04 October 2007

quick picks

I like San Jose to come out of the top-heavy West...and it's hard to argue against Ottawa in the East (and winning it all, finally). I think Buffalo and Pittsburgh are the only other two that at this point wouldn't be upsets to win the East.

Team I wanted to pick for the playoffs: Montreal.

Sidney Crosby for the Ross and Hart (bold, I know. But I did pick him for both last year so I've earned it. Or something....). Jay Bouwmeester for the Norris (but likely to Nik Lidstrom again because Detroit could win 60 and rack up great individual numbers playing in that amateur division). Roberto Luongo for Vezina. Peter Mueller (Phoenix) for Calder. Phoenix has the potential to be legendarily-awful this year, and I think they'll need to put the vastly talented Mueller out there for big minutes each game to give the "fans" something to cheer.

25 September 2007


Obviously my posting has been sporadic at best of late, when it should be ramping up (season starts in four days....). I've decided that I need a short but officially clean break for a while. To those (~3 people...) that do read, keep in touch via e-mail. I'll still be checking on the links listed in the blogroll below (right column) on a fairly regular basis and hope to be back soon.

...and I do have a shell of a prediction article - I should post that at some point so I can laugh at it in spring.

Enjoy the opening of the season - and I'll hopefully be back posting by the end of the month.

23 September 2007

Experts league

Click here for our league home page.

Click here for draft results.

We're going with the same format as last year, with G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP for offence and W, GAA, SV% for goalies.

I've got drafts the next 2 nights and then I'll be finishing up my season intro article with predictions on standings, since it went so well last year.

20 September 2007

Experts draft tonight...

As described in this post, I'm back in the industry experts league - our draft is tonight at 8:30pm EDT. With 14 teams this year, I have the opportunity to actually do *worse* than last year's cellar finish (12th place).

I'll post draft results tonight or tomorrow.

UPDATE: Roberto Luongo goes first! to Rotoworld. Shocker - Scott Cullen of TSN is thrilled as Sidney Crosby falls to him at the second spot. Goalies are going fast as Miikka Kiprusoff went #3. I got Joe Thornton with the 5th pick. And there are now 15 in the league. 285 players overall. I'd better start brewing some coffee...

...Earliest goalie run ever...6 goalies gone in the first round. I need to take one on the way back to me...(although Jason Spezza is still available).. Nick Backstrom gone. wow.

Spezza went 4 pix before me - dammit. With 10 of the first 22 picks being goalies though, I had no choice but to jump on that train and I managed to grab Ryan Miller at the 26th spot.

No less than 12 goalies are gone, and the 2nd round isn't complete.

Amazingly i got Daniel Alfredsson in the 3rd round. Fantastic.

UPDATE: 3rd round, 17 goalies are gone. With each of the 15 teams needing 2 goalies in the starting lineup, i've got to get another #1 right here. Peter Budaj is available, i'm up in 7 picks. It's either him or Cam Ward.

...I got Budaj. Unlike last year, my goalies are set.



View All
Round Pick Player Position
1. (5) Joe Thornton C
2. (26) Ryan Miller G
3. (35) Daniel Alfredsson RW
4. (56) Peter Budaj G
5. (65) Maxim Afinogenov RW
6. (86) Zdeno Chara D
7. (95) Nathan Horton C
8. (116) Brendan Shanahan LW
9. (125) Chris Neil RW
10. (146) Martin Straka C
11. (155) Wojtek Wolski LW
12. (176) Francois Beauchemin D
13. (185) Carey Price G
14. (206) Raitis Ivanans LW
15. (215) Mike Van Ryn D
16. (236) Marc-Edouard Vlasic D
17. (245) Kyle Calder LW
18. (266) Guillaume Latendresse RW
19. (275) Mikko Koivu C

I was pretty thrilled at how the first 10 rounds went. Straka with the 146th pick, even Wolski at 155 when I still hadn't picked up a LW yet (a very thin position after the top ~10). Amazing how the talent thinned out dramatically after that - I took a future flyer on Carey Price as my third goalie (hoping he'll win the job and I can deal either Ryan Miller or Peter Budaj) and then went for some young defencement. Only 4 bench spots which makes it tough to take too many chances.

17 September 2007

more down time

i'll be back up full-time (mostly) starting next week. vacations, renovations, etc. have kept me away a bit but with 3 league drafts in the next 7 days I should be back and ready for the season in a week or so.

11 September 2007

Listing of every NHL trade since 1960

Just came across this site: History Of NHL Trades which attempts to list every single trade in the NHL since 1960.

Edmonton holds rookie camp in Yellowknife

Yellowknife is the capital city of the Northwest Territories, and is located precisely 632 miles (by air) north of Edmonton (which itself is over 300 miles north of the US-Canadian border):

Last week the Edmonton Oilers held their annual rookie camp in Yellowknife:

"I knew it was going to be somewhat remote. When we flew over I didn't see a piece of infrastructure till we got to the airport, but once we were here, the community embraced us," O'Marra said.

"Right from the time we got off the plane we had a warm reception. It was just a great experience, right from the first night until today," said defenceman Bryan Young.

"It's like a lot of things that you do," MacTavish continued. "You think it's a bit of an inconvenience to come up here then by the time you finish you think it's really worthwhile."

The Oilers' official website posted a slideshow of the city here (nothing hockey-related, just a flavour for the area)

10 September 2007

7-0-1 for Canada

In the so-called "Super Series" - Russia managed a tie in game 7, and that was it.

We're now within a month starting the NHL and CHL seasons.

07 September 2007

Fantasy hockey prep - centers

In preparation for the annual SportsGrumblings.com Fantasy Hockey Sourcebook, I did draft preparation on centers. Not knowing when it will be published, I thought I'd post (in a very crude format - spreadsheet!) my write-ups here:

Click here for my writeups on 143 centers for 2007-08.

I did a ranking of what I considered the top 40 - after that it was way too subjective so I listed the rest by team.

As I stated there, nearly all of these were written in late July so some inaccuracies may be found in terms of team assignments. Feel free to email me (address on right bar) with anything you might find.

Advanced +/- statistics

To the anonymous commenter who inquired about better +/- stats, I'll paraphrase here what I left in the comments on that remote post:

I believe Gabriel Desjardins at Behind the Net has done exactly what you were looking for - check out these links:

Quality of Teammates - adjusted +/-

On-ice vs Off-ice +/-

Experts League shocker: they invited me back

Last season Eric Maltais at TalentedMrRoto.com (since purchased by ESPN) started what we believe to be the industry's first ever Hockey Expert League, and I was lucky enough to get an invite as one of 12 teams. Here's how the draft went last fall.

Yeah, and here's how the league ended up...as I declared myself the 12th greatest fantasy hockey expert in the world.

Well Eric - who now writes for DobberHockey.com - has invited me back, and I've declared (to myself) that I will remember that this is NOT a keeper league. Something I obviously knew last season but I failed to adjust my usual drafting strategies. Anyways, our draft is in two weeks and I'll be sure to post the results - surely the first of many frustrating nights for me in the league.

04 September 2007

Labor Day Hockey notes

1. Team Canada has completely dominated Team Russia in the SuperSeries thus far, taking game 4 on Saturday 4-2 and winning each of the four games in Russia. The Canadian half of the series begins tonight at 8pm ET in Winnipeg.

2. It seems that John Tavares is, in fact, looking for a waiver to make him eligible for next year's NHL draft; he was born 5 days too late to be eligible for 2008. Tavares' agent, Bryan Deasley, is making overtures about playing in Europe next season if special consideration is not granted. Tavares would be a shoo-in for the number one pick in the draft - as of now that honour might go to Steve Stamkos.

3. So much for the rumours about Patrick Marleau being dealt - last Friday he signed a lucrative two-year deal to stay in San Jose, giving the Sharks an enviable top stable of forwards for at least the next three seasons (including Joe Thornton, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Milan Michalek)

31 August 2007

Perron's goal

...as referred to from a few posts below:

It looks quite good until you see the final reverse-angle replay, as he no-look-touch-backhands it into the net.

Alexei Cherepanov out for series

Cherepanov suffered a concussion when he collided with Canadian forward Brandon Sutter in the first period of Game 2. He was not on the ice for Friday's morning skate and according to team officials, remains in hospital.

Story here at tsn.ca.

Game 3 starts in one hour (8am, EDT). http://www.hockeywebcasts.com/

29 August 2007

Fog game

Thanks to the Globe and Mail for this great shot from game 2:

Photo: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press

Team Canada's Cory Emmerson, right, keeps an eye on a Russian player during the second period.

Canada wins game 2 (3-0), takes 2-0 series lead.

I was able to watch it through the tsn.ca link with no trouble this morning.

(borrowing/stealing style from Lowtide...)

This is David Perron:

after he scored the 3rd goal of the game, which was insane - I'm hoping to find a link to it soon.

The next two games are Friday and Saturday morning:

• Game 3 – August 31, Omsk, Russia (7 p.m. local, 8 a.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 4 – September 1, Omsk, Russia (5 p.m. local, 6 a.m. ET, TSN/RDS)


Photo: Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press. Thanks to the Globe and Mail.

28 August 2007

more Canada v. Russia hype

here's a link to Donna Spencer's video report at the Globe and Mail on the series:

Canada v. Russia - 35 years of rivalry Canada's juniors feels a connection with the 1972 Series, even though most of them were born at least 16 years after it happened.

Canada takes game 1, 4-2. Karl Alzner is outed as a beaver.

Karl Alzner wears the game MVP hat. Fantastic.

Canada eventually shed its rust and nerves to grab a 1-0 lead in the series, which celebrates the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union.
tsn.ca report of game 1.

After Steve Mason of the London Knights backstopped Team Canada in game 1, game 2 will be Jonathan Bernier's (Lewiston Maineiacs) turn (the future saviour of the L.A. Kings?).

watching online outside of Canada?

I make zero promises as to the reliability here, but those unlucky enough to live outside of Canada's restricted broadcast access may be able to watch through here:


then plug in the TSN link:


Here are the next three games:

• Game 2 – August 29, Ufa, Russia (7 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 3 – August 31, Omsk, Russia (7 p.m. local, 8 a.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 4 – September 1, Omsk, Russia (5 p.m. local, 6 a.m. ET, TSN/RDS)

edit: here's another link to try:


20 August 2007

Carey Price looking to make the Habs

[Carey] Price has kept quite busy this off-season with workouts both on and off the ice in preparation for the Canadiens training camp this fall. “Every camp I got to is going to be the mentality of trying to stay, but if it doesn’t happen, they (Montreal) have a plan for me and their going to see that plan through.”
Read the article here.

It would be one hell of a story for Carey Price to actually make the big club this year - less than one year after:

a) backstopping Team Canada to the World Junior gold, winning tournament MVP.
b) setting the WHL's Tri-City Americans record for career wins with 83 and winning CHL Goaltender of the Year award.
c) turning pro with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs, joining them on their playoff run, and earning playoff MVP as the Bulldogs captured the Calder Cup.

Junior Summit Series - Canada v. Russia

Another fantastic hockey event that will get somewhere between zero and....zero press in the United States is coming up at the end of this month: a junior-age all star series between Canada and Russia:

This one-time eight-game series featuring the best Under – 20 players in Canada and Russia will take place from August 27th to September 9th.
All the info you need here at hockeycanada.

The schedule:

• Game 1 – August 27, Ufa, Russia (7 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET, TSN/RDS)
• Game 2 – August 29, Ufa, Russia (7 p.m. local, 9 a.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 3 – August 31, Omsk, Russia (7 p.m. local, 8 a.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 4 – September 1, Omsk, Russia (5 p.m. local, 6 a.m. ET, TSN/RDS)
• Game 5 – September 4, Winnipeg, MB (8 p.m. ET, TSN/RDS)
• Game 6 – September 5, Saskatoon, SK (8 p.m. ET, TSN/RDS)
• Game 7 – September 7, Red Deer, AB (10 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)
• Game 8 – September 9, Vancouver, BC (8 p.m. ET, Rogers Sportsnet)

I wonder if you can:

a) order the Center Ice package that early and
b) if they'd even televise it.

Time to load up your favourite peer-to-peer network. Not that I necessarily condone such a thing (although if I could buy this TV package I would...)

16 August 2007

Sabres fans still obsessed

According to the Buffalo News:

The Buffalo Sabres lost less than 1 percent of their season-ticket holders from last season, and they have a waiting list of about 8,000 names.

The team now expects to sell out all its home games before the start of the regular season...

...The team lost roughly 100 season-ticket holders out of 14,800 in the off-season renewal process.

The Sabres cap season ticket sales at about 4000 seats under the capacity of the HSBC arena and expect such a strong demand when single game tickets go on sale September 15th that most, if not all, games will sell out.

Sam Pollock: 1925-2007

Former Montreal Canadiens' General Manager Sam Pollock passed away yesterday at the age of 81. More than just the architect of the Habs from 1964-1978 - presiding over no less than nine Stanley Cup champion teams - Pollock was the first to understand the nature of the new NHL draft. The draft first came into existence in 1963 but took its modern form in 1969 (for the first six years of the draft the only players who could be selected were those not already claimed by NHL clubs via the draconian "C form" - almost a reserve clause for players signed at age 18 and essentially bound those players to the NHL clubs) when the amateur draft was opened up for all players under the age of 20. As written on habsworld.com:

The sponsorship system consisted of NHL teams sponsoring amateur teams. This system allowed NHL teams to scout pre-junior age players to a C form. Most of the players who signed C forms were young teenagers. By signing the C form that player was bound to his NHL club.
Before the inception of the draft, aggressive scouts would sign young players to these C forms and place them on their sponsored amateur/junior teams, thereby holding onto them for as long as they wished; Montreal had a corner on the entire French Canadian market. As the draft emerged and evolved (to distribute young talent more equitably, a bold concept in those days and one that should be noted to counter nostalgic arguments that claimed the "old days" of sports were better), NHL franchises would have to rethink how to build their teams, and especially Montreal who would lose exclusivity to the fertile Quebec territory.

While most GMs had little foresight in this new method of stocking their teams, Sam Pollock figured it out earlier than anyone else. He was able to craft ridiculously one-sided deals with unsuspecting (and clueless) teams for top draft picks, ones he turned into players such as Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, and Steve Shutt. In other words, the core of one of the most dominant teams in NHL history - the late '70s Canadiens.

The Canadiens won the Stanley Cup the year after Pollock left, and although they remained competitive for much of the next decade - winning the Cup in 1986 (and again in 1993) - their reign of dominance ended when Pollock departed.

Sam Pollock was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

15 August 2007

Northeast previews

quick links to each team's preview:

Ottawa Senators
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins

Your 2007-2008 Ottawa Senators

(To be published in the upcoming SportsGrumblings.com free preseason fantasy guide. My assignment was the Northeast division...)

Ottawa Senators

2006-07 record: 48-25-9, 105 points. Second in division/fourth in conference. Lost in Stanley Cup Finals to Anaheim Ducks.

Coach: John Paddock
General Manager: Bryan Murray
Home arena: Scotiabank Place
Capacity: 19153

The often-underachieving Senators finally broke out of their playoff funk last season and became Eastern Conference champions, reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in their modern existence. For a change they played the underdog role all year; three months into the season it looked as if the Senators would be in a dogfight all season to simply make the playoffs. However, a powerful second-half put the rest of the division on notice that the Senators were every bit the powerhouse they had imagined themselves over the better part of the last decade, and hit their stride in the playoffs – steamrolling the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres in five games each before falling to the Anaheim Ducks in the finals. Yet the disappointment of flaming out in the final round shouldn’t be the final epitaph for Ottawa in 2007 – with the vast majority of the team’s talented core returning, the capital region has high hopes that perhaps this season will be the one where they bring home the title.

Last season’s changes (losing Zdeno Chara, Dominik Hasek, and Martin Havlat) looked to be backbreaking but clearly after an adjustment period the team rolled, playing five months of stellar hockey. The Senators didn’t suffer as many big changes during this off-season; forwards Mike Comrie and Peter Schaefer as well as defenceman Tom Preissing being the only standouts who will not return to the conference champions. As it stands, the Senators are poised to defend their crown and take it one step further this season.


Depth Chart:

Dany Heatley Jason Spezza Daniel Alfredsson
Chris Kelly Mike Fisher Patrick Eaves
Shean Donovan (RW) Dean McAmmond Chris Neil

Antoine Vermette Brian McGrattan

rookies/callups: C-Josh Hennessy, LW-Jim McKenzie.

Once again this season, Ottawa shouldn’t have to worry about offence. Their output (averaging 3.5 goals per game last year, second in the league) should remain constant, as their core talent remains young and even perhaps improving. No team boasts an elite three combination like Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson. While they were split up on occasion last year to try to spread the offence around, it was clear that together they formed a devastating combo, one that perhaps only lacks a quality nickname to earn historical distinction. Each of the three finished comfortably within the top 20 in league scoring, with Heatley being only one of two (Vincent Lecavalier) to notch at least 50 goals.

While the dropoff in talent after the big three is obviously great, the Senators do boast offensive threats after the first line. Mike Fisher has become one of the better two-way centers in the league; known for his speed and tight checking, Fisher’s second straight 22-goal campaign places him as a solid threat in every zone. Youngsters Patrick Eaves and Chris Kelly each made strides last year, contributing 29 goals between them – with the departure of late-season acquisition Mike Comrie (New York Islanders), look for Eaves and Kelly to increase their ice-time and be relied upon for solid depth scoring. Antoine Vermette is another young speedster on the rise – his 14 even-strength goals last season were fourth-best on the team. With more power-play time this year, Vermette could and should crack the 50 point barrier. Chris Neil is known more for his mouth and fists, but the truth is that Neil is a talented player when he controls himself; as the main policeman on the team (perhaps slowly ceding that role to Brian McGrattan) he can be good for roughly 15 goals while opponents look over their shoulders and watch their chins.


Depth Chart:

Chris Phillips Wade Redden
Joe Corvo Anton Volchenkov
Christoph Schubert Andrej Meszaros
Lawrence Nycholat

For an elite team, Ottawa’s defencive corps are underrated as a whole. Their top two defenders - Wade Redden and Chris Phillips - are well-known (being drafted 2nd and 1st overall in 1995 and 1996 respectively), but their supporting cast stepped out of the ominous shadow of the departed Zdeno Chara last season and helped the team keep to a tidy 2.6 goals allowed per game, outstanding for such an offensive powerhouse. While no individual was a big scorer (the departed Tom Preissing (Florida Panthers) led the defence with 38 points), the contributions were spread out on the scoresheet, with each of the top six getting at least 25 points. Four defensemen sported a +/- of +30 or more (Preissing +40, Anton Volchenkov +37, Phillips +36, Christoph Shubert +30), which if anything shows more of a team-wide commitment to quality defence. The playoffs were where the group really shined, especially in the conference finals against Buffalo, keeping the Sabres horribly frustrated on the power play throughout the five games.


Ray Emery
Martin Gerber

One year ago Ray Emery was the easy scapegoat for Ottawa’s shocking flameout in the second round at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres. While he was hardly the only Senator to play poorly, the sight of him on the ice as Jason Pominville scored the series winner was seared into the minds of Senators’ fans all summer. So when Ottawa signed Martin Gerber to challenge Emery for the top position last season, most figured the job was Gerber’s to lose. Which is exactly what he did – after a poor start to the season, injuries shelved him and Ray Emery came in and absolutely took over, leading the Senators the rest of the way and leaving no doubt as to who the new number one goalie was, and is. Emery was just signed to a three-year deal and will remain their netminder for the foreseeable future. Yet for all the progress Emery has made, his flaws are apparent: he relies too much on his athletic ability to make saves, as his positioning is well below-average for an NHL goaltender. He also has a maddening tendency to leave glaring rebounds, and as a result – even though the team is now “set” in goal – and perhaps due to the overall strength of the club - Emery remains the team’s one question mark.


While the on-ice changes have been minimal this off-season, the firing of General Manager John Muckler was seen as a bit of a surprise. Coach Bryan Murray was bumped up to the GM spot and John Paddock takes over the reigns, hoping to lead the club to three more postseason victories. Can they do it? It’s easy to make the case for the Senators being a top team once again – they will feel the pressure from a young(er) Buffalo club, but the relative weakness of the rest of the division and the likely adjustment period for the Sabres should mean Ottawa will once again reign supreme in the Northeast division. This might be their last opportunity with this core of players, as a number of their big names are in line for free agency next summer, most notably Wade Redden and Dany Heatley, who will likely break the bank with whichever team he signs with. Undoubtedly there will be a sense of urgency to win it all this year, and as this year’s team bears a strong similarity to last year’s, look for Ottawa to once again be in the mix for the elusive Stanley Cup.

Your 2007-2008 Buffalo Sabres

(To be published in the upcoming SportsGrumblings.com free preseason fantasy guide. My assignment was the Northeast division...)

Buffalo Sabres

2006-07 record: 53-22-7, 113 points. First in division/first in conference. Lost in Conference Finals to Ottawa Senators.

Coach: Lindy Ruff
General Manager: Darcy Regier
Home arena: HSBC Arena
Capacity: 18690

Fresh off a heartbreaking and unlucky game 7 loss to Carolina in the Conference Finals, the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres re-tooled slightly and started the season on a tear – winning their first ten games en route to the best record in the league and their first Presidents Trophy. Leading the league in goals scored and boasting four 30+ goal scorers, plus four more with at least 19, the team was a roaring success both on and off the ice. Buffalo fans bought every seat all year and the entire region was poised for their first major championship since the 1965 Buffalo Bills won the AFL title. Alas, a funny thing happened on the way to the Stanley Cup – teams were ready for them, and gave them a battle in nearly every game until the Sabres ran out of gas. The New York Islanders were no match on paper but fought a valiant five game series that hardly made Sabres’ fans confident. The New York Rangers earned a split after four games and perhaps only a miraculous game five comeback by Buffalo catapulted them into the next round against the red-hot Ottawa Senators. There, they met their doom, much of it on their own hands – with a dreadful power-play that drew calls from the hometown faithful to “decline the penalty” after a few games. The almost-dream season ended in overtime of game five, but after a few stunned days fans had every right to look ahead to the inevitable Cup…

…and then Sabres’ fans worst fears came true: both captains were lost on July 1st to free agency - “Black Sunday” as it came to be known. Daniel Briere signed with the Philadelphia Flyers and Chris Drury with the New York Rangers, arguably two of the most-hated Sabres’ rivals. To top it off, the Edmonton Oilers gave restricted free agent Thomas Vanek (43 goals) a monstrous offer sheet that the Sabres absolutely had to match.

So is the Buffalo Sabres’ time over? Have they squandered a golden opportunity to bring the Stanley Cup home to a hockey-mad area? Or will the organization’s long-term scouting vision pay off once again and simply plug new talent into the available slots?


Depth Chart:

Thomas Vanek Derek Roy Maxim Afinogenov
Ales Kotalik Tim Connolly Jason Pominville
Jochen Hecht Paul Gaustad Drew Stafford
Dan Paille Adam Mair
Andrew Peters Mike Ryan

rookies/callups: C – Marek Zagrapan, W - Clarke MacArthur, Patrick Kaleta, Mark Mancari.

So here are the facts: a team loses two of their top three scorers, one a 95 point sniper and the other with 17 powerplay goals and an intangible legend of supposed unparalleled leadership; furthermore, the two players were arguably the two most popular in the community. Combined with the Vanek offer sheet, and everything adds up to an early summer public relations nightmare, and the end of the Sabres’ window to win the Stanley Cup. Or is it?

Of course losing two of your top three scorers will be damaging to any team, at least in the short-term. However, that fact doesn’t mean those points won’t come at all. Those roles will now be filled by younger (and much cheaper) players, and as anyone who has paid attention to the NHL over the past two seasons, the Sabres have had no shortage of replacement parts. Injury callups such as Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford have gone from temporary replacements to bonafide NHL regulars.

The Sabres’ feature line this year will no doubt be the “RAV” line of Roy centering Vanek and the ever-exciting Maxim Afinogenov. With the huge long-term contracts just signed by Roy and Vanek, the Sabres have locked each of them up for at least six years and through their prime years, until each is 30. Derek Roy’s 63 points last year with roughly little powerplay time should increase this season as he becomes the team’s de facto number one center. Wildly talented and exciting Tim Connolly hopes to build upon the success he had two years ago before a devastating concussion left him on the sidelines for a year. If he stays healthy, he should provide an outstanding second center for Buffalo, and could look to any number of talents on his wings to find the net. Jason Pominville took over for the departed J.P. Dumont last year and ended up with 34 goals, 30 of which were at even-strength – one behind league leader Vincent Lecavalier. Pominville is a natural scorer and coupling him with Connolly should be a treat to watch. Drew Stafford is the next most-exciting talent on the team; a frequent call-up from the nearby Rochester AHL affiliate, Stafford managed 13 goals in just half a season while earning respect from teammates and fans alike for a strong physical presence and defence of teammates (recall the Drury/Chris Neil incident in February). With more minutes, special teams play, and a regular centerman Stafford should easily reach mid-20s in goals and has 30 goal / 65 point power winger potential for the foreseeable future.

The Sabres’ forward depth is obviously a bit less this season but still well above average - Ales Kotalik is an enigma; a 227 pound winger with a devastating shot with inconsistent results. Buffalo would be very happy to get 20 goals / 50 points and a nightly physical presence, but his $2.5 million salary makes him one of the most likely to be dealt. Jochen Hecht is an underrated and versatile winger who’s value doesn’t necessarily show on the scoresheet – he gives an effort every night and often does the unseen work away from the puck leading to chances for his linemates. Beyond that the Sabres look to put forth a more physical presence this season, with Paul Gaustad to step up and take a stronger role as third center. Dan Paille and Adam Mair will be the most prominent to fill out the remaining spots. Buffalo may not lead the league in goals again this season but they should fall comfortably within the top 10.


Depth Chart:

Henrik Tallinder Toni Lydman
Brian Campbell Teppo Numminen
Dmitri Kalinin Jaroslav Spacek
Nathan Paetsch

rookies/callups: Michael Funk, Andrej Sekera, Mke Card.

Buffalo’s defensive corps may not have any of the bigger names in the NHL but due to their vast exposure in the past few seasons are starting to get some serious name recognition. The unquestioned top duo of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman won’t bring much offence (33 points combined in 114 games) but the team suffers greatly without them in the lineup. Their simple defensive style of getting the puck to their forwards is essential to the quick transition game of the Sabres. Taking care of the offensive side is Brian Campbell, starting just his second full season in the NHL. Campbell, with 48 points last season, was an All-Star game starter after a fantastic first half, but struggled in the latter half of the season as he appeared to lose confidence in his greatest skill – moving the puck up the ice. He brings a flair to the Buffalo blueline not seen since the Phil Housley days but like Housley he can be careless about his defensive game. Back for yet another “final” season will be ageless Teppo Numminen; slowing a bit but still an above-average rearguard due to his low panic threshold with the puck. The biggest frustration for the Sabres and their fans may be Dmitri Kalinin, a one-time first round pick who has shown flashes of all-around brilliance but suffers from a glaring and shocking lack of confidence, occasionally forcing the coaching’s staff’s hand in benching him. Also in that vein was last year’s newcomer Jaroslav Spacek – acquired in free agency, the offensive-minded defenseman slowly lost coach Lindy Ruff’s confidence and by the end of the playoffs was only on the ice for a handful of minutes per night. Skilled utility man Nathan Paetsch slots in comfortably as either a replacement defenseman or fourth-line winger. Buffalo signed him to a three-year deal in late July, and clearly sees him as a future contributor.

Buffalo’s all-around defensive game is solid but at times they can maddeningly get pinned in their own end. Much of this problem results in the forwards forgetting their defensive responsibilities, leaving the defenceman along among a fierce forecheck. Ottawa exploited this team weakness in the playoffs last season and Buffalo must either think more conservatively overall (read: not always playing for the odd-man breakout) or upgrade the back end of their defensive corps.


Ryan Miller
Jocelyn Thibault

Very simply, despite all of Buffalo’s offensive exploits, no player means more to Buffalo’s success than goaltender Ryan Miller. In many ways he’s a goalie that cannot be measured by his statistics (see also Grant Fuhr, 1984-1988) because on this aggressive offensively-minded team he will likely see more quality rubber flying his way than in a conservative system. Miller differs from many of the great goaltenders of the past and present in that he doesn’t need to make the spectacular save very often; his positioning is exceptional and he reads the oncoming rush as well as anyone in the league. As a result of Miller’s skills, the Sabres are able to press more and take chances they otherwise would not with a lesser goalie between the pipes. Having said that, and in light of the high profile free agent losses this year, it would behoove management to lock Miller up to a long-term deal very soon (he has two seasons left before he becomes an unrestricted free agent). Veteran Jocelyn Thibault was signed to a one year deal and should see roughly 15-20 games of action this season, but should not be counted on to carry the team in the event of any long-term absence of Ryan Miller.


Now that a little time has passed since Briere and Drury’s departure, people can analyze what the Buffalo Sabres actually are, rather than what they could have been. And what they are is still an elite team; perhaps in the overall picture they took a step back but their core is now even younger, and in the long run they should experience sustained success. They should be able to give Ottawa a run for the division, even though it may take some time for new line combinations to jell, and be one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference once again.

Your 2007-2008 Montreal Canadiens

(Again, these will all be found in the upcoming SportsGrumblings.com free preseason fantasy guide. My assignment was the Northeast division...)

Montreal Canadiens

2006-07 record: 42-34-6, 90 points. Fourth in division/tenth in conference.

Coach: Guy Carbonneau
General Manager: Bob Gainey
Home arena: Bell Centre
Capacity: 21273

Despite winning 42 games for the second consecutive season, the Montreal Canadiens missed out on a playoff birth by the slimmest of margins, losing a must-win game on the final day of the season to finish in 10th place, two points out of the eighth spot. The most successful franchise in NHL history has now gone 14 seasons since their 23rd and most recent Stanley Cup victory, easily the longest stretch in their storied history, and have only won three playoff series’ in that time. To say that there is an uproar in southern Quebec would be an exaggeration, but there is certainly unease amongst the faithful fans who long for the days when the Flying Frenchmen would dominate all foes. As they stand right now, the franchise is a mix of youth and experience, one that can compete most nights but overall has been an average club since the lockout.

Yet last year some signs occurred that gave hope to the Canadiens’ fans in the form of an influx of rookie talent that brought a shot of excitement to the Bell Centre and left the team just short in the end. A big question will be whether or not these up-and-coming players will fully develop their game before the older guard on the team is either past their peak or has moved on to other teams. Can the Habs fuse their youth and veterans to propel themselves back into their rightful place in the NHL playoffs?

Depth Chart:

Guillaume Latendresse Saku Koivu Alexei Kovalev
Chris Higgins Bryan Smolinski Michael Ryder
Steve Begin Maxim Lapierre Andrei Kostitsyn
Tomas Plekanec Garth Murray Tom Kostopolous

rookies/callups: C – Kyle Chipchura, LW - Mikhail Grabovski

Any discussion of the Montreal Canadiens’ offense must begin with captain Saku Koivu, now entering his 12th season with the Canadiens and eighth as team captain, the longest such tenure in Montreal since Bob Gainey. Koivu has never been a big scorer – somewhat due to his size but a series of bizarre injuries and illnesses have limited him to just three seasons of at least 80 games – yet few players give their all on the ice like Koivu does and is the undisputed leader of the club. Montreal’s other “big name” forward is the enigmatic Alexei Kovalev, in many ways the opposite of Koivu. Where Koivu seems to overachieve, Kovalev – for all the success he has had in the NHL (333 goals) – he has always left those who watch him wanting more. Kovalev flashes world class skills yet has only exceeded 77 points once in 14 seasons. Michael Ryder is their next biggest offensive threat, with 30 goals in each of the last two seasons. This may be Ryder’s swan song in Montreal, however, having reached an agreement for a one year deal that will bring him to unrestricted free agency after this season. If the Canadiens are out of the playoff picture come February, Ryder will be one of the most sought-after players by the trading deadline.

The reason Ryder could be expendable is because of the offensive talents Montreal has in the organization that are ready to assume regular NHL duties, none more heralded and popular than Quebec native Guillaume Latendresse. Fresh off a three year stint with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior League (where he scored 43 goals in 51 games his final season), the 19-year old Latendresse made a quick impression with the big club last year and was able to keep up with the big guns when he spent time on the first line. Although he only ended up with 16 goals and 29 points, look for Latandresse to have the opportunity to play left wing alongside Koivu and if he sticks, he has the skills to put up 25 goals and 50 points while maintaining a physical presence. Winger Andrei Kostitsyn repeatedly bounced back and forth between Montreal and their AHL affiliate in Hamilton last season but managed 11 points in 22 games while scoring 21 in 50 at Hamilton. 22-year old Maxim Lapierre plays a different style, bringing a high energy two-way game well-suited for checking line duties. These rookies joined a number of other young talents on the roster which include 24-year olds Tomas Plekanec (20 goals) and Chris Higgins (45 goals through his first two seasons), and ready at the minor league level are young offensive prospects Mikhail Grabovski and Kyle Chipchura, providing hope that the Canadiens aren’t spinning their wheels – they’re building for the near future.

Veteran center Bryan Smolinski was signed to a one-year deal; he’ll provide solid defensive play and should chip in 15 goals in any variety of roles. Steve Begin, Garth Murray, and Tom Kostopolous will fill out the third and fourth lines in mostly checking assignments.


Roman Hamrlik Andrei Markov
Francis Bouillon Mathieu Dandenault
Patrice Brisebois Mike Komisarek
Mark Streit Josh Gorges

On paper Sheldon Souray had one of the better offensive seasons by a defenseman in recent history, setting an NHL record for power play goals with 19. His timing also couldn’t have been better, having achieved these totals in his walk year for Montreal, one in which he cashed in for $27 million over the next five years with the Edmonton Oilers. The fact is that Montreal is, or will be, better off not having signed Souray to such a lengthy deal. While his booming shot and constant threat on the power play are definite assets, his defence and playmaking are suspect and for that money the Canadiens would be wise to invest it in future talent. So now the offensive responsibilities will be a bit more spread out, and most likely Andrei Markov will be the primary puck carrier and point man on the power play. Markov set career highs last season with 43 assists and 49 points and was rewarded with a four-year contract. Montreal dipped into the free agent market and signed former number one pick (1992) Roman Hamrlik to a four-year deal as well. Hamrlik has never quite lived up to his lofty billing, but is still an excellent player – a consistent offensive threat from the blueline who doesn’t shy away from contact.

Mike Komisarek will never compete for offensive numbers with Markov and Hamrlik, but will instead provide much-needed defensive responsibilities behind the blueline. Mark Streit would be the third option for Montreal on the power play – in just his second NHL season (after five years in the Swiss league) Streit notched 36 points. Francis Bouillon and Mathieu Dandenault are the kind of faceless veterans that are well-respected by their teammates for doing the dirty work necessary, despite being not nearly as skilled as their fellow defensemen. Veteran and former local whipping-boy Patrice Brisebois is back in town on a one year deal; perhaps without the pressure of being a top-four defenceman he can ease into a supporting role at age 36. Josh Gorges came over from San Jose last year in the deal for veteran Craig Rivet and provides depth but little offence.


Cristobal Huet
Jaroslav Halak

rookies/callups: G – Carey Price

In June of 2004, Cristobal Huet was thrown into a deal between the Los Angeles Kings and Montreal Canadiens that centered around Radek Bonk coming to Montreal. Huet wasn’t on many Canadiens’ fans radar when the NHL awoke from their slumber in the fall of 2005, but he soon made them take notice – the rapid and surprising demise of former MVP Jose Theodore was countered by the absolutely stellar play of Huet as he grabbed the starter’s job, saved pucks at a .929 clip and nearly single-handedly carried Montreal into the playoffs. The 31 year old veteran of the French and Swiss leagues couldn’t be expected to keep up the same level of play last season, but did still play well enough to appear in the all star game. Unfortunately for Huet, his days in Montreal are likely numbered as the Canadiens have two young goaltenders that could carry the team into the next decade. 22-year old Jaroslav Halak was impressive in 16 games after his late-season call-up but the true future star is 19-year old Carey Price. Price was already enjoying a highly successful junior career with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League before he experienced unprecedented success in 2007: he backstopped Canada to the World Junior Championships in January, winning tournament MVP in the process; he then was signed by Montreal and assigned to Hamilton (AHL) where he proceeded to play 22 playoff games where he ended up with a .936 save percentage and playoff MVP. Price will get a chance to win the starting job in Montreal this year but if he fails he will be returned to Hamilton to play the season in the AHL.


The future looks bright for the Montreal Canadiens. With so many young players in the lineup, there is a very real possibility that the team could actually take a temporary step backwards this year but they are on the right track to being a serious contender within three or four years. As for 2007-2008, a lot has to go right for them to move up, and most importantly they need to improve upon their defensive game (256 goals against). A true wildcard, they could either finish a distant 10th or if the youth brigade all take a step forward they could challenge for a middle playoff spot.

Your 2007-2008 Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto Maple Leafs

2006-07 record: 40-31-11, 91 points. Third in division/ninth in conference.

Coach: Paul Maurice
General Manager: John Ferguson, Jr.
Home arena: Air Canada Centre
Capacity: 18819


It’s hard to summarize the recent history of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On the one hand, over the past eight seasons the team has won 40 or more games seven times, while reaching the conference finals twice. On the other hand, their legions of critics (who love to slam the franchise for reasons mostly stemming from their ubiquitous appearances on CBC and their eastern Canadian market dominance) can simply point out that they haven’t even been to a Stanley Cup final since 1967, let alone win one, and have not made the playoffs in either post-lockout season.

The Leafs have been stuck in a bit of a holding pattern for much of the past decade; they’ve never been shy about showing a lot of veteran love – signing aging stars such as Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Owen Nolan, and Alex Mogilny – all of whom were still decent contributors upon joining the Leafs yet on the downside of their impressive careers. The wisdom of such signings was and is certainly up for debate, as one could certainly point to the relative success from 1999-2004 when the team averaged 98 points per year – but at what cost? As these players reached the end of their tenures with the Leafs (or sometimes their careers) the team wouldn’t have adequate replacements for them, which may be a solid reason that over the past few seasons the team has been floundering for an identity.

The Maple Leafs are hoping to make small strides to build a bit more with youth (or at least younger than their standard 35+ year old acquisitions) while retaining their veterans in a push to make the playoffs for the first time since their 103 point 2004 season.


Alexei Ponikarovsky Mats Sundin Jason Blake
Chad Kilger Kyle Wellwood Darcy Tucker
Mark Bell Matt Stajan Boyd Devereaux
Alex Steen Nik Antropov
Bates Battaglia John Pohl

rookies/callups: C – Kris Newbury

As referenced above, change may slowly be in the works for Toronto, but for now the Leafs’ top line will likely be anchored by two high-scoring veterans. Leafs captain and future Hall-of-Famer Mats Sundin will return for his 13th season with Toronto, and despite a growing legion of nagging injuries is always good for a point-per-game pace. In their biggest offseason move, the Leafs dipped into the free agent market this summer and signed 40 goal scorer Jason Blake away from the New York Islanders. The Leafs do, however, have a number of young forwards who should be seeing serious playing time with the big club. Alexei Ponikarovsky stands the best chance of playing with the top two – 21 goals is the high for the 27 year old winger, but the big man could see career highs playing the physical role and seeing power play time. Kyle Wellwood is an intriguing young center who dominated the junior ranks and just last season seemed to be on the verge of establishing himself as a big scorer in the NHL (42 points in 48 games) before a hernia sidelined him for nearly half the season. Wellwood can play soft at times but has world-class skills with the puck and should be a vital part of Toronto’s offense.

With (a hopefully healthy) Sundin and Wellwood as their top two pivots, the Leafs’ wingers will see many scoring chances all year long, but can they convert? Darcy Tucker will be good for 25 goals, many on the power play, as well as countless dives, fisticuffs, and items thrown at televisions anywhere outside of southern Ontario. Perhaps the most intriguing and boom/bust worthy man on the roster this season is Mark Bell. After two strong seasons in Chicago, Bell should have been on the verge of breaking out last season with a trade to the powerful San Jose Sharks and playing alongside Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. Instead he experienced a nightmare year that started with an awful pre-season incident and ended up with his eventual benching due to listless play - it became obvious that Bell needed a change of scenery. Toronto is hoping that he can clear his head in Toronto and get his career back on track, although being in the world’s largest hockey media market can crush the most fragile of personalities. We should know by mid-season whether or not the Bell experiment is a success. Alex Steen, son of former Winnipeg Jets standout Thomas Steen, is a highly skilled playmaker who can slot in at either center or wing, and will only benefit from more minutes. Matt Stajan is a very underrated two-way center who may never be great at one aspect of the game but excel enough for a good long career. Forward depth is still a bit of a question – the enigmatic Nik Antropov will never be the physically dominant forward that fans want him to be. Bates Battaglia, Chad Kilger, Boyd Devereaux and John Pohl round out the likely possibilities for the third and fourth lines.


Bryan McCabe Tomas Kaberle
Pavel Kubina Carlo Colaiacovo
Ian White Hal Gill
Wade Belak

rookies/callups: Andrew Wozniewski, Staffan Kronwall

Defence is an area for the Leafs in which they have a number of name players with skill, but the whole is not quite the sum of its parts. Overall the team gave up 262 goals, and the defence must take much of the blame. While Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle can move the puck and generate a high quality offence from the blueline, their defensive play is inconsistent at best and downright poor at the worst of times, a fact often lost in careful analysis of the Leafs' shortcomings. Pavel Kubina isn’t going to make as many highlight reels but is a more reliable overall defender. Their best young option is 24 year old Carlo Colaiacovo, an offensively-minded player who simply needs to get more responsibilities to show off his skills. Signed for the next three seasons, Colaiacovo should be an important part of the Toronto blueline for years. Ian White is a creative but small player who would be best utilized on special teams play, but won’t crack the top unit as long as Kaberle and McCabe are around. The towering Hal Gill is often criticized for high-profile mistakes but is still a solid top-six defenceman when he uses his .


Andrew Raycroft
Vesa Toskala
Scott Clemmensen

So what is Andrew Raycroft to think? After being rewarded by the front office with a three-year deal, Raycroft suffered through an up-and-down season dealing with short-tempered fans and a crushing media presence. Then the Leafs make a deal with San Jose for Vesa Toskala, throwing the label of Toronto’s undisputed number one goalie completely up in the air and providing no piece of mind to Raycroft. Toskala is the older of the two (30 vs. 27) but has had great success in San Jose. Raycroft may start the season as the soft number one, but one would have to assume Toskala will certainly get the opportunity to win the job outright. Scott Clemmensen arrives from New Jersey to once again never get a chance to win a starting job in the NHL.


Standard anti-Leaf cynicism aside, there are some things to be excited about in Toronto. They have two lines that should consistently generate quality offence, providing a nice mix of veteran and youthful talent. And if not for a shootout win on the last day of the season by the Islanders over New Jersey, the Leafs would have made the playoffs and could very well have given their arch-rival Buffalo Sabres a solid run in the first round of the playoffs. However if the Leafs have improved just a bit, it is very likely teams just below and above them have also improved, so whether they can make that surge into the playoffs is still very much in doubt. They still appear to be significant steps below their division rivals in Buffalo and Ottawa, and the lack of quality depth may once again keep Toronto on the cusp of the Eastern playoff picture right down to the final week of the season.

Update 15Aug 3:15pm - Mark Bell will be serving jail time for last year's felony hit-and-run conviction. Word right now is that he'll serve after this season ends. Which means mid-April. How this will play out for Bell this year is obviously anyone's call (and I'm keeping this discussion strictly hockey-related) but Bell's career is in serious danger of being derailed permanently just as 12 months ago it seemed on the verge of taking off.

Your 2007-2008 Boston Bruins

(ok, I'll post in reverse-order of predicted finish. And I'm too impatient to figure out how to hide the bulk of the post, so here it is...)

Boston Bruins

2006-07 record: 35-41-6, 76 points. Fifth in division/thirteenth in conference.

Coach: Claude Julien
General Manager: Peter Chiarelli
Home arena: TD Banknorth Garden
Capacity: 17565


The Boston Bruins have had a rough going over the past two years, both on and off the ice. It seems ages ago that they finished in first place in the Northeast division with 104 points, losing just 19 games. Yet that was only three seasons ago, the last season before the NHL lockout, and so much has changed with the Bruins that it hardly seems like the same organization. Since then many names have departed, including Brian Rolston, Andrew Raycroft, Mike Knuble, and of course Joe Thornton who, almost immediately upon leaving Boston, turned his career around from talented underachiever to league MVP. The Bruins’ front office has also been in shambles – longtime General Manager Harry Sinden stepped aside, and made room for Mike O’Connell who ended up making moves that alienated a team and their once-loyal fanbase in New England. In this decade alone they have seen no less than seven head coaches attempt to lead the Bruins franchise to their first Stanley Cup since 1972.

The 2007 Bruins should hold no illusions about a Cup run this season, but at the very least hope to establish consistency and a competitiveness not seen in the last few seasons. New General Manager Peter Chiarelli has been applying his stamp to the franchise over the past year, most recently hiring (another) new head coach Claude Julien, fresh off a late-season firing in New Jersey where he had led the Devils to another division title. There is no lack of talent on the Bruins roster, but will it be enough to climb the ever-tightening Eastern Conference and threaten for playoff position?


Marco Sturm Marc Savard Glen Murray
Peter Schaefer Patrice Bergeron Brandon Bochenski
P.J. Axelsson Phil Kessel Chuck Kobasew
Stanislav Chistov Mark Mowers Jeff Hoggan
Shawn Thornton Jeremy Reich

This is a team that should score more goals than last season’s lame total of 219 goals; there simply is too much talent among the top six or seven forwards for that lack of production. For some reason center Marc Savard hasn’t received the respect he deserves in the NHL. His junior career with the Oshawa Generals was nothing short of stellar, twice leading the league in scoring while averaging over two points per game. He had trouble getting a fair shake in the NHL, in part because of his size (listed at 5’ 10”) and in part because of a less-than-perfect reputation for work-ethic. Yet in Calgary and more prominently in Atlanta he became one of the premier setup men in the league. When Boston signed him as a free agent last year it wasn’t deemed one of the bigger signings as many thought his association with the big Atlanta guns was the primary reason for his 97 point season, yet he proved doubters wrong yet again by notching 96 points for an otherwise offensively-challenged club. Glen Murray, who has seemingly been around forever but is only 34, is still a top sniper and a perfect fit alongside the crafty Savard. Marco Sturm is an underrated scoring winger who may be a better fit on Boston’s second line, now that two-way winger Peter Schaefer was acquired from Ottawa. Schaefer would provide defensive support for Savard and Murray to concentrate more on their offensive duties.

Patrice Bergeron is only 22 and signed for the next four years – he has nearly unlimited offensive potential and with the right linemates could easily surpass the 90 point barrier. Phil Kessel is a big wild card for Boston – two years ago he seemed to be the de facto eventual first overall pick for the 2006 draft, but his stock fell enough during his freshman year at Minnesota that he fell to the fifth slot where the Bruins were eager to nab him. Kessel does not belong in a third/checking line situation – he is a one-way player, but a potentially exceptional one. The Bruins would be well-served to bump either him or Bergeron to wing and insure that Kessel gets as much offensive opportunity as possible. Brandon Bochenski has had a brief yet unique career already; there’s never been a question of his scoring ability as in the 2005 pre-season pundits were predicting a big rookie season for the former North Dakota Sioux winger when, on a line in Ottawa with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza, he led the NHL in pre-season goals. Yet he only stuck with Ottawa for 20 games and was dealt to Chicago, and then a year later was flipped to the Bruins where he buried 11 goals in just 31 games.

As with most teams, depth becomes a considerable issue after the top two lines, and the makeup of the third and fourth lines will likely be in flux for some time. P.J. Axelsson is a very valuable defensive forward who will be a regular fixture against opponents’ top lines and while the Bruins are short-handed. Chuck Kobasew is a stereotypical “great scorer if he can get the puck” player who will need to work every shift to earn his ice-time. Stan Chistov, Mark Mowers, Jeff Hoggan, and Jeremy Reich will be among those rotating in and out as depth forwards.


Zdeno Chara Aaron Ward
Dennis Wideman Andrew Alberts
Andrew Ference Mark Stuart
Bobby Allen

rookies/callups: Matt Lashoff

The Bruins defensive play last year was nothing short of awful, giving up 285 goals (only Philadelphia allowed more) and often leaving their goaltenders with very little support. Big-ticket free agent acquisition Zdeno Chara (5 years at $7.5 million per) did not provide the leadership and intimidating presence as advertised, and seemed to have trouble adjusting to being an undisputed number one defenseman. Chara improved late in the season and while he may never fully live up to the enormous sum of money thrown at him, the Bruins should expect him to become more of an overall presence this season.

Beyond Chara the Bruins defence is a mixed bag, one that has yet to play even half a season together as a single unit. Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference are the experienced veterans, Ward having won two Stanley Cups (Detroit and Carolina) while Ference has gone deep into the playoffs with Pittsburgh and Calgary. Both are relatively safe if unspectacular players. Mark Stuart and Dennis Wideman are where the upside can come from, even if they are very different types of players. Stuart is a strong stay-at-home type, the primary type of defenceman the Bruins need to keep the game simple and smartly play the body. Wideman is nearly the complete opposite - an outstanding offensive player who was a dominant force in his junior days with the London Knights, one who must be allowed to play his high-risk style for him to be effective. Look for Wideman to get ample opportunity as the top point man on the Boston powerplay. Andrew Alberts followed Bobby Allen at Boston College, and the two of them will round out the defense, Alberts the younger and more physical of the two.


Manny Fernandez
Tim Thomas

It seems like ages ago that the Bruins were solid in the netminding department – the late 80s/early 90s saw the excellent tandem of Andy Moog and Reggie Lemelin tending goal for some powerful teams, but since then there have been a number of one-year wonders and castoffs (Blaine Lacher, Jim Carey, Andrew Raycroft) – nobody outside of Byron Dafoe has held down the top job for multiple seasons.

Last season’s goaltending duties were in the hands of Hannu Toivonen and Tim Thomas, Thomas initially being an afterthought but eventually became the clear number one in winning the job from Toivonen, who was eventually let go after the season in a deal with St. Louis. However this summer the Bruins dealt with the Minnesota Wild for Manny Fernandez. Fernandez is a mostly unknown commodity amongst NHL fans but is an outstanding goaltender who brings excellent puck-handling skills to the Boston crease.

Whether they now have a short-term plan or not may be debatable but for sure the Boston Bruins are counting on 20 year old Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask as being the future between the pipes for Boston. Rask came over from Toronto last year in a deal for Raycroft, leaving Fernandez and Thomas to battle for top status over the next two seasons until Rask is deemed NHL-ready.


A side result of Boston’s poor play defensively last year was an inability to get the puck to the forwards and keep pressure on the opposition; more than lack of quality forwards, this was the primary reason the Bruins were outscored by such a wide margin last season (289-219). Last season was one of constant change for Boston, so it is imperative that the Bruins’ defensive unit remains intact and develops – this is the biggest key to their season. The team has the offensive capability to make an impact in the East this year, and the tandem of Fernandez and Thomas in net should be good enough to keep them in most games. Look for the Bruins to be better this season, but it’s a tall order to expect them to reverse their goal differential enough to force them into the top eight this season – if everything goes right the Bruins could break .500 and threaten the 90 point barrier this year but they’ll need a complete devotion to team-wide defensive play to avoid missing the post-season for the third straight season.

14 August 2007

NE division team previews

After finally finishing up some pre-season work for SportsGrumblings.com, I'll reproduce my Northeast division previews here. Please check out the work at SportsGrumblings over the next few weeks as every division will be previewed, and untold players will be dissected as to their worthiness for fantasy hockey (I myself worked on centers, some 140+ all told. From a high of 128 words on Jason Spezza to just 3 for Jeremy Roenick).

I'll be posting in order of my predicted finish:

Ottawa Senators
Buffalo Sabres
Montreal Canadiens
Toronto Maple Leafs
Boston Bruins

(I can't figure out how to create post summaries - hazards of doing this at work. Waiting to post later, since each team's summary is pretty long)

09 August 2007

19 years ago today

The biggest trade and one of the more important events overall in sports history - Wayne Gretzky goes to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, draft picks, and a lot of cash.

Read Joe Pelletier's take over at his great Legends of Hockey blog.

08 August 2007

Jersey Sales for July 2007

I wish they'd release how many actual sales were made. And...Peter Forsberg? Really?

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Daniel Briere, Buffalo Sabres / Philadelphia Flyers
3. Chris Drury, Buffalo Sabres / New York Rangers
4. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
5. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres
6. Peter Forsberg, Nashville Predators
7. Maxim Afinogenov, Buffalo Sabres
8. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
9. Jaromir Jagr, New York Rangers
10. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

05 August 2007

Early look at 2008 draft - Steve Stamkos

Jumping ahead of the upcoming season for a post, this weekend there was an article on CBC's hockey section about Sarnia Sting (Ontario Hockey League) center Steve Stamkos, who at this point clearly projects to be the number one pick in next June's NHL draft.

I got to see Stamkos play last January in Toronto (against the St. Michael's Majors) on my annual SOHO "scouting" trip and was highly impressed. If not for the four goal (plus shootout) performance by John Tavares the following evening, Stamkos would have taken home the highly prestigious SOHO MVP award.

Stamkos' first year in the OHL was a huge success, finishing 12th in league scoring with 42 goals and 92 points in 63 games. Previous to being the #1 pick in the 2006 OHL draft, his final year of minor midget hockey was spent with the Markham Waxers - here was his stat line:

66 games
105 goals
92 assists
197 points

Finally, the CBC article refers to an incredible move made at the OHL skills competition last year - here it is:

We'll be seeing Stamkos play head-to-head against Tavares this January when the Sting visit Oshawa, a likely battle between the #1 picks in 2008 and 2009.