April 16, 2006

Hockey: Missed It By That Much

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Since we know who’s out in the West (and where they’ll finish), let’s pick at the corpses to see what went horribly, horribly wrong, shall we?

C’mon! It’ll be fun!


Place: Bubble boys (9th)
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th.
What Went Wrong: Injuries, and lots of them. Two of their top three defensemen had long-term injuries, the #1 goalie likewise, and Naslund dealt with his usual nagging injuries most of the season. Finally healthy after the Olympics, but too little, too late.
What Went Right: The “Three Brothers” line (Carter and the Sedins) are now a force. Auld proved himself capable as a #1, and Baumgartner finally established himself as an NHLer 12 years after he was drafted 10th by Washington.
Money Troubles: Jovonovski and Carter are free agents, and the Sedins are restricted.
If I Were Boss: I’ve harped on this before, but Crawford simply isn’t that good a coach. I like the talent here (yes, even Cloutier) and I’d like them to return next year. Most of the core is signed, so they should be back next year. Auld and Cloutier play tandem next season, which Crawford hates doing.


Place: 10th
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th.
What Went Wrong: They knew Bure was a risk picking him up, and they got bit when he didn’t play a game for them. Demitra missed a third of the season as the usual injury plague swept through LA. Roenick had the worst season of his career, Robitaille couldn’t match last year’s numbers.
What Went Right: Goaltending was surprisingly solid, lots and lots of scoring from a young defense.
Money Troubles: Corvo is a free agent, as is Mark Parrish. Otherwise they’re in good shape financially, so maybe they can afford a triage ward for the locker room!
If I Were Boss: Lock up Cammalleri and the goalies; re-sign Corvo and Parrish; track down free agent scoring on the wings.


Place: 11th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Lots of players missed 20 or more games (White, Gaborik, Kuba, Koivu, Zyuzin, Tjarnqvist), Daigle busted again, and their best defenseman (Mitchell) wanted out.
What Went Right: Rolston had a career year, and the youth is coming along nicely, especially Foster and Bouchard.
Money Troubles: None. They offered Mitchell $12 million for four years, and he said no, so that money is getting plowed back into the system. Gaborik and Bouchard are RFAs, Kuba and Zyuzin are unrestricted. Oddly, Zyuzin is actually from the town of Ufa.
If I Were Boss: Foster is in training as a point man, but they need a defensive stopper on the blue line. Re-up the free agents listed above, then look for a hammer to keep the front of the net clear.


Place: 12th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Most of the “faults” aren’t in town any more, either through trades (Tanabe, Nedved, Kolanos, Leclerc, Boucher) or retirement (Hull), but the huge turnover hasn’t helped coordination. They were hoping not to rely on Joseph so heavily, but Boucher wasn’t up to the task. Long term injuries to Nagy and Morris didn’t help, nor coach Gretzky having his mother pass away.
What Went Right: This year was going to be a write-off anyways to allow Gretzky and GM Barnett build the team they wanted, and that’s what they did. Joseph played great for the cost, and whoever trades away Nedved wins the trade by default. Comrie stayed healthy for a full season. All the players who survived the purges have said they want to stay – a great sign.
Money Troubles: They were gearing up for next season, and are in good shape for it. Nagy, Mara and Michalek are RFAs, and Joseph and Sanderson are UFAs, and all are worth keeping.
If I Were Boss: Joseph gets re-signed. He played for minimum wage, hoping to convince a team to make him #1 next season. He didn’t probably play that well, but Sauve and LeNeveu could use a mentor, and Joseph’s at that age…


Place: 13th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Nash, Berard, Malhotra, Foote and Klesla all missed extended amounts of ice time. Three veteran defensemen down made life tough for the goalies (though Berard could never be considered a stopper…). Neither Fedorov nor Delmore did anything to help the power play, and Brule got injured before going back to juniors.
What Went Right: Youth has progressed nicely: Zherdev, Vyborny, Hainsey, Westcott, Brule, Chimera, Balastik and Leclaire will be better next year, assuming they all stay healthy. Fedorov, one hopes, will be better acclimatized.
Money Troubles: Only seven players are under contract for next season, and they’re costing $20 million. Vyborny is unrestricted, and they want him back most.
If I Were Boss: This is a pretty good mix, but I’d move Denis (RFA) out and Prusek up to the big team. I’m also not impressed with Gallant’s coaching, so he’s gone.


Place: 14th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Where to start? How about the free agents: Khabibulin, Aucoin, Dowd, Spacek, Lapointe, Cullimore, Barnaby, and (Curtis) Brown. Barnaby and Lapointe are the only ones that could not be considered disappointments this year, between injuries and sub-par seasons. Having Bill Wirtz own the team doesn’t help much either.
What Went Right: Hmm. Fun off-season, wasn’t it? In other news, Daze got another year to heal, and there is a lot of young talent here that’s on the way. Not next year, but perhaps the one after. And they aren’t St. Louis.
Money Troubles: Wirtz hates spending money, and he’ll be no more convinced to do so after seeing what happened this year. That being said, there may be a bunch of contract buy-outs and replacing with a bunch more free agents in support of the young guns coming up (Seabrook, Borque, Ruutu, Babchuk, Barber).
If I Were Boss: Some buy outs, but not many: the players had one season, now they have to suck it up and play much better. Khabibulin stays, for instance.


Place: 15th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Having owners openly shopping the team all season long isn’t going to be good. Why they sold the team the same season the new CBA comes into effect, I’m not sure; but then, I’m not worth almost $3 billion, so who am I to criticize? Otherwise, their starting two goaltenders tanked, injuries happened all up and down the lines, and most of their best players were gone before the season started.
What Went Right: Good shot at Kessel or Frolik this draft. Sanford has been a revelation, going 7-2-1 to end the season. And the depth at defense is still there.
Money Troubles: Only four players are under contract next season, unincluding Tkachuk’s option for $3.8 million, which they will pick up. The new owners can remake this team however they like.
If I Were Boss: See if I could trade down in the draft for veteran help, as this looks like a fairly shallow draft (making the highest picks more valuable), and St. Louis needs vets badly. And get Cajanek, Backman and Sanford under contract, though not for too much until Sanford proves himself for a full season.

Off to the East when the losers there are set.
Go Atlanta!


posted by Thursday at 6:10 pm


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