Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Team Canada Selections Made

My predictions were close but there were a couple surprises for sure. Here is Steve Yzerman's selections with my guess as to what the lines will be.

Nash - Crosby (A) - Iginla (A)
Heatley - Thornton - Marleau
Staal - Getzlaf - Perry
Morrow - Toews - Richards
Bergeron

Seabrock - Keith
Neidermayer (C) - Pronger (A)
Boyle - Weber
Doughty

Brodeur
Luongo
Fleury

Overall I'm happy with the selections. The lack of Calgary Flames on D is surprising but the replacements are just as good. I was off on 5 selections that I'll go over but Team Canada is going to be a good team regardless:

Ward over Fleury

I thought Ward was a bigger difference maker than Fleury in each of their recent playoff successes. The rest of Canada thinks Fleury is a no-brainer. Its the 3rd goaltender so its not a big deal and I'm OK either way.

Seabrock over Rhegher

The way Yzerman explains it makes sense. He wanted the chemistry over Keith and Seabrook and its probably a good call.

Boyle over Bouwmeester

Flip a coin? Dan Boyle is a difference maker but Bouwmeester is still very underrated in my opinion. I'd still take Bouwmeester but it could be a left handed vs right handed decision or a PP decision where Boyle is the better player.

Bergeron over Smyth

Personally I don't like the choice over Bergeron. Smyth may not have been the best choice because of his injury but Bergeron has been injured quite a bit as well. Smyth has been a difference maker this year for LA (ask Anze Kopitar).

Staal over Stamkos

I think I overlooked Staal in my original selections. Staal has come on fast and Stamkos has slowed a bit over the last while. I like the choice of Staal.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Picking Team Canada

With the Olypmic's coming up, I thought it would be fun to predict Team Canada's roster.

Nash - Crosby - Iginla
Heatley - Thornton - Marleau
Smyth - Getzlaf - Perry
Morrow - Toews - Richards
Doan
Stamkos

Pronger - Keith
Neidermayer - Rhegher
Boumeister - Weber
Doughty

Brodeur
Luongo
Ward

The lines I use feature a couple sets of players with established chemistry - Heatley/Thornton and Getzlaf/Perry. I'm very open to the idea of Penner over Smyth to play with Getzlaf and Perry who have been successful before for Anaheim. Being an Oilers fan I refused to allow my homerism to reflect in my lines so I left Penner off. But if Steve Yzerman picks him I'll be thrilled. The other move I'd consider is St Louis over Marleau. Stamkos likely wouldn't see the ice in the deciding games thought. Also as I coach I'd use a short leash on Thornton. He has yet to bring it when it matters but is too good to leave off the roster. For a similar reason, I'd chose Brodeur over Luongo.

Oh ya and Crosby would be my captain. Iginla and Neidermayer as assistants.

GO CANADA!!

Get a lottery pick

Over the past couple days, I dug through some of my "post ideas" that I had partially written. One of the most interesting ones was focused on the idea that the best thing that could happen to the Oilers is an injury to Khabibulin. The basic premise was that, similar to what Colorado did last season, it would allow the Oilers to ride average goaltending (JDD/Dubnyk) to a lottery pick. Now that Khabibulin is hurt along with their best forward its pretty clear the Oilers should be aiming for a 2010 lottery pick.

I'm a firm believer in Stu MacGregor and the scouting department. They have delivered solid return in the first round with Gagner, Eberle and MPS but the franchise caliber players are gone at the position they are drafting at each year. The Oilers aren't that bad of a team. With a bit of luck or by winning a trade or 2 they could in fact make the playoffs. But its not likely and I'm sick of finishing in 9th place.

That being said, I dont think the Oilers need a full blown rebuild. The injuries allow them to tank and keep enough veterans around to remain competitive. Like every year, its important to decide which players to keep in the short and long term. Word recently from the Ottawa Sun is that the Oilers are looking to move some larger salary cap hits. It could be a bogus rumor but it fits along nicely with my opinion that the Oilers should be lottery bound so I'll play. The article mentions Souray, Horcoff and Visnovsky as players the Oilers are shopping - players who can help a team win now and in the short term but are also well paid.

Horcoff - Apparently he is hurt but his effectiveness is really only when he is at 100% and can out battle players all over the ice. He is a valuable player and I don't mind keeping him but he isn't covering the bet nor do I think he will. For this reason, in a cap world, he has to be considered movable if anyone would possibly take his contract.

Visnovsky - I wouldn't move him. He is too good and makes others better.

Souray - His injury history and possible high return make him a guy I would dangle. Love the player but and what he brings but would be accepting phone calls about him.

The Oilers are also burdened with too many non-value contracts. Several of which are for players who are on the downside of their careers and a couple others whose skillset is duplicated on the roster. I also believe a team looking to rebuild should be under the cap to be able to afford emerging players and open trade opportunities.

Staois - I'd probably keep him. He is slightly overpaid but is capable to handle top 4 minutes over the short term and is a good leader. You need to keep guys like him around for his experience and I believe in having because its the hardest position to learn and lets players learn slowly. That being said, he is far from untradeable I'm just not shopping him.

Moreau - I'd move him. I believe the guy doing the talking needs to be able to lead by example. Moreau hasn't been able to do this for a while and a change of leadership should be made.

O'Sullivan - I was wrong. O'Sullivan must have rode Kopitar to make his numbers look good but he doesnt appear to be half the player I anticipated. Given that the Oilers have too many small forwards, I'd move O'Sullivan. Coupled with his salary, I'd move him for a hockey puck.

Nilsson - I was wrong again but Vic Ferrari does a good job explaining why. Nilsson's skill level is high but I think Omark or Eberle could replace him for half the cost next season. We already have Comrie who can replace him soon for half the cost. Another player I'd move for a hockey puck.

Pisani - His reputation as a clutch player could give him some cachet. Pisani's contract is off the books next season but I have my doubts after 2 years of injuries/health concerns that he'll ever be the same player again. But he is also the kind of player Detroit would sign for 900k. If Pisani is willing to return at half price, I'd keep him.

All in all, if the Oilers get a lottery pick and clear cap space I'm OK with the job Tambellini did this year. The best time to clear cap space is at the deadline. Being a team at the cap in a lottery position says a lot about the job management has done. While most of the contracts aren't Tambelinni's fault, this team needs some smart contracts and cap flexibility.

There are positives like Penner and Gagner but this team has been lacking traction most of the past decade. Changes need to be made. Progress needs to be made. A lottery pick would be a good start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tracking Filatov

Once again its been too long since I've posted but I'm too much of a fan to sit and complain so instead I sit in the corner and sulk. One topic I'm following this season is the progress of Nikita Filatov. He is a player who many hyped as a rookie of the year candidate this year and HF had him as the 3rd best prospect this fall. Filatov possesses game breaking skill that could make him a topend offensive player in the NHL. I also have him in my keeper league ;) But in all seriousness, it should be of interest to Oilers fans as the Oilers have not converted many top 6 offensive prospects into players over the last decade - Hemsky and Horcoff being the exception. Gagner is tracking well and Penner well I'm not sure what to think of him despite his obvious turnaround this year. It was also an interesting and creative move by Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson, whom I miss more and more each day, to get Filatov more playing time. The threat of Filatov staying is Russia will be a definate concern but at least they arent wasting a crucial development year.

It's a small sample size but Filatov is off to a strong start in the KHL with 9 points in 5 games thus far. Until Filatov plays over 20 games I wont even look at NHLE's and, even then, luck would be a large factor. The KHL is typically a low scoring league where a PPG pace is considered a very strong season. Regardless, a PPG pace would be considered a success and Filatov is tracking above that threshold.

Because of the small number of games, we really cant conclude much. Did he have a 5 pt night against a bottom feeder? Is he getting all his points on the PP or from very soft minutes? Most importantly, Filatov is getting more minutes and likely (based on his numbers) more offensive minutes. Early on, this is looking like a good move for Columbus.