January 25, 2007

Stretch It Out

Did I say “tomorrow” for the rest of the league? Ah. Well, what I actually meant was “when I get to it”, so here (late) it is:


What Works: Pronger and Niedermayer are having no problems splitting time.
What Doesn’t: Bryzgalov hasn’t been as steady as they want (.888 SV%).
What Else: Only two wins in their last nine games before the break might worry some folk who called for them to win the Cup. It shouldn’t.
What’s Coming: Pronger, eventually. Foot problems are not ones that should be rushed back from, and there’s no fear that the Ducks will miss the playoffs while he’s gone.
Now What: There may be a slight tweak, but nothing really needs doing here. Beauchemin is coming back in ten days or so, so the team is healthy and ready for the playoff stretch.


What Works: Some young call-ups (Giordano, Boyd, Moss) filling in just fine for injured veterans.
What Doesn’t: Special teams. Both PP and PK are at 25th in the league.
What Else: Perfect timing for the All Star break, with Iginla coming back during the lay off.
What’s Coming: There are a few extra pieces that could be moved, but the question is how much depth do you risk, and for what return?
Now What: The Northwest division is stupidly tight, so the folks who think they can make the playoffs aren’t going to move much at all, and that includes Calgary.


What Works: Lighting candles to Our Lady of Perpetual Injury for Havlat.
What Doesn’t: Forgetting to light them for Bondra, Handzus, Aucoin, Cullimore…
What Else: This is a team in the first half of a bounceback – this is the bit that hurts.
What’s Coming: With health (thank you, Havlat!) comes the skill. Well out of the playoff reach, but rebuilding, so the continued development of youth is to be looked for.
Now What: Just hoping for steady improvement through the season, but now with the newly stable Khabibulin.


What Works: Saying “Sakic” again is getting predictable; I’ll say that an actual youth movement is going on impresses me.
What Doesn’t: Losing Turgeon for 30 games would have hurt more if Stastny wasn’t this stable.
What Else: Theodore is officially the second goaltender, despite Budaj’s inconsistency. But if he can string three strong games together, that can change.
What’s Coming: A trade. They’ve surprised themselves with their forward depth, and can make a move to scratch a little higher in the standings.
Now What: With the closeness of the division, teams have to decide if they have enough to make the playoffs. Colorado doesn’t quite, but that can change with a phone call.


What Works: Having Nash around for most of the season (so far); Carter picking up his offensive game considerably over the first quarter.
What Doesn’t: Having him score 13 goals in 41 games. Not good.
What Else: Berard should have been back before now, and his absence killed them.
What’s Coming: Trade. No playoffs this year, damn it. So much for that prediction.
Now What: These guys are selling, and it’s only a question of what assets they can afford to ship. Is it time to send Klesla elsewhere? Should Foote be shipped to a contender who will pay heavily for the workhorse? Will anyone, anywhere, take Fedorov?


What Works: Defenseman Boucher continuing (13 goals, 33 points) where he left off last season (16 goals, 43 points) and improving it.
What Doesn’t: Long-term injuries to their best forwards, Modano and Morrow.
What Else: The goaltending has been solid, and best are pretty good Turco is treating his back up (Smith) a lot better than he was treated when he backed up Belfour.
What’s Coming: Ott should come back from recuperating in the AHL, taking ice time from Ribero and Stefan. This is a good thing, but none are true #1 centers, and Lindros is fragile.
Now What: A trade is possible, but there have been repeated injury problems this year, and they may not be able to afford the depth. They need scoring up front, and Klemm could be someone else’s insurance package; or Sydor could man a power play.


What Works: Being in the improved but still weak Central division.
What Doesn’t: A slow start to the season.
What Else: It took until January 17th, but someone finally caught Cleary for the team scoring lead.
What’s Coming: The team’s pretty much rebounded from trying to follow the new, more defensive playbook and the absence of Steve Yzerman.
Now What: Probably not a lot of movement. The biggest concern is getting to the playoffs with a healthy Hasek. *nod to Ottawa*


What Works: The term “Balls Out” is apparently used in Finland to mean “a great deal of exertion”. Ryan Smyth needs a cup outside his jersey.
What Doesn’t: Horcoff and Torres need to help a lot more than 8 goals each.
What Else: Markkanen is a serviceable back up to Roloson, which is pretty much where he should be.
What’s Coming: The Oilers are still stinging a little from the forced Pronger trade, and may hesitate before pulling the trigger again.
Now What: Vancouver, with 8-1-1 stretch, and Calgary, going 7-3 at the same time, managed to open up the largest lead the division has seen this year between first and last: 6 points. Edmonton is going to wait until much closer to the deadline before moving.


What Works: Young guns. Frolov, Cammeleri and the shockingly good Kopitar are an optimistic development.
What Doesn’t: Using five goalies, with 32 games to go.
What Else: In picking up Burke, the team has a stable netminder who can go through hot streaks and is an excellent presence in the room.
What’s Coming: Burke is too little, much too late for a team with the worst goals against outside Philadelphia.
Now What: Have to wait and see what GM Lombardi wants to do. As a new GM, the temptation is to start from scratch as much as possible, so there may me an explosion in LA soon…


What Works: Rolston just loves playing for the Wild – he’s on pace for another 35 goal season.
What Doesn’t: Backstrom is falling under the Curse of the Back Up: he’s got better numbers than Fernandez, but the goal support isn’t there for him.
What Else: Despite coach Lamaire hinting that he was going to loosen the reins a bit, the Wild will finish this year with fewer goals that last season.
What’s Coming: Another almost-team. They’ll wait until much closer to the deadline before making a move (if they are still out of a playoff spot).
Now What: A cautious team in play and in the GM office, they’re going to hope Gaborik jump starts the offence before thinking trade or call up.


What Works: Having an 18-3-3 home record.
What Doesn’t: Hamhuis’ numbers are down after signing a 4-year, $8 million deal.
What Else: A solid team top to bottom. Tootoo needs to pick his spots better, though.
What’s Coming: Don’t see the need for a lot of change here.
Now What: Set it on cruise control and start thinking about the playoffs.


What Works: Picking up cast offs. Comrie, Tellqvist in trades and Perrault off waivers have worked out perfectly.
What Doesn’t: Roenick as a healthy scratch. Time to go, JR.
What Else: Joseph and Tellqvist will tandem the rest of the season, with Tellqvist getting the bulk of starts.
What’s Coming: Odds are against the playoffs because of lack of depth, but they knew that going in. No one happy with their team was going to take a flyer on Nolan, Saprykin and Roenick.
Now What: If they can dump off vets for youth/picks, they’ll do it. Except perhaps for Joseph, as the Coyotes still aren’t sure about LeNeveu.


What Works: Going 7-2-1 into the break.
What Doesn’t: Still not enough points coming from the defense.
What Else: It’s a year for auditions, and Legace and Sanford are pitching for long term contracts. They deserve them, too.
What’s Coming: St. Louis is a fantastic hockey town, and the fans will come back if they can see progress. But the fire sale wounds are still fresh, and while it might make sense to trade Guerin or Tkachuk, there may be a revolt if it happened.
Now What: The playoffs aren’t happening this year, but that’s not what the fans are looking for. The team is restocking, and they know it.


What Works: A fantastic goaltending duel between Toskala and Nabokov.
What Doesn’t: Ryane Clowe spelling is first name with an “e”. The hell’s with that?
What Else: Far and away the best power play in the league.
What’s Coming: A lock for the playoffs, they may be looking for someone with more of a hammer from the point, but not at the expense of any rostered players.
Now What: Mostly a waiting game until the second season starts. They may try playing rookie Vlasic 50 minutes one game, just to see if he’ll ever break.


What Works: Learning how to pronounce Bieksa’s name.
What Doesn’t: Henrik Sedin’s 40 assists is great, but more than 5 goals would be nice, too.
What Else: Both Morrison and Naslund are headed for their worst statistical seasons since 1999-2000. That was Bertuzzi’s first full season with the Canucks.
What’s Coming: Lord knows. I didn’t expect them to get this far!
Now What: They’re up hard against the cap, so movement is going to involve salaries as much as it is players. With Luongo getting into the swing of things, the playoffs are a real possibility. He might be a desiccated husk by then, though, without goaltending help.

A note to anyone who argues that goals are what make hockey exciting: you didn’t watch that atrocious “Young Stars” game, didn’t you?


posted by Thursday at 1:07 am


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