NHL Rumours heading into the draft!

Here are a few quick hits I have going into todays  2011NHL Entry Draft.

  • The new Winnipeg team are officially named the Jets! I was sort of hoping for the True North Group to go with the Manitoba Mooose.
  • Ryan Smyth could be on the move back to Alberta, but not neccesarily to Edmonton. The Flames have become very interested in Captian Canada. Edmonton is poking around but not as interested as Calgary.

               *UPDATE: Derran Dregar reports that the Oilers and Kings are close to trading G. Burle for R.. Smyth.

  • John-Michael Liles has been traded to the dreadful Leafs. He was traded about an hour before the draft for Toronto’s secound rounder this year.
  • Eklund had two crazy rumours which I don’t believe  but for entertaiment, here they are: Brad Richards could be on the move to Beamtown and Max Talbot’s rights could be dealt to the Wild. I guess I could see the Talbot deal, but I do not see Richards heading to Boston. At all.
  • The Vancouver Canucks only rumour today is that they could be moving their farm team from Winnipeg (forced out by NHL) to Chicago. Chicago originally had Atlanta’s farm team but left once the Thrashers flew north, the farm team followed, heading to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Hmmm, our most hated rival city.
  • Also Oilers are expected to take Ryan Nuget-Hopkins first overall.
  • Finally, Eric Brewer has signed a four year deal with the Lightning worth 16 million.

We Have The Best

Canucks are lucky to have the best goalie in the NHL

It has been 5 years since ex Canuck GM, Dave Nonis brought in Roberto Luongo on the sunny day of June 23, 2006. It is arguably the biggest trade in Canuck history (at least that went well). Looking back at the innocent, yet promising 27 year old, who would ever think that he bring so much success to the Canuck organization but blamed in the media for every disappointment. On that day in June,the Vancouver Canucks knew they had the best.  

Since arriving in Vancouver, all Roberto has faced is the question: is he the best? Luongo has continued to prove all of his doubters wrong through his play. Who could forget his first year in Vancouver where he out duelled Marty Turco in a shooters nightmare in the first round of the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs? Since that marvellous first season, Bobby-Luo has never gone higher than a 2.57 goals against average or lower then a .913 save percentage. Every year Luongo blanks his opponent at least 4 times a year. Let’s not forget to mention he has lead his team to the promised land 4 out of the 5 seasons. The most recent playoffs, Roberto carried his Canucks past 3 difficult oppositions, until they stumbled 1 game short in the finals. The stats speak for themselves, he is the best.

Roberto Luongo not only has the numbers to back his play up, but he has earned praise around hockey with countless awards and honours. In the years we have the dreadful all-star game, our own Canuck puck stopper has been invited every season. In 2007, Roberto won the Mark Messier Leadership Award, the highest honour a leader can get. Hockey Canada has invited him to the 2006 and 2010 Olympic winter games, where the Vancouver 2010 tournament ended with Luongo waving the golden Canadian flag as the crowd chanted LLLLLUUUUOOOOO! This past season we saw Luongo posting career best numbers earning him his third Vezina nomination and securing the Jennings for having the fewest goals against in the NHL. It seems like the awards are on an unstoppable rate for the best goalie in the NHL.

The anti-Luongo movement is poorly supported with arguments from fans and media in Vancouver and around the NHL.  At first, most questioned his ability to play in the playoffs, and then he played his first series in the 2006 playoffs and shut down that genius idea. Next the fans and media wondered if he could win the big game. The 2010 Olympics’ came around and Roberto became a hero to our great nation. Running out of feeble points, Luongo haters came up with the Blackhawk theory, saying that the Canucks led by Luongo can never make it past the Hawks. Well, Luongo took the Hawks to a game 7 this year, where he shut the door until gritty Alex Burrows sniped the puck past Crawford. Now the strongest case against Roberto is him not having a cup ring. These people forget that many greats don’t get to kiss that silver hardware until late in their career, as in Bourque, Yzerman, and Brind’Amour. There are many that won’t even get a chance;  Iginla, Dionne, and Hawerchuk. The book is still out on Roberto Luongo, but he has already been to the finals once and is part of an excellent core group of players in Vancouver that will be a serious threat for Lord Stanley over the next five years. Roberto continues to prove all of his doubters wrong, showing his ability to be the best.

There isn’t a goalie I would rather have lace up for my team than Roberto Luongo. If I was to build a team around a goaltender, then I would take him in a heartbeat. Year after year, Luongo is constantly putting up hall of fame numbers. Looking around the NHL, we as Canuck fans are lucky. Thomas was a backup last year to Rask;  Brodeur is on a steep decline;  Kipprusoff isn’t looking the same anymore; Price is now into his first year as a true number one; and Miller’s stats are good but not quite Luongo-like. The Vancouver media and fans should realise how blessed we are to have a goalie of this stature, especially considering the goalie graveyard we used to have. Let’s sit back and enjoy all that we have until it is gone. Roberto Luongo is the best.

Stanley Cup Predictions- Round 3

Sorry about the delay, but I got my picks done. I’m not going to brag about the fact that I picked Tampa to beat the Caps last round, but I would certianly like to bring it up. So far I am 10 for 12 this post season and hoping to make it 12 for 14 after this round.

Kesler has been unreal for the Nuckleheads in rounds 1 & 2, while Hank Sedin must step up his game in this series

Vancouver Canucks(1) vs. San Jose Sharks(2)

It has been a long 17 years for Canuck fans to finally see their team advance past the second round. I really like what the Canucks have going for them. Good goaltending, solid defence, and an offence that is starting to pick this up. The Sedins, who are the key pieces if the Nucks want to advance, are finally looking as though they have found their game in the play-offs. San Jose meanwhile comes off a 7 game Detroit series that they could have finished in 4. Some off the big  Shark forwards look to be invisible so far in post season play, like Marleau, Heatley, and Pavelski. San Jose’s game rely’s on these forwards as the defence isn’t anything to brag about and Niemi has looked hot and cold. I think Ryan Kelser and the Vancouver Canucks have their ticket already punched for the finals.

Canucks in 5

Boston Bruins(3) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning(5)

I really don’t think anyone predicted the Tampa Bay Lightning to be in the position they are in right now. Many “experts” had predicted the Bolts to finish in the bottom 10 in the league. Really we have seen the classic example on what a hot goalie and timely offence can do for a team. Boston meanwhile struggled against the Habs in round one but in round two, they embarrassed the Flyers. Now the two teams face each other with each team full of storylines. I think it will end up being a match-up between Roleson and Thomas. I strongly believe with the hot streak Tampa has it will be close, but Boston is done. Yzerman deserves all of the credit for turning this franchise right around.

Bolts in 7

Stanley Cup Predictions- Round 2

 

Dwayne Roloson could be the "X-factor" in the Caps-Bolts series

Washington Capitals(1) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning(5)

Deja vu? A hot goalie playing against the Capitals? Dwayne Roloson is at the top of his game once again at playoff time. I’m going against the grain and saying the high flying Caps stumble against Dwayne Roloson and the Bolts. Remember that the Bolts won the Cup back in ’04 with a similar core group (Lecavalier and St. Louis) and the Capitals tend to get rattled at a hot goalie. If Rolly the goalie plays to the peak we could see this series end in Tampa’s favour, if not, the Caps got this one easily.

Bolts in 6

Philadelphia Flyers(2) vs. Boston Bruins(3)

This series has drama written all over it! Flash-back to last year, the Bruins went up 3-0 to the Flyers in round 2 before Philly had one of the biggest comebacks in hockey history. The Flyers won the next 4 straight games to win the best of seven series. This year both teams improved in the offseason and are much deeper. With a healthy Chris Pronger, I think the Flyers are that much better than the Bruins. Briere, Giroux, and Phillies offence are on firre right now and could find the holes in the Vezina candidate, Tim Thomas. The goaltending match-up favours the Bruins but the Flyers found their guy last round, Brian Boucher. I’ll take the Flyers based on depth.

Flyers in 6

 

Vancouver Canucks(1) vs. Nashville Predators(5)

This series comes down to goaltending. Luongo vs. Rinne. Both have played unreal in the season, but have had their speed bumps in the playoffs. In game one the goaltenders ended up being the story line in a 1-0 win for Vancouver. I like the Nuckleheads odds in this match-up. Although, the Preds have bought into Barry Trotts system and looked good in round one. There is no clear forward that the Canucks (or Ryan Kesler) have to shut down but Nashville has a bunch of grinders who can chip in at the right time. The Canucks have just too much depth to overpower the Preds.

Canucks in 5

San Jose Sharks(2) vs. Detriot Red Wings(3)

This one will be fun to watch. I don’t think there is two evenly matched teams like this. The Sharks have found their game last round and have their offence coming from everywhere. Meanwhile the Wings destroyed the future Jets last series with a clean sweep, and that was without Zetterburg! Detroit enters this round much stronger, with Zetterburg returning to the line-up. As much as I like the Wings line-up and expirence, I think the Sharks are stronger. The offence for San Jose is nuts! The one thing that will hold San Jose back is their defence. Dan Boyle and the Sharks defence must improve if they want to move on. Also former Stanley Cup winner Antti Niemi will be under pressure to perform at the big stage, similar to last year’s pressure.

Sharks in 7

Stanley Cup Predictions- Round 1

The Hawks brought home Lord Stanley last year. Who will raise the Stanley Cup this year?

Washington Capitals(1) vs. New York Rangers(8)

I really like the Caps odds in this one. The Rangers, I feel, are the weakest team in the playoffs. Losing Ryan Callahan, the Rangers are looking pretty thin up front. The only way the Rangers can hang in this series is if Henrik Lundqvist can steal the show the way Jaroslav Halak did last year. Washington learned their lesson last year losing to a 8th seed and won’t let it happen this year. My verdict is the Capitals have too much depth and fire power, as I could easily see Ovie’s team sweep New York.

Capitals in 4

Philadelphia Flyers(2) vs. Buffalo Sabres(7)

Here’s where the Eastern Conference gets interesting. The Flyers went 3-7 in their last 10 games to close out the regular season and there was fingers pointing everywhere. The stumbling Flyers come into the playoffs with high expectations. They are deep at every position but net. That is the biggest question mark to me. If Philly can find their starting goalie early, I believe they can make a straight march to the finals. Buffalo can be a scary team to play against as they have one of the best goalies in the game, Ryan Miller. Last year we saw Miller lead a weak USA team all the way to the Olympic gold finals, so watch out for the Sabres netminder. At the end of the day I believe the Flyers can overpower the Sabres with their depth.

Flyers in 6

Boston Bruins(3) vs. Montreal Canadians(6)

This series will be determined by who can execute their game plan. If the big, bad Bruins can make it a physical series, the smaller Canadians have no chance. Lucic, Horton, and Krejci will all be leaned on heavily up front to push around the Habs. Also the Bruins need to figure out their power play if they want to make it anywhere in the playoffs. However, if the Habs can play their game and get some hot goaltending from Carey Price, we all know how deadly they can be. Finally, the Canadians low scoring team needs to get their offence revved up or the Habs post-season could end quickly. This rivalry has the means to go all the way to game 7 I think.

Bruins in 7

Pittsburgh Penguins(4) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning(5)

The Crosby show? The second half of the year I have questioned the Pens ability to win without Crosby, Malkin, and other banged up forwards, but time and time again they prove me wrong. Head coach, Dan Bylsma has done an awesome job at getting his team to win hockey games. Meanwhile Tampa has surprised everyone for even making the playoffs this year. I think it will come down to the will to win and the Fluery vs. Rolson goaltending match-up. Pens win in both categories and so I believe Pittsburgh have the upper hand.

Penguins in 6

Vancouver Canucks(1) vs. Chicago Blackhawks(8)

Ah, the heated rivalry between the Nucks and Hawks. I think the rivalry is all but gone. Ladd, Versteeg, Burish, Byfuglien, Eager, Sopel, and Neimi are all gone from the Hawks line-up leaving the team weak in depth, which was the very thing that made them win last year.  The Canucks on the other hand have been on a mission to forget the last two playoff exits against the Blackhawks and GM Mike Gillis has done an amazing job at increasing the overall depth of the Canucks over the off season. Vancouver leads the league in almost every category this past season and look unstoppable going into the playoffs. I’ll take the Nucks any day.

Canucks in 5

San Jose Sharks(2) vs. Los Angeles Kings(7)

Is this the Sharks year? San Jose has been on fire since the All-Star game while the Kings have looked mediocre. The Sharks have 3 sick offensive lines containing Thornton, Heatly, Marleau, Clowe, Pavelski, Setoguchi, and Couture. Also Niemi has looked unbeatable since the Shark turn around, but the defence worries me. The only name that stands out on defence is Dan Boyle, other than Dan the Sharks have look weak on the back end. The Kings have been hurting since losing Anze Kopitar and I think they have no shot at making any significant gains in the playoffs.

Sharks in 4

Detroit Red Wings(3) vs. Phoenix Coyotes(6)

The Red Wings once again in the playoffs. This organization has figured it out. The ageing Wings aren’t the favourite they normally are but don’t count them out. Mike Babcock always gets the most out of his team for the playoffs. Goaltender, Jimmy Howard looks better and better every game I watch him play and I think he could be the X-factor for the Red Wings if they want to make it anywhere this year. Meanwhile, the Yotes rely heavily on their goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to win them hockey games. If the Coyotes can get timely goals and have Ilya play his best, the Wings could exit the playoffs earlier then they want to. I think in the end Detroit’s experience will win them the series.

Red Wings in 6

 

Anaheim Ducks(4) vs. Nashville Predators(5)

The Duck offence has been unreal this year with Perry, Ryan, and Getzlaf leading the way, not to mention strong secoundary scoring coming from Selenne, Koivu, and Blake. Also the goaltending has been solid all year for the Ducks whether it has been Hiller, Emery, or Ellis. The one weak point for Anaheim is there depth on D. Young players like Sbisa and Fowler will have to step it up if the Ducks want to make a playoff run. But I think Nashville is a scary team to play in round 1. Coach, Berry Tortz has perfected a defensive system that even with average player, the Preds find a way to make it to the playoffs. The thing that separates this year’s Nashville team to last year’s, is the goaltending. Rinne has flourished this season and doesn’t show signs of stopping. I think Nashville’s system and group of players has the chance of getting them a long way in the playoffs.

Predators in 7

Trade Deadline 2011- Was Friday the Deadline?

I did not know that the NHL trade deadline was moved up to February 18th. Yesterday, we saw a flurry of deals and big names like Tomas Kaberle, Erik Johnson, Eric Brewer, Ian White, and more all on the move. I am going to break down the deals and give my winners and losers.

Kaberle suiting up for his first game as a Bruin friday night

TO BOSTON: Tomas Kaberle

TO TORONTO: Joe Colborne, BOS 1st rounder (2011), and conditional 2nd rounder (2012)

After years of speculation Kaberle has finally been moved. The second all time scoring defenseman in Leafs history played his first game with Boston last night donning number 12. Kaberle has 3 goals and 28 points with a minus 2 rating as a bud this season. In exchange the Leafs acquire Boston’s 2008, first round pick (16th overall) Joe Colborne. Colborne has played the past season with the Providence Bruins recording 26 points in 55 games. Joe has towering size at 6’5 at jsut 21 years of age and has the potential to be a first line power forward in the NHL. Toronto also gets Boston’s 2011 first round pick this year and a conditional 2012 second rounder (please note: the 2011 first round pick is not Toronto’s pick that they originally trade to Boston for Phil Kessel). The conditional 2012 second round pick is if the Bruins make it to the Stanley Cup finals or if Tomas Kaberle re-signs with Boston.

Winner: I love what Brian Burke has done here. As much as he has f’ed up Leafland time and time again, it seems as though he finally understands what it means to rebuild a hockey club. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Versteeg deal, the Beacheman trade only had minimal gains, but trading away Kaberle was a solid move. Kaberle is a pending UFA and doesn’t fit into Burkes long term plans. The Leafs milked all they could out of Boston GM,Peter Charelli. But at the end of the day, the Bruins got the better player in the deal and still hold Toronto’s 2011 first rounder.

 

TO COLORADO:  E. Johnson, J. McClement, and a conditional 1st rounder

TO ST. LOUIS: C. Stewart, K. Shattenkirk, and a conditional 2nd rounder

I think this trade caught everyone off guard. I don’t think anyone could have predicted this deal. Both the Aves and the Blues were involved in multiple trades Friday including this deal. Erik Johnson who was drafted 1st overall by the Blues in 2006 was thought to be the cornerstone of the franchise. He and Jay McCelment will be donning the Avalanche uniforms for the first time alongside Brian Elliot, who also was acquired by Colorado friday. On the other side of the transaction, Chris Stewart was the major piece. Stewart, like Johnson, was drafted in 2006 and just broke out in last year into a bonafide top six forward. He scored 28 times last year in 77 games and has lit the lamp 13 times this year in just 36 games. Kevin Shattenkirk was the other part of the package heading off to the city of Blues. Shattenkirk is just 22 years old and already played 46 games this year in his rookie season.

Winner: I think Colorado won this deal. As much as it is tough giving up Stewart and Shattenkirk, Johnson is a player they can build there blueline around. Duchene, Johnson, Stastny, and O’Reilly are a solid young core to build around for the future. Not to mention the get another first round pick this year (unless it is a top ten pick then it is in 2012).

TO TAMPA BAY: Eric Brewer

TO ST. LOUIS: Brock Beukeboom and a third round pick (2011)

St. Louis GM, Doug Armstrong’s phones were ringing constantly on friday. Armstrong traded Brewer to T-Bay, as yet another defensemen was on the move. Brewer, who was the captain of the Blues, has played some of his best hockey as of late. Eric is a pending UFA and was expected to get moved. Tampa Bay is weak on the back end and Brewer could help them out tremendously for a playoff bid. Brock Beukeboom was a 3rd round pick of the Bolts in the 2010 entry draft and is a solid defensive d-man.

Winner: Tampa Bay won this deal. They essentially gave up nothing to loan Brewer for the rest of the year and have a chance to re-sign him. I really like what Steve Yzerman is doing with the Lightning. The Bolts are heading in the right direction.

Ian White will join his third team this year, as he is now a member of the Sharks

TO SAN JOSE: Ian White

TO CAROLINA: SJ second round pick (2011)

The defenseman dominos kept falling as White was dealt from the Hurricanes out west to San Jose. This is a great move for the Sharks. SJ Sharks are extremely weak on the back end and could use all the help they could get. White is now going to play on his third team this year as he heads out west. Ian White started the season with the Flames when was dealt alongside Brett Sutter by D’utter to Carolina for Tom Kostopoulus and Anton Babchuk. As Carolina is struggling to make the playoffs, they dealt away Ian White who is set to become a UFA at the end of the year.

Winner: I think it was smart of the Hurricanes to deal away White for something rather then lose him on July the first. They were able squeak out a second round from San Jose. Ultimately SJ Sharks won this deal. The Sharks need help on the blue line and White will help out the situation.

Other deals around the NHL had Boston sending Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta, while Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik were sent to Beantown. Craig Anderson was sent out east to Ottawa for Brian Elliot. Finally Derek Joslin was sent from San Jose to Carolina for future considerations (not related to the White deal).

LA Kings 2011 Preview

Doughty leads the young core in LA that posses a serious threat to the rest of the league.

The LA kings took a major step last season. The kings went from a bottom feeder in the NHL to a team that compete for a cup. For the first time in 8 years, the LA Kings were able to play post-season hockey. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, and Jon Quick all had huge breakout years. The Kings had a good balance of talented young guns and grizzled veterans. At the beginning of the season, the Kings had the most explosive offensive groups in the league and were atop of the Western Confrence. As soon as Ryan Symth was taken off the starting roster, due to injury, the offence cooled back down. LA had enough wins early on to qualify for the playoffs. In first round, the Drew Doughty and the Kings faced a good Vancouver team and there age showed. The Canucks knocked out the Kings in six games, showing the NHL the Kings are still a few years away.

Last Season: 46-27-9, 101 points, 6 in the Western Conference

Incoming: W. Mitchell, A. Ponikarovsky

Outgoing: A. Frolov, J. Halpern, F. Modin, R. Ivanans, S. O’Donnell

Reason For Hope: I think the Kings picked up one of the best UFA defenseman this offseason, Wille Mitchell. Wille is a big defensive-defenseman, who is invaluable on the in the post season. This move will add some veteran experience to the blueline, with Doughty, Johnson, and Drewskie all constantly learing and improving every game. Speaking of Drew Doughty, he really stood out to me this past season. He not only had success with the Kings (a season that just about got him a Norris trophy) but he was one of Canada’s best defenseman at the 2010 games in Vancouver. What makes me really like the kid is that he is only 20 years old. Like the Kings, Drew is young and has a huge upside, with many good years ahead of him. Also the Kings have more talented kids on the way. Jonathan Bernier is hoping to get some more NHL starts under his belt and can hopefully knock out Quick out of the starting spot. Bradyen Schenn will hopefully make the Kings out of training camp. This are very bright in Hollywood and don’t be surprised if the Kings bring the Cup to LA in the next few seasons.

What Could Go Wrong? : If I can pick out the one area that is LA’s most questionable areas, is in the crease. Jonathan Quick defiantly looked shaky in the playoffs last spring against the high flying Canuck team. It will be interesting to see how he responds this season. Quick is only LA short term plan, as Jonathan Bernier, is the long term project. If Quick falters out of training camp, we could see the Kings give the nod to Berneir to backstop the Kings on their journey this year. Also the Kings lost some depth on offence this year, losing Frolov, Halpern, and Modin. All were pretty big chips for the Kings last year. My guess is, the Ponikarovsky will fill in at Frolov spot, and the rest of the empty slots, will be found from within the team.

Perdition: 3rd– 5th in the Western Conference