January 09, 2006

Hockey: West at the Half

Into the West we go:


What Works: While he won’t have another 50 goal season, Selanne could have 40 this year. Getzlaf and/or Perry will finish the season in the big club.
What Doesn’t: Bryzgalov doesn’t get the same goal support that Giguere does, and that’s meager enough.
What Else: That “We won’t trade for Marchant – Oh look! He’s on waivers!” coincidence with the Fedorov trade shows that Burke is a quick learner of the new system.
What’s Coming: Not sure when Ozolinsh will be back from detox; not sure if it matters.
Now What: Bryzgalov may be trade bait for some extra offense. Goalies are at a premium, and Giguere isn’t exactly old.


What Works: Need I say? Kiprusoff.
What Doesn’t: Third fewest goals scored in the league.
What Else: Marchment out with a knee injury – ironic, no?
What’s Coming: Hamrlik due back soon, and he’ll add some offense from the blue line.
Now What: Chemistry drives this team, so I don’t see any major trades. A free agent may be added, however.


What Works: They’ve got a couple pretty good rookies in Seabrook and Borque.
What Doesn’t: Daze still out, Khabibulin out, Seabrook out…
What Else: Without Daze all season, there’s nothing they could even call a first line.
What’s Coming: It’s possible they could give up on the season and trade Khabibulin when he’s healthy. His numbers are lousy this year, though, so his value may not be great. His ring makes it worth a try.
Now What: Could someone tell owner Wirtz to join even the twentieth century? Television won’t suck out your team’s soul, Bill: you’ve got that covered.


What Works: You young pups, Svatos and Liles, proving they’re for real.
What Doesn’t: Where’d Hejduk go?
What Else: Tanguay becoming a more reliable (and responsible) player
What’s Coming: The Avalanche are a grittier team than before, but the scoring is still there. Losing Konowalchuk hurts, but isn’t fatal.
Now What: Looking for a goalie, but not that hard. The salary cap has a major effect over who comes and who goes, and Aebischer is good enough, so a trade isn’t likely.


What Works: Getting Nash healthy.
What Doesn’t: Paging Mr. Fedorov… 13 points in 24 games just isn’t enough.
What Else: Losing Brule hurt more than a rookie should have. He’s that good.
What’s Coming: Not much. Looks like Prusek is out of the rotation, so when will they move him? Or he could be an insurance policy, but…
Now What: Foote going down is bad timing, but otherwise the defense looks good, despite the goals against. More urgent is an offense that can scare people, and that’s not this year. With Zherdev and Brule, maybe next…


What Works: After a bizarre last season, the offense is rounding back into form.
What Doesn’t: Except Guerin.
What Else: Hedberg has been a capable backup (hear that, Vancouver?)
What’s Coming: First in the division, if they can hold off a hyperactive Los Angeles.
Now What: No movement yet. This is a team that likes it’s veterans, so we’ll see if they get rested or ridden leading up to the playoffs.


What Works: Just about everything.
What Doesn’t: Missing Kronwall for a season and Fischer for…?
What Else: Schneider could have his second career 20-goal season. The first was 12 years ago.
What’s Coming: Looks like more of the same, with Legace finally taking the #1 spot from Osgood.
Now What: Both Detroit and Nashville have the decided advantage of playing Columbus, Chicago and St. Louis more than any other teams. How much does that inflate their numbers?


What Works: The salary cap!
What Doesn’t: Peca is on course for 30 points, a career low for a full season.
What Else: Neither Markkanen nor Conklin have the trust of the team. Conklin, earlier this season considered a US Olympic member, is slightly better.
What’s Coming: This is a young, YOUNG team. Horcoff, Hemsky, Stoll, Torres, and Bergeron are all among the team leaders, and Horcoff’s the oldest at 27.
Now What: Morrison should have been the backup this year, and he will be next year.


What Works: Visnovsky is a serious Norris contender – point-a-game and +18.
What Doesn’t: You didn’t think that just by losing Allison and Deadmarsh, the injury curse would be gone, did you?
What Else: Dmitra’s doing quite well for a 9th round pick, wouldn’t you say?
What’s Coming: The goaltending is solid, young, and in the right order.
Now What: This team has lightning in a bottle: no idea if it will last beyond this year, but this year might be all they need.


What Works: Goaltending. The backup (Roloson) has 2.83 GAA and .919 SV%.
What Doesn’t: Scoring. The same backup only has 5 wins in 19 games.
What Else: Welcome back, Gaborik (27 points in 25 games)! If you could give Daigle a kick in the ass, that’d be nice (20 goals last year, 4 so far this one).
What’s Coming: A 7-4 run has earned a reprieve.
Now What: The weakest team in the division, and they still might make the playoffs. Lemaire loves his job, and the fans and GM seem to love him, so the honeymoon is still on.


What Works: Walker coming back will do nothing but help.
What Doesn’t: Losing Legwand for at least a month. Never a big scorer, he’s captain material.
What Else: The Czech Olympic team will probably start Hasek. It should be Vokoun.
What’s Coming: Playoffs are a certainty. Hartnell and Hamhuis coming around offensively; now for Legwand and Upshall. Youth is being blended in nicely.
Now What: A bit of a luxury being in their division (see Detroit, above), they can give Mason a few more starts to rest Vokoun.


What Works: Nagy is aiming at a 90 point season, Comrie’s healthy (so far).
What Doesn’t: Joseph’s gone cold again, Boucher hasn’t taken the #1 from him, and LeNeveu isn’t ready yet.
What Else: Lankow was a bigger loss than Hull. Who knew?
What’s Coming: Utterly unafraid of trades, Sanderson or Morris could bring value back, but only if the playoffs drop out of sight.
Now What: Tough to tell, but probably out of the playoffs against too many teams, including a revitalized San Jose.


What Works: Um… Sillinger’s having a career year.
What Doesn’t: Lalime has been a complete bust, as has starting backup Divis.
What Else: Tkachuk, playing 10 games, is the Blues’ fourth leading goal scorer.
What’s Coming: Not much. If someone wants Lalime, they can have him cheap.
Now What: A seriously bitten team when the salary cap went into effect, pride is all they have to play for this year and the next.


What Works: Turning a second line forward, second pair defenseman, and solid, checking centre into Joe Thornton.
What Doesn’t: Despite 8 points in two games (all assists - thanks, Joe!) Ekman still only has 18 points in 35 games.
What Else: Cheechoo also has 10 points in his last five games.
What’s Coming: Preissing is the team’s highest scoring defenseman with 17 points. Marleau plays the point on the power play, but still…
Now What: Nabokov, and thus San Jose, has been very streaky this year. He needs to regain his 2003-2004 form soon if the Sharks are going to reach the playoffs.


What Works: The “Three Brothers” line is a real, honest-to-goodness second line.
What Doesn’t: Losing Cloutier doesn’t help, but losing Jovanovski is worse.
What Else: The Cloutier/Auld dynamic was fun to watch, very much a fire and ice pair.
What’s Coming: Jovanovski’s injury highlights how thin the defence is. McCarthy and Bieksa are getting too much ice time, and Ohlund is wearing down in tough match ups.
Now What: Auld isn’t quite ready for the #1 job, and acquisition Ouellet has not been good enough yet, and veteran Flaherty can get claimed in waivers if he’s called up. The team is tight to the salary cap, so a dilemma presents itself…

Surprises so far? Los Angeles and Buffalo, though I think Buffalo is less likely to keep pace than LA. Columbus has also surprised me, as I thought the team was a lot more solid than the numbers show.

Well, that’ll do for another twenty games.


posted by Thursday at 10:05 pm


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