Monday, January 28, 2008

Week Eighteen Newsletter

Well, maybe it's time for a little bit of an All-Star recap. The festivities were just upon us over the weekend and they weren't too bad. The Skills Competition was changed up a little bit and for the most part it was certainly enjoyable.

The first event saw the players take on the "obstacle course." But let's face it, it wasn't exactly that... it was more like a skills relay, as you had four players, including a goalie, showing some individual skills for points. Between the saucer passes over the barrier into a tiny net and the goalies shooting the length of the ice for an empty net, it did make some excitement that the stickhandling and one-timers didn't give.

Now, my only beef with the fastest skater competition was that they didn't maximize the number of races for all the fastest players. There was no Marian Gaborik (Clayton), which really disappointed me and probably a lot of Wild fans. They also didn't have the timing mechanisms working properly for the Eastern Conference, so it was Shawn Horcoff (Dennis) who took the title over Brian Campbell (Dale C.).

The biggest surprise of the night was got to be Dion Phaneuf (Ryan) winning the elimination shootout competition. In a 'score or you're out' format, it only took Dion two goals to win, while his West teammate Manny Legace (Wes) shutdown the East shooters who were looking to continue in the second round. This competition could have used a few more goals, but the goalies didn't want to lose any of the spotlight this weekend.

The 3-on-3 format of the YoungStars game was far more refreshing than the 4-on-4 format they had in Dallas last year. Patrick Kane (Marcus) was lighting the way for the West, but it wasn't enough overall as Nicklas Backstrom (Dale C.) and the East were too good for the overall win. Both conferences earned a point in the game for winning a period in the game.

Tomas Kaberle (John P.) and Jason Arnott (Marcus) were the centerpieces for the shooting accuracy competition on Saturday. Kaberle became only the fifth player to go 4-for-4 in the competition and rightfully won it overall, beating Arnott in a one shot playoff in the finals. An annual favourite didn't disappoint.

The defending champion of the hardest shot competition was saved for last and well... he saved his best for last as well. Zdeno Chara (Benson) wired his second shot for 103mph to win the competition beating both Vincent Lecavalier (Stuart) and Jason Arnott (Marcus), who both cracked 100mph in the competition.

No Sidney Crosby (Benson). No Rick Nash (Wes). No Jonathan Toews (Chris). Of course, I think everyone who knows what those three can do missed them, but a guy like Alexander Ovechkin (Clayton) did his best to make sure you remembered what he could do in the shootout challenge. If Ovechkin could have connected with his juggling/baseball swing shots (including the spin-o-rama one), it would have been an unbelievable show.

Overall, there should be a fan vote for those players who should compete in some events. I know Crosby and Toews were not at the event, but I would have loved to see what Nash could have done in the challenge or Gaborik in the speed event. Sure Ilya Kovalchuk (Peter) didn't want to take part in the shootout challenge, but I'm sure it may have been a bit different if the fans picked him to go, rather than the league.

Now, if you decided to skip the game yesterday and heard how good it was, then here is the highlights, courtesy of NHL Video on YouTube.

The back and forth nature of the All-Star Game was definitely not lost in Atlanta this time around. The best part of the game though was the competition between the two teams and their desire to win by the third period. You could tell both teams wanted to win. Rick Nash (Wes) was the showpiece of the game with a hat-trick of fantastic goals, but came up short in the MVP votes.

Winner of the MVP honour and helper of the unofficial pool for the All-Star Game, was Eric Staal (Clayton). His 2 goals and 1 assist helped the East win the game and helped Clayton eclipse Chris in the All-Star Game points with 6. There was no money involved in the All-Star Game pool, but here's the Top 5 teams in the Draft and their points...

Clayton - 6 points (5G, 1A)
Dale C. - 5 points (2G, 3A)
Chris - 5 points (5A)
Wes - 3 points (3G)
Aaron 3 points (1G, 2A)

Well, the rookies were not quite as popular as some of the other polls the Sherpa has posted as of late. Maybe it was the shortened week that lessened interest in the pools and thus, the hockey pool domain. Well, I suppose I'll have to write with what I have this week.

The rookie class of 2008 is actually one of the strongest ones we've seen in quite some time. Obviously the marquee rookies are in Chicago, but since one has gone down with injury, the other hasn't quite had as much fun or as much production. Jonathan Toews' (Chris) knee injury has really hurt his chances at the Calder Trophy and teammate Patrick Kane (Marcus) has suffered in his production and thus his chances for Rookie of the Year have fallen with it. Nicklas Backstrom (Dale C.) has jumped to the forefront of late and took the poll vote, for what it was worth. Backstrom has been the hottest rookie, getting a chance to play with Alexander Ovechkin (Clayton) in Washington, taking over for the injured Michael Nylander (Chris). Backstrom has racked up 10 points in the last two weeks, since taking over for Nylander in the number one centre position. Now that Nylander is out for the rest of the season, Backstrom has 12 more weeks of action with Ovechkin, which could mean great things, including the Calder Trophy for the Swedish centre.

This week's poll will be an All-Star poll... do you watch and/or enjoy the All-Star festivities? Do you watch it religously? Don't care at all? Vote in the poll!

I think it was pretty obvious who our Mover & Shaker in the Draft was going to be. It's our new leader! Stuart scraped together 28 points in the week to leapfrog over both John B. and Chris to be first place in the pool. Stuart finished the week with a two point lead over Chris and now has 12 points over top of John. Stuart had been knocking on the door for some time, before finally making the jump. He first jumped into a money position in Week Five and held on to either second or third until now.

He'll need to have his player keep their pace after the All-Star Break to keep his lead. Players giving him the lead this past week were Cristobel Huet (4 points), Ryan Suter (4), Derek Roy (3), Nikolai Zherdev (3) and Ryan Whitney (3). I don't think you were expecting some of those names to show up in the Mover & Shaker column, eh? But there they are... sitting on top of the Draft.

The Mover & Shaker in the Selection Sheet pool moved up 4 spots and into the Top 10 with a 62-point week, the tops in the pool. The M&S has had 9 straight weeks of 50+ points, including 5 weeks of being above 60 points. Now sitting in 7th spot, he is now 7 spots higher than his season-low of 14th spot in Week Twelve. Out M&S had big weeks from Daniel Alfredsson (7 points), Pascal Leclaire (6), Alexander Ovechkin (6), Henrik Lundqvist (6), Alexander Radulov (5) and Nicklas Backstrom (5). Who is our M&S on the Sheet, you ask? It's Clayton!

Of course, with a lack of games during the week, some people may feel the pinch of not enough production to stay in the race. Surprisingly, the Basement Dweller didn't actually change their position, rather they had just the least amount of points in the Draft. Aaron just couldn't find any luck in his 21 games, plus goaltending starts, during the week. He only managed to chalk up 7 points in the week and his highest scorer was Craig Rivet, who had two points of San Jose in the week. You would think that with only 7 points in the week, that injuries have ravaged his team. That wasn't the case. Everyone played, including Johan Hedberg, who had a start for the Thrashers. Hopefully, the All-Star break will do some good for his players and keep him out of the Basement.

In the Basement on the Sheet, we could only have one of two teams that dropped three spots. Let's go to the tie-breaker, shall we? Least amount of points in the week. And our winner is... Riley! Riley dropped down from 15th spot to 18th after a 29-point week (tied for second lowest). Riley found himself with 12 players on his active roster (some thanks to injury) with zero points. He'll need to get back to some big weeks to start climbing the standings again.

In the All-Star shortened week, there wasn't a shortage of points. Our honouree played in two games this week, but only manged to get points in one game. Enough points to garner Player of the Week in only one game? Could it be true? Why yes, yes it is.

Daniel Alfredsson (Clayton) managed 3 goals and 4 assists in the Senators game against the Lightning for a week-topping 7 points. The Senators had snapped a losing streak in that break-out game for the captain, despite missing a couple of their star performers.

Alfredsson marks back-to-back Player of the Week honours for Clayton. He's seemingly had some of the hotter players in the league of late, which has propelled him up the standings as well. But if you were paying attention, you'd know that already.

Well, it's been a pretty quiet few weeks for Mike Comrie (John B.). In the last three weeks, Comrie has only registered 3 points, none of which were collected in the short week. Comrie was picked up in the Draft during the Waiver Draft eight weeks ago and has since picked up 17 points in the 26 games he's been active. If he was a little bit better, it'd be John in first rather than Stuart, the Sherpa speculates.

Other News and Notes

Bruins winger Peter Schaefer (Benson) was sat for a game before the All-Star break and that came as somewhat of a surprise. Schaefer only has 20 points in 46 games this season, which is a very small bit of production out of a guy who is making $2.1 million this year. Big things are expected of the 30-year old winger and he seems to be falling short. Maybe this scratch will wake him up a bit.

He's been a bit of an enigma this season for the Flames. Anders Eriksson (Box 10) hasn't been the same defensive stalwart that he was in Columbus, but maybe that's just a system issue. Under coach's orders, however, he was taking a night off on Tuesday, the Flames' last game before the break.

Bad news hit the wire in Edmonton as their star defenseman Sheldon Souray (Marcus) has been bitten by the injury bug again. His shoulder has been injured again, which we all know was hurting as the season has plugged away. Souray was hurt in the Oilers last game before the break against the Panthers, but there hasn't been any word on how long he'll be out quite yet. Expect a diagnosis before their first game against the Sharks on Tuesday.

The Wild have had some injury problems with winger Mark Parrish (Box 9). First, he had some back problems that have kept him out of the line-up, now he's suffering from a bruised foot. He missed the last couple games before the break, but should be okay, now that he's off his feet, for the return to regular action.

Trade rumours continue to swirl in the Big Apple, but when Marek Malik (Box 22) didn't have any of his gear at practice before their last game, the rumours turned into a hurricane, which the coaching staff had to bunker down for. Malik has had a lot of time in the press box and is the most likely candidate to be shipped out of New York.

Guess who's a popular guy in January? Well, it's Kris Beech (non-pool). He's not in the pool, mostly because he is a minor-leaguer according to three of the four teams who have had him in January. This time, the Penguins, who are short on forwards due to injury, will need Beech to join the ranks and get some ice-time. This will be Beech's second tour of duty with the Penguins, as the Pittsburgh squad was his second career destination after the Caps dealt him in the Jaromir Jagr (Wes) deal.

The All-Star break is all well and good to rest weary legs, but some players thrive on keeping busy and teams need those players to remain at their best, especially over the break. Marc-Edouard Vlasic (Clayton) is one of those players and he was sent down to Worcester, the AHL affiliate of the Sharks, for a game or two over the break. Vlasic may benefit from the slower pace of the AHL, which hopefully will increase his production with the big club. Vlasic only has 5 assists in 49 games.

The Blues sat rookie defender Erik Johnson (Clayton) again on Wednesday, which gave him an extra night off before heading to Atlanta for the YoungStars game on Saturday. Expect the defender to join the line-up again on Tuesday in Toronto.

Well, after Week Nineteen, we'll be back in business with our second and last Waiver Draft of the season. Here's another name for you to consider. Jeff Carter (Box 19) is available to the lowest bidder in the second Waiver Draft for Week Twenty. Carter is fourth in available players scoring with 32 points in 48 games. Does he rank better than a forward on your squad? He might. Maybe Carter is just the guy for you.

Selection Sheet Trades

Well, it finally happened this week. Sidney Crosby (Box 13) was traded away thanks to his high ankle sprain. Sid the Kid was dealt away for the league's second leading scorer and East All-Star, Vincent Lecavalier (Box 13) by Mike Corvari. It was actually his last trade of the season and it sure was a doozy. This is the main reason why you keep trades around for the middle to the end of the year.

The first Hockey Night in Canada in February is a tripleheader! Sing it from the rafters! Sing it from the roof! Tripleheader! Tripleheader! Okay, yeah... I get a little excited when it comes to lots of hockey, I admit it. Anyways, the early game at noon is the Islanders in Montreal to take on the Habs. At 5pm, the Senators are in Toronto to take on the Leafs. Finally, at 8pm, the Stars are here in Calgary to play the Flames. It's no Hockey Day in Canada... but it's the week after, so we have very little to worry about.

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