5.02.2007

Looking Ahead

I feel so pressured to write about the playoffs, but then I think of the perfect reply. "Why don't you check http://www.nhl.com/, http://www.thehockeynews.com/, http://www.versus.com/, and www. whatever else might have playoff coverage .com?"

Instead, how will each team change during the off-season?

Anaheim- Ignoring all the complicated matters involving free-agents, because I can't remember who's restricted and who isn't, I don't see a whole lot of change that needs to go on here.
Atlanta- The Thrashers will be looking for at least one scoring center. If they can pile up the money, they might be able to snatch Danny Briere or Chris Drury, and they would be a killer combo with Hossa, Kovalchuk, or Kozlov. But if Atlanta resorts to Jeremy Roenick, who, by the way, will play anywhere for any amount of money, don't expect a playoff repeat. Everything else looks tight.
Boston- The B's will be busy. Another scoring winger would help compliment the highly pressured Glen Murray and Marco Sturm, although Brandon Bochenski looked great in his short time with Boston. The defense will also need help, but the biggest need is a goaltender. Boston is giving Hannu Toivenen another chance, but if he falters early, he'll be traded.
Buffalo- The Sabres' biggest worry isn't bringing in new people, but keeping the old. They might like to bring in a back-up goalie who fits better than Ty Conklin, but isn't as starting-worthy as Martin Biron.
Calgary- The Flames need defense now. Kind of strange to say about one of the most defensive teams in the league, but, it's true. They might be able to free up some space if Tony Amonte leaves, and they could use that money to sign a young defenseman. Also, Jamie Maclennan is likely done with the Flames after his stunt in the playoffs, and so the Flames will either bring up Brent Krahn or search for another veteran.
Carolina- The Hurricanes are going to be more focused on young players now. They need to trade at least one of their 9 NHL-experienced defensemen, and could perhaps receive a prospect or draft pick in return. Anson Carter did almost nothing with the Canes, and will likely be sent away.
Chicago- Whatever moves the Hawks make will rely on the draft. Picking first overall will be a good thing, and, they have a chance to make a killer young forward group if they can bear another losing season. My not-very-likely-to-happen-master-plan-that-could-go-above-the-cap is this: The Hawks pick Patrick Kane first overall. He gets signed, and ends up on the second line. They proceed to sign Jack Skille and Jonathan Toews, and here's the lineup. Line 1: Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, Tuomo Ruutu. Line 2: Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Jason Williams. Line 3: Jeffrey Hamilton, Jonathan Toews, Peter Bondra. Line 4: Radim Vrbata, Denis Arkhipov, Jack Skille. Defense 1: Brent Seabrook, Adrian Aucoin. Defense 2: Duncan Keith, Cam Barker. Defense 3: James Wisneiwski, Jim Vandermeer. Goaltenders: Nikolai Khabibulin, Corey Crawford. Now, obviously, this wouldn't work because some forwards (Skille, Vrbata, Hamilton) would not like where they were placed for sure. And, remember, I'm not doing this with the cap in mind. I'm also forgetting quite a few players that the Hawks probably want (Nikita Alexeev, Rene Bourque).
Colorado- The Avs don't need as many changes as it seems. The chemistry came together during that late run, and the only thing left is some touch-up. Jose Theodore probably has to go, seeing as his play was not what they wanted. Antii Laaksonen and Cody McCormick struggled, and one of them could fetch a good price.
Columbus- The Blue Jackets should have major changes after firing GM Doug Mclean. It's any one's guess as to who will go, it could be anyone.
Dallas- The Stars have several moves they can make in order to make the team better. Eric Lindros needs to go, because it's highly doubtful that valuable checking center Jeff Halpern would accept fourth line ice time. Patrik Stefan disappointed and could be moved as well. Nolan Baumgartner doesn't fit into the team's defense very well, and he will be allowed to leave.
Detroit- The Wings might have to move a few forwards in order to keep their team happy. They have an abundance of offensively skilled forwards, and one of them might have to move. Robert Lang is on his way down after a slow season, and wouldn't be happy with occasional third line time. But more likely to move are struggling checking forward Kirk Maltby, who has had his worst offensive years since 95-96 and 96-97, and young forward Tomas Kopecky, who hasn't had a bad season, but never claimed a spot, but could still draw a good price.
Edmonton- Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky were the only two guys that had OK years, and maybe Roloson too, but still. Expect plenty of changes in the off-season, including a move for Joffrey Lupul. Lupul had a horrible season, scoring as many points as he had goals last year, and made it better only by not turning into a Sergei Samsonov. Samsonov style (after an awful 26-point year): "I wasn't put with the right line-mates, I wasn't given enough playing time." Lupul style (much more respectable after a terrible 28-point season): "I haven't been on my game all year, I lost all my confidence. Edmonton did everything they could for me, but I didn't do enough myself." I have no idea how many moves might be made by this team.
Florida- The Panthers will be average in their moves, picking up someone her, and someone there, but nothing too big. We could see the team moving Alex Auld after his disappointing season, and acquiring another starter since Belfour is kind of old. Another scoring winger would help, as Martin Gelinas can settle into the checking role that he is good at. Another offensive defenseman, or a breakout season from Mike Van Ryn, would help as well.
Los Angeles- All the Kings have to do is build from the inside, and they can be very successful. Goaltending was a huge problem last year. The Kings had to use the following goaltenders, and I'll list the problems each one had. Mathieu Garon: Injury trouble. He actually performed well (32 games, 13 wins, 2.66 GAA, .907 SP%), but he couldn't stay healthy. Dan Cloutier: Injuries and inconsistency. Cloutier had injury problems again, but when he was healthy, he gave up some bad goals and couldn't keep winning. Sean Burke: Too old, small injuries. Burke also got injured occasionally, but mostly, the 40-year-old's age affected his ability to play. Barry Brust: Too young, pressure. A call-up after Garon got injured, too much pressure was put on the young Brust, and he wasn't able to play up to his potential. Yutaka Fukufuji: Way too young. This was going to be Fukufuji's first full year as an AHL back-up behind Brust. Forced into the line-up, Fukufuji displayed potential, but is definitely not ready. What the Kings hope to do now is continue to develop Brust and Fukufuji, get rid of Burke, hope Cloutier and Garon stay healthy, and maybe sign prospect Jonathan Bernier and have him spend time in the AHL as well. Fukufuji should spend more time in the ECHL, even if he has to give up his rookie eligibility.

I'll write the second half of this tomorrow, because I want to get something published.

Correction- Sergei Samsonov had 26 points. Sorry!