Friday, July 28, 2006

Pool Worthy Movements

The Colorado Avalanche continued the replacement process for Rob Blake in signing Ken Klee to a deal. Klee, a usual late pool pick, will move to Denver to add a little more size to the blueline. Last season's 15 points for Klee will be matched at best, as he won't see much time on the powerplay, as he's probably about 4th or 5th on the depth chart for the Avs.

Monday saw the signing of Jan Bulis to the Canucks. Although he is listed as a left winger, he may fit into the Canucks plans on either the top two lines at the minute, swapping sides to play with Markus Naslund or the twins. This is a big promotion for Bulis in the pool rankings, in my opinion. Playing with the twins may actually give him 30 goals to his normal 20, just like Anson Carter had last season.

On Tuesday, the Florida Panthers gave newly-acquired Alex Auld a little competition for the job in signing Ed Belfour. At the risk of sounding like a big jerk... HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Ahem. The 41-year-old Belfour will try and make his return after a bad back last season that kept him from the second half of the season. It's a good thing they got him for cheap.

Mark Recchi has returned to Pittsburgh, just as he said he would. A Cup win in Carolina last season and more than likely finishing his career with Crosby and the Penguins will be good for Recchi. His production was still very decent last season, finishing in the top 100 in pool points, a far cry from his top 30 performance before the lockout, but still a pool worthy pick up.

The addition of Danny Markov will give some more depth to a depleted Red Wing team. Markov will probably walk onto the Wings powerplay and see quite a bit of ice-time. He does have quite a bit of competition at his level of play, but you will more than likely see an increase of point production, because of the forward talent he'll get to play with. You may want to upgrade his positioning on your draft list, just a little bit.

Brad Ference, the older brother of new-teammate Andrew, adds more grit and size to the Flames defense corps. Unfortunately for Brad, he hasn't played too many full-seasons with NHL clubs, only playing 80 games once in Florida. At this point, he comes in only as the 7th defenseman and will have big job ahead of him to make it onto the squad in training camp.

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Friday, July 21, 2006

Since the Last Time

On Tuesday, the Nashville Predators sent their all-time leading scorer, Scott Walker, to the Stanley Cup Champs for winger Josef Vasicek. Walker, coming off an injury-plagued year is a Top 50 type scorer, finishing 40th in 2003/'04 in pool rankings. His speed and grit will go a long ways to help defend the title the Hurricanes got in June. Scott Walker could be a sleeper pick in the 3rd round of any pool, barring injury of course. Vasicek, on the other hand, is also a decent scoring winger who came off an injury plagued season as well, missing 59 games to a knee injury. Although he may not have the same sort of grit that Walker has, he does come with the speed and European style the Predators have in other players, making him somewhat of a good match. It's unclear whether he'll match his career-high 45 points, but he probably will come close. A late-rounder for sure.

15-year veteran, Geoff Sanderson signed with the Flyers on Wednesday to a 2-year contract. Sanderson, generally a 20 to 30 goal scorer in a season, should fit in well with the Flyers and their free-wheelin' sort of game. It should be expected that he'll produce his usual 40 to 60 points, the latter more likely with the offensive Flyers.

Nils Ekman and a goaltending prospect were sent to Pittsburgh last night for a 2nd round draft pick from San Jose. Ekman, going into his 5th NHL season, has made a splash in the league, reaching the Top 100 in scoring in his first season with the Sharks and just shy of the mark last season. There's always the possibility that he'll find himself along side Sidney Crosby, as he was on a line with Cheechoo and Thornton for some of the time last season, but it remains to be seen what the lines will look like.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Goings On Over The Last Few Days

The last time we left our pool update, we saw that Samsonov had gone to the Habs... that was the only real pool-worthy note five days ago. Let's see what has happened since.

It was really quiet there for a few days... mostly Restricted Free Agents returning to their clubs, a few depth guys changing spots for minor league rosters... just little bits. But the next pool worthy signing came from Dallas when Eric Lindros signed a 1-year deal to play behind Mike Modano in the Stars' depth chart. In only 33 games last season, Lindros accumulated 22 points, putting him in the 400's in pool rankings. It's been a 4-year decline for Lindros in my pool rankings, now seeing him at his lowest from a 35th place spot in 2001/'02. The West actually became more of a free flowing system of play last season and may suit Lindros a bit better, but I'm pretty sure I won't take him in the draft.

This morning, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that they signed checking centre, Mike Peca. Peca, not much better offensively than Lindros last season, only scored 23 points in 70 games... actually worse in the PPG column. That isn't to say he had a poor playoffs with the Oilers, but for the hockey pool purpose, he was shit in the regular season. When you're looking for players with a serious offensive upside, you won't come looking at Peca for your pool team. Even his -4 last season is enough to turn you off of those large scaled pools that take into account all the stats.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Tenative Date for the Draft

Since the schedule was released yesterday for the 2006/'07 NHL Season, I can now officially give you an unofficial date for the big draft day. The season will begin on Wednesday, October 4 and I will hold the draft one week beforehand, on September 27, also a Wednesday.

This pool will be very reminscent of years past... with the same amount of effort (if not more).

Teams will consist of 8 forwards, 4 defensemen & 2 goalies... 1 point for goals & assists and 2 points for wins & shutouts. Last year's pool went down like a charm, see the standings here. This coming season, there will be dedicated webspace with everyone's team posted and updated regularly and it'll be $50 a head. I'll be capping the number of teams at a maximum of 30, with the likelihood reaching about 20-25.

There will be two waiver drafts to drop poor players and pick up better players (dates will be announced soon), so everyone who is involved should be around his/her e-mail constantly for updates.

Mark September 27th on your calendars... it should be a doozy! I will have a pub booked for the draft soon, so stay tuned.

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The Habs are a Changin'

GM Bob Gainey made some moves to make the Habs a little bit faster and a little more dangerous for the upcoming season. A fourth round draft pick was sent to Phoenix to pick up scoring winger Mike Johnson and they also won the Sergei Samsonov sweepstakes as well on Wednesday.

There is also much talk that the Canadiens will deal newly-signed goalie, David Aebischer, in hopes of picking up a power forward in return. These are all significant moves, as it seems the Canadiens are one of those teams who want to get better sooner rather than later.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

New Additions Around The League - Part Two

Image hosted by The Predators haven't been one of the more notable teams in the off-season so far, the market has only been open a few days, but the one splash they did make was trying to cash in on the career year that Jason Arnott had in Dallas. With Yanic Perreault still on the market, the Predators were obviously keen on filling the number one centre role and much like the previous summer, they came out of nowhere to get one of the bigger names on the market (last summer's acquisition being Paul Kariya). I would still look to Nashville for one or two more moves that may rise some eyebrows.

Image hosted by On Long Island, the new management & coaching staff want to really muck it out in 2006/'07 and you can tell by their new signings. Brendan Witt, Andy Hilbert and Mike Sillinger, all physical type guys headline their free-agent acquisition list. They don't really play out too well in the Hockey Pool realm of things, but if they're really looking to grind out a few games and keep the puck out of their net, Rick DiPietro might be a decent pick for your team in the late-second to mid-third rounds.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhen Glen Sather likes a plan, he'll use it. Even if it's someone elses. Ha ha. Aaron Ward and Matt Cullen have come to the Big Apple from Carolina in the Free Agent season. He must have like what Jim Rutherford was doing in Raleigh and decided to take some of his players for himself. Aaron Ward is a guy who knows how to win, having three Cups to his name and Cullen is a good depth player... but neither of which should really factor, unless you're in a deep pool.

Image hosted by Speak of the Cullens... as Matt has gone to New York, Mark has gone to Philadelphia... along with Randy Robitalle and Nolan Baumgartner. Again, nothing major in the development of any pool teams, nor does it really help a lot of players that you'd take from Philly for your pool. Bob Clarke's pick-ups are mostly filler on a team that needs some talent to jump in their pool.

Image hosted by Now the Coyotes... they've been rather busy spending some money. Ed Jovanovski, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Morrison and Georges Laraque have all joined the dogs in the desert and there could be some pool ramifications here. Gretzky and Company want to progress with everyone in the West, even if that means that they want to give J.R. another shot with the franchise. With previous trades and signings, the Coyotes now boast a responsible blueline in Ballard, Jovo, Morris, Boynton & O'Donnell as their first five. That's not too bad. With CuJo staying on for another season, the upgrades up front should make the Coyotes a little less prominent as road kill.

Image hosted by Pittsburgh's additions since July 1... Jarkko Ruutu and Mark Eaton. The shadow of Evgeni Malkin looms large here as they are now able to bring the Russian big man over to North America, that all other signings and moves may pale in comparison... especially Ruutu and Eaton.

Image hosted by Where did the Sharks really need to improve from last season? They had lots of scoring (even secondary scoring to some degree), grit, solid defensemen and okay goaltending. What they probably didn't have was playoff savvy more than anything... which the Oilers (their eventual slayers) had in spades. The additions of Mike Grier and Curtis Brown don't give the Sharks that savvy quite yet, but maybe another shot in the playoffs will. There are still some more veterans on the market, there could be a splash there somewhere.

Image hosted by Can't really say I'm overly too sure what GM Larry Pleau is doing in St. Louis at the moment. If there was anything we learned over the last 10 years in hockey is that if your team struggles, you can't just throw money at players and expect a solution to pan out. You have to know that Doug Weight & Bill Guerin were not cheap and throwing $4 million at Jay McKee (for blocking shots like he did in the playoffs) is not going to solve much of anything. Good players for lots of money is not the way to win.

Image hosted by The Lightning only made some changes to their blueline from the marketplace, adding Filip Kuba from Minnesota and Andy Delmore from Columbus. Kuba, who has slowly been blossoming into the type of defender that Pavel Kubina is... who in fact they are trying to replace with said players. Delmore used to be a blue-chip prospect whose shoulders could never really hold onto the expectations placed upon him offensively. Kuba might have a slight raise in his stock, since the Tampa Bay game is a lot more free-flowing than the one with the Wild.

Image hosted by The Maple Leafs also shifted the blue line a bit adding Pavel Kubina and Hal Gill from Boston. Both players are a bit bigger and add some more stability to the blueline, which wasn't necessarily the Leafs problem last season. In Kubina, they get a third offensive defenseman, behind McCabe and Kaberle and in Gill, they get a punishing 4th defenseman who also can generate a few points here and there. Some offensive talent up front is what they really need... especially if these two defensemen are gonna get points for you in the pool.

Image hosted by A team that really needs to make some moves doesn't seem to be in a big hurry to do so at the moment. Willie Mitchell is the only unrestricted free agent to come to the coast and at a hefty cost as well. There is still a lot of work to be done, but more about the Canucks can be found at my other column, Canucks Rush.

Image hosted by The year of the free agent defensemen is also somewhat notable in Washington as well. They signed up Brian Pothier from Ottawa, who had a pretty decent season with the Sens and should figure in the middle of the defensive pack for the Capitals. His 35 points should increase to 40 to 45 with the added ice time, not being behind both a Redden or a Chara.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Kings Acquire Goalie

Image hosted by Photobucket.comImage hosted by Photobucket.comToday, the Los Angeles Kings got a little stronger adding former starting goaltender, Dan Cloutier, from the Canucks for a couple of moderate draft picks.

Cloutier, a 30-game winner three times with the Canucks is a strong regular season goaltender who can earn you all sorts of wins, will more than likely prove to be a strong character for the Kings in their run for a Pacific Division title.

An injury-riddled season kept Cloutier from the Canucks' crease in 2005/'06, but some solid rehab all year and the summer should make him a healthy candidate for the starting job in LA, in front of Mathieu Garon. He should be a second-round to high third-round pick in any pool still. A small cry from his first-round potential, but there is no reason why he couldn't be there again in the regular season.

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Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New Additions Around The League - Part One

Image hosted by The Ducks have made the big move by acquiring Oilers trade-bait, Chris Pronger for Joffrey Lupul, a prospect and high picks. This is huge for the Ducks and quite possibly a slight impact on the pool from Anaheim. The pressure will be lessened on Scott Niedermayer, equally for Pronger, both being key d-men, which may make for more relaxed offense from the blueline. The Ducks powerplay should be huge... Teemu Selanne, Ryan Getzlaf, Andy McDonald, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer all have had stock go up.

Image hosted by Additions of Steve Rucchin, Glen Metropolit (from Finland) and Johan Hedberg has given the Thrashers a little bit of depth, but they have lost Marc Savard, so they'll still be looking for someone who can centre Ilya Kovalchuk in the coming season.

Image hosted by The Bruins have been big spenders in the first few days of Free Agency, signing huge defenseman, Zdeno Chara, playmaker Marc Savard and then grinder Shean Donovan. The rebuilding process in Beantown has started with great efficiency. They haven't given up anything in their young core to make a difference and these additions may make the Northeast Division a little stronger.

Image hosted by The Flames dipped into the defenseman market signing Andrei Zyuzin, who played with the Wild last season. Zyuzin isn't quite the defenseman that anyone would have thought to be a good fit in a Sutter system, being a minus-player for Jacques Lemaire's defensive Wild. He doesn't bring a lot of offensive upside either, only scoring a career-high 8 goals two seasons ago. He does figure into the Top 6, but not for a lot of ice-time.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comCup champs, Carolina, added a back-up goalie for Cam Ward in John Grahame, after they let go of Martin Gerber to free-agency. Grahame will try and challenge for the number one spot, but Conn Smythe winner, Ward, should be the number one guy going into camp.

Image hosted by Continuing on the goaltending trend, the Blackhawks decided to pony up for a little more help in the crease. Patrick Lalime was signed by the Hawks to give Nikolai Khabibulin some competition in the crease. Lalime is going to be a cheap alternative, as his game has slipped dearly over the last little while. The Blackhawks probably need to sort out a few more players up front before they're considered playoff contenders.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comColorado has been awfully quiet in this free-agent season. They did sign Tyler Arnason from Ottawa, but he certainly won't replace the offensive talent of Alex Tanguay who went to Calgary at the draft. The Avalanche haven't improved in comparison to their Northwest Division rivals, nor have they improved their players for the hockey pool next season. All Avalanche players have sort of lost stock in one way or the other so far this summer.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comDallas re-acquired defenseman Darryl Sydor from the Lightning for a pick in '08. Sydor has seen a decline in his production, especially hockey-pool wise and unless you've been in deep pools, you've probably haven't needed to pick a guy like Sydor. If you have, it's probably because his name was so good in his 40+ point seasons. The last time he did that was in Dallas, so I'm sure the Stars are hoping that they can get that sort of production again from the aging defender.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe Panthers made a move or two, replacing Sean Hill (buying out his contract) for Ruslan Salei (free-agent from Anaheim) early on in this market season. Salei was an important part of the Ducks run to the Conference Finals, but doesn't really add the needed talent Florida is looking for to improve on their position from last season. Salei brings size, but not many more points. Don't rush to pick him up this pool season.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe Kings are a team who are splashing around in the pool this summer. The party highlighted by the return of Rob Blake to the blueline from Colorado, with the inclusion of Scott Thornton and Alyn McCauley (from San Jose). The big, hulking defenseman should be an energetic boost to the Kings backline and the two role-playing forwards should add a little more depth to a team that was in desperate need of it last season.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMore great strides have been taken in Minnesota this summer, all in an effort to keep Restricted Free Agent, Marian Gaborik, in the fold. The Wild's commitment to this season is evident in their acquisitions, especially at the market opening. Wild stock is rising after Kim Johnsson, Mark Parrish and Keith Carney were all added in the depth department. The Wild want to improve over their last place in the Northwest position and I think they're goin' about it the right way.

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