Tag Archives: Lidstrom

Relax, it’s Summer…Let the GMs do the Work

Hockey fanatics everywhere can’t let go just yet. Too many deals, trades and speculations are in works that leave the hockey community a little uneasy. The NHL Entry Draft, the July 1 free agent scurry, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looming have descended upon backyard barbeques and the beach.

Relax, enjoy the summer and let the GMS, agents and players worry about the outlook for the 2012-13 season.

If you are a New York Rangers fan, then you have plenty to talk about as the Rick Nash acquisition conjures up “what could’ve been and what could be” talk. Scoring is needed for New York to move past their demons, but at what cost? Fans may have to bid adieu to Brandon Dubinsky, Derek Stepan, rookie Chris Kreider and Michael Del Zotto if they want the big name to save the day. Get ready to rock New York, because the shift is coming. New York has too many solid players and potential to go unnoticed.

In Detroit, it feels like when Steve Yzerman left the organization. with the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, Hockeytown is without another legend. A new arena and a new captain will recharge the Wings for years to come. The Red Wings will always be a constant influence in the hockey community, but now will have to rebuild mentally and physically.

If any fans are breathing a sigh of relief, it’s the Los Angeles Kings fans who are sitting at the beach. Congrats to a job well done. The Kings have been proactive in bringing their story and talent to the forefront. GM Dean Lombardi turned a dream into a reality. Jonathan Quick as MVP brought home the contributions of the goaltender back in vogue.

Dreams in New Jersey are still alive. Next up for GM Lou Lamoriello is to secure Zach Parise for another Cup run, if Parise isn’t snatched away. Parise has registered for many as a better deal than Rick Nash. As an unrestricted fee agent this summer, Parise will be able to pick his destination.

And then there is Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf who are in the mix. Around, around, nobody knows, where any one of these will go. Keep your hockey news source close at hand on the boat, at the barbeque, at the beach or at the ballpark. This summer will be a hot one.

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Horrors in Hockeytown smoldering

It’s a tradition in Detroit to set the town ablaze during the Halloween weekend yet this year the only thing smoldering appears to be the slumping Red Wings. Ironically, fires over the weekend were down 50% just as the Wings have dropped their record. Now 5-4-0, the Red Wings signed defenseman Niklas Kronwall to a 7-year $33.25 million contract to keep the hits coming.

Kronwall

Kronwalled

Kronwall,30, is the heir apparent to seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom. At the start of this seson, the Wings named Kronwall as an alternate captain emphasizing that Detroit’s blueline will remain tough as nails.

Detroit’s woes are too early to create hysteria when all the pieces of the puzzle are still intact. Jimmy Howard’s latest performances have been horrific for fantasy owners the past week, but he’s still the mask to fear at Joe Louis Arena. Danny Cleary has been a ghost on the ice with only two assists and a minus-4 rating. Hank Zetterberg has only tallied three points, while Pavel Datsyuk has seven points and a minus-5 rating. Detroit fans are patient and waiting for their tricks to turn to treats.

Don’t believer the hype that the Wings are crashing and burning or going down in flames. The scariest encounter in Detroit will be the pain inflicted by being Kronwalled.

 

Happy Halloween Hockey Fans!

Summer Hockey Hype

It’s only August and the hype has begun. After the woozying trades and trash, this summer read like more like a gossip column. Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were expelled from Philly for bad behavior, LA Kings GM Dean Lombardi  was irked when he was traded damaged goods by Edmonton, and just recently Sean Avery was busted by the cops in Hollywood for shoving an officer.  

If you are sitting by the pool, then you have plenty of time to begin building your fantasy team. Whether you play in a competitive keeper league or drafting an entirely new team, consider the teams who have revamped their lines. However, buyer beware that not all top players perform as well as expected. Duncan Keith’s award-winning 2009-10 season did not carry the same weight in 2010-11. Sidney Crosby’s health is tenuous- one big hit and he could blowout.

Eastern Conference best bets:

New York Rangers- resigning Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan were crucial. Both players have developed their game and are the workhorses of the team. With Brad Richards joining the mix, the Rangers will be a fun team to watch and get behind. With Avery and Brandon Prust, expect some tough guy presence stopping any intruders near Henrik Lundqvist‘s crease.

Philadelphia Flyers– sign Jaromir Jagr. Who knows what to expect? He could be great or gruesome, but you don’t want to be left behind on this one. He snubbed other teams to join the Flyers because of their Cup contention coup. Max Talbot, Claude Giroux and a roster full of hot taletn can be yours if you do your bidding carefully.

Buffalo Sabres- coach Lindy Ruff is still calling the shots on ice, and with newly acquired talents look out. In net, Ryan Miller is one of the best in the NHL. Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr will lend the blueline some direction helping Tyler Myers this season.

Carolina HurricanesJeff Skinner and Anthony Stewart are just two young players to watch in Carolina. Skinner, who won the Calder for rookie of the year, is first line, Stewart 3rd or 4th. Other young talent, Jamie McBain and Chad LaRose need to go on a watch list.

Tampa Bay Lightning– re-signing Steven Stamkos was a necessary requirement before GM Steve Yzerman could go golfing. With Stamkos secured, the Bolts will be out for blood this year. Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis may be already drafted, so consider Ryan Malone and Teddy Purcell for a stong support system.

Pittsburgh Penguins- with or without Sidney Crosby, the Pens put the pedal to the metal. All energy, all the time. Kris Letang should be on your list. Tyler Kennedy rocked last year and must be a consideration, same for Chris Kunitz and James Neal.

Boston Bruins– I’d sweep up Dennis Seidenberg. Tim Thomas is an obvious choice, but secured by keeper leagues. If the Stanley Cup win was it, then don’t go overboard with the Bruins. However, there are some good bets here in Rich Peverley, Patrice Bergeron, don’t forget Brad Marchand. I’ve found Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ferrence to be good for fights and scruffy play. Milan Lucic and David Krejci have inconsistent seasons but make good trade fodder.

Western Conference best bets:

Los Angeles Kings-  has a great building process in Hockeywood.  Anze Kopitar will be ready come ice time, and with Mike Richards as the extra kick, look out! Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty are key defensemen. Jonathan Quick in goal is a great pick. Captain Dustin Brown didn’t let me down. Justin Williams was the sought after Kings player in our league rightly so.

Detroit Red Wings– always on the list due to the talent they foster. Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom are tops on any list if you can get them. Goaltender Jimmy Howard may be a task to acquire but worth if you can make a trade after the season starts- sell low. Johan Franzen and defensemen Niklas Kronwall should be noted for scoring and hits.

Vancouver Canucks– they just couldn’t wrap it up, but that has been their issue. Lessons learned may help Ryan Kesler and the Sedins in creative ways to win. Consider Alex Burrows, Kevin Bieksa and don’t be wary of goalie Roberto Luongo if you can get him.

Edmonton Oilers– I say this because the whole world will be watching the Taylor Hall/Ryan Nugent-Hopkins dynamic. Grab either player and be patient. Hall took some time to warm up and was passed all over fantasy leagues as owners became restless with his growing pains.

Chicago Blackhawks “Car Bomb”Carcillo  will explode in Chicago enforcing the Hawks second revival. This is a tough team who wants the Cup badly. Patrick Sharp is signed and you should do the same. He’s a quiet player who has his ups and downs, but delivers overall. If you can acquire Patrick Kane of Jonathan Toews, then work your magic. Andrew Brunette is a watch list candidate to see if he can generate something.

St. Louis Blues– I pick them every year due to the talent that passes through. Chris Stewart stands out for the Blues. David Backes is a sturdy candidate but can be unpredictable. Kevin Shattenkirk,Alex Steen and Andy McDonald did well last season and are good choices in the second to third-round. Remember to put Alex Pietrangelo on your list as a stellar young defenseman, and keep an eye on Matt D’Agostini.

Don’t see your team? Oh, well, take a look at some of the choice picks to find your best bet:

Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks)– The Sharks can beat the Detroit Red Wings in the playoffs, but can’t seem to get further than that. Couture was nominated for the rookie of the year and deservedly so. Grab him before someone else does. Usually a second-round pick now that he’s on the radar.

Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)– Benn broke out last year and was quite dutiful to fantasy owners. If he lands in your queue, consider if you need a productive 3rd liner.

Devin Setoguchi (Minnesota Wild) – great during the playoffs with the Sharks. Minnesota has been on everyone’s radar to be big but remains in the middle. Perhaps Setoguchi can spark some oomph.

Your dream team is in your hands. Not all goes as according to plan and your backup choices can make the difference in all areas from trades to suspensions of a key player. Study the new and improved rosters if you haven’t been keeping up with the transactions this summer.

Detroit Digs Deep for D

Since Lidstrom is holding off on retirement for another season, the Wings fittingly shopped for defensemen. Notable defenseman Ian White signed on a two-year, $5.75 million contract. White has 36 goals and 143 points in 401 NHL games with San Jose, Carolina, Calgary and Toronto. White is a strong blueliner who will add depth to the Wings.

Jonathan Ericsson nabbed a big deal in the NHL buyer’s market with a 3-year contract at almost $10 million. Ericsson made $900,000 last season playing 74 games and contributing 15 points (three goals, 12 assists). He can pack a punch, but can he place more in net?

The Red Wings also acquired defenseman Mike Commodore to a 1 year, $1 million contract. Currently, there is a campaign to encourage Commodore to wear jersey #64 honoring the vintage circa 1980s anchor of a computer. Good PR for the Red Wings, so go for it!

Garnet Exelby has signed a one-year contract lending a helping hand. With over 600 games worth of professional hockey experience, Exelby’s previous stints for the Atlanta Thrashers and Toronto Maple Leafs will prove beneficial for the fans. I recall some serious penalty minutes from this guy as an enforcer.

Patrick Eaves and Drew Milller will be back next season. Eaves extends his Detroit time with a 3-year, $3.6 million gig. Miller signed on for 2-years, $1.65 million.

Logan Pyett, also gained a one-year deal with the Wings. Pyett has spent the past three seasons with Detroit’s AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins where he has tallied 21G-45A-66P-91PIM in 215 games.

The #35 pick for the Wings in the NHL Entry Draft, Tomas Jurco, has been compared to Pavel Datsyuk for his slick moves and stick-handling abilities. Recently, Jurco was on the St. John’s Sea dogs who won the 2011 Memorial Cup. Across the Detroit River, the Memorial Cup has been home to the Windsor Spitfires, creating a vortex of hockey. The Spitfires and Sea dogs have changed the template for success in junior hockey elevating the quality of play.

Xavier Quellet, another drafted defenseman, is a puck-moving blueliner who has the type of profile the Wings like. A defenseman from the OHL, Ryan Sproul of Sault Ste. Marie, will also bolster the Wings in years to come. And we got a Russian. Alexei Marchenko is expected to be one of the top defensemen on the Russian world junior team.

Nine picks in this 2011 Entry Draft is the most since 2005. Let’s cross our fingers, wash the Red Wings Ts and get ready to root for the next great wave of Wingdom.

Let the Octopi Fly

The Detroit Red Wings were the first to advance to  the second-round of NHL playoffs. Energized, the Wings swept the Coyotes with the depth in player skill the Wings are known for. The break means rest, which is essential for the Wings as Zetterberg and Franzen will make a return. The Red Wings do it every year and will continue to do so with the type of managment and care for their players. Red Wings fans are happy fans:Lidstrom was nominated for the Norris Trophy and Pavel Datsyuk nominated for a Selke. Jimmy Howard is holding his own and can keep the Sharks out of net to win.

San Jose has been enjoyable to watch, but the LA Kings stalled the Sharks.With Anze Kopitar out, the nimble netminder Quick is just one piece of the puzzle that fits so well in Los Angeles. This team continues to display the type of fan base and talent base to become an elite league leader. Going toe-to-toe with the Sharks was a bit unexpected. The Sharsk are tired, but pumped they made in through to the next round. Sharks defeated the Wings in three of the four games played during the regular season. The Sharks also eliminated the Wings last year in five games. Watch out for Ryan Clowe and Logan Couture as a powerful force on the Sharks.

The Sharks-Wings series will begin Friday in San Jose, with Game 2 on Sunday at 3 p.m.

Vancouver looked solid and on their way to annihalate the defending champs, but the Hawks found out how to play Luongo for a chance to defedng their turf. Fighting for a first round advancement, Alex Burrows buried the winning puck in net to grab the Canucks the series win, for the second year in a row. Ryan Kesler was also nominated for a Selke for his awesome season. Just like the Sharks, the Canucks got their workout but are propelled by adrenaline.

Nashville holds on to finally seek a Round 2 in the NHL playoffs. Anaheim was a tough hump to bump this season but give credit to Pekke Rinne who look unfazed most nights. Watch Rinne play against any team and the stun gun comes out as his stance rarely flusters. Barry Trotz, one heck of a coach, will see how his team rides the next curve with hometown boy and Hobey Baker winner, Blake Geoffrion. Smashville has smashed on through. This team is building a strong house.

The Vancouver-Nashville series is expected to start Thursday with a 9 p.m. game in Vancouver.

Western Conference final prediction: Detroit vs. Vancouver

I’m taking the Red Wings, because I always do. Vancouver deserves to battle it out with the best.

Ovechkin in, Pens out

Buffalo proved that goaltending does make a difference, but couldn’t surpass the fire of the Flyers. Miller had two shutouts in the series, but the tandem of Boucher and Leighton is brotherly love in true form. This has been a great series with higher scoring numbers. The Flyers wanted it more.

Boston and Montreal had quite a battle, but Boston moves on. Tim Thomas is a stable goaltender who will give the Philly boys a challenge. Boston is a good team, but the Flyers are scrappier.

The Philadelphi Flyers will face the Boston Bruins. The series will start Saturday afternoon at 3 EST. Classic east coast matchup.

Tampa Bay wouldn’t go away. With am 8-2 victory in Game 5 of the Pens-Lightning series, Tampa refused the exodus. That game was the turning point to rid the Pittsburgh Penguins a chance for the Cup. Sidney Crosby will recoup over the summer for a hopeful return in September. Tampa Bay’s victory is good news for the Southeast division and the growing hockey fandom down south. It’s also good for new GM Steve Yzerman. Goalie Dwayne Roloson was a great catch for Yzerman’s Lightining and will square off with the Caps rookie Neuvirth in goal. Tampa didn’t get the break as the Caps did.

Washington took back their spark beating the Rangers convincingly. This season, goalie Neuvirth illustrated his skill as former Calder Cup MVP. And he did it against Lundqvist who is the backbone of the Rangers. With Ryan Callahan out, the Rangers were down a man but the toughness expected of New York sputtered after two OT losses. Washington got a rest before the new clash in the East with their divisional rivals, the Lightining. Caps won 4 of 6 games during the regular season. This is a difficult series to predict.

Tampa will head to Washington on Friday to begin the series at 7 EST.

Eastern Conference final prediction: Tampa Bay vs. Philly

I’m riding the Lightining with their solid cast of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Roloson. While Washington is good, the playoffs cause the Caps to fumble.

Blue Line Benefits

I love the blueline.  Good seats for sure, and that’s where the battle begins. If a team loses the battle on the blueline, it will be devastating take a look at the Colorado Avalanche, who traded suffering goaltender Craig Andersen for a top D-guy, Erik Johnson. Rookie Kevin Shattenkirk couldn’t quite hang on to his great start to the season, but held value for a considerable trade with fellow Avalanche player, Chris Stewart, for power-forward Jay McClement. With Alex Pietrangelo creating a buzz on the blueline in St.Louis, The blues felt their defense was solid, so they also traded defenseman Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay. The Lightning are shuffling to secure their spot in the East. Those teams are on to the benefits of the tight defense that it takes to secure a playoff spot.

Last week, I was consoling an Avs fan on the ailments of the team. We both agreed the downward spiral of Andersen was only one area at fault. The blueline seriously lacked any effort. What happened to Liles’ scoring streak? Foote has been out with an injury, and the rest of the crowd are off in lala land as the pucks pass the point of no return. Shaking up a team is good, but for the St. Louis Blues the shaking could rile some excitement. Stewart has slumped since a broken hand, and no one knows what Shattenkirk’s lack was all about, so it’s a new start for both. And the trade did just that. Stewart rocked his debut with two goals, Shattenkirk, an assist. One game of excellence is not a mandate on the potential impact to the team, but kick in the pants type of debut the Avs guys needed. The Avalanche are desperate.  Erik Johnson is solid, but if he’s not surrounded by an equal force, the numbers stall. Hunwick is a good catch if the blueliners can gel in Denver. The debut of the new trades were not enough to gain Denver a win. Better luck next time.

The Flyers have had their share of goaltending concerns, but defensmen like Chris Pronger and Matt Carle control their zone to lead in the East. Close behind, the Lightning can gain more momentum with Brewer, Victor Hedman, and Pavel Kubina. With awesome blue power, Boston carries Captain Zdeno Chara steering the boat into dock. Now adding Tomas Kaberle to a new crew of Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg anything is possible. Ericsson, Rafalski, Kronwall, and Lidstrom top the Wings blueliners and it shows. With mounted injuries, the Wings were able to remain in contention for the top seed in the West. Vancouver just lost Kevin Bieksa for a few weeks, but expect the goaltending to be the blueline for now with only Ehrhoff, and Hamhuis to draw the line. Phoenix is howling sitting at No. 3 and is a shock to most. The hot potato team’s defense racked up some stellar talent in Keith Yandle. Roszival tops an assorted list of newbies that seem to have it all under control. Gone but not forgotten, Jovanovski took another trip to IR, so injuries have taken its toll on the Yots.  Veteran Aucoin can prop up some points- I’ve seen him do it.

Look out for Montreal’s P.K. Subban and Roman Hamrlik who are making an impact for the Canadiens. In New York, the Rangers are throwing themselves into the game standing in a comfortable place in the East, but looking for a climb. Stocked with Staal, Gilroy, Giradi, Del Zotto to name a few, the boys of Broadway are notable in the hunt. Nashville has Shea Weber and Ryan Suter but the Preds struggle in the playoffs. I love the D in Los Angeles: Doughty, Johnson, and Scuderi impress with some suspect if they can hold on to the last spot in the West. The fans in LA are pumped for their team.

Goaltenders are out, the blueline is in. Netminders have been repeatedly shown up in the playoffs- they are not a guarantee of a win or a chance to move forward. It’s all about keeping the puck out of the net and not allowed past the blueline. Hockey 101-basic stuff, but a turn in trend. So much hype on the goaltenders, that the defensive core was downgraded to penalty minutes. The teams with the best defense will make it further. In Vancouver, the top scorers are hanging on despite the depletion of the defenseman. Offensive-defensive players like Ryan Kesler and Pavel Datsyuk are the benefits of the wandering blue line. If the Canucks and Wings can hang on in the West with a merry-go-round of injuries,they will dominate in the playoff run. On the flip side, I’ll take the Flyers and the Bruins in the East as Cup contenders.

Kisses from the All-Stars

With a fantasy draft divvying up the All-Star roster, both Eric Staal and Nick Lidstrom became team captains of Team Staal and Team Lidstrom. Hometown fans and Hurricanes’ holler wasn’t enough to pull out the win for Carolina Hurricanes Eric Staal’s NHL All-Star team, Team Staal, who lost by a goal to Team Lidstrom. The four-time Stanley Cup champion and six-time winner of the Norris Trophy, Nicklas Lidstrom, led his team to victory over Team Staal, 11-10.

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were out with injuries, but we celebrate them all year. This game was a chance for the other players to gain their deserved recognition. And with that, here are a few highlights from the NHL portion in Raleigh, N.C.

Alex Ovechkin made the first goal of the night and the first faux pas for Team Staal. Ovechkin drew the first All-Star penalty shot when he threw his stick in front of the path of Team Lidstrom’s Matt Duchene on a breakaway. Odd play- looks like Ovechkin lost grip or made the sabotage allowing the stick to slide quite a distance on the ice right past the Avalanche forward. Duchene missed the shot against New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. If I were a cartoonist, I would have a blast sketching devil horns on Ovechkin and angel wings on Duchene. Or King Henry knighting Duchene as Ovi stretches on the rack.

And now to the defending Stanley Cup Champs time on the ice- Team Staal’s victory was Patrick Sharp winning a new car and named All-Star MVP for his goal and two assists. Chicago Blackhawks teammates, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Kane claimed the win with Team Lidstrom. Done.

Carolina Hurricane’s forward Jeff Skinner was the youngest NHL All-Star to play in the NHL at 18 years, 259 days, beating Steve Yzerman’s previous record in 1984 by just eight days. Many of the veterans tried to set Skinner up for a goal, but not go. Glad to see Skinner cheered by an awesome group of fans. If anyone doubts that the southeast can support hockey, I beg to differ. Raleigh and Charlotte have made a commitment to hockey playing within the zone of Ovechkin, Byfuglien, and Stamkos. A zone that has not yet been capitalized, teams with low attendance like in Atlanta need to grow or do more marketing. The rumors of Atlanta possibly shifting to Quebec or Winnipeg rouse the loyal in Canada. But if Bettman chooses to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, rather than support the Atlanta Thrashers, the commish must have tee time in Scottsdale often with the NHL players who have retired there.

All-Star games are a celebration of the best talent of the year. Anze Kopitar, Danny Briere and Loui Eriksson scored two apiece for Team Lidstrom. Adding one each were Toews, Dustin Byfuglien, Duchene, Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Staal and Letang each had two goals for Team Staal while Ovechkin Paul Stastny, Patrik Elias, Claude Giroux, Sharp and Rick Nash added the others.

Speed puck champ, Zdeno Chara, had two assists for Team Staal. Chara won the puck speed skill competition with105.9, shattering his old record of 105.4 in 2009.

Meanwhile, in Hershey with dancing mascots of chocolates kisses and a plethora of other chocolate delights, the AHL honored their best-of-the-best. Bobby Butler, leading rookie-goal-scorer of the Binghamton Senators was chosen MVP with a goal, 3 assists and a plus-4 rating. Amazing to note that last year’s AHL MVP was Tyler Ennis who now plays for the Buffalo Sabres, and a few years prior, Tampa Bay’s Teddy Purcell took the honors.

Bruce Boudreau, Olaf Kolzig and the current AHL President Dave Andrews reminisced on their time in the AHL and the importance of their experience. All commented on the friendships made while playing in the AHL and the torture of travel, notably the 14-hour bus trips from Halifax to Portland. Most AHL players will never get to the NHL, but if you get to play hockey as your job instead of sitting in a cubicle pushing papers, you’ve done good.

NHL All-Snub Game

Hey, NHL All Star Game– are you kidding me? His name is Jimmy Howard and you forgot to send his invitation.

Every year some player, who deserves to go, gets the snub generating drama to hike ratings. Red Wings fans are clambering for some justice. Right behind the Canucks in the Western Conference standings, the under staffing seems odd, yet the Canucks are sending three. With talent on both teams, it is strange that Detroit only has Lidstrom making the trip.  The NHL is bending backwards not to make this a Red Wings show, because they’ve slipped somehow and the injuries cannot look good for Detroit’s case. There is no doubt Howard has done his job and then some (22-7-3).

King Henry deserves a trip to Raleigh to showcase his tremendous skill for the promising New York Rangers but he’s propped up the Rangers for years. Fans of the Los Angeles Kings question the dismissal of goalie Quick, who has lived up to his name but not on the roster of All-Stars. Off to a great start, Quick has softened recently and reflects in his numbers (19-12-1).

The Western Conference rolls out Sharp, Kane, Keith and Toews in the Hawks section, who have the obligatory pass. Can’t snub the Stanley Cup champs. Patrick Sharp has had an outstanding year with 44 points. Vancouver gets a big nod with the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler. The Redemption for the NHL All-Star game this year is Dustin Byfuglien gracing the roster after last year’s snub.

The Staal brothers are well represented minus Jordan. Matt Duchene and rookie Kevin Shattenkirk will be there for the Mile High club. No Stastny listed either. With the absence of Chris Stewart in the line-up, Duchene has become a stronger leader on the ice. Stewart will be there next year or this article will be about that snub.

The NHL All-Star game really isn’t a game, rather a showcase light on the PIMs. Kesler and Backes could throw down for a few and I’d enjoy seeing that. Regards to the rookies who made it including Taylor Hall (EDM), Tyler Seguin (BOS), Cam Fowler (ANA) and Carolina Hurricanes own Jeff Skinner. San Jose’s rookie Logan Couture also made the cut, as he has become quite a catch in fantasy leagues.

Despite the snubs, someone is always forgotten. Semin, Zetterberg and Tavares are the hyped snubs this year. Western teams have excelled in play and popularity. Eastern players sell more jerseys. Since the NHL is based in New York, no stun in how this has been spun. Heading down south, the NHL is placing the southeastern pack in the forefront. Look what that division holds in Ovechkin, Stamkos, and Yzerman as the Bolts GM. Right time, right place. Load up on the BBQ and grits and take a gander at the skills competition, which really is the best part.

Top D-guys for Fantasy drafts

Draft day is approaching, and while I value the contribution of the offensive players the defenseman hold my attention. I usually take a gander at rankings from the top hockey outlets, but decided to forfeit their early suggestions and make a list of my own. Not all top ranked D-guys made my list; therefore I expect a few rumblings about key players not listed below. If I don’t want to draft them, they’re not on my radar.

Leaving off Dion and Pronger was no mistake. Just not a fan of their style. Avery has graced my roster a few times, but I can handle his style no matter how sticky it can get. The New York Rangers have a decent blueline if Avery can step it up and if Del Zotto can hold on. I wanted to find a powerhouse defenseman in the Vancouver Canucks, and I have to say that last year, Alex Edler was helpful in my playoff run. With the addition of Keith Ballard, maybe the Canucks will gel on the blueline.

Without further adieu, the suggestions below are a list of top defensemen that should be grabbed early.

Nicklas Lidstrom- Detroit Red Wings– Always at the top of my list for several reasons: he exemplifies leadership and the role of the defensemen, plus, he’s the captain of the Red Wings. At the age of 40, he’s coming back for one more year in Detroit to help shape the blueline for the future of the organization. Expect good things from him this season as he wants to leave on a legendary note.

Mike Green- Washington Capitals– Rank him high on your list. With 76 points on the year, a plus-39 rating and 54 PIMs, he’s an overall player. Workhorse and Norris Trophy candidate too.

Drew Doughty- Los Angeles Kings- Also nominated for the Norris Trophy, many expected Doughty to win. Scoring 59 points and 54 PIMs, you’ve just made two categories intriguing on your roster. His impact on the charismatic Kings has been noticed. The Kings have locked and loaded a talented group of players who will fight their way into the playoffs again. Recruit.


Duncan Keith- Chicago BlackHawks-
Norris Trophy winner is all I need to say. Along with his 69 points and 51 PIMs, Keith also has a plus-21 rating which is one niche that many fantasy owners disregard. Besides, who doesn’t want a D-guy who sacrificed numerous teeth for his team to win the Cup?


Dan Boyle-San Jose Sharks
– He had a rough time in the playoffs, but will bounce back from the mishaps. Though the media is cautious in claiming the Sharks will be in Cup contention, Boyle will play hard and keep the team in the zone. Strengths include his 58 points and 70 PIMs.


Tyler Myers- Buffalo Sabres
– Top rookie with 48 points, a plus-13, and 32 PIMs is a good call for this fresh face. Calder winner over Colorado’s Duchene and hot Detroit goaltender Howard. This is my absolute pick for D.


Sergei Gonchar- Ottawa Senators
– A new team, a new crowd to excite. Last season with Pittsburgh he tallied 50 points and 49 PIMs, but beware the under par rating for the plus/minus column.

Shea Weber- Nashville Predators- Team captain and on everyone’s wish list. Posting 43 points and 36 PIMs, he’s a solid defenseman to put on your docket. Nashville has made some moves to ensure the Predators break past round one and two of the playoffs.

Brian Rafalski-Detroit Red Wings– Olympic hero and hometown boy represents the Detroit blueline. Even if his numbers don’t hold at last seasons’ 42 points, a plus-23 rating, and 26 PIMs, he is the guy who sets up the brilliant net shakers and sees them through. If you are a Detroit fan, he’ll be on your roster.


Erik Johnson-St. Louis Blues
– I’m very excited about the Blues this season. Johnson was solid with 39 points and an impressive 79 PIMs. I only play on leagues with PIMs.

Zdeno Chara- Boston Bruins– Also a team captain, Chara was a bit of a let down last year. Not sure what happened, but I am cautious this year. But when you look at his stats, they’re pretty darn good at 44 points, a plus-19 and of course, 87 PIMs. Just watching Chara flatten and skewer opponents is enough reason to stick him on your roster. If you miss the game, check out all the fun on hockeyfights.com

Drafting defensemen is vital early. Depending on your league, you may have as many as four slots for defense; take two solid performers, then you are able to pick up at least two mix and match players on hot streaks. If you only have two, then make top picks that have depth into many categories, particularly on the power-play. Don’t forget your fighter either. Penalties can be bad, but the fighters who can score become the energy on your roster and great to follow. I have at least two bad boys on my team, but always room for more.

Panic in Detroit?

This is the last thought that any Red Wing fan has at this time. With the Western Conference standings bouncing around, the Detroit Red Wings could climb.  Sitting in the nine spot isn’t where the Wings or anyone thought they’d be.  Amazing, yet perplexing is the continual attempt of the players to hang on to the reputation of the team.  Justin Abdelkader has that McCarty fist, Jimmy Howard has found his legs, and the stars are rising over the Detroit River, for now.

Power forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have not been on par this year.  Matter of fact, they’ve just disappointed. Both have contributed a combined 22 goals, 45 assists that should equal one average forward.   Fantasy league owners are miffed.  Formulas for improvement haven’t accrued, yet.  So how long do these two need to wait and condition to get their mojo back?   Right now, the outlook is to sneak into the playoffs and go from there.  The original first line with Lidstrom, Rafalski, and Cleary has stood up to the test just not quite getting the grades they should.

Injuries have plagued the Red Wings.  Franzen, Filppula, Holmstrom, Kronwall, and a rotating door of various key players have created buzz over the impact the AHL has and its infiltration of players that are standing out.  Justin Abdelkader has taken some limelight defending his big brother team with a decent 6 points and an impressive 31 penalty points, which adds up to a few fights along the way. Returning to the line-up is Valtteri Filppula, who was striking gold before his stint on IR.   His promise of the breakout candidate hasn’t been able to break out of the gate in the confines of 3 goals and 7 assists.

Minor league players can fly or faint.  Detroit doesn’t rush breaking in the rookies, rather growing maturity and experience. Thus is the case of Jimmy Howard.  Spending the past few seasons with the Grand Rapid Griffins, there was much hype about the Red Wing rookie.  It looked dim for Howard in the beginning, and veteran Chris Osgood performed well until the Zen knocked down Osgood’s stature.

Osgood had the same problem last year.  Last March, fans I talked to at the local bars in Detroit hid behind Osgood’s stroke of back luck and supported then goalie Ty Conklin.  Anything to win no matter who’s tending the net.  Now, over the mid-season hump, Howard has proven his ability to perform to the expectations of being a Red Wing.   Weary Howard fans sing his praise but know Osgood may be back if Howard falters.   And that’s what happened last season meandering into the playoffs; Conklin sank and Osgood swooped in to save the day.  Not performing goaltending duties since December 20th, Osgood stood in for the bombarded Howard on Long Island Tuesday.  The loss still came with a blow.

The early season prediction in the Sporting News rated the Red Wings as holding steady.  “Despite some cost-cutting, Wings still look like best in West thanks to young gun,” read the headline on the Wings page.  Young guns indeed, holding steady evolved into holding together with the glue kind of steady- sometimes it holds, other times not at all.    Just as the Avalanche forecasters said the Avs would drop, the crystal ball for Detroit is that the team will always climb.  Puck Daddy has glazed over the Wings waning season. The young guns weren’t dying out there on the ice, but keeping it respectable until the 6-0-shutout loss to the New York Islanders.  Yes, it’s an Isolated game that did not revive despite a 4-1 win over San Jose and a 2-1 victory over one bump up in the standings, Los Angeles Kings.   Stop the bleeding or get off the roller coaster.  Something’s gotta give.

In a recent article by Bruce MacLeod, a Macomb Daily Sports Writer, some hope was offered. “The Red Wings got many good signs for the future at Monday’s practice. Skating through drills were injured forward Johan Franzen and Jason Williams and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. The latter said that he might be able to return from a bone bruise in his knee (Dec. 14) as early as Thursday’s home game against Carolina.”

Franzen, “the Mule” needs to save us from our imprisonment of malaise.  Ericsson will play wandering defense just to get into the thick of the game.  The bench may be too timid to play with the big boys or they’re just not jiving.  With the Olympics around the corner, the season will roll into serious contention for playoff spots that will be torn apart and broken through to the other side.  It could get vicious.  Let’s hope so for Detroit’s sake that Johan Franzen is the savior and can revive faith in what was to be.

Is there panic in Detroit?  How about praise?  Talk last season took on teams taking a dive for the highest draft pick.  No one has suggested that of any team yet.  Not only insulting to the players and the game, hockey in Motown is taken seriously and no joking about that stuff.  If the ship were already sinking perhaps draft order would be of interest.  Haven’t arrived at that dilemma yet.  Recharged, retooled, rerouting takes the course of action to instill forging ahead not abandoning the cause.  Let your Red Wings flag fly!