It's The Mikster Talking Hockey

I could not come up with a title. Of course I talk hockey on here, duh. Anyway, the Olympic break is approaching and so is the deadline. Anything more to expect?

Penguins are once again tanking a season.

Oilers, this year’s Calgary Flames? Maybe…

Canucks in bad shape?

Will Leafs hockey end its playoffs era?

Canadiens…big time trouble.Before I begin my article, I want to say how pathetic it was for the Sabres, specifically Lindy Ruff, to come out and just bash Kasparaitis. That was a clean hip check. An unfortunate one since I’ve always been a supporter of Connolly, but how could Lindy Ruff speak now after he has looked away for every cheap shot, dirty, disgusting plays performed by Vaclav Varada when he was a Sabre?

Moving on…

Torino 2006 will soon start, and so will HTR’s Italian coverage of hockey. So…. all of you better start working out, exercise…. start a 3 week diet, because once the Olympics start, it’s all hockey, wine, beer, and food.

NHL trades are soon to come as there won’t be much time when the season resumes after the Olympic break. So what is there to expect?

With about 31 to 35 games left into the season, teams have a good idea where they stand and what their chances are, while others know that their season is pretty much done. The ones that know their season is quite done are already preparing to make trades, especially to dump salary. The ones that know are a lock for the playoffs are also preparing to make trades to “perfect” their teams. Annnnd….the ones who are on the border of the 8th seed, both in and out, will shortly start to explore.

That pretty much says that three types of teams are getting busy with phones and scouting other teams. I would expect a couple of more trades to be made prior to the Olympic break. Those trades, however, should involve players that are not on Olympic teams. That would allow a player to be acquired and spend time, during the break, to fit in with the new team and practice a bit with the coach.

I know I keep bringing this up, but the Penguins are tanking this season. I’m sorry Pens fans, I know you hate what I am saying, but this team has no sense of direction other than investing it with a bright future and selling it for big money. Billionares who want to be owners know that the Penguins could be a very good long-term investment, especially if they once again get a top draft choice with all-star potential.

Sure, Palffy’s retirement was a huge surprise, but this Penguins team was poorly managed with carelessness. What kind of GM signs Crosby, signs palffy, Recchi, LeClair, and Gonchar…, tries to bring in veteran leadership with Odelein, yet does not address the team with a goalie? It’s bad enough that the defense was already bad and adding Odelein and Gonchar was no improvement defensively. What about goaltending though? They got none. They could have had Curtis Joseph for cheap, but they ignored that. Firing Olczyk was pointless, and Therrien has not changed much about the team either.

The only direction the Penguins have taken for the past few years has been to stack up with prospects. Once again, with a meaningless trade on Dick Tarnstrom, the Penguins are headed in the same direction, and they’ll gladly trade Recchi and LeClair, probably crossing their fingers that someone would take Gonchar off their hands, all so they save up on money, get a top overall draft choice and then sell a low cost team for big bucks.

Now, as a hockey fan…. I think it’s an embarrassment to the franchise and to the NHL. As someone who studies business, economics, and politics…. it’s a genius move. Mario Lemieux and his partners could come out so clean and perfect with the sale of this club. And, they should sell it at a high price. Think about it… this is a team that in a few years has a roster of Crosby, Malkin, Whitney, Fleury, Kessel/Johnson/Frolik…. other prospects and enough low budget to sign GOOD free agents. It’s a heck of an investment for a billionare.

The first move for the billionare, though, should be to release Craig Patrick from his duties. The Penguins are such a key club for the future of the NHL.

So, while I am upset that once again I get to see the Penguins steal a top prospect in a draft, and saying they should not be allowed to draft in the top 5, I am also saying that they are a key franchise for the future of the NHL. Of course, let’s hope it does not go to Las Vegas.

Honestly, I bet that only two people, probably the few Flames fans we have on HTR, guessed that in 2004, the Flames would be a Cup Finalist. How about I make that statement for the Edmonton Oilers? I am betting two parts of this though because it depends what GM Lowe decides to do. My original bet is that it will be a Flames vs. Senators Stanley Cup Final, and I’ll gladly enjoy watching two great Canadian teams win the original Canadian Trophy. However, my second bet depends on Lowe addressing his goaltending needs.

Ever since they acquired Mike Peca and Chris Pronger, I put the Oilers as a tough playoff team to beat. And yes, they will be a tough playoff team to beat with those two guys. Two thumbs up for GM Lowe on acquiring Dick Tarnstrom for a utility defenseman in Cory Cross and an expandable forward, Jani Rita, who I like as a player and should develop well with the Pens. Still, Tarnstrom is an offensive weapon on the blueline and now the Oilers have a PP that scares the opposition.

Also, Jaroslav Spacek was a great pick up by the Oilers as the Blackhawks are starting to make roster changes after a poorly managed season.

The Oilers sacrificed a bit defensively by acquiring two defensemen that are not so steady on the D, but they can do the job. Yet, they add more offense. So the Oilers may decide to acquire an extra forward, but their playoff success starts from the net and crease. Jussi Markkanen and Morrison have been solid goalies, but can’t have them playing in the playoffs.

Forget the idea that the Oilers could trade for Eddie Belfour, that guy is not going anywhere with his salary. I think Edmonton has two targets for goaltending. One, Dwayne Roloson, and two, Curtis Joseph. Both are proven goalies that are financially affordable, and both have succeeded well in the playoffs. I think Jospeh would be the best deal since he is actually cheaper, but I can see him become a Trade Deadline Day acquisition. Roloson would also be a key deal. While both of them do not ensure a Cup Finals spot, they absolutely make the Oilers a scary team to play against in the playoffs.

This is a playoff team. It does not matter where they finish between 1st and 8th, they’ll show up in the playoffs. So, depending on the goalie that Lowe acquires, Biron could still be a possibility, the Oilers could become the Flames of 2004.

I watched the Maple Leafs get hammered once again and it is ugly. GM Ferguson Jr. has hit a dead end with the one road, which now splits into two roads. Left or right? The left is… start thinking about a total firesale and clean up and rebuild the franchise. The right is…. screw it, no guts no glory, make some trades to get in the playoffs. It’s pretty much a coin toss and pressure from the fans and media certainly do not help the young general manager.

What I’d want Ferguson Jr. to do before the break starts, is acquire Brendan Witt, at all costs. Yeah, he said he is more of a “Western boy” but he is a much needed player on the Leafs. Low salaried, tough, physical, and should make a big difference on the defense. Ferguson also needs to get a winger. And seriously…. would the Leafs fans and media stop the Sundin trade rumors?

By the way, let me say something about that. I think that kind of talk is complete trash. Actually, trash is cleaner…. that talk is disgusting and sick. Has it ever occcured to the incompetent Canadian sports journalists that just maybe…. MAYBE the team seriously sucks and Mats Sundin can’t do a thing about it? Yes, the guy is aging and of course he is not the same as he used to be, but he’s also got a team that has abysmal wingers. To even think about the Leafs trading Sundin is almost criminal, and for journalists to say that Sundin is unhappy and wants to get traded, even after he denied so, is even more disgusting.

This isn’t politics where some journalists get to be radical and screw up the news with their own ideologies. This is hockey, it’s a game, it’s a sport. How dare ANY journalist fabricate such crap on a player. Someone must be such a sleezeball to make up that kind of crap. It is cheap, dirty crap and these journalists GET PAID to write such things. This is outrageous.

Guess what, Leafs fans, I got to watch my great Rangers players go on a decline. Brian Leetch, Mark Messier, Adam Graves, Mike Richter…. all great Rangers players who I got to see when they were dominant, and when they were…. old.

Accept reality, Mats Sundin is becoming an older player and he won’t be the same, especially when he’s got abysmal wingers and a bad team. But this guy brought the Leafs to playoff contention for so many years. To think about that the Leafs should trade him…. it’s just sick. Lack of respect towards a great Leaf player that will go down as one of the best ever in Toronto.

Accept the reality, but I urge you not to accept the total crap that the sports media feeds you up in Canada. I won’t mention the names of the journalists, but you know who they are….and they deserve to get kicked out. You guys need to do something about it. The hockey media in Canada, specifically Ontario, has turned into complete garbage.

I would not even spend a dime on the newspaper or even bother reading their blog-style articles on the Web sites.

I mean it folks…. do something about this. It got out of hand during the off-season with the MOJO and the Fan590 stations where they kept reporting stuff that wasn’t happening. Hey, how’s that Jamie Rivers trade coming along by the way?

At this point, why doesn’t the Toronto Star, or Ottawa Star, or whoever, hire us, to write articles. Hell I’d do it for free. It’s the same stuff we write. A bunch of you members are good writers and awesome hockey fans. We could do the job, for even less than half of what those logically challenged journalists get paid.

Be proud of Mats Sundin who honors the great Maple Leaf logo. You lose him, the franchise loses an identity.

Anyway, enough with that message. Toronto media should just stay shut, Leafs fans should stay patient…. let the team get healthy, give time for Ferguson to make a trade. The less pressure, the better the trade will be. If you guys increase the hype on a trade, and it turns out the trade is “okay”, and not so interesting…… then it’s a big disappointment and you react negatively to the trade. Let him do his job.

You know…. it’s amazing because once again I am bothered by people pointing fingers. And this other victim is…… GM Nonis. The Vancouver Canucks are in bad shape. They are inconsistent, not 100% healthy and not at the same level where they should be. Now, how could Nonis get blame, I don’t know. To me, this looks like a good man and a hard working general manager who is trying his best to get the best deal for his team. It’s not easy to inherit a well built money making team from Brian Burke, and try to do a better job. It’s already hard to do the same kind of job. And, it’s not Nonis’s fault that there was a $39M salary cap in place. It’s not his fault that Todd Bertuzzi has been a different player ever since the Moore incident. There are things that a general manager cannot control.

This guy is really pressured and good God, I’d be going through insomniac if I were in his position. Do I fire the coach? Should I trade a top rounder, maybe a couple of prospects? Do I give up on Bert? How do I address my goaltending needs?

It’s not easy being in his position. He has little cap space and there are high expectations on him. He will make a trade, but it is not going to be easy. There are certain needs that are more important than others. Is goaltending more important than a real #1 center? Maybe strenghten the defense? It’s not like the Canucks have that much to trade either. I think Nonis should hunt for Curtis Joseph. He is cheap salaried, and I don’t think he will give much of a return for the Coyotes. I think with a solid goaltender, the defense will be less of an issue, but the offense still needs to be addressed. With the Hawks dumping players, I would not be surprised to see Tyler Arnason as a possibility for the Canucks to acquire. If Toronto keeps slipping, maybe Jason Allison could be a good idea with Naslund and Bertuzzi.

The team is in trouble, and the Oilers and Sharks are the two teams that will break in to the already high competition Western Conference. Nonis should make a move to stir things up for his team. Firing Crawford is not worth it, but making some sort of change soon is worth a shot before it’s too late.

There was a moment of relief for Habs fans
when Bob Gainey took over the bench, but the Canadiens are in big time trouble. Jose` Theodore won’t be going anywhere. He is having a horrible season and is earning a pathetic salary which puts him on the same level as Martin Brodeur; Jose is not even close to that level.

Bob Gainey is in no tough position though. He has good tradeable assets and the kind that teams would be interested in. The problem is, will the Canadiens make the playoffs? The Boston Bruins have been gaining ground, and even the Florida Panthers are starting to get closer, especially after a total domination against the Devils last night (I was there and it was a wonderful game). So… Montreal may miss the playoffs and if so… Gainey could be looking to dump salary and clean up his roster. I think right now, within the next three weeks or so, he could pull the trigger on a player that would help them make the playoffs. But if that does not work out, the Canadiens should be looking to set up a firesale post. Teams will be interested in Mike Komisarek, maybe even Alex Kovalev…. Richard Zednik…, Jan Bulis, Souray. He’s got the players to trade, and if I were him… I would start cleaning up the house and start building his own team.

I really think that the trade market will be very active. People who say that it won’t be active are the same people who never even expected the Oilers could afford both Peca and Pronger. Probably laughed at the idea back then. It’s all a guessing game and I am doing that too, but I am me… I don’t get paid to tell you what my guesses are. And besides, I am the mikster…. and the mikster has two rules…

#1- Mikster is always right.

#2- If mikster is wrong, then go back to rule #1!

Thanks for reading folks, have a great weekend!

Micki Peroni