Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stanley Cup predictions

This has been my dream playoff draft year. I went with the Pens and Wings as the finals team in all of my drafts and am looking forward to pay day. My 3rd round predictions were bang on but they weren't exactly bold predictions. The finals prediction wont be so easy.

Redwings vs Penguins

In 1984, the young Edmonton Oilers entered Long Island against the juggernaut New York Islanders and 4 time defending Stanley Cup champions. Led by budding superstars Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier the Oilers entered the finals with relative ease including 2 sweeps and a tough 7 game series against their rivals the Calgary Flames. The Oilers would be a confident bunch had they not been handed a lesson in last years finals by the same New York Islanders.


This year, the Pittsburgh Penguins head to Detroit where the Red Wings have been the dominant team in the NHL for the past 18 years and are the defending Stanley Cup champions. Riding the excellent performances of their young superstars, Crosby and Malkin, the Penguins have had a relatively easy post season blazing by both the Flyers and a sweep of the 2006 champion Carolina Hurricanes. Their only real test so far has been their 2nd biggest rivals - Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. The Penguins should be a confident team but like the 1984 Oilers, the Penguins are facing a team in the finals that beat them easily the previous year. Last years finals went to 6 games but should have been over in 4 or 5. Detroit was the much better team.

And thats about where the similarities end. Detroit is still the favorite. Its a bold move to bet against the Red Wings but I think I will. Last year, Malkin was non-existent in the playoffs. This year he has been a force. And Crosby has been better. Detroit has coasted through much of the playoffs this year but Datsyuk hasnt shown up for many games this post season and their anchor on defense, sure Hall of Famer and entering discussions for best defensemen alltime, Nicolas Lidstrom is banged up. Detroit is deeper than Pittsburgh has more experience than the Penguins but unless Datsyuk can return to form I think Crosby and Malkin will be good enough to overcome the Detroit depth. This will also be Sergei Gonchar's step into stardom. He is very underrated.

I'll admit here that I am biased in this prediction by the fact that I don't want to see Hossa shun the Oilers and pick his cup. Good on Hossa for turning down millions for his chance at the cup, I just don't want to see it. One thing I know is that the series will be closer this year than last.

In fact, its going to be epic.

Key matchup: Osgood vs Fleury
Prediction: Penguins in 7

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Oilers hire Quinn and Renney

I guess its obvious that I wont be complaining about the coaching decision after declaring Pat Quinn and Brett Sutter my two choices for next head coach. Adding Tom Renney, who is apparently and excellent tactition, as associate head coach is a pure bonus and as long as the they can can co-exist I believe they will compliment themselves nicely. Frankly I'm stunned that we were able to land both coaches. I'm not going to cover Quinn and Renney much - google is a wonderful tool. But here are some couple good reads on Quinn by Lowetide and Brownlee and another one by Lowetide on Tom Renney.

Experience

Whether the team is winning, losing, making mistakes or getting everything right, experience within the organization is valuable. The Oilers roster is thin on experience and could use some more but these additions to the coaching staff should help support these players. For Tambellini, you cant risk hiring a green coach to run the show with such a young team. The impact could be disastrous. As an Oilers fan, you may not care because the punishment is likely a lottery pick but as a GM with your job on the line, I think it was a no brainer.

Regarding Bucky

It seems there are many people whose only complaints about the coaching decision was that Kelly Buchberger was made assistant coach. I have no problems with Bucky and for the most part am not concerned with complementary coaches. Its like complaining about 4th liners. Sure it matters but I'd much rather talk head coach and first line talent. Coinsidently I think the Oilers top 6 forwards are in definate need of an upgrade. As for the old boys club abuse, I get it. After falling on their faces after 2006 Kevin Lowe and MacT deserve some lumps. While they have made mistakes (which also adds to their experience) I dont get what Bucky has done wrong to be associated with it. I'd wager most NHL organizations have ex-players on their staff so its not like the Oilers are alone here. Bucky has paid his dues and quite honestly has almost as much coaching experience as Dan Blysma and a similar (but better) career as a player. Sure Huddy would have been a better choice but my guess is that Huddy goes where MacT goes. Move along...

Implications

To my eye there are several observations to be made. Most of which are positive.

- Tom Renney was likely promised the coaching job once Quinn retires.
- Katz pulled out the wallet to get the best available staff he could buy. After seeing Katz pursue Hossa last summer with a truckload of money its clear Katz is committed to winning. All we need now is the rink announcement.
- There is potential for the "Olympic effect" to benefit the Oilers this year. With the Oilers loaded with former Team Canada coaches and execs, there is the possibility players want to play in Edmonton for the chance to get noticed. Getting the new rink announced before July 1 would also help boost the teams image (yes I meant to comment on the new rink twice).
- The Oilers have gradually been trying to build a puck possession skill team since 2006. Last years team was not a success, due mostly to the regression in play by Nilsson and the lack of progress from Gagner and Cogliano. From most reports, Quinn likes his gritty bruisers, so it will be interesting to see what management does this summer with the team. Building a winner is not a one year task and my hope is that they stick with the plan. Our defense is quality (sign Grebeshkov) and I believe Gagner and Cogliano will progress this season like we were all hoping for last season. This team still needs a top-end forward but I think a roster overall isn't necessary. That and the fact that overhauling the roster and coaching staff is too much change. This franchise needs some continuity to gain traction.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Franzen takes out Kanes mouthgaurd

Funny video of a clip I missed from the weekend.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

3rd round predictions

This post is overdue but I've been in NYC till late last night. My second round predictions were off thanks to the upset by the Hurricanes but I don't think I was alone on that prediction. Canucks vs Blackhawks I thought would be closer and would have been if not for Chicago's lethal PP. The Ducks put up a better fight than I thought and the Pens/Capitals series lived up to expectations.

Red Wings vs Blackhawks

My gut tells me this one will be closer than I'm predicting but I think Detroit's experience will win out in this series. The Chicago offense lit up Luongo and a pair of decent pvp centers in Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kelser but Detroit is deep and rely on winning individual battles. Detroit defends too well as a team and has the skill to match Chicago.

Key matchup: Lidstrom vs Kane
Prediction: Wings in 5

Hurricanes vs Pittsburgh

Hurricanes have been surprising to say the least. I've watched many Canes games and they defend well and have had the best player in each series thus far. I doubt Eric Staal will be the best player in this series.

Key matchup: Crosby vs Staal
Prediction: Pens in 5


Predicting 5 games verdicts in each series is not exactly earth shattering. At least its been my prediction from day 1 and I should get some nice draft payouts in a month or so ;)