Monday, March 03, 2008

Week Twenty-Three Newsletter

On the Sheet, there was a look back at the season before to see if some initial records could be broken this season. Last season, Dieter won the pool with 1688 points and with only seven weeks to go, Chris leads with 1240 points. Dieter's margin of victory was only 10 points over Don at the end of last season, while Chris' lead has finished the week at 37 points.

On the polar opposite of the pool, Fred was last place in the pool with 974 points and was last by a great big 178 points, which was rather laughable. This season, it's a much tighter race seeing Greg, John B. and Kyle still under 900 points, but with seven weeks to go, it does seem very likely that Fred's futility records will stay intact through this year.

The best week of points last season was Jeff's 96 points. This season, the biggest week was only one point less, Ryan's 95 points. So, that record still stands to be broken. Thanks to Week One's start in Britain, there were a few zeros as the week-low, which doesn't quite make it all fair. Last season, the minimum amount of points earned was 15, by Derek W..

Well, it was questions about whether or not teams would make the playoffs or not. With both Colorado and Philadelphia making some moves and having some injury problems these past couple of weeks, would they in fact be there for the last dance of the season?

First up, the Philadelphia Flyers are to be scrutinized after their great start to the season, but now they can't seem to hang on very tightly to their playoff aspirations. Although, despite their new set of injuries, they have been a little bit more competitive in their last few games, which could renew some confidence... except for those taking the poll. Of the eight votes surveyed, 75% said that the Flyers will drop out of the playoff race and fail to see their way in. As of Monday morning, the Flyers are in the eighth and final playoff spot with a 3-point lead over Buffalo. The Flyers may need a new collapse to really fall out now.

Secondly, the signing of Peter Forsberg (Wes) prompted the same question about the Colorado Avalanche. The team hasn't seen Forsberg suit up quite yet, but the loss of Ryan Smyth (Dennis) and Marek Svatos (Stuart) this past weekend won't help at all. As of Monday morning, the Avalanche hold a tie for 7th in the West with two other teams (Vancouver and Nashville), while the Canucks still have a game in hand... and they play each other on Tuesday in Denver. The poll suggests that they are still likely to miss the playoffs, but not by the big margin that the Flyers are suggested to miss by.

This week's question, now that we've all had nearly a week to see the results... which team fared the best over the Trade Deadline period? That should be an easy question for you lot.

It looks as though we only have a shaker in the Draft this past week, because nobody moved a position. In that case, we'll have to take the highest scoring team in the Draft, which is... a tie! There were two teams with 34 points in the week, so by virtue of being a nice guy, our M&S for Week Twenty-Three is Marcus. Marcus' 34 points closed his gap on 13th spot to only 9 points, so there is some movement left in the pool yet to go. Since the second Waiver Draft, Marcus has had the third best team in the pool with 96 points in the last three weeks. It's been quite the impressive run for him of late.

For Week Twenty-Three, Marcus had great contributions from Mike Knuble (8 points), Carey Price (6), Kimmo Timonen (5) and three players with 3 points. It was a fairly productive week for Marcus, in a somewhat low-scoring week. It was one of those weeks where the injuries (and Marcus has a lot of them), didn't catch up to him, because all of his active players were able to produce points.

Luckily, in the Sheet we had some moving & shaking, but with a list of teams 39 deep, you're bound to have some movement in such a tightly wrapped pool. The big mover of the week was Benson, who moved up two spots closer to a money position in 7th. He finished with 47 points, which wasn't highest, but the move towards the money is worth mentioning. His week was highlighted by players like Jose Theodore (6 points), Ryan Smyth (5), Derek Roy (5) and Mark Streit (5); which was close to the best you could get in this lower-scoring week. Benson now sits 20 points out of 5th, the last money position.

In the basement, it was also another tie! Two teams each managed to suck in 16 points in the week. So, saying that... the first tie-breaker will be number of "active" players who didn't score a point in the week. Our first contestant, Jeff, finished the week with five players on his active roster with zero points. Our second contestant, Ryan, finished the week with four players with zero points. That makes our winner (or weiner, for that matter)... Jeff! Congratulations, Jeff... you win a week's worth of pain and ridicule from all of your peers, here in the Draft. Jeff currently sits 18 points above 13th spot and 27 above 14th... and more basement weeks like that, certainly will dwindle those numbers quickly.

There were two dropping teams of two spots, so the tie-breaker for the Basement will be the number of points for. The lowest one wins! Our two contestants for this honour are... Jeff (again!) and Caterina. Jeff finished the week with 35 points, while Caterina finished with... 31. So, Caterina takes home the Basement award for Week Twenty-Three. Unfortunately, due to the format of the show, we won't have time for any acceptance speechs. We'll just rattle off a couple numbers... 12 of her players didn't register a point... and this was her lowest-week for points since the fifth week of the season.

The week of the trade deadline brought together all sorts of stories and brought other stories to a head. So, it really seemed fitting that one of the bigger storied players of the 2008 deadline, made news on the ice, where he needed to make it most.

The big Swede, Mats Sundin (John P.), racked up 8 points (4G, 4A) in 4 games this week after not waiving his no-trade clause for the Leafs, who were trying to move him.

The Leafs spent the week on the road, going from Ottawa (Sundin had a goal), to Miami (2 goals and an assist), to Tampa Bay (an assist) and finally in Washington on Saturday (goal and 2 assists). The road trip did make the point streak all the more impressive. Now the Leafs are now only 6 points out of the last playoff spot in the East, but the 8th place Flyers have a game in hand. The Leafs are technically still in the race, but Sundin and the Leafs will have to keep their current pace through the rest of the season to actually do it.

The Thrashers are now sitting second from the bottom in the East and unfortunately, they have a cold goalie that is keeping them down there, but trading one of your best players away doesn't help either. Now, on the other hand, if shootout/overtime losses actually counted for points (which they don't, 'cuz they suck), then Kari Lehtonen (Jeff) wouldn't have been in bad shape. The Thrashers actually played in three games that went out of regulation time, where Lehtonen played in two of them.

Other News and Notes

The Thrashers had forward Todd White (Peter) missing from their line-up on the weekend with an elbow injury. White hasn't been quite the offensive force that he has normally been, only 37 points in 65 games this season. He's normally around the 60-mark, if he plays a full season. Also missing from the Thrashers' line-up on Sunday was defenseman, Ken Klee (Box 22). He missed the game due to a groin injury. It isn't considered too serious and he should be back within the week.

The red-hot Bruins are obviously not going to make any hasty moves in regards to their squad down the stretch. They continue to put wins on the board and so they have a chance to rest Peter Schaefer (Benson), who has been struggling with his injuries. After missing eight games with a leg injury, Schaefer returned for one game during the week, but has now sat twice since. We can assume that Schaefer is still feeling some pain, so until there is some real concern for the team's win streak, Schaefer may sit until he's truly 100%.

The Flames are currently keeping themselves a float in the Northwest Division and you can see that head coach, Mike Keenan, has been formulating his deep defense as of late. One of the more consistent scratches of late has been Anders Eriksson (Box 10), as there is something in his play that the coach doesn't seem to like. Also having a seat on Saturday night was Cory Sarich (non-pool), who was seemingly in the doghouse after Friday's game in Anaheim, where he only played 9+ minutes and was a -1.

The Hurricanes rested forward Ray Whitney (Jeff) on Saturday versus the Lightning. Whitney had been sat over a week ago with a sore groin, so arguably, that was probably the case again for the veteran forward. Whitney played only 14 minutes on Thursday night, where he normally sees around 20, so that could be a pretty good indication of a nagging injury.

The full compliment of Avalanche was still a game or two away, as Peter Forsberg (Wes) hasn't deemed himself ready just yet, but it got much worse as Ryan Smyth (Dennis) was driven into the open end of the glass by Kings defender, Jack Johnson (non-pool). Smyth was stretchered off in the game, but apparently was doing fine after they examined him off the ice. On Sunday, it was reported that Smyth wasn't feeling too many of the effects of a concussion, but the concern is still concussion related. The team will have him undergo some more tests early on in the week to determine is availability for the coming games.

Beyond all the concern for Smyth and his injury, Marek Svatos (Stuart) was also injured in that game as he had injured his knee later in the third period. Both Svatos and Smyth will be re-evaulated this week in Denver and their status' will be better known.

Even with the departure of a couple forwards for one forward coming back in the deadline deal that saw Brad Richards (Dale C.) come to Dallas, there still doesn't seem to be enough room for forward Joel Lundqvist (Box 9) in the Stars' line-up. Lundqvist became a healthy scratch again on Saturday, after playing in six straight games, but his minutes had hovered below 10 minutes and there was no point production at all in those six games. His future in Dallas looks to be rather gloomy after this season.

In the good news department, Detroit welcomed back one of their key defensemen back on the weekend. Niklas Kronwall (Dennis) returned to the line-up after missing a few weeks with a shoulder injury. His return should signal the start of the return of all the Red Wing defenders, but I've also been saying that for over a week now. Age might really be catching up to some of these guys.

The Wild were hit with the flu bug again on Sunday. It kept out forward, Mikko Koivu (Chris) from the contest against the Kings. Koivu is not expected to miss any more games due to the illness.

There looks to be a revolving door on the New Jersey blueline this season. On Saturday, it was both Vitali Vishnevski (Box 22) and Paul Martin (Peter) who were sitting against the Canadiens on Saturday afternoon/evening. Activated for that game was Karel Rachunek (Box 16), who had sat for six straight games. The Devils haven't been quite the same since all their key defensemen had either left through free agency or retired and the coaching staff is still trying to find the right combination of six or seven guys that will lead them into the playoffs.

The Penguins are still having some injury problems beyond the ones that you are already aware of. On the weekend, they were also without one of their top defenders, Ryan Whitney (Stuart), due to a groin injury. He's currently listed as out day-to-day, so he may be ready to go for the Penguins' next game against the Lightning on Tuesday.

There's a big question mark in the Pittsburgh crease at the moment. With Ty Conklin (Jeff) starting on Saturday, for the fifth straight time (1-2-2 in those 5 games), Marc-Andre Fleury (Dennis) was his back-up. On Sunday, Fleury started with Dany Sabourin (Box 24) as his back-up. It's a little bit of a mess. But since Fleury won in the shootout on Sunday, it's a pretty good guess to think that he'll get the bulk of the starts or the Pens may just ride the "hot hand."

On the weekend, the Blues signed their top goal scorer to a brand new extension, that would keep with the club for a while. Brad Boyes (Chris) signed a 4-year extension that is worth $16 million. The Blues have really thought that their current club is the way to go forward, as they now have 17 of their players who played some time this season, signed on for at least next season as well.

Also feeling the pinch as the odd-man out, Brent Johnson (Box 24) has lost his back-up spot to a second starting goalie, which is now brewing up a fresh pot of goalie controversy. Since Cristobel Huet (Stuart) has joined the Capitals, both he and Olaf Kolzig (Dennis) are eyeing up the coaches for starting minutes. That doesn't mean good things for Johnson down the stretch. Both Huet and Kolzig are potential free agents heading to the summer, while Johnson is signed on for one more, so the two starters will likely be auditioning for their spot next season, while Johnson is still likely to back one of them up come next October.

Well, it's not a tripleheader this coming weekend, but it could still be a pretty good doubleheader. The Devils are in the midst of a couple battles, both the Atlantic Division lead and the Eastern Conference lead. They are winning games heading into Week Twenty-Four, 6-2-2 in their last 10, so by next Saturday, the Leafs will have their hands full with these Devils. In the late game, the Blues, who enter the week last in the Central Division, will be in Vancouver to take on the Canucks. These teams are heading in opposite directions going into the week, so it looks more like the Blues are going to try and play spoiler, instead of playoff contender.

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