Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Score's 2009 Fantasy Guide

Another good magazine that I've used in the past couple seasons for getting some good hockey pool drafting ideas comes from The Score, by the way of The Sports Forecaster. Last season, it was a pretty good publication and this year seems to be about the same. The best part of the Score's fantasy guide is that they provide a Draft Day Cheat Sheet pull-out that gives you an idea of the top 500 skaters and the top 50 goalies.

So far, I've already looked at the Hockey News (THN) and Hockey - The Magazine (HTM) and their respective pool guides and now I'll have a quick look at the things I wanted to see in the first two and see how the Score's matches up.

First off, the Score continues the trend that Sidney Crosby will be the best skater in the bunch, with a whopping 127 points. The second best player remains Alexander Ovechkin at 117. Five skaters eclipse the 100-point mark, while only three players will beat the 50-goal mark. The new name that's in the top 10 players from the other two publications is Anaheim Ducks forward, Ryan Getzlaf. A bold prediction for the 23-year old.

In the interesting points of note category, those near retirement or un-signed at the moment, Mats Sundin, Teemu Selanne and Joe Sakic. Sundin and Selanne are both pegged to have big seasons, provided they sign on in time to have a complete season with their respective new teams. They are both scheduled to have a 75-point seasons, which is theoretically good enough for a second round draft pick. Would you take them that high? Sakic, on the other hand, is the only one who has signed, but is scheduled to only have a 60-point season.

The next section of interest goes into the rookie campaign. The Score's guide has Kyle Turris taking the rookie scoring crown with 55 points this year. First overall draft pick, Steven Stamkos, is forecasted for 48 points in his rookie campaign, while Bobby Ryan is pegged for 42 points and Kyle Okposo is up for 41. A very limited rookie class, by the Score's measurement. In the way of Swedish free agent signing, Fabian Brunnstrom, the Score has him down at 39 points in Dallas.

In net, it's another conservative set of prognostications, as Marty Turco leads the pack with a miniscule 86 points, which would put him at a lower first round spot. The Score doesn't predict a single 40-game winner or 100-point goalie, so you'll have your hands full with this set of numbers. Henrik Lundqvist comes in second in points with 84, while Marc-Andre Fleury rounds out the top three with 82.

On the blueline, the top scorer comes from Calgary, Dion Phaneuf. The Score has him pegged for a huge year with 72 points in 80 games. Sergei Gonchar will do well with 69 points, Nicklas Lidstrom should register 67 points, while Mike Green could be a 20-goal scorer with 63 points.

The guide also has some pretty good articles to point you in the right direction for some sleepers, which is a little more helpful than the other two publications. They will also have an updated cheat sheet online which you can print off at the end of September. Very helpful!

August Poll: Who Goes First?

Well, the poll in August was 'who would you take first in your hockey pool?' Boy, oh boy, that was a good poll, which ended up being really close in the end. I was pretty happy to even get 30+ votes, since a lot of my readers are just Google searchers and maybe the odd shout-out here and there. Let's face it, there were five names and place to put an 'Other' vote down, but really there were only two names who really took the poll by storm, Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

In the end, of the 32 votes, Ovechkin took 14 of them, which gave him the 'unofficial' first pick overall in the make-believe pool of the world. Ovechkin will come into this season as a pretty safe guy to take in the number one spot, since he is a very durable player and it could be a case of 'what have you done for me, lately?'

With 13 votes, Crosby still has a lot of pull, thanks to his good playoff run, and is still believed to be the best point producer in the NHL, despite his long-term injury last season. As a poolie myself, I would support this idea and wouldn't be disappointed with either player on my pool team's line-up.

Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Jarome Iginla each registered a vote in the poll, while a couple votes went the Other way and you could argue that Evgeni Malkin, Vincent Lecavalier or Pavel Datsyuk could lead the league in points as well.

Having the first pick overall is a big decision. You can only do so much with it, but it does give you any player you want. When you are building your team, you are, in essence, trying to win the pool, but you should be able to have fun with it as well. So, be sure to get a player you can also cheer for, which makes the year a little more exciting.

Now, you can decide who the third pick in your draft is going to be in the new poll for the month of September. If Ovechkin and Crosby go number one and two, who would you take in the third pick of the draft? There are some pretty good options, but there is also an Other selection as well, if you wanted to possibly sneak another player out in the third pick.

Lightning Give Meszaros Six

Of course, it didn't take long for the Lightning to lock up Andrej Meszaros to his new deal. Meszaros has reportedly signed a 6-year deal, but his financial numbers have only been rumoured. The belief is that the number could be anywhere between $4 million and $5.5 million per season, either has a bit of a story of their own.

If the Lightning managed to sneak him into the line-up at only $4 million per season, it makes people wonder how the Senators didn't sign him, if they were only offering $3.5 million. If Meszaros is signed on for over $5 million, the Sens still look rather smart in dealing him, since their return will only cost them almost $4 million in total.

Either way, the Lightning will have their salary cap number over $50 million and they keep room to move another top defenseman on the team. At Meszaros' potential salary, you would think that they already have their top defenseman, but at his age, they may want to consider getting some back-up for Meszaros, because he hasn't quite proved himself to be the top guy quite yet.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Meszaros to Tampa

The Ottawa Senators managed to take care of a big problem on Friday night, as they couldn't come to terms with defenseman Andrej Meszaros, a restricted free agent. The team dealt him to the Tampa Bay Lightning for two more defensemen, Filip Kuba and Alexandre Picard, and a first round draft pick as well.

During the day on Friday, the rumour mill was churning away saying that Meszaros was on the move from Ottawa to a team that was going to sign him to an offer sheet in the next few days. There was a lot of buzz that Tampa was in the mix for this deal, but they would have to deal for their own third round pick back from Pittsburgh, in order to get the offer sheet done.

It looks as though that the Lightning were in the mix and they really wanted Meszaros, as they traded big to get him. In getting their new number one blueliner, the Lightning moved their second and fifth defensemen from the depth chart and the first round pick they received from San Jose in the Dan Boyle deal. It's a pretty big deal and the Lightning will have to get Meszaros' signature on the dotted line as well, which only seems to be a formality. Stay tuned for his signing and a team update for the Lightning.

The Senators trade away their top blueliner, but do replace him well with a bit more of a veteran presence in Kuba, who is fairly equal in last season's points and they gain a very good defensive prospect in Picard, who hasn't quite made the big jump, but could this season. They also have all sorts of potential with this first round pick as well, granted it is San Jose's and they will likely be in the bottom half of the round, but still good.

To Tampa BayAgeGamesPointsContract on July 1st
Andrej Meszaros, D228236RFA
To Ottawa
Filip Kuba, D 31 75 31 1 year, $3 million
Alexandre Picard, D 23 24 6 2 years, $800,000
2009 1st Round Pick

There are plenty of implications to this deal, but it does have the sense that the Senators have somewhat won this deal on paper. The Sens were not going to sign Meszaros anytime soon and gain two defenders that can jump into the line-up immediately and didn't lose any theoretical offensive production. If Meszaros signs long-term for the Lightning, they could be pretty happy with him over the life of the contract, but if Kuba can continue his reasonable production, anything Picard does later in his career could be gravy. And then you sprinkle the deal with a first rounder, which Ottawa should enjoy.

As for pool implications, Meszaros and Kuba are likely going to stick to their usual offensive outputs, as they haven't developed into gamebreakers ready to pop out with a new team. Both players are joining teams with good offensive outputs after leaving good teams with decent outputs. The real trick to this trade could be Picard, who hasn't been able to earn a job in Tampa and just barely saw 60 games in Philly, so a chance in Ottawa could be the wild card. If he can crack the opening night line-up, he could be a very good pick-up for your pool team.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Kings Ink Three

The Los Angeles Kings have been busy over the last couple days, signing up a few of their top end draft picks from this past summer. On Wednesday, they signed second round pick, defenseman Vyacheslav Voinov, to a 3-year deal and fifth round pick, forward Andrei Loktionov, to a 3-year deal. On Thursday, they managed to sign their other first round pick (the first being Drew Doughty), defenseman Colton Teubert, to a 3-year entry-level deal as well.

Out of those three, Teubert comes in with the most expectations, being a first round pick in a very special draft year (or so they say). He does bring good size (6'4", 185 ibs.) to the table, especially with the fact that he's still growing and putting some meat on that frame. In the WHL, he used his size a lot to punish players, which could be a big asset come time to start the season, but he'll likely be using that size in the junior ranks again this year.

Both Russians that were signed this week are both rather diminutive in size and shape, so it does seem rather unlikely that they'll be close to the Kings fold soon. Possibly, they'll find some new homes in North America, so the Kings can keep a close eye on them through the year.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Pooler's Guide from 'Hockey - The Magazine'

Sure, the Hockey News has provided some interesting food for thought about the coming season and how to apply their prognostication to your local hockey pool draft, but I thought I would deviate a bit from the norm and pick up something new. So new to me was the magazine, Hockey - The Magazine, which wins for very creative title. They have produced a pretty eye-popping pool guide for the coming season, which I've almost lost all interest in the numbers and focused on the pretty pictures and colours.

Once I got past all the busy colours and layout, I tried to really get down to the numbers and get an assessment of where this magazine was heading with their predictions and projections. In all honesty, they are a little more conservative, if you can be, with their numbers.

Sidney Crosby does continue to lead the pack, which seems to be inevitable in most circles, while Alexander Ovechkin trails behind yet again. "H-TM" only projects four players to eclipse the 100-point mark, while only one player (Ovechkin) passes the 50-goal mark. Now, that's very conservative. There only seems to be one difference between the two publications top 10 players list in scoring... THN has Marc Savard in their list and H-TM includes Daniel Alfredsson.

Let's continue to compare in my interesting points of note: Joe Sakic finishes with 69 points, Mats Sundin finishes with 77 and Teemu Selanne finishes with 58. Somewhat comparable, but still conservative in the older free agents (although Sakic has signed now).

The rookie race sees a bit of a surprise winner in Kyle Okposo taking the crown with 65 points. Kyle Turris and Steven Stamkos finish back in the pack with 52 and 43 points, respectively. Another rookie that will get some attention this season is Fabian Brunnstrom, who is pegged for 30 points in 60 games by H-TM.

In net, the top goalie is Martin Brodeur at 98 points, while Evgeni Nabokov trails at 96 and Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff are both expected to be at the 90-point mark. Those numbers are very close to the THN numbers, but Marc-Andre Fleury trails behind those four, instead of being second.

On the blueline, Nicklas Lidstrom does continue his dominance at a reasonable 68 points, while Tomas Kaberle is pegged to have a big season in fourth spot with 56 points. A point worth noting, especially if Bryan McCabe does eventually get dealt to Florida. Otherwise, it's the same cast of usual suspects on the blueline.

Certainly being conservative doesn't hurt when you play in the Hockey Pool, so it's well within reason to take this publication to your draft and read from it. It does pose quite a few good thoughts in it's articles, which is helpful in making up your mind. At the end of the day, you may want to make sure you can cheer for your team as well... if you don't like a guy like Sean Avery, maybe you shouldn't worry about what the books have to say and move past him, even if he is the next best player available.

Barnes to Coach in Dallas

On Thursday, the Dallas Stars announced the retirement of forward Stu Barnes and his new appointment as an assistant coach with the team. Barnes, a veteran of over 1,100 games in the NHL with five clubs, amassed 597 points in his career. He wasn't really considered to be a good hockey pool type player, although his days in Pittsburgh and Buffalo were fairly productive, having a career-high of 65 points in 1997/'98 with the Penguins.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vlasic Extends His Swim in the Tank

The San Jose Sharks have announced that they have locked up Marc-Edouard Vlasic, a valuable member of the team's blueline corps, to a new four-year contract extension on Wednesday. Vlasic still had one year remaining on his entry-level deal, but the Sharks decided to make sure they didn't have to deal with restricted free agency next summer with their prize stalwart defender.

Vlasic played in all 82 games for the Sharks last season, but only managed 14 points (2G, 12A). He put in a lot of valuable minutes for the Sharks, coming in third on the team for ice-time at over 21 minutes, unfortunately, he finished the season at -12 for his plus/minus.

He didn't carry enough weight for the Hockey News to project his point totals, but Vlasic did have a 26-point rookie campaign, so you may be able to chalk it up to a sophomore slump. Vlasic could be the perfect sleeper on your blueline this season.

Avalanche Welcome Joe Back

In Denver, on this fine Wednesday, the collective sigh of all the Avalanche fans sent a gust of wind that even the common folk over the 49th parallel could feel. Please use a breath mint, somebody! (Just kidding.) The Avalanche were pleased to announce that Joe Sakic would be returning for yet another season with the franchise, which will be his 20th season in the NHL and with the franchise.

The 1-year deal did not have any monetary value included in the press release, but it should be in the neighbourhood of $6 million, possibly $7 million. Last season, Sakic earned $6.75 million, so we'll use that number as reference for calculation of the team's cap number for now. Of course, once the number is divulged... you'll get a good understanding of where the team stands.

Nevertheless, Sakic will make his return to the Avs line-up, which was looking a little short of leadership without his name on the page and still sans the like of Peter Forsberg as well. Sure, they have plenty of scoring talent on the team, but those youngsters need a leader, while Paul Statsny and Ryan Smyth fully adjust to the role in Colorado.

Last season, Sakic only managed to play in 44 games, registering 40 points (13G, 27A), so his fantasy value did take a bit of a hit. He missed all 38 games to a hernia, which he had to have surgery on in December. He did make a valiant return to the line-up and managed to perform admirably in the season and into the playoffs. It was the first games he had missed since the return of hockey from the lock-out.

The Hockey News has now forecasted Sakic to miss games again this season, five games, in fact, and only register 78 points. The season previous to last, he managed to nab 100 points in all 82 games, so you be the judge of his productivity. I may contend that he'll be up closer to the 90-point range again, if he can stay healthy this year.

Paul StatsnyJohn-Michael LilesPeter Budaj
Milan HejdukRuslan SaleiAndrew Raycroft
Wojtek WolskiBrett Clark
Joe SakicScott Hannan
Marek SvatosAdam Foote
Ryan SmythJordan Leopold
Darcy Tucker
Tyler Arnason
Ben Guite
Ian Laperriere
Brian Willsie

As for the club, with his possible $6.75 million deal, the Avalanche now have a roster of 19 players likely to crack the team at a salary cap hit of $49.8 million (approx.). The team still needs to look at one more roster defensemen and three more roster forwards before they are all set, but there are a few young names in the wings who are on the mark to crack the team. Don't forget, Peter Forsberg could make a return as well around Christmas, which would fit nicely into the Avs plans of being competitive in the tough Northwest Division.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ranking Defensemen in the Draft

Definitely one of the most interesting philosophy differences between poolies is how they draft defensemen for their fantasy hockey team. The defense position doesn't generally generate a lot of offense, but they can help push a team past a rival or sink a fantasy team if they are slumping.

The first drafting philosophy that should be touched on is the 'push for the better defenders early' motive, just so you can capitalize on big points from the blueline. If we were to average out the top 100 defensemen in the league last season, we would find that with goals and assists as the counting points, the average point total would hover around 30 points, the lowest at 17 points. If you were to go and make the move for big defensemen, say in the second and third rounds, maybe picking up Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar, Brian Campbell and/or Dion Phaneuf (in any sort of combination), you could be gaining some big points on the average defensemen.

I have seen some good results out of this drafting this way, but there are a few catches. The defensemen you take early won't nearly be as good as the forwards or goalies you could take in those early positions, so your forwards and goalies that you have to make-up with later picks have to be better than others. You may gain some points on other defensemen that other teams take later, but you risk losing around 10-20 points to forwards taken in the same round. This could mean some shrewd picks later on in the draft, down around the last couple rounds, picking some good sleepers... and by good sleepers, I mean those who will eclipse the 30-point range out of nowhere.

The second philosophy I see most often would be the 'save the defensemen for last' mentality. This means maxing out your goaltender and forward potential and then picking up the scraps from the blueline. If you have a certain talent that can determine which defensemen are going to come out of nowhere and produce over 30 points in the season, then this would be the route for you. You wouldn't have to sacrifice letting go of good young talented forwards in order to fill out your weaker blueline, especially if you feel your blueline is going to be weaker anyways, according to your list. You might be a person who is on the Jeff Finger bandwagon in Toronto, or is certain that Chris Phillips will see more offensive ice-time in Ottawa now that Wade Redden is gone, or even banking on Kristopher Letang to have a breakout season in Pittsburgh.

This is the riskier of the first two philosophies, as there isn't a great deal of certainty about the lower-level defensemen, especially when it comes to scoring. A lot of times the lower-level defenders are not established. They are usually rookies, sophomores, third-pair defenders and they don't give you that safe sense when you consider them for your pool team. Granted, if your pool isn't deep, you should be able to luck out with some half-decent defenders while some of your opponents gamble big on Lidstrom and Gonchar, while you're taking Marian Gaborik or Cam Ward.

The next philosophy comes from more of the beginner in the fantasy pool sense. Pick from last season's list and see how it goes. Generally, if you have a new person in your pool, new to the whole idea of picking a team, but is definitely interested to see how it all goes, I would generally recommend showing them the scoring list from the past season at the draft and tell them to somewhat go after the next available player. When your limit for position is hit, keep on moving down until you can fill all your voids. Of course, there are plenty of faults to this idea... no one wants to generally help your opponent, letting them know that a certain player was injured in the pre-season or that they signed in Europe over the summer, but a lot of times it helps. It keeps them in the game and they're more likely to give you the entry fee next season as well.

This way to go becomes a real crap shoot, because it can really do just about anything. A team can be lucky, get a real good drafting spot and end up with all sorts of good defensemen without even trying. Another team could have the worst luck with defensemen and end up with a whole bunch of injury prone guys and he'll be lucky to get a 60-game season out of any of them. Possibly the more likely of all the options is that the person ends up drafting a player from column A, one from column B and a couple average guys and has a pretty average year from the blueline.

Finally, you have something a shade different than working off of last year's list, but you're still working off a list. The prognostication method of predicting points a player is going to get and then working off the list accordingly. If you're a big time poolie, you generally find yourself going over lists of players and working out in your head what they did last season, what they are going to do this coming season and order them accordingly. Sure, it's pure educated guessing, but if you're at it all the time, you've probably developed a knack for it. The prime targets in these categories are generally the guys that may have had sub-par seasons looking to rebound (Sheldon Souray), rookies who can emerge (Drew Doughty) or players that have been traded into a better situation (Lubomir Visnovsky).

In this case, you're now betting on yourself to forsee the future. There are plenty of variables to take into consideration when you're prognosticating, which foresight in that matter does come with experience. It doesn't just cover the prime targets, you'll also have to be on the ball on where the usual suspects will land. Is Andrei Markov going to keep his pace going in Montreal? Does Tomas Kaberle excel in Toronto? How does Zdeno Chara do in Boston? The best thing you can do in this situation is continue all your reading and get a good understanding of how all these players will fit in their current situation and how the players around them will do as well. New teammates can just as easily swing the pendulum from the wrong direction to the right one in one season.

There is no real substitute for preparation when it comes to drafting in a hockey pool, unless you've cornered the market in horseshoes that you can stick up your rear end. You'll need a fair bit of luck, no question in the year, but forecasting players can usually give you a leg up on the competition. Statistics and trends are helpful to understand to a certain degree, but you can always go with your favourite players (if they are available for you) and that way, you can just cheer them on and hope to goodness that some money comes out of it all for you.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Blackhawks Sign Aliu

In the 'One to Watch' category, the Blackhawks announced that they signed rugged prospect forward, Akim Aliu, to a 3-year entry-level deal on Monday. Aliu, a 2nd round pick in 2007, has made a name for himself both in the junior ranks of the OHL and already in the prospect camp this summer (see YouTube video below).

Last season with the London Knights, Aliu finished the year with 61 points (28G, 33A) in 60 games, while amassing 133 PIM. The big 6'3", 216lbs. winger has a tendency to be a tough guy on the ice, while being able to put some goals on the board for his side. If he can crack the line-up for the Hawks, he could provide some fourth line minutes or help police the opposition around the stars.

His size is already NHL-ready, but it will be interesting to see if his attitude is up to snuff with his teammates. A solid year in the minors may season him up, as his discipline is the biggest concern for the young 19-year old. He does draw some comparisons to Shayne Corson, according to

Pothier Still Reeling

The Boston Globe had a small blurb about Capitals defenseman, Brian Pothier, on the weekend, saying that the 31-year old blueliner will likely miss training camp, thanks to the same post-concussion syndrome symptoms that he was suffering from last season.

Pothier only managed to play in 38 games last season, scoring 5 goals and adding 9 assists. The injury caused him to miss the last 41 games of the season and the 7 games of the playoffs for Washington.

If he could get his head back together, he could very well be a useful defender for the Capitals and those who would take the chance on him in their hockey pools, but now with a huge concussion under his cap (quite literally), he does have the tag of having a soft head, which doesn't play well in the fantasy leagues. At best, he'll be a mid-season pick-up for your pool, but it will have to be on the wait-and-see basis.

Vishnevski Clears Waivers

It looks like you can scratch another name from your list here really soon, not like you actually had Vitali Vishnevski on your list of players to take for your hockey pool team. Vishnevski has now cleared waivers and has paved the way to head back home to Russia to play there. It seems unlikely that he'll be dressed for the Devils and finish the remaining two years on his contract.

Last season, Vishnevski only managed 7 points in 69 games in New Jersey and would be worth $1.8 million against the cap for the next two seasons, which should now be open for the Devils to play with. New Jersey is already stocked up with plenty of defensemen heading into the brand new year, so there should be little concern for Devils fans because of this transaction.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Some Sundin News Soon?

It's Friday, August 22nd... do you know where your Mats Sundin is? The great speculator, Eklund, at suggests that the saga that is the big Swede, Sundin, may come to an end this weekend... only three weeks past the much-speculated August 1st deadline. Of course, I won't be the only one who says, 'I certainly hope so.'

We're now just a month away from most training camps getting started and there are many dominos still to fall, waiting for Sundin to make his mind up. If there are indeed six teams in the running for the big veteran, you can only imagine what the plans are for these squads. Some of the teams mentioned may have to shift some players just to fit Sundin into their plans, while other teams are more concerned about what they are going to do if Sundin doesn't choose their city to play in.

Of course, the big concern is whether or not Sundin even wants to play another year. Surely he does... he's only 37 and doesn't have a Stanley Cup on his resume. He's had to have spent enough time in the league to make the Cup his number one priority in his playing career, but if that was the case, he would have accepted that trade to Detroit in the summer. Saying that, if he doesn't have that sort of drive for the Cup, then maybe he should retire. Whichever way, it better be a 100% kind of decision... for everyone's sake.

Let's be quite clear... the Maple Leafs need Sundin as much as Sundin's heart would like to stay in Toronto. Will he be a winner in Toronto? No, of course not. Not this year and it will be at least a 3-year plan before the team can align the stars properly for a good Cup run.

Can the Leafs afford him? Oh sure, they have plenty of room left under the cap, especially for the $7 million they've rumoured to offer him for his services.

What would the Leafs get if he decided to re-sign with the club? They would certainly gain enough offense to win them a few more games than they would without him in the line-up. For pool consideration, Vesa Toskala would be a more attractive pick with Sundin in the line-up than without. The thing the Leafs didn't give Toskala a lot of last season was offensive help and they have done little to address that problem this summer.

If he doesn't sign with the Maple Leafs, what are they going to do? The easy answer to that question is suffer. The push to move Bryan McCabe will increase, but the players they get back will have to be somewhat offensive or else there is little gain, other than dumping a salary. Ponikarovsky and Blake will be the top two forwards in Toronto, which doesn't offer up a lot of hope, if nothing is done. Leafs fans will have to hope that Plan B is a good one.

Talking about a team that is in dire need of offense for winning now, the Canucks could definitely use a Mats Sundin to help put pucks in the opposition net so their franchise player, Roberto Luongo, doesn't have as much work to do to help the team win. The move for a number one centre like Sundin would also take a bundle of pressure off of the Sedin twins, who have been thrusted into the number one line role, especially now that Markus Naslund and Brendan Morrison are gone.

Can the Canucks afford Sundin? Well, they've left enough room under the cap to fit his $10 million per season deal in for this year, but then there's no more room for much more. It's a big gamble, but Sundin does have the consistency that a team would look for in a number one centre.

If he doesn't sign with Vancouver, what are they going to do? Thanks to the good old rumour mill, there is seemingly a number of deals waiting on the table for the Canucks, with all sorts of names being churned through to end up on the West Coast. Afinogenov, Parrish, Gionta, Vermette... all names that have been attached to the Canucks in recent weeks, but who's to say much of it is true at all. I suppose if the rumours are true, trades and such may actually bring more offense in two guys than $10 million spent on Sundin would. A little food for thought there for ya.

Let's say that Sundin works up enough desire to win a Cup in his NHL return, well then, wouldn't Montreal be the most fitting place for him to stop? The pieces are in place for a pretty good team in the coming season. The addition of Sundin to Toronto's biggest rivals would be quite the coup in Montreal, as they will have plucked their biggest star out from underneath them to give themselves the best chance to win the Cup. The whole build-up to the season would be all Canadiens, all the time on most of the sports channels, while all the Leafs fans would stew in their disappointment... which would also be mentioned on most of the sports channels.

What would the Habs get in Sundin, if they were to land him? Frankly, it's an excess of offense and a question on whether or not he'd be considered the number one centre or not. Sundin would likely be paired with Alexei Kovalev on the first line for the Habs, which theoretically, would boost Kovalev's fantasy value, well beyond the poor projections the Hockey News gave him. While Saku Koivu would likely get a chance to play with Alex Tanguay and a Kostitsyn brother. It is rather scary on paper, if you were to look at it right now. Carey Price's numbers would seemingly go up as well and it would be a dead heat on how many Canadiens are picked in your pool draft to the number of Penguins.

Can the Habs afford Sundin? If we called the going rate for Sundin (if we weren't too ambitious) $7 million for the year, then yes. The Habs have around $9 million to spend on three players, which inevitably means they won't start the season with the full compliment of 23 players on their roster. Maybe if Sundin goes to Montreal, they could move one of their veteran players for some breathing room and some prospects or picks, but the dynamic of the team really wouldn't shift too greatly.

What will the Habs do if they don't sign Sundin? Probably very little. With young players like Kyle Chipchura and Ryan O'Byrne waiting in the wings, the Habs can fill some of their holes with some quality youth, which may lessen their experience, but their skill is still high. They could very well keep a lot of cap room for the trade deadline in February, so they could possibly pick up Sundin then.

In the Big Apple, you can compare the Rangers to a 'Fun With Chemistry' set, but in this case, the chemistry is player chemistry and the kid unwrapping the gift is Glen Sather. The Rangers aren't known for spending a lot of money and getting good results, but that isn't stopping them from going after the biggest fish left in the free agent pond.

The first question has to be, 'can the Rangers afford Sundin?' Right now, they can't. They have very little cap space, around or below $2 million (depending who you ask), which is a far cry away from the $7 million they'll need to land him. So, rumours again swirl through our thought process, wondering who would be the first name out the door in order to reel in the big fish.

What would the Rangers gain with Sundin in their fold? For certain, the Rangers will get another big gun. Sundin can jump onto the Rangers depth chart at or very near the top and then the team would have three top quality pivots on their roster. The true gain, however, would have to be handicapped by what they trade away to make room for the big Swede. Right now, the Rangers have a good quality team with all of their additions, but the chemistry hasn't even been determined, which could be considered a good or a bad thing, when trying to add Sundin. I'm sure there is plenty of interest to have Sundin play with fellow Swede, Markus Naslund, in the coming year, which does pose a big threat to their opponents in the Eastern Conference, likely giving them extra consideration for a division win.

If the Rangers don't land Sundin, what happens then? Much like the Habs, Sundin is likely only considered a side of meat on a big plate of meat. If they can't have pork with their beef, then they'll settle for some veggies and the meal deal is complete for another year. With very little cap space available, there would definitely be a push for some of their youth to fill spots. Deals are certainly not out of the question, either, as you know Glen Sather is always lurking in the shadows, thinking of new and exciting ways to upgrade his team.

The Flyers are also one of the teams who are waiting in line to see if Sundin is going to return to the league in the coming year. Despite all the great work building the team with youth and some very complimentary players through free agency, the Flyers are seemingly interested in seeing how a big player like Sundin would fit into their mix. At best, they would likely be considered an outside shot, but in a lot of cases, throwing your hat in the public ring only has as much value as the other 24 teams raising an eyebrow at the thought of having Sundin in their mix in private.

Could the Flyers afford Sundin today? Oh gosh, no... they still have four holes to fill with $1.2 million. Sundin fits in their budget like the proverbial square peg into a round hole. Thankfully for Flyers fans, this should only be considered as passing interest and shouldn't be given too much weight. So, it won't be here. The team has too much going for it within it's own walls, so there is no need to be hasty when dropping big money on the free agent market.

Finally, there is one more team supposedly in the mix for Sundin, but as of right now, it's only under assumption that it's the Colorado Avalanche, who could be starving for some players by the end of the summer. The prospect of not having Joe Sakic back and not even getting the chance to have Peter Forsberg back until Christmas looks bad on the Avalanche. Obviously, the franchise who originally drafted Sundin in 1989 would like to have some sort of star playing for them up front, especially one with good leadership qualities that their youth system could look up to, even if it's only for one season.

Could the Avalanche afford a guy like Sundin? No Sakic. No Forsberg. Not having those two under contract should indicate that there is plenty of cap space for a guy like Sundin, but of course, the team would prefer to have Sakic under contract for another year than to maybe extend themselves out for Sundin. The decision on Sakic will hopefully coming just as soon as Sundin, which could lead to their own domino effect... but again, this is still just speculation that the Avalanche are even interested.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Projecting 100 Points

Last season, there were only four players that managed to hit the 100-point mark in my pools. That is an exceptionally low number of players to really perform for a pool team, which starts to get the minds going in regards to how many there will be this coming season. Will scoring be up? Will it be another year of the goalie? It's hard to imagine that scoring is going to make any significant jump, although the power play faceoff rule does bring a little more hope. Anyways, I thought I would outline the more likely players to hit the 100-point mark this season and hopefully there will be a few new faces to hit the list, which could make your first round pick all the more easier.

It's rather undeniable that Alexander Ovechkin is the most dynamic player in the league today. The only thing that will stop Ovechkin from 100 points will be the number of games he plays, because he's certainly got all the tools to carry himself over that plateau once again. The question is, 'does he have enough help around him to pad his stats in the assist column?' The likely answer is probably not, seeing as though the team didn't go out and get him much help in the off-season.

The next obvious place to travel in the 100-point tour is Pittsburgh, where Sidney Crosby will continue his assault on the record books after an injury-filled season in 2008. Crosby is quite likely the best bet to reach the 100-point plateau, if he remains healthy, because he has great wingers on his side and the team has enough depth for other teams to consider when defending. Does Crosby go first or does Ovechkin? That's what the poll to the left is all about.

Staying in Pittsburgh, the second in command of scoring (or first last season), Evgeni Malkin, will look to repeat (or improve on) his 106-point season in 2008. Since he moved over 100 points already in his career, it makes him a safe bet that he should possibly be picked third behind the two superstars above or if you're a big Malkin fan, you could likely make a good argument that he could go first or second. The Hockey News projects him to barely hit the plateau on the nose.

The Hockey News doesn't project Marc-Andre Fleury to hit 100 points (according to the Sherpa's scoring), but the Penguins will likely be the team to beat in the East in the regular season. Fleury will benefit from all the scoring in front of him, as long as he keeps the puck in front of him for the better part of most games. His play will have to be somewhat similar to that of his playoff run in order to get all the shutouts necessary for a big year.

The Devils hold one of the most consistent pool players in the league over the last five seasons in Martin Brodeur and there isn't too much to suggest that he couldn't hit the 100-point mark again. The Devils have improved their side this season, which bodes well for the veteran keeper and you could argue the case that he could be a very safe pick for first overall in your pool draft. It was nice to see he finally got a vote on the poll for a possible first pick. Consistency should be what you're looking for when picking players and Brodeur does it to a tee.

Guess who got a little help on the blueline in San Jose... Joe Thornton. The two new additions the Sharks made in the summer should make moving the puck easier, which is Thornton's kind of game. Thornton came four points from eclipsing 100 for the year in 2008, but with some new blood on the team, he should be able to do it with very little trouble. He'll need some better play from some of his wingers, Cheechoo and Michalek, but he is the kind of guy that makes his teammates better.

If Thornton is to get better, that should make the team win a few more games, which bodes well for last season's top goalie, Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov finished with 106 points in the pool last season, six better than the next goalie. Should that earn him consideration for a top five pick in the draft this season? I would think so. The Sharks have seemingly gotten better in a weaker Pacific Division, so another 40+ win season does have some merit to it.

Also on the outside looking in for 100 points last season was Vincent Lecavalier. He finished up with 92 points on a struggling Tampa Bay team, but things have changed for the Lightning. New faces all across the board, including some players that could fit in well on Vinny's line. An improved Lightning squad should lift the pressure from the superstar of the team, which does likely give Lecavalier a step up on all those players who will be facing him on a regular basis. 100 points is not out of reach this season for him.

Scoring 50 goals is hardly out of the question for Jarome Iginla, but he did fall short of the 50-assist mark as well, which kept him from the 100-point spot last season. Changes in Calgary look to be very positive for Iginla, who will get to play with some new faces, some of which will be on his line. Iginla is a very durable player and can be a very potent scorer for the Flames on any given night, which suggests that with positive changes to the line-up, he may be able to pass the puck at least two more times to capture those lost assists that leads him to 100 points.

In Ottawa, they have themselves a dynamic duo that can light the lamp when they are together. Jason Spezza centres the number one line for the Senators and has the benefit of having a linemate that can pot a lot of goals during the year. Spezza is slowly becoming more of a goal-scorer himself, but needs to have a little more consistency. The team has overhauled the dressing room and distractions could be a bit fewer and far between, which should help the fragile consistency of Spezza and company.

On the scoring end for the Sens, you'll find Dany Heatley, who should have another banner year with his number one centre. A 50-goal season should be his goal going into the year and 100 points should follow if his teammates pick up their scoring around him as well. You should just be able to flip a coin to decide between the two players, but if you have goals scored as a tie-breaker in your league, you may want to lead towards Heatley.

Pavel Datsyuk will look to have himself another first this coming season... a season with 100 or more points. He fell three points short last season and his play improved greatly in the playoffs during the Red Wings Cup run, which gives enough evidence to say that he could break the barrier this year. His stock has improved year after year in the league, just like his production numbers, so this year, he should be a safe pick for the first round of your hockey pool draft.

Only playing 75 games last season, Henrik Zetterberg needed those 7 missed games to hit 100 points, as that's what he was on pace for. A healthy Zetterberg could be extremely deadly for poolies with him on their team, as he could also hit the 100-point peak. Unfortunately, staying completely healthy is easier said than done for Zetterberg, who hasn't played a full season yet in the league during his five seasons. He would be considered a reasonable gamble for any big Red Wings fan, but you may not want to keep high expectations for 82 games.

Suffering from a bit of a scoring drought after his first and only 100-point season, Eric Staal could be looking for his second one in the coming season. The Hurricanes forward finished last season on a point-per-game pace, which led the team after 82 games and he'll likely carry the same amount of weight on his shoulders in the coming season as well. His only knock towards a new 100-point season is his consistency. He might score at a point-per-game pace, but his scoring is very patchy or at least it was last season. Nevertheless, I would be backing him for a big season. He could be a good bargain in the second round.

A player that I'm expecting to bust out completely this coming season is Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers. After a dominating playoff run, cut short by the Penguins, Richards will likely take over the captaincy of the team and he will lead by example for years to come in Philly. Last season, Richards finished with 75 points in 73 games, but he does carry some residual potential, enough that could eclipse that 100-point mark, in my opinion. Watch out for those Flyers, they'll be running and gunning this season.

Notable exclusions that were considered were mostly goaltenders. In the Northwest Division, you would find the battle between Roberto Luongo in Vancouver and Miikka Kiprusoff in Calgary for points, but the division is so tight and has gotten even tighter during the summer with all of the acquisitions for all the teams. It will be tough for either of them to register 40 wins or more, let alone pitch enough shutouts to put them over the edge. Daniel Alfredsson probably won't see a ton of time with Spezza and Heatley this season, likely a lot on the power play, but more likely going to have his own line to spread out the offense in Ottawa. That should be enough reason to have a sub-century season.

In order for a player to register a 100-point season, that player must have a scoring pace of at least 1.22 points per game. For a goalie, it's a lot harder, since they are guaranteed not to play all 82 games in a season, but then it all becomes relative.