The "Silencer" on NHL Realignment Veto
Periodically during the NHL season an anonymous NHL player blogs his thoughts on issues in the game. This time on the NHLPA veto of the NHL's proposed realignment.
We haven't heard anything official from the Players Association but, as I said in an earlier blog, there was concern over the structure of the proposed realignment and playoff format and how the Eastern clubs would have an advantage over Western teams with two fewer teams playing for the same number of playoff spots. It doesn't make sense to have 16 teams in one conference and 14 in the other. The NHL shouldn't have released this agreement in such a big way without getting our approval first.
Personally, I think this is probably a tactic by the PA to put pressure on the League to do something about Phoenix. Sell them or move them, but its time to do something there because we are hemorrhaging money. They claim that we're in a partnership and all we want is equal say on matters like Phoenix. Its the elephant in the room. The PA is going through the books trying to determine how bad it really is. We're paying our share for that team, pouring a lot of money into escrow and I don't think its right that the NHL dictates what is going to happen there. We want an equal say.
I know there's a strong sense that this is the first salvo in the next labour war between the two sides. I certainly hope that's not the case. A repeat of the last work stoppage? I guess anything is possible but I think it is clear that we are not going to rollover. We are shoring things up as an association, we are united and we aren't going to rollover to anything they want.
When the announcement was made fingers were pointed at Don Fehr. I can tell you that Don Fehr has been really good, really sharp, as impressive a person as I have ever been around. When he walks into a room he doesn't have to be forceful to get his point across. He has a unique skill of presenting the issues and letting the players come to their own conclusion without forcing a position on us.
Its my belief that another work stoppage would be catastrophic. We have a lot of things going well right now in the NHL like the new NBC Sports channel. A lot of aspects of the business are moving in the right direction but a work stoppage would change that. Last time there was a clear cut issue to fight over which was cap or no cap. Now you can't say there is a clear cut issue. There are some franchises in trouble but there isn't one major issue that's going to be the problem. Its going to be a number of smaller issues that must get resolved. Right now its quiet, eerily quiet, which is a little scary.
The "Novy's" - Top NHLer's of November
In honour of former Washington Capital Milan Novy, here are the “Novys” for the top players in November.
Maple Leafs – Overshadowed by his linemate Phil Kessel, Lupul is proving to be one of GM Brian Burke’s best acquisitions. Lupul (the NHL’s best palindrome since Joel Otto) led all point getters for the month with 7-12-19. He’s on pace for a 98 point season. Toronto
Chicago Blackhawks – Captain Serious started slowly in October but found his Mojo in Movember with 9-9-18 including a career high 5 point game in . Toews had 3 game winning goals and is the top faceoff man in the NHL. The MVP chants are starting at the United Centre. Anaheim
Oilers – Did we actually think there was a chance that the “Nuge” was going back to Junior? Give him the Calder now. RNH had 6-10-16 in Movember even though he’s not old enough to grow a moustache. Not only does he lead all rookie scorers, he is tied for 4th in points overall. Edmonton
Detroit Red Wings – The Mule kick started ’s rebound. The Red Wing power forward had 6-10-16 in November and has been a key in the Wings’ 6 game win streak. How key is Franzen? His 23 points have all come in Detroit wins. The Mule is pointless in the Wings 8 defeats. Detroit
Pittsburgh Penguins – That other guy’s comeback got all the headlines in but the former Art Ross winner is hitting stride again. After some recurring knee problems in October, Malkin racked up 7-9-16 in a dozen November games. His play raises the question; is he currently the NHL’s best Russian player? Pittsburgh
Boston Bruins – On fire early in the month including a hat trick in to show Leaf fans what they’re missing, the super soph leads the NHL at +19 and was 8-4-12 to contribute to the B’s near perfect month. Toronto
Jets – Another young star on the rise. The Jets power forward is at last tapping his vast offensive potential and scoring like a guy wearing Bobby Hull’s number in Winnipeg should with 8-4-12 in November. Winnipeg
Coyotes – Not a desert mirage. Vrbata ranks among the top offensive threats in November with 9-4-13 including 3 game winners, and 4 multi goal games helping pace the Coyotes to first place in the Pacific division. Phoenix
Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild - After a dreadful October the Wild captain got untracked with 4-11-15 in 15 November outings including his 100th career goal. Koivu’s leadership has been key in the Wild’s unlikely rise to top spot in the Western Conference.
– Nobody else was scoring in LA so the former Flyer assumed the role. A Cy Young calibre month for Richards as he fired 9 goals (including 2 shorthanded) with only one assist, just to confirm that he was the only King scoring in November. Los Angeles Kings
– The Bruins captain finished the month with 4 goals in his last 6 games. Big Chara was 4-10-14 with a November high +14 in the Bruins most successful month since a guy named Cherry was Boston Bruins ’s coach. Boston
Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins - The defending Vezina trophy winner was a perfect 9-0 for the month with 4 shutouts, including 3 straight on the road. We wondered if he could duplicate last year’s masterful season and through 2 months Thomas has done just that.
Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues
GREEN JACKET LEADER BOARD
(Worst Plus Minus)
Eric Staal, CAR -18
Marty Reasoner, NYI -14
Steve Downie, TB -14
-12 Johnson, COL
Tomas Kaberle, CAR -12
Ryan Getzlaf, ANA -11
OCTOBER NHL AWARDS - THE "REGGIES"
Reggie Jackson's October heroics transcended baseball. Now the "Mr October" moniker gets tossed around to any athlete who plays well in the longest month of autumn. But if you are uncomfortable with the baseball connotation, we invite you to assume that we're naming our first month NHL awards after the great Charlestown Chiefs player-coach Reggie Dunlop.
HART - MVP
PHIL KESSEL - TOR - 10-8-18 +6 3GWG - The only Leafs to win the Hart are Teeder Kennedy in 1955 and Babe Pratt in 1944. Also votes for Claude Giroux, Thomas Vanek and Jason Spezza.
ART ROSS - TOP SCORER
PHIL KESSEL - TOR - 10-8-18 +6 - The last Leaf to win the NHL scoring race was Gordie Drillon in 1938. Kessel's career high of 64 points was 36th best last year.
ROCKET RICHARD - GOALS
PHIL KESSEL - TOR - 10 goals on 38 shots. Kessel's career high is 36. Runnerup - James Neal 9, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek and Joe Pavelski 8. Since the lockout the lowest winning total was 50 by last year's winner Corey Perry.
NORRIS - BEST DEFENCEMAN
DION PHANEUF - TOR - 2-9-11 +7 26:49 - A unanimous selection! No Maple Leaf has ever won the Norris. Runnerup - Kris Letang and incumbent and perennial winner Nick Lidstrom is 2-4-6 -2
VEZINA - TOP GOALIE
NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN - EDM - 5-0-2 1.12 .960 1SO - Khabibulin is also our Comeback Player and the biggest reason the Oilers are surprisingly the stingiest team in October. Grant Fuhr is the only Oiler to win the Vezina in 1988. The most competitive category with support for Jonathan Quick, Kari Lehtonen and Marc-Andre Fleury.
CALDER - TOP ROOKIE
RYAN NUGENT- HOPKINS - EDM - A landslide winner with 5-6-11 +4 in 16:28 average ice time. Runnerup - Gabriel Landeskog. Much to Wayne Gretzky's chagrin no Oiler has ever won the Calder. 99 was deemed ineligible in his NHL rookie year for playing in WHA.
ADAMS - TOP COACH
PAUL MACLEAN - OTT - The "Stache" wins a close vote over incumbent Dan Bylsma and Tom Renney on the strength of a six game win streak to close the month. Jacques Martin won Coach of the Year with the Senators in 1999.
Here are the October selections of our anonymous NHL blogger. (GGSB asked him not to vote for himself.) We didn't request any editorial comments but received one unsolicited for his Norris choice.
HART - PHIL KESSEL - TOR
NORRIS - DION PHANEUF - TOR - As much as it kills me to do it.
VEZINA - NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN - EDM
SELKE - JORDAN STAAL - PIT
ADAMS - DAN BYLSMA - PIT
LAST YEARS WINNERS IN OCTOBER
HART - COREY PERRY - ANA 12 gp - 5-7-12
ART ROSS - DANIEL SEDIN - VAN 9 gp - 7-5-12
RICHARD - COREY PERRY - ANA 12 gp - 5 goals 13.4 shooting pct.
NORRIS - NICK LIDSTROM - DET 9 gp - 1-10-11 +4 24:51 TOI
VEZINA - TIM THOMAS - BOS 6 gp - 6-0-0 0.50 .984sv% 3 SO
CALDER - JEFF SKINNER -CAR 10 gp - 3-4-7 +1
ADAMS - DAN BYLSMA - PIT 12 g - 6-5-1 (6th in East Conference)
GREEN JACKET AWARD (WORST PLUS/MINUS)
ERIC STAAL - CAR -13
KEITH BALLARD - VAN -9
DAVID BOOTH - FLA/VAN -9
DEREK MORRIS - PHX -8
DEREK BRASSARD - CBJ -8
The Silencer on Asham-Beagle
During the 2011-12 season an anonymous player, we call The Silencer, weighs in on NHL issues for GGSB. In his second installment, The Silencer, weighs in on the Asham-Beagle fight and fallout.
I think everyone would agree from locker rooms, to bar stools, and media outlets that the celebration after the fight on Asham's part was wrong and to put in his own words "classless'. For how wrong the incident was, he was completely right in the way he handled the situation after the game and the apology that followed. Although I might not have been as forgiving if it had been Steve Ott or Matt Cooke. Was the reaction after the fight solely on adrenaline? I believe so and I think most players believe the same thing. Players, in general, think Asham plays a hard nosed game and is respected around the league as an honest player. As angry as a lot of people were in the gesture that Asham made, the bigger issue at stake for most people was the knockout of Beagle and the questions that arise from that situation. One of the questions that I hear is, have the nature of fights changed? For me that is a two-fold answer. The first part is that this particular incident for all intents and purposes is why there is fighting in hockey. It was a fight between two willing combatants, who were upset with each other during a physical game and a fight broke out. The unfortunate part was that Beagle was the less experienced fighter of the two, he was playing a physical in your face kind of game which he needs to play at this time in his career and when you play that way sometimes a line is crossed or you get a little carried away and you have to be ready to drop the gloves. Nobody likes to see the way it ended but hockey can get your juices flowing and your temper flaring and sometimes the only way to get it out is fighting. The second part is that some of the fights in our game seem staged or are just a sideshow, a UFC kind of event that really does not bring a whole lot to the game of hockey. Not sure that it has completely changed in that respect, but there seems to be more of it and the effects of these fights seem to be more harmful than good. Another question that has come up is that is there more knockouts now? Well like everything else guys are bigger and stronger and again there seems to be more staged fights now, with the biggest and toughest guys going at each other, which when those guys connect it is pretty scary. Now do these fights have any impact on the bench or does it change the momentum? I think it definitely has an effect on the bench. Nobody wants to see anyone get seriously hurt, especially your teammate. If it is a physical game and your guy beats up an opponent there is something that makes the whole bench feel a little taller, a little bigger and a little tougher. At the same time I am not sure it gives you momentum or makes you play better. There are times that it fires your bench up but that doesn't guarantee that we will play better. I think there are better ways of getting momentum than fighting, something as simple as a good shift in the opposing team's end can give you some. The elephant in the room question is whether we should keep fighting in hockey? I believe you do, and I think the most of the players do, as long it is for the right reasons. The right reasons would be two willing combatants who in a physical and emotional game, are upset with each other. I would rather see that, than two guys either swinging sticks at each other, running each other from behind or head-hunting with an intent to injure.
The "Silencer" on Shanahan
Now, can the league do the same thing with this newest crackdown on hits to the head or intent to injure? I believe it can, although there still seems to be that gray area on what is deemed illegal and what isn't. The explanations we receive on the suspensions and lack of suspensions still seems confusing. Take the ruling on the Ryan Malone's hit on Chris Campoli. Is it that different than some of the other hits that were deemed suspendable? I am not sure. Do I think it was a legal hit? I think it was. However, it was a clear hit to the head. This is where we get into this gray area, and what do we really want taken out of the game? Do we want hitting out of hockey? Body contact is one of the most important elements in hockey, when used to dislodge an opponent from the puck. The problem has been that we are allowed to hit when an opponent does not have the puck. This leaves the player being hit unsuspecting and vulnerable. That, for the most part, is an intent to injure and there is no need for it in our game.
So, with all this, are we as players afraid to hit or are we passing up on hits because we worry about getting suspended? For the most part, I don't think so. However, there are a few players on every team whose jobs are to be physical and this could affect them in some way. Is this fair? Well, when you lose the best player on the planet, something had to be done. The real key will be when a star player is guilty of one of these hits. Then what will the league do? That will dictate how serious the NHL is about getting rid of these kinds of hits.
For this to work, players not only need to be educated on "why and why not" on each suspendable act, but more importantly, there needs to be consistency for each act.
A "Nuge" Era Begins in Edmonton
Whether it was a year ago, as he was lighting up the Western Hockey League, four months ago, when he was selected first overall at the NHL entry draft, or a number of weeks ago, when the Edmonton Oilers broke training camp, the consensus on Ryan Nugent Hopkins was that inevitably, he would head back to junior hockey in Red Deer for another season.
Sure, it's been in vogue for the first selection to play in the NHL at 18 years of age. In fact, its been the norm. But at first glance, it would have been a stretch. The native of Burnaby, B.C. is generously listed at a six feet and 171 pounds. You hear about his elite vision and skill set, but can't be faulted for being a bit, well, skeptical. This was, after all, a player that wasn't even deemed ready to enough to play in the World Juniors last winter.
So why, and how, is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still hanging around, getting a longer look than many people thought possible?
When you watch him, you finally begin to understand.
Those close to the Nugent-Hopkins camp since day one, when he dominated the AAA Midget ranks in B.C as a 15-year old, had his way at Calgary's Mac's Midget Tournament, and subsequently scored six points in five games as a WHL underage call-up, were the first to realize: "The Nuge" is special.
It's not something that can be defined in advanced sabremetrics, or confined in the X's and O's of a power-play strategy. It's not something that be measured in goals and assists. It's a gift that many scouts will tell you, transcends with the Sakic's, Neidermeyer's, and Modano's of WHL lore.
If you know RNH, the sequence of events that we've seen in recent weeks were almost predictable. Even if the Oilers had designs on sending him back to junior, he'd force their hand with an awe-inspiring camp. It was destined to happen. Then, when they decided to give him some preseason games, he'd get his points, and leave pundits scratching their heads. Again, inevitable. So next up, is his nine-game NHL "tryout". And at this rate, we know how this story ends. The first overall pick, like it or not, is ready for the next stage. He just is.
If Tyler Ennis can survive in the harsh climate that is the NHL's offensive zone, so can Nugent- Hopkins. If Alex Burmistrov is deemed ready to hop the boards at 18, then so is young number 93.
The chance remains that the Oilers will eventually send him back to junior, and the Rebels, WHL, and Hockey Canada will all reap the benefits. But if it comes to that, it will strictly be a contractual venture, one that they will hate to make.
From a projection standpoint, the sky is the limit. The effortless gliding ability reminds you of Ales Hemsky. The quick hands in traffic and ferocious hounding defensively is Datsyuk-like, and his penchant for running the half-wall on the powerplay, even at 18, is comparable to Mike Ribiero.
There will always be those that doubt. But, when you watch him play for the first time, you just know.
GGSB's 2011-12 STANLEY CUP PREDICTIONS
Our Blue Ribbon Panel of TSN's Dave Hodge, Ray Ferraro, Darren Pang and Mike Johnson; HNIC's Glen Healy, Kelly Hrudey and Scott Oake; John Garrett of Sportsnet; Greg Millen of Leaf TV, Pierre Houde of RDS and Pierre McGuire of NBC/Versus were also asked which teams they expected to see in next year's Stanley Cup Championship.
In the Eastern Conference, Washington led the way with 6 picks, while Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the defending champion Boston Bruins also received consideration.
In the West, another four teams divide the votes. Vancouver paced our GGSB poll with 5, but there were multiple votes for Chicago, San Jose and Los Angeles.
Our Panel's verdict had an ironic twist. If the Blue Ribbon crew is on target, the next Stanley Cup will be another seven game affair and this time, the Vancouver riot squad has plenty of warning!
2011-12 Eastern Conference Final
Capitals def. Flyers in 6
2011-12 Western Conference FinalCanucks def. Sharks in 6
2011-12 Stanley Cup FinalCapitals def. Canucks in 7
2011-12 Stanley Cup Champions
Leave us a comment or tweet us with who you believe will take home Lord Stanley.
2011-12 NHL AWARD PREDICTIONS
2011-12 Hart Trophy Winner
2011-12 Art Ross Trophy Winner
6 WAY TIE - Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Evgeni Malkin, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Alexander Ovechkin
2011-12 Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy Winner
Tampa Bay Lightning
2011-12 Norris Trophy Winner
2011-12 Jack Adams Trophy Winner
2011-12 Vezina Trophy Winner
2011-12 Frank J. Selke Trophy WinnerPavel Datsyuk,
Detroit Red Wings
2011-12 Calder Trophy WinnerBrett Connolly,
Tampa Bay Lightning
2011-12 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy Winner
GGSB PRESENTS, THE TOP 100 PLAYERS IN THE NHL
It was fascinating to see the range of opinion from our Dynamic Dozen pundits on their Top Ten lists. 23 different players garnered votes; Anze Kopitar was on two lists, with single mentions to Evgeni Malkin, Niklas Backstrom, Joe Thornton, Eric Staal, Claude Giroux, Henrik Zetterberg and Duncan Keith. Keith was one of 4 D to earn votes along with Zdeno Chara, Nik Lidstrom and Shea Weber. Tim Thomas was the only G to tally votes. Among the Top 10 Sidney Crosby was first on 9 ballots (not considered at all by 2 presumably because of his injury status) while runnerup Alexander Ovechkin received only one first place vote. Pavel Datsyuk had strong support from some voters with three 2nd place votes; Jonathan Toews had three 3rd place rankings; Daniel Sedin outpolled his brother on 6 of 10 ballots in which both were named; and Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry was 3rd in ballot appearances. So here are the Blue Ribbon panels Top 10 followed by the rest of the NHL's Top 100 as voted by the GGSB team.
1) Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins - Can't lose the top ranking to injury.
3) Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks - Could be in Hart trophy conversation again.
4) Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks - MVP was the games only 50 goal scorer last year.
5) Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings - Wings believe he could win the scoring title if not so focused defensively.
6) Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks - NHL leader with 75 assists and is likely to repeat.7) Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning - 21 year old has 96 goals in last 2 years.
8) Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks - Captain Serious puts team goals ahead of personal stats.
9) Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning - Still underrated despite finishing 2nd in league scoring.
10) Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks - Messier-like combination of strength and skill.
12) Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks - Became an elite player and MVP candidate last season.
13) Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins - Brilliant year included Vezina and Conn Smythe. We'll pump his tires.
14) Shea Weber, Nashville Predators - The most coveted defenseman in the upcoming year.
15) Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins - Back from injury and should return to the scoring race.
16) Niklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings - A minus for the first time but still a major plus for the Wings.
17) Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils - Top 10 talent if healthy.
18) Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks - One of the games best skaters will return to Norris form.
19) Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings - Top 10 forward offensively and defensively.
20) Jerome Iginla, Calgary Flames - Should hit 500 career goals by Christmas.
21) Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets - Expect career highs with Carter addition.
22) Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes - Canes expect close to 100 point season
23) Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks - A premier playmaker who answered critics in last year's postseason.
24) Brad Richards, New York Rangers - 60 million dollar free agent will charge Ranger PP.
25) Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings - Could be NHL's best D Man soon with a new contract to match.
27) Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils - Minus 26 almost matched his goal total a year ago.
28) Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings - Top 10 votes for skill and charisma.
29) Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks - Capable of playing at another level and might reach it as a centre.
30) Mike Richards, Los Angeles Kings - Has to prove himself again, in many aspects.
31) Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks - Top 10 in goals a season ago.
32) Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks -Breathtaking skill, no wonder he was drafted a spot behind Crosby.
33) Nick Backstrom, Washington Capitals - Conditioning issues holding him back from top 10 status.
34) Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks - Perennial 50 point defenceman.
35) Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks - 32 goals will put him in the top 10 all time.
36) Marion Gaborik, New York Rangers - A thoroughbred who will benefit by playing with Brad Richards .
37) Marion Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks - Three time 40 goal scorer will get his 400th this year.
38) Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals - Skill level high, trust factor low.
39) Jeff Carter, Columbus Blue Jackets - 115 goals in the last three years with much more to give.
40) Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers - New Flyer captain, has the road map to the Stanley Cup final.
41) Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers -Toast of Broadway and Fantasy Leaguers.
42) Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens - Relax, Carey's got it all under control.
44) Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers - Received a top 10 vote, Darkhorse to win the scoring title.
45) Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks - 37 goals, 7 in playoffs and as always, we expect more.
46) Mike Green, Washington Capitals - Reins were put on the most gifted offensive defenceman.
47) Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks - Solid physical D Man, surprising 48 points.
48) Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks - Big game woes still plague this top 10 goaltender.
49) Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins - Has won the Cup and is capable of claiming the Vezina too.
50) Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes - Underrated, busiest and most technically sound goaltender.
51) Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins - 50+ Points were no surprise, 100+ PIMs was.
52) Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche - Matched Tavares' numbers two years running and one of the games best skaters.
53) John Tavares, New York Islanders - Like Duchene, Tavares enters his third year looking to take it to the next level.
54) Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning - Big playoff proved he can still be a top 25 talent when healthy.
55) Michael Cammalleri, Montreal Canadiens - 19 goals last year, will be much closer to career high of 39 this season.56) Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres - The Sabres sharpest scorer, expect his third 40 goal season.
57) Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks - Should reach vast potential in San Jose.
58) David Backes, St. Louis Blues - Fierce competitor, 30 goals,a key Blues building block.
59) Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks - Wing or Centre Little Joe excels in many roles for the Sharks.
60) Tyler Myers, Buffalo Sabres - Even with sophmore slump, 10 goals, 37 points and the potential for much more.
62) Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche - Avs needs Stastny to get back to being a point-a-game player.
63) Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes - Preseason play indicates no sophmore jinx.
64) Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars - The most underrated player in the league. Check the stats.
65) Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers - Eighth in goals last season with 34.
66) Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins - 20 points and +15 in Stanley Cup run.
67) Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings - Potential for 30 goals and 300 hits.
68) Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators - Sens need more from Spezza in a rebuilding year.
69) Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings - Lidstrom`s heir apparent and most feared open ice hitter70) Lubomir Visnovsky, Los Angeles Kings - Led all defenceman in scoring last season.
71) PK Subban, Montreal Canadiens - Takes a special young player to bask in the Montreal spotlight.
72) Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets - Will delight and frustrate his new fan base in Winnipeg.73) Ilya Bryzgalov, Philadelphia Flyers - Got Phoenix to the playoffs, can he lead the Flyers to the cup?
74) Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues -15 goals in 26 games with the Blues, on the cusp of stardom.
75) Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators - A Music City hit, 2nd in NHL Save pct, 3rd GAA.
76) Marc Staal, New York Rangers - The offensive numbers will come, a beast defensively.
77) Mikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames - Still capable of stealing games but can't continue to play 70+ a season.
78) Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings - Wings counting on more production from The Mule.
79) Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes - Third in NHL scoring by defenseman.
80) Brendan Morrow, Dallas Stars - Grit, leadership and 30 goals a season.
81) Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers - Heart and work ethic got him to the NHL and the Rangers captaincy.
82) David Krejci, Boston Bruins - A playoff star ready for a breakout regular season.
83) Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild - Hoping to rediscover his scoring touch in Minnesota or fall out of next year's top 100.
84) Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs - Leafs expected 40 goals last year, should get it this season.
85) Tomas Plekanec, Montreal Canadiens - A fierce competitor and Habs leading scorer.
86) Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers - Should follow the Tavares-Duchene track to over 60 points in sophomore season.
87) Jordan Staal, Pittsburgh Penguins - The best third line centre in the NHL with more offensive upside.
88) Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames - A repeat of last year's performance will vault him into the Top 50
89) Christian Ehrhoff, Buffalo Sabres - Took his game to a different level in Vancouver. The Sabres are counting on that and more.
90) Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks - His stock soared by focusing on his defensive game.
91) Tobias Enstrom, Winnipeg Jets - 5th in NHL defenseman scoring and a superior skater.
92) Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens - Injury issues prevent the Canadiens best defenseman from a much higher rating.
93) James Van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia Flyers - A monster playoff foreshadows a breakout year.
94) Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs - Rediscovered his offensive game in the second half and plays 25 minutes nightly.
95) Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins- Gives us Cam Neely flashbacks. The potential to score 40.
96) Mike Ribiero, Dallas Stars - A slick playmaker with "cheeky" moves.
97) Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres - Can be a point a game player over 82 games.98) Stefan Robidas, Dallas Stars - One of the NHL's most improved players with a complete game.
99) Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks - An exceptional rookie season capped off by 14 playoff points.
2011-12 NHL CONFERENCE PREVIEW
No better way to kick off the Golden Goal Sports Blog with the 2011 NHL Preview. Below, The GGSB crew has projected the Eastern and Western Conference projected standings. The voting featured a dead heat for the 8th and final playoff spot in the East between the "Forever Rivals" Montreal and Toronto (no we didn't fix the vote). The Canadiens got our nod for 8th spot by earning more playoff selections as per GGSB's official tiebreaking format. The bottom 4 teams in the West were separated by a single votes suggesting it could be a mad scramble to avoid the western cellar, or race to earn the first overall pick in the 2012 draft.
1) Washington Capitals - No longer the "run and gun" Caps Washington ranked 19th offensively last year but coach Bruce Boudreau finally has the Caps playing defence. We expect bounce back years from Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and Mike Green. John Carlson and Karl Alzner made great strides last year. Goaltender Thomas Vokoun had good numbers on a poor Florida team. His signing by GM George McPhee could be the shrewdest of the off season.
2) Boston Bruins - The defending champions could be even better with the continued maturation of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin. 26 year old Patrice Bergeron is entering his prime. On defense, Zdeno Chara is ready to win another Norris, Dennis Seidenberg raised his game and Joe Corvo replaces Tomas Kaberle. Tukka Rask is waiting in the wings if Tim Thomas ever comes back down to earth.
3) Pittsburgh Penguins - The Penguins were the class of the NHL last year until Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were hurt. Obviously the Pens season hinges on Sid's health but if he returns to form, Crosby, Malkin and Jordan Staal give Pittsburgh unparalleled strength down the middle. James Neal should thrive on Crosby's wing. Steve Sullivan could add some offensive pop but Michael Rupp and Max Talbot will be missed. Paul Martin and Kris Letang lead a good defense in front of Vezina and Hart contender Marc-Andre Fleury.
4) Buffalo Sabres - Owner Terry Pegula made a statement with his pocketbook and now his Sabres look poised to do the same on the ice. Robyn Regehr and Christian Erhoff join Tyler Myers to form a formidable blueline in front of Ryan Miller. The Sabres are small, feisty and talented up front led by Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville and former Flyer Ville Leino. Ryan Miller ensures that Sabres opponents never have an edge in goal.
5) Philadelphia Flyers - The Flyers shocked the hockey world in the summer by dealing both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. In return there are good, but less experienced additions Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. Jaromir Jagr might be the most fascinating free agent signing. The 39 year old Czech star was outstanding at the Vancouver Olympics until he was caught in the crosshairs by Alex Ovechkin. James van Reimsdyk is ready for greatness and a healthy Chris Pronger is the team's undisputed leader. Ilya Bryzgalov is capable of taking the Flyers to the Stanley Cup or being sucked into the Flyers recent netminding vortex.
6) Tampa Bay Lightning - The Lightning surprised last spring and are capable of going even farther. Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier give TBay an elite forward troika. Teddy Purcell's stock is rising and Brett Connolly looks ready to challenge for the Calder. Gone are Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim. Eric Brewer was a key defensive addition last year. Can Victor Hedman take another step forward and has Dwayne Roloson found the fountain of youth in the Florida?
7) New York Rangers - The Blueshirts made the biggest free agent splash with the 60 million dollar signing of Brad Richards. The former Conn Smythe winner should improve John Tortorella's power play and revitalize enigmatic winger Marian Gaborik. We like the grit of captain Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. Henrik Lundqvist is an elite goaltender and Broadway star but can the young Marc Staal led defense stay healthy and repeat last year's breakthrough performance?
8) Montreal Canadiens - A Game 7 OT loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champions means the Habs could be on the right track but we'd feel much better(and so would they) if Andrei Markov was healthy. A full season from Max Pacioretty and the acquisition of Eric Cole provides better size up front. Mike Cammelleri should return to the 30 goal club. Carey Price proved he can handle the Montreal spotlight and a heavy work load. PK Subban has embraced the attention only Montreal can supply.
9) Toronto Maple Leafs - GM Brian Burke's philosophy is to build from the blueline out and now has a better than average defensive group, bolstered by the additions of John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson. The Leafs are still lacking up front despite the emergence of Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clark MacArthur. Newly acquired Tim Connolly is expected to play with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. It's uncertain whether Nazem Kadri is ready to contribute. Goaltender James Reimer must avoid a sophomore setback.
10) Carolina Hurricanes - The Canes should be in the playoff chase until the end. Carolina needs Eric Staal to be close to a 100 point producer. Calder trophy winner Jeff Skinner is destined for stardom, Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk must replace departed Eric Cole and retired Cory Stillman. Cam Ward is yet another elite Eastern Conference goaltender. But Ward faced too many shots last year. Thomas Kaberle joins Joni Pitkanen and Tim Gleason on a defense that must be better.
11) New Jersey Devils - Peter DeBoer will try to answer the question, can anyone other than Jacques Lemaire coach the Devils? Martin Brodeur could be playing the final year of his Hall of Fame career. Blue chip defensive prospect Adam Larsson is a Calder Trophy candidate. A healthy Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk lead the attack which will be better than last year's 30th ranked offense.
12) Winnipeg Jets - The euphoria created by the Jets' return to the Manitoba capital will be worth a few extra wins but the former Thrashers are at least a year away from a playoff spot. G Ondrej Pavelec has to deliver a full season, Dustin Byfuglien and Toby Enstrom are top level offensive blueliners. Andrew Ladd will provide quality leadership but youngsters Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov and Mark Scheifele need more time to develop.
13) New York Islanders - We might be underestimating the Islanders. John Tavares leads a promising group of youngsters including Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson Michael Grabner and Frans Nielsen. Captain Mark Streit is the greybeard of a young blueline. The Islanders were a tough team to play and entertaining to watch near the end of last season. Evgeni Nabokov could stabilize a problem spot in goal.
14) Florida Panthers - GM Dale Tallon is in full renovation mode; adding veterans Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Kopecky. Brian Campbell and Ed Jovanovski join young "under the radar' defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and Eric Gudbranson. But Tomas Vokoun leaves a gaping hole in net which Jose Theodore will attempt to fill.
15) Ottawa Senators - New coach Paul McLean won't be surrounded by Red Wing talent here. The Sens rebuild features Craig Anderson in goal and young Erik Karlsson and Jared Cowen on defence. Sergei Gonchar owes Ottawa a better year, if only to become a trade deadline asset. Up front Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are the notable incumbents with Nikita Filatov an interesting project for development.