Wednesday, February 29, 2012

TOP 10 DEADLINE AQUISITIONS

JACK JOHNSON, CBJ - Not a deadline day deal, and not to a contender, but Johnson is a significant piece to start the Jackets rebuild. it was no secret that Johnson didn't enjoy playing 2nd fiddle to Drew Doughty in L.A. He already appears happy to be a cornerstone piece in the Midwest.

JEFF CARTER, LA - The other half of the most significant late season deal, Carter goes to Hollywood at a heavy price (over 5 million a year through 2022) and with lots of baggage. But the Kings need scoring, and Carter, a perennial underachiever, should provide that just to show his appreciation for getting out of Columbus.

PAUL GAUSTAD, NAS - A centerpiece in Nashville's "go for it" year, the Goose provides some much needed strength down the middle for an expected first round showdown against St. Louis Blues.

ANTOINE VERMETTE, PHX - A good two way player who should fit perfectly into Dave Tippett's system. Another solid under the radar move by a team that is a focus of attention for its off ice problems but isn't getting enough notice for its first place standing in the Pacific.

MAREK ZIDLICKY, NJ - The veteran blue liner is what the charging Devils lacked. Zidlicky should enhance the New Jersey power play and make the Devils an even tougher playoff foe.

CODY HODGSON, BUF - The Sabres add a valuable piece for the future in the Calder Trophy candidate who will finally receive top 6 minutes. Only Tedy Purcell has more points of NHLers averaging under 15 minutes a night. Hodgson may get enough ice time down the stretch to win the Calder, but he's likely found a home where his talents will be appreciated.

NICK SCHULTZ/TOM GILBERT - A true hockey trade was one of the highlights of deadline day. Schultz is a character, stay at home prairie boy who will help stabilize the Oilers defensive zone. Tom Gilbert goes home to Minny and brings an offensive flair that the Wild have missed since the departure of Brent Burns. Schultz is tougher, Gilbert more skilled. We call it a good trade.

HAL GILL, NAS - The Predators bolstered an already sturdy blue line with this veteran pickup. A number of other playoff bound teams coveted Gill, including Boston and Pittsburgh, but the Preds  landed Gill who should lower the ice time demands on Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

PAVEL KUBINA, PHI - The Flyers added veterans Kubina and Nick Grossman for picks to help compensate for the devastating loss of Chris Pronger. Nobody replaces Pronger but Kubina, a veteran right hand shot, should help the Flyers at crunch time.

ANDREI KOSTITSYN, NAS - Even when Kostitsyn scored 20, was a plus player and was among the Habs hit leaders, he seemed to be in the doghouse. A new address, less attention and perhaps even being reunited with his brother could revive Kostitsyn's career and give the Predators another offensive weapon.

JAMIE McGINN, COL - A feisty, solid third line player, with some offensive upside and a great attitude, McGinn along with Steve Downie will make the Avalanche a lot tougher to play against.

Honourable Mentions - Ben Bishop has a chance to be a star goaltender. The Blues think he's ready to play now. A solid pickup by Ottawa and a mystery that Tampa GM Steve Yzerman wouldn't spend a 2nd round pick on him. John Scott is a nuclear deterrent for the Rangers in their impending playoff battle with the Bruins. The body of work on the deadline by Boston adding veterans Greg Zanon, Mike Mottau and Brian Rolston to provide solid veteran depth. The hidden gem might be Michael Sgarbossa acquired by the Avalanche in the Gagliardi Winnick deal. Sgarbossa is 2nd in OHL scoring.

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CANADIAN TEAMS SCORECARD

MONTREAL - Like their season not nearly enough accomplished. Other pieces like Chris Campoli should have been moved but Travis Moen's suspected concussion prevented the Habs from getting good value for his playoff resume.

OTTAWA - The Senators didn't expect to be active but made a solid add with Bishop and hope Matt Gilroy is a better long term blue liner for them than Brian Lee, who had finally cracked the lineup but never lived up to his high draft.

TORONTO - The Leafs are involved in the best minor league swap, getting power forward of the future Carter Ashton for big blue liner Keith Aulie. But where is the help for a struggling team that should be expected to make the playoffs sooner than later?

WINNIPEG - The Jets weren't expected to be busy but get a premium price for Johnny Oduya.

CALGARY - Jay Feaster and the Flames front office fiddles while the Calgary franchise burns. Only 2 Flames draft choices were in the Calgary lineup against the Blues. Every year that the Flames delay the inevitable rebuild is another year of frustration in Southern Alberta.

EDMONTON - It's hard to believe with so few skill players moving at the deadline that the Oilers couldn't get a good price for Ales Hemsky. Instead Hemmer is extended for 2 more years and the Oilers are left with only one, albeit positive, deadline deal.

VANCOUVER - Somewhere between Neely for Pederson and Naslund for Stojanov lies the Kassian-Hodgson trade. Kassian may very well become a Milan Lucic  type player but he is young, raw and not ready for the expectations that will be heaped on him. As a physical presence Kassian has been credited with 32 hits in 27 NHL games to date. The Canucks were well positioned to put themselves over the top on deadline day. Sammy Pahlsson adds depth and Stanley Cup experience. Marc Andre Gragnani could be another offensive contributor on the blue line. Perhaps there just wasn't a better, more experienced fit available. But without Hodgson, Vancouver isn't as deep offensively. With Kassian they have loaded up for a rematch with the Bruins, a team that the Canucks may never see. 2 or 3 years from now Kassian could be an impact player for the Canucks. But Vancouver's time is now to win a Cup and yesterday's deal falls short of expectations.

A WESTERN VIEW OF THE TRADE DEADLINE

Winners, losers, and everyone in between.  It’s hard to properly evaluate what the trade deadline actually means in such a short timeframe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a hockey fan’s favorite hobby the next few days after.

It certainly wasn’t a frenetic day around the NHL, but of the 15 deals, 31 players, and 11 draft picks that moved around, there were some points of interest in the West.

It was interesting to see the Dallas Stars do nothing. Pegged as a seller two weeks ago, the Stars were simply playing too well to do anything drastic. Mike Ribeiro may be playing the best hockey of his career, and a rumored package of Mason Raymond plus clearly wasn’t enough to pry away Steve Ott.

Colorado, winners of four straight, dealt away Dan Winnik and TJ Galiardi to San Jose. This is a big win for the Sharks, who have struggled with effective bottom-six depth all season. Winnik is underrated as a shutdown guy, and will be tough to stop down low paired with Michael Handzus. Galiardi meanwhile, could be the hidden gem of this deal. He can skate, shoot, is underratedly tough, and has an offensive upside that Joe Sacco wasn’t able to harness in Colorado. From the Avalanche point of view, they don’t really take a backwards step, as they had 15 healthy forwards going in, and added some size, in Jamie McGinn.

As Peter Loubardias pointed out yesterday, the much talked-about Zack Kassian for Cody Hodgson swap could wind up working for both teams. If I had to give one thumbs up though, it would be to the Sabres.  Kassian is a pretty unique specimen, but Hodgson is going to play in multiple all-star games for the Sabres.  They touched a guy that could have easily have had an “untouchable” label.

-The Calgary Flames did nothing, which comes as no surprise if you’re paying attention. Everyone of note has no trade clauses, a bit of a parting gift from former GM Darryl Sutter. The list of “availables” meanwhile, read like the bin of used VHS tapes at the local convenience store. Jay Feaster had no options at his disposable, which unfortunately for him, certainly re-fixed the spotlight on Thursday’s impassioned rant.

-You have to like the deal between the Wild and Oilers. In the span of six months, the Wild switched out stalwarts Brent Burns, 700-game Nick Schultz, Greg Zanon, and Marek Zidlicky.  Evidently, “going in a new direction” with the blueline was a pretty important goal. They add Tom Gilbert from the Oilers, who can play more of a two way game than anyone they have. Edmonton meanwhile, gets a bit stronger defensively, and also allows for a bigger role for Jeff Petry, who is fast becoming the least talked about, solid blueliner in the West.

- Things go from bad to possibly worse for the Columbus Blue Jackets, as Scott Howson elected not to deal away Rick Nash, and subsequently exposed his trade request to the NHL, his teammates, and the fans. If Nash wants to pick his landing place, he had best find some inner motivation for the final 20 games.  Meanwhile, good on Howson for not panicking. The rumored final offer from the Rangers of Dubinsky, Erixon, Thomas, Miller, and a first was more than decent, but didn’t quite have that “it” factor. When 29 teams are without a Stanley Cup this July, Howson will get the deal he wants.

-You have to root for the Nashville Predators this playoff season. They locked up Pekka Rinne, got Shea Weber under contract for another year, and elected to hang onto Ryan Suter for a run. Mike Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn have worked out nicely, and adding Hal Gill, Paul Gaustad, and brother Andrei sets a huge tone for the months ahead.  David Poile has put his club in a great position, and now it’s on the players.  Going one season without top-flight draft picks is a good gamble to take at this point in the franchise.

No Surprise to see the Kings and Blues quiet. St. Louis is pretty hamstrung when to anything major at the moment with financial issues, and quite frankly, they’re playing such a perfect system right now, why mess with it?  The Kings meanwhile, have plenty of eggs in the Jeff Carter basket, and will need to figure things out, and fast, if they hope to crack the top-eight.

@fan960walker

THE HOTTEST PLAYER IN THE LAND

If I asked you who led the entire CHL in scoring, how many of you would have answered Brendan Shinnimin of the WHL's Tri City Americans?  My guess is not many. 

The fact is, right now, the 21 year old from Winnipeg is stating a case for player of the year honors. He currently is on some kind of roll. For many junior players, 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points is a great season. That's what Shinnimin has done this month.

A matter of fact, the current WHL player of the week accounted for 19 points in his last 4 games.

The 5'10, 175 pound winger led the way in the CHL scoring parade entering Tuesday's action with 115 points, 10 more than the next closest competitors, Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings and Yanni Gourde of Victoriaville.

In what has been a great year for individual scoring performances in the WHL overall, Shinnimin is on pace to easily surpass the highest WHL total since 2000-2001 when Justin Mapletoft of the Red Deer Rebels won the league race with 120 points.

Undrafted at both the WHL and NHL levels, Shinnimin may threaten the league's highest total since 1988-89 when Pavel Brendl led the way with 134 points. NHL teams are starting to take notice. With those numbers, how could they not?

Shinnimin has 318 career points, so consistent scoring has never been an issue. The question mark is his size.  However, this winger is an excellent skater who is relentless on the puck, and yes he can finish. 

In my opinion well worth taking a chance on. And this week, well worth noting.

Peter Loubardias

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

NHL RANK 'EM - 28/2/12

I've managed to pick up the pieces after yesterday's earth-shattering trade deadline to bring you NHL Rank 'Em. As the dust settled, here's how the 30 teams were stacked.

Top Ten

1) Vancouver Canucks - The Canucks made the biggest splash, albeit a major gamble, on deadline day. If all goes to plan, the Sedin's new winger could be a Milan Lucic clone - or the closest thing to it. Cody Hodgson will no doubt, be a star in Buffalo.

2) Detroit Red Wings - Not quite sure Kyle Quincey is worth a first round pick. But, it won't matter in the least if the Lightning are picking at number 30 come June.

3) New York Rangers - In the end, giving up Del Zotto or McDonagh was too much for the Rangers to swallow to acquire Rick Nash. The blue shirts may have dodged a bullet. John Scott though, really??

4) Boston Bruins - The Bruins dipped into the deadline waters and emerged with Brian Rolston. Not sure his surroundings can turn back his clock the way Mark Recchi's did.

5) Nashville Predators - Giving up a first rounder for Paul Gaustad is insane, but the Preds improved their team more than any other at the deadline. In their attempts to impress Ryan Suter, they have emerged as a Cup contender.

6) Pittsburgh Penguins - Not a mention, peep or whisper of the Pens being involved in any deadline deals. No need when you continue to win and you have the best player in the world lurking in the shadows of the press box.

7) St. Louis Blues - It ain't pretty, but it continues to be effective. Adding some offence at the deadline would have made this team a playoff nightmare, if they aren't already.

8) Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers may be the biggest losers on deadline day. With Josh Harding rumoured to be available for a second round pick, how do you not pull the trigger and attempt to fix the mess made between the pipes.

9) Phoenix Coyotes - After collecting 19 points in their last 10 games, the Coyotes have vaulted to third in the Western Conference. Dave Tippett is a phenomenal coach.

10) New Jersey Devils - Should we surprised Lou didn't make a big splash to make a run in what could be Marty's final stretch run? Probably not.

Middle of the Pack

11) Ottawa Senators - The Lee/Gilroy trade is curious for the Senators, seeing as Gilroy's contract expires at the end of the season. However, in trading for Turris and Bishop this season, in a few years we could be speaking to the brilliance of Bryan Murray.

12) San Jose Sharks - Losers of three straight heading into the deadline, the Sharks appeared to be the most desperate team yesterday. They may be a deeper team today, but letting go of Jamie McGinn will be a mistake in the long run.

13) Anaheim Ducks - Despite losing just one game in regulation over the past 10 games before last night, the Ducks still remain 13th in the West. That being said, I think this team is better equipped than any to steal the 8th spot and their silence at the deadline speaks to that.

14) Chicago Blackhawks - Picking up Johnny Oduya does not solve their problems on the back end, let alone their weakness up the middle.

15) Florida Panthers - I was expecting the Panthers to be quite active at the deadline, but Dave Tallon stood pat. Not sure they will have enough to hold off the Jets.

16) Winnipeg Jets - The Jets quietly did a fantastic job at the deadline. Cheveldayoff milked Oduya for all he was worth and found, arguably a better defenceman on the waiver wire.

17) Dallas Stars - The Stars, winners of four straight, couldn't quite pull the trigger on deals for Ott and Souray. With Gaustad bringing back a first rounder, maybe that win streak came at the wrong time?

18) Los Angeles Kings - Although reuniting Richards and Carter in LA could be considered rolling the dice, the Kings addressed their need and acquired the best goal scorer traded at the deadline. Can they get on the same page in time?

19) Washington Capitals - The Caps, uncharacteristically quiet at the deadline, will continue their push towards the payoffs despite losing Nick Backstrom, placed on long term injured reserve.

20) Colorado Avalanche - McGinn and Downie will make this team a lot tougher to play against in the future.

Basement

21) Calgary Flames - Losers of four straight on home ice, the Flames decided to not be buyers nor sellers, as the only Canadian team to not complete a deadline move.

22) Tampa Bay Lightning - Steve Yzerman was busy bolstering his blue line yesterday, snagging two promising young d-men in Lee and Aulie.

23) Toronto Maple Leafs - Burke better be careful and not put another handcuff on himself. Implementing a 10 day deadline before the deadline to protect his players is ridiculous. What's more ridiculous is the rumours that Burke could have picked up a first rounder for Kulemin and could have addressed his goaltending problem by sending a second rounder to the Wild for Harding. At some point, he'll need to swallow some pride.

24) Buffalo Sabres - The biggest winners at the deadline, the Sabres picked up a budding star from the Canucks in Cody Hodgson, and turned an average 3rd liner into a first round pick. Well done, Darcy.

25) New York Islanders - Garth Snow is prone to making mistakes. Keeping PA Parenteau wasn't one of them.

26) Minnesota Wild - Don't see in the logic in parting with Nick Schultz, but it'll give a Minnesota boy, a chance to play at home.

27) Edmonton Oilers - The emergence of Jeff Petry made Tom Gilbert expendable in Oil Country. Schultz addresses a glaring need on the Oilers back end, and immediately makes this team better. Although the signing of Hemsky for $5mil/season looks steep, the term is more important than the money. He'll be off the books before Tambellini has to pay his kids.

28) Carolina Hurricanes - Extending Ruutu makes sense. Not trading Allen is understandable. But keeping Jaro Spacek?

29) Montreal Canadiens - Too bad they couldn't find a suitor for Scott Gomez..

30) Columbus Blue Jackets - Scott Howson will never deal Rick Nash. His decision to publicly call out the face of this franchise should have him canned before Nash's inevitable departure occurs.

@kidcuthy

STAT-ITUDE - WRESTLING DAY


Welcome to Wrestling Day!...In honor of the greatest heavyweight champion of all-time the Iron Shiek, I have annointed the day following the second biggest holiday of the year (trade deadline day) as a salute to the squared circle.

With 10+ plus hours of programming under the belt of our colleagues James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and the boys on TSN Tradecentre, Statitude tdecide to takes a closer look inside the NHL trade deadline. We went inside the day analyzing trends and numbers, trying to make sense of the entire sensation. 


With 16 trades over the course of the day, and the big fish Rick Nash staying put, not a lot of teams made a huge venture into the trade market with hopes of making dramatic changes to their roster. But, as recent history has shown us, maybe it's not the big names that make the biggest impact when it comes to perfomance by deadline acquistions. Upon further review, it looks like the role players are the ones with the biggest impact to their new teams over the last couple seasons.



Over the last 10+ seasons, we looked into players who made immediate dividends with their new teams....


THE GREATFUL DEAD-LINE

Most Goals after Trade Deadline (with new team only)
 Forwards, Since 1996-97
                                        Season         From     To        Goals
Lee Stempniak             2009-10             Tor     Pho      14
Steve Thomas              2002-03             Chi     Anh      10
Jeff Halpern                 2007-08             Dal     TB       10
Mark Recchi                2008-09              TB      Bos      10
Peter Mueller               2009-10              Pho     Col       9

Most Points after Trade Deadline (with new team only)
Forwards, Since 1996-97
                                        Season       From     To        Pts
Peter Mueller               2009-10          Pho     Col        20
Robert Reichel            1996-97          Cgy     NYI       19
Jeff Halpern                 2007-08          Dal      TB        18
Wojtek Wolski            2009-10          Col     Pho        18
Lee Stempniak            2009-10          Tor      Pho       18
Sergei Samsonov        2005-06          Bos     Edm      16
Matthew Lombardi     2008-09          Cgy     Pho       16
Mark Recchi               2008-09          TB      Bos       16

Most Points after Trade Deadline (with new team only), 
Defencemen, Since 1996-97
                                    Season           From     To      Pts
Brian Campbell          2007-08          Buf       SJ       19
Sandis Ozolinsh         2005-06          Anh     NYR   14
Lubomir Visnovsky   2009-10         Edm     Anh     13
James Wisniewski      2008-09          Chi     Anh      11
Ryan Whitney            2009-10          Anh     Edm    11
Steve McCarthy         2005-06         Van     Atl        10

As you can see, certain players simply became a "nice addition" down the stretch as playoff implications were of no real measured value (Stempniak, Mueller, Visniewskii) But players like Thomas and Samsonov not only got hot to end the season, but also became key contributors in long playoff runs for the Ducks and Oilers. Thomas had 3 GWG for the Ducks in the 2002-03 playoff run that had them lose in Game 7 of the Cup Final and Samsonov had 4 goals and 15 points for the Oilers in their magical Cup run in 2005-06.

Now if we take a different look a trade deadline and attempt to measure the true value for teams in terms of adding players, you might be a little surprised with the findings.For you fans whose teams did nothing at the deadline, fear not and take solice in the fact that many teams stand pat and produce good results down the stretch.

For instance, over the last couple of seasons, if we look at teams who did not make a single addition at the deadline, 

Fewest Players Involved in Trades at Trade Deadline, Since 1996-97
To Make Conference Final                            
                             Season       Num     Record       Playoffs
Avalanche           1996-97         0          6-6-0        Lost Conf final
Rangers               1996-97         0          5-5-1        Lost Conf final
Avalanche           1999-00         0         9-2-1-0      Lost Conf final
Stars                     1999-00        0        5-2-3-2       Lost Cup
Avalanche           2000-01         0         8-4-1-0     Won Cup
Devils                  2000-01         0       12-2-0-0      Lost Cup
Hurricanes           2001-02         0         7-3-2-0      Lost Cup
Maple Leafs        2001-02         0         8-5-1-0       Lost Conf final
Devils                  2002-03         0         7-3-4-1      Won Cup
Flames                 2003-04         0         8-4-2-0      Lost Cup
Flyers                   2003-04         0         5-4-3-0      Lost Conf final
Flyers                   2007-08         0         11-4-4       Lost Conf final
Red Wings           2008-09         0          9-7-2        Lost Cup
Blackhawks         2009-10         0          11-6-3      Won Cup
Canadiens            2009-10        0            9-5-4        Lost Conf final
Flyers                   2009-10        0          8-10-3       Lost Cup
Sharks                  2009-10        0          11-6-2       Lost Conf final
Sharks                  2010-11        0          12-4-3       Lost Conf final
Lightning              2010-11        0           9-7-4        Lost Conf final

On the Flip side, take a look at teams that sold the farm on deadline day and one can see that the results have not shown a great return. Outside of 4 teams who were out of contention and deemed themselves sellers, most teams who made significant changes at the deadline in hopes of spurring a playoff run, did not achieve desired results.

MOVING DAY


Most Players Involved in Trades at Trade Deadline, Since 1996-97                                

                           Season     Num     Record       Playoffs

Penguins            2002-03     13       2-8-2-0      out of playoffs

Coyotes             2009-10     13        13-3-2       Lost 1st round

Ducks                2008-09     12        11-5-1       Lost Conf semi

Coyotes             2008-09     10         9-8-2        out of playoffs

Hurricanes         2009-10     10       10-7-3       out of playoffs

Rangers             1997-98      9          3-8-1        out of playoffs
Penguins            1999-00     9         9-4-0-0       Lost Conf semi
Canucks             2003-04     9         7-3-2-1       Lost 1st round
Coyotes             2005-06      9         9-10-1        out of playoffs
Lightning            2008-09      9         3-9-6          out of playoffs
Panthers             2010-11      9        4-11-5        out of playoffs

Just like opening day in baseball, deadline day gives fans renewed passion and vigor in the hopes that as that one piece of the puzzle might be the key to a playoff puzzle! 

I guess time will tell....

Scott (@sjlenny94)


Monday, February 27, 2012

CANUCKS PREFER ZACK ATTACK

Make no mistake, Cody Hodgson's relationship with the Vancouver Canucks was rocky at best. Injuries, a question of his committment at times and now, they say goodbye.  


Of all the trades on this deadline day, the most intriguing without a doubt was the deal that sent, Canucks first round pick in 2008, Cody Hodgson to Buffalo for their first round selection in 2009, Zack Kassian. With no disrespect to Alexander Sulzer and Marc Andre Gragnani, who were also involved in the same transaction, this deal was all about Hodgson and Kassian. Hodgson was sent away at a time where the Canucks patience with the one time 10th overall selection seemed to have finally paid off. Hodgson is a rookie of the year candidate. He packed his bags for Buffalo with an impressive 33 points and was showing the hockey world why he was so coveted coming out of junior hockey.  


To me, the former Brampton Battallion star was playing his best hockey since a sensational World Junior performance in Ottawa in which he delivered 16 points in six games, and should have been named the tournament's MVP. The Canucks are deep down the middle, and added to their arsenal earlier in the day when they obtained former Stanley Cup champion, Samuel Pahlsson, from Columbus.  


In return, the Stanley Cup finalists add a 21 year old power forward, in Kassian who also has alot of potential. The former Memorial Cup champion with the Windsor Spitfires is nothing like Hodgson.  He is a power forward with a large mean streak. A mean streak that in his junior days left him in the press box for a couple of lengthy suspensions. This guy has some upside, plenty of it, and could turn into an absolute player that very few in the league would want to deal with. 


I watched him at times during his junior days including a couple of games at the 2010 Memorial Cup where he looked like a man playing with boys. Owning the boards, and possessing a great shot and a good scoring touch. The timing is strange, and as someone who has always thought highly of Hodgson, I wonder about this one. There is little doubt the Canucks are not shy on skill. And the Cup final showed us that toughness was in question.


Hodgson looks like he has figured it out, and I think will be a great fit in Buffalo. Kassian is a wild card. However, if the 6 foot 3 220 pound plus winger puts it all together, the Canucks may have just added a key piece to a puzzle that isn't missing many.


Peter Loubardias

Saturday, February 25, 2012

WALKER'S WESTERN VIEW

It’s amazing how much the Western Conference landscape can change in just a matter of hours.  Thursday evening was one of those nights.

In the span of a few hours, the Los Angeles Kings made a bold statement on their preferred direction, while Calgary Flames General Manager Jay Feaster did the same, in a different way.

The Deal:  To Los Angeles – C Jeff Carter   To Columbus: D Jack Johnson, 1st round pick.

The Kings can’t score.  It’s been their biggest problem all season, and one would think, it’s not from lack of personnel.  If Carter can spark the offense, and get best buddy Mike Richards going in the process (which is a very real possibility) this could be a very good nice add for the Kings.  They’ve lost five in a row, the last two in disasterous fashion to the Coyotes and Avalanche, but if a spark is what they needed, you’d still have to think that the Kings are the odds on favorite to grab the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The Flames meanwhile, injuries and all, had pieced together a nifty eight game point streak to keep themselves in the conversation, and for a three-day span, even in the eight spot.  An ugly 6-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a sloppy 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes quickly quelled any good feelings that Jay Feaster may have had.  His quote Thursday night in the second intermission spoke volumes:

Feaster: “As we go into Monday, coming off of what was an absolute debacle here on Tuesday night, expecting our team to come out with a lot of jump and energy tonight, and I’m not seeing it.” 




“Here we sit tied at two after two, and honestly I can’t tell that the team in red tonight is the team that needs two points.  Last year with the run that we made after the end of December, I really felt the team deserved the opportunity to stay together, and obviously we fell short.  So last year, you fooled me, and shame on you.  This year if you fool me, shame on me. “



“If we don’t show a whole lot more urgency heading into Monday, you guys (media) will be busy on Monday as it relates to the goings on in Calgary.”

 - Safe to say, the Calgary Flames will be sellers.  But to what extent?  Olli Jokinen and Scott Hannan are both likely bets to move elsewhere, while players like Cory Sarich, Tom Kostopolous, and Tim Jackman may not even have any suitors.  Could the Flames pull the unthinkable and deal one of their core players such as Miikka Kiprusoff?  Odds are no, but there is a growing sentiment it has to happen, and his value is high.


Meanwhile, four teams who are all securely in playoff spots had the opportunity for a litmus test to see where they were heading into deadline weekend, as the Canucks took on the Red Wings and the Blues played host to the Preds.  The result?  Nobody batted an eye.  The Canucks took out the Wings in a shootout in perhaps the game of the season, ending Detroit’s 23-game home ice winning streak in the process.  The Blues also survived in a shootout, giving evidence to the fact that when these two teams likely meet up in the first round of the playoffs, it should be a fantastic series.

I thought maybe a few of these four would get an indication of just what they may need to add at the deadline, but I don’t think there was any hard and fast evidence any which-way.  The Canucks are said to be kicking tires on Steve Ott, while St.Louis may be in the mix for another blueliner when Kris Russell went down.

Fell like making a Stanley Cup wager?  Courtesy of www.bodog.ca, here are the updated odds for teams in the West to win the whole ball of wax come playoff time.

Detroit – 11/2
Vancouver – 11/2
St.louis – 12/1
Chicago – 14/1
San Jose – 14/1
Nashville – 18/1
Los Angeles – 30/1
Phoenix – 40/1
Calgary – 50/1
Dallas – 50/1
Anaheim – 65/1
Colorado – 75/1
Minnesota – 80/1

For my money: A few dollars on the Predators at 18/1 may be your best value bet.  Or, if you’re a believer in Dean Lombardi’s Jeff Carter trade, a 30/1 shot on the Kings could be schrewd.

Who’s Hot? 

Jordan Eberle- Oilers – Three points in a win over Calgary. Another two in a victory over Philly, giving him 60 on the season.  He becomes the fastest Oiler since Doug Weight to reach that mark.

Radim Vrbata – Coyotes – Maybe this year’s most underrated player.  Hit the 30 goal plateau for the first time in his career.  Where would Phoenix be without him?

Mike Fisher – Preds – 21 points in his last 20 games.  Getting him from Ottawa last year for a first round pick looks like a steal

Mike Ribiero – Stars – A huge overtime goal against the Flames, a big goal in his old stomping grounds in Montreal, and two points in a big comeback win over Chicago.  If he is indeed on the trade block in Dallas, his stock is rising daily.

Friday, February 24, 2012

UFC 144 JAPAN - FIGHT PREVIEW AND PICKS

PRIDE is back!

Well, not really. But for this first time since the legendary MMA promotion folded, a relevant Mixed Martial Arts event for North Americans will take place in Japan, as UFC 144 will go down this Saturday night in "The Land of the Rising Sun." Zuffa, owners of both the UFC and the now debunked, PRIDE, will host their first event in Japan since purchasing the promotion. Before the Fertitta brothers and Dana White came into the fold, Japan was a useful market for the sideshow-like events that were the UFC. But in comparison to PRIDE, the UFC was simply small potatoes. In fact, the popularity of MMA in Japan has fallen on hard times since the collapse of PRIDE. Before it was bought out, MMA and more specifically, PRIDE, was one of the most popular sports in the country. There, Mixed Martial Arts legends were born and some of the greatest fights ever took place. For whatever reason, the UFC hasn't yet clicked in Japan. But, this weekend, Zuffa will look to recapture the magic that was, Pride Fighting Championship and manufacture another major revenue generator overseas.

Headlining the event, in both heritage and legacy, is MMA's Rocky Balboa, Frankie Edgar. The UFC's Lightweight Champion, will defend his title against rising star, Ben Henderson. Edgar will be fighting a man not named Penn or Maynard, for the first time since 2009. Edgar has prevailed through two epic wars and two subsequent rematches, to maintain the lightweight crown over the past three years. His signature moment, a devastating knockout of Gray Maynard back at UFC 136 in October. However, the most anticipated fighter for Japanese MMA fans won't be fighting in the main event. The most popular and polarizing fighter in PRIDE history, Rampage Jackson, will have a homecoming of sorts, fighting in the co-main event in the country that made him the MMA legend he is today. He'll battle struggling prospect, Ryan Bader, in a must win scrap for both fighters.

In addition, the UFC will have an extended main card for this event, as seven fights are scheduled to air on the pay-per-view. However, despite nine Japanese fighters being in action, just three are featured on said main card.

On to the picks.

Frankie Edgar vs. Ben Henderson
This fight has the potential to be a lightning fast, 25 minute fight of the year, war. Both fighters have excellent skills in every facet of the MMA game, and outstanding gastanks. Both have gone the distance in championship fights before, and will no doubt, be in the best shape of their lives for this tilt. Despite those similarities, both fighters will have a drastically different strategy heading in. Edgar will look to utilize crisp, stick and move, boxing to earn points, while Henderson will look to smother Edgar, just like every other fighter.

In Edgar's two previous bouts, he has been rocked early, but managed to survive deep waters and eventually rally to win. If Henderson hurts Edgar, at any point in the fight, he will have to throw everything he possibly can at the New Jersey native, in order to finish. However, if Henderson plans to stand and trade with Edgar, he will likely get picked apart. In order to win, Henderson will have to lean on Edgar in the clinch and on the mat and make the best of scramble situations, to catch Edgar out of his comfort zone.

This fight is nearly impossible to predict, but what Frankie Edgar fight isnt? Henderson will likely outweigh Edgar by 15 pounds come Saturday night. However, Edgar's combination of picture-perfect boxing and superb takedown defence is the recipe needed to defend the UFC lightweight title. He'll edge Henderson in a classic on points and defend the title for a fourth time.
Pick - Frankie Edgar via Unanimous Decision

Rampage Jackson vs. Ryan Bader
Jackson, a rockstar in Japan, insisted that the UFC put him on this card. Although he didn't get the matchup he wanted, the chance to avenge his losses to Shogun Rua, Rampage was granted the opportunity to fight in front of his biggest supporters. However, Bader is no slouch and is a very dangerous fight for Jackson because of both his ranking and his skill set. Bader is a very strong wrestler with a powerful right hand, but has lost two of three fights. Jackson, although not a spectacular American wrestler, is a great MMA wrestler. Big difference. He'll be able to stuff the takedown  repeatedly and eventually knock out Bader, with a dominant performance on the feet, sending the Japanese faithful into a craze.
Pick - Rampage Jackson via 2nd Round KO

Cheick Kongo vs. Mark Hunt
Hunt, a PRIDE veteran, had lost six straight fights before rallying for back to back wins in his last two outings. He will receive a jump in competition in tangling with UFC heavyweight gatekeeper, Cheick Kongo. Kongo is a physical specimen and his superb kickboxing talents and better conditioning will earn him a devastating knockout of Hunt.
Pick - Cheick Kongo via 2nd Round KO 

Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Jake Shields
Akiyama is a fan favourite in Japan being one of the most successful and talented fighters to come out of the nation. He will drop to welterweight to fight Shields, just one fight from challenging for the world title. Shields lost his last bout, just weeks after the death of his father. The mourning clearly effected Shields, who was thought to be one of the pound for pound best fighters on the planet. Shields, an elite grappler, will eventually drag Akiyama to the ground and use is strength to dominate the fight, eventually ending it via submission. Shields gets back on track in spectacular fashion.
Pick - Jake Shields via 3rd Round Submission

Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch
In the mismatch of the night, Okami punishes Boetsch for three rounds, who only survives to see a decision just because of his toughness.
Pick - Yushin Okami via Unanimous Decision

Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski
The winner of this fight could potentially earn a date with Jose Aldo for the next shot at the Featherweight title. Palaszewski, a 50-fight veteran of MMA, will be in tough against the hometown talent that is, Hioki. The winner of this fight will be the one to force their game plan on the other. Hioki will want to take this fight to the mat, while Palaszewski will want to stand and bang. If Palaszewski can defend the trip, I like him to pick apart Hioki on the feet and the journeyman will enter the title talk.
Pick - Bart Palaszewski via Unanimous Decision

Joe Lauzon vs. Anthony Pettis
Just over a year ago, Pettis defeated current title challenger, Ben Henderson, for the WEC Lightweight Title and a shot at unifying the two lightweight title belts under the Zuffa banner. Because of Edgar's draw with Maynard, the Lightweight division was stalled, and Pettis opted to fight, rather than wait for the champ. Unfortunately for Pettis, he lost his debut bout in the UFC to Clay Guida, while Ben Henderson steamrolled the competition and leapfrogged the former WEC champ for the eventually title shot. Pettis will look for some redemption in the first fight of the main card and possibly re-earn that title shot. Pettis is an extremely versatile and dynamic striker (ask Ben Henderson). Lauzon, however, if a very experienced fighter who has battled the best in the UFC for years. He is coming off a surprising 47 second upset of Melvin Guillard. He has underrated standup and a spectacular submission game. Problem is, I don't see this fight hitting the mat. Pettis will be the superior striker in this bout and once he gets comfortable, he will simply show off in a unanimous decision win.
Pick - Anthony Pettis via unanimous Decision

For more, hit me with a follow @kidcuthy

Thursday, February 23, 2012

NHL ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEES

In honour of Sunday's Academy Awards, here's a look at the nominees for the top NHL themed movies from the past year in film.
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My Week With Marilyn - Paul Bissonette's wild All-Star weekend romp in Cabo with one of his favourite twitter followers.

The Artist - The Pavel Datsyuk Story (subtitles necessary).

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - The rekindled romance between the city of Winnipeg and its returning NHL hockey team.

War Horse - A retrospective of Chris Pronger's career.

The Descendants - Brandon, Brett, Brodie and Lukas. The next generation of Sutters, follow in the footsteps of their trailblazing fathers.

Warrior - The story of two brothers, Marc and Jordan Staal, on a head on Stanley Cup Playoff collision course.

Super 8 - A nostalgic look at the early years of Washington Capitals Captain, Alexander Ovechkin, when he once was a dominant NHL player.

The Hangover 2 - A comedic look back at the first month of the season for the Bruins and Canucks. Note: Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin are up for best supporting actor for their stellar performances in the opening scenes.

Horrible Bosses - Jacques Martin, Perry Pearn and Mike Cammalleri conspire against their previous employer.

Cedar Rapids - A homespun drama of a mid-western town's attempt to bring the Phoenix Coyotes to Iowa.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Paul Bissonette recounts the ups and downs of a wild night in NashVegas.

Midnight in Paris - Running title of the Toronto Maple Leafs year end party. Scheduled for mid-April.

Bridesmaids - A behind the scenes documentary of the Canucks' drive to the 2011 Stanley Cup final.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - The Toronto Maple Leafs' attempt to exorcise the ghosts of their 45 year Stanley Cup drought.

We Need To Talk About Kevin - A short film documenting Scott Howson's persistent desire to include Kevin Bieksa in a package for Rick Nash.

Kung Fu Panda 2 - Dustin Byfuglien trains at the local Dojo for a second time.

Source Code - A compelling drama surrounding protagonist, George McPhee, and his attempt to uncover the secret to unlock his underachieving team back into a contender.

50/50 - The Flames quest for a playoff spot in 2011-2012. Brent Sutter's character turns in a surprisingly riveting performance.

Win Win - The Ottawa Senators surprise season, whether they make the playoffs or not.

Moneyball - Brad Pitt stars in the true story of how the Nashville Predators, on a limited budget, have been constructed into a perennial playoff team by GM David Poile.

Limitless - A futuristic look at Edmonton Oilers first overall pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

Drive - Captain Serious, Jonathan Toews, is unforgettable in the car chase of the year on the Chicago Loop.

Shame - A tragic documentary on the Buffalo Sabres failure, despite the free spending of owner, Terry Pegula.

The Help - Ken Hitchcock saves the St. Louis Blues' season.

The Dilemma - The outrageous and controversial saga of Tim Thomas' decision to boycott the Bruins' White House visit

A Separation - Hijinx ensues when Daniel Sedin is unexpectedly traded to the Boston Bruins.

Tower Heist - An inside look at the Preds Cup run after bolstering their blue line with the addition of Hal Gill.

No Strings Attached - Paul Bissonette finally changes his tweeting ways and settles down after meeting the love of his life... on twitter.


You got a few more? Drop us a comment below and keep the ball rolling.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

THE NEXT RYCHEL

Warren Rychel played 406 games in the NHL and, by and large, earned his way with his mitts. 1422 penalty minutes attests to that. No one could ever question what kind of teammate he was and his passion for the game of hockey. A passion that makes him one of the finest GM's in all of the CHL.

The Vice President and GM of the Windsor Spitfires continues to be the architect of an organization that won back to back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010. One of the best moves he has made during his tenure, and there have been many, just might end up being the acquisition of his own son.

Kerby Rychel is enjoying a tremendous season with the Spitfires. He has scored 33 goals and added 27 assists in 56 games this season. The 17 year-old forward's journey to this point, has been quite a journey indeed. I will never forget walking into Windsor's WFCU Centre on the day of the 2010 OHL draft in preparation for game three of that league's championship series between the Spitfires and the Barrie Colts.   If I hadn't known better, I would have thought the reigning champions from Windsor were down 2-0 rather than being up in the set. The mood in the building, and in the Spits office, was one of anger and bitterness.  Warren had every intention of using his second round pick on that day to select his son. A matter of fact, there almost seemed to be an unofficial agreement within the framework of the league, that the move was going to occur. 

Not so fast. With their first round pick, the Colts grabbed Kerby Rychel 21st overall. Make no mistake, Dad and the rest of the Spits were some kind of upset. Upset is no where near strong enough. The Spitfires went on to sweep a very good Barrie squad in 4 games, and the rest is history. 

Kerby Rychel never played a game in Barrie. He was traded to Mississauga prior to the 2010-2011 campaign, and then subsequently moved on January 5th of last year to Windsor. One day after, the Los Angeles born, Rychel played a significant role in helping Team Ontario to a 5-3 win in the Gold Medal game of the World Under 17 challenge. The younger Rychel chipped in with a goal and an assist in the decisive contest and was named his team's player of the game. Kerby was also a member of a Team Canada squad that won a gold medal at the Under 18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August. Chances are if the rebuilding but still very competitive Spits bow out in round one, Kerby will make his way back to the Czech Republic in April to play for his country at the World Under 18 Championship.

Kerby Rychel isn't eligible for the upcoming NHL draft because of an October birthday, but if he continues to perform the way he has, the Tecumseh Ontario product will certainly be a top prospect for 2013.

Going back to things you never forget. In Rimouski at the 2009 Memorial Cup I watched, then 13 year old Kerby, skate with the likes of his father and others almost every morning in 3 on 3 games.  You could see an absolute passion for the game, and a developing skill set then. Can I say with certainty that I saw a budding junior star back then? Maybe not. However, from all accounts, Kerby is a chip off the old block.

I have met very few people in the game with the need to be successful as his father. Kerby is blessed with far more skill than his dad. And now that the Rychel's are reunited can you imagine how special it would be in the next couple of years if Kerby led the Spitfires to another Memorial Cup. Don't be surprised if it happens. Don't be surprised if it doesn't happen in 2014 right at the WFCU Centre.