Monthly Archives: September 2007

Let the Heatley rumors begin!

Contract discussions have already began between the Senators and end of the season UFA, Dany Heatley. After 5 long and grueling hours of discussions with Eugene Melnyk and Brian Murray, nothing was produced. The Senators offered Heatley approximately 7 million per year but Heatley wanted around 8.5 million per season. The Senators weren’t ready to give him that since they still have to re-sign the likes of Jason Spezza, Wade Redden(if they don’t trade him during the season) and others.

HTR Hockey Pool: LAST CHANCE!

Okay, due to uncontrollable circumstances I could not be there yesterday to send links to the last members who wanted to join so I decided to extend the deadline to join the pool.

HOWEVER, this extension is only for those who already asked to join.

So if you already asked to join the pool, CHECK YOUR PM’s. You have up until tonight (Sept. 30) 11pm Eastern Time before the pool is closed.

Go inside to see who already received his PM but did not make his picks yet.

New Jersey Devils 2007-08

New Jersey Devils 2007-2008
by NjDEVSFN


Predictions

Well, the season is about to start, it’s 6:10 in the morning, I can’t sleep and I have hockey on my mind. So, I decided to make my predictions for this season.

Sopel leaves Wings, signs with Chicago

Brent Sopel has left the camp of the Detroit Red Wings and signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks

End Game For the Leafs

“The Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup”.

This was the grand promise put forth by coach Paul Maurice. While showing such confidence is admirable, the reality of the situation is that the Leafs like last season will be scrambling for one of the final few playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Sens 2007-2008

Ottawa’s bread and butter for the last 10 straight seasons of making the playoffs may be the best it has ever been.

The Downie Hit

What really disturbs me is all the talk about how many games Downie should be suspended. But my question is, how do you suspend a guy who doesn’t even play in the NHL?

Who Do We Keep?

We can expect a great year from the Ottawa Senators this season. However they have several issues looming over their heads. Big decisions need to be made by next July, and there’s no need to procrastinate. Here’s what’s going down.

Montreal Canadiens 2007-08

2006-2007 results:

42-34-6 10th East

Goals for: 2.92 per game (15th)

Goals Against: 3.06 per game (22th)

Powerplay: 22.8% (1st)

Penalty Kill: 83.5% (13st)

(NHL.com)

General Manager:

Bob Gainey

History:

Gainey is one of the most respected minds in hockey. Very few Hab fans doubt Gainey’s ability as a GM however, this being Gainey’s 4th year as a the GM of the tricolour, the Habs have never past the second round of the playoffs and even worse for this supposed upcoming team, they missed the playoffs again last year. One would question how long Gainey will be a GM in Montreal, especially after failing to land a marquee free agent during the off-season.

Head Coach:

Guy Carbnonneau

History:

Similar to his first year in Montreal, Carbo will rely heavily on the youth movement. He is a very emotional coach and this reflected both the team and individual play. A roller coaster season with extreme highs and extreme lows defined the Habs season last year. Look for Carbo to continue to be emotional which can be beneficial but hopefully, his sophomore season will allow him to handle situations like the Samsonov saga more appropriately.

Associate Coaches:

Doug Jarvis

Kirk Muller

History:

You can thank Muller and Jarvis for the Habs phenomenal special team play. The Habs were a top 5 team on the PK for until December while they finished first overall on the PP. Like their boss, they are green behind a NHL bench however, their reputations of sound work ethic command respect. As a Hab fan, I can say work ethic is something our team desperately needs.

Assistant Coach (Goaltending):

Roland Melanson

History:

Rollie the goalie will be licking his chops this season having the privilege to work with the sound positional play of Huet, the young Halak and potentially, the best player not to play in the NHL, Carey Price.

Team Mode:

I struggled for a few days trying to come up with a metaphor or phrase to define what the Habs will do this season. Oddly, I did not have to go far and came up with Alex Kovalev. This team has a tonne of potential and they made that clear during the first half of last season. It is clear the Habs have a lot of skill, speed, great goaltending, and solid coaching when they are motivated and firing on all cylinders. But the lack of consistency showed when they faced some adversity with the flu, some players slacked, conflict reared its ugly head and the team’s season was summed up perfectly during that dreadful 3rd period against the Leafs. No need to describe how that ended to my fellow Hab fans.

Expect the PP success rate to drop with the departure of Souray but expect the PK percentages to increase with the departure of Souray. The team last year was dreadful 5 on 5 and this has to be the main focus this year. The addition of Hamrlik and his +22 last year should help but, they still lack a legitimate star on this team (Aka. top ten player) that can make then Stanley Cup contenders.

To Take charge:

Koivu will be Koivu this year. He is their captain and top forward. But with the emergence and expectations on the youth, it is their time to step up. Will Ryder be here at the trade deadline? He might if he shows some consistency and learns how to play without the puck. Pleckanec, Higgins, Latendresse, Komisarek are players we need to take the next step in their respective careers. If we don’t get solid years from these players, we will not make the playoffs. Finally, Markov will finally break out of the underrated shell and will become a top 10 D-man in this league. He will be our QB on the PP and will be relied heavily to be the go to guy in critical situations. He will need to anchor a mediocre at best blue line.

On the Rush

With a team built around speed, you would think this team would have scored a lot of goals. Well they did, on the man advantage. Ryder did score 30 goals but a –25 all but nullified his scoring prowess from the slot. We lost Bonk and Johnson but bringing in Smolinski and Kostopoulos more or less offset the losses. Look for Andrei Kostisyn to provide some offensive punch as he is adapting wonderfully to the North American game. Again, Gainey is relying on the progression of the youth to improve this team.

While previously talking about other forwards and what needs to be done, I would like to focus in on Alex Kovalev. I am a fan of Alex and strongly believe he is still the best stick handler in the league. That being said, he also has the worst work ethic in the league which as a Hab fan, is extremely frustrating to watch. Alex can put us over the top into the playoffs but after all, he is an enigma meaning his play is a crapshoot at best. Alex will be Carbo’s biggest challenge this year.

One of the interesting stories coming out of training camp this year is Kyle Chipchura. Everyone is talking about Price but Kyle is quietly earning a spot by doing all the right things in regards to his two way play. I would not be surprised to see Kyle earn a spot even on the third line. While it is a little premature to compare him to Gainey but, he is closer to fitting the Gainey mold then any other player on the Habs. Even though he is a rookie, look for Chips to slowly fill in the leadership vacuum left be the departures of Souray and Rivet.

Do not expect a dramatic drop of success on the PP which was the Hab’s strength last year. Markov is a competent point man and Souray credited Higgins for a lot of his goals as he was the one getting his nose dirty in front. While it was a perceived weakness least year, Plex being our second line centre should be strength. He was the hottest Hab down the stretch and playing with snipers Kostisyn/Latendresse and Kovalev, he has a lot of options on the point and in the slot.

Covering the D-Zone:

Ahh the Montreal D. Markov and Komisa
rek are players any team would love to have. Markov is a solid all around D-man and Komi is one of the top hitters and defensively sound blue liners. Hamrlik is a solid defensive defenseman coming from the Flames defensive pedigree but unfortunately, the depth chart lacks legitimate talent from there.

I am a fan of Streit with his versatility and I believe he is the perfect 6 or 7 d-man to be rotated exclusively on the second PP unit as QB and 4th line. Bouillion is small but has a lot of heart. He had a sub-par season and for a D-man with his stature, that did not cut it even with a leg injury. Brisbois is a wild card this year. He is great with the first pass on the offensive rush, experienced but he is not nicknamed Breezy or Breeze-by for his defensive prowess. Gorges, Dandeneult and O’Byrne round out the Montreal defense. As you can see, the defense is filled with position 6-7 D-men. O’Byrne will likely become a top 4 D-man but not for a couple years. This is an area that Gainey will need to address this season, especially if they want to improve the 5 on 5 in a very offensive minded Northeast Division.

Guarding the net

All-Star Cristobal Huet has yet to prove he can handle a full season. He is a solid goalie but still has not proved his number 1 status for a full season. This opens up an interesting scenario that is being played out in training camp (and may already been concluded by the time you read this). On one side, you have a young Slovakian named Halak who literally carried the Habs back into post season contention. Surely he would deserve a platoon role with Huet but with a “little known” prospect by the name of Carey Price, it makes the goaltending picture a hazy at best. You can’t overlook Price’s World Junior Gold, WJHC MVP, Calder Cup ring and Calder cup MVP resume. Regardless of what happens, once again, goaltending in Montreal is solid. (Even with how poorly Abby played last year)

Talking about my generation:

No doubt this team is young and I have touched on what the youth needs to do for this team. I can talk in detail about all the Montreal prospects that make them number 2 in depth according to Hockeysfuture.com but review the following link for a more in-depth analysis.

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/teams/montreal_canadiens

Projected Line up as posted on HTR from the Gazette:

Forwards:

Higgins – Koivu – Ryder

A.Kostitsyn-Pleckanec – Kovalev

Latendresse-Smolinski-Kostopoulos

Lapierre-Chipchura-Begin

Defense:

Markov-Komisarek

Hamrlik-Streit

Bouillon-O’Byrne/Gorges/Brisebois

Or

Markov-Komisarek

Hamrlik-O’Byrne

Streit-Bouillon/Gorges/Brisebois

Goaltending:

Huet

Halak

Price

Here are the statistics for each player in 2006-2007 from TSN.ca

http://www.tsn.ca/nhl/teams/statistics/?hubname=nhl-canadiens

Comments:

The first two offensive lines are set but I think Kostopolous can move down to the fourth line while Chips plays on the wing with Smokes. Begin can play center and Chips can cause havoc in front which will allow Latendresse to be a threat from the slot. Murray may be a reserve but don’t be surprised if Dandenault and Streit are the ones taking his spot with injuries.

On D, the sixth spot is up for grabs but with so many 6-7 D-men, Montreal will likely carry 8 D-men this year and Murray up front will no longer be with the team.

Expectations/Projected:

Like Alex Kovalev, the Habs are an enigma themselves. On paper, they have done little to improve the team during the off season. They lost leadership and the best PP point man in the league but overall, they improved defensively. This means, on paper, the Habs should finish out of the playoffs this year.

Being unbiased, this team should not be underestimated. We all saw what this team could do during the first half of last season and they still have all the tools (which most of them are still improving) to do the same. Some really exciting players to watch like Higgins, Plex, Markov, Koivu, Ryder and even Kovalev have all proven to be game breakers while Huet has proven the same as a game saver.

Look for the Habs to battle for a playoff spot and seek revenge against the unnamed team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. (I love the intensity of the rivalry) They still match up well against their divisional opponents which is vital for playoff contention. They key to a playoff birth is consistency. The forwards have to be more defensively responsible and the defense has to step up offensively to fill the Souray void. Leadership must come from the youth and Alex needs to give us 50+ points with many of them being clutch.

Hab Quote:

“I’m very positive we will make the playoffs and from there on, everything’s open”

Saku Koivu

Leafs vs Sabres: an eye opener

The negative reflux from Leaf fans after the embarassing loss to Buffalo has done a great job of hiding the true issue at hand.

Leaf fans: Sit and Wait???

First of all, I’m a Hab fan. If you feel like reading any further, go ahead. If not, its fine with me. As a die-hard Hab fan, I consider myself one of the most biased fans out there. I call a spade a spade, I critisize what should be critisized, and praise what should be praised.

Carolina Hurricanes Season Preview

General Manager

Jim Rutherford continues his era with the Carolina Hurricanes. Rutherford saw his team go from Stanley Cup champs to regular season losers. The Hurricanes missed the playoffs by a minor margin, but it never looks good to win the Cup and miss the playoffs the season after. Reminds me of the 1995 New Jersey Devils.

Head Coach

Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup, but coached his team out of the playoffs. Must have been frustrating, but I cannot blame him too much either as the Canes suffered with injuries and lack defensive talent, not to mention goaltending. Nonetheless, Laviolette has faced tough situations in his career, and he has the right mind to get this team back into playoff action.

Team Mode

The mode is evident. For the Hurricanes it is desperation hockey starting from Game 1 to Game 82. They won the Cup and they need to forget about last season’s gaffe and get on with it. They need to focus, and play at a more consistent level. The problems with the team is that it stayed status quo for the most part in the off-season, but it did well to re-acquire Matt Cullen from the New York Rangers. It is important to keep a winning core that worked. It will be a tough year for the Hurricanes, and they need to be a category five hurricane if they want to make it to the playoffs.

On The Rush

The Hurricanes know what their problem was last season. Eric Staal. I am surprised he was not discussed enough in the off-season as he had a horrible season. Scoring 30 goals and 70 points is not the bad part. It’s going from 100 points to 70 points, that’s the bad part. It’s just unacceptable on his part and Eric has to regain his form first and foremost if the Hurricanes want to make the playoffs. Ray Whitney and Rod Brind’Amour had great seasons surpassing the 80 point mark, respectively, but they are also aging and how long can they go for scoring this much? Erik Cole and Justin Williams prove really good scoring as well in the 60-70 point range. Cory Stillman looks to rebound from being too injured to be effective. Overall, the firepower is well present in Carolina, especially if Staal turns it on, and with Matt Cullen adding more support on the offense, the Hurricanes become one of the most underrated offensive teams in the NHL. Offense is well set, and it will help them succeed. If Staal explodes, the rest will explode

Covering the D-Zone

This is the worst part about this team. The defense is just abysmal at best. It lacks size, skill, or anything that is worth considering good. How much can you comment on a defense that consists of the following names: Frantisek Kaberle, Mike Commodore, Tim Gleason, Bret Hedican, Dennis Seidenberg, Niclas Wallin, and Glen Wesley. Hedican and Wesley may be on the verge of retirement. Commodore is solid but a third pair defenseman at best. Kaberle is injury prone. Tim Gleason is a solid young defenseman, but also needs to stay healthy. Dennis Seidenberg appears to be a journeyman in the NHL as this is his third team in four years. He is an average defenseman, but better for depth purposes. Wallin is also a very good defenseman, but does not stand out. Last season the defense ranked 20th, and even in their Cup winning season, the Canes defense was no better than 19th in the league. Expect the defense to be about the same unless Cam Ward regains his playoff form from two seasons ago. Carolina’s defense is a very weak point and it was surprising not to see GM Rutherford make any changes to help out the blueline.

Guarding the Net

Cam Ward was a well touted goalie prospect, but he put on a mediocre season when he received the starting role for the franchise. He is still young and carrying loads of potential, but a .897 save percentage was very unattractive to look at. Can Ward pull himself together and regain his form? It’s a coint toss. I recall his rookie ampaign as back-up to Martin Gerber and he did not look sharp at all and appeared to be a goalie that needed a lot of time to develop. Yet, he ended up being the star of the 2006 playoffs. Was I wrong? Not with the way he performed last season. Behind Ward is John Grahame who was also not as consistent as hoped. Overall, the goaltending situation in Carolina is nothing more than a huge question mark. If Ward performs well, this team will make the playoffs, but if he is too inconsistent, then this team will repeat another early summer vacation.

Expected and Projected

The Carolina Hurricanes are expected to make the playoffs since many see Eric Staal rebounding from a poor performance last season. The Hurricanes have good depth, scoring is very underrated, but the defense is a major concern and the goaltending is questionable. But if you take the best case scenarios, then the Hurricanes are not just a playoff team, but a tough competitor to face in the playoffs as well. Projected: I do not expected this hockey club to make the playoffs, at all. I lost credibility in Cam Ward and the defense looks very very doubtful for my tastes. Some defensemen are aging, a couple are on the brink of retirement, and the younger defensemen are just not that good. Without good goaltending and the defense ranking in the bottom half of the league, you’re not going to make the playoffs unless the offense performs at a stellar level every game. I doubt it, however, and the Hurricanes will compete for the 8th seed, but will fail to make it.


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