Final Preseason Notes
Just enough time left for me to get in my last licks before the regular season is finally underway. I noticed some noteworthy roster cuts, there’s already an injury or two, and perhaps I’ll throw out a prediction or two. A bit of news since yesterday’s Oiler roster article: Marty Reasoner has lost his #2 center spot to Shawn Horcoff, at least for one game. Craig MacTavish is sending a message to his players that he’s going to play whoever is playing the best, no matter who you are. Horcoff’s camp was much stronger than Reasoner’s was and so the switch was made. Last season, MacTavish sat Igor Ulanov for game one and the rearguard responded by having a career year. Perhaps MacT is trying to duplicate that success. Also, 27 year old rookie Kari Haakana will play the opener against the Flames instead of Sean Brown. Sven Butenschon’s assignment to Hamilton is expected to be a short one, just 4 games for conditioning.
The Calgary Flames cut Rico Fata… again. The 6th overall pick from the ’98 draft will have to clear waivers before he lands in Saint John. With his outstanding speed and untapped potential, Fata is almost certainly going to be picked up by some other NHL team.
The Flames also cut Jukka Hentunen, a 27 year old Finn who was a top scorer for Jokerit last year. This could also be a quite temporary development so that Hentunen can adjust to the north american game in the minors.
The Flames top pick this past draft, Chuck Kobasew is starting the season off with the big club. He potted five goals in the preseason and will get the chance to stick with the club for a longer look.
Florida returned their first pick from the draft to his junior team today. There was thought that Stephen Weiss might be able to stay on the roster of the bottom feeding Panthers but, management has decided to allow the kid to grow more in junior.
The Islanders cut Branislav Mezei yesterday. The Hockey News listed the young blueliner as third on the team’s depth chart and yet somehow he did not make the team. Neither did Raffi Torres, another top prospect who was hoping to stay.
He was supposedly the top swedish goalie prospect since Tommy Salo, but Mikael Tellqvist lost his back up job to a career minor leaguer yesterday. Corey Schwab signed a contract with the Maple Leafs and will become Curtis Joseph’s reliever. Schwab has seen limited NHL action in stints with teams such as the Devils and the Canucks. While Schwab was decent in camp, the job was Tellqvist’s to lose after much hyping from Leafs management in the summer.
The Capitals won’t miss Glen Metropolit as much as the Lightning will be glad they have him. The waiver draft pick up will be important for Tampa Bay, especially while their best player is still holding out. With Vincent Lecavalier not playing, Metropolit could play as high as the second line.
One waiver draft transaction that will benefit all parties: Josh Holden to Carolina from Vancouver. Too many young prospects in Vancouver, Holden goes to a team that’s needing another one. Holden wasn’t making the cut on the west coast, but on the east coast, he could be a starter.
Chicago’s defencemen were underachievers last year. A look at the names tells me that this is one of the more overlooked defensive cores in the league. Karpovtsev, BoBo Mironov, Spacek, and Steve McCarthy are now joined by Jon Klemm and Phil Housley. Not bad at all, better than half the teams in the league including PGH, NSH, CRL and Toronto.
Kariya is available if anybody wants him. Steve Kariya, the brother of the mightiest Mighty Duck, was also a final cut by the Vancouver Canucks at the end of their camp.
Mikael Renberg had his bell rung last week and sat out the Leaf’s final preseason game against the Red Wings. Renberg skated yesterday and says he should be cleared to play in Wednesday’s opener against the Senators.
Doug Weight was given an “A” by the Blues. Weight was named one of the assisstant captains of the team, a sign from the club that he is expected to lead the Blue’s in other ways than just on the stats sheet.
Sergei Berezin has been placed on the injured reserve list already. (Somebody fill me in on the injury, he’s screwing up my office hockey pool already!).
Bryan Berard is either going to be the feel-good story of the year, or he is a disater in the making. I hope he’s successful, but if not, I hope he leaves on his own accord and not because of further injury to himself or to someone else.
The only prediction I want to make is that the northeast division will be the tightest in the league. You could make a plausible argument for any of the five teams to finish on top or place last in the division. With the Bruins, Leafs and Habs apparently improved, it is conceivable that they could drag the Sens and the Sabres down to their level with only the division winner making the playoffs.
I’m betting that if the Kings don’t trade Fiset, he will again be the team’s #1 goalie by the end of the year. Potvin has shown that he cannot sustain his top form for the course of a full season, and by New Year’s, the Kings will be looking to deal.
Early candidates for the Calder trophy include Kovalchuk and Heatley from Atlanta, Rotislav Klesla of the Blue Jackets and Pavel Brendl in Philly.
He’s dodged the bullet several times in the past, but Carolina coach Paul Maurice might lead the endangered coach list. In a job that has an average life span of just over 3 years, Maurice is entering season #7. Have the ‘Canes/Whalers won anything under him?
Speaking of coaches, whatever happened to Pat Burns, Mike Keenan and Jaques Demaires? Now those guys made coaching a fun part of the game to watch. Here’s hoping at least one of them finds his way back behind a bench this season.
Enough talk, drop the puck!