Wednesday, 31 August 2011

2011 Offseason Recap - Atlantic Division

My Offseason Recaps seemed to do good last year, so I figured why not do them again. It's the same format, listing all key moves along with my predicted conference placement for each team come season's end. And just for fun, I added what I think the highest position they can possibly reach, if everything clicks perfectly and they get a little luck as well. Players are listed with their contract term, salary and cap hits, though cap hit is omitted if it is just a one-year contract because then the salary and cap hit is the same.

I'll be releasing one of these per day, so look for the remaining five divisions on Facebook and Twitter.

Philadelphia Flyers - 3
Best Possible Finish - 1st in division, 1st in conference
Projected Points Leader - Claude Giroux, 32-56-88
Key Signings
June 23: G Ilya Bryzgalov, nine years, $51 million, $5,666,667 cap hit
July 1: RW Jaromir Jagr (KHL, Omsk Avangard), one year, $3.3 million
July 1: D Andreas Lilja (ANA), one year, $750,000
July 1: C Maxime Talbot (PIT), five years, $8.75 million, $1.8 million cap hit
Aug. 30: LW James van Riemsdyk, six years, $25.5 million, $4.25 million cap hit


July 1: 2nd round pick (2012 or 2013), 3rd round pick (2012) from FLA for RW Kris Versteeg
June 27: 3rd round pick (2013) from MIN for C Darroll Powe
June 23: RW Wayne Simmonds, C Brayden Schenn, 2nd round pick (2012) from LA for C Mike Richards, C Rob Bordson
June 23: RW Jakub Voracek, 1st round pick (2011, C Sean Couturier), 3rd round pick (2011, C Nick Cousins) from CLB for C Jeff Carter
June 7: G Ilya Bryzgalov from PHO for LW Matt Clackson, 3rd round pick (2012), future considerations


C Ville Leino - BUF
D Sean O'Donnell - CHI
G Brian Boucher - CAR
LW Dan Carcillo - CHI
D Danny Syvret - STL

What to Expect
The Flyers finished 11th in the league last season in goals-against average (2.63) and that was with a shaky duo of Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky. That number is bound to improve with the acquisition of Ilya Bryzgalov. His stable presence will go a long way towards offsetting the major shakeup at forward. They may not finish in the top three in offense again (3.12 goals per game last season), but a budding James van Riemsdyk and the return of Jaromir Jagr is going to help out a lot. Taking him on is certainly a gamble, but the Flyers should take solace in knowing whatever he does this season can't possibly be as bad as the last mark he left on the NHL. If Chris Pronger is healthy there will be few concerns. The Flyers should be more consistent this season and if all things click, they'll capture the division title for consecutive years for the first time since 1994-95 and '95-96 seasons. However they'll need a lot of luck because right on their heels are the...

Pittsburgh Penguins - 4
Best Possible Finish - 1st in division, 1st in conference
Projected Points Leader - Evgeni Malkin, 42-67-109
Key Signings
July 1: RW Tyler Kennedy, two years, $4 million, $2,000,000 cap hit
June 29: RW Arron Asham, one year, $775,000
June 28: RW Pascal Dupuis, two years, $3 million, $1,500,000 cap hit
June 8: RW Craig Adams, two years, $1.35 million, $675,000 cap hit


RW Eric Godard - DAL
C Maxime Talbot -PHI
C Mike Rupp - NYR
LW Brett Sterling - STL
D Corey Potter - EDM

What to Expect
I put the Penguins just below the Flyers because of the uncertainty of Sidney Crosby. I imagine GM Ray Shero will want to take every precaution necessary to ensure his franchise player is able to play 10 years from now. Sacrificing one season is better than risking a shortened career like Eric Lindros, Peter Forsberg and many others. Beyond that, the Pens showed last season they can play just fine without their top two players. Jordan Staal showed he can be a 60-70 point guy and Malkin is working hard to strengthen his knee. They kept a major chunk of their role players, but losing Talbot and Rupp may hurt a little bit. They didn't lose anyone of significance on a defense that finished sixth overall in goals-against average (2.39) last season. If Crosby manages to play a significant portion of the season though, Pittsburgh will take the division and challenge Washington for first in the conference.

New York Rangers - 5
Best Possible Finish - 2nd in division, 4th in conference
Projected Points Leader - Brad Richards, 26-58-84
Key Signings
July 2: C Brad Richards (DAL), nine years, $60 million, $6,666,667 cap hit
July 1: LW Ruslan Fedotenko, one year, $1.4 million
July 1: C Mike Rupp (PIT), three years, $4.5 million, $1,500,000 cap hit

July 2: RW Andreas Thuresson from NSH for LW Brodie Dupont
June 25: 3rd round pick (2011, C Steven Fogarty) from STL for C Evgeny Grachev
June 25: 6th round pick (2011, D Peter Ceresnak) from NSH for 6th round pick (2012)
June 1: D Tim Erixon, 5th round pick (2011, RW Shane McColgan) from CAL for C Roman Horak, 2nd round pick (2011, C Markus Granlund), 2nd round pick (2011, D Tyler Wotherspoon)

LW Alex Frolov - KHL, Omsk Avangard
D Matt Gilroy - TB
LW Vinny Prospal - CLB

What to Expect
I really like what is going on in Manhattan and I think the Rangers are an underrated team. This is assuming Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik mesh well, of course, but if they do the Rangers have a great first line to go along a fine collection of serviceable role players and Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are ready to be counted in among the best players in the game. Their development along with that of Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle and Artem Anitimov will more thanoffset the loss of veterans Vinny Prospal and Alex Frolov. They have a young, but steady and maturing defense playing in front of what I believe is he most technically sound goalie in the NHL in Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers were fifth in goals-against average and they are only going to get better while Lundqvist wants to finally capture the Vezina Trophy. Unlike many previous years, they have a good deal of depth and youth.

New Jersey Devils - 11
Best Possible Finish - 3rd in division, 8th in conference
Projected Points Leader - Zach Parise, 42-47-89
Key Signings
D Andy Greene, four years, $12 million, $3,000,000 cap hit
G Johan Hedberg, one year, $1.25 million
RW Cam Janssen (STL), one year, $525,000
LW Eric Boulton (WIN), two years, $1.325 million, $662,500 cap hit

July 28: RW Trent Hunter from NYI for LW Brian Rolston
July 12: 5th round pick (2012) from CAL for LW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond
June 16: D Maxim Noreau from MIN for C David McIntyre

D Colin White - SJ
D Anssi Salmela - KHL, Omsk Avangard
RW Trent Hunter - buyout
G Mike McKenna - OTT

What to Expect
I don't think it will take long for the Devils to rebuild, but it won't happen this year. They aren't going to be terrible, but there are too many holes, especially on defense, for them to be a major factor. Now they won't be nearly as bad as they were the first half of last season, but you can't expect them to go on a run  like they did over the second half either. Their play wil likely even out and they will finish in the same spot. Having Zach Parise for a ful season will improve the worst offense in the NHL last year. Both he and Ilya Kovalchuk should threaten the 40-goal mark this season and Travis Zajac should be back near 70 points. There is just very little to like on defense however, aside from fourth overall pick Adam Larsson. Both goalies are in their late-30s so game will be played much more evenly than in the past.

New York Islanders - 14
Best Possible Finish - 4th in division, 12th in conference
Projected Points Leader - John Tavares, 35-42-77
Key Signings
June 17: Trevor Gillies, one year, $625,000
July 1: C Marty Reasoner (FLA), two years, $2.7 million, $1,350,000 cap hit

July 28: LW Brian Rolston from NJ for RW Trent Hunter
June 29: 4th round pick (2012) from BUF for D Christian Ehrhoff
June 28: D Christian Ehrhoff from VAN for 4th round pick (2012)
June 25: future considerations from TB for D Bruno Gervais
C Zenon Konopka - OTT
D Jack Hillen - NSH
G Nathan Lawson - MTL
D Radek Martinek - CLB
C Doug Weight - retirement

What to Expect
The young players will continue to grow and give a glimpse of what the future is going to be built around, but that will be one of the few positive note for the Islanders. Another is the return of Mark They are still paper thin on defense and there is no teling just how the goaltending situation will unfold. Kyle Okposo should be healthy and Nino Niederreiter will have every opportunity to earn a permanent spot on the roster. They will combine with John Tavares and Michael Grabner in what could be the first season of an offense that will carry the team for the next decade. This is likely to be their last season in the very bottom of the conference, but with a weak lineup and major questions concerning management and a new arena the dark days will continue for the time being on Long Island. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

My Favorite Hockey Moments

Earlier this week, The Hockey News' Rory Boylen wrote an article about some of the top hockey moments in history, which got me thinking about my favorite moments. And as it turns out, his and my top moment is the same one. As much as I've been through already, Winter Classics, the Olympics, the Stanley Cup final, interning for THN, everything starts with Ray Bourque accepting the Stanley Cup from Joe Sakic in 2001. It isn't my first hockey memory, that would be a Flyers 2-1 win over the Bruins at the old Spectrum back in the shortened 1995 season, that is the game that got me hooked on the sport. I was only 12 at the time and hardly knew anything of Bourque's career, but the humble gesture from Sakic and the passion in Bourque's eyes immediately turned me into a hockey junkie.

Every other event I've seen, been to or been a part of have all been a result of that moment, making it my top moment no matter what. But that is far from being the only great moment I have ever lived through. Obviously being at a game in person is way better than watching one on TV, so I doubt anything can top the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. There were so many great moments, each game was an absolute wonder, I can't list them all, but here are a couple of personal highlights.

  • Alex Ovechkin's hit on Jaromir Jagr
  • Peter Forsberg's last point in North America, an assist on a goal by Patric Hornqvist against Slovakia.
  • Shannon Szabados' glove hand in the women's gold medal game, one of the best goaltending performances I have ever seen.
  • Team USA's complete dominance over Finland in the semifinal, scoring six goals in the first 12:46 and coasting to an easy 6-1 victory to get to the gold medal game.
  • Tim Thomas' realization of a dream come true and participating in Olympic hockey at the end of that same game. 
There are plenty of other moments there, I would list every moment of action if I could, but let's move on shall we?

I was a big football fan when I was younger and I always wanted to go to a game whoile it was snowing. Those games in Foxborough and Green Bay looked magical on TV and would be an epic event to be a part of. That finally happened on Jan. 1, 2008 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, though I never thought it would be for a hockey game. Out of the four Winter Classics, the snow globe effect and Sidney Crosby shootout winner made for a remarkable day of hockey in what was surely one of the greatest sights to behold in NHL history. 

I have watched the Flyers force Game 7 against the Bruins during their epic comeback in 2010; the Chicago Blackhawks end the longest Cup drought in NHL history (I'll admit, my vision was blurry at the end of the night); Keith Primeau almost single-handedly force Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004 in the most determined performance I have witnessed; Simon Gagne beat Atlanta on a penalty shot with a minute to go from the bowels of the Wachovia Center moments before winning a Primeau autographed, game-used jersey only a few months before his epic playoff performance; Forsberg own the puck and go through the entire Sabres team before dishing it to Eric Desjardins (one of my worst hockey memories followed four days later when the Sabres, up 3-2 in their first round series, destroyed the Flyers 7-1 in Philly); games in Ottawa, Buffalo and Boston in three consecutive nights. 

And of course, I cannot forget about my internship. The guys at THN were incredible to work with and every moment of my four months there was incredible. From sitting the the press box for the first time to playing in the Business of Hockey Cup (even though we finished last) on my last day, it was an experience I won't forget anytime soon.

There are moments in history I look up to as well. One Boylen left out was the Miracle on Ice. Sure, Canadians will try to tell you the Summit Series is the greatest moment, but there is a major difference between the two. Sure, they both went up against a hockey and real-world superpower and were able to come out victorious, but the Canadian team was made up of the best professionals the NHL had to offer. Meanwhile Team USA was made up of a bunch of ragtag college kids who only a few months earlier couldn't stand to be on the same ice as one another. They came together, beat all odds and were part of what many call the greatest sports moment in history. "Do you believe in miracles?" Hell yes I do.

The Soviets were the victim of another loss a few years earlier, this time to the Flyers. Many people disliked Philly for their rough and tumble (to put it lightly) style of play, but everyone was a Flyers fan on that night. The Flyers won 4-1 and sent the Soviets home. The Miracle on Manchester is an epic game I have on DVD and watch all the time. The Kings were underdogs to say the least and this game is perhaps the greatest single-game comeback in NHL history. There was Mario Lemieux's comeback from cancer (how many opposing players can say they got a standing ovation in Philly?); Primeau's goal in the fifth overtime against Pittsburgh; Petr Klima's third-OT goal against Boston during only his second shift of the extra frames after the power went out; and Paul Kariya's goal after being flattened by Scott Stevens in the 2003 final. 

These are just some of my favorite moments. There are so many to choose from as each year brings us more and more great stories and moments. Of course, the top hockey moments are not always good. Here are TSN's top infamous hockey moments and their top crazy moments of all-time, part one and part two.

What are your favorite memories? Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter.