Monthly Archives: September 2009

Hocktober

Hockey and October collide with Halloween for a month of horror and hockey.  Stay tuned…

Preseason Promenade

I’ve watched a few preseason games, but frankly I’m bored.  Those games don’t really count except for those who are analyzing every move to be the first with predictions.   Okay, I’m game.  The rookies are out and about on the ice, coaches have come and gone, and the mix mastered versions of the teams display AHL players that will be filling the void soon.  If preseason really matters, then here are my rants, raves and more predictions.

Wayne Gretzky’s gone; who really thinks that will make the Phoenix Coyotes better?  I’m a huge fan of Wayne, but it was dismal to see his team falter. I had hopes this year that the Coyotes would be better with a decent line-up of Lombardi, Doan, Turris, Upshall, and yes, even Prucha.  But to my dismay, my Phoenix friends all say they are sitting out this year and turning elsewhere to root for a hockey team.

Sean Avery and his sprained knew creates an entire discussion of the defense for the New York Rangers.  Brashear will have to do some serious bashing to get room for the puck to move.  But not all hope lies in Avery.  Brandon Dubinsky and the team have arrived at a fair settlement so he can play.  On Bluehsirt Banter, the prospect of Heatley for Dubinsky got into a who’s who of who knows hockey.  Just like football, we can’t concern ourselves with whining over scoring stats.  Sure, I don’t care for certain players, but the Rangers don’t have that king of luxury right now.

The Detroit Red Wings are holding back because they know the real season starts October 1st.  Why would they risk any player being hurt when their main goal for the year is to reclaim the Stanley Cup?

Teams to watch this year with interesting promise but may not have enough punch to pack the house:

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay Lighting– When you put Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Swedish rookie, Victor Hedman together in the first line, I’m curious.  How can that not work?

Washington Capitals- Alexander Ovechkin rocks, we all know that, but I’ll be watching to see if the young goalie, Simeon Varlamov can hold it together.  Critics doubt the strength of this goaltender for the full-season impact, but what I saw last year in the unraveling of the New York Rangers was impressive.   And, Don Cherry loves to rip on Ovechkin for his grandstanding.   How ironic.

New Jersey Devils– So I’m more of a fan of those New York teams, but I have to give it up for the Devils.  Despite Brodeur, I like most of the players.  Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and David Clarkson have all caught my attention like no other New Jersey team in the past.  I’ll be watching and drafting from this team.

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues- With veteran Paul Kariya out last year, the group of young guns stepped up and stood out.  T.J. Oshie, Patrick Berglund, and David Backes, to name a few will fire up the crowds this year.

Chicago Blackhawks- Take no prisoners.  Out for blood.  Now that the team has Marian Hossa, the team should be amazing.  Right?  Let’s hope so after all the hoopla surrounding the team of Toews, Kane, Keith and some other good players that don’t get noticed as much: Dave Bolland, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Seabrook. Deep dish pizzazz or digging deeper into a cheesy situation.

San Jose Sharks- Because who won’t be watching?  Now that Dany Heatley is in and ineffectual Jonathan Cheechoo is out, the team may have a chance.  Players like M-C Vlasic, Ryan Clowe, and of course, Joe Thornton will try to regain the fierceness in the Shark Tank.  All hope is on Heatley.  But that may not be enough.  I’m watching from afar.  I’ll be keeping track of Dan Boyle’s stats.

Clarkson on the Deuce

I’ve said it before; David Clarkson is one to watch this season.  With two power play goals in the pre-season game against the New York Rangers, Clarkson came out to win it.

Posting 164 penalty minutes last year proved he was a unique enforcer with the ability to score: 17 goals, 15 assists.  Clarkson’s scoring should elevated now that he is seen as a valuable player for the Devils.  Last season he was the extra something to push ahead, and throw a punch if needed.  This season, he will be an asset to the team beyond expectations and a good lat round fantasy pick-up.

Hard Hit or Pot Shot?

During a preseason game between the New York Islanders and the Calgary Flames, a controversy has ensued regarding a hit on the ice the many claim to be “uncalled for.”

Because I’m a lady, I will not resort to name calling or harsh criticism with slanderous comments. But, the NHL has touted family values and good sportsmanship. Having been in the league since 2006, dating Sean Avery’s ex-girlfriend and thus being in the celebrity spotlight, one would think that power defenseman Dion Phaneuf could use his powers to benefit the game of hockey.   Despite his 100 penalty minutes and 47 points last year, Dion’s goal of topping that this season has resulted in an alleged pot shot at Islanders hopeful Kyle Okposo.

Roughing was the call, and Okposo was taken off the ice on a stretcher.  Two minutes in the sin bin seems light.  I’m sure Dion has his side of the story and is allowed to state his view.  But this isn’t even the real season yet.  Defenseman can be more than just brute force, and Phaneuf has shown he can score.

Okposo, who put up 39 points and 36 penalty minutes last year, suffered a mild concussion.  The right-winger was the bright star in a new Islanders team that had their hopes on young talent including top NHL draft pick John Tavares.  Okposo was slated as a solid base for the team to rebuild from disappointing seasons.

The problematic hit raises questions of the necessity of the hit, which resembled the Malachi Crunch with Okposo defenseless after a collision with another player.  Hard hit or Pot Shot? Only Dion Phaneuf can respond to the allegations and defend his hit or defend his dignity if he can find it.

Tough Talk at Training Camp

Colorado Avalanche training camp started this week, and the players were working through last season’s poor exhibition in high-energy drills and skill.  NHL reviews for this season’s capacity of the Rocky Mountain team to perform is not on the list of high expectations.   Puck Daddy blasted the Avs for many problems, but what I saw on the ice was exciting and encouraging.

As rookie Ryan O’ Reilly shined at rookie camp, and Matt Duchene’s debut sparked energy within the fans attending the Colorado Avalanche training camp this week, the task will be to dig from the depths of a bummer season. The rumble on the rink eventually formed into a well-choreographed exhibition of speed and skills.  Rookies Ryan Stoa and Matt Duchene became the focal point, until the super stars sported gray and black jerseys for a scrimmage breaking in the rookies.

Defense for the Avs include Kyle Quincey, Jon-Michael Liles and Adam Foote. Most think the defense is in good shape.  With injuries and the lackluster play last year, one guy, Quincey needs to be the extra something needed.   He has had a lot of hype with 38 points last year.   The defense on the roster looks good, but may be deceiving.

Rookie Stefan Elliott’s accuracy must have been his key skill in the WHL.  Pick the puck, roll, shoot, bullseye!  Not likely to be part of the NHL until next season.  Bummer.

Rookies to watch include David Marshall and Brandon Yip who probably will not make it to the roster due to the overabundance of wingers such as Marek Svatos, and Milan Hejduk who must deliver on their experience and prove nay-Sayers wrong.

Tom Fritsche pulled some good moves in scoring but is a long shot for the season. Top lefty is Dan Galiardi who played toward the end of the season last year and is now on every Avs fan’s mind.  Having a laugh with his teammates after a drill, he came to play hard.  The sweet taste of the NHL is hard to resist.

Strong guy and left-winger David Koci will be the legitimate enforcer at the Pepsi Center.

Wojtek Wolski took his duties last year seriously, but fell short in his goal scoring numbers.  Training camp proved worthy of his summer break to reorganize his abilities into a leader. Puck Daddy took a dump on Wolski by comparing him to toilet paper.

The Avs are stocked down the line with abundant directors of play.  This should generate a streamlined style of play if the cohesion is right on.  Paul Stasny tops the bill, as well as top liner Wolski, returning T.J. Hensick and newbie Duchene.   Other notables were Phillipe Dupuis, who had played games with the Avalanche last season.

Former Minnesota team captain Ryan Stoa looks ready but may or may not see play on opening night.  Let’s hope so.

The Avalanche may not be the guts and glory of their former years, but then Denver isn’t regarded as the biggest hockey city either.  Rebuilding takes time and trying on players for size.  Unfortunately, some of these rookies who may not be eligible to play look like they’re getting close.  Overstocked with older players, the Avs unloaded half; the other half will be moving on in a few seasons so the newer talent can have their shot.

Training camp was serious and rightly so for a team that has fallen from grace since the team relocated here from Quebec to win the Stanley Cup in 1996.  Expectations were high.  Now with the stumbling of an older team, energy has been added by a few new rookies, free agents and roster depth down into the junior leagues.  The odds may be dictated by what veteran baggage will be brought, or shed from a heartbreaking 2008-09 season.  Regrouped and recharged will be the test for the Avalanche as the nation expects less and less each season from Denver.

This is the west, where hockey isn’t revered as competitive.  Too sunny and too laid back to really kick it on the ice; we’re the John Wayne of the NHL.  The Western Conference ends in Minnesota for the criteria of play.  Once great teams end up in the spotlight for harsh criticism.   That’s okay- John Wayne was tough and had the last word. Coolness, strategy and some firepower may just work.

Colorado’s biggest fall came from the retirement of captain Joe Sakic, who projected the nice guy image that the Avalanche emit.  Nice guys get lucky, but they also have legitimate talent that is glossed over for the dogging.  Other teams have been roughed up and dropped down in the ranks, but all have had their lucky streak alongside great skills.  A team can have both.

If the team has the cohesion they need to move into the playoffs, the bench will have to play deep. The new hockey edition of the Sporting News graced the corner of the cover with Milan Hejduk being the glue of the team.  But with a –19 rating last season he’s under fire as well; point were good with 59 but as co-captain he will want to raise the bar. Paul Stasny’s status of the other co-captain has been a hallelujah for the Mile High city.    Adam Foote’s new helm as captain creates a tougher persona and experienced swagger that could punch back at the critics.

Avs Rookie Camp

Day 2 of Rookie Camp was an overload of hockey goodness.  The usual suspects, Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa stood out as NHL talent.  The scrimmage immediately following the skills drills included all the Colorado Avalanche players, including defensive player David Koci, who was a giant on ice.   Wojtek Wolski stood out because I can spot his skating style.

More tomorrow for Day 3.  I’ve never gotten up this early for anything!

Big D in the Big Apple

The New York Rangers recently held their early “look” camp for  the media who had the task of  speculating how the players would impact the season; most importantly, who was to be the breakout candidate in New York.  Great promise in prospects with some moving up from the Wolfpack and into the Garden have put the #9 NYR prospect, Matt Gilroy as the top rookie to watch.  As the Hobey Baker winner last year, and Boston University player, Gilroy has the pedigree of a classy yet productive player.

Ryan McDonagh and Bobby Sanguinetti are considered to be the possible blue line boys in the secondary to cover Dan Girardi and Marc Staal.

Mike Roszival and Wade Redden will start on the blue line for the Rangers.

Avery will be the stand up guy on the line, but the goal scoring is where the Rangers are counting on his attack. Torts wants to run this Broadway show with speed and grit, therefore has Brashear sporting the enforcer tag.

Wingers with a Punch

It’s not quite time to draft your fantasy hockey team, but the training camps are starting and the rosters are adjusting.  Start your lists for draft day soon.  These are my picks to watch or pick up; not defensemen, but can pull the punches and the power points.

Western Conference:

David Backes -STL-was a free agent pick up because he had a great fight and was kicked out of the game.  He topped the PIM category, so I gave him a shot at RW.  Backes is a Minnesota boy, so being from Michigan I tend to favor my fellow hockey states. The St. Louis Blues will be a contender.  If they pick up Kesel, they will go further than last season and break into the second round. Backes took 165 PIMs and 54 points.  Lots of blood.

Alex Burrows -VAN-kicked some serious roster rising for my team. The left winger gave me a boost with 150 penalty points with an extra 51 for great power play.  His reputation on the ice made him seem like a bad guy, but he countered the hype with some generous displays of kindness.  When you watch him skate, he’s the loner.  Burrows plays with emotion, so you never know what you’ll get each game.  The odds are in your favor with this pick up.

Eastern Conference:

David Clarkson-NJ -LW-  Super solid winger who posts decent goals and even better PIMs.  He was my breakout candidate with a powerful punch and counted on points last year. My league had talent and I fought my way up with Clarkson. I could guarantee a fight once a week keeping the lanes open with 164 PIMs and 32 points.   New Jersey Devils are playing well because of the additional help Clarkson provides.

Milan Lucic –BOS- I never paid attention to this LW until he bounced around our league, but I couldn’t catch him.  The Boston Bruins formed a talented group with strong players who are playing for the team, and the city.  Each player has solid stats, but Lucic stood out with penalties totaling 136, but an added bonus of 42 points.  Keep an eye on him as you draft.

Tuomo Ruutu-CAR- the left-winger with the power to strike from any side.  That includes boarding, roughing, and scoring.  Last season he profiled with 79 penalty minutes and some of the best fights of the season, plus 54 pts equally divided. He’s a dual type of player that you pick up on your fantasy roster, but you hesitate to drop him because he produces.  He’s probably won some of those odd ones like SHA, and PPP.   The Carolina Hurricanes will be a stellar team this season with amazing talent and great coaching.  Strong possibility.