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Daily Archives: January 17, 2013

NHL 2013 Preview: Northwest Division

Posted on by Harrison Mooney in Featured, News | Comments Off

After previewing the Atlantic, Central, and Northeast, Puck Daddy turns its attention to the Northwest Division, starring the Vancouver Canucks and a cluster of bubble teams with a boatload of question marks.

The division sees a serious influx of talent in 2013, with veteran all-stars Ryan Suter and Zach Parise joining Minnesota, rookie sensations Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz coming to Edmonton, and Calgary and Colorado beefing up with pricey free-agent acquisitions like P.A. Parenteau, Dennis Wideman, and Jiri Hudler. The Northwest has been a weak division for a few years now, but there shouldn’t be a real pushover in the bunch this time around.

That said, the Northwest could still see as little as one team graduate to the postseason. The Canucks are all but a lock to win another Division title, but Edmonton, Minnesota, Colorado and Calgary are all bubble teams. A few could eke into the playoffs or none could. And frankly, the order in which they finish is anybody’s guess. It depends on how well the new acquisitions mesh and who gets off to a hot start in the short year.

Unfortunately, we have to make some predictions. So let’s start with the easy one and work our way down.

Vancouver Canucks
Last Year’s Record: 51-22-9 (111 points)
Coach: Alain Vigneault
Pre-Lockout Preview: “The Canucks remain one of the league’s best teams and they should be right in the mix for their third Presidents’ Trophy. But at this point, the regular season couldn’t be more inconsequential. Just as it was last year, their entire season will be defined by the shorter season that comes after it. If it’s too short, the entire campaign is a wash.”
What’s Changed: Ryan Kesler and David Booth are injured to begin the season. Cory Schneider looks to be the incumbent starter, unless something crazy happens with Roberto Luongo, which wouldn’t come as a shock.
Pivotal Player: The Canucks’ season begins and ends with the health of Ryan Kesler. The second-line centre will miss the beginning of the season as he recovers from a series of upper-body surgeries, and the speed and effectiveness with which he returns is paramount. If he can find the form from two years ago — or better yet, two years ago in the playoffs — the Canucks have to be considered a favourite. If he can’t, then they’re an impact player away from a chance to win it all.
Player That Benefits Most From 48-Game Season: Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The twins tend to come back from the summer with a new bag of tricks, so fewer opportunities for their opponents to scout their latest moves is a good thing. Plus they’re getting older, and a shorter season should help with their freshness come playoff time.
Prediction: First.

Edmonton Oilers
Last Year’s Record: 32-40-10 (74 points)
Coach: Ralph Krueger
Pre-Lockout Preview: “The Oilers will flirt with a playoff spot, and with healthy seasons from Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, strong rookie campaigns from the new recruits, continued development, some residual lottery luck, and a renewed commitment to two-way play under new coach Ralph Krueger, they might even get one. But that’s a lot of stuff that has to go right. I don’t see it happening. A seventh straight season in ninth or lower awaits.”
What’s Changed: During the lockout, most of the Oilers’ core played together in Oklahoma. They should start strong, with a little more chemistry than some other teams.
Player That Benefits Most From 48-Game Season: Taylor Hall. The Oilers winger was able to work his way back from shoulder surgery slowly, then in the AHL, so he should be fully up to speed. Plus he destroys himself over the course of the season, so less time to chip away at his overall health could mean he’s actually healthy down the stretch.
Prediction: Second. I wrote Edmonton’s pre-lockout preview and predicted the Oilers would finish just outside the playoffs, but now I’ll say just inside. The chemistry advantage should allow them a strong start, and Schultz and Yakupov look to have more of an immediate impact than I expected.

Colorado Avalanche
Last Year’s Record: 41-35-6 (88 points)
Coach: Joe Sacco
Pre-Lockout Preview: “I thought the Avalanche were a playoff team last year, and I think a year of development for that young core will do wonders. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlamov will all be better, and that should be enough. The Avalanche aren’t going to set the world on fire, especially with their issues on defence, but I can see them holding strong down the stretch this time around and eking out a 7th or 8th place finish.”
What’s Changed: While most of the players came home from the KHL, Ryan O’Reilly didn’t, because he still doesn’t have a contract. Gabriel Landeskog was named the youngest captain in NHL history.
Pivotal Player: Really, it’s O’Reilly. If Colorado can’t get him signed, an iffy defensive team becomes incredibly iffy. They can’t afford to be without him. But since he’s not on the team right now, I’ll say Erik Johnson, who needs to be a more consistent presence on both ends of the ice for the Avalanche to contend.
Player That Benefits Most From 48-Game Season: Milan Hejduk, because he’s old.
Prediction: Third, and vying for the final playoff spot.

Minnesota Wild
Last Year’s Record: 35-36-11 (81 points)
Coach: Mike Yeo
Pre-Lockout Preview: “It should go without saying that the Wild will be better. Parise and Suter are impact players that will help the Wild drive possession in the right direction, improve that abysmal 2.02 goals per game average, and help the Wild contend on any given night. But they’re still not a playoff team, not yet. That should come next year, when a few more of their other high-end prospects like Charlie Coyle, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba join the team and fill out the thin depth chart below the stars. The Wild’s future is bright, but another year on the outside of the playoff bubble is in the offing.”
What’s Changed: Wild fans are still plenty excited about their two high-profile signings, even with a lockout pushing their debut back four months. They had over 13,000 fans attend a scrimmage Wednesday. And Pierre-Marc Bouchard is healthy.
Pivotal Player: Ryan Suter. Shea Weber’s been the Nashville Predators’ star and Suter’s always been seen as his right-hand man (on the left side), but now Suter’s out on his own. He’ll find Jared Spurgeon a little less elite than Weber, so it’ll be up to him to lead that pairing and the Wild’s defence as a whole. For Minnesota to contend, Suter needs to play at an elite level himself.
Player That Benefits Most From 48-Game Season: Pierre-Marc Bouchard was able to use the lockout to finally get past his post-concussion symptoms. “I kind of needed that,” he told the Associated Press. “It wasn’t a great situation for anybody — don’t get me wrong here — but it gave me a little bit more time to make sure I healed properly.”
Prediction: Fourth. The Wild will contend for a playoff spot but they’ll fall just short.

Calgary Flames
Last Year’s Record: 37-29-16 (90 points)
Coach: Bob Hartley
Pre-Lockout Preview: “The Flames are a much different team last year, and if everything goes well, they could be better too. But I’d wager that, despite spending heavily in the summer, they find themselves in about the same position in the spring: fighting for a playoff spot as the schedule winds down.”
What’s Changed: Jarome Iginla hurt his groin and then got better. Roman Cervenka came down with a blood clot and is out indefinitely.
Pivotal Player: Miikka Kiprusoff. This team is so weak down centre ice that Cervenka’s injury is a body blow to their hopes, and teams weak in the middle tend to give up a lot of shots. Hence, Kiprusoff will be called on to stop a lot of shots. His play will determine Calgary’s entire season.
Player That Benefits Most From 48-Game Season: Still Kiprusoff. The Flames’ netminder won’t have much help in goal, since the Flames’ brass don’t seem impressed with either Leland Irving or Henrik Karlsson. That means Kiprusoff will be doing what he usually does — playing a lot of games. Thankfully, this season only has 48.
Prediction: Fifth. The Flames made some moves to punch up the roster, but I don’t think it will matter. The team is spinning its wheels while the rest of the division improves.

Watch a backyard ice rink come together in 28,000 time-lapse photos (VIDEO)

Posted on by Harrison Mooney in Featured, News | Comments Off

I don’t know about you, but it’s always been my dream to one day have a backyard ice rink. (It dovetails beautifully with my wife’s dream to one day have a backyard.) But today, I think I’ll look into a new dream.
The reason: this incredible, backyard…

Mystery of Perry, Getzlaf; Roberto Luongo chatter; Pierre McGuire on 2013 season (Puck Headlines)

Posted on by Greg Wyshynski in Featured, News | Comments Off

Here are your Puck Headlines: a glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media.

Getty ImagesIn which the New York Islanders are left wondering why they’re a one-model team. [Getty]

• Craig Custance looks at the biggest storyline for 2013: Where Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf will play in 2014 and beyond. [E$PN]

• “They’ve been Anaheim Ducks from the start. I love those guys. They’re winners, and I’m going to do everything in my power to sign them.” [AP]

• Your New Jersey Devils captain: Bryce Salvador! [Fire & Ice]

• Thus ends the Tim Connolly Error with the Toronto Maple Leafs, as the fragile center is placed on waivers. [Toronto Sun]

• The Dallas Stars make their celebrity hirings official: “Mike Modano, who re-joins the club as Executive Advisor and Alternate Governor. Three-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi has been hired to bolster the hockey operations department, while former Stars goaltender Marty Turco brings his unique talents to the club’s broadcasts.” So upset that Recchi is being given a job on the medical staff he so richly deserves. [Heika]

• The Chicago Blackhawks see your lockout bribe to the fans and raise you 1,000 jerseys and 250 pucks. [Blackhawks]

• As Bob McKenzie does, he has all the waiver wire action from today in the NHL, including Mike Santorelli and both Calgary backup goalies. [@TSNBobMcKenzie]

Andreas Lilja is on waivers. In other news, the Philadelphia Flyers still have no idea how the CBA works. [BSH]

• Then again, our coverage of the Travis Zajac contract yesterday proves we don’t either. [McSorley’s Stick]

• Lighthouse Hockey has been doing some surreal parody pieces lately, and “The Rick DiPietro Injury History is a Hoax” is no different. [LH]

• Meanwhile, Bourne recasts DiPi has Jesus Christ with a wonky groin. [BHS]

Roberto Luongo’s fake Gmail account is pretty damn funny. [The Whistle]

• The “Luongo Rule” won’t affect the Vancouver Canucks’ ability to trade Roberto Luongo, said the team that gave him that contract. [The Province]

• The Seth Jones/Nathan MacKinnon rivalry grows. [Buzzing The Net]

• No Ryan Strome for the New York Islanders makes us a little less excited about watching the New York Islanders. [Welland Tribune]

• Hey, remember how the Columbus Blue Jackets got three NHL players in return for Rick Nash. Make it two. [FS Ohio]

• Great news if you want more Don Cherry in your life. [Star]

• Cotsonika on the St. Louis Blues: “And it will help that they can roll four lines and lean on their structure. They have a Norris Trophy candidate leading their defense in Alex Pietrangelo, and they can rotate Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak in net. They had the equivalent of two No. 1 goalies last season, as Elliott and Halak shared the Jennings Trophy for the NHL’s lowest goals-against average. If one falters, they always have the other one.” [Y! Sports]

• Not every Pittsburgh business is thriving because the Penguins are back: “I think it’s because we are a health food place and people would rather have their beer and wings on a game night then a salad,” Salad Café Owner Sarah Spencer said. [CBS Local]

• Finally … are you ready? Are you ready for PIERRE MCGUIRE FOR DAT AZZ?

Fantasy Hockey: Training Camp Battles, Eastern Conference

Posted on by Dobber Hockey in Featured, News | Comments Off

Getty

Darryl “Dobber” Dobbs is Puck Daddy’s resident fantasy hockey expert. Dobber can be criticized and ridiculed over at his own site, too. Follow him on Twitter (@DobberHockey), but only if you like cool tidbits on player trends.

Some interesting camp battles this year, especially with the field narrowed before camps even begin thanks to the rush to get the puck dropped. Things are happening quickly, so that “Dammit!” moment that you get every year when a guy you drafted gets cut will happen before you can say “Niederreiter”.

Here are some key battles taking place on teams in the Eastern Conference. We’ll take a look at the West tomorrow because those teams aren’t as important.

(Just getting my friends out west all riled up. Like shooting fish in a barrel.)

Alright, let’s get to it.

Boston Bruins

The battle: Dougie Hamilton vs. Dennis Seidenberg

The stakes: PP time.

The lowdown: As good as Hamilton is, teams generally don’t give teenagers top billing on the power play. As hard as it is to believe, Seidenberg saw 2:36 of power play time each game on average in 2011-12. How someone can do that and fail to reach the 25-point mark is beyond me. But if Hamilton can earn the trust of Coach Claude Julien, it will mean the difference between 10 and 25 points in this shortened season.

My call: Hamilton by decision

Buffalo Sabres

The battle: Tyler Ennis vs. Cody Hodgson vs. Steve Ott vs. Mikhail Grigorenko

The stakes: Key ice time

The lowdown: Logic dictates that Ennis and Hodgson will be 1-2. And with Ott as the perfect third-line center, where does that leave Grigorenko? He’s making waves in training camp and sticking him on your fourth line is like putting on a pair of nicely-polished dress shoes to go out in the yard and scoop up doggie doo after it stops raining. There’s probably 125 points up for grabs between the four of them, and where they play and who they play will determine distribution.

My call: Ennis or Hodgson will get hurt early, because they often do. Either that, or Ott will be moved to the wing. Because Grigorenko should make this team and at the very least play on the third line.

Carolina Hurricanes

The battle: Zach Boychuk vs. Drayson Bowman

The stakes: A top nine spot, with cameos on the first line

The lowdown: Bowman passed Boychuk on the depth chart last year and played fairly well for Carolina down the stretch. But Boychuk has had a resurgence of sorts with a strong start in the AHL. If one of them can stick on the third line, they’ll gain the experience needed for another shot on the Eric Staal line. The winner could top 20 or 25 points, while the loser will end up with as few as, well zero.

My call: Boychuk by TKO

Florida Panthers

The battle: Alexei Kovalev vs. Marek Svatos vs. Drew Shore

The stakes: An NHL job

The lowdown: Svatos took last season off because nobody wanted him he was recuperating from all the injuries that had been piling on for the two years prior. This is his last kick at the can, and the can was kicked: He was released from his PTO on Thursday. Kovalev struggled last season with KHL’s Moscow Oblast Atlant, notching just six points in 22 games. But now that he’s 40, I’m sure he’ll do much better. Shore has been Florida’s best skater with San Antonio, but he’s only 21 and the team can wait for him.

My call: Kovalev will win. And subsequently get re-hated by fantasy owners when he lets them down again.

Montreal Canadiens

The battle: Alex Galchenyuk vs. Lars Eller

The stakes: Power-play time

The lowdown: Galchenyuk is probably the best all-around player in this year’s rookie crop and he has offensive upside that will translate to the pros sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Eller has been developing at a pace typical of most good prospects and is on the cusp of taking that big step forward. With Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Erik Cole and Tomas Plekanec having spots sewn up, and veterans Rene Bourque and Brian Gionta also getting leaned on, there won’t be enough PP time to hand out to two more players.

My call: This will be a close one, but Galchenyuk by decision. Eller will have to force off one of the vets or wait another year.

New Jersey Devils

The battle: Bobby Butler vs. Dainius Zubrus vs. David Clarkson

The stakes: Two spots available in the top six

The lowdown: Clarkson plays a game that will fit in well on a checking line. Then again, the guy scored 30 goals last year. Zubrus boasts a two-way game that can see him slotted on any line. Butler is…well, it’s top six or bust for Butler, who tallied 20 points in his last 18 AHL contests.

My call: Butler and Clarkson. Butler will at least get a few games to prove himself.

New York Islanders

The battle: Brad Boyes vs. Michael Grabner

The stakes: Power-play time.

The lowdown: Brad Boyes has watched his numbers nosedive faster than our interest in Lance Armstrong. He needs this. Now that Kyle Okposo is back on the John Tavares line, Boyes needs all the power-play time he can get. Michael Grabner is looking to bounce back from a down year.

My call: It’s entirely possible that these guys will form a second line. As long as it doesn’t morph into a “third line”, their numbers should each top the 25-point mark.

GettyNew York Rangers

The battle: Chris Kreider vs. Carl Hagelin

The stakes: A top six job.

The lowdown: Kreider’s game is suited for the NHL. Which is good because he sure sucked in the AHL. Seriously, just two points in his last 19 games for Connecticut. I don’t care how much of the “other stuff” he brought to the team during that span, he was outscored by Andrew Yogan. Just the fact that he got a training camp invite after laying that kind of egg is a testament to how highly he’s thought of by team brass. Meanwhile, Hagelin really sucked for the Rangers as soon as Kreider joined the team in the postseason back in April. If Hagelin wins this, he’ll triple the points he would get otherwise and Kreider will go back to the minors. If Kreider wins this, then, uh, the opposite of that.

My call: Against John Tortorella’s better judgment, he’ll keep Kreider for a few games at least.

Ottawa Senators

The battle: Guillaume Latendresse vs. his fragility

The stakes: An NHL career

The lowdown: The good news? Latendresse has 33 goals in his last 82 games. The bad news? That’s over the course of three seasons. Concussion, hip, groin and back injuries have taken a toll on the young power forward. He has so much potential if he could stay healthy – as in 20 goals and 30-plus points easily in a 48-game season.

My call: I’d be hard-pressed not to bet on another injury.

Philadelphia Flyers

The battle: Jakub Voracek vs. Brayden Schenn

The stakes: That precious spot on the Claude Giroux line

The lowdown: Schenn is the man so far, and he’s doing very well. Then again, doesn’t Giroux make everyone look good? (I’m looking right at you Scott Hartnell) That being said, Schenn showed excellent chemistry with Daniel Briere in the postseason and where is Briere now? That’s right – he’s sidelined. So I’m not judging this battle over until the portly lady sings. Meanwhile, Voracek would make a great fit replacing countryman Jaromir Jagr, who played with Giroux last year. The winner can tack on a good 15 points to their totals this season.

My call: Schenn for training camp and the first five or six games, then Voracek the rest of the way. I guess that means Schenn wins the “camp battle”.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The battle: Eric Tangradi vs. Beau Bennett vs. Tyler Kennedy

The stakes: Nothing big. Oh wait, that Malkin and Neal thing.

The lowdown: Tangradi has been less than impressive thus far in his pro career, while Bennett has done very well in the short time he’s been a pro. But Tangradi is older, more experienced and probably more ready. Meanwhile, Kennedy is a solid 45-point third-liner who can sub in on a scoring line if needed.

My call: The default for Pittsburgh is always the vanilla “go with the veteran guy you know”. So Kennedy.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The battle: Cory Conacher vs. Benoit Pouliot

The stakes: A spot in the top six

The lowdown: Conacher is the reigning AHL MVP and is impressing in training camp on a line with Vinnie Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. Pouliot is a former first-round draft pick (three picks after Crosby) who has developed very slowly. But Pouliot is coming off a career high 16 goals and plus-18 rating. The winner here could very well reach 30 points.

My call: Conacher in a first-round knockout.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The battle: Nazem Kadri vs. Clarke MacArthur vs. Nikolai Kulemin vs. Tyler Bozak

The stakes: Power-play time

The lowdown: Assuming four of the six forward spots (two PP units) are taken, there are two spots left for these four. And if Tim Connolly gets some chances, then things will be even tougher. Nobody wants Nazem Kadri to thrive more than Brian Burke Dave Nonis Bell/Rogers Media Randy Carlyle his father the fans, so he’s feeling the pressure.

My call: Kadri and Bozak, leaving MacArthur and Kulemin with sub-par years again.

Washington Capitals

The battle: Wojtek Wolski vs. Eric Fehr for a top six spot

The stakes: A future in the NHL

The lowdown: Wolski was drafted 21st overall in 2004 and has a 65-point year under his belt. Fehr was drafted 18th overall in 2003 and has a 21-goal season under his belt. Neither of them impressed these last two seasons, thanks in part to laziness injuries, but also inconsistency. It’s go time – failure to put up decent stats will mean an AHL or European contract in 2013-14.

My call: Fehr will win, play three games, twist something and put himself out of the lineup. Then Wolski will take over and salvage his career.

Winnipeg Jets

The battle: Mark Scheifele vs. Alexander Burmistrov

The stakes: A third-line job

The lowdown: Five spots are locked in – Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler, Olli Jokinen and Andrew Ladd. You can probably give Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kyle Wellwood another three spots. That leaves one spot for the slower developing Burmistrov or the hotshot prospect Scheifele. Even from the third line, I think either one of them could get 20 points this year.

My call: The Jets don’t need Scheifele to make his mark now. But they need Burmistrov to show something. So him.

Pick up my Fantasy Hockey Guide here – all are based on the 48-game season and frequently updated with injury notes.

Dobber can be criticized and ridiculed over at his own site, too. Follow him on Twitter (@DobberHockey), but only if you like cool tidbits on player trends.