Well, as promised... the Headline will be a preview of the World Junior Tournament, which starts on Boxing Day. The Canadians will field a team that will closely resemble that of which played in the SuperSeries against Russia, with 16 players returning from that series.
On Boxing Day, it will be Jonathan Bernier (Box 12) starting for Team Canada against the home nation, Czech Republic. Bernier cracked my Selection Sheet after a great SuperSeries and a pretty good camp with the Los Angeles Kings. Bernier failed to stick with the team and was sent back to Lewiston of the QMJHL, which then made him available for the WJC tourney this week. This is some good news for Team Canada.
Also suiting up in goal for Canada, possibly in the tournament... Steve Mason, who nearly cracked the Blue Jackets line-up, if it wasn't for two goalies that have quite a bit of experience. Mason played a few games for the Jackets in the pre-season and looked quite good.
Most of the returnees from the SuperSeries were drafted already and were highlighted quite substantially here in the Domain in the summer. So, now we get to look at some names we'll be seeing in future drafts, as they are still available for the 2008 summer or even the 2009.
Highlighting those available for 2008... Steve Stamkos, forward for the Sarnia Sting; Drew Doughty, defenseman for the Guelph Storm and Luke Schenn, defenseman for the Kelowna Rockets. All three of these players will bring a good offensive dynamic to the Canadian squad and should all be going in the Top 10 in June.
Available for 2009... John Tavares, forward for the Oshawa Generals. This teenager scored 76 goals in the OHL last season, but will still be listed as the 13th forward, until he starts potting goals in the big show. Only Tavares himself can play himself into a better role with the team as the tournament progresses. Look for him to go number one in June 2009.
The Canadian team are the favourites, but the Americans, Russians and Swedes all have some top talent coming into this tournament and the Sherpa will try his best to highlight what he can throughout for your viewing pleasure.
I suppose I did post a loaded question on the poll last week. The Leafs making the playoffs is not a high priority in Western Canada, let alone a true desire for a hockey fan this side of Winnipeg. Out of a respectable nine votes, seven of them said that the Leafs are definitely not making the playoffs. The Leafs struggles to score goals and be consistent at home, not to mention the general distaste for the team were the obvious reasons as to why they didn't do so well on the poll.
So, I'll post yet another loaded question, as it's a good time for it. The World Juniors are starting on Boxing Day, so the question will be how the team fares. Do you like their chances for the four-peat?
There wasn't really a move for our big shaker in the Draft for Week Thirteen, but shake he indeed too. John B. took the week with 41 points, but remained tied for 4th position, sitting in 5th because of tie-breakers. He did see 3rd for a time, but the competitors he had passed had moved back. He does sit 2 points away from 3rd going into Week Fourteen.
Burnsy quite possibly holds the best goaltending duo in the Draft at this point in time, now that Dominik Hasek is healthy and playing again. Hasek finished the week with 6 points, whilst his goaltending partner, Roberto Luongo managed 9 points in the week. Also helping John out to a big week was Dan Cleary and Markus Naslund, each having 4 points each.
Only one active player on his list didn't get any points and that was forward Mike Comrie. Comrie was picked up in the Waiver Draft, but had himself a pretty quiet week.
On the Sheet, the M&S has been a team that has moved up from 32nd in Week Two to 2nd after Week Thirteen. Paul moved up from 5th to 2nd in the last week, no less. Tied for the biggest move in the Sheet Pool. He managed 75 points in the week to claim 2nd spot, which is placed firmly in the money position. Paul managed his points this past week from Roberto Luongo (9), Jason Spezza (6), Scott Gomez (6), Henrik Zetterberg (5) and Sidney Crosby (5). It took some time and all five trades, but we now may have a true competitor for top spot.
In the Basement of the Draft was Dennis. The poor guy has a team that is literally rips to shreds and much less than healthy. It's a terrible run of luck for Dennis at the moment... a week of 13 points. Between injuries and cold players, Dennis has seen it all in the past week. Six active players on his roster didn't earn Dennis a point, mostly because three of them have been injured all week. But the news doesn't get much better... and you'll see what I mean when you get to the Other News & Notes section of the newsletter. Luck is the one thing you cannot guard against in a hockey pool.
We had a single team that fell further than any other in the Selection Sheet Pool... Ernest fell 4 spots, down to 24th in Week Thirteen. He only managed 47 points in the week, with only Scott Gomez (6) and Sidney Crosby (5) making any sort of splash for his team. He certainly hasn't had a terrible season, thus far... but a good number of cold weeks has restricted him from climbing up too far. He isn't too far from re-claiming his lost spots, so there shouldn't be much worry in Ernest's camp.
I was actually pretty shocked at the number of points that were floatin' around the pool this past week. The five-goal game, the shutouts, the wins... oh my, where do I begin?!? Well, I narrowed it down to the wins, because going 4-for-4 is pretty impressive.
It was Kari Lehtonen (Jeff) who came back from injury recently and has taken the Southeast Division by storm in recent weeks. Lehtonen beat the Lightning, Senators, Canadiens and Blues this week and managed to snake an assist in the process for a whopping 9 points. These are the numbers that the Thrashers organization have expected from the Finnish netminder.
Lehtonen didn't start the season with a bang at all... the Thrashers really struggled through October and November with some inconsistent goaltending and injuries. But since Lehtonen has come back, he has provided the team with what they were lacking and the Thrashers are above .500 and chasing down the Hurricanes for the division lead.
I don't know about you guys, but I am sure that Jason Blake (Clayton) and his inability to replicate his 40-goal season last year has a lot to do with the last week's poll question ending up the way it did. The Leafs are not getting anything out of the winger, which has got to be rather frustrating after throwing all that money at him in the summer.
Other News and Notes
The Calgary Flames will re-open their season after the break in Vancouver and it is unlikely that they'll have Owen Nolan (Ryan) in their line-up. Nolan is suffering from a neck injury, but the Flames are hoping that the couple days off have done him a lot of good.
Under the radar in the Flames organization flies Brent Krahn (Box 24)... he was actually sent to the Quad City Flames in the AHL in November, but I seemingly missed it. With Matt Keetley (non-pool) and Curtis McElhinney (non-pool) seemingly on top of him on the depth chart, we may not see Krahn dress for the Flames any time soon.
It doesn't look like Mike Commodore (Box 16) can get healthy enough to get some regular playing time. Commodore has recently returned to the line-up from a finger injury, but before the break, he finished in the press box as a scratch. This definitely hasn't been his year.
The Columbus Blue Jackets are trying to find their chemistry again that won them so many games early on in the season. Unfortunately, Duvie Westcott (Box 10) and Gilbert Brule (Box 9) haven't been able to impress the coach enough to continue play for the Blue Jackets. Both have been regular scratches of late.
Just when you think it's safe to keep Martin Havlat (Marcus), something happens to make you remember why Havlat is such a volatile pick. This time, he tweaked his groin before the break and may have to sit another week before he gets to return to the ice. For now, he's just listed as out day-to-day.
On Saturday, the Red Wings were without their top scorer, Henrik Zetterberg (Wes) with back spasms. There is no reason to believe that he'll be out of the Red Wings line-up for long... I would expect him to be in the line-up on Boxing Day versus St. Louis.
The Oilers have been suffering with some flu-like symptoms of late. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson (Box 6) sat out the last couple games with the flu and I am assuming that Ladislav Smid (Box 11) was scratched for something similar. The Oilers will return to action on the 27th at home to Anaheim. Expect both players to return.
The biggest hit for the Oilers came on Sunday when Ales Hemsky (Dennis) took a knee-on-knee hit from Chicago's Martin Lapointe (non-pool). The results from his MRI are not public yet, but it didn't look good when they took him off the ice. Dennis has had his share of injuries and probably couldn't afford to have Hemsky out very long. Check the for updates later in the week.
Still looking to earn his stripes in the NHL, Rob Schremp (Box 9) is doing quite well in Springfield. Scremp has 33 points in 31 games... but sadly, if you had decided to pick him, you'd have to wait until his return to Edmonton before you collected any points from him.
A quick mention to Kurtis Foster (Box 5) in Minnesota, who has been a big disappointment for the Wild this season, as he hasn't competed well enough to keep a spot on the regular roster for the Wild, when he was brought in to provide some steady offense from the blueline. Foster will need to make some improvements in the next month or two or he will sit more often than not.
The Canadiens are perplexed at the lack of production of Michael Ryder (Benson). So much so, he's sat three straight games. They did sit Guilliaume Latendresse (non-pool) for a few games before Ryder's stint and he's now the Habs coaching staff's main concern and they hope he can return to the line-up with a chip on his shoulder.
The Predators have been having some issues with some minor injuries of late. Martin Erat (Jeff) has been dealing with the flu and Shea Weber (Box 4) has been dealing with a leg injury. Both players are questionable for their game against the Blackhawks on Boxing Day.
The Devils may have been suffering from some flu-symptoms as well, but the news didn't quite make the wire during the week. I have much doubt that Zach Parise (Benson) was actually a healthy scratch for the Devils, but since I couldn't confirm that he wasn't, he'll be listed as one. Him and Karel Rachunek (Box 16) both made the list on Sunday as healthy scratches.
Still having troubles, despite actually registering some points while playing, is Marc-Andre Bergeron (Box 16). He was dropped in the Draft by Dennis, but still managed to record an assist or two since then, but he doesn't seem to mesh well with the coach's system on Long Island, which keeps him in the press box.
The Rangers also have their share of under-performing defensemen. Paul Mara (Box 17) returned to the press box before the break. He's yet another character that just can't seem to make it for long, extended periods of time in the regular line-up.
Again, it's another case of a possible flu bug, but Joe Corvo (Chris) wasn't in the line-up for the Senators as a scratch, but his play of late has been quite good, so Corvo was likely out with the bug. Expect to see him back in uniform on Boxing Day against the Sabres.
Let me re-iterate in this post. A good defenseman... Randy Jones (Box 17)... listed as a scratch on Saturday... been playing pretty well... quite possibly contracted the flu. Man, this is getting boring to write.
It was a short stint for Alexandre Picard (Box 22), but he did manage to squeeze in 3 games before being sent back down to the Phantoms. The Sherpa thought Picard was going to be a bluechip definite for the Flyers amongst some questionable veterans, but that hasn't been the case.
Another player that sort of left the radar was forward Petr Cajanek (Box 8). The Czech winger played in 77 games for the Blues last season, but couldn't crack the line-up in camp during the Fall, so instead of actually reporting to the AHL, he decided to head to Russia and play there. It will interesting to see if he makes it back into the NHL next season, but not from a Selection Sheet angle. He won't be on the sheet next season.
When you bring in a third goalie, one has to sit out. When Kari Ramo (non-pool) was called up, it was Marc Denis (Box 24) who found himself as the odd-man out. It's uncertain as to how long Ramo will be around for the Lightning, but as long as he is, it will be Denis in the press box.
Please see entry for Randy Jones for the same situation that Mattias Ohlund (Box 10) is in. The Sherpa is expecting Ohlund to be in the line-up for the Boxing Day game against the Flames.
Well, I thought I would spotlight a name each week now before the second Waiver Draft, seven weeks from now. Topping the list after Week Thirteen was R.J. Umberger (non-pool) of the Philadelphia Flyers. Umberger has been playing with Mike Richards (Benson) and has been making the most of the opportunity. Umberger has 6 goals and 18 assists for 24 points, which makes him one of the leaders today.
The holiday season has brought us some extra games on Hockey Night in Canada. On Boxing Day, there will be a doubleheader, which begins with the Canadiens in Tampa Bay to take on the Lightning. It gets started at 5pm for us here in Calgary and then the second game will see the Flames in Vancouver to take on teh Canucks. Of course, that will be the game that everyone will end up watching... but the Habs and Lightning should be a pretty good game.
On Saturday, the Rangers will be in Toronto to take on the Leafs and Anaheim will visit Calgary for the second game. The Rangers have been struggling... almost as much as the Leafs, so both teams will be looking to get their seasons back on track on Saturday. The Ducks have been improving with the return of Scott Niedermayer (non-pool), so it will be interesting to see how the Flames match up.
NHL, Hockey, Hockey Pool