Archive for November, 2009

Around the Boards: Komisarek returning tonight, no quick fix trades for Columbus, Maurice safe, NJ has trade chips

  • Paul Hunter of the Toronto Star: Mike Komisarek will return to the Maple Leafs lineup tonight after missing 3 weeks with a small tear in his quad. Defenceman Garnet Exelby and Jeff Finger will find themselves in the press box, that’s about a $4.75 million cap hit for the press box. Vesa Toskala returned to practice but isn’t ready for game action yet.
  • Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch: Losers of 5 straight games, there’s no hiding the fact that the Columbus Blue Jackets are struggling, but Jackets GM, Scott Howson, says he’s not actively pursuing a ‘skake-up’ trade.
  • Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News Observer: With changes on the horizon for the Carolina Hurricanes, President and GM Jim Rutherford, said that coach Paul Maurice won’t be part of them.
  • Mark Everson of the NY Post: The New Jersey Devils are getting healthy, and the replacements were pretty impressive, which may mean they could be trade bait later on in the season. Johnny Oduya, Jay Pandolfo, and Rob Niedermayer could return this week, and Paul Martin is only 2 weeks away. Defensemen Mark Fraser and Matt Corrente, and forwards Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito, Dean McAmmond, Vladimir Zharkov, Matt Halischuk, Illka Pikkarainen and Andrew Peters, have filled in admirably.
  • Michael Obernauer of the NY Daily News: The frustration level of John Tortorella is growing, and so is his doghouse, winger Ales Kotalik could be the next. Could trades or some other player movement be the next step?

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Around the Boards: Gonchar, Changes in Carolina Coming, Teams asking about Hagman

  • Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:
    • Contract talks between Sergei Gonchar and the Pittsburgh Penguins have been put on hold. Gonchar has a $5 million cap hit this year, but could probably get more as a UFA. The Pens would like to bring him back but it will need to be at a cap friendly, hometown discount number.
    • Blues coach Andy Murray could be the first coach to be fired this season, and former Thrashers coach Bob Hartley could be his replacement.
    • The Hurricanes could be looking to dump salaries, and players possibly on the move are Aaron Ward ($2.5 mill.), Joe Corvo ($2.75 mill.), Niclas Wallin ($1.725 mill.) and Ray Whitney.
  • Pierre LeBrun of ESPN:
    • Despite all the injuries, don’t expect the Red Wings to add any players. Niklas Kronwal, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Jason Williams and Adreas Lilja are all out with injuries, but they’ll be too close to the salary cap ceiling to add anyone that has a mid to high cap number.
    • Four teams have inquired about Niklas Hagman, with one of them being Anaheim. Burke doesn’t really want to move him unless he’s blown away. Hagman has nice cap number of $3 million for the next 2 seasons.
    • With the lack of trade talk out there, with so many teams almost capped out, Brian Burke will most likely once again push the idea of ‘retaining salary in trades’ at the next GM meetings. Burke thinks this will create the opportunity for more trades, others think it will create ‘Dead Money’.
    • The Oilers are deep on the blueline and have reportedly been shopping shopping struggling Tom Gilbert. Gilbert could be tough to move with a cap number of $4 million, and 4 years left (after this season).
  • Hockey Night in Canada’s “Hotstove’ – Some of what LeBrun mentions in the above, is talked about on the Hotstove.
  • Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News: Sabres Patrick Kaleta was suspended for 2 games for hit on Jared Ross.

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Kaleta Suspended

The Buffalo Sabres will be without Patrick Kaleta for two games after the forward was suspended by the NHL on Saturday.

Kaleta took a major boarding penalty and a game misconduct in the first period of Friday’s game against the Flyers when he hit Philadelphia centre Jared Ross. Ross left the game and did not return.

Kaleta has three goals and three assists in 21 games this season. He is eligible to return to action on Dec. 3 against Montreal.  (source:TSN)

It looks like fellow colleague Mark was right earlier today when he posted (in his daily “Around The Boards” column) that Kaleta would receive a suspension for his hit on Jared Ross of the Flyers last night.

I’m not really sure I agree with this decision, and I admit that I’m not overly familiar with this Kaleta character, but I felt like Jared Ross turned his back at the last minute. The problem with being a “usual suspect”, like Kaleta apparently is, is that there’s no way you’ll get the benefit of the doubt that the hit was un-intentional, and the NHL is going to make an example out of you.

We all know that there has been a double standard regarding a players star status vs length of suspension for years. Lets face the facts here, the NHL is a business and it isn’t good for business to suspend Alex Ovechkin for a borderline hit.

We could go through example after example of grinder type players getting the shaft or star players getting off easy but it boils down to this; It is much better to make an example out a guy who won’t affect the bottom line…A player with OV’s star status will make opposing teams money when the Capitals come to town (outside of the large markets, that sell out anyway, like Toronto and New York for example) so it’s in all the owners best interest to keep him on skates and selling tickets.

Kaleta, on the other hand, well…….enough said.

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Around the Boards: Hemsky done for the year, Changes coming for the ‘Canes, Kaleta getting suspended?

  • Derek Van Diest of Sun Media: So much for all the talk that Ales Hemsky could be trade bait for the Edmonton Oilers, as Hemsky is done for the season. He’ll have surgery on a lorn labrum and be out at least 6 months. It’s a big blow to the Oilers as Hemsky had 7 goal, 15 assists for 22 points in 22 games.
  • Chip Alexander for the Raleigh News & Observer: Changes are most likely on the way for Hurricanes after a 5-15-5 start to the season. It can’t be a complete fire sale as they still need to put people in the seats, but youth movement needs to take place.
  • Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News: It looks like the Sabres Patrick Kaleta will receiving a suspension (or should be) for hitting Flyers Dman, Jared Ross, from behind. Jones left the game with concussion like symptoms. It’s only a matter of time before someone knocks Kaleta’s block off.

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Around the Boards: Interest in Hagman, Kadri Call-up? Markov on Skates

  • Ron Longley of the Toronto Sun: Dave Nonis, Senior VP of hockey operations, and right hand man to Brian Burke, confirmed that the Maple Leafs have received interest in Niklas Hagman. Nonis said “We’ve been listening. There’s a big different between listening and shopping him. But we would listen to any offer that we thought might make the team better.” I don’t see how trading Hagman would improve the Leafs in the short run, as teams that are probably interested in him think they are close to contending and wouldn’t want to give up a solid roster player. Trading your 2nd best goal scorer for draft picks, only increases the chances that Boston will be picking in the Top 5 this season, and maybe Top 10 next year. Hagman has the talent to be a 30-35 goal scorer, which is pretty good for a 2nd line winger. With Hagman’s play of late, he might be working his way to a legitimate top 6 player, which would give the Leafs 2 (Kessel the other).
  • From ESPN’s Rumor Central: “The Toronto Maple Leafs might soon be pressured to bring up top prospect Nazem Kadri, especially if the Leafs have trouble shaking up the roster through trades.” I don’t know where this came and I’m sure there is no truth to it, just an attempt to start a rumor in Leafland (and the sad thing is, it will probably work).  The Leafs have been playing well the last 10-15 games, and have outplayed their opponents in most games. Bringing up Kadri would not help the Leafs win more games. Yes, they could use 2, top 2 centers but Kadri is not ready. If there are any call-ups, they’ll be from the AHL, and not the OHL.
  • Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette: Andrei Markov skated for 10 minutes yesterday for the second time since having his tendon on his left foot sliced during the first game of the season. Markov is slightly ahead of schedule and is aiming for an early January return. My fantasy team awaits your return.

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Around the Boards: Ales Hemsky tradeable and hurt? Changes for the Blues? Leaf draft pick talk.

  • Q&A from Edmonton Oilers: Ales Hemsky is under contract until 2011-12 at a resonable cap number of $4.1. No name was given as to who answered the fans questions, but whoever they are thinks Hemsky is not an untouchable, and 15 teams would easily pay a good price for him.
  • Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun: In keeping with the Ales Hemsky, he left last night’s game after taking a hit from Michal Handzus. He’ll be re-evaluated today. Coach Quinn said after the game “That second one, he was sent full-force into the boards. That was a hard hit and he got hurt. It doesn’t look real positive right now.”
  • Dan O’Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: O’Neill doesn’t come out and say it, but hints that coach Andy Murray’s days could be numbered, even after finishing 2nd in Jack Adams voting last season.
  • Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun: Burke is getting tired off all this draft pick talk, both acquiring high picks to make up for the traded picks, and the fact that the picks they gave away could be top 5.

    But you can talk all you want about Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin — the consensus top two picks for next spring’s entry draft — Burke did as well before he pulled the trigger to land Phil Kessel.

    “We discussed it internally,” Burke said yesterday. “We said: ‘what if the pick turns out to be Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin?’ and I was fine with that.

    “We certainly didn’t expect and don’t expect it will be a No. 1 pick, but we knew going into it that it could be a possibility. But we also knew it would be the 15th overall pick. That’s the risk you take.”

    Trade talks have slowed down, mainly just ‘tire-kicking’, and said his hands are tied because of the salary cap.

  • Stephen Harris of the Boston Hearld: Tim Thomas is close to returning to the Bruins lineup. Backup Tuukka Rask has gone 7-2-1 this season.

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Around the Boards: Bobby Ryan, Patrick Sharp a last resort, Hossa returns and DiPietro practices

  • Eric Stephens of the OC Register: Bobby Ryan and the Anaheim Ducks are far apart in their contract talks, and won’t be discussing anytime soon. Ryan had hoped to sign an extension before the season started, but Ducks management wanted to see if he could back up his rookie year with another solid year before committing long term, and probably the dollar amount he’s seaking.
  • Elliotte Friedman of CBCSports: As an absolute last resort, the Blackhawks might have trade Patrick Sharp.
  • Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune: Marian Hossa will make his Blackhawks debut tonight, and will be lined up with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
  • Steven Marcus of Newsday: Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro had a full practice yesterday, and barring any set back will return sometime next month after playing a few games in the AHL. Once he’s ready to return, the Isles will most likely look to trading one of their three NHL caliber goalies, with Martin Biron the most likley candidate.

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Why Shots on Goal is a Useless Stat

As I’m sitting here writing this article, the Toronto Maple Leafs are leading the league in one offensive category, “shots on goal”. They currently sit in a tie for last in points with the Carolina Hurricanes at 15, and have sole possession of last place in the wins department with 4. (source for stats at NHL.com) ((click s/g to sort by shots on goal leaders))

The point of this article isn’t to point out the Maple Leafs struggles (you can find plenty of articles beating that point to death) but rather to illustrate just how old, and frankly useless, the “shots on goal” stat really is.

For any hockey fans who witnessed the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Islanders Monday night, you watched the Leafs barrage the  Islander goaltender Dwayne Roloson with 61 shots on net. In fact, the Leafs out-shot the Islanders by an almost 3-1 margin (61-21 to be exact), and still found themselves on the losing end of a 4-3 win for the Islanders.

If “shots on goal” is an accurate stat to gauge how the game was played, how can this outcome be explained? How can a team last in the standings be leading in shots on goal, if shots on goal is really a relevant stat?

It should be pointed out that Roloson did play exceptionally well but that can’t always be the case, and isn’t. The Leafs have made a bunch of goalies look really  good this year so far.  The reality is that the Leafs have adopted the Jason Blake mentality of shooting everything on net and hoping for the best. Outside of Phil Kessel, most Leaf shots on net really have little chance of beating an NHL calibre goaltender cleanly, and more resemble a little kid throwing punches at his big brother, who has his hand on kid brothers forehead and is never really in any danger of being hit.

Throwing pucks on net, trying to score dirty goals is a common mantra for a team that is struggling offensively. It’s understandable that the Leafs are trying to get pucks to the net, create traffic and maybe chip a couple rebounds past the opposing goaltender, given their lack of skilled forwards, to create legitimate scoring chances.

What I find hard to understand is why shots on goal is a stat worth keeping. Surely there are better measuring sticks with which to judge the way a game unfolded. “Scoring chances” is a better indicator but leaves too much room for interpretation.

I think that puck possession is the best indicator to decide who really had control of the game and dictated play but you rarely hear this stat being mentioned during a televised game. Instead, all the talk last night was about all the pucks being directed at the Islanders net, futile as they were.

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Maple Leafs can’t buy a goal or a player, and lose 2 to injury

It was a game that left you shaking your head if you’re a fan, and a light chuckle if you’re an Islanders fan. Dwayne Roloson, 1-6 versus the Leafs heading in to the game, came up with a career game. It ended up a 4-3 OT victory for the Isles, but it was the shots on goals numbers that stood out; Isles 21, Leafs 61. The Leafs could not buy goal.

Speaking of buying, the Leafs have been rumored to be trying to use their financial clout and bring in Brent Sopel for a high draft pick. There are 2 takes on this

In the “Leafs Report” of Mark Zwolinski’s Toronto Star article (Mark might not have written the Leafs Report), a Jiri Tlusty to Chicago for Brent Sopel and a 2nd round draft trade still has some legs.

From Steve Simmons Toronto Sun article: Burke thought he was close to completing 2 trades, one of which was Sopel, but as of Monday both deal appeared dead.

In Simmons article, Burke once again talks about sending big contracts to the minors, a threat he can make happen without consulting ‘The Board”, but a threat he’s been saying since last April. Once again saying, “If we keep losing, that’s the next step”. Someone threw out Jason Blake’s name as a player who’s contract could be buried, Burke responded with “Does anyone on this team work harder than Jason Blake? There has to be an element of fairness in this.”My first thought to this was, ‘Does anyone on this team work so hard and accomplish so little?’. I’m sure you could call up someone $3.5 million dollars cheaper, to work hard and accomplish little.

Also in last night’s heartbreaking loss, the Leafs lost John Mitchell and Vesa Toskala to injury (Zwolinski article). Toskala pulled him self from the game after allowing 3 goals on 7 shots in the second period with an apparent groin injury, Joey MacDonald will be at practice today. Mitchell’s injury may be more serious and could be out for an extended period of time, but it won’t be confirmed until they get the MRI results.

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Around the Boards: Leafs and Hawks, N. Kronwall out 4-8, Savard returning tonight

  • Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star: The Leafs and Blackhawks’ will be tied to trade rumors, especially since ‘Hawks assistant GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was at the Leaf-Caps game on Saturday. Brent Sopel was mentioned as possibly heading to the Leafs during HNIC ‘Hotstove’. With the supposed ability to take on contracts (this could only happen if the Leafs demote or trade other contracts), the names Patrick Sharp, Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien, and Cam Barker, have/will come up, but I don’t see it happening. I’m sure Leaf fans would love to see Blake ($4 million) and Stempniak ($3.5 million) playing elsewhere.
  • Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun: GM Brian Burke is working the phones in an attempt to recover some top drafts picks for this year and/or next. Burke once again states that he hasn’t asked, and will not ask Tomas Kaberle to waive his no trade.
  • Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press: After taking a knee-on-knee hit from George Laraque, Niklas Kronwall will be out of the Red Wings lineup from 4 to 8 weeks with a sprained medial collateral ligament.
  • Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald: Marc Savard will be returning to the Boston Bruins lineup for tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues.
  • Steve Zipay of the Newsday: Chris Drury practiced yesterday and could return to the Rangers lineup later this week.

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Around the Boards: Sopel to Leafs? Mueller, Stajan, Kostityn’s on the Block?

  • Pierre LeBrun on the CBC Hotstove and ESPN:
      The Leafs and Blackhawks’ have reportedly been talking about Brent Sopel. Sopel is owed $2.5 million this year, and $2.0 million next season. For taking Sopel in a salary cap dump, the Leafs would also receive a high pick, maybe in the 2nd round range. The ‘Hawks are obviously talking to other teams as well.
      Bobby Ryan had rejected a 3 year deal earlier this year, and talks won’t resume until after the season.
      Peter Mueller doesn’t appear to be working out in coach Tippett’s books, and other GM’s are calling.
  • Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun:
      Bob Gainey is still shopping around Sergei and Andrei Kostitsyn, and the Oilers might still be interested. Shawn Horcoff might be available but he’s making a good chuck of change at $5.5 million.
      The Anaheim Ducks might be looking to shed Joffrey Lupul and his $4.25 cap hit through 2013. That might not be an easy thing to do.
      Ilya Kovalchuk’s talks continue and it’s likely more than 10 years at around $9 million a season. Also:

      The belief is Kovalchuk doesn’t want the pressure of playing in the scrutiny of a market where he’s going to face questions. Not only have the Thrashers tried to put together a playoff contender this season, Kovalchuk had input on some of the roster decisions that were made.

  • Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun: Even though the Maple Leafs finally won a game, trade or demotion speculation will still follow the team. There reportedly has been some interest in Matt Stajan. Only 5 forwards are under contract for next season (Kessel, Blake, Hagman, Grabovski, and Orr).
  • Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News: Trade rumors of the Canadiens sending Sergei Kostitsyn to the Oilers for Andrew Cogliano.
  • Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch: Columbus has received 1 trade offer for Nikita Filatov, but GM Scott Howson said he’s not looking to trade him.

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Discussion Question: What is wrong with Jason Spezza?

The NHL season is about a quarter finished, and while there are many pleasant surprises, the play of Jason Spezza has been the exact opposite. Through 17 games Spezza has only scored 1 goal on 41 shots, for a shooting percentage 2.4 (the 2.4 SPCT is even worse than Jason Blake who’s moving along at 3.0% …. yikes). He has recorded only 11 points so far on the season and is averaging  19:46 minutes per game. During the Senators recent game against the Leafs, I had to look up the in-game box score late in the second period to confirm if he was even playing or not.

Sure the loss of Dany Heatley has cut in to his overall production, but there are still some talented players on the Senators. So it brings us to the question: What is wrong with Jason Spezza? This is the question I ask you to make a comment on. I don’t know if we have the readership to make this kind of entry work, but what the hell, you never know until you try. Hopefully it goes well and we can make it a weekly segment.

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