Monday, August 29, 2005

Safe Bet of the Day #3

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNone other than, Joe Thornton. The Boston Bruin's centre is quickly becoming a favourite amongst hockey poolies everywhere. Even with the lockout last season, he still made the headlines across the pond playing with Rick Nash in Switzerland and again with Nash and Simon Gagne for Canada.

Even with an injury here and there, he still remained in the Top 50 in pool points in the last 3 seasons, which puts him within the first couple rounds of safe picking. In '02/'03, he was 5th in pool scoring and really made a name for himself. I wouldn't be afraid to take him anywhere in the first round, even first overall, if I was a bigger Thornton fan.

With his possible linemates of Glen Murray and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins have a potent front line and they also have some depth in behind them, so teams can't necessarily focus on the big line. For these reasons today, Thornton is a top guy to have in your pool team and one who should be considered at all times if you are in the first 5 to 10 picks.

If you possibly have an Olympic pool for the games in Turin in February... he would also be there in the top picks, because of that line that made headlines last summer for Canada. Nash-Thornton-Gagne should re-unite barring injury for the Olympics, which makes for a deadly point-producing tandem for the race to gold.

37 Days Until The Puck Drops

It's getting closer and closer to the season and the teams are pretty much shaped up with a few more little signings and the possiblity to have a big one or two left to be done.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe New Jersey Devils have to move a player or three to get themselves within the cap room provided... signings like Vladimir Malakhov and Alexander Mogilny have left them over budget, since they were the unrestricted guys that came aboard for more than $3million a piece. It looks like the offensive side of the Devils rebuilding process have cost them a little bit more than then Lou would have hoped. His team of trap-experienced players all cost him a bundle, but the trap shouldn't be used this year due to the rule changes. But you never know...

Pool implication: Mogilny & Malakhov will still be decent mid-round picks for points, no matter which team they find themselves on. Don't look for a great amount of open-ice points from the Devils, rather a stifling play against the new rules so Brodeur can flourish in points.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPittsburgh needs to get their shape together still... with Sidney Crosby not signed yet, Evgeni Malkin more than likely staying in Russia, Mario will have to decide how much he'll get paid this year... so the Penguins still have a lot of questions to answer although they have guys like Palffy, Gonchar and LeClair now on the books. They are still really thin down the middle and now Dick Tarnstrom's arbitration ruling may keep the depth on the blueline from getting too deep.

Pool implication: Don't pick Malkin... that's the simple one. I wouldn't gamble too much on Crosby just yet... no contract, although it won't be tough negotiations... but I don't know if he's ready to be a big star of the show. If you can get him as a late forward, then I think you're laughing. Mario... health risk... I wouldn't gamble unless you got him late too.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIn kind of a surprise move, the Calgary Flames moved Toni Lydman to Buffalo for a draft pick. I would have thought that Lydman would still figure on the blueline for the Flames, even with Hamrlik and the ever-improving Jordan Leopold in the mix. Nevertheless, the Flames are still very deep on the blueline and will make do with their core players. Buffalo, on the other hand, did well on picking up Lydman, he was starting to prove himself as an offensive defenseman in Calgary and that may be a good pointman for Buffalo's youth and speed.

Pool Implication: Calgary doesn't exactly lose... their players will continue the same way as Hamrlik replaces Lydman. Lydman will get more ice-time in Buffalo and guys like Briere and Drury will have a quarterback to throw them the long bombs... I would increase their pool value by 5 to 10 points.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWith Pasi Nurminen not expected to play hockey in the NHL again, Atlanta will go with Kari Lehtonen to start the season... or so we should expect. Lehtonen is a great prospect and should provide Atlanta with solid goaltending and with the European direction that Atlanta is taking with their team, it could be a perfect result by taking Lehtonen within the first couple rounds of your pool draft.

Pool Implication: Get in on the ground floor here... it's a gamble worth taking. With Hossa and Kovalchuk the new partner combo in town, I think the goals will come and the Thrashers will be dangerous in all categories. Jaroslav Modry will be the number one D-man to send his wingers for breaks... so watch him too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Safe Bet of the Day #2

I'm thinking of someone, just a little less obvious as a safe bet for the upcoming season... and believe me, with the uncertainty of injuries and suspensions and holdouts, it does seem to be quite tough to pick "safe" bets. To be a safe bet, you have to be pretty consistent... and there are very few who fit the bill.

For this season, since there wasn't one last year... I am doing much like the NHL did for the Draft Lottery and take the average standings of players stats and that comes up with my measurement of consistency.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSo for today, I've found... Brendan Morrison. In the past three seasons, Morrison has consistently found himself hovering around the top 50 in pool point scoring, higher in league scoring when you don't count goaltender points.

I'd hate to think that you'd ask why... but if you must... he has a pair of pretty good bets playing with him on a line. Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi are pretty responsible for why Morrison has the points that he does, but it isn't like he doesn't deserve to be there or else he probably wouldn't play there, would he?

Morrison is highly durable... having played all 82 games for the Canucks for the past four seasons, that's a pretty solid accomplishment for a guy who is only 5'11".

His career high in points is 71 in '02-'03... having scored 60 in the last season... he's a solid 2nd round pool pick. If you could swing Naslund and/or Bertuzzi in the first round and Morrison in the second... you'd be laughing.

The Rule Changes In The League and Your Pool

No red line, shootouts, small goalie pads & a tighter crackdown on obstruction. These are the 4 rules you should consider when you're looking at historical statistics for some players. These rules will effect a lot of players and if you know how, you're drafting ability got a lot better.

The most exciting rule change coming into effect this season is the lack of a red line. Breakaways and long bomb passes will be the weapons of choice for a lot of players. If you somehow incorporate Goals Against in your goalie points, then you better find a good one-on-one goalie.

When you look at the big goal scorers in the league, like Ilya Kovalchuk, Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash, it's worth considering how fast they are, how skilled they are and if they have a defenseman who can toss the long bomb. Granted, it doesn't just have to be a defenseman, but generally, they're the ones picking up a rebound and throwing it to a streaking forward and hitting them in stride.

Shootouts won't generally count in your statistics. Shootout goals and saves won't historically referenced as great statistics, but what it does do is eliminate ties. Goaltenders won't be able to register anymore ties, it'll just be a win or a loss for them, so again, you have to find the goalies who are great one-on-one goalies; like Khabibulin, Luongo and Brodeur.

Smaller goalie pads are less likely to make a great difference to some goalies and their wins and there might be little effect... but it may be too early to tell. The goalies these days are becoming really good and with the number of coaches that are teaching these kids how to play, it is no wonder why they are doing so well. Smaller pads may actually make some keepers a little bit faster.

Finally, the crackdown on obstruction, if they do call it at all, should increase the number of power plays to start the season. Saying that, the big scorers on the power play are generally picked fairly early or relatively late (if there is a handicap on power play points). If they do crackdown and open the game up, look for little players like Mike Comrie and Paul Kariya to make more of an impact, because they were the ones that were slowed up the most with all the obstruction.

Wednesday Morning's Impact

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPatrik Elias, F, re-signed with the Devils this morning... signing his qualifying offer. That puts the Devils over the cap limit, with still some key positions to fill. Elias is slated to miss the opening part of the season after recovering from Hepatitis A, but even with the salary cap rule of if a player misses 10 or more games consecutively, the salary cost per game is subtracted from the salary cap against, won't help a a great deal. Also, since he was only signed to his qualifying offer of 1-year, it is likely that he will become unrestricted come next summer. I would think Devils management will deal him for a high pick soon.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comRoberto Luongo, G, is headed to arbitration in Toronto this morning. This will ensure that he is at the Panthers training camp in a couple weeks. Unfortunately for the Panthers, this move to bring Luongo to arbitration has publicly dampened the Gold Medal winning keeper's spirits of staying with the team after this one-year deal expires. This also could do two things to his play: 1) make him play better and ask for a trade or 2) make him play poorly through the year and leave via unrestricted free agency. I would imagine if Mike Keenan can't console his keeper, he'll move him to get something in return. Stay tuned to this one.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comPasi Nurminen, G, looks to be on the verge of retirement. Reports out of Atlanta are saying that Nurminen has suffered a knee injury that looks to be career-ending. This is a shame, really... I thought he was going to really do something. Atlanta will have a lot less of a goaltending controversy now that Kari Lehtonen looks to fill the shoes of the starting role after a solid performance in the minors last year. Lehtonen is a favourite up-and-comer of mine and one that I'd look to in the pool this year for a good second or third round pick.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Safe Bet of the Day #1

Image hosted by Photobucket.comFor the first "Safe Bet of the Day," comes the most obvious choice as the number one selection in your hockey pool... Martin Brodeur.

You can't get much safer then Marty... in the last 3 seasons of hockey pools, Brodeur hasn't ranked lower than 3rd in point standings, finishing 1st in the previous 2 years.

Quite honestly, he's the best goaltender in the NHL and should you dare look otherwise on the 1st overall pick, you're pretty much guaranteed 35+ wins in the season. Of course, you have to factor in the luck of health, but for argument purposes, he's a workhorse that doesn't break.

I'm not trying to jinx him or anything... believe me. I'd take him if I had the chance.

Although the rules have changed for this season, Martin Brodeur had made some good points lately... teams don't have coaches for offense anymore like they do for defensive drills, goalie coaches and emphasis on the penalty kill. He makes a good point when he says, (paraphrasing) "Hey, why doesn't anyone give credit to the skills some of these goalies have?"

Brodeur has never really been criticized for the size of his pads, although he is moving to a slightly smaller set this season, unlike J-S Giguere in Anaheim or Garth Snow (Islanders) in his lacrosse goalie days. He is a goalie's goalie and has been fortunate from time to time with great teams in front of him and it doesn't change this year.

Larry Robinson will focus on making sure the puck stays out of the Devils net this year and the last line of defense looks to stand up to the test.

A Blockbuster Day

Well, I didn't get home before the big deal of the day. I didn't think posting twice on the new site at work was a wise decision, but anyways... here I'll go.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comTo Ottawa: Dany Heatley, F
Image hosted by Photobucket.comTo Atlanta: Marian Hossa, F & Greg de Vries, D

Both Heatley and Hossa signed new contracts as well, both with Ottawa... of course Hossa got dealt afterwards, but they are both off the Restricted Free Agent market, which means they will be in camp in a few weeks.

These two forwards are both first rounders, or should be, in anyone's pool. Heatley's growth as a sniper and his talented (potential) linemates should make him a quality target for anyone. Hossa on the other hand should be considered to be a mid-first rounder on his durability and scoring. After a few of the obvious big point guys, you couldn't go wrong by picking Hossa.

The trickle down effect also will look good on guys like Alfredsson and maybe reflect a bit poorly on Kovalchuk... but the changes aren't major. Alfredsson will benefit from the overall talent of Heatley and Kovalchuk will lose a few more tape-to-tape passes, each resulting in possible changes to their normal production.

Let's not forget Greg de Vries... he becomes Atlanta's potential number two defenseman. I would forecast only 30 points for him, because he's not really the offensive talent that other teams have as a number two d-man, but he can provide some punch on the scoreboard.

Result of the deal... I've gotta give it to the Senators for the win. Both on the ice and in the pocket book (only signing for $4.5 million US), Heatley is a steal.

Stay tuned for more tips for this season's hockey pool.

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