February 26, 2006

Hockey: They're Baaack!

With the Olympics over and the trade deadline coming up, it’s as good a time as any to review and preview the NHL.

In the West:


Got It: One of the best GMs in the game. Burke has wasted no time shaping this team to his preference.
Need It: Two more years from Scott Neidermayer for the kids to catch up.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Burke never stops looking for trades, but he’s probably had enough for this year.
Second Season: They’re close, and moving in the right direction (6-3-1 to the break). Most likely of those on the outside to bump one of the top eight off.
Upcoming: The only place this team doesn’t have big depth is in net. There’s a ridiculous amount of talent coming up, particularly at forward and especially if they can get Chistov back from Mettalurg.


Got It: An incredible defense, one through seven the best in the league; and backed by Kiprusoff.
Need It: Someone between Kiprusoff and Krahn. Young goalie Krahn has flashes of brilliance – NOT what you want in an NHL goalie, where consistency is needed, especially in a backup.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent, if anything. Huselius has played well enough to be resigned for next season, and they’ve already got most of their cap committed.
Second Season: Almost a lock for the playoffs but… Every team in their division got five wins in their past ten games, so no one’s safe until game 82 is finished.
Upcoming: Dustin Boyd is the only natural scorer in their system not with the NHL team, so they’ll be looking for finish in the off season. Again.


Got It: Some good rookies.
Need It: Some good veterans.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. Khabibulin has a ring and is due back from his sprained knee soon, though that contract ($6,750,000 nest year) is going to be a tough sale. Money could stop Lapointe from moving as well, but they’ll get phone calls about Cullimore.
Second Season: What second season? If they win every game remaining to them, they’d end the season with 94 points, good for ninth or tenth in the West.
Upcoming: Tougher if Daze retires, but there’s actually room for optimism that Chicago can improve in the next few of years. If Crawford and Babchuk pan out (Barker is making the team next year), they’ll have quite a slew of young talent. Here’s to hoping Ruutu can stay healthy.


Got It: Scoring. Again.
Need It: Consistent play from Aebischer. Very up-and-down season.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. With Konowalchuk down, they want some grit going into the playoffs.
Second Season: See Calgary. Looking for a confidence-building hot streak, but isn’t everyone?
Upcoming: Most of their young talent is with the team, especially Cy Young challenger Marek Svatos (32 goals, 18 assists) and J-M Liles. Past them, though…


Got It: Lots of young talent, some veteran leadership, okay goaltending.
Need It: Better health and a stable coach. I liked Gallant as a player, but I don’t think he’s doing this team any favours. See if Dave King is interested, or Ted Nolan.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. The Fedorov-Zherdev experiment isn’t working, so Fedorov is available, as are defencemen Richardson, Pushor, and Hulse for net-clearing, of Delmore if a team needs a point man. Prusek and/or Denis could go, too.
Second Season: Not this year, despite GM’s pre-season prediction. Without injuries, they may well have made the playoffs.
Upcoming: Brule is on the team next year, giving them two solid lines… for as long as they last. Looking to add a veteran goalie for Leclaire to understudy, playing a 45-37 game split.


Got It: Team Finland. They have six Finns playing major roles on the team.
Need It: A young goaltender. Turco and Hedberg have done a fantastic job, but after them the cupboard is bare.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. They’ve got the most salary committed for next year of any team, so there’s not much room to add, and it’s unlikely they’ll drop players before the playoffs.
Second Season: They’re baaaack! One of the deepest teams right now, they’re talent is all in the NHL right now, so they’re looking to win.
Upcoming: They’ll want to get some prospects, so they may trade veterans so they can sign Ott and Daley; but only after the playoffs.


Got It: Um… How long can I make this list?
Need It: A young offensive defenseman to understudy Lidstrom and Schneider when they – oh, wait, that’s Kronwall. Um. Give me a sec… Oh yes: someone to convince Yzerman it’s time to go – like his doctor, perhaps.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Who needs to?
Second Season: They’re in. The only questions are who they’re going to play and whether they can hold off Dallas for the best record in the West.
Upcoming: They could add a goalie, a defenseman, and two centres next year, all their own draft picks. Their AHL team is the best in the West, and they haven’t had a draft pick higher than 29th in six years, and the rest were 58th or later. The best scouting and development in the league, no question.


Got It: Youth, speed, and the best ice in the league.
Need It: Their own AHL team (they share with Montreal).
Buy, Sell or Rent: Possibly renting for the stretch, but they won’t want to give up much.
Second Season: The kids are coming together, and if Morrison and Markkanen can stabilize the goaltending, they should get in. But they’re sitting in 8th right now in a crazy division (see Calgary).
Upcoming: Centre Rob Schremp got sent back to his minor team after almost making the Oilers; in response, he’s got 32 goals and 42 assists in 27 games. My.


Got It: Scoring from a lot of different players – tough to shut that down.
Need It: Consistent goaltending and/or a shut-down defenseman.
Buy, Sell or Rent: In the off season, sure, but not yet.
Second Season: At the greatest risk of slipping out of the playoffs, but that could be the price this year to keep the youth here for seasons to come.
Upcoming: This summer they’ll need a veteran to take the place of Roenick and Robitaille, to whom they should give a thanks, a handshake, and an invitation to visit the team whenever they want.


Got It: Goaltending (of course) and a great coach.
Need It: A veteran point man. Zyuzin’s got 7 goals, which is nice, but he’s also only got 9 assists. Foster is auditioning for the role, but they need someone this year.
Buy, Sell or Rent: All the above. Roloson and Fernandez are both free agents next year, so one could go now to fill a need, but they’d need a solid backup in return, as Harding will need another year before he’s ready for the NHL.
Second Season: They’re in tough to make the playoffs, but it’s certainly possible if the predicted trades work out.
Upcoming: Centre Patrick O’Sullivan is closest to joining the big team, where the Wild are already deep. He may get pushed to wing, or a trade could involve Chouinard, White or Robitaille.


Got It: Grit, goaltending, scoring from two lines and defense.
Need It: A better record outside their own weak division.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Probably nothing – they already picked up Sillinger for depth, though he hasn’t quite fit in yet.
Second Season: They’ll make it, and they play everyone hard. Whoever ends up as their opponent will feel like they lost the series, whatever the results.
Upcoming: There could be four players from Milwaukee playing for Nashville next year, but the team’s good enough that only a couple would stick (Upshall and Finley).


Got It: Grinding, defensive forwards.
Need It: Scoring. Losing Nagy and Morris has been brutal.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. There are few players who aren’t available, and several that are playoff veterans. Doan’s not going anywhere, though.
Second Season: Outside chance, being ten points out, but I don’t think so. Their recent trades haven’t pulled them up in the standings, so they’ll pull the plug.
Upcoming: Matt Jones and LeNeveu are joining the team next year.


Got It: Injuries, sale of the team, a blown 25-year playoff run.
Need It: Patience.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Most of the moves are done, but they may put up another defenseman or two; most likely Weinrich or Salvador when he’s back.
Second Season: A 25-year stretch is broken; maybe now they won’t feel pressure to make the playoffs every season and can plan farther into the future than one year.
Upcoming: Perhaps Woywitka, but that’s it for a while. The thing about making the playoffs is the draft pick you get… Speaking of which, they have a shot at Kessel or Frolik. Neither should be in the league next year, though.


Got It: Stabilized goaltending, lots of young enthusiasm.
Need It: A point man. That was Stuart, but his trade helped bring Thornton, so…
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy. They’re looking for a point man, but they need a keeper, not a rental. Either Nabokov of Toskala may go, and Nabokov has the bigger (read: harder to move) contract.
Second Season: Seven points back of LA with four games in hand, they do have a chance at getting in. However, they’ll have to crawl over three teams to do so.
Upcoming: Not a lot for next year, as much of the youth is already being served with the Sharks. Schaeffer is up next year to back up whoever is still around.


Got It: Multiple Personality Disorder. They don’t know if they’re a finesse team or grinders.
Need It: A therapist, perhaps? A new coach, certainly.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Unless Ouellet picks up a shutout (or close to it) in his next two chances, Vancouver will be looking to rent a veteran goaltender.
Second Season: They should make it in (see Calgary), and both Cloutier and Jovanovski could be available by then.
Upcoming: Two noticeable players at the World Juniors in Vancouver this year were Canuck draft picks, Goalie Schneider and Defenseman Luc Bourdon. Bourdon may come up next year, but more likely both will be in Manitoba. Sniper Jason King is back from a concussion, and should make the team next year.


posted by Thursday at 12:41 pm


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