Posts Tagged ‘Avalanche’

Last season, we saw a great crop of rookies.  This year should be no different as plenty of guys are primed to make an impact on the NHL.

Jonathan Blum (Nashville)
In 23 games last season, Blum impressed the Predators enough to trade Cody Franson to Toronto, giving Blum a full time position. The 22 year old is a good decision maker who should fit right into Barry Trotz’ system.

Erik Gudbranson (Florida)
With Florida’s roster in flux, look for Gudbranson to get a shot to play some minutes with the big club. The team is hoping his offensive game continues to develop (12 goals in the OHL last season), but is still a defensive force.

Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)
Like with Gudbranson, Huberdeau should get a chance with the Panthers. Florida’s brass loves his unselfish play and his hustle. The Panthers don’t want to rush him, but if he’s ready, no point in holding him down.

Ryan Johansen (Columbus)
After torching the WHL for 40 goals, 92 points last season, Johansen appears ready to join the big club in Columbus. With the recent additions by Columbus, it might keep Johansen down on the team’s depth chart. Despite that, he should still produce and work his way up.

Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado)
Landeskog was the most NHL ready of any player in the 2011 draft. He’ll be penciled in on the Avs’ top 6 and should be in the Calder conversation all season.

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20 years ago, the Quebec Nordiques drafted star Eric Lindros. He refused to play for the club, leading to him sitting out the 1991-92 season.  Lindros played part of the OHL season with Oshawa and was on Canada’s silver medal winning Olympic hockey team in 1992.

The trade was Flyers 1991 first rounder Peter Forsberg, Ron Hextall, Steve Duchesne, Mike Ricci, Kerry Huffman, Chris Simon, two first round picks (Jocelyn Thibault, Nolan Baumgartner) and $15 million.  At the time, it was an overpayment.  It looks even worse knowing what happened after.  But the Flyers weren’t the only team interested.  The Rangers put together a package of Doug Weight, Tony Amonte, Alexei Kovalev, John Vanbiesbrouck, three first round picks and $12 million.  The Rangers’ package included guys that were key parts, or traded for key parts, of their Stanley Cup run in 1994.  So why would a team who was first in the conference in 1991-92 willing to trade three young future stars, its’ starting goalie, among other assets for Lindros?

Lindros was touted as the “Next One”.  He was going to take the torch from Gretzky, become the next great NHL superstar and lead the league into a new era.  Hindsight showed that Lindros never came close to his potential, thanks mainly to injuries.  But at the time, every hockey fan knew his name.  And remember 1992 was a time before the internet, before fans could read about any prospect.  He was on hockey cards even before he had been drafted, which didn’t happen in those days.  Lindros was that big of a star.

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Last season: 30-44-8, 68 points. 4th in the Northwest, missed playoffs.

Key Additions:  G Jean-Sebastian Giguere, D Jan Hejda, F Chuck Kobasew, LW Gabriel Landeskog, D Shane O’Brien, G Seymon Varlamov

Key Losses:  G Peter Budaj, C Phillippe Dupuis, G Brian Elliott, LW Thomas Fleischmann, D Adam Foote, D John-Michael Liles

Offense: The young Colorado offense is led by 2009 first round pick Matt Duchene, whose production increased from 24-31-55 to 27-40-67 in his second NHL season.  Despite having a down year (22 goals, 57 points), Paul Stastny was elected to his first all-star game.  Although Milan Hejduk is years from his 50 goal season, he is still a reliable 20-25 goal getter.    David Jones came out of nowhere to lead the team in goals (27, tied with Duchene).  Landeskog, the #2 overall pick in this year’s draft, is a wild card.  If he makes the team, it should help the offense immensely.  T.J. Galiardi struggled with injuries last year but could be Colorado’s breakout player this season.  Like Galiardi, Peter Mueller was injured (concussion) and missed the entire year, but should be healthy this season.  2009 2nd rounder Ryan O’Reilly should continue to improve.  The club hopes free agent acquisition Kobasew regains his scoring touch from his Boston days.  Kevin Porter was finally given a full time role and scored 14 goals. Daniel Winnik (11 goals) had his best season in 3 years.  Brandon Yip took a step backwards last year, after leading rookies in goals per game in 2009-10.  Cody McLeod established himself as the team’s enforcer, getting 189 PIM thanks to 14 fights.

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Some quick hits from the first two days of free agency:

-The Brad Richards saga is finally over, as he chose to sign with the New York Rangers for 9 years (and $60 million).  According to reports, he turned down more money from other teams (Calgary, Los Angeles and Toronto).  The Rangers have themselves a big money center to play with Marian Gaborik now.  They also added tough guy Mike Rupp from the rival Penguins.

-Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they added Tim Connolly for two years.  Connolly has averaged .83 points per game since the lockout, but has only played in 302 games in that time.  When healthy, he can form a nice duo with Phil Kessel, but how many games he plays is the question.

-Not going to go into much about the Flyers, who were very active on Day 1, as this post sums it up pretty well.

-The Panthers were also very active, adding over $31 million in salary for 2011-12 in the since the draft.  This includes over $21 million to 6 players in free agency the last two days.  They aren’t done yet, as the team is still $1 million under the salary cap floor. (more…)

We all know who the best players have been the best in the NHL in the 2010-11 season, but who have been some of the worst?  Years ago, I created some “awards” in my old sim league (DCHL), as a semi roast to certain players, GMs and teams.  I took some of these awards,  and created some brand new ones.

First, we start with the Trigger Happy Award, which goes to the GM who has pulled off the most trades in the last year (for the purpose of a starting point, I used 2010’s regular season end to this regular season’s end).  With 18 counted trades, including acquiring (and trading) Dennis Wideman, Dale Tallon of the Florida Panthers is our 2011 winner.  The other GM award, the aptly named You Suck Award goes to Ottawa’s Bryan Murray.  Last summer, Murray signed Sergei Gonchar for 3 years and $16 million, and the 37 year old played like he was 57.  The team plummeted to last place and Murray started the firesale, trying to get what he could for many players.  Some of his deals were to rectify mistakes he had made in the summer, and in previous seasons.  All this, while Daniel Alfredsson remained on the team and his value continued to drop.

Moving on to some statistical awards, the winner of the Broad Street Bully Award goes to Islander Zenon Kenopka, who blew away the field in the penalty minute department, finishing with 307.  Kenopka is the first player to break the 300 PIM barrier since Dan Carcillo in 2007-08.   The Greg Millen Trophy for allowing the most goals in the regular season goes to the Colorado Avalanche.  The team allowed a whopping 287 goals, the most since the 06-07 Flyers.  On the topic of goalies, our Red Light Award for worst goalie of the year (minimum of 20 games) is Rick DiPietro.  DiPietro “lead” the league with a 3.44 GAA, had the second worst save percentage at 88.6% and finished with a record of 8-14-4.

The Bettman Trophy for Villain of the Year was no surprise.  Suspended for 21 games this season within two separate incidents, including missing the entire first round of the playoffs, Matt Cooke easily wins the award.

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Alex Burrows might have been the star of game 2, with his two goals and an assist, including the overtime winner, but for Canucks center Manny Malhotra just playing in the game is a victory.

Malhotra was enjoying a fine 2010-11 season; playing for the league’s best team, scored his 100th career goal, and posted his third straight 30-point season.  But on March 16, his world was flipped upside down.  In a game against the Colorado Avalanche, Malhotra took a puck to the eye.  He underwent surgery the next day, and was ruled out of the rest of the regular season and playoffs.  A second surgery, a week later, was performed to save his eye and vision, according to his brother-in-law, NBA star Steve Nash.  At the time, it was speculated that he might have to retire because of the injury.  It looked like a giant blow to the Canucks’ penalty kill, which was ranked first in the league after being 18th the year before signing Malhotra.

However, as the Canucks kept advancing in the playoffs, the chances Malhotra would rejoin the team increased.  In May, he started practicing, and by the end of the month, he was cleared to play in the Stanley Cup Final.  He sat out game one, but Alain Vigneault inserted him into the lineup for tonight’s game two.

The crowd chanted “Manny, Manny” pregame and gave him a standing ovation when he stepped onto the ice for his first shift, about two minutes into the game.  After the game, he admitted the ovation made him the most nervous he has ever been in his career. He played with a full face shield, despite not using one in the regular season prior to the injury.

In the regular season, Malhotra was second in the league, winning 61.7% of his faceoffs.  The team missed him in game one, where they only won 44% of draws.  Tonight, Malhotra went 6-for-7, and the Canucks as a team improved to 47 %.  He only played 7:26, mainly on the fourth line with Victor Oreskovich and Jeff Tambellini, but contributed on the penalty kill as the Canucks held the Bruins to 1 for 7 on the man advantage.

Malhotra has drawn comparisons to Ian Laperriere, who last year returned for the Stanley Cup Final after taking a puck to the face in the first round, resulting in a concussion.   Fortunately for Malhotra, he isn’t suffering from a brain injury.

With two more Canucks wins, Malhotra will get his name etched on the Stanley Cup, something well worth everything he’s been through this year.

With the Atlanta Thrashers’ inevitable move to Winnipeg, the NHL will undergo its’ first major realignment since 1998.  The Winnipeg team will likely play as a member of the Southeast Division during the 11-12 NHL season, before the league realigns in 2012.  The Thrashers, Jets, or whatever their name is, will move from the Eastern Conference to the West.  So a Western team will have to move East to balance out the conferences.

There are three logical possibilities to take Atlanta’s spot in the East.

Detroit has wanted to move East for a while now, citing travel and TV viewership.  But, with the Red Wings as a huge draw for Western Conference teams, a Detroit move seems unlikely.  Columbus would benefit by moving to the East.  They’ve struggled with attendance; it’s hard to grow a fanbase of a young franchise with a quarter of the team’s games starting after 9:00.  Out of the three, Nashville makes the most geographical sense.  Even in  the Central time zone, they’re the closest team to the other four currently in the Southeast.

One of those three will likely move into the East; but who will replace them in the Central?  There are a few possibilities. (more…)