a breakaway goal less than 2 minutes later. Dwight King continued his scoring ways by potting the Game Winner early in the 3rd.

The Coyotes stayed alive in a comparatively uneventful game 4, captain Shane Doan potting both for the dogs.

Game 5 however, may have been one of the most entertaining hockey games of the playoff year. Heavy hitting abound, plenty of scoring, and OT. While many players on the Coyotes were unsatisfied with the officiating, they found themselves flat outplayed in an indescribably physical and hard fought game. Penner knocked the game winner past Mike Smith on a controversial play in which the Coyotes believed that Dustin Brown had gone knee-on-knee with Coyotes defenseman Michal Rozsival shortly after a whistle in the opposite zone.

Flavor of the series:

Caribou Lou.

Man that was fun, but what the heck happened?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Prospect Report: Nail Yakupov (RW)

Current team: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2012 Stats: 42 GP, 31-38-69 30 PIM
Central Scouting Rank: 1
Likely Destination: Edmonton Oilers (1st Overall)

What is left unsaid about Nail Yakupov? The consensus best player in the 2012 draft class, Yakupov has put himself head and shoulders above the rest of this year's crop. He is often compared to 2010's first overall pick Taylor Hall, with scouts often noting that he has a stronger game along the boards and superior ability to physically dominate his opponents. He is also referred to as the most talented first overall pick since Sidney Crosby. His skills are often compared to those of a young Datsyuk, with his elusive skating ability and surprising physical upside, given his skill game and physical stature. Yakupov broke the Sarnia scoring record previously held by Steven Stamkos. Hall of fame coach Scotty Bowman compared him to one of the original great Russian players in the NHL, Pavel Bure.

Chris Edwards of Central Scouting also describes Yakupov's abilities in the other, more nuanced parts of the game.

"His first step and ability to control bouncing pucks, knock them down and make a play are the best of any of the guys in the draft."
Yakupov is a dominant player and an absolute game changer. There is an oft discussed "Russian Factor" when it comes to judging draft value of Russian born players, regarding the possibility that they may jump ship to the Russian Kontinental Hockey League, however it must be noted that after a short stint in Russian Yakupov chose to play in the Ontario Hockey league at a young age. Only one thing could keep Yakupov out of Edmonton, that being organizational need. Edmonton has already formed a solid prospect pool of forwards, and has a strong need for blueliners. However history has shown that elite defensemen are often found in later rounds/picks of the draft, and it is not at all unreasonable to believe that if Edmonton's scouts have taken long looks at potential 2nd round defensemen, they may have found what they need in those later spots.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Western Conference Finals Game 3 Preview

Tonight marks the ever important third game in the best of seven series between the Los Angeles Kings and the Phoenix Coyotes. Often considered a swing game in a series, tonight proves no different. The Kings have the opportunity to take a stranglehold on the series by going up 3-0 while the Coyotes could easily turn the momentum of the series if they can grab a win before getting center Martin Hanzal back from suspension for game 4.

The Kings have adopted a few different images during this playoff run as they are exceeding even the loftiest of pre-season predictions for them. They are seen as underdogs, unstoppable, technically sound and road warriors (not that they have been bad at home either, of course). Phoenix on the other hand suddenly looks frail and like they lucked their way into the Conference Finals which I would not say is the case. Perhaps going on the road will give Phoenix a chance to better focus and to start playing with a chip on their shoulder. The Coyotes will certainly need a complete team effort, key under any Dave Tippet coached team, to tip the series scales in their favor.

With Hanzal out, Phoenix will need their depth centers to provide extra support down the middle and they will look to Daymond Langkow, Gilbert Brule, and Kyle Chipchura, who are all only a -1 through the first two games, to do just that. The Coyotes have enough talent on the wings to score but they need their defensive side of the game to step up including goalie Mike Smith. If the Sean Burke reinforced netminder was ever thinking of stealing a game then tonight would be an excellent place to start. Finally, the LA defense has been rock solid all playoffs (Doughty and Mitchell arguably a cut above the rest of any defensemen playing these playoffs) and this series is no different. If the Desert Dogs hope to keep playing they will need Keith Yandle to remind the hockey world why his name was in the Norris Trophy discussion in 2011.

For what little it’s worth, Phoenix is 1-1-1 at Staples Center this regular season.