Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The Kings got here because they found their offense at the right time. Of course, their defense has always been there, and it begins with Jonathan Quick. The Devils are here because Martin Brodeur found his 2000 form and the rest of the team started contributing, led by the likes of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk. Experience edge goes to New Jersey, but a few of the Kings have been to the Finals more recently, most notably Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The players to potentially look out for include Simon Gagne for the Kings (assuming he's healthy enough) and Travis Zajac (who himself missed a considerable amount of time). Ultimately, the Kings' road exploits will have the Stanley Cup take residence in Southern California, though.
Prediction: Kings in 6
Sunday, May 27, 2012
For New Jersey, Martin Brodeur played a lot like the Martin Brodeur of 2000, Ilya Kovalchuk played perhaps his most complete season yet, and Zach Parise didn't get injured. Throw in the emergence of rookies Adam Henrique and Adam Larsson and unlikely contributions from the likes of Bryce Salvador and Steve Bernier and a cast-off in coach Peter DeBoer and you have your Eastern Conference champions.
Los Angeles was predicted to compete for the Stanley Cup Finals this year. However, a lackadaisical regular season that saw many players not named Jonathan Quick underachieve for most of the year and Dustin Penner becoming the butt of many pancake jokes had the Kings almost not make the playoffs. However, a trade for Jeff Carter and the Pancake Penner-gate have helped the Kings get into the playoffs, where the likes of Penner, Carter, Brown, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown have provided some offense to go along with the sterling goaltending of Quick. A mid-season coaching change that saw Darryl Sutter come in also provided a spark and reminded everyone why Sutter was a great coach (just keep him away from the General Manager's chair). Everything came together in the playoffs for the Kings, as all three division champions were beaten, and it didn't hurt that the Kings played like kings on the road.
Predictions will be coming either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Fast forward to this morning, and now both are a big reason why the Kings will be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals a week from today. Penner scored the winning goal last night that gave the Kings the title of Western Conference Champions. A few moments earlier, Brown was involved in a possible knee on knee hit that injured the Phoenix Coyotes' Michal Roszival that was not called for a penalty. As you can imagine, the Coyotes and their fans did not take too kindly, and it showed in the handshake line. For both Penner and Brown, this playoff season is their redemption in a sense, and while Penner is still likely to leave town (the Kings are close to the salary cap), he could conceivably garner some respectable dollars for someone else, though not on the same level as Sean Bergenheim did last off-season. I say the pancake makers need to get in contact with Penner now, as that moment of embarrassment has suddenly turned into a good luck charm for him, and he even signed a box of pancake mix a fan brought for him. As for Brown, it's safe to say that he will remain captain for next season, no small accomplishment considering Mike Richards was all but certain to take over when the Kings were struggling in the regular season.
Monday, May 21, 2012
In the last few days, the disco scene of the 1970's has seen two major losses in Donna Summer and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. If you grew up in that time period, and even if you didn't, then both Summer and the Bee Gees were influential in that time, and both have seen periods in which their music has seen play time in some capacity. Last week, cancer claimed both Summer and Gibb, marking a sad time for those who grew up listening to them. Both leave lasting legacies that they managed to see come to fruition, and for those who never got to hear either of them (where have you been?), here is something to remember both of them by.
As I look at the Maple Leafs in their current state, I can identify three things the Leafs need: a top-line center, a solid defenseman, and someone to challenge James Reimer for the starting job in goal. First, the top-line center. It would be great if either Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne could seize that role, but realistically, the best I can hope for either one to be is a second-line center. Tim Connolly was the same injury-prone player he has been in his career, and Tyler Bozak is realistically a third-line center miscast as a top two line center. A solid defenseman is another need, as our group features a mercurial Dion Phaneuf, an inconsistent Luke Schenn, and Mike Komisarek, who if we can get out from under his contract, we would. In short, consistency is needed, and right now, I don't know if we can solve that problem from within like we could with our center problem. As for our goaltending problem, Reimer had a bad year, but he was also beset with injuries. Jonas Gustavsson is likely not coming back, and we need someone like a Jean-Sebastien Giguere to challenge for a starter's role, if not provide a reliable backup as insurance.
Now, how can we solve all of those problems? As I said earlier, either Kadri or Colborne could solve our front-line center problem. However, both come with question marks. Kadri still needs to put on weight and Colborne hasn't shown enough to be an everyday player in the NHL. Training camp will hopefully show how far both have come along. A solid defenseman is another need, and though the solution is not as clear, it would help immensely if Komisarek's contract can be taken off the books without much penalty. If we can find a taker for Schenn, it would have to be filling a need or two mentioned, and top prospects won't hurt much, either. A goaltender who challenge Reimer for a starting role is needed, and rumors are floating around that we're in talks to get Roberto Luongo. It would be wise to see what Vancouver wants for him and who else we can get with him. It would also be wise to look into deals for guys such as Antti Niemi, Tuukka Rask (oh, the irony if we can get him, though it would be tough, as he has the RFA tag), Tomas Vokoun, and likely the loser of the Robin Lehner/Ben Bishop battle in Ottawa (blasphemous, I know, to inquire about a player from the provincial rivals).
Friday, May 18, 2012
For more information about the Pla-Mors, just head here.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Monday, May 14, 2012
Besides the optimistic Capitals fans who had hoped and wanted Hunter to return for another year, most in the know were almost certain he would not return. After all, his contract with the Capitals was only for one year from the time he was tabbed to replace Bruce Boudreau in the middle of the season. For Hunter, he could always go back to the London Knights (and will, since he is part owner of the team along with brother Mark, who himself coached the Knights when Dale took the Capitals job), where he had coached prior to rescuing the Capitals to a playoff run this year. What is his legacy as coach of the Capitals? Rubbing players such as Mike Knuble the wrong way, but more important than that, getting the likes of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Alexander Semin to commit to playing some defense. While the goaltending situation is not entirely solved, at the very least, Braden Holtby is the front runner as the starting goaltender next season if they don't bring Tomas Vokoun back.
Sunday, May 13, 2012
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
(3)PHOENIX COYOTES vs. (8) LOS ANGELES KINGS
Pacific Division rivals meet for the right to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. This is a fairly equal matchup, with the Kings having a slight advantage in the offensive category (I thought I would never be able to say that about the Kings this year). The Kings have the bigger names, but the Coyotes have just as much heart.
Prediction: Kings in 6
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
(1) NEW YORK RANGERS vs. (6) NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Battle on the Hudson is renewed for with much bigger stakes on the line. These are not your father's Devils, as there is some offense to go with a suffocating defense. Ilya Kovalchuk is playing his most complete hockey right now, but it is Zach Parise who makes it all go for the Devils, with Martin Brodeur providing the last line of defense. The Rangers have had two game 7's so far, so it remains to be seen if they will have anything left in the tank. That is no question for Henrik Lundqvist, who is at the top of his game. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Rangers blue line puts their bodies in front of the shots every now and then. Marian Gaborik must step up, though, as he's been practically invisible for all except the game 3 triple OT thriller against the Capitals.
Prediction: Rangers in 7
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Since the lockout ended, Wayne Gretzky was part owner and eventually took on the role of head coach. Focusing on the head coaching job he did, it wasn't as though he was a terrible coach. However, with so many kids on the roster, many of them will have likely looked up to Gretzky the player, and when they got to the Coyotes and saw him behind the bench, they still couldn't get Gretzky the player out of their minds. Many of them played below expectations. Once the NHL took temporary ownership of the team (that may be ending with a new, more permanent owner that will keep the team in Arizona), a new General Manager was hired in Don Maloney and one of his first moves was to relieve Gretzky of the head coaching role. Tippett would be hired to coach the team, which made sense at the time because of his track record with the Dallas Stars, his previous stop. Little did many know that Tippett would be the best decision the Coyotes ever made. From day one, he instilled a more stringent system that relied on defense, and players bought into it. Helping that fact would be the captain Shane Doan, who is a perfect fit for the captain's role for a team that has experienced so much on and off the ice. As for Smith, not a lot was expected of him after failing to win a starting job in goalie-starved Tampa, and yet, he has outplayed a Vezina finalist in Pekka Rinne on the way to this point.
These Western Conference Finals will be interesting, to say the least, and the Coyotes are more than happy to be here.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Sunday, May 6, 2012
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
This is where I put on my General Manager's hat (and assuming I already hired a coach), so if you have any comments or think I'm wrong with the following, feel free to comment and offer a solution. Just saying that I'm wrong is not enough; I want you to tell me why I'm wrong and offer a solution if you can.
As a General Manager, one of the very first things I would do is put Miika Kiprusoff and Jay Bouwmeester on the trading block, but still listen to offers for Jarome Iginla. Before I get to possibilities for Kiprusoff and Bouwmeester, I'd like to explain that even though I'm not putting Iginla on the trading block, I will listen to offers and if the right deal comes along, I will take it into consideration. As with Iginla, I won't just trade Kiprusoff or Bouwmeester just to get the money off the books. So, who could be considered trade partners for either player? Let's look at Kiprusoff first.
Trade possibilities for Miika Kiprusoff:
- Chicago Blackhawks: Goaltending problems were their ultimate undoing come playoff time, and depending on how much confidence they have in Corey Crawford could very well decide if they come calling. However, they are close to the salary cap ceiling, so we would have to take back close to an equal amount of salary.
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Let's face it, the Blue Jackets need help just about everywhere, and while it would be intriguing to trade for Rick Nash (Kiprusoff would be an attractive chip for the Blue Jackets to part with Nash) it is likely the Blue Jackets would want to throw in Steve Mason and ask for a first round pick. Remember, we're wanting to free up money, not take more on, and that may be too much with Nash and Mason. Of course, they would be the only real pieces that we would be interested in, and I know what you're saying, "Are you nuts for asking for Mason?" Yes, but Mason could benefit from a change in scenery, and I would like for him to be a backup to Leland Irving. After all, it's time to see if Irving is the long term answer, and that's part of the reason I'm shopping Kiprusoff.
- Edmonton Oilers: Okay, I know this is blasphemy, to trade with your provincial rivals, but Edmonton needs a goalie, as Nikolai Khabibulin is no longer a number one and Devan Dubnyk is not ready for the starter's role. However, Edmonton does have some prospects that we would be interested in, and we'd be happy to offer Kiprusoff to get some of them. Of course, I can imagine the Oilers management shooting this idea down, too, so don't hold your breath there.
- New Jersey Devils: The main thing that is needed to know here is whether Martin Brodeur will be back next season. If he retires and the Devils don't have confidence in their prospects, it is conceivable that they could be calling for Kiprusoff.
- New York Islanders: A team that clearly needs a goaltender, as Evgeni Nabokov is a free agent this season and isn't likely to return, and Al Montoya is not the long term answer there, either. And we haven't even mentioned Rick DiPietro and his injury history. The major roadblock? Very few players really want to go to Long Island (Nabokov refused to report when claimed off re-entry waivers in 2011) and there is much uncertainty around the team, with a clueless owner and a crumbling arena.
- San Jose Sharks: Don't laugh. If the Sharks willing to part with Antii Niemi, this is a deal that we'd be happy to take, and imagine the irony of Kiprusoff being back with the team he started with.
- Tampa Bay Lightning: The team with an obvious need in goal and with some good players that we'd want, it's clear that there is no real prospect in their system ready to seize the starting job, so Kiprusoff makes a lot of sense here. Maybe an NHL-ready player in addition to a prospect is the return we would like in an ideal world.
- Toronto Maple Leafs: Another team with goaltending problems and players we could use. However, given our history of trading with Toronto (remember Doug Gilmour and Dion Phaneuf?) I would be hesitant to pull the trigger on this deal. However, if Toronto offers the right package, I don't think it would be easy to resist here.
What about Jay Bouwmeester?
- Colorado Avalanche: On the surface, it doesn't look like the Avs have a real need here. Then again, they did trade Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement, so you never know...
- Columbus Blue Jackets: Another need for the Blue Jackets, though the return would likely be significantly less, and they don't really have much to offer. The best I can hope for? Possibly Steve Mason and a lower round draft pick.
- Edmonton Oilers: Again, a blasphemous notion, but it would be nice for Bouwmeester to return home and our demand would be a little better defined, like a Linus Omark, for example.
- New York Islanders: The Isles' blue line was dreadful last year, and like the Oilers, our wants are better defined, if a little bit of a reach. Josh Bailey, Nino Niederreiter, and/or Michael Grabner would be our targets.
- Ottawa Senators: Half of their current six are in their mid 30's, and certainly, they would like to have a younger player. Depending on if they re-sign Fillip Kuba will determine if they decide to go after Bouwmeester. Our most likely target would be the loser of the Robin Lehner/Ben Bishop battle for a goaltending spot in the lineup.
So, as you can see, I've identified eight potential destinations for Kiprusoff and five for Bouwmeester. While trading either or both would be seen as a cost-cutting move, it also has to be seen as a way to make the team better, whether it is developing the young talent we either have or get in return, spending wisely on the players we do get in free-agency, or finding a system that works for the talent we do have on the team.