Monday, February 25, 2008

Week Twenty-Two Newsletter

The hockey world is officially on trade watch as the hours pass by on Monday, heading for Tuesday afternoon's deadline. The weekend didn't bring anything, but more speculation and confirmation of no-trade clauses standing up.

The names are still circling the rumour mill and as of Monday morning, nothing had yet to be announced, but there are a few names, which are almost guaranteed on moving before the deadline tomorrow. Both Marian Hossa (Dale C.) and Brad Richards (Dale C.) are now poised to move as the auction is on for both. Hossa doesn't have a no-trade clause, so any contender is up for him in the auction, while Richards has given Tampa management a list of teams he will waive his clause for (reportedly). It makes me wonder if they have a listing on eBay for these guys, because it will turn out to be an auction between teams, which will likely go until the 11th hour, because their services are so valuable.

The other player that should have an impact on the deadline will be Olli Jokinen (Dieter). He is looking like a wild card, because there is no true indication on whether or not he will actually move. The cards are being played close to the chest in Miami, but I am sure offers are flooding in for the centre's services. If he is to go, he could provide some instant offense for a team that is contending for a Cup.

Both Dan Boyle (Dale C.) and Brian Campbell (Dale C.) are also sitting on the block as valuable commodities on the blueline. Both are Unrestricted Free Agents come July 1st and as much as their current teams would like to sign them long-term, they would also like to keep them rather losing them for nothing if they reach free agency.

Goalies are turning out to be an overlooked commodity this time around. There are a couple teams sitting with some question marks in their crease, but the market doesn't seem to be carrying much for available blue chips. Teams that have found themselves on the losing end of the stick have been without consistent goaltending all season, so it doesn't seem too logical for teams to go looking at the losers for goaltending help.

As the countdown looms, keep in touch with the Sherpa for some updates and analysis of the trades that do go down today and tomorrow. His eyes and ears will be placed firmly to ground leading up to the deadline.

The poll question for last week was 'Will Mats Sundin (John P.) waive his no-trade clause?' Well, there was a pretty good response during the week, 12 votes, nearly half saying that he will and he rightly should. Well, the other 58% that said he wouldn't, turned out to be right... but whether or not they agreed with him was a different matter altogether. 33% of those polled knew he shouldn't but thought he should, while the other 25% knew he shouldn't and admired him for that sort of decision. With all those no-trade clauses on the Maple Leafs roster, it will be hard to make some moves on a losing team to make them any better any sooner. The ages of some of these guys don't indicate any progress or growth in their game, so it looks awfully grim here for the next few years, while they wait for these contracts to run out.

This week's poll can't really be trade deadline related, although, I feel there is going to be a bonus poll after the dust has settled on Tuesday afternoon, asking who has benefited most from the trade deadline. But the poll starting on Monday will read as this... with Philly's recent drop in the Standings, will they make the playoffs this season? They currently are sitting in 9th spot in the East.

It was a big week and a climb into the money for Dale B. this week. He had a tasty 41-point week in Week Twenty-Two, which vaulted him into third spot, 1 point behind second place. He has been the hottest team since the second waiver draft, having scored 71 points in the last three weeks, one better than second place. He has actually spent the gist of the season within striking distance of the money and now he has got a team that's striking at the right time. He also managed to reel in 7 points on first place, so that means he's making a real move for the big money here as well.

Helping Dale out this week were: Mike Cammalleri (6 points), Patrick Sharp (6), Evgeni Malkin (5), Mike Ribeiro (4), Mark Streit (4) and Ryan Miller (4). There were a few zeros on his list of active players, but with production from his top guys, he didn't need to worry a great deal about the zeros.

A little slow & steady will get you into second place. Clayton has managed quite the ascent up the rankings in the Sheet pool this season. In Week Twenty-Two, he jumped three places from fifth to second, overtaking Dale C. by one point and Paul by five. It was a 64-point week for Clayton that rose him above three other teams, but he still sits 48 points behind Chris in the lead, even after gaining 5 on him during the week. Clayton had a big week from Roberto Luongo (6), Pascal Leclaire (6), Henrik Lundqvist (6), Anze Kopitar (5), Jonathan Toews (5), Evgeni Malkin (5), Ryan Whitney (5) and two others with 4.

Falling out of the money in a cold week was John B.. He actually fell three spots, from second to fifth, in a matter of a week. The top five had come into the week so close, that it couldn't really come as much of a surprise that a cold week would really throw a team out of whack. John now sits 7 points out of second, 6 out of third and 5 out of fourth. He'll need a big week to join that group again and keep his name in the race. His poor week was a sum of the zeros from Dominik Hasek (injured), Dan Cleary (injured), Viktor Kozlov (cold) and Dan Hamhuis (cold). That isn't quite the formula for winning money in the hockey pools.

In the Basement of the Sheet, it was Chris B. who only managed 34 points, the week-low, and remained in 36th position. He managed two players that scored 5 or more points, but it was the six players with zero points that hurt him the most. Chris hasn't made a trade this season, which could be the reason why he's stayed so low all year. But with only eight weeks left in the regular season, it would only be trades to maybe drag him out of the bottom teams and into the Top 30.

It's an old favourite back in one of his favourite spots. Martin Brodeur (Don) had a great, big 9 points in the week to take the Player of the Week honours again this season. This is the first time this season that the Devils keeper has made this distinction, but he's had quite his fair share in years past.

Brodeur went 4-0-0 with an assist in the week to tally his 9 points in the week. He managed to rack up 98 saves in those four games this week and was named the NHL's third star of the week. Rightly so, I would imagine.

After a shaky start to the season, Brodeur has found his form again and the team has also done so in front of him. They've managed to climb the ranks of the Eastern Conference only to land at the peak, in first place, with 79 points, one ahead of the Ottawa Senators. Brodeur also has claimed third spot in the pool rankings for points with 81, one behind both Evgeni Malkin (Dale B.) and Alexander Ovechkin (Clayton). It's turning out to be quite the season for the veteran backstop.

After such a strong start to the season, it looks as though faith has seriously dwindled for Martin Biron (Chris) in Philadelphia. He isn't getting the same amount of starts that he did at the beginning and the starts he is getting, he has underperformed in each one. This has led to the fall of Chris in the pool and the fall of the Flyers out of the playoff picture in the East. Both of which, are fairly hard to believe. What is also surprising is the lack of coverage the fall of the Flyers has garnered, but the rumours for trades are still very consistent. If the Flyers can't wrangle someone big in the next day or two, they are seriously in trouble of missing the playoffs, despite their strong start.

Other News and Notes

It looks as though the salary cap and veteran help that the Ducks received from Doug Weight (Aaron) will be unused over the next extended period of time. Weight has now been listed as out indefinitely with a shoulder strain, which could mean some more cap help, if the injury is far more substantial than first expected. On Sunday, the Ducks lost the services of Chris Pronger (Marcus) to a bruised jaw, after taking a stick to the mouth against the Blackhawks. He didn't return to the game, but how likely do you think he'll miss any more time to a bruise?

Thrasher's defenseman, Alexei Zhitnik (Box 16) was out of the line-up again on Saturday, likely as a healthy scratch, although it was more than likely some nagging injuries that kept him out. It was more likely a rest for the veteran defenseman, who has been struggling to keep himself at 100% this season.

The Sabres were without their February captain, Jochen Hecht (Stuart), who was out with a pulled muscle in his leg. He was listed as doubtful before the game, which should indicate that the injury isn't too severe. He will continue to be on the list as out day-to-day.

The Hurricanes look to have lost veteran defenseman, Glen Wesley (Box 17), to a possible concussion on Sunday. He was hit by Alex Ovechkin (Clayton) in the game against Washington and left with some dizziness and a head injury. This generally means concussion, which should have him out of the line-up for at least a week, probably more.

The Blackhawks were again without their number one goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin (John P.). He missed Saturday and Sunday's contests with back spasms and it has now been reported that he will undergo a MRI this week, since his back injury isn't getting any better any sooner. This is pretty bad news for the Blackhawks and Johh, who may have benefited from a healthy Bulin Wall, either by ice-time or trade to a contender.

Joe Sakic (Dennis) and Paul Statsny (Wes) both returned to the Avs line-up over the weekend. Statsny returned on Friday versus Phoenix, while Sakic returned on Sunday versus the Oilers. This is great news for the Avalanche and their respective pool teams, as they had been missing for considerable amounts of time, Sakic of course much longer than Statsny.

Sergei Zubov (Chris) will not be able to skate now for upwards of four weeks after undergoing surgery on his injured foot over the weekend. Zubov, 35 points in 46 games, had been a rock for Chris during the season when it came to clutch blueline points, but now he'll likely miss another week on top of his non-skating time, just to get himself back into game shape. That should mean, he'll only be good for the remaining three weeks of the season.

Ethan Moreau (non-pool) has now been added to the list of Oilers now out for the remainder of the regular season. Moreau left Sunday night's game after falling down to pinch from the point. He fell awkwardly enough to break his ankle, which will keep him out of the remaining eight weeks of the season. Since the Oilers don't have much of a hope to make the playoffs, this should end Moreau's hopes of playing hockey this season.

Nick Schultz (non-pool) signed a 6-year extension worth $21 million on Sunday, which would make his cap hit for Minnesota sit at $3.5 million a season. This is pretty good news for the Wild, as they have locked up one of their talented young defensemen for the long-term. He hasn't disappointed this season, hardly putting a step wrong while notching 11 points in 62 games. Not quite pool-worthy numbers this season, but his stock is slowly rising.

On Saturday, Predators forward, Alexander Radulov (John P.) missed the contest against the Stars with a bout of the flu. It isn't likely that he'll miss any more time than just that one game.

Mike Sillinger (Box 14) will now be lost to the Islanders for the remainder of the season after an announcement over the weekend saying that his hip injury will require surgery. Sillinger had 26 points in 52 games.

It's been a tough season for Paul Mara (Box 17). On Saturday, he was levelled, 3 minutes into the first period against Buffalo and suffered a head injury, likely a concussion, which he couldn't return to the game from. In all likelihood, he will miss the next week with this injury, which may simplify the Rangers blueline situation and could also bring haste to their need to find a better puck-moving defenseman.

Mike Richards (Benson) was lost to the Flyers on Saturday night against the Panthers for approximately three weeks. Richards tore a hamstring in the 2-1 overtime loss to Florida, which only exacerbates the bad news for the Flyers, who are now losers of 10 games.

Marc-Andre Fleury (Dennis) was called up from the Penguins minor league affiliate on Sunday afternoon and will practice with the team on Monday with hopes that he can re-take the number one job in Pittsburgh and succeed with the position. In his place, both Ty Conklin (Jeff) and Dany Sabourin (Box 24) were doing a marvelous job keeping the Penguins in the hunt from the crease. This recall could drum up some controversy, if Fleury is only mediocre in his return to the net.

It's yet another tripleheader on CBC this coming weekend. They're really giving us the full gamut of games here as we draw closer to the end of the year. We will see some pretty decent games starting out with the Penguins in Ottawa to take on the Senators. Both teams are likely to be players in the trading during the week, so we could see a few new faces on Saturday night, dressed for their new clubs. It will be good to see. In HD at 5pm MT, it's listed as the Devils in Montreal to take on the Habs. The Devils have been hot of late, taking command of the East, while the Canadiens have been floundering a bit of late, having troubles taking the number one spot in the Northeast Division away from the Sens. The late game on Saturday will be the Flames in Phoenix to take on the Coyotes. The Flames took the Northwest Division lead on Sunday, but are in tough in the desert against the unpredictable Coyotes. It should be another great Saturday worth of hockey, especially if you are looking forward to seeing some new faces on new teams.

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