Friday, February 28, 2014

Ryan Miller, The First Domino To Fall

Happy Friday everyone!  There is a trade to announce.  The Buffalo Sabres, the centerpiece of the trade deadline festivities got the proceedings started with the shot of their... well, it was a big boom, so we'll call it a cannon.  As the Sabres begin the tear down to start the rebuild, both Ryan Miller and Steve Ott have been shipped to the St. Louis Blues for a package that includes Jaroslav Halak and Chris Stewart.

The rumours that swirled around Miller were becoming quite intense and with still five days to go until the trade deadline, the Sabres were able to find a deal that they received a considerable return with.

As much as he is the second-best player in the trade, according to the pool points, Miller's name is the headliner, as the impending unrestricted free agent has been a career-Sabre and had led the team into the playoffs a number of times, playing exceptionally well in his 10+ seasons with the Sabres.  In the 2014 season, Miller finished his time in Buffalo with 15 wins and 2 assists in the pool scoring table, giving him 32 points, which had him ranked 155th in pool scoring, going into Friday night's games.

The Sabres, as the post is being done up, are underway against the San Jose Sharks, where both Miller and Ott were late scratches from the game.

On to Ott, the third captain the Buffalo Sabres have traded in the last 12 months.  In 59 games played for the Sabres this year, he has 9 goals and 11 helpers for 20 points.  He brings some added grit, fearlessness and leadership to the Blues, something they likely thought they were lacking going into this trade deadline.

Going the other way to Buffalo is not a small package, by any means.  Jaroslav Halak has 24 wins, 1 shutout and an assist for 57 points this season with the Blues, which ranks him 24th in pool scoring, a 1st round pick in this season's draft, by those standards.  Halak had a poor showing in the Olympics and dropped a 1-0 loss to the Canucks on Wednesday night in his Olympic return, but his departure opened up the door for Miller to be the undisputed number one in St. Louis.

The Sabres also received gritty, yet streaky forward Chris Stewart, who has 15 goals and 11 assists in 58 games for the Blues, good enough for 217th in the pool scoring list.  Stewart's name has been thrown around in many trade rumour discussions, as a chip the Blues could/would use in a deal that would help improve their team and those rumours came to fruition today.

Also heading to Buffalo, according to the St. Louis Blues' website was 2013 2nd round pick, forward William Carrier, a 2015 1st round pick and a 2016 3rd round pick.  It looks like the Sabres named their price and ended up getting it without much of a struggle.

ImplicationsOnly one of the five players dealt in this deal has any implication on the money race in the pool... well, actually he has implications on two races, as Mike is in the middle of both the main race and the third segment race. Mike has Stewart on his side, as he goes into Friday's action 6th in the standings and 2nd in the segment, only points out of both wins.  Does Stewart improve in Buffalo?  It doesn't seem very likely, especially since the tear down is only just beginning and expectations are going to be low.  I wouldn't say that an improvement is impossible, just doesn't seem likely.  With the tear down, however, Stewart might find himself lining up with a Cody Hodgson or Drew Stafford or Zemgus Girgensons, by default, which may help his cause in the end.

I think the Buffalo Sabres win this deal and come away like bandits, especially in the prospect and pick department.  Halak goes UFA this Summer, with a re-signing possibility, while Stewart has another year on his deal and technically, a 1st, 2nd & 3rd round pick on top of that looks fantastic for a goalie, who sometimes looks like he's out of steam and a well-traveled veteran, both possible rentals in St. Louis, seems like a heavily weighted win.

Granted, if the Blues are able to translate the acquisition of Miller and Ott into a Stanley Cup, there is no question that the Sabres didn't come away as the winners we thought they were.

Do I think Miller and Ott are enough for the Blues?  Not entirely today.  The Blues will ride Miller and I'm not certain that he should be the horse that we should be betting on right now.

Player Notes in the Draft (Feb 28)

The Carolina Hurricanes lost the services of forward Alex Semin in Thursday night's game against the Dallas Stars, having suffered a lower-body injury early in the game and not being able to return. On Friday morning, there was no indication to the severity of the injury, but his condition will be monitored for the weekend. The Hurricanes will be in Los Angeles for their next game, against the Kings on Saturday afternoon.

Semin belongs to Scott, who sits in 6th after Thursday night, sitting only 1 point out of 4th and 6 points out of 1st.  Not a good time to have one of your hottest forwards go down with injury, if there ever was a good time.  Scott is also in the race in the third segment, only 7 points back of the lead, back in 4th place.

Another injury on Thursday night, as Edmonton Oilers forward Nail Yakupov suffered an ankle injury after getting in the way of teammate Justin Schultz' shot against the Minnesota Wild.  The Oilers will likely say more about Yakupov's injury before practice, later on Friday.  If the injury is considered more serious than being out day-to-day, there will be an update on the blog, but if it is just bruising and nothing more, we'll let it be.

Stuart continues to hold the 20th spot in the standings through Thursday night's busy schedule, but isn't making up any ground on the rest of the top 20, barely hanging on to what he has at the moment.  This injury could see him fall under again, especially if it is long-term.

The Senators blueline appears to be still be a point of worry for the coaching staff, as bodies on the roster are being healthy scratches and they are pool defensemen as well.  Patrick Weircioch returned to the press box after playing before the Olympic Break, joining Joe Corvo up there as a semi-regular press box popcorn consumer.  I would have to think that if the Senators would be looking to shore up anything, it would be the blueline, possibly using one of the regular healthy scratches as a possible return in a deal.

Weircioch belongs to Doug in the pool this year and this week, Doug currently holds the basement position with only 4 points in the week.  Unfortunately, that has been the story of his season, something he hasn't been able to see any improvement in.

There was an expectation that Marcus Johansson would be back from Sochi/Sweden by now, but reports are suggesting that the playmaking pivot was having passport issues in his travels and things have been hung up, making him unavailable to play on Thursday night.  According to the line rushes at practice on Friday morning, Johansson is back with the team and I would imagine that he is expected to play on Saturday afternoon, when the Capitals visit the Bruins for a matinee game.

It only looks like it'll be one game away for Johansson in Wes' line-up.  I'm not sure how much more bad luck Wes could have, but I suppose it could be worse, as he could be mired in the basement this year.  Wes is safely planted in 15th place through Thursday night.

Injury news for the Capitals as well on Friday morning, as it appears that Mikhail Grabovski may have returned too early from his lower-body injury, which kept him out of a number of games before the Olympic Break.  Grabovski aggravated the ankle injury that kept him out and has now gone back to Washington to get checked out further by team doctors and the team has announced that he is officially out for Saturday afternoon's game in Boston, but that is as much as they'll say.on Friday.

Grabovski belongs to the pool's duo, Kristy & Don, who have also had all kinds of injury woes this season.  They have climbed up two positions to 17th place this week, but they will likely want to have one of their better forwards back before too long to help that climb back up into a respectable finishing position.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Player Notes in the Draft (Feb 27)

The Ottawa Senators are not expecting to have their number one goalie, Craig Anderson, back in the crease to open up the home stretch of the regular season, as he had gone home to be with his family, as they welcomed a new addition. The Senators will go with Robin Lehner in net against the Red Wings on Thursday night, while rookie Andrew Hammond will be the back-up for the game.

This isn't quite the start to the post-Olympic stretch that Derek Wilton was expecting or hoping for, as his team has been taking their fair share of hits in the line-up department, Anderson being another one.  Don't think it will last, but thankfully those who are playing are picking up points for him.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More Player Notes in the Draft (Feb 26)

An undisclosed injury will keep Buffalo Sabres forward Tyler Ennis from playing in the second half of back-to-back games on Wednesday night, as they host the Boston Bruins.  Ennis was reportedly hit hard into the boards in the 3rd period against the Carolina Hurricanes and it has proved to be enough to keep out the scoring forward for at least one game.  Unfortunately, details of the injury were not disclosed, so he'll be listed as out day-to-day for right now.

Bad news for Stuart, who jumped up to 20th place, thanks to a point last night from Ennis.  Doesn't look like it will be a repeat performance tonight.

News out of Calgary Flames practice on Wednesday morning, as Lee Stempniak was among those not on the ice, as he is away from the team for personal reasons. There was no suggestion of what they may be, nor is it any of our business.  It does leave the question, however, about whether or not he will be able to dress for the team on Thursday night with the Los Angeles Kings in town.  I have him on the list as questionable for the game, which leaves it wide open for dressing and playing.

If Leo is going to get out of last place, 5 points from 23rd, it will be all hands on deck for his team.  Leo's team can ill-afford to miss games here.  Leo's team is among three teams tied for last place in the third segment, with 51 points, already 37 points back of the lead, so he'll need something to aim for at the end of the year.

The Montreal Canadiens called up goaltender Dustin Tokarski on Wednesday morning to back-up Peter Budaj against the Red Wings in the game later that night.  The reports from the team are saying that Carey Price aggravated a lower-body injury while in Sochi and he had left practice in the morning, favouring one of his legs after stopping a shot.  Price isn't expected to dress in either of the next two games for Montreal.

No matter how you're going to cut it on Stacey's team, be it Price or Budaj, she's only going to get one start out of the team, but if they elect to go with Tokarski for a game, that would put a kink in her team's plans for some money.  Going into Wednesday night's action, Stacey's team sits 1 point out of 4th and 3 points out of 1st.

The Philadelphia Flyers do not start up again until tomorrow (Thursday) night against the San Jose Sharks at home, but the team has already announced that Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timonen will be in the press box, as he gets an extra day's break after playing at the Olympics in Sochi. Timonen is expected to return to the line-up on Saturday afternoon, home to the New York Rangers instead.

This means an extra game missed for Ryan V. as the season starts up.  Ryan currently sits in 5th in the third segment prize race, 8 points out of 1st place.  It would certainly be better for him to have everyone in the line-up to start the home stretch, but that isn't the case for him this week.

The Vancouver Canucks suffered an Olympic casualty of their own, as centre Ryan Kesler suffered a hand injury at the tournament in Sochi and after undergoing an MRI in Vancouver, he has now been listed as out day-to-day.  Kesler will miss Wednesday night's game against the St. Louis Blues and it is unclear as to how much more time he will miss.  Kesler was able to play through the pain after suffering the injury in the USA/Russia round robin game, but with some time before crunch time, the Canucks want to make sure he is 100% for that run.

Being out day-to-day won't hurt Allan's projected games to be played number, as he could return any time soon.  Allan's team sits atop of the standings, but for how long?  His team only holds a 1-point lead and is only 5 points up on 6th place.

Player Notes in the Draft (Feb 26)

The Boston Bruins will open up their post-Olympic campaign on Wednesday with a game against the Buffalo Sabres, who opened up last night. The Bruins have already announced that they will go with Chad Johnson in net and that Tuukka Rask won't travel with the team to Buffalo for the game, giving him a little extra time off to rest up from his bronze medal winning performance in Sochi over the break.  Rask will return to the net for the team's next game, Saturday afternoon, home to the Washington Capitals.

Rask belongs to Wes in the pool, who currently sits in 15th place in the standings.  Wes has relied heavily on his goalies this season, who have made up 26% of his team's points through Tuesday night.  It isn't a good sign when two positions on your roster is making up more than a quarter of your overall total.

As expected, there were a couple of returns on Tuesday night, as both forward Matt Moulson and defenseman Tyler Myers returned for the Buffalo Sabres, as they visited the Carolina Hurricanes for their make-up game to open up the schedule.  Moulson was effective in his return, notching an assist in the 3-2 win for his side, while Myers had a solid 23 minutes on the ice, but no points to show for his efforts.

Wes did get a point on Tuesday night from Moulson in the return, which won't really make up for the loss of Rask tonight, but it is still something.  Benson welcomed back Myers, who missed a couple games before the break, but could have used some points to jump up in the race.

An injury update, as the Detroit Red Wings get started tonight in Montreal... defenseman Jakub Kindl will not dress tonight or tomorrow night in Ottawa, as his knee sprain has not fully recovered over the break.  The injury did force him to miss out on his Olympic spot with the Czech Republic and it sounds like he's going to need a bit more time.  Kindl remains on the IR with no actual timetable for a return.

With his time on the IR, it means his projected games come off, which sends Benson down into the basement with Wilton and Doug with 28 games left to play this week from his team.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Player Notes in the Draft (Feb 25)

Despite being a 2014 Olympian, Finnish defenseman Sami Vatanen was sent down to the AHL by his NHL club, the Anaheim Ducks, on Tuesday, just before they kicked off their post-Olympic campaign.  Vatanen drew the short stick among all the healthy defensemen in Anaheim, thanks in large part from not having to clear waivers to head down.

Vatanen has been good for the Ducks this year, picking up 14 points in 41 games, 3rd among Anaheim blueliners, but that still wasn't enough to send a player like Ben Lovejoy down instead.  I would expect to see Vatanen before too long, but he'll have to wait for an injury or something along those lines to happen first.

This makes two defensemen down for Derek Wilton, who goes into the home stretch in 6th place, only 5 points out of 1st.  Wilton now shares the projected games basement, with Doug, going into tonight's action with only 28 games expected to be played.  Wilton's defense has been average this year, accumulating 90 points through 19 weeks.

The target date for Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos was pushed back to March 6th after his last X-rays didn't give enough reason for team doctors to give him the green light to play this week.  This would still put Stamkos in to some amazing recovery times for his broken leg, but the Lightning have to be cautious with their best player.

Stamkos was picked up by Ryan V. in the second Waiver Draft and he currently sits in 22nd place.  The pick-up was more cosmetic than competitive, but it would definitely keep him out of the basement, if Stamkos was to return at his regular scoring pace.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Key Returns in the Draft This Week (Feb 24)

The San Jose Sharks went into the break with a couple of key injuries of note and it sounds like one of them will be ready to go, as Logan Couture, who underwent hand surgery a month before the Olympics, trying to get back in time to play for Canada, should be close to 100% when the Sharks hit the ice in Week Twenty. The other injured player is Tomas Hertl, who doesn't appear to be anywhere close and seems likely that he won't be playing any time soon for the Sharks, barring a miracle.

The return is good news for Dale B., who goes into the home stretch in 17th place, 39 points out of the top half.  Dale is also waiting on some more news, which may or may not pop up below (intrigue!).

The Montreal Canadiens will be ready to welcome scoring forward Alex Galchenyuk back to their line-up, as he is returning from a broken hand, which he suffered in January.  Galchenyuk was scoring at just over half a point-per-game at the time of his injury, scoring 10 goals in 44 games and his energy is also a huge plus in the line-up.  Max Pacioretty, who left the Habs last regular season game with a lower-body injury, did end up play for Team USA in the Olympics, which means he should be a-okay to go when the Canadiens hit the ice.

Galchenyuk belongs to Stacey M. this season in the draft, who goes into the post-Olympic stretch in 5th place, only 4 points out of 1st place.  Getting a forward back will be a huge boost for the stretch.  Pacioretty will return for Wes, who starts in 15th place, 22 points out of 12th.

Sounds like Mikhail Grabovski should be good to for the Washington Capitals this week, as he has been out since the end of January with an ankle injury.  Grabovski missed eight games before the break and likely took advantage of the break with some quality rest.  It sounds like defenseman Mike Green should also be good to go for the Caps, as he has reported that his baseline tests have been passed and it has been a few weeks since he suffered his last concussion, so all systems should be go.

Both players play for the pool's duo, Kristy & Don, who restart the season in 19th place, well out of contention of just about everything.  In the third segment, they are already 37 points out of top spot, mired in a tie for 22nd.

The Detroit Red Wings are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, already knowing they'll likely be without their captain for the remainder of the regular season, they are expecting some good news after the break, as both forward Johan Franzen and defenseman Jakub Kindl are projected to return to the line-up from injury. Franzen skipped the Olympics with a concussion, while Kindl also had to skip the tournament with a lower-body injury, both being cleared ahead of the return to action.

Grant, a one-time leader in the pool, now sitting 12th, 26 points out of 1st, will welcome Franzen back to his line-up, while Benson, who is chasing Grant for 12th place, 16 points behind, has Kindl coming back.

On Thursday, Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Bonino confirmed that he will return from an upper-body injury, which had him on the Injured Reserve since the end of January. There was no indication what his upper-body was, but he has said that he is 100% and ready to go. Bonino has been good this season for Anaheim, having 40 points in 56 games this year.

Since being picked up in the first Waiver Draft of the season, Bonino has been excellent (when healthy) for Stacey M., scoring 25 points in 30 games.  This makes two key returns for Stacey, in her quest for back-to-back wins in the hockey pool.

A couple of injured bodies before the break look to be ready to go this week. Defenseman Chris Phillips is set to return from a hip injury, which has kept him out for nearly a month before the Olympics, while forward Clarke MacArthur suffered a foot injury in the week before, but was taking regular line rushes at practice over the weekend and should be ready to go.  Ottawa is in the mix for a playoff spot and is getting two good players back in the line-up, so they'll be ready to make a push.

Also looking to make a push, Brenda's team sits in 10th place, only 17 points back and will get Phillips back, while Ryan V., who sits in 22nd, will try to stay out of the basement with MacArthur back in his line-up.

The days leading up to the March 5th trade deadline will feature Buffalo forward Matt Moulson, likely in large quantities, as he is likely to be dealt in the Sabres rebuild plans. Moulson is returning from an upper-body injury, which has been revealed to be an arm injury, which he suffered in the last couple weeks before the break.  He will be able to return to boost his trade value, which is already pretty high, having 33 points in 51 games between Long Island and Buffalo.  Also returning from injury will be defenseman Tyler Myers, who suffered a lower-body injury, just before the break.  Myers is back practicing with the team and is expected in the line-up.

Wes, who has already appeared on the post once, will get a second player back in his line-up, but this could have be too little, too late for him.  For Benson, he gets a second blueliner back in his line-up, a blueline that has scored 82 points this season for him, just slightly below-average (87) heading into the return.

The Vancouver Canucks, who were mired with injury before the break, will get both forward Henrik Sedin and defenseman Kevin Bieksa back from injury, as they reset their systems from a horrifying losing streak into the break. Sedin is returning from a rib injury, which kept him out of the Olympics, while Bieksa was out with a foot injury, speculated to be a fractured foot.

Tony will be happy to see Henrik back in his line-up, but again, it could be too little, too late for his team.  Tony's team is still banged up, heading back from the break and he's mired way down in the standings as well.  As for Bieksa, he plays on Clayton's team, which sits in 8th, 11 points out of 1st.  Bieksa could figure 11 points in the last seven weeks, which could be a difference maker.

The infection that Evander Kane had in his hand has reportedly subsided and the scoring forward is back at practice with the Winnipeg Jets, as they prepare for the return to action this week.  Kane had been dealing with injuries with his hand all season long, which has hampered his numbers, only scoring 29 points in 42 games for the Jets.  If he is 100%, it will be interesting to see how he helps his team, which sits only 2 points out of a playoff spot.

Kane, who belongs to John, who now sits in the pool basement for projected games played, thanks to the season-ending injury to Canucks forward Mike Santorelli, but does get all of his games from Kane, in the projected sense.  John starts the home stretch in 20th place.