Archive for August, 2010

Southeast Division Preview

By Peter Levi

Continuing my look at the NHL going into the 2010-11 season.  Today I take a snapshot of the Southeast division.  Conference rankings are listed in brackets next to the team.

Washington (1st)
Roster losses: Brendan Morrison (UFA – Calgary, 74-42), Eric Belanger (UFA, 77-41), Joe Corvo (UFA – Carolina, 52-18), Scott Walker (UFA, 42-8), Milan Jurcina (UFA – New York Islanders, 44-7), Jose Theodore (UFA – Minnesota, 2.81, 0.911)
Roster additions: D. J. King (T St. Louis)
Prospect signings: Marcus Johansson (42-20 SEL), Anton Gustafsson (34-18 Allsvenskan), Stefan Della Rovere (57-41 OHL), Philipp Grubauer (2.37, .906), Dmitry Kugryshev (66-87 QMJHL), Cody Eakin (70-91 WHL), Brandon Anderson (3.49, .892 WHL), Dustin Stevenson (56-47 SJHL)
Forwards: Alexander Ovechkin (72-109), Nicklas Backstrom (82-101), Alexander Semin (73-84), Brooks Laich (78-59), Mike Knuble (69-53), Tomas Fleischmann (69-51), Eric Fehr (69-39), Jason Chimera (78-34), Matt Bradley (77-24), Dave Steckel (79-16), Boyd Gordon (36-10), D. J. King (12-0)
Defence: Mike Green (75-76), Tom Poti (70-24), Jeff Schultz (73-23), Tyler Sloan (40-6), John Carlson (22-6), John Erskine (50-6), Karl Alzner (21-5)
Goaltenders: Semyon Varlamov (2.55, 0.909, 26-15-4-6), Michal Neuvirth (2.75, 0.914, 17-9-4-0)
Strengths: scoring, forward depth
Weaknesses: defence, puck-moving blueliners, goaltending
Analysis: the Caps lead the league in goals by nearly fifty, trying to replicate the success of the offence-first Edmonton Oilers of the 80s; a hot goalie and inability to deal with adversity sunk their playoff hopes.  I like their choice to go with young goalies Varlamov and Neuvirth, but it’s a risk.  I believe the team has to get another blueliner to take the offensive pressure off of Mike Green, although perhaps a maturing John Carlson is the answer.  Regardless, the Caps are a top Cup contender.

Carolina (11th)
Roster losses: Ray Whitney (UFA – Phoenix, 80-58), Rod Brind’Amour (retired, 80-19), Brian Pothier (UFA – NLA, 61-15)
Roster additions: Joe Corvo (UFA Washington), Anton Babchuk (UFA KHL), Patrick O’Sullivan (buyout Phoenix)
Prospect signings: Zac Dalpe (39-45 NCAA), Jeff Skinner (64-90 OHL), Michal Jordan (41-32 OHL), Jared Staal (59-49 OHL), Matt Kennedy (43-34 OHL)
Forwards: Eric Staal (70-70), Jussi Jokinen (81-65), Brandon Sutter (72-40), Tuomo Ruutu (54-35), Patrick O’Sullivan (73-34), Sergei Samsonov (72-29), Chad Larose (56-28), Tom Kostopoulos (82-21), Erik Cole (40-16), Patrick Dwyer (58-12), Zach Boychuk (31-9), Jiri Tlusty (18-6)
Defence: Joni Pitkanen (71-46), Tim Gleason (61-19), Joe Corvo (52-18), Brett Carson (54-12), Bryan Rodney (22-11), Jamie McBain (14-10), Anton Babchuk (49-22 KHL)
Goaltenders: Cam Ward (2.69, 0.916, 47-18-23-5), Justin Peters (2.83, 0.905, 9-6-3)
Injuries: Sergei Samsonov
Strengths: team speed
Weaknesses: lack of depth, youth, health
Analysis: along with other issues, the Hurricanes could not overcome injury problems–something attributable to depth and it remains an open question whether they have filled that need or not.  Their goaltending is thin, their blueline dependent on younger players, and their group of forwards largely filled with under achievers (Samsonov) or players whose production seems to have completely vanished (Cole).  I don’t see them competing for a playoff spot.

Tampa Bay (12th)
GM change: Steve Yzerman
Coaching change: Guy Boucher (80-52-17-11)
Roster losses: Kurtis Foster (UFA – Edmonton, 71-42), Alex Tanguay (UFA – Calgary, 80-37), Andrej Meszaros (T – Philadelphia, 81-17), Brandon Bochenski (UFA – KHL, 28-13), Stephane Veilleux (UFA, 77-9), Todd Fedoruk (buyout, 50-6), Matt Walker (T – Philadelphia, 66-5), Zenon Konopka (UFA – New York Islanders, 74-5), David Hale (UFA – Ottawa, 39-4), Antero Niittymaki (UFA – San Jose, 2.87, 0.909, 49-21-18-5)
Roster additions: Simon Gagne (T Philadelphia), Pavel Kubina (UFA Atlanta), Dominic Moore (UFA Montreal), Randy Jones (UFA Los Angeles), Brett Clark (UFA Colorado), Sean Bergenheim (UFA New York Islanders), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (UFA Edmonton), Dan Ellis (UFA Nashville)
Prospect signings: Johan Harju (55-18 KHL), Niklas Persson (55-37 KHL), Alex Hutchings (68-81 OHL), Mark Barberio (65-60 QMJHL), Charles Landry  (68-30 QMJHL), Carter Ashton (65-51 WHL), Radko Gudas (65-37 WHL)
Forwards: Steven Stamkos (82-95), Martin St. Louis (82-94), Vincent Lecavalier (82-70), Ryan Malone (69-47), Steve Downie (79-46), Simon Gagne (58-40), Dominic Moore (69-28), Sean Bergenheim (63-23), Ted Purcell (60-15), Marc-Antonie Pouliot (35-14), Nate Thompson (71-10), Paul Szczechura (52-7)
Defence: Pavel Kubina (76-38), Randy Jones (48-21), Brett Clark (64-20), Victor Hedman (74-20), Mike Lundin (49-13), Mattias Ohlund (67-13), Matt Smaby (33-2)
Goaltenders: Dan Ellis (2.69, 0.909, 31-15-13-1), Mike Smith (3.09, 0.900, 42-13-18-7)
Strengths: top-six forwards; stability in the front office
Weaknesses: goaltending, defence
Analysis: newly hired Steve Yzerman has begun an overhaul of the roster which, on the surface, has improved the team.  I’m not sold on the upgrade, however, as the mix includes players past their prime (Ohlund) and the unproven (Hedman, Lundin).  Mike Smith may or may not be the real deal, while Dan Ellis lost the starting job he’d earned in Nashville.  There’s talent here, but this is going to be an adjustment year for the Lightning.

Atlanta (10th)
GM change: Rick Dudley
Coaching change: Craig Ramsey (assistant Boston)
Roster losses: Maxim Afinogenov (UFA – KHL, 82-61), Clarke MacArthur (UFA – Toronto, 81-35), Pavel Kubina (UFA – Tampa Bay, 76-38), Colby Armstrong (UFA – Toronto, 79-29), Todd White (T – New York Rangers, 65-26), Vyacheslav Kozlov (UFA, 55-26), Marty Reasoner (T – Chicago, subsequently T – Florida, 80-17), Evgeny Artyukhin (UFA, 54-16), Christoph Schubert (UFA, 47-7), Johan Hedberg (UFA – New Jersey, 2.62, 0.915, 47-21-16-6)
Roster additions: Dustin Byfuglien (T Chicago), Andrew Ladd (T Chicago), Brent Sopel (T Chicago), Ben Eager (T Chicago), Freddy Meyer (UFA New York Islanders), Patrick Rissmiller (T New York Rangers), Chris Mason (UFA St. Louis), Frederik Modin (UFA Los Angeles), Nigel Dawes (UFA Calgary)
Prospect signings: Fredrik Petersson (54-38 SEL), Andrei Zubarev (55-16 KHL), Carl Klingberg (42-13 SEL), Danick Paquette (64-65 QMJHL), Patrice Cormier (31-31 QMJHL), Chris Carrozzi (2.36, 0.916 OHL), Edward Pasquale (3.17, 0.916 OHL), Eric O’Dell (68-68 OHL), Alexander Burmistrov (62-65 OHL)
Forwards: Nikolai Antropov (76-67), Rich Peverley (82-55), Niclas Bergfors (81-44), Andrew Ladd (82-38), Bryan Little (79-34), Dustin Byfuglien (82-34), Nigel Dawes (66-32), Evander Kane (66-26), Jim Slater (61-18), Ben Eager (60-16), Chris Thorburn (76-13), Frederik Modin (44-11), Eric Boulton (62-8)
Defence: Tobias Enstrom (82-50), Ron Hainsey (80-26), Zach Bogosian (81-23), Johnny Oduya (67-13), Brent Sopel (73-8), Boris Valabik (23-2)
Goaltenders: Ondrej Pavelec (3.29, 0.906, 42-14-18-7), Chris Mason (2.53, 0.913, 61-30-22-8)
Injuries: Dustin Byfuglien, Jim Slater
Strengths: size up front
Weaknesses: scoring, goaltending, blueline depth, youth
Analysis: Rick Dudley began his overhaul of the Thrashers by importing four Blackhawks and installing a new coach.  Atlanta is thin in most key categories: I’m not sold on Chris Mason, there’s no signficant depth on the blueline, and the forward group is not going to score a lot. 

Florida (14th)
GM change: Dale Tallon
Roster losses: Nathan Horton (T – Boston, 65-57), Keith Ballard (T – Vancouver, 82-28), Gregory Campbell (T – Boston, 60-17), Ville Koistinen (buyout, 17-4)
Roster additions: Dennis Wideman (T Boston), Steve Bernier (T Vancouver), Michael Grabner (T Vancouver), Chris Higgins (UFA Calgary), Marty Reasoner (T Chicago), Mike Weaver (UFA St. Louis), Nathan Paetsch (UFA Columbus), Darcy Hordichuk (T Vancouver)
Prospect signings: Jacob Markstrom (2.01, 0927 SEL), A. J. Jenks (52-63 OHL), Adam Comrie (68-40 OHL), Scott Timmins (56-54 OHL), Colby Robak (71-66 WHL)
Forwards: Stephen Weiss (80-60), Michael Frolik (82-43), Stephen Reinprecht (82-38), Cory Stillman (58-37), Radek Dvorak (76-32), Rostislav Olesz (78-29), Steve Bernier (59-22), Chris Higgins (67-17), Marty Reasoner (80-17), David Booth (28-16), Shawn Matthias (55-16), Kamil Kreps (76-14), Michael Grabner (20-11), Byron Bitz (52-11), Darcy Hordichuk (56-2)
Defence: Bryan McCabe (82-43), Dennis Wideman (76-30), Dmitry Kulikov (68-16), Bryan Allen (74-13), Mike Weaver (77-10), Nathan Paetsch (21-2)
Goaltenders: Tomas Vokoun (2.55, 0.925, 63-23-28-11), Scott Clemmensen (2.91, 0.912, 23-9-8-2)
Strengths: goaltending
Weaknesses: blueline, forward depth, scoring
Analysis: Dale Tallon has begun his rebuild and it’s going to be a long season for the Panthers.  They have no depth on their roster and like many previous years are dependent on the performance of various retreaded veterans (Reasoner, Bernier, Higgins, Dvorak).  Were it not for Vokoun the team would be even worse.  A lottery team with a good chance for the cellar.

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Northeast Division Preview

By Peter Levi

Continuing my look at the NHL going into the 2010-11 season.  Today I take a snapshot of the Northeast division.  Conference rankings are listed in brackets next to the team.

Ottawa Senators (5th)
Roster losses: Matt Cullen (UFA – Minnesota, 81-48), Anton Volchenkov (UFA – New Jersey, 64-14), Jonathan Cheechoo (buyout, 61-14), Andy Sutton (UFA – Anaheim, 72-13), Shean Donovan (UFA, 30-5)
Roster additions: Sergei Gonchar (UFA Pittsburgh)
Prospect signings: Roman Wick (37-31 NLA), Bobby Butler (39-53 NCAA), Colin Greening (34-35 NCAA), Patrick Wiercioch (39-27 NCAA), Robin Lehner (2.80, 0.918 OHL), Mike Hoffman (56-85 QMJHL), Corey Cowick (27-21 OHL), David Dziurzynski (57-74 BCHL)
Forwards: Daniel Alfredsson (70-71), Jason Spezza (60-57), Mike Fisher (79-53), Alexei Kovalev (77-49), Milan Michalek (66-34), Chris Kelly (81-32), Peter Regin (75-29), Jarkko Ruutu (82-26), Nick Foligno (61-26), Chris Neil (68-22), Ryan Shannon (66-16), Jesse Winchester (52-13)
Defence: Sergei Gonchar (62-50), Filip Kuba (53-28), Erik Karlsson (60-26), Chris Phillips (82-24), Chris Campoli (67-18), Matt Carkner (81-11)
Goaltenders: Pascal Leclaire (3.20, 0.887, 34-12-14-2), Brian Elliott (2.57, 0.909, 55-29-18-4)
Injuries: Filip Kuba
Strengths: depth
Weaknesses: goaltending
Analysis: poorly regarded going into last season, they did enough to make the playoffs.  The core of the team saw only two significant changes–the loss of Volchenkov and signing of Gonchar.  The organisation has added a lot of depth the past two seasons as it recovers from John Muckler’s drafting, finally having options for injury-recall and to create internal competition.  There’s no reason not to expect Ottawa to make the playoffs again.

Boston Bruins (6th)
Roster losses: Dennis Wideman (T – Florida, 76-30), Miroslav Satan (UFA – Slovakia Extraliga, 39-14), Steve Begin (UFA, 77-14), Vladimir Sobotka (UFA – Stl, 61-10)
Roster additions: Nathan Horton (T Florida), Gregory Campbell (T Florida)
Prospect signings: Yuri Alexandrov (56-21 KHL), Joe Colborne (39-41 NCAA), Steven Kampfer (45-26 NCAA), Tyler Seguin (63-106 OHL), Michael Hutchinson (2.86, 0.913 OHL), Jordan Caron (43-53 QMJHL), Maxime Sauve (25-35 QMJHL)
Forwards: Nathan Horton (65-57), Patrice Bergeron (73-52), David Krejci (79-52), Mark Recchi (81-43), Blake Wheeler (82-38), Marco Sturm (76-37), Michael Ryder (82-33), Marc Savard (41-33), Milan Lucic (50-20), Daniel Paille (76-20), Gregory Campbell (60-17), Shawn Thornton (74-10)
Defence: Zdeno Chara (80-44), Dennis Seidenberg (79-32), Johnny Boychuk (51-15), Matt Hunwick (76-14), Andrew Ference (51-8), Mark Stuart (56-7)
Goaltenders: Tuuka Rask (1.97, 0.931, 45-22-12-5), Tim Thomas (2.56, 0.915, 43-17-18-8)
Injuries: Marc Savard, Marco Sturm
Strengths: defensive play, goaltending
Weaknesses: scoring, puck-moving defensemen
Analysis: the Bruins could not score this past season, but played well enough to make a run in the playoffs.  They are hoping that the addition of Nathan Horton and a return to form from players like Sturm and Ryder will overcome their offensive issues.  I’m not sure going with Seidenberg over Wideman is the right move; if it doesn’t work out, the Bruins blueline isn’t going to contribute much to the offence.  Regardless, Boston will make the playoffs.

Buffalo Sabres (3rd)
Roster losses: Raffi Torres (UFA – Vancouver, 74-36), Tim Kennedy (buyout - New York Rangers, 78-26), Toni Lydman (UFA – Anaheim, 67-20), Henrik Tallinder (UFA – New Jersey, 82-20), Adam Mair (UFA, 69-14)
Roster additions: Rob Niedermayer (UFA NJ), Jordan Leopold (UFA Pittsburgh), Shaone Morrisonn (UFA Washington)
Prospect signings: Alex Biega (33-10 NCAA), Nick Crawford (68-70 OHL), Jacob Lagace (60-73 QMJHL)
Forwards: Derek Roy (80-69), Tim Connolly (73-65), Jason Pominville (82-62), Thomas Vanek (73-51), Jochen Hecht (79-42), Drew Stafford (71-34), Paul Gaustad (65-22), Rob Niedermayer (71-22), Mike Grier (73-22), Patrick Kaleta (55-15), Matt Ellis (72-13), Cody McCormick (66-29 AHL)
Defence: Tyler Myers (82-48), Jordan Leopold (81-26), Steve Montador (78-23), Chris Butler (59-21), Craig Rivet (78-15), Shaone Morrisonn (68-12), Andrej Sekera (49-11)
Goaltenders: Ryan Miller (2.22, 0.929, 69-41-18-8), Patrick Lalime (2.81, 0.907, 16-4-8-2)
Injuries: Craig Rivet
Strengths: goaltending, forward depth
Weaknesses: puck-moving defenseman, backup goalie, size
Analysis: the Sabres shed a little depth in the off-season, but will hope just like last year that Ryan Miller can be brilliant enough to get them into the playoffs.  I think they made a mistake bringing back Patrick Lalime, whose mediocrity puts more stress on Miller to play.  However, barring a significant injury to Miller, the Sabres will make the playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens (8th)
Roster losses: Marc-Andre Bergeron (UFA, 60-34), Glen Metropoli (UFA – NLA, 69-29), Sergei Kostitsyn (T – Nashville, 47-18), Dominic Moore (UFA – Tampa Bay, 69-28), Paul Mara (UFA – Anaheim, 42-8), Jaroslav Halak (T – St. Louis, 2.40, 0.924, 45-26-13-5)
Roster additions: Dustin Boyd (T Nashville), Lars Eller (T St. Louis), Alex Auld (UFA New York Rangers), Jeff Halpern (UFA Los Angeles)
Prospect signings: Alexander Avtsin (30-9 KHL), Andreas Engqvist (55-26 SEL), Kyle Klubertanz (55-31 SEL), Brendon Nash (33-19 NCAA), Hunter Bishop (33-27 NCAA), Philippe Lefebvre (66-55 QMJHL), Gabriel Dumont (62-93 QMJHL), Ian Schultz (70-55 WHL)
Forwards: Tomas Plekanec (82-70), Scott Gomez (78-59), Mike Cammalleri (65-50), Brian Gionta (61-46), Andrei Kostitsyn (59-33), Benoit Pouliot (53-28), Dustin Boyd (78-24), Jeff Halpern (71-19), Travis Moen (81-19), Maxim Lapierre (76-14), Max Pacioretty (52-14), Mathieu Darche (29-10), Tom Pyatt (40-5), Lars Eller (70-57 AHL)
Defence: Andrei Markov (45-34), Roman Hamrlik (75-26), Jaroslav Spacek (74-21), Hal Gill (68-11), Josh Gorges (82-10), Ryan O’Byrne (55-4), P. K. Subban (77-53 AHL)
Goaltenders: Carey Price (2.77, 0.912, 41-13-20-5), Alex Auld (2.96, 0.895, 24-9-7-3)
Injuries: Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik
Strengths: forward depth
Weaknesses: goaltending, puck-moving blueliners, size
Analysis: Bob Gainey’s gamble on small players worked last year, as the Habs squeezed into the playoffs and made a surprising run on the back of Halak’s goaltending.  Halak is gone now, but essentially the same core is in place, so success seems reliant on Carey Price.  I think it’s unlikely the team will be able to slip back into the post-season.

Toronto Maple Leafs (15th)
Roster losses: Viktor Stalberg (T – Chicago, 40-14), Jamie Lundmark (UFA – Nashville, 36-12), Rickard Wallin (UFA – SEL, 60-9), Wayne Primeau (UFA, 59-8), Garnett Exelby (UFA, 51-4)
Roster additions: Kris Versteeg (T Chicago), Clarke MacArthur (UFA Atlanta), Colby Armstrong (UFA Pittsburgh), Brett Lebda (UFA Detroit), Mike Brown (T Anaheim)
Prospect signings: Marcel Muller (53-56 DEL), Korbinian Holzer (52-22 DEL), Jussi Rynnas (2.50, 0.929 SM-Liiga), Brayden Irwin (39-34 NCAA), Simon Gysbers (38-15 NCAA), Jerry D’Amigo (35-34 NCAA), Nazem Kadri (56-93 OHL), Jesse Blacker (57-33 OHL), Jamie Devane (51-14 OHL), Mikhail Stefanovich (53-68 QMJHL)
Forwards: Phil Kessel (70-55), Kris Versteeg (79-44), Nikolai Kulemin (78-36), Mikhail Grabovski (59-35), Clarke MacArthur (81-35), Colby Armstrong (79-29), Tyler Bozak (37-27), John Mitchell (60-23), Fredrik Sjostrom (65-11), Luca Caputi (23-8), Christian Hanson (31-7), Mike Brown (75-7), Colton Orr (82-6)
Defence: Tomas Kaberle (82-49), Dion Phaneuf (81-32), Francois Beauchemin (82-26), Luke Schenn (79-17), Carl Gunnarsson (43-15), Jeff Finger (39-10), Mike Komisarek (34-4)
Goaltenders: Jonas Gustavsson (2.87, 0.902, 42-16-15-9), J. S. Giguere (2.85, 0.907, 35-10-15-7)
Strengths: defence corps
Weaknesses: scoring, overall defensive play, youth
Analysis: after moving eight roster players during the season, Brian Burke shed four more in the off-season.  Over half of the Leafs top-scorers from last year are gone, replaced by third line players like Armstrong and MacArthur.  Versteeg was a good pick-up, but is another small player added to the top-six (like Grabovski and Kessel).  The defence corps is overcrowded, but should be better than last year.  I don’t believe Giguere is going to be as much of an upgrade over Toskala as many believe.  This version of the Leafs won’t be much better than last years.

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Atlantic Division Preview

By Peter Levi

With training camps just a few weeks away it’s time to take a look at the league and see both how team’s have changed in the off-season and what to expect going forward.  I’ll be breaking it down each division followed by final conclusions and rankings.  Conference rankings are listed in brackets next to the team.

New Jersey Devils (2nd)
Coaching change: John MacLean (80-39-31-10 AHL)
Roster losses: Rob Niedermayer (UFA – Buffalo, 71-22), Mike Mottau (UFA – New York Islanders, 79-18), Dean McAmmond (UFA, 62-17), Paul Martin (UFA – Pittsburgh, 22-11), Martin Skoula (UFA – KHL, 52-11), Jay Pandolfo (buyout, 52-9), Andrew Peters (buyout – Florida, 29-0)
Roster additions: Jason Arnott (T  Nashville), Anton Volchenkov (UFA Ottawa), Henrik Tallinder (UFA Buffalo), Johan Hedberg (UFA Atlanta)
Prospect signings: Mattias Tedenby (44-19 SEL), Jacob Josefson (43-20 SEL), David McIntyre (35-39 NCAA), Adam Henrique (54-77 OHL), Dan Kelly (58-27 OHL), Harry Young (65-20 OHL), Eric Gelinas (61-31 QMJHL), Jean-Sebastien Berube (64-45 QMJHL), Alexander Urbom (66-33 WHL)
Forwards: Ilya Kovalchuk (76-85), Zach Parise (81-82), Travis Zajac (82-67), Jamie Langenbrunner (81-61), Patrik Elias (58-48), Jason Arnott (63-46), Brian Rolston (80-37), Dainius Zubrus (51-27), David Clarkson (46-24), Vladimir Zharkov (40-10), Rod Pelley (63-10), Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (27-2)
Defence: Andy Greene (78-37), Henrik Tallinder (82-20), Anton Volchenkov (64-14), Bryce Salvador (79-14), Colin White (81-12), Anssi Salmela (38-8), Mark Fraser (61-6)
Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur (2.24, 0.916, 77-45-25-6), Johan Hedberg (2.62, 0.915, 47-21-16-6)
Injuries: Bryce Salvadore, Anssi Salmela
Strengths: defensive play, goaltending, forward depth
Weaknesses: scoring, puck moving defensemen
Analysis: the Devils enjoyed an excellent regular season under Jacques Lemaire, then proceeded with what has become routine for them since the lockout: a disappointing loss in the playoffs.  Martin Brodeur again played an absurd number of regular season games (77) and given his lattitude in deciding when he plays I have to assume he will play at least 70 again (despite the addition of Johan Hedberg).  While the Devils improved their blueline defensively, they are now even less able to move the puck forward with the loss of Paul Martin–hoping that Andy Greene and Anssi Salmela can continue to evolve into that role.  With their strong forward group I expect the Devils to have another good regular season and make the playoffs, but there’s no reason to expect this version of the team to be any better than last year’s version.

Philadelphia Flyers (7th)
Roster losses: Simon Gagne (T – TB, 58-40), Aaron Asham (UFA – Pittsburgh, 72-24), Mika Pyorala (UFA – SEL, 36-4), Lukas Krajicek (UFA – CZE, 50-3), Ryan Parent (T – Nashville, 48-3), Riley Cote (retired, 15-0), Ray Emery (UFA, 29-16-11-1, 2.64, 0.905)
Roster additions: Nikolai Zherdev (KHL), Andrej Meszaros (T Tampa Bay), Sean O’Donnell (UFA Los Angeles), Jody Shelley (UFA New York Rangers), Matt Walker (T Tampa Bay)
Prospect signings: Sergei Bobrovsky (2.72, 0.919, KHL), Michael Testwuide (36-31 NCAA), Erik Gustafsson (39-32 NCAA), Andrew Rowe (38-28 NCAA), Ben Holmstrom (39-23 NCAA), Luke Pither (67-94 OHL), Tyler Hostetter (59-26 OHL), Eric Wellwood (65-68 OHL), Zac Rinaldo (60-25 OHL), Shane Harper (72-80 WHL)
Forwards: Mike Richards (82-62), Jeff Carter (74-61), Daniel Briere (75-53), Claude Giroux (82-47), Scott Hartnell (81-44), James Van Riemsdyk (78-35), Daniel Carcillo (76-22), Nikolai Zherdev (52-39 KHL), Ian Laperriere (82-20), Blair Betts (63-18), Darroll Powe (63-15), Ville Leino (55-11), Jody Shelley (57-9)
Defence: Chris Pronger (82-55), Kimmo Timonen (82-39), Matt Carle (80-35), Braydon Coburn (81-19), Andrej Meszaros (81-17), Sean O’Donnell (78-15), Matt Walker (66-5)
Goaltenders: Michael Leighton (2.83, 0.905, 34-17-9-2), Brian Boucher (2.76, 0.899, , 33-9-18-3)
Injuries: Chris Pronger, Michael Leighton, Ian Laperriere
Strengths: forward depth, scoring, blueline
Weaknesses: goaltending, team chemistry
Analysis: a strong, deep roster went all the way to the finals, but the Flyers once again failed to address their only issue: goaltending.  Much as I admire Leighton and Boucher, there are good reasons why both these players have bounced around for so long.  It’s also of note that the Flyers only came together at playoff time and I’m not convinced their chemistry issues are resolved.  However, there’s just too much talent here for them not to make the playoffs.

Pittsburgh Penguins (4th)
Roster losses: Sergei Gonchar (UFA – Ottawa, 62-50), Alexei Ponikarovsky (77-50), Bill Guerin (UFA, 78-45), Ruslan Fedotenko (UFA – New York Rangers, 80-30), Jordan Leopold (UFA – Buffalo, 81-26), Mart Eaton (UFA – NYI, 79-16), Jay McKee (UFA, 62-10)
Roster additions: Mike Comrie (UFA Edmonton), Aaron Asham (UFA Philadelphia), Zbynek Michalek (UFA Phoenix), Paul Martin (UFA New Jersey)
Prospect signings: Mattias Modig (2.49, 0.899, SEL), Patrick Killeen (2.42, 0.913, OHL), Nicholas Petersen (59-79 QMJHL), Simon Despres (63-47 QMJHL)
Forwards: Sidney Crosby (81-109), Evgeni Malkin (67-77), Jordan Staal (82-49), Pascal Dupuis (81-38), Chris Kunitz (50-32), Matt Cooke (79-30), Tyler Kennedy (64-25), Aaron Asham (72-24), Mike Comrie (43-21), Michael Rupp (81-19), Craig Adams (82-10), Maxime Talbot (45-7), Eric Godard (45-3)
Defence: Alex Goligoski (69-37), Krisopher Letang (73-27), Brooks Orpik (73-25), Zbynek Michalek (72-17), Paul Martin (22-11), Ben Lovejoy (12-3)
Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (2.65, 0.905, 67-37-21-6), Brent Johnston (2.76, 0.906, 23-10-6-1)
Injuries: Jordan Staal
Strengths: scoring
Weaknesses: depth, youthful blueline
Analysis: the team was let down by mediocre goaltending and an inability for support players to score in the playoffs.  They lost their best defenseman in Sergei Gonchar and while they acquired two solid veterans in Martin and Michalek to help replace him, their powerplay is going to suffer.  I wonder if GM Ray Shero can continue to pull rabbits out of his hat by putting aging veterans on the wing with Crosby and Malkin.  At some point relying on their top centers just won’t work, no matter how talented they are.  On paper this is the weakest Pittsburgh forward group since the lockout, with a great reliance on young blueliners to step up offensively.  The Penguins may well squeak into the playoffs, but they won’t be the foe that they have been the last few years.

New York Rangers (9th)
Roster losses: Ollie Jokinen (UFA – Calgary, 82-50), Enver Lisin (UFA – KHL, 57-14), Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (UFA – New York Islanders, 22-8), Jody Shelley (UFA – Philadelphia, 57-9), Aaron Voros (T – Anaheim, 41-7), Donald Brashear (T – Atlanta, 36-1), Alex Auld (UFA – Montreal, 2.96, 0.895, 24-9-7-3)
Roster additions: Alexander Frolov (UFA Los Angeles), Todd White (T Atlanta), Tim Kennedy (buyout Buffalo), Steve Eminger (T Anaheim), Derek Boogaard (UFA Minnesota), Martin Biron (UFA New York Islanders), Ruslan Fedotenko (UFA Pittsburgh)
Prospect signings: Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (55-64 SEL), Lee Baldwin (32-10 NCAA), Derek Stepan (41-54 NCAA), Cameron Talbot (2.61, 0.925 NCAA), Sam Klassen (67-30 WHL), Jyri Niemi (50-29 WHL)
Forwards: Marian Gaborik (76-86), Vaclav Prospal (75-58), Alexander Frolov (81-51), Brandon Dubinsky (69-44), Ryan Callahan (77-37), Chris Drury (77-32), Sean Avery (69-31), Ruslan Fedotenko (80-30), Artem Anisimov (82-28), Todd White (65-26), Erik Christensen (57-26), Tim Kennedy (78-26), Brandon Prust (79-14), Brian Boyle (71-6)
Defence: Michael Del Zotto (80-37), Marc Staal (82-27), Daniel Girardi (82-24), Michal Rozsival (82-23), Steve Eminger (63-16), Matt Gilroy (69-15), Wade Redden (75-14)
Goaltenders: Henrik Lundqvist (2.38, 0.921, 73-35-27-10), Martin Biron (3.27, 0.896, 29-9-14-4)
Injuries: Chris Drury, Vaclav Prospal
Strengths: goaltending, defensive play
Weaknesses: scoring, puck-moving defensemen
Analysis:  the Rangers continue to struggle to score.  In signing Alexander Frolov and mighty-mite Zuccarello-Aasen they hope to have a little more punch in the upcoming season.  The Rangers also need more production from their blueline, but other than hoping for the maturation of current players have done nothing to solve that problem.  Despite the changes their roster is thin group overly reliant on Henrik Lundqvist.  They will be touch and go to make the playoffs.

New York Islanders (13th)
Roster losses: Richard Park (UFA – NLA, 81-31), Sean Bergenheim (UFA – Tampa Bay, 63-23), Freddy Meyer (UFA – Atlanta, 64-15), Jeff Tambellini (UFA – Vancouver, 36-14), Tim Jackman (UFA – Calgary, 54-9), Brendan Witt (buyout, 42-5), Martin Biron (3.27, 0.896, 29-9-14-4)
Roster additions: James Wisniewski (UFA Anaheim), Mark Eaton (UFA Pittsburgh), Milan Jurcina (UFA Washington), Zenon Konopka (UFA Tampa Bay), Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (UFA New York Rangers), Mike Mottau (UFA New York Rangers), Michael Grabner (Waivers Tampa Bay)
Prospect signings: David Ullstrom (47-16 SEL), Rhett Rakhshani (41-50 NCAA), Calvin de Haan (34-24 OHL), Kevin Poulin (2.63, 0.916, QMJHL), Travis Hamonic (41-44 WHL), Nino Niederreiter (65-60 WHL)
Forwards: John Taveres (82-54), Kyle Okposo (80-52), Matt Moulson (82-48), Frans Nielsen (76-38), Blake Comeau (61-35), Joshua Bailey (73-35), Trent Hunter (61-28), Rob Schremp (44-25), Jonathan Sim (77-22), Doug Weight (36-17), Michael Grabner (20-11), Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (22-8), Zenon Konopka (74-5)
Defence: Mart Streit (82-49), James Wisniewski (69-30), Jack Hillen (69-21), Mark Mottau (79-18), Bruno Gervais (71-17), Mark Eaton (79-16), Milan Jurcina (44-7), Andrew MacDonald (46-7), Radek Martinek (16-3)
Goaltenders: Dwayne Roloson (3.00, 0.907, 50-23-18-7), Rick DiPietro (2.60, 0.900, 8-2-5-0)
Injuries: Markc Streit, Kyle Okposo, Rob Schremp
Strengths: goaltending
Weaknesses: forward depth
Analysis: the Isles were a competitive, young team, whose roster hasn’t changed markedly.  They’ve improved their blueline through free agency, but there isn’t much depth up front and the team is reliant on young players putting up big numbers.  I expect the Isles to be largely unchanged in terms of results this year.

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THN’s NHL Predictions

By Peter Levi

It has been a long time since the The Hockey News was considered a strong source of hockey opinion.  However, the publication is still widely read and it’s worth taking a look at their opinions and seeing what analysis they’ve used to rank the NHL.

August predictions are difficult for anyone–rosters are still not set, nor do they take into account training camp or pre-season injuries.  With that in mind, here are THN’s predictions for the 2010-11 season (my feelings are written in red) as posted on their website (their 09-10 finish is in brackets):

Eastern Conference
1 Washington (1st) - no reason to think they won’t dominant again; absolutely
2 Pittsburgh (4th) – believe that Martin and Michalek more than make up for the loss of Gonchar, Eaton, and McKee;  forward depth is irrelevant with their big three centers; a bit too glib on the defensive side, especially losing Gonchar, and their quality of the wingers continues to sink
3 Boston (6th) – not much analysis provided, but essentially they were good two years ago and added Nathan Horton; it does seem likely that at least some players will have bounce back years
4 Philadelphia (7th) – believe that with essentially the same core and an improved bottom pairing on the bluline the Flyers will perform like they did in the playoffs; their poor performance prior to making the playoffs should be a cause for concern, along with the wretched record of Cup finalists who aren’t Pittsburgh or Detroit
5 New Jersey (2nd) – they like the addition of aging Arnott and the signing of free agents Volchenkov and Tallinder; it’s a greying roster without a top offensive blueliner
6 Buffalo (3rd) - Ryan Miller will make their season; also believe Leopold and Shoane Morisonn will replace the loss of Lydman and Tallinder; there’s no arguing the first point, but the second is laughable–Morisonn is a marginal NHL player
7 Tampa Bay (12th) – like the organizational changes (Yzerman, Boucher) and roster changes (Gagne, Clark, Kubina, and Ellis); it’s a massive overhaul with 9 regulars gone–I think the jury is out on how quickly the team gels
8 Montreal (8th) – notes they haven’t improved so should finish in the same position; spotty logic to begin with and ignores the loss of Halak and goaltending depth in general
9 Carolina (11th) – offers no specific reasons for their placement, simply reciting a few personnel changes without giving their thoughts on their significance; the team is little changed, so should compete for a playoff spot
10 Ottawa (5th) – doesn’t like Ottawa’s goaltending; says the team is not much changed and therefore can’t replicate what it did last season; needless to say this refutes itself; just like last year, THN dismisses the Senators without much thought
11 Atlanta (10th) - a rather garbled analysis which concludes that not much has changed; with 10 roster changes it’s a rebuild year for Atlanta, which lacks scoring depth but has improved its blueline
12 Toronto (15th) - Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and J. S. Giguere will help the Leafs be a little better than last year; six of the team’s top eleven scorers were traded last year and whatever you think of that group I don’t believe enough rookies/new signings will do enough to make up for that gap; I also think Giguere’s performance will continue to slide as the NHL tightens its equipment regulations
13 New York Rangers (9th) - not much analysis other than saying Marian Gaborik won’t remain healthy a full season; without the Jacques Lemaire flu I expect Gaborik to play most of the season; while Alexander Frolov will add a bit to the offence to a team that is going to continue to struggle to score
14 New York Islanders (13th) - bring up Alexei Yashin for no particular reason and then say the team has too many holes for the team to make the leap forward; I can’t argue with the depth comment–the team might be a little stronger, but this isn’t the year they progress much
15 Florida (14th) – suggests the lost of Nathan Horton and Keith Ballard means this will be a rebuilding year and a worse team because of it; the Panthers are definitely in re-build mode, filling out their roster with various retread players

Western Conference
1 Vancouver (3rd) - believe a lack of toughness and leadership sunk the Canucks last year, but Malhotra solves those problems; not sure they illustrated the real flaw in the team last year, nor that Malhotra solves their problems, but they should be strong this coming season
2 San Jose (1st) – hurts to lose Nabakov and Rob Blake, but should continue to roll on; the team’s depth is starting to thin, but they are still very strong in their primary positions
3 Detroit (5th) – added some veterans and like every other year will be in the mix; they didn’t lose much in the off-season and have a strong roster moving forward
4 Chicago (2nd) – believe the gutted team lost nothing vital and will be fine; very glib about losing 10 roster players and filling those spots with cheap alternatives
Los Angeles (6th) - despite replacing Frolov with Ponikarovsky, the Kings will improve on last year; they over value Dustin Brown, who hasn’t really evolved the last four seasons, however, the team does have a deep prospect pool and will be fine
6 St. Louis (9th) – young players will improve and they believe Halak is the real deal; there’s no addressing the loss of Tkachuk and Kariya to the team; it’s also a little glib to assume youth will mature collectively to make the team stronger
7 Phoenix (4th) – take it for granted the team will continue to improve; teams that make a big jump one year typically fall back the next–how much is up for debate, but I believe last year was a fluke given the weak Coyote’s roster
8 Calgary (10th) - believe Jokinen and Tanguay will provide the offence require to make the playoffs; headache inspiring-logic, as the Flames are going to slide off the map with their anemic offence and lack of depth
9 Colorado (8th) - lost Brett Clark and think Craig Anderson is likely to slip; a slip back is likely, as frequently happens to teams that make a sudden and unexpected leap forward
10 Nashville (7th) – believes the loss of Jason Arnott, Dan Ellis, and Dan Hamhuis cannot be overcome; over estimates the value of all three; Nashville has the best depth on the blueline of any NHL team, but still haven’t solved their goal scoring issues
11 Anaheim (11th) – a weak defence corps will hurt the team; the Ducks have only one quality puck-moving blueliner and are just starting to recover from Brian Burke’s atrocious drafting
12 Dallas (12th) – a weak defence corps and Lehtonen’s health will hurt the team; I can’t argue with the analysis–the Stars have pinned a lot of hope on Lehtonen, but there’s no reason to assume he’ll fulfill it anymore than he did in Atlanta
13 Minnesota (13th) - the Wild couldn’t score last year and won’t score this year; Matt Cullen, Cam Barker, and a healthy Pierre-Marc Bouchard will help, but I have to agree that it’s difficult to see the Wild scoring enough
14 Columbus (14th) – need more offence to support Nash, including a puck-moving blueliner; the song remains the same for Columbus; firing Ken Hitchcock helped and I think the forward group will do enough to compete; the blueline is, however, a disaster, and the team can’t win enough unless they make significant changes
15 Edmonton (15th) – too many question marks will see the young team settle at the bottom; for the first time since the lockout there will be pressure from prospects on players in the lineup to perform–if Khabibulin can stay healthy and any one of Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Jordan Eberle, or Linus Omark can contribute regularly (a virtual certainty) the team will perform better than THN expects

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D’Amigo to sign with Maple Leafs

via Toronto Sun:

Many teams want a piece of Maple Leaf draft pick Jerry D’Amigo, but he might wind up in the shadow of the Air Canada Centre.

A league source confirmed a Yahoo Canada report Monday night that the college left winger is about to ditch his remaining NCAA eligibility with Rensselaer Polytechnic for a pro contract. That could eventually steer him toward the Kitchener Rangers, who own his CHL rights, but the 210 pound New York State native desires to try out with the big team first.

“If I do sign, it’s to play for the Toronto Maple Leafs,” D’Amigo told the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.

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League reviewing Luongo deal

via Sportsnet:

Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis has confirmed that the league is taking another look atRoberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million contract, according to a report by The Vancouver Sun.

Gillis confirmed this action in an email to the Vancouver Sun Monday night.

“We have complied with the NHL request for information and are awaiting further instructions,” Gillis said. “Cannot say anything further at this point.”

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Devils resume talks with Kovalchuk

via New Jersey Devils:

New Jersey Devils President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello today issued the following statement in response to Arbitrator Richard Bloch’s decision in regard to the team’s contract with Ilya Kovalchuk:

“We have reviewed and respect Arbitrator Bloch’s ruling in the Kovalchuk matter.  We also note and appreciate his finding that nothing in his opinion should be read as suggesting that either the club or Ilya Kovalchuk operated in bad faith or on the basis of any assumption other than that the Standard Player Contract was fully compliant with the CBA. That has been our consistent position throughout.

“While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in Arbitrator Bloch’s award and the NHL’s approval.”

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Arbitrator rules in favour of NHL – Kovalchuk contract void

via TSN:

Ilya Kovalchuk is an unrestricted free agent for the second time this summer.

Independent arbitrator Richard Bloch ruled in favour of the NHL’s rejection of Kovalchuk’s 17-year, US$102-million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

The NHL team released a statement Monday night saying it respects Bloch’s ruling and indicated that it still hopes to land the talented Russian.

“While we do not currently have a contract with Ilya Kovalchuk, discussions have resumed and we are hopeful that a contract will be reached that meets with the principles in arbitrator Bloch’s award and the NHL’s approval,” said Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.

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Ducks re-sign Teemu Selanne

via CBC:

Teemu Selanne has decided to play at least one more season in the NHL.

Selanne re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks to a one-year contract on Monday, general manager Bob Murray announced.

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Oilers re-sign Reddox for 1 year

via TSN:

The Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with left wing Liam Reddox on a one-year contract.

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