Friday, February 29, 2008

Instant Gratification For Deadline Dealers

I have always found it fascinating how often traded players tend to score in their first games with their new teams. While much is being made of Brad Richards' debut in Dallas, and for good reason, it is not just the traditional scorers who seem to get things off on the right foot.

There's a new Star in Dallas!

With that in mind I thought I would chronicle all of the successful debuts for players who were moved at the trade deadline on Tuesday:
  • Tuomo Ruutu (CAR) - 1 assist, +1 and 40 stitches
  • Steve Bernier (BUF) - 2 goals, 1 assist, and +3
  • Jan Hlavac (NSH) - 1 goal
  • Brian Campbell (SJS) - 1 assist
  • Jeff Halpern (TB) - 1 goal, 1 assist, and +1
  • Pascal Dupuis (PIT) - 1 goal
  • Colby Armstrong (ATL) - 1 assist
  • Brad Richards (DAL) - 5 assists, and +2
  • Andrew Ladd (CHI) - 1 goal
  • Cristobal Huet (WSH) - stopped 18 of 18 shots against New Jersey
  • Sergei Fedorov (WSH) - 1 assist
That's a pretty significant list of players making an immediate impact on their new clubs. It always amazes me how things seem to work out like this every season after the trade deadline. Hopefully we can add Marian Hossa to the list when he gets a full game under his belt with the Pens.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reacting To The Marian Hossa Trade

As I packed up at work and headed for school today at noon Central time Marian Hossa was still in play in the NHL's trade deadline dealing. TSN made it sound all morning as though it was only a matter of if he would end up in Montreal or Ottawa. They even kept talking up how the Thrashers were in Montreal for a game tonight and how easy it would be for him to just stroll down the hall to the home team locker room. Easy indeed.

When I arrived home I kissed the wife and kids and headed for the computer. I had a notion this morning that Sergei Fedorov was going to end up a Pen, so I was curious about that, but I was more curious to see where Hossa landed. As I typed in the web address for TSN and was hitting enter, the thought entered my mind Wouldn't it be wild if Shero snagged Hossa? Sure enough as quickly as the thought formed in my brain there was Marian Hossa on TSN's home page staring back at me in a Penguins jersey.

This is where the story takes an unexpected turn...

You would think my initial reaction would have been one of jubilation. It was not. The first thing to go through my head was, Who did we have to give up? As things turned out, the finalized deal went down as:

Marian Hossa
Pascal Dupuis
Colby Armstrong
Erik Christensen
Angelo Esposito
2008 1st round pick

Let's just take this one thing at a time. I had a feeling all along that Christensen wouldn't be here after the deadline and it turns out I was right on that one. I think he still has a good chance to turn into a really good player, and we'll miss him in the shootout naturally, but he's an acceptable loss. Angelo Esposito was going to face an uphill battle to find a spot in Pittsburgh and was a very tradeable asset so I didn't give that a second thought. And a draft pick is pretty much a lottery ticket so that's no big loss either. There's already enough 1st round talent on the Penguins.

But then there was that one other name... Colby Armstrong. That one stung a bit. Colby has been one of my favorite players for quite a while now and I think he plays played a big role for the Pens on the ice and in "the room". Colby is going to be missed very much by the team and the fans. A lot will be made about his relationship with Sid, and I think for good reason. I don't think the Penguins need to keep players around just because Sid likes them, but I think Colby (from what I've heard/read) did a great job of keeping Sid grounded and making him feel like one of the guys. Something Sid seems to truly desire. I know Sid is too much of a pro to complain about Colby being sent to Atlanta, but you know it disappoints him a little.

I'm disappointed too. I knew going in that there was a good chance that Colby could get traded. Honestly, if it came down to needing to include either Colby, Ryan Malone, or Jordan Staal then I think Shero made the right move. I just wish it could have been someone like Ruutu instead. When it all comes down to it though, for me the nucleus of this Penguins team is:
  • Sidney Crosby
  • Evgeni Malkin
  • Marc-Andre Fleury
  • Jordan Staal
  • Ryan Whitney
  • Kris Letang
Having said that, when it comes to trades, especially for players like Marian Hossa, everyone else is fair game.

When I started going through this post in my head I was full of thoughts about how the Penguins overpaid for Hossa if they don't re-sign him, and what would be the trickle down effect of adding a contract like that if they do re-sign him, but I'm not going to get into that. The bottom line for me at this point is that the Penguins brought in a world class talent to play with Sidney and they are a more potent offensive team than they were 24 hours ago. They have players who can fill the roles left empty by Colby and EC (including Dupuis, who I think is an unsung part of this deal), but they didn't have someone like Hossa just waiting around. As far as the cap impact if they do re-sign Hossa, which I'm going to go on record and say they will do, I think they'll be okay. If Ottawa can lock up their top line and still have money to spend then Shero should be able to do the same with Sid, Geno, and Marian. And don't think that extra money Sid left on the table last summer isn't a huge boost for the Pens right now.

Another positive byproduct of the Pens getting Hossa is that Montreal and Ottawa didn't. The Pens not only strengthened themselves with this acquisition, but they also kept Hossa away from two of their biggest competitors in the Eastern Conference and have set themselves up to be one of the favorites to make it to the Finals from the East. That's all you can ask for from your GM on deadline day, and with the brass of a riverboat gambler Ray Shero has come through again for Penguins fans.

In Shero We Trust!

Wrapping Up Deadline Day

Deadline day is always one of my favorite days of the year. Thankfully the internet and media coverage has taken things to a new level and I was happily able to observe much of the day's proceedings from the comfort of my cube and listen to TSN's streaming coverage. It truly was hockey heaven, and a far cry from my days growing up in Northern California and having to read the transactions section of the sports page the next day to see who went where on deadline day.

There were a lot of moves made, some bigger than others of course, and I will take a look at all of the significant deals (with one exception) here and give my reactions. If you are wanting to find out how I feel about the Marion Hossa deal, you'll have to scroll up because that is getting it's own post. Anyway, on to the rest of the deals:

Marc-Andre Bergeron to Anaheim for a 2008 3rd round pick
My take: I like this trade for the Ducks a lot. It gives them even more defensive depth and if Bergeron can regain the form he showed last season this trade is a steal. I'm not sure why the Islanders gave up on Bergeron so soon.

Chad Kilger to Florida for a 2008 3rd round pick
My take: This move doesn't make much sense to me from a Panthers point of view. Kilger could be a solid contributor for a playoff bound team, but I don't see him making much of a difference in Florida.

Brad Stuart to Detroit for 2008 2nd round pick and 2009 4th round pick
My take: This is a good move for the Red Wings as they are really banged up right now. Stuart is a UFA this summer, but Detroit didn't give up too much to get him so it's not a big loss for them if they don't resign him. The future is now for the Red Wings.

Chris Simon to Minnesota for a 2008 6th round pick
My take: Garth Snow should get a contract extension for getting anything in return for Simon. I don't know why the Wild would be interested in his services, but they got him. Buyer beware.

Hal Gill to Pittsburgh for 2008 2nd round pick and 2009 5th round pick
My take: Gill is the kind of guy who is finding it tough to thrive in the new NHL. Big, but not very mobile, he tends to excel when given a specific assignment and should prove to be useful to the Pens come playoff time. I had hoped for a little more of a blue line upgrade, but I'll take him.

Sergei Fedorov to Washington for Ted Ruth
My take: I woke up this morning with a really strong feeling that Fedorov was going to be a Penguin by day's end. That turned out not to be the case. I like this move for the Caps. They are still in good shape to challenge for the Southeast Division and the 3 seed in the East. If they can pull that off then Fedorov should come in very useful along the way.

Adam Foote to Colorado for conditional draft picks
My take: According to TSN, Foote went into the day optimistic about signing an extension with Columbus. When those talks broke down he pretty much forced them to trade him to the Avalanche. This move should work out for both teams as the Avs add a proven (and familiar) playoff warrior and the Blue Jackets pick up some extra picks to continue to build on this season's modest success.

Martin LaPointe to Ottawa for a 2008 6th round pick
My take: I like this move for the Sens. They are in win now mode and give up relatively nothing to bring in a solid vet who should be real good for their locker room. Unfortunately they didn't address their goaltending situation so I don't feel to good about Ottawa's chances this season. Which makes me feel good, if that makes sense.

Tuomo Ruutu to Carolina for Andrew Ladd
My take: This move surprised me a little only because Ladd had been playing very well of late and seemed to be thriving in an increased role after Carolina sent Cory Stillman to Ottawa. I guess the Hurricanes ran out of patience and decided to swap him for a new bundle of unrealized potential in Ruutu. This move could work out well for both teams if the players involved can stay healthy and benefit from the change in scenery.

Ruslan Salei to Colorado for Karlis Skrastins and a 2008 3rd round pick
My take: Honestly, this strikes me as a pretty lateral move, but since I would take Salei over Skrastins I'll give the edge to Colorado. With Salei and Foote in tow they are definitely tougher to play against than they were this morning.

Cristobal Huet to Washington for a 2009 2nd round pick
My take: This move really shocked me. It just doesn't make sense to me from a Montreal point of view. Sure Huet is a pending UFA, but even if they wanted to hand the reigns to Carey Price that badly Huet still has value as an insurance policy heading into the postseason. This could be a big blunder for a club that entered the day as legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference.

Brad Richards and Johan Holmqvist to Dallas for Mike Smith, Jussi Jokinen, Jeff Halpern, and a 2009 4th round pick
My take: I like this move for both teams. Dallas brings in a top forward and a decent back up to Marty Turco without significantly weakening their lineup. Also, as salaries continue to rise Richards' contract begins to look a little more acceptable. Tampa also helped themselves by bringing in a potential solution between the pipes and shedding Richards' salary, much of which they spent by extending Dan Boyle this morning. This trade makes good sense for both teams and helps solidify the Stars as a real contender in the West.

Brian Campbell and a 2008 7th round pick to San Jose for Steve Bernier and a 2008 1st round pick
My take: This is another deal that works well for both clubs. San Jose got the puck moving defenseman they needed at an acceptable price considering how loaded with young talent they are. The Sabres got a good player in Bernier and a 1st rounder in what is looking like a very deep draft this year. More importantly for Buffalo, they got something for Campbell and won't have to relive last summer's misery come July 1st when Campbell will be a UFA.

Bryce Salvador to New Jersey for Cam Janssen
My take:
The first deal of the day was a great one for New Jersey. They solidify their blue line by giving up a player in Janssen that they really didn't want anyway. The Devils are putting themselves in position to be the team to beat in the East.

Random musings:

  • Once again, listening to the streaming coverage was bliss. I wished I didn't have to miss out on the last two hours before the deadline, but what can you do?
  • It was hilarious to hear all the former GM's busting on each other, but I was a little shocked nobody called out Milbury for trading Roberto Luongo when he was GM for the Islanders. Maybe they're all afraid of him.
  • The balance of power definitely seems to lie in the West right now. If you asked me which teams in the East I think have a legit chance to win the Cup I would say the Devils, Penguins, and Rangers. Everyone else just seems to flawed to me.
  • The NHL shouldn't have games on deadline day. Some of these rosters will be pretty depleted tonight.
  • What's with the family reunion (Forsberg and Foote) in Colorado? Here's hoping they bring Scott Young and Mike Ricci out of retirement to join in the fun.
  • After all his big talk, Bob Gainey actually weakened his team today.
  • Where were Vancouver and Calgary today?
  • Finally, it's always interesting to see how guys do in their first game with their new team. It seems like there were a few years in the past where almost every new player scored in his debut. Just something to watch for.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Battle Of The Crappy Commercials

The Kings and Penguins may be at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to on-ice performance, but they are running neck and neck for the "Worst Commercial Ever" Championship. The A&L Motors commercial starring Penguins Max Talbot, Colby Armstrong, Sergei Gonchar, and Evgeni Malkin has taken on near legendary status in some circles. Well Kings players Jack Johnson, Dustin Brown, and Anze Kopitar have answered the challenge and taken things to a whole new level. See for yourself:

Superstar starring Max Talbot and friends

Toy Story featuring the Los Angeles Kings

My opinion:
I may be a tad bit biased here, but I think the Kings commercial is way worse. The A&L commercial has a sort of home video, low quality charm to it. Plus the performance by Max Talbot is earth shattering. Take into account that nobody has a clue what Gonch is saying and they don't even let Geno talk and it's easy to see why this is such a classic. The Kings commercial on the other hand is just embarrassing. Watching Kopitar play with his own doll action figure borders on genuinely disturbing. Plus there are actual production values involved with the Kings commercial which in some sad way implies quality. The bottom line is that I laugh out loud every time I watch the A&L commercial, while the Kings commercial just leaves me feeling bad for the players involved.

Monday, February 18, 2008

An Open Letter To Alexander Ovechkin

Dear AO,

Let me start off with a bit of thanks. Thank you, AO. I don't know where my fantasy hockey teams would be without you. Okay, now that we have gotten the pleasantries out of the way...

Dude, you've got to check yourself. All this flipping out after every goal stuff has got to stop. I mean really, act like you've scored before big guy. We all know you're a great scorer, you really don't have to keep making a scene. I wouldn't mind if you reserved your post-goal antics for overtime goals and times like that, but it's every freaking goal. I've never seen a player get so excited about a first period goal against a non-division rival in early February. I don't know if I would celebrate that much if my own son scored in overtime of Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Finals. You really have to tone it down a notch or five. Although to be honest, I wake up every morning hoping that the night before you hurt yourself in one of your wild celebrations. Just to teach you a lesson. Okay, and because that would be hilarious.

While I've got your attention and I'm in an advice giving mood... keep your head up. With the way you continue to take runs at people there's a defenseman's elbow out there somewhere with your name all over it. You are already a marked man due to your skill level and how vital you are to the Caps, you shouldn't stoke the fire by continuing to go out of your way to make the big hit. Payback's a comin'. Don't say I didn't warn you.

One last thing. I know when Sid went down you thought you were going to take the NHL by storm and steal his spotlight, right? Well, for a while it was looking that way. But now that you've come back to Earth a bit, how does it feel to know there's another Penguin out there playing better than you? It shouldn't be too much longer before we all start referring to 2004 as the Malkin Draft.

I'm glad we took the time to have this little chat AO. Now go score some more power play game winners. My fantasy teams can use them.

Chris Yarbrough

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Hurricanes Run Up The White Flag

The Hurricanes and Senators pulled off a pretty big trade this week as Carolina sent Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore to Ottawa for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves. The trade can be viewed as a good one for both sides in some regards, but I think it sends a signal that the Hurricanes have given up on this season and have started planning for the future.

Let's look at the trade from the Senators' point of view first. This is a really good trade for the Sens. They brought in a veteran scorer in Stillman who has plenty of playoff experience (Cups in Tampa and Carolina), and a physical defenseman in Commodore who was also on Carolina's Cup winning team. Both Stillman and Commodore are also UFA's this summer so the Sens could conceivably let them both walk to free up some cap space in a desperate attempt to re-sign Wade Redden. That is assuming they don't trade him before the deadline. The bottom line for Ottawa is that they got deeper and tougher and have reestablished themselves as the favorite in the Eastern Conference.

And then there's the Hurricanes... I have been hearing for months that the 'Canes were shopping for a quarterback for their power play. That's what they got in Corvo, but I don't think that was what they really needed. Carolina is atrocious defensively and they just traded away arguably their best defensive defenseman. Patrick Eaves could prove to be a solid acquisition, but players like him are a dime a dozen. Carolina basically traded away to pending UFA's for a couple guys who are still under contract for a couple years, and as a result demolished their dwindling hopes of making a successful playoff run.

That's not to say this move was necessarily a bad one for Carolina. It could work out for them in the long run. Especially if Corvo can be the presence on the power play that Carolina apparently thinks he can be. I also wouldn't be shocked if Commodore returned to the Hurricanes in the off season via free agency. That would also tip the deal in favor of Carolina over the long term.

Ultimately this trade will be judged in completely opposite ways for each team. If Ottawa can win the Cup this year then the trade will be viewed as a success. If they don't it still won't be that bad of a deal because they really didn't give up all that much. This trade can't really be evaluated from a Carolina perspective until a year or two from now. If Corvo and Eaves pan out then it was a good deal for them. If not, and they fail to make the playoffs this season, it could end up being a real stinker.

So what is my personal take on this deal? I hate it! First off it helps the Senators, which is never a good thing as far as I am concerned. Second, it pretty much shows that Carolina has given up on this season, which doesn't make me happy. For one thing, I had picked them before the season to make it to the Finals from the Eastern Conference. There's pretty much no way that happens now. If they didn't play in such a weak division they probably wouldn't even challenge for a playoff spot. Also, I think if they had made a move to bring in some better defensive players that they still could have been a force in the East this season. They could still win the Southeast Division and go into the playoffs as a #3 seed. If they could find a way to get back to playing the way they were at the start of the season they could have definitely made it out of the East. As things stand now, they may be on the outside looking in come playoff time. I hope getting Joe Corvo was worth it Hurricanes fans.

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Response To The Richard Zednik Incident

By now I'm sure everyone has seen the video of Richard Zednik getting his neck cut by teammate Olli Jokinen's skate. It's pretty gruesome stuff and I have no intention of embedding or linking to it here (it's not hard to find if you're looking.) I do have a lot on my mind regarding what happened to Zednik though so I'm just going to lay it all out and let you all do with it what you will.

  • First and foremost, prayers go out to Zednik and his family. It looks like he is going to make a full recovery. I'm sure playing hockey is the furthest thing from his mind right now, but I'm hoping he makes it back. If for nothing else than the ovation he should get when he hits the ice again for the first time.
  • Hats off to the medical staff involved for keeping their cool and tending to Zednik. I don't care what the doctors are saying now, they saved Zednik's life.
  • I really don't think they should have finished the game. There were only 10 minutes left in the third. The NHL could have easily called it an official game at that point and nobody would have batted an eye. I really feel for the guys who had to go out and play after seeing Zednik go down.
  • How amazing is it that Zednik got himself all the way to the bench? Zednik's composure and toughness were off the charts.
  • Did this really have to happen in Buffalo?
  • Sabre's announcer Rick Jeanneret did a superb job of handling the call. I really can't stand the way Jeanneret calls a game, but you could really feel how hard it was for him to watch this situation go down, let alone have to talk everyone through it. You could tell from his voice that he was reliving the Malarchuk accident all over again and that he was really wishing he wasn't. It was genuinely hard to listen to him, but he handled it like a pro.
  • Finally, I'm sure there are going to be people crying for mandatory neck guards on players after this. I'm so against this I can't even tell you. The players shouldn't be forced into wearing an uncomfortable and unnecessary piece of equipment because of a freak accident. I got hit in the neck with a skate once when I was playing Midget hockey (didn't amount to much more than a nasty scratch) and after I got the thought of "Whoa, that could have been bad." out of my head, at no point did I think I should start wearing a neck guard. They aren't worth the trouble and discomfort, and I'm not even convinced one would have prevented what happened to Richard Zednik. I don't actually think the NHL will actually consider making neck guards mandatory (if for no other reason than how uncool they look), but I just know the issue is going to come up.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Penguins Goalies Strive For White Supremacy

When Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury finally returned from his high ankle sprain to practice with the team, coach Michel Therrien thought the Penguins had acquired a new netminder. The reason; Fleury had traded in his signature yellow pads for a brand new set of white pads.

R.I.P. yellow pads.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fleury received a letter shortly after his injury from an eye doctor telling him that his yellow pads were actually helping shooters and that he would be well served to trade them in for white pads. The doctor apparently provided charts and everything as he explained that white pads would make Fleury appear bigger in the net and make opponents feel like they have less to shoot at. I'm guessing this is why Ty Conklin switched to white pads in mid-January. MAF said it should take him about two weeks to break in his new glove, blocker, and pads. The best news is that he may be back between the pipes for the Pens before then. I really hope this switch works out for MAF, but regardless it is going to be really weird seeing him on the ice without the yellow pads.

As a side note, this is the 100th post here on Taking One For The Team and I would like to mark this occasion by thanking everyone who has helped make this experience everything that it has been so far. I really appreciate everyone who has contributed to the growth of this site in any way. If you have ever linked to here, a particular post, taken the time to comment on a post, or even just spent a minute or two of your time reading what I have to say I really appreciate it and I am looking forward to the next 100 posts. Onward and upward!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Breakout Passes: The Goalie Value Menu

It's time for another walk around the NHL online. Some interesting new stats, good news for Pens fans, and more...

If you come across any nice links, be sure to send them my way and I'll get them into a future edition of Breakout Passes.

Friday, February 1, 2008

NHL Team Of The Month: January 2008

As we turn the calendar page to February, it is time to look back on the first month of 2008 and name the NHL Team of the Month.

  • Center: Evgeni Malkin (13 GP, 12 G, 5 A, +8, 6 PPP, 1 GWG)
  • Right Wing: Shane Doan (13 GP, 7 G, 12 A, +7, 6 PPP, 2 GWG)
  • Left Wing: Alexander Ovechkin (13 GP, 13 G, 9 A, 8 PPP, 2 GWG)
  • Defense: Ed Jovanovski (14 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 21 PIM, 7 PPP)
  • Defense: Sergei Gonchar (13 GP, 1 G, 10 A, +4, 8 PPP)
  • Goalie: Tim Thomas (10 GP, 7 W, 2.06 GAA, .936 SV%, 1 SO)
  • Ovechkin has been playing out of his mind for the last couple months and wrapped up January with a four goal/five point performance against Montreal. Do we now have the "Ovechkin hat trick" (a goal, an assist, and a broken nose)?
  • Evgeni Malkin has been one of the few people in the same stratosphere as Ovechkin and has really stepped up for Pittsburgh. Geno also notched his first two career hat tricks this month.
  • Shane Doan is leading a surprising Coyotes squad into the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase. If Doan played in Toronto he would be a household name (by NHL standards).
  • Jovanovski and Gonchar have both provided excellent offensive numbers for their respective teams. They have been particularly good on the power play.
  • Tim Thomas has been quietly outstanding for the Bruins. He's a guy you rarely hear about, and then you look at the numbers and wonder why. Thomas is as solid as they come between the pipes.

Fantasy Focus: Shameless Self-Promotion

After what has seemed like an eternal wait, my first article is now up at RotoTimes. I hope you'll take the time to stop by and read it. Your fantasy fortunes could depend on it!!!

I'll have a new "Fire and Ice" article up there every Friday through the end of the Finals, so be sure to check back regularly. And by all means feel free to e-mail me with feedback or leave comments here.