The End is February 27th!
Enough of politics, science or religious insanity! Time for the important stuff: hockey.
In the West:
Got It: First in the Pacific Division… for now.
Need It: Better tending from Bryzgalov.
Buy, Sell or Rent: The Ducks GM is Brian Burke; he’s always a buyer. He’s not likely to trade for the sake of shaking them out of their recent slump, but anyone can get moved if he thinks it’s worth it.
Second Season: They’re in. They may not have as high a place as previously hoped, but they’d have to drop 16 points in 20 games not to make the playoffs.
Upcoming: They tried for Forsberg and missed; that’s the level of player they want up front. Wouldn’t mind another 5/6 defenseman, either.
Got It: Rediscovery of how to score.
Need It: A renewed commitment to defense. Yes, Kiprusoff’s back there, but losing Ference may have hurt more than they thought.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. I’m not sure why they thought they needed Stuart, as they have enough offensive defensemen with Giordano showing his skills. Maybe they’ll unload the disappointing Amonte or the total bust Friesen on someone for conditionals/cap room.
Second Season: With seven points dividing eighth (
Upcoming: Not much to do, really. They’ve got Conroy back; there’s scoring depth; the defense is as solid as any in the league. And anyone that has Kiprusoff can win any night.
Got It: Trade bait.
Need It: Time.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. With Lalime playing well in the minors and for a few games in the bigs, Khabibulin and his $6.75 million contract could be waved under the noses of insecure GMs… Lalime or Boucher could also be traded to a team looking for insurance (in declining order). Aucoin has been rumored to leave for the entire season, but with his contract and injury trouble, not much will come back.
Second Season: No chance. The future is visible, though, with some solid youth and a whole lot better luck with injuries.
Upcoming: Age, rather than contracts, could decide who stays and who goes. Veterans are always popular with buyers, so Aucoin, Smolinski, Cullimore and Lapointe are tempting targets. Havlat isn’t budging, though!
Got It: Lots and lots of unrestricted free agents (12).
Need It: Someone to take the albatross known as Theodore and his $5.5 million contract.
Buy, Sell or Rent: With two less important games left (
Second Season: If the kids can get them there, great; but some veterans are getting moved.
Upcoming: Building around Stasny, Wolski, Liles, Svatos and Budaj. And Sakic, but did that really need to be said?
Got It: Again, loads of young potential, perhaps in the NHL too soon in some cases; solid coaching; good goaltending.
Need It: Better health and young players living up to their press clippings. This is a recording.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. Carter’s already gone, and Modin is most likely to follow.
Second Season: Not this year, despite my pre-season prediction. Wow, did I blow this call. See also:
Upcoming: I expected a veteran goaltender to be brought in for Leclaire to work with, but I didn’t think it would be a veteran from the Swedish Elite league… Any more trades happening here should get signed veterans back, or these guys will have to go free-agent hunting in a big way in the off season.
Got It: Excellent goaltending, strong defense, and scoring anorexia.
Need It: Someone who would have 20 goals by now. Nagy is an okay scorer, but a much better passer. And Shane Endicott won’t be the answer.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent if they can; buy if they must. Goalies can’t actually win games, they can only tie them.
Second Season: Fairly safe bet to make it. As with
Upcoming: The opposite of last year, when the Stars were looking to pick up youth. They are in desperate need of a game breaker.
Got It: A reborn scoring touch, a brilliant-if-fragile starting goalie, and a cup-winning backup.
Need It: Toughness. Now.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy or rent. Too many players are too easily intimidated by rough play, and that’s what’s coming.
Second Season: The only questions are who they’re going to play.
Got It: Youth, speed, and the best ice in the league.
Need It: Last year’s adrenaline.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. They deny it, but when you trade your highest scoring (by far) defenseman for a younger player you don’t use in the next three games, that says you’re looking to the future.
Second Season: Slipping out of sight.
Upcoming: They were hoping that the playoff run from last year meant the future had arrived, but it’s not yet. Another year.
Got It: Some solid, young forwards; a nice goaltending tandem in Garon and LaBarbera.
Need It: A defense that looks “experienced”, rather than “just old”.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. Visnovsky is untouchable.
Second Season: No chance.
Upcoming: No illusions here: they’ve been selling since January. It’s time to pick one of Sopel (my choice), Blake, or Norstrom and rebuild a youthful defense around him and Visnovsky.
Got It: Offense. No, really. Stop laughing, I’m serious!
Need It: Same as last year, a defenseman who can find the net.
Buy, Sell or Rent: They may try to rent a quarterback this year.
Second Season: They should be in, but there are five games with
Upcoming: Not a lot of movement – teams just inside the top eight tend to be very conservative about changing chemistry.
Got It: Yes, yes they do.
Need It: Fans. Support for the team has been dropping as steadily as the team’s improvement over the years. Plus, player have to stop watching Forsberg and remember to play.
Buy, Sell or Rent: After you pick up Forsberg, anything else seems… I dunno… bland?
Second Season: Dead cert. Just a matter of if they can win their division over the increasingly confident Red Wings.
Upcoming: Two rock solid goaltenders with 9 shutouts between them; scoring from multiple sources, including some of their youngest players; immensely creative, fast forwards. Plus, they’ve just thrown the dice on someone who, when healthy, is the best player in the league. I don’t see a whole lot more movement going on here.
Got It: Um… Veteran experience?
Need It: Top-to-bottom rebuild.
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. (See also: last year at this time.)
Second Season: Not this year, and not next, either.
Upcoming: Trades for draft picks and youth. Having two streaky goaltenders may not be the best option to mentor LeNeveu…
Got It: Recovering nicely from the nightmare of 2005-2006.
Need It: Patience (still).
Buy, Sell or Rent: Sell. I know, I know: they’re a much improved team over the last X months, they still might make the playoffs this year, etc. That is the thinking that got them into this mess. Stop it.
Second Season: I said STOP IT! There has to be a plan that reaches farther than “make the playoffs”.
Upcoming: Loads of phone calls to
Got It: Rock solid goaltending (with a caveat).
Need It: More scoring on the wings.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Buy.
Second Season: Should be in, but there’s been some shaky play of late.
Upcoming: They may look for a buyer for Nabokov, as he’ll have to go sometime, with Schaeffer pushing from the minors. His numbers could get
(*Funny story: To get New Jersey under the salary cap at the beginning of the year, San Jose traded winger Alexander Korolyuk (who was playing in Russia) and 7th defenseman Jim Fahey to the Devils for injured/retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov. What they actually got was a first round pick and added payroll from Malakhov’s guaranteed contract.
Anyhow, to rectify their unbalanced scoring, the Sharks just tried to reacquire Korolyuk. He’s decided not to like how he’s been treated, though, and has refused to leave
As ye sow, so shall ye reap. End of story.)
Got It: Goaltending in spades.
Need It: A scorer up front, and another 5/6 defenseman.
Buy, Sell or Rent: Rent. The disappointments of earlier in the season (every forward but the Sedins) have started coming around in the second half.
Second Season: A 19-3-3 run has the team optimistic, and Luongo is hell bent for leather to get in for the first time in his career. They should be in.
Upcoming: GM Nonis wants to make a splash with a big catch, but doesn’t have a lot of cap room to do so. This means any player coming in is going to have to move people the other way.
Eastern Conference next!