Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The NHL Goes Up In Flames

Don't look now, but the Calgary Flames are starting to hit their stride. After a so-so start to the season, the Flames have picked up their game, especially on offense, and just completed a perfect 6-0 road trip. The Flames have yet to lose a game in regulation in the month of December, following head coach Mike Keenan publicly ripping his team after a 4-1 loss to Calgary at home.

Leading the charge for the Flames has been captain Jarome Iginla. Iginla contributed 8 goals and 3 assists on the road trip. He wasn't doing it alone though. Iginla's linemate Kristian Huselius notched 5 goals and 8 assists on the trip, including a pair of 5 point games, and defenseman Dion Phaneuf chipped in with a goal and 8 assists.

The Flames have been doing quite a bit of celebrating lately.

The scariest part of all is that superstar goalie Mikka Kiprusoff has still yet to provide the team with consistent play between the pipes. He has been great some nights, like in his 36 save performance against Columbus, but on other nights he has fallen flat, such as the game in Tampa when he allowed 6 goals to the Lightning. This despite, unsurprisingly, Kiprusoff being the target of much of Mike Keenan's criticism.

As it stands right now they are only a single point behind the Wild for the division lead despite their slow start. Although the Wild and the other teams ahead of them in the Northwest all have games in hand on the Flames. If the Flames can continue to get this high level of play out of their top line, and get some scoring from the depth players and more consistent play from Kiprusoff, they could prove to be a tough team to deal with in the Western Conference.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Fantasy Focus: Auld I Want For Christmas

It's time to take another look inside the world of fantasy hockey and see where those of you in need should be focusing your attention.

Prime Pickups:

  • Alex Auld (G - BOS) All Auld has done since coming over from Phoenix is go 4-1 with a 1.40 GAA and .955 Save%. Tim Thomas will start eating into his ice time again shortly, but he is still a solid depth acquisition in net.
  • Andy McDonald (C - STL) McDonald was having a pretty lousy year in Anaheim, but he's been given a fresh start in St. Louis alongside Paul Kariya. I think he will get it going again in a hurry. Grab him if he's available.
  • Tyler Kennedy (RW - PIT) TK is the flavor of the week on Sidney Crosby's right wing. Kennedy has responded well to the assignment and should put up good numbers for as long as he stays with Sid.
  • Aaron Voros (LW - MIN) Voros is a good source for PIMs and will contribute in other ways as well, as his 8 points attest. If you missed out on Daniel Carcillo, do yourself a favor and add Voros while you can.
  • Denis Wideman (D - BOS) Wideman got off to a slow start in Boston, but he has rebounded with 8 points (6 on the PP) in the last month and could be a solid contributor on the blueline the rest of the way. Especially for those who will be without Bryan McCabe for the next 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Dany Sabourin (G - PIT) The beneficiary of Marc-Andre Fleury's ankle injury, the man they call Sabu will be manning the pipes for the foreseeable future in Pittsburgh. The team is starting to hit its stride and Sabourin's win total will benefit from that. A solid number 3 goalie at worst.
Keep An Eye On:
  • Andrew Raycroft (G - TOR) There are rumors flying around about Raycroft being traded. He could be a nice addition if he lands in the right situation.
Sell High:
  • Ed Jovanovski (D - PHX) Jovo was on a real tear there for a bit, but I don't really see anyone in Phoenix as a viable long-term option. Try to move him while his value is high.
  • Vesa Toskala (G - TOR) Toskala has helped to lead the revival in Toronto with his solid play of late. Things in Leafland are so insane though that things could turn around in a hurry. Try to move him for someone a little more stable/predictable if you can.
Buy Low:
  • Cam Ward (G - CAR) Carolina has been struggling of late and Ward's numbers reflect that. They still have the luxury of getting to fatten up on the rest of their weak division though, so things should turn around for the Hurricanes. You might be able to get away with a lowball offer to an impatient Ward owner if you are lucky.
  • Jaromir Jagr (RW - NYR) Jagr has done next to nothing for about the last month, but he is just too talented for that to last. See if you can take advantage of a frustrated Jagr owner and bring in Double J on the cheap.
  • Alexander Frolov (LW - LAK) Frolov missed some time with an injury but is back in the Kings lineup now. He could be a nice upgrade at left wing if you need one. Beware though, Frolov is a streaky guy so be prepared to take the bad with the good.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ducks Make Move: Add Weight, Cap Space

TSN is reporting that the Ducks have sent struggling center Andy McDonald to St. Louis in exchange for Doug Weight, prospect Michal Birner, and a 7th round draft pick. This move gives the Ducks enough cap space to finally bring Scott Niedermayer back into the lineup. The Ducks are also hopeful this will give them enough wiggle room under the cap to start trying to extend pending RFA Corey Perry.

This move is a bit of a shock since most were assuming the Ducks would move a defenseman to free up some room under the cap. Mathieu Schnieder's name was being the one most often mentioned, but McDonald has really struggled without Teemu Selanne cruising his right wing. Hopefully a change of scenery will help him get back to his high scoring ways of a year ago.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reactions To The Mike Richards Contract

The Flyers set the hockey world on fire today with their signing of Mike Richards to a 12 year, $69 million contract extension. Here are some reactions from around the league:

"Only 12 years? That kid needs a new agent."
- Rick DiPietro

"Man is that kid overpaid."
- Brad Richards

"That deal is so insane I got excited when I heard about it because I thought I had signed him."
- Kevin Lowe

- Evgeni Malkin's agent

"That's almost $700,000 for each career point. I can't believe they didn't offer me a 12 year, $1 billion contract. I'll show those ungrateful jerks!!!"
- Mark Recchi

"When did Kevin Lowe become GM for the Flyers?"
- Brian Burke

"So, you don't want me back next year then I take it."
- R.J. Umberger

"Are hey trying to one up us as the team dealing with the cap the worst? Quick, get Wade Redden's agent on the phone! I'll show them how to ruin your team's future."
- Bryan Murray

Anatomy Of A Salary Cap Crisis

In the wake of Mike Richards' new contract signing today, I figured the Flyers were painting themselves into a corner in regards to the salary cap. Never one to ignore a hunch, I opened up the Flyers page at, took into account the new deal for Richards, and then found the following situation facing the Flyers:

  • Daniel Briere - $6.5 million cap hit (8 years remaining)
  • Kimmo Timonen - $6.33 million cap hit (6 years remaining)
  • Mike Richards - $5.75 million cap hit (12 years remaining)
  • Simon Gagne - $5.25 million cap hit (4 years remaining)
  • Scott Hartnell - $4.08 million cap hit (6 years remaining)
  • Derian Hatcher - $3.5 million cap hit (2 years remaining)
  • Mike Rathje - $3.5 million cap hit (3 years remaining) yikes!
  • Martin Biron - $3.5 million cap hit (2 years remaining)
That's over $38 million committed to 8 players, with the cap currently sitting at $50.3 million. I hope the flyers have a long list of players willing to play for the league minimum, because they have to fill out the remaining two thirds of their roster for about $12 million. I can already smell Kevin Lowe getting an offer sheet ready for R.J. Umberger.

Breakout Passes: Pennsylvania Is Burning

Welcome to the first installment of Breakout Passes! There's just too much good stuff going on out there in the hockey blogosphere to go unlinked. So away we go!

  • Tuesday night's Pens/Flyers tilt has rekindled the interstate rivalry. The Battle of Pennsylvania has responses from both sides. Melt Your Face Off has a great post about how the officials should have taken control of the game. The Pens' visit to Philly on January 24th can't come soon enough.
  • On a more positive note, the boys over at The Pensblog were able to drop a little knowledge on some poor soul who managed to slip through the cracks of the Philadelphia school system. Just do a find on palindrome...
  • James Mirtle's man-crush on Mark Recchi is still going strong! All I will say about this is that the Pens' record is a lot better without Recchi in the lineup than in it this season.
  • The buzz around the Lightning moving one of their big three forwards continues to grow. Good luck finding someone who will take on that Richards contract!
  • Someone apparently needs to hold an intervention and explain the concept of a salary cap to the Flyers. They just aren't getting it.
  • Going Five Hole scored an interview with Steve Williamson, he of 30 games in 30 nights fame.
  • GFH was also the first blog I saw run the amazing Max Gherlach goal. That may be the best one-on-one goal I've ever seen at any level.
  • Sidney Crosby... Lou Marsh Award winner!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some Stars Don't Shine In Shootouts

Following Pittsburgh's shootout victory over the Canucks on Saturday night, a game in which Sidney Crosby was not only stopped by Roberto Luongo in the shootout, but also on an OT penalty shot, I started to reflect on Sidney's relatively poor track record in shootouts. I couldn't help but think that Michel Therrien might better serve the Pens by letting someone else take Sid's place in the shootout. This in turn led me to wonder how many other big name players are sent out in the shootouts by their coaches despite a lack of success. After going through the shootout stats since the start of the '06-'07 season, there is quite a list of big name players who have been disappointing in the shootout.

Some of the most prominent players are:

  • Sidney Crosby - 6/20 (.300%)
  • Alexander Ovechkin - 2/13 (.154%)
  • Vincent Lecavalier - 3/14 (.214%)
  • Henrik Zetterberg - 2/9 (.222%)
  • Evgeni Malkin - 3/16 (.188%)
  • Thomas Vanek - 2/11 (.181%)
  • Patrick Elias - 2/11 (.181%)
My first reaction when researching these stats was that Crosby's numbers are actually a little better than I thought they were, yet still not as good as I would expect from him. For some reason I'm not surprised that Ovechkin hasn't fared well in shootouts. He's more of a finisher to me than a guy who can consistently take on goalies one-on-one and prevail. The numbers for Lecavalier, Zetterberg, and Elias (and Vanek to a lesser degree) really shocked me. These are craftier players who have been around for a while, and you would think they would be more successful in this setting.

The real question here is whether or not these players are helping their teams by taking part in the overtime shootouts. I recognize that there is pressure for a coach to send out a premier player like Crosby or Lecavalier, but at some point results have to start to come into play. If you look around the league, it isn't hard to find some "no name" players who have excelled at the shootout. Erik Christensen has been a revelation for Pittsburgh, going 11 for 18 in shootouts since the start of last season. Devils defensive specialist John Madden is a somewhat surprising (I think his offense is better than he gets credit for) 4 for 7 when participating in shootouts. And then there is the Wild's secret shootout weapon, defenseman Petteri Nummelin is a remarkable 8 for 9 in shootouts. Certainly these players help show that results count more than the name on the back of the jersey.

This isn't to say the stars should be given up on. For example, Anaheim center Andy McDonald was 1 for 10 in shootouts last season, but has converted both of his opportunities so far this season. I'm simply saying that coaches could probably secure a few extra points for their teams if they looked a little outside the box when putting together their shootout lineups. Would it hurt for the Penguins to try Kris Letang (2 for 2) in Crosby's usual 3 slot for a bit, or for the Canucks to make Trevor Linden (4 for 5) a regular shootout participant? It could mean a few extra points in the standings. And in today's NHL, that can be the difference between making the playoffs or golfing in April.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Step Back From The Ledge!

I know everyone is down due to MAF's ankle injury last night (I haven't seen any updates on his condition yet), so here's a little something to cheer you up.

A big thanks to Mirtle for the find!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Run Silent, Run Deep...

The purpose of this post is mainly to let those of you who frequent here (both of you) know that you shouldn't be expecting any new content over the next week or so. Finals start for me tomorrow and I'm flying out to California for the weekend for my Grandma's 100th birthday party (if life was the NHL, Granny would be Gordie Howe!), so I'm even more busy than usual for the next week or so. The good news is that starting next Monday afternoon I can forget about school for about 5 weeks, which will allow me to concentrate more on this here blog. I've got a few ideas clanging around in my head and I'm hoping to make good use of the time.

In the meantime, so as not to leave you empty handed... here's a couple pics of MAF owning some 9 year-olds:

Saturday, December 1, 2007

NHL Team Of The Month: November 2007

With the quarter mark of this season in the rear view mirror, it's time to name the Team of the Month for November:

  • Center: Vincent Lecavalier (14 GP, 9 G, 16 A, 7 PPP)
  • Right Wing: Martin Erat (12 GP, 8 G, 10 A, 4 GWG)
  • Left Wing: Ilya Kovalchuk (12 GP, 14 G, 8 A, 8 PPP)
  • Defense: Sergei Gonchar (12 GP, 4 G, 11 A, +5, 9 PPP)
  • Defense: Zdeno Chara (13 GP, 3 G, 7 A, +7, 4 PPP)
  • Goalie: Roberto Luongo (12 GP, 8 W, 1.56 GAA, .940 SV%, 4 SO)
  • Lecavalier and Kovalchuk were both out of their minds in November. They were no brainers for Team of the Month honors.
  • Martin Erat has been quietly sensational for the Predators. Four game winners in a single month is great for anyone. Where would they be without his offense?
  • Chara and Gonchar both had outstanding months. Gonchar's +5 is especially noteworthy considering he does most of his scoring with the man advantage. Maybe it's time for people to start giving him some credit for his defense.
  • Luongo gets the nod over Henrik Lundqvist because he takes the ice every game knowing he has to steal points for the beat up and goal-starved Canucks. Lundqvist has a bit more margin for error on most nights. It also doesn't hurt that Luongo closed out November with a three game shutout streak.