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Here you will go on a journey starting from an amazing European-like city called Montreal. There you will discover what the future could be for these Canadiens. From there, you will pass by a city that burns in Flames. You’re blinded by smoke as you then find yourself in the city of Edmonton, and roll down a mountain with an Avalanche. And final, you will find yourself on a deserted island with a tribe called the Islanders.Canadiens 2002-2003
I have seen many reports on what teams will be doing in the offseason and what they expect the teams to look like in the future. This is what I expect the Canadiens to look like based on reliable sources: The Montreal Gazette, The Team 990, The Sporting News, TSN.ca, Hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.
Although the Habs most likely won’t be able to land Holik, Guerin, Amonte, Selanne and other big name Free Agents, they may make a few moves to bolster their small lineup. Here are a couple of steps Andre Savard and Michel Therrien may take to improve the team:
-Sign a 2nd tier free agent to improve defence ex: Hedican, Kasparitis, Richardson
-Trade Garon and Berezin to get higher draft pick
-Trade Hackett to St. Louis, Rangers, Dallas or Philly to get size or depth on offense.Ex: Stillman, McCarthy, Fedotenko, or Muller
-Get rid of Traverse and Robidas to make room for Ron Hainsey in lineup
-Make sure Doug Gilmour comes back
-Sign Theodore early to keep from a hold out
With these changes, this is what the Habs could look like next year:
Kilger Koivu Audette
Zednik Gilmour Petrov
Juneau Perreault Winger from Hackett trade
Lindsay Van Allen Odjik
Free agent D Brisebois
With these moves and a healthy team, Montreal could improve their post-season performance and raise their level yet again.
Flames Season in Review
For the Flames, the 2001/02 season was a season of great ups and great downs. So where does a team thats play was streaky to say the least go to smooth out their performance and make a considerable improvement?
First the season in review, how can anyone complain about the start Calgary had, they had Detroit scratching their heads asking if this was for real, or just a misprint. The Flames started out the season with one of the best starts ever. They will need to match that effort this year. A big reason for this great start was the strong play of Roman Turek, Jarome Iginla, and the surprising offencive boost from Conroy. So what went wrong, how did a team that played so well in the first 25 games turn into a team that was close to the bottom for the rest of the season? A couple of things come to mind
1) Turek, played amazing for the first 20(was the run away candidate for the Vezina) but the wheels fell off. This happened at close to the time Turek was rewarded with a contract extention(possible Courtnall syndrom, play well when contract pending, then cool off). Or it could also be the fact that back-up Vernon did not play well, and that the Flames were reluctant to go to him leaving a huge role for Turek. The gas might have just ran out.
2) Injuries and contracts, I realize that this issue is for all teams, but I will focus on the Flames, Savard did not start the season with the club, lost his place on the first line and was a disruption when he returned, spent a lot of the season in the dog house. Nedermayer started the season well, but injuries happered his season and he returned cold. Morris’s injury might have cost him a spot on the Canadian Olympic team, but most of all hurt the Flames, he is one of only a few vetrans on the club(he is a rookie on most other clubs) but the team could not turn to him as much this season.
3) Too many overpaid middlemen. The Flames consisted of two types of players this year, youth(rising stars) and journey man. The balance was not correct, the Flames had too many journeymen that made too much money(moeny could have been better spent) and this forced the Flames to play these players more then I think they wanted to. It is difficult for a team like the FLames(any team for that matter) to justify to fans that they will have problems signinwhile they bench or sit middlemen earning a million plus. So you play them and this hurts the club.
4) Change of Leadership, this also came at the time of the slump, the removal of Lowry as captain and the roaving system that followed. The only way to change a captain effectively for teams is either to do it in the off-season or via a trade, this saves the captains face and is less distracting for the team. Lowry’s removal mid-season was a destraction in itself and should have been done earlier(in-offseason) or done in a trade.
5) Gilbert, the man responcible for the serge at the beginning of the season was at odds with Burtton over a few miscomunications, I think this distraction also added to the Flames fall.
Mind you, for a team that ended up where they did there are a lot of positives,. For one their start, it is a sign that this young team has the upside potential. Iginla has emerged as a premier player in the League(for those that argue count his goals over the last four seasons, up near the top of the League, he is for real). Players like Kobosew scoring it up in the WHL, Leopold who just signed with the club won the Hobby Baker award. This paves a nice road for the future. It also gives the Flames a lot of options for next season.
Some things that need to be done this off-saeson for the Flames to be successful next season.
1) Management-coach relationship, this has to be solved, either by both burying the hatchets or going their seperate ways, a team that needs to improve on its consistancy needs a strong united management and good comunication.
2) Draft day – Must look to trade up or trade down, the Nashville Preds and Atlanta Thrashers have both said their first rounders are up for auction, Atlanta’s pick will be costly but Nashvilles would be a nice jump. If they can’t move up into the top 6 they might look at trading down, as the draft grows thin they might want to address their scoring need(beyond Iginla) by trading the pick away, or using whatever pick they get to stregnthen the future with scorers.
2) Signings, they need to say good by to Vernon and Kravchuk, and they need to sign Iginla. They might also want to look at adding a few players through free agency.
3) Give help to Turek and Iginla, add a stable back-up to Turek, and find scoring help, a few possibilities through trades that might happen are
1) Samsanov from Boston for Morris
2) MacCauley and Antropov from Toronto for Lydman
3) Morris to Colorado for Tanguey or Hejduk
The first deal has been rumored for a while as Boston wants to improve its defence by adding a offensive defenceman. The second one is if the Leafs can’t find help through free agency for their defence. They would get a good young defenceman(who will be needed as Yuskavich’s leg is supposidly getting worse not better, TSN reported it as red and really swollen last Friday). Antropov has not panned out and McCauley, although this play-offs showed what he is capible of will not get a chance to play above the third line unless an ingury arrises which is unlikely and he will become restless.
The last deal would have the Aves replacing the departed Kasper(which from most reports is inevitable) and adding a young star defenceman while lossing a gun from their over populated stable. This would benifit both teams, and for those that did not read carefully I said one of the players not both for Morris.
Overall a poor season for the Flames, a team in my mind that could have made the play-offs didn’t, for that they failed, but the future does look promising, and give the youth a chance, clear out some of the over priced journeymen and you have a team that could compete for the 6th place spot in the conference. Future is bright for the Flames, so hang in their Flames fans.
Lowe Setting a Smokescreen?
It appears that Kevin Lowe has dealt the old smokescreen card on the Dopita trade. Lowe, who openly denies trade rumors (especially ones concerning long serving Oilers) has diverted and recently discussed a pending Dopita deal on radio in Edmonton.
It brings me to question if he really is intent on bringing over Dopita, or if he’s putting up a front for a different deal. Last week Dopita was a shoe in as an Oiler, this week I think there is a 50% chance of him coming to Edmonton. Old Bobby Clarke leaked the Dopita deal initially weeks ago, likely hoping that other teams could get into a bidding war for him. Possibly someone has offered up something that Lowe cannot match. One thing is for sure, Hitch***** loves defensive players – so should a trade happen, Hitch will get his player. Dopita could just as easily go back to his country and resume his “best player not in the NHL” role as well.
A deal I think that may be brewing is in bringing Nedved to Edmonton. This has been mentioned before, but if Marchant is on the table, I can guarantee Slats will be licking his chops. Unless Slats eats up 1-2 million of Nedved’s salary this will not happen. Nedved is still an excellent player, perhaps injecting him into a town where hockey lives 365 days a year will fire him up again. He’s tailed off a bit, but anyone who can score 25+ goals a year will be seriously considered by Lowe. The only stinker I see in this deal is if Slats decides to go on with the Dvorak-Nedved-Rucinsky trio. Marchant is a coveted player in the league, if Lowe is in fact shopping him, he has his pickings of just about every top team to lend an ear to. Nedved is 31, Dopita is 34 – Nedved has proven himself, Dopita hasn’t – Nedved is experienced, Dopita isn’t. If it takes the same player to land either of these guys, Lowe will likely go for Nedved. Moreover, I think Marchant for Dopita straight up is ridiculous. Marchant is worth much more, and unless Clarke is talking about Williams in this deal, it will not happen. For those that gasp about Williams/Dopita for Marchant, think about the power Hitch must have in twisting Clarke’s arm for this to happen. Clarke knows he must win, if a winning coach tells him what he needs, make no mistake Clarke will do it, even if it’s stupid.
The Dopita story is being kept alive simply to keep the thirsty reporters at bay, unless something really special happens (ie. Williams comes along), it’s doubtful Dopita will be an Oiler. Pending the Nedved deal, Reasoner may get the nod to move up in Marchants place simply because he began to turn a new leaf towards the end of the season, and is excellent on the faceoffs. Hecht would alternate centre duties with York, and Horcoff/Swanson would be given an opportunity to win over fourth line duties. The Oilers have a slew of talent up front with Nedved, fans such as myself relish at the opportunity of selecting lines. I won’t start getting into that, but it does leave a lot of names like Moreau, Green, and Pittis up in the air. Especially if you consider 2 Left Wingers Chimera and Rita will likely make the team. I can’t wait ’til training camp!
Avalanche Year in Review
Following in suite with all the articles on team favorites. I wanted to take a look at the former cup champions and their year.
After a much anticipated cup two seasons ago, the chances of repeating were slim at the start of the season. Here’s a look at individual/team/line performances.
Joe Sakic – A Start with the former hart trophey and you’ll find a captain not lacking in heart. He’s been a consistent player and a huge leader. Always taking the lead by example. His numbers showed a good drop off but so do the rest of the leagues. Considering he gained the top defensemen when Forsberg took a leave of abscence he did a great job. He had a 18 game goalless drought and still was one of the elading scorers in the league. I can’t give him anything but an A.
Milan Hedjuk – B- A stunning 40+ goal season last year and showing he’s got the talent to be a superstar. He took off in the middle of the season and was really looking to pick it up. He lead the team in goals for 2 weeks after he got hurt. But he didn’t find his scoring touch in the start of the season nor in hte playoffs. He’s a key performer and did a descent job. Not great.
Alex Tanguay – C+ A hard grade to give considering his potential, he did a great job in the playoffs being the Avs third leading scorer. But in the regular season his 13 goals aren’t good enough. A great passer and has a great shot, when he uses it that is. Expect to see him bounce back.
Sakic/Hedjuk/Tanguay Line – B- coming off a previous phenomonial season this line looked better then the rest, but not the dominating force they were. Injuries pertook in that quite a bit as well. But even when the injuries weren’t there they didn’t carry the team.
Chris Drury – B Mr. Clutch, Mr. Highlight Reel, and of course The Hockey God. He got to a great start and still amazed me with a goal against Vancouver. His offensive numbers went down incredibly. His 21 goals were tied for 2nd in the team. But that says the team wasn’t scoring. A lot was taken on by him switching from wing to center. As well as not having a solid line and missing beloved ‘Foppa’. Chris did a excellent job defensively, but only finished a +1. He came through when he was needed so that gave him a few brownie points with me.
Steve Reinprecht – A Coming from ‘nowhere’ as Barry Melrose said but, then again it is Barry Melrose. He had a solid first season with the Kings and stepped it up in his first full season with the Avs. A smart player and good defensively finished with 19 goals in 67 games. But as well finished with a +14. A full season with Drury and Forsberg will make his numbers sky rocket. All I can say is Thanks L.A.
Radim Vrbata – B+ If he had production in the playoffs he would be a definate A. In 52 games he had 18 goals, that was 5th best on the team. A rookie with a lot of potential offensively. But defensively needed work. This guy will be good, just needs to work on an all around game. And hopefully show up in next years playoffs.
Drury/Reinprecht/Vrbata – B+ A lot of preassure was put on this line because of the lack of one very gifted center in Forsberg. They stepped up well. Though Vrbata was interchanged with Sakic and Tanguay after injury of Hedjuk.
Stephen Yelle/Eric Messier/Shjon Podein-Mike Keane – A- Though the Avs could not score they were very good defensively. The third line may not score a goal but every ten games. They definatly get the job done defensively. Messier is one of the best shot blocking forwards in the league. And is very good behind the net. Yelle has very good speed and is solid in the face off circle, he really started to hit once the playoffs started. He was 5th in hits in by the finals. Podein was a solid penalty killer and is great at getting the puck out of the zone, looking at the Keane-Podein deal all I saw was an age difference. I believe Podein is one of the best personalities in this league and was sad to see him go. Keane was solid in his own zone and was able to irritate a bit more then Podein did.
Dan Hinote/Brad Larsen/Riku Hahl – B For the simple reason of grit, watching this line in the playoffs was entertaining. Every time you saw a defensemen go for the puck you saw one of the 3 of them following their checks. Riku Hahl astonished me with his defensive ability. He had speed a bit of size, but mainly could take away nearly any passing lane a player had. Hinote finished with 6 goals and actually had 3 games in a row with goals. Not treamondous production, but was a solid penalty killer with his incredible speed. Larsen defined what a 4th line winger should be. Someone who hits. As a 4th liner he has been very solid and would be stunned to see him be sent back to Hershey.
Vaclav Nedorost – C Much was anticipated from this kid at age 19. I saw a lot of potential in the games I watched him. He was sent to Hershey and had descent numbers. But don’t count on him being a bust just yet.
Ville Nieminien – B- After a very slow start he picked it up in the middle of the season and got traded. He has a great off-ice prescence and an annoying on the ice prescence. Penguins fans will love him.
Peter Forsberg – A+ How could I give any other grade to someone who scores 27 points in the playoffs. He came back from quite a bit, and I think he’ll be better because of the time off. Look next year for him to be the hugely dominating force he can be. And I give a lot of credit to the Avs for not rushing him back and being through before letting him play.
Adam Foote/Greg DeVries – A- I was shocked by the offensive numbers Devries put out in the playoffs. Foote has had his great games and medicore ones. He may finish a -1 in a game but still been great in it. Against the talent out there it’s hard to stop them. Devries was a solid shot blocker and definatly an improvement. Devries needs to work on crisper passes from inside his own for creating offense. Foote needs to eliminate his occasional flaw of coughing it up in his own zone.
Rob Blake/Darius Kasparaitis – B This pairing was descent at the ned of the season but became a force in hte playoffs. Kasper was hard hitting and I do believe Blake was hurting (though most players were as well) in the playoffs. Kasper said he wouldn’t mind staying here at all, I don’t think that’s solid information to stay. But don’t count the Avs out of keeping him either. Blake had a good +16 but with his offensive numbers that should’ve been higher then that. If Kasper stays this combo can create a nice punch.
Skoula-Muir/Berry-Gill – D The Avs couldn’t get that solid 5th and 6th man. The 10 goals was descent for Skoula but he finished a -3. Berry was solid hitting and showed talent before being traded. Muir was descent but only descent and Gill made to many bad mistakes.
Patrick Roy/ David Aebischer – A Roy played out of his mind in the regular season but for once played worse in the playoffs then in the regular season. Aebischer had a .931 save percentage but only played against a few top-tier teams. Expect Roy to have a better playoffs next year and Abe to play more games.
Bob Hartley/Coaching – A For the simple reason of him being able to take this team as far as it went with the injuries not jsut to Forsberg. After losing 2 of the top4 defensemen to still be the top defensive team in the regular season astonished me. And I believe Trottier will flourish in New York.
Team Grade – B They had a great goalie that made their defense better but on the offensive side they didn’t step up. They still have a lot of young talent that’s waiting to break through the roster, so don’t be surprised if they can hoist the cup next year.
The 2001-2002 Islanders had a good season and brought hockey fever back to Long Island with key off-season acquisitions, major fiscal contributions from ownership, good coaching and team chemistry. With hockey being the only professional sport in Long Island, Islander fans have always held a special place in their hearts for their local team. That place in ther hearts had been vacant in recent years but that vacancy has been filled in the past year with passion and excitement.
The following are grades for each player with an explanation for the grade.
Adrian Aucoin A
Aucoin played well definsively and offensively all season long. Good quaterback on the power play, tremendous shot, and solid defensively. Logged tremendous minutes each game and never seems to get tired.
Eric Cairns B
Cairns knows his role on this team and plays it well. He is a top-notch heavyweight in the league (ask Shayne Corson) and plays fairly well on D. Has a tendency to take bad penalties.
Roman Hamrlik B-
Hamrlik played OK considering that he was counted on being a major offensive force as a top 2 defnseman. A slight disappointment offensively but an all around solid blueliner. Plays through injuries.
Kenny Jonsson A
Best defensive defenseman on the team. Hardly ever makes a mistake in his own zone and always makes the right first pass. Has offensive skills also. Only knock on him would be that he cant fight his way out of a paper bag.
Radek Martinek B
Played exceptionally well for a rookie. Very smart player with offensive skills. Played the season on the first line w/ Hamrlik. Too bad he got hurt early in the season. Needs to put on some muscle.
Branislav Mezei C-
Classic example of a young player that needs more developing in the minors. Hits very hard but looks lost on the ice. Should be fine with some more development.
Dick Tarnstrom C
Another rookie that showed flashes of solid play but overall too inconsistent. Does not take the body well.
Darren Van Impe B-
Good pickup at the deadline for a late round draft pick. Doesnt blow anyone with any facet of his game but is consistent and can play the PP and PK.
Shawn Bates A
Signed as a free agent, nothing more than a role player was expected out of Bates but he clearly was one of the best Islanders all season long. Set career highs in every category. Fastest skater on the team. Great penalty killer and got a lot of time on the power play. Small guy but can hit very well for someone his size.
Jason Blake B
Very fast skater and an excellent penalty killer. Gets under the skin of opponents. Limited offensive skills which is often the case w/ 4th liners.
Jim Cummins C
A heavyweight journyeman.
Marius Czerkawski C
Has good offensive skills but too often was the case where Czerkawski was asleep on his skates. Had the chance to play w/ Yashin but could not gel with him. Scored 30 goals when the Islanders were bad but did not come close this year w/ the added talent on the team. Not a defensive player at all. Needs to play every game like game 6 against Toronto.
Trent Hunter B
Only played in the playoffs after Isbister got hurt. Showed flashes of a solid 2nd line player for years to come. Smooth skater w/ good puckhandling skills that seems to have a nose for the net. Has good size. Should make the team out of training camp this year.
Brad Isbister C+
Another player out of the Marius mold. His play dropped off this year w/ the extra talent around him. Also had a chance on Yashin’s wing but played like he was lost on the ice. Did not throw his weight around as he did in years past. Just when you thought you could not get any more frustrated w/ the guy, he would burst up the wing with tremendous speed and strength, hold off a defenseman and get off a quality scoring chance. It is flashes of brilliance like this that make everyone in Islander country scratch their head about this guy. Still is only 24 yrs old and has time to mature into an A player. Then again, he could be a C player for the rest of his career.
Oleg Kvasha C+
Kvasha is another enigma. Looked clueless on the ice for most of the season. Took bad penalties all season long. He entered the revolving door of Yashin’s wingmen and seemed to gel with him but was too inconsistent. Has the tools the become a very good player. Patience seems to be the right direction to go with him. Was in the coaches doghouse for much of the season and earned the wrath of many Islander fans. Towards the end of the season, he came on strong with clutch goals that helped the Islander make the playoffs. Has a mean streak in him. Look for him to have a good year.
Claude Lapointe B
Good Character guy in the locker room that played his role well. Solid penalty killer and good faceoff man. Gritty player that takes the body well for a small player. Has one of the longest tenures as an Islander.
Mats Lindgren D
Came to the Island in one of Milbury’s worst trades for Tommy Salo. Was a healthy scratch for most of the season and did nothing while he was on the ice to warrant the coaches to change their minds about him.
Kip Miller B
Picked him up from the middle of nowhere and played well as a 3rd line center. Does not posses great offensive skills but seems to know where to be in the offensive zone and is an above average set up man. Had a good offensive series against the Leafs.
Mark Parrish B+
Went over the 30+ goal mark for the first time in his career. Takes a beating in front of net to score a goal. Out of the Dino Ciccarelli mold, Parrish gets a lot of “garbage” goals in front of the net. Played well on the 2nd line w/ Bates and Peca. Could be a bit tougher but that might be nitpicking a bit.
Michael Peca A+
Heart and Soul of the team. Great leader. Had his best offensive season of his career after a year out of the game. Can be put on the ice in any situation. Great penalty killer, has the offensive skills to play on the power play, good faceoff man, a tireless defender and the list goes on. Not a big guy but one of the best pure hitters in the league.
Dave Scatchard B
Has good size and strength. Has decent offensive skills and is a great locker room guy. Could be a future captain in the making. A bit of a disappointment offensively but contributes other ways. Very good faceoff man. Not afraid to drop the gloves. He is the type of player that scores playoff OT goals.
Steve Webb B-
Some may look at this and wonder why a B-, but it is hard to give this guy less than a B because of his heart. Has no offensive skills, skates like he spent all day in the bar, but nevermind all of that, this guy gives his all every single game like his life depended on it. If some of the other Islanders(Isbister, Czerkawski) had half of this guys heart, they might have made it past the first round. Hits like a wrecking ball for someone his size.
Alexei Yashin A
It seemed like every game Yashin had different line mates but he still led the team in major offensive category. Not a simple feat at all. Once the regular season was over, all the questions arose about his problems in the offseason but he had a good series against the Leafs to quiet his critics. With a legit 1st line winger, his numbers should be much higher next year.
Chris Osgood B+
If it wasn’t for his great play in October, the Isles may have not gotten into the playoffs. A good veteran pickup with solid playoff experience. Set (or tied) the Islander record for wins this season. Was not extraordinary in the Leafs series. Overall, the Islanders are better team w/ him and Snow as the combo instead of Snow and Dipietro.
Garth Snow B
A capable backup and a good presence in the locker room. Hit a home run at shea stadium a couple of weeks ago.
Please feel free to comment about the grades and how the Islanders can become a cup contender next year.
Thank you all for reading these articles.