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.
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.
Brent Sopel has left the camp of the Detroit Red Wings and signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks
“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.
Ottawa’s bread and butter for the last 10 straight seasons of making the playoffs may be the best it has ever been.
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?
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.
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)
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.
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.
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):
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.
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.
Projected Line up as posted on HTR from the Gazette:
Higgins – Koivu – Ryder
A.Kostitsyn-Pleckanec – Kovalev
Here are the statistics for each player in 2006-2007 from TSN.ca
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.
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.
“I’m very positive we will make the playoffs and from there on, everything’s open”
The negative reflux from Leaf fans after the embarassing loss to Buffalo has done a great job of hiding the true issue at hand.