Time for another rule change?

That's what hockey minds across the nation are probably thinking as they read the news headlines today.

Already written about by James Mirtle and The Two-line Pass, Roberto Luongo has been named captain by the Vancouver Canucks. He can't officially wear the 'C' due to an NHL rule originally created by other teams complaining about Bill Durnan (Canadiens goalie captain back in the 40's) taking so many trips to center ice to discuss penalties and calls with referees that he was actually giving the Habs crucial time-outs without actually using a time-out.

However, NHL teams are still allowed to name a goalie as captain. Most teams have refrained from this because, obviously, it's hard to let people know that a goalie is your captain when he can't wear the 'C'. Vancouver has announced that veteran defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Willie Mitchell, respectable Canuck leaders in their own right, will wear the 'A's of alternate captains during games, but Luongo will be the official captain.

Perhaps this will lead other NHL teams rally behind their goalies, and eventually rid the league of the anti-'C' rule. Manny Legace's veteran presence with St. Louis could deserve the captaincy, while the Sharks would certainly name Evgeni Nabokov captain if they didn't already have Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

Either way, this a near-revolutionary move by the Canucks, and it'll be interesting to see how it impacts the rest of the league.


Another Pre-season Loss

Chicago's looking strong, and they proved that against Dallas last night with a 4-3 win. Brian Campbell especially proved that he can produce, with 4 assists.

On the Stars' side of things, Matt Niskanen, Joel Lundqvist, and Loui Eriksson scored for the team. It's encouraging to see Lundqvist producing offense, as Dallas will be relying on him to do all season long. Eriksson will be expected to improve on last season's career high numbers of 14 goals and 31 points, whereas the Stars would be pleased if Niskanen at least repeats his rookie numbers of 7 goals and 26 points from the blue-line.

Jack Skille scored a smooth backhander for the eventual game-winning goal, as he continues to solidify his position as a third or fourth-line right winger. Patrick Sharp scored his fourth pre-season goal in only 3 games, which has Hawks faithful believing he can repeat last season's 62 points and team-leading 36 goals while playing on a line with young stars Jonathan Toews, who had two power-play goals, and Patrick Kane.

The Hawks recently placed Nikolai "The Bulin Wall" Khabibulin on waivers, suggesting that the back-up job will go to either AHL powerhouse goalie Corey Crawford (29-19-0 in 55 games) or Finnish netminding sensation (a common NHL phrase) Antti Niemi, who won last night's game for Chicago. Crawford is the sensible choice, as the Hawks have already let him sit and perform incredibly in the QMJHL and AHL while they sort out the rest of their prospects, but Niemi has the common story of the undrafted Euro who's big year (26-14 in 49 games) drew plenty of free agent offers.


Selanne's Back!

Have no fear, Ducks fans. Your favorite Finn is back!

Selanne signed a two-year contract with Anaheim earlier today, and James Mirtle has the financial side of things here. However, the most interesting aspect of this deal is the fact that now the Ducks are not only guaranteed, but will be forced, to make at least one roster move to get their salary numbers below the cap.

Now, the obvious option is to make a trade. However, in this situation, the Ducks would need to not acquire a player in return. This aspect will make it hard to dump any real salary, however, unless Brian Burke is willing to trade a marquee player (the only possible option there would be letting go of a defensive player like Samuel Pahlsson, which Burke would never do) for a high draft pick.

Instead, Burke will likely demote several players to the minors, trade a couple of no-name guys or low-potential prospects, and be about 42 cents under the cap by the start of the season; overall, typical money-saving procedure.

Something else interesting: What does this spell for rookie Bobby Ryan? Last season, he scored 5 goals and 10 points in 23 NHL games, and 21 goals and 49 points in 48 AHL games. A natural right-winger, many people assumed that Ryan would take up the second-line right wing spot, but that was before there were reports that Selanne was coming back, before he signed a tryout contract simply to practice with the team, before Burke gave him a two-year deal. Now, it appears that Ryan is destined for the third or fourth line, unless he can transition smoothly to the left wing. Transitioning would actually be the best for Ryan, as not only would he be with two offensive producers (Brendan Morrison and Teemu Selanne) but also two great veteran presences.

Either way, it appears that the Ducks' roster will be a bit stronger this season, depending on how their next moves pan out.


Pre-season Knock Out!

Well, it wasn't quite as spectacular as Steve Downie's hit on Dean McAmmond last season (nor was it as illegal), but Tomas Kopecky laid one heck of hit down on Montreal Canadiens prospect Matt Carle (not Tampa's Matt Carle).

The video only shows the hit once, but I'm sure it's clean. Actually, it looks a lot like the hit Jordin Tootoo laid on Daniel Winnik last season, although with a clean shoulder instead of a nasty elbow, but similar in terms of a blindsiding aspect.

I don't think it'll have to be reviewed, but I sure feel sorry for Carle. Getting knocked out is never fun.


Schneider A Member of the Thrash

That title sounds so much like he's part of a band...

Anyways, Matt Schneider was traded to Atlanta for Ken Klee, Brad Larsen, and Chad Painchaud. James Mirtle has the more important financial details here, but I'm more into the impact side of things.

First of all, everyone knows that Atlanta was pretty dang weak on defense. Young prospect Zach Bogosian was nearly guaranteed playing time before he signed a contract, and Ron Hainsey was sure to run the top pairing with Toby Enstrom.

However, after acquiring Schneider, the Thrashers blueline will look much better. Enstrom and Schneider form a formidable offensive duo, while Ron Hainsey and Niclas Havelid could make a good shutdown pair. Bogosian will slide into the spot of the departed Ken Klee, and should learn a few tips from Garnet Exelby about defensive play, and smashing people into the boards (An Exelby trademark). Of course, the pairings could also be switched up. Enstrom and Hainsey could still make a good pair, one strong offensively and the other a little stronger in the defensive zone, and Schneider might make a good mentor for Bogosian on the second line. Exelby and Havelid could be great together, but Havelid's new contract doesn't spell third pairing time.

Another improvement Schneider should provide is a point man to run the powerplay. Tobias Enstrom is a little young for the job, but should run the second unit quite nicely. Schneider's overall offensive support will help out the club, which finished 22nd in the NHL in goals-per-game, to at least slightly improve on that number.

As a little side note, Schneider hasn't participated in any training camp, and won't get much time to adjust to Atlanta's system before they stick him in the lineup for a pre-season game.

First Pre-season Home Game

Ok, I'm trying to calm down and remember that this is the pointless pre-season, but a large part of me instinctively wants to explode and criticize the Stars simply for losing to the Avs.

I'll restrain myself, for now.

However, it was an interesting game. Stars fans in attendance got to see goaltender Matt Climie for (most likely) the first time, and although he gave up two goals in the third period, it's hard to expect a better performance for a guy who was with Bemidji State University (where?) last season. And, if he can bring his college game (14-8-3 in 27 games with 5 shutouts) to the NHL, the Stars might continue a tradition of strong goaltenders with Climie and 2008 pick Tyler Beskarowany.

Also interesting to note was the signings of defensemen Trevor Ludwig and Guillame Monast. Although neither is very likely to make the NHL in the next couple of seasons, it'll be interesting to track their progress.

Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro scored the two goals for the Stars, who lost the game 4-2. Now, I'm curious as to why those two are in the pre-season games. Sure, they can help gain a win, but that's not what I would think matters in the pre-season. The main event of these games is to see how ready certain prospects are when it comes to receiving NHL time. The pre-season can also unveil players who went undrafted, or were forgotten late round picks. I'd rather see Morrow and Ribeiro give the Stars wins in the regular season, and watch the play of young prospects like Ondrej Roman, Colton Sceviour, Climie, and Ludwig.

A few other noteworthy items:

- Claude Lemieux is reportedly attempting a comeback to the NHL or AHL. Say what??? Yes, folks, CLAUDE LEMIEUX. The original Sean Avery, for those of you who hate Avery's tactics. I can't imagine that any team would sign a player who hasn't played in the NHL since 2003, and hasn't played professional hockey since 2004. I first saw this in a blog from someone who was at James Mirtle's live blog (sorry that I can't remember who it was, or I would've linked it) but I was reminded of it today after seeing it on www.thehockeynews.com. Obviously, no team has expressed an interest in signing Lemieux, and I doubt anyone will. Seriously, the guy is 43! The only people who could even be allowed to play at that age are Gordie Howe and Chris Chelios, and Claude's career was nowhere near their level. Now, if this was Mario Lemieux, who's only been retired since 05-06, I could see it happening. But Claude "The Turtle" Lemiuex? He'll be lucky to get an SPHL tryout.

UPDATE: I believe the blog that I first saw the story of Lemieux's attempted comeback was in two-linepass's blog. Check it out, he's got some interesting views on it as well.

- Viktor Tihkonov scored for Phoenix in a 3-1 'Yotes loss to Calgary last night, showing he might be a little more prepared for the NHL than most people are guessing. However, he'll likely just earn an AHL job for at least the start of the season.

That's all for this post, but I'll add posts later if anything of note comes up.


Who will be the next Darren Helm?: Part 2

Alright, back to the guys fighting for roster spots, etc.

Montreal Canadiens: Mathieu Dandenault- Once a valued player for his ability to transistion between defense and right wing, Dandenault suddenly finds himself 5th on the depth chart at wing. Enforcer Tom Kostopoulos proved his worth last season with 7 goals and 13 points in 67 regular season games, and then 3 goals and 4 points in 12 playoff games. Dandenault, on the other hand, had only 9 goals and 14 points in 61 regular season games, and went scoreless in 9 post-season games. The main worry, however, was his weak -11 rating.
Helpful Aspect: He'll be a useful injury call-up, at the least, and can provide some veteran leadership with Hamilton.
Negative Point: Formerly a strong defensive player, a -11 makes Dandenault look about as useful as AHL enforcer Greg Stewart.....or even less useful, for a lack of fighting.

Nashville Predators:
Jed Ortmeyer- Ortmeyer never truly secured an NHL job, but he was always one of those kind of heart-soul-and-guts players that never seem to run out of desire to play the game. However, this season, Ortmeyer has been pushed out of the main picture by rookie Patric Hornqvist. Ortmeyer could still make the team out of camp, but would only recieve a fourth-line job.
Helpful Aspect: Not many other Preds play with the drive that Ortmeyer does.
Negative Point: The Predators also have a few other young wingers who'll be fighting for a spot, making the training camp battle even tougher.

New Jersey Devils: Barry Tallackson- The Devils prospect has been scoring at a reasonable level in the AHL for a while, but has only scored a goal and an assist in 16 NHL games over three seasons. With fellow up-and-coming Devils Mike Hoeffel, Alexander Vasyunov, and Mattias Tedenby also on the left side, this season may be Tallackson's last chance.
Helpful Aspect: Last season, Tallackson potted a career-high 22 goals for Lowell.
Negative Point: He's only earned 3-game runs for the past two seasons after getting 10 games in 05-06.

New York Islanders: Jeff Tambellini- The dynamic AHL scoring ace hasn't produced very well in 79 NHL games over the past 3 seasons, scoring only 4 goals and 17 points. Many experts have surmised that if Tambellini doesn't have an impact this year, he'll be just another "AHL star", like Kirby Law (who apparently is playing in the KHL now).
Helpful Aspect: He has done very well in the AHL. If he can finally translate his success, he'll stick with the big club.
Negative Point: Although slated for the fourth line, he'll have to duke it out with winger Andy Hilbert, who's been a solid defensive player for the past two seasons, and he can contribute offensively as well.

New York Rangers: Fredrik Sjostrom- This is Sjostrom's make-or-break season. He's been inconsistent since 2003-2004, and although he's got lots of potential, he can't seem to produce at either the NHL or AHL level. He'll be given a chance on the fourth line this season, most likely swapping in and out with fighter Colton Orr.
Helpful Aspect: He did score a career high 12 goals in the NHL last season.
Negative Point: That's only two less than his AHL high of 14 goals.

Ottawa Senators: Lawrence Nycholat- Nycholat has been a strong AHL defenseman who hasn't really earned a chance with any team's blue-line. He had what looked to be a jump-start run in 06-07, scoring 8 points in 19 games with Washington and Ottawa, but was relegated to Binghamton for 77 games last season, and only got into 3 NHL games. However, Ottawa's blue-line has weakened this year with the departure of Mike Commodore, Luke Richardson, and Wade Redden. Nycholat has an outside chance to make the team, but might be beaten out by rookie Brian Lee.
Helpful Aspect: Nycholat's been able to produce offense in the AHL, scoring 12 goals and 49 points last season.
Negative Point: Nycholat could turn out to be just another AHL player who can't find his game at the NHL level.

Philadelphia Flyers: Steve Eminger- The ex-Caps blue-liner has been heavily criticized for not living up to his potential as the #12 overall draft pick in 2002, a first round that included Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, Ryan Whitney, Keith Ballard, Alex Steen, and Cam Ward. Last season, Eminger was a healthy scratch often, only getting into 20 games, and posting a meager 2 assists and a -4 rating.
Helpful Aspect- The Flyers still thought enough of Eminger to give up a first-round pick.
Negative Point: Eminger hasn't had a strong rating in the plus/minus area in a while...

Phoenix Coyotes: Jeff Hoggan- The former Blue and Bruin hasn't been able to stick with an NHL club. Heck, he's barely been able to hold down a job in the AHL before, although last season did produce impressive results (71 games, 29 goals, 60 points). However, Phoenix has a lot of youth coming up at forward in the next couple of seasons, and Hoggan will most likely be lost behind Mikkel Boedker and Enver Lisin, and may even be beaten by Viktor Tihkonov in training camp.
Helpful Aspect: Hoggan has plenty of AHL experience, compared to Tikhonov and Boedker, who are just coming out of Russia and the OHL, respectively.
Negative Point: The Bruins only called Hoggan up for one game, despite his high-scoring in the AHL.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Beech- I'll be honest here and say that Beech is actually one of my favorite minor-league players. However, this may be the last season that he can win a solid NHL job, and he'll only get the fourth line at best. However, Beech would have to beat out Maxime Talbot and Jeff Taffe for just the fourth line, and Talbot seems to have that job pretty well locked up. Beech's only real chance would be if the Penguins move up Jordan Staal back to left wing to play with Evgeni Malkin, and the fourth line spot opens up.
Helpful Aspect: Beech actually has some playoff experience, having gone on deep AHL playoff runs with Wilkes-Barre Scranton and Hershey.
Negative Aspect: Beech hasn't played a full season in the NHL since 06-07, and only scored over 20 points twice, in 06-07 and 01-02.

San Jose Sharks: Marcel Goc- Goc has a chance to secure the fourth line center spot while filling in for Torrey Mitchell, whose broken leg will cost him 8 weeks. Last season, Goc scored 5 goals and 8 points in 51 games, but his main contribution is on the defensive end. However, that's also the reason that could lose Goc his NHL job, as he was a poor -15 in those 51 games. Mitchell scored 10-10-20 in 82 games, and was only -3. Goc will have to prove himself in the limited amount of time that he runs the fourth line.
Helpful Aspect: Goc hasn't suffered any major injuries throughout his NHL career, and would've played all of last season if he hadn't split time with Curtis Brown.
Negative Point: Goc's offensive output has gone down in the past 3 seasons, from 22 points, to 13, to 8 last season.

St. Louis Blues: Alex Pietrangelo- With the recent injury to star defender Erik Johnson, the Blues have a gaping hole on the blue-line, and Pietrangelo is hoping to close it. He had two assists in his first pre-season game against (grr) the Dallas Stars, helping the Blues to a 3-2 win. He has a chance to make the team, and even stick, if he can outplay Jeff Woywitka or Steve Wagner for a spot on the third pairing.
Helpful Aspect: Many considered Pietrangelo's offensive skills to be on par–or even better–than 2nd overall pick Drew Doughty, although Doughty has been said to be a better skater.
Negative Point: Pietrangelo probably needs at least half a season of AHL play to adjust to the pro level before earning a full-time NHL job.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Brandon Bochenski- On another team not so loaded with forwards, Bochenski might be a regular—if it weren't for the fact that Bochenski has been on 5 other teams, each one giving him a chance on the third or fourth line. Last season was the worst–Bochenski played 20 games with Boston, 8 with Nashville, and 12 with Anaheim. He signed with Tampa as a free agent, but is listed at 6th on the depth chart for left wing alone, behind several forwards with a lot more credentials on either offense (Vinny Prospal, Ryan Malone, Jussi Jokinen) or grit and leadership (Gary Roberts, Nick Tarnasky).
Helpful Aspect: Tampa is vaguely turning towards youth, and Bochenski is still young.
Negative Point: Playing for 6 teams in 4 years? That looks pretty bad, unless your name is Mike Sillinger.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Mark Bell- The ex-Hawk and Shark, Bell's offensive game has dropped back to the level it was at in his first two seasons, and it may have dropped even lower. He was originally going to man the fourth line left wing position, but after the additions of rookie Nikolai Kulemin and free-agent signee Niklas Hagman (27 goals in 07-08), Bell may be stuck in the minors. He's lost the look of the Bell who had two seasons of 20+ goals and 40+ points, and can only hope to stick by adapting to the role of a grinder.
Helpful Aspect: Bell can still put up about 10 goals and 20 points a season, which wouldn't hurt.
Negative Point: 10 goals and 20 points may not be enough to sastify the Leafs management.

Vancouver Canucks: Jannik Hansen- The Danish winger showed some exciting offensive potential last season, going 21-22-43 in 50 games with the Manitoba Moose. Offense is what the Canucks desperately need (haven't they needed it since Pavel Bure left the team?) and Hansen can provide it. On a weak right wing side, Hansen can potentially beat out Ryan Shannon for at least a fourth line spot, and work his way up from there.
Helpful Aspect: Hansen had a strong playoff run with Vancouver in 06-07 as a rookie, garnering one assist in 10 games and keeping up an even rating.
Negative Point: The Canucks may be looking more towards experience rather than youthful potential this season, meaning players such as Darcy Hordichuk and Jeff Cowan may get chances first.

Washington Capitals: Eric Fehr- A scoring beast in the WHL and AHL, Fehr has yet to show his prowess at the NHL level. He was close to at least having a consistent job last season, but injury struck him after only 23 games. This year is key–if he doesn't earn a solid roster spot, he may be on his way out of town. The Caps have several other scoring prospects (Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard, Chris Bourque) and can't afford to wait much longer for Fehr to stick.
Helpful Aspect: Fehr totaled 22 goals in only 40 games in his last half-season in the AHL, and before that, tallied 25 goals in 70 games.
Negative Point: Drafted 18th overall in 2003, Fehr has had plenty of time to make his mark, especially in 03-04 and 05-06, when the Caps were still a fairly weak team offensively.

There's the end of that series. Now, it's probable that only a few of these players will make their teams, and possible that none will. We'll just have to see. Any comments or criticism on my writing is welcome! And make sure you read part one of the series as well.


Blues lose defensive stud: Johnson out indefinitely

I just checked www.nhl.com, and apparently Erik Johnson has torn his ACL and suffered a tear in his MCL. I don't know what the difference is between tearing, and suffering a tear, but that's what it said on the St. Louis website.

Either way, this is a major loss for St. Louis, who relied heavily upon Johnson last season as a 19-year-old rookie. Johnson tallied 5 goals and 33 points last season, but also had a -9 rating. That no doubt would have, and still will, improve as the seasons go on, but this year was a key developmental year for Johnson, and he'll have to work hard to make sure that this injury doesn't affect his career permanently.

Part 2 of the "Who will be the next Darren Helm?" series comes out tomorrow, probably.

Hockey online, in Toronto, and Brazil...

I had a great hockey conversation yesterday with quite a few other bloggers (many of whom I've added to my hockey blog list, any of you who I didn't add, shoot me an email or comment with a link and I'll add you).

The main subject was the pre-season game between Toronto and Buffalo, but a variety of hockey subjects were discussed. You can go to James Mirtle's blog to view an archive of the discussion, but there was one awesome point I wanted to bring up.

About two-thirds of the way through the chat, a man named Humberto joined us. We found out, through him, that Brazil actually has quite the hockey following. I can't understand much of it, being uneducated in the language, but it looks to be quite the paper. Humberto told me that it is run by just 13 guys who write every week, but they look pretty up to date. Humberto himself is a Red Wings fan, and I wouldn't be surprised if many of the others are too, although Calgary is another appealing option, with rock solid defenseman Robyn Regehr having been born in Brazil. Brazilian-born Michael Greenlay also had an inauspicious 2-game run with the Edmonton Oilers in 89-90, as a goaltender, but spent most of his career in the minor leagues.

Humberto's personal blog can be found at http://redwingsbrasil.blogspot.com/
He's pretty current as well, his last post being a quick note about Darren McCarty's contract (I think, something with McCarty).

Overall, I enjoyed talking with other bloggers in the hockey world, and maybe someday, if my blog gets enough readers, I'll try and host a live blog on here as well. Of course, it'll be Stars based! See ya later, folks.


Who will be the next Darren Helm? Part 1

A blog from Brad Holland on NHL Connect inspired me to think of at least one player from each NHL team who could be the next Darren Helm; a.k.a. a player who gets called up from the minors mid-season and surprisingly has either a strong part of the regular season or a strong playoff run. Here are my picks for each team:

Anaheim Ducks: Andrew Ebbett- Last season's scorer for the Portland Pirates (AHL) surprisingly was not given much of a chance to prove that he could play in the big leagues, although he was stuck behind Getzlaf, Weight, Marchant, Pahlsson, and Carter on the depth chart. However, this season, he will challenge Ryan Carter for the 4th line spot and his scoring potential could move him up.
Helpful Aspect: A strong passer, as evidenced by his 54 assists in 74 games last season.
Negative Point: It would help if Ebbett was a left winger, where the Ducks currently have Brian Sutherby slotted for the second line.

Atlanta Thrashers: Bryan Little- The 12th overall pick of the 2006 NHL draft had trouble sticking in the NHL last season, with only 16 points in 48 games. However, this season's Thrashers team has almost no proven scorer at center, with Jason Williams and Erik Christensen currently slated for the top two pivot spots. If Little can bring his production up to the level he had it at in the OHL (41 goals and 107 points in his last season), he'll challenge for a top three center spot.
Helpful Aspect: The Thrashers desperately need to find someone capable of getting to the puck to Ilya Kovalchuk, and 10 of Little's 16 points were assists.
Negative Point: If Little doesn't crack the top line, he most likely won't have any linemates who are known for scoring prowess, which could severly drop his output.

Boston Bruins: Vladimir Sobotka- The Czech third of a trio of young Bruins centers had the lowest amount of points (7 in 48 games) among his fellow youngsters, but drew much fan appreciation with his rough and tumble style of play that so many young Boston players seem to bring to the table. He'll have to earn his time, even after camp, but he could make some noise in the right situations.
Helpful Aspect: Sobotka scored 10 goals and 20 points in 18 AHL games last season.
Negative Point: He was outscored by the other two young centers, Petteri Nokelainen and David Krecji, who each managed at least 5 goals and 10 points.

Buffalo Sabres: Nathan Gerbe- The ultimate hockey definition of that old Star Wars quote, "Size matters not," (with all respect towards Brian Gionta). Despite measuring at only 5' 5", the Boston College standout has been a point-per-game player at the NCAA level for the past two seasons. Gerbe surely will be the first to get a call if Buffalo loses a center to injury, and he would be guaranteed an NHL spot if the Sabres could offer him anything higher than the 4th line, at the moment. However, he'll soon bring his scoring proficiency to the Sabres.
Helpful Aspect: He's a surefire offensive player, so if the Sabres get fed up with another Connolly injury and ship him out of town, Gerbe can be the perfect replacement.
Negative Point: We still have to see how well he can adapt to the NHL and/or AHL at his size, but I don't think that'll matter too much.

Calgary Flames: Brandon Prust- A scrappy forward who missed out on NHL time last season because he missed training camp in recovery from a hip injury, he'll be in a training camp battle for a third or fourth line spot. He'll mainly be in competition with Dustin Boyd, David Moss, and Eric Nystrom, three other young Flames who have a similar style of play.
Helpful Aspect: Prust's willingness to try any role asked of him has already impressed the Flames' management.
Negative Point: Prust's competitors, specifically Boyd, Moss, and the recently returned Dan Ryder who has an outside shot, have more skill in the offensive area.

Carolina Hurricanes: Dwight Helminen- Although technically not a prospect, as a free-agent signee out of Finland at the age of 26, Helminen will still have to fight for a spot on the roster during training camp. Center is the one position where the Canes have depth, however, so Helminen's journey will be tough.
Helpful Aspect: Scoring 45 points in 52 games out of a league where most imports are low-scoring sure likes nice on Helminen's record.
Negative Point: If only 10 PIM's confirms that Helminen plays with the stereotypical European lack of grit, he won't impress management enough for a spot on the team.

Chicago Blackhawks: Troy Brouwer- Yet another Hawks prospect with a bright future, Brouwer has been an AHL goal-scoring whiz for the past couple of seasons. This season, he'll try and fight for a third line spot over Craig Adams and Jack Skille. While Skille is nearly guaranteed a spot, Adams is an aging veteran, and Chicago just might be tempted to bring in Brouwer instead. An opportunity for Brouwer will also arise in the case of another Martin Havlat injury. And if chemistry is formed between Brouwer and anticipated second-line center Dave Bolland, Havlat will no doubt be sent packing.
Helpful Aspect: The Hawks are pushing a full-blown youth movement and Brouwer is among the more talented of the prospects ready for work this season.
Negative Aspect: Was ranked 10th in THN's Future Watch for Chicago in the 08-09 Yearbook, which puts his potential in question.

Colorado Avalanche: Cody McCormick- This Avs youngster is the polar opposite of young star Paul Stastny, at least in terms of offensive production. However, it seems that Colorado is going for a gritty team, and McCormick can play gritty. He'll fight Cody McLeod and Ben Guite for a spot on the fourth line.
Helpful Aspect: Despite limited ice time (10:58 in 40 games) and only 4 points, McCormick posted a +5 rating and managed one game-winning goal.
Negative Point: Cody McLeod has an edge with 9 points and a much more defined role of enforcer.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Kris Russell- Russell was rushed into 67 games last year straight out of the WHL, and although he managed 10 points from the blue-line, his -12 rating proved that he needed some seasoning in the AHL. Then the Jackets brought in Fedor Tyutin, Mike Commodore, and Christian Backman, and all of the sudden Russell may have to play in the AHL regardless. However, he'll try and fight to win a job over O-K Tollefsen or Jan Hejda.
Helpful Aspect: Had three straight years of double-digit goals and at least 47 points in the WHL from 04-07.
Negative Point: Both Tollefsen (Designated team tough-guy) and Hejda (+20 rating in 81 games) have secured themselves jobs on the blue-line.

Dallas Stars: Toby Petersen- Petersen is currently ranked as the 5th center on Dallas's depth chart, and only got into 8 regular season games, garnering 3 assists. However, he got into twice as many playoff games and centered a line that was key to shutting down Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in game 6 against the Red Wings. However, that might not be enough to earn him solid playing time.
Helpful Aspect: Petersen has playoff experience, unlike several rookies who are slated to earn a job this season.
Negative Point: Despite high offensive numbers in the AHL, Petersen's career high in NHL points is 18 in 79 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2001-2002.

Detroit Red Wings: Justin Abdelkader- Although Darren Helm himself is not guaranteed a spot with the defending Stanley Cup Champion, Abdelkader may have an easier time cracking the roster right off the bat. A right-winger, Abdelkader just might overtake Kirk Maltby during training camp. The two play a similarly gritty game, but Abdelkader is younger, and may have more offensive potential.
Helpful Aspect: Youth. The Wings want to stick around for a long time, and Maltby may have lasted long enough after winning 4 Stanley Cups.
Negative Point: The Wings only increased in depth on the right side after adding Marian Hossa as a free agent.

Edmonton Oilers: Gilbert Brule- Although many seem to think Brule will jump start his career in Edmonton, it's important to remember that the Oilers already have Shawn Horcoff, Sam Gagner, Kyle Brodziak, M-A Pouliot, Rob Schremp, and Ryan Potulny at center. Brule may be able to jump Schremp, Potulny, and Pouliot for the 4th line spot, but Brodziak secured spot on the third line with last season's 14-goal, 31-point performance.
Helpful Aspect: Experience never hurt anyone, and Brule has 146 NHL games to his credit.
Negative Point: Having only scored 12 goals and 32 points during those 146 games is more than a little worrying for a player who was formerly anticipated to be a second-line center.

Florida Panthers: Gregory Campbell- Despite having played three seasons of 60+ games since the lockout, and recently scoring a career high of 18 points, mainly from the fourth line, Campbell may very well be forced out of a job due to the arrival of Shawn Matthias. Campbell hasn't had strong numbers in the plus/minus department as of recently, and the Panthers would love to see Matthias on the second line, making Brett McLean likely headed for the fourth line.
Helpful Aspect: Campbell hasn't had any major injuries in his career, meaning he can be there night in and night out, regardless of his performance. He also plays a ruggedly and gives as much effort as he can.
Negative Point: The Panthers might not think 5 goals and 18 points a year is enough to keep the team strong.

Los Angeles Kings: Brian Boyle- Trained as a blue-liner, Boyle's offensive potential exploded when he was played at center during last season in the AHL. He scored 31 goals and 62 points in 70 games for the Manchester Monarchs, and also sored 4 goals in 8 NHL games. He has a defenseman's size (6'6", 222 lbs.) with offensive smarts of a finesse center. Yeah, he'll definitely be L.A.'s future power forward behind Dustin Brown.
Helpful Aspect: He's proven his talent at every level. Now he just needs to be given the chance.
Negative Point: Behind Anze Kopitar, Michal Handzus, and Jarret Stoll, the fourth line might be the only chance Boyle gets, and that's already knocking out solid defensive veteran Derek Armstrong.

Minnesota Wild: Krys Kolanos- Never heard of him? Makes sense. He's played a total of 115 NHL games and only scored 35 points. However, last season, he managed 63 points in 65 AHL games, and has an outside shot to manage Minnesota's fourth line this year.
Helpful Aspect: Minnesota lost a lot of scoring when Brian Rolston left town, and they'll be looking all over for new scorers.
Negative Point: He's been given opportunities with Phoenix and Edmonton, and has nothing better to show than 22 points in his 57-game rookie season.


Where's Matt headed?

Fans all over the league are anticipating that Anaheim Ducks defenseman Matt Schneider will be traded in the next 72 hours or so. I agree, however, here's a potential outcome with could-be interesting results: another KHL signing.

Look at the facts: As of right now, no team appears to want Schneider, who was both offered on the trading block, and placed on waivers without being claimed. Now, the last couple of unwanted players (Vitaly Vishnevski and Marcus Nilson) were quietly shipped of to the KHL with transfer deals that saved each NHL team money.

Perhaps we'll be seeing Omsk improve their defense with Mattew Schneideer? (The KHL stats page is notorious for re-spelling NHL player names, see Teebz's KHL updates blog).

UPDATE}- As explained by Teebz in a comment on that blog, the Russian alphabet doesn't actually have the same letters, and thus translates names differently (a.k.a. Marcel Hossa = Martsel Hossa). So honestly, not being a master of the Russian language (I can say hello, what is your name, yes, no, and football, so I'd be toast up there), I have no idea what Matt Schneider's name would translate to.

A GOOD Publicity Stunt

According to www.nhl.com, Def Leppard will perform their hit song "C'mon, C'mon" on national television before the home opener of last season's Stanley Cup Champion, the Detroit Red Wings (coincidentally one of the most musical cities in the NHL, with respect to Nashville) against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As a huge rock music fan (actually, all music, but rock takes a slight edge), I'm definitely doing all I can to watch this. Heck, if I was just a Def Leppard fan, and couldn't tell the difference between Henrik Zetterberg and my next-door neighbor, I would watch this event. As Joe Elliot, lead singer and keyboard-ist for Def Leppard told NHL.com, "When Sav first played me "C'mon, C'mon", I remember saying to him, 'I can hear this being played in ever hockey arena all over the United States and Canada."
It's awesome to know that Detroit and Toronto fans across, well, the United States and Canada, will be hearing this song, along with many other DL songs.

IT'S ALMOST OCTOBER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Welcome back (we hope)!

According to THN, Dan Ryder has rejoined the Quad-City Flames after leaving the team six games into the 07-08 season.

Although unknown at the time of his departure, Ryder had reportedly needed some time away from hockey, but the Flames hope he's ready now. Depending on his AHL production this year (he had a goal and five points in those six games), he could be seeing a lot of minutes in the NHL as a third or fourth line player.

Either way, it's nice to see that he's decided to return to hockey. Good luck with making the Flames!


A government cares about hockey????

I just read an interesting piece off of the Puck Daddy blog on yahoo.com, and was surprised to hear that someone in the government actually made a comment about hockey!

Oh, my bad, folks, that was in Finland...

However, the more important part of Puck Daddy's blog would be the fact that more and more 'staged' fights are occuring in foreign leagues. So far, Chris Simon and Martin Grenier were involved in a brawl that Grenier predicted would occur; in this blog, a video of Sami Helenius and Kip Brennan is shown, and seeing as the players dropped the gloves at the whistle, it was obviously pre-meditated.

Now, Finland's sports minister has lashed out against all hockey enforcers, claiming that the next time he hears of a fight, he's going to discuss options with the big boys of the Finnish Hockey Federation. And by 'discuss options', he's implying that the next pair of thugs to stage a fight will be getting a little more than a 5-minute time-out.

However, fans obviously are into the fighting in these leagues. Yahoo's most popular hockey blogger wants to know: Why curb the enthusiasm? I agree. Wouldn't it be worth it to gain some extra money because a few more fans are in attendance due to a probable fight? I can guarantee you that some NHL owners wouldn't mind the increased revenue.

(Don't worry, readers, that blog about the Dallas Stars Breaking The Ice 2008 event is coming soon).


Some short thoughts...

Wow, the NHL slowed down again...what a surprise, considering that it's summer, eh? Just kidding...

- After seeing James Mirtle's article on Patrick Roy's number getting retired, I was reminded of a sarcastic piece I read in The Hockey News that wondered when NHL teams would have to start retiring numbers such as 24A or 33B. It got me thinking, when will they have to retire names? The whole league should retire Gretzky, they could never have another player with his name. Of course, though, when "The Great One's" son makes it to the NHL, they might have some jersey problems...

- I can't believe nobody other than myself and a young man named Salim Valji voted in favor of having fan articles replace the spot usually taken up by the recently departed Mike Brophy, who took a full-time job with SportsNet. I respect the writing talents of such nominees as James Mirtle (actually one of my favorite bloggers), Bill Meltzer, and Eric Duhatcek, but here was my reason for voting for fan articles: If those bloggers have successful blogs (check), and even part time jobs writing for big companies (Mirtle has written for the Globe and Mail), why not be satisfied with reading them there? Honestly, I'd at least prefer someone who writes well, but is lesser known. Surely someone could be found simply by searching blogger for hockey blogs and scrolling the list a little?

- We're still waiting on a word from a team that says they are willing to sign either Teemu Selanne or Brendan Shanahan. Reports have come out that both players have expressed wants to return to their 07-08 clubs (Anaheim and the New York Rangers), but no contract talks or offers from the team's side of things has come to the surface.

- I'll be attending a 'Meet-and-greet' of sorts for the Dallas Stars tomorrow in Dallas. I'll try and have some sort of report other than "It was fun...", and if I'm lucky, there'll be a player available for a quick interview. I'll at least be able to post some pictures of player autographs.

That's all my short thoughts for today, and I can hardly blame myself. Nothing new happened today in the NHL.


Who's performance do you look forward to?

Of course, most people say, Vinny Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Sid the Kid, or Ovie when they asked which player will have an amazing season.

You would have been hard-pressed to find someone who expected Brad Boyes to score 40+ goals, or that Tobias Enstrom would be Atlanta's top defenseman.

So this year, how about a little random guessing at the next breakout guys? No, I won't use the same examples as www.nhl.com, although I decided to write this article because of that.

Breakout Forward 08-09:
(Drum roll, please.....*ahem*, I said drum roll, please....oh, forget it)

Dan Fritsche!
Not kidding! Seriously, the guy could do great in New York with the right amount of ice time. In Columbus, he managed 22 points in 69 games last season. He put up similar numbers in 06-07 as well.
Obviously, the Blue Jackets aren't exactly the cream of the crop when it comes to producing top scorers, Rick Nash and possibly Nikita Filatov being the only exceptions.
However, I can see a lot of potential in Fritsche. If he can be placed on a line with Petr Prucha, and maybe Ryan Callahan, that could be a scary trio. I'm guessing 15-32-47 for the former Blue Jacket.

Breakout Defensman 08-09:
(Forget drum rolls...)

Steve Wagner!

Now, I'm basing this on purely guessing, with a little of potential involved. I see Wagner as becoming a Tobias Enstrom of sorts, or at least a Ville Koistinen. He came up to the NHL having been a strong WCHA defender, but with only 14 games of AHL experience. He still managed a respectable 2 goals and 8 points in 24 games, but was sent back to the AHL in January. This year though, the Blues don't to seem to have many blue-line locks beyond Erik Johnson, Jay McKee, and Eric Brewer. Although he'll have to fight Jeff Woywitka, Andy Wozniewski, and Alex Pietrangelo for playing time, he could learn a lot from playing alongside Brewer or McKee.

(Speaking of young Blues defensemen, wouldn't prospect Alex Hellstrom be perfect for so many nicknames? And just think of the commentary potential: "Young number __ out there is so practiced at giving opposing forwards a hell-strom of a time getting to the net." That's just plain awesome, thought I should mention that.)

Breakout Goaltender 08-09:

Mike Smith!

The former Dallas back-up had a rough introdruction to Tampa, going 3-10, but at that point, Tampa already knew they would be getting Steven Stamkos in the draft. However, Stamkos wasn't the only high-end addition to the Lightning. Radim Vrbata, Ryan Malone, and Vinny Prospal were among several huge improvements to a Tampa Bay team that should have one heck of a turnaround.

Well, that'll be all for that article. Comment and let me know which players you think are going to have a great season!


Quick Stories:

Welcome Back Chris Chelios:
The Canadien, Blackhawk, and Red Wing has decided to return for his 2500th NHL season, as we all new he would. The second cousin of George Washington has been in the NHL since the good old days of Joe 'Phantom' Malone and was at the baby shower of last-season's defense partner Brett Lebda.

Ok, so I've gotten into the THN exaggeration stance when discussing Cheli, but, truth be told, the man is old. He's got great conditioning and some darn good skills, though, which is why he'll be back for a 26th, 27th, and 52nd campaign (just kidding).

Ballard Extension = Bouwmeester expendable?
Keith Ballard has been given a six-year contract with the Florida Panthers. The defenseman's signing has led to even more questions about the future of Jay Bouwmeester in a Panthers uniform. Read James Mirtle's blog about it for more info.

That's just a quick update, I'll hopefully write more on whatever happens tomorrow.

Committed to Hockey

You know, when I see a headline such as "Ex-Ranger Dube is content in Swiss League", two thoughts go through my head.

1. " 'Ex'-Ranger? There's a common enough phrase...has there ever been a drafted Ranger to stay with the team for his whole career?"

2. "Now there's a guy who really just loves to play hockey."

The important thought is number 2 (number 1 comes from my Islanders bias).

You see, a lot of guys transfer leagues for the money, or in a disappointed state after NHL rejection. In Christian Dube, we've got a guy who was pleasantly surprised to make it to the NHL, saddened by his early exit, yet willing to keep playing the sport he loves despite the exit. And the fact that he's now enjoying playing in Switzerland (Be honest, how many of you knew that there was a pro league in Switzerland?) is just another tribute to the man's perseverance.

Way to go Christian Dube! Maybe you'll get another job in the NHL someday.


Selanne: Why won't Anaheim take him?

According to a THN report I read recently, winger Teemu Selanne has decided he wants to return to the NHL and the Anaheim Ducks.

So why hasn't there been a one-year deal announced? No reports of a roster spot reserved for Teemu? Not even a Brian Burke saying "We're trying to clear up enough cap space for Teemu to receive a reasonable deal, so we've placed +(Insert Name Here)+ on the trading block."?

Either Teemu has been deemed too old (ridiculous, considering he was a key goal scorer when he came back last year), or Matt Schneider is just too cool to be traded.

Hopefully, if Teemu doesn't get a deal from the Ducks, he'll decide to sign with another team *cough* not Colorado *cough* and still be able to enjoy another year of NHL hockey.


Change Your Attitude!!

Woah! Did mommy-KHL suddenly jump in and tell her little boy to play nice?

Apparently, the KHL, and league president Alexander Medvedev, have agreed to suddenly drop contract disputes and take Alexander Radulov's case to arbitration or court.

This news comes from seemingly nowhere, as the KHL had taken a hard stand against all disputed contracts and demanded that A-Rad belonged to the KHL legally up until, well, yesterday.

According to this report, (full story found at http://www.thehockeynews.com/), the KHL has agreed to drop the disputes over Nikita Filatov, Viktor Tihkonov, Tomas Mozjis, Jason Krog, and Fedor Fedorov and allow each player to play for their respective NHL clubs, while the Radulov case could quite possibly be settled much sooner than we all thought. The KHL still disputes the contract signings of Vjateslav Voinov, Andrei Lohtionev, and Maxim Mayorov, but the fact that any of these disputes have been solved at all is a good sign.

Now, the interesting twist is that the NHL continues to put up a hard-nosed approach. Bill Daly, who has been the NHL's main voice in all of this, said the following
“The facts couldn't be more clear,” Daly said in an email to thn.com. “But instead of revealing what (the IIHF’s) investigation actually found – which is that Radulov is under contract to Nashville and should be playing there this season - they pulled the chute and took the easy way out. Very, very disappointing. Its seems that the KHL is making decisions for the IIHF these days.”

Daly was likely referring at the end of the qoute to the recent election of Medvedev to the executive board of the IIHF. It's hard to believe that the NHL wouldn't accept these concessions with smiles and thought's of a certain Staples quote ("That was easy."), yet they continue to keep up the argument almost as if they were enjoying a bit of playful banter.

*Sigh* We'll see how this all turns out, but for now.....WHY ISN'T IT OCTOBER???


KHL vs. NHL, round who-cares-what-number

Another dispute between the two major leagues...what else is new?

This time, the KHL has claimed that the Los Angeles Kings have illegally signed two prospects (Vjateslav Voinov and Andrei Loktionov) who were supposedly under contract to KHL teams. Bill Daly has claimed that no such violation occured, that the two players were indeed available to sign.

Now, here's my thinking: if the player really is under contract to a KHL team, and is signed by an NHL team, one thing should be checked—was the player in question drafted by said NHL team? If so, then the signing should be legal, because so far, there has been no rule against NHL teams drafting players who are under contract in other leagues. And by my understanding, once that NHL team has drafted that player, the team is free to sign the player at any time because the player is drafted property.

Perhaps if the KHL really wants to keep their players away from the NHL, they should consider the KHL protected against the NHL draft, and vice-versa if the KHL has a draft.


Defender Swap (2)!

Alert! Alert! Toronto has officially cleared Bryan McCabe's salary!!! Toronto! Send your thanks to Cliff Fletcher and co.! The cap waste is gone!!!!

Ok, so maybe McCabe isn't that bad of a defenseman. He did, after all, make it to the NHL.

However, comparing his performance to the amount of money he gets paid, it's pretty sad. McCabe has received the harshest of criticism from just about every hockey expert/professional that you could find. If he doesn't increase his bang for his buck (I don't think I've had a chance to use that cliche in a while), he may find himself out of the NHL.

Now, if McCabe's play returns to it's past dominance, this could turn out to be a great trade for Florida. With all due respect to Mike Van Ryn's talent, McCabe at his high level of play would be much more welcome in Florida. Along with the additions of Keith Ballard and Nick Boynton, the Panthers have the potential to have one of the best top four 'D' men in the league, those three with Jay Bouwmeester.

Toronto also could benefit from this trade. Van Ryn was never meant to be a top 2 defender, and with Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle manning the first pairing, Van Ryn can slide into the second pairing with any one of Jeff Finger, Anton Stralman, or Jonas Frogren. I could see Van Ryn mentoring Stralman, but I wouldn't know for sure how well that would work.

It looks we're having a little swell of action here in late August/early September. Teemu Selanne has already announced his return to Anaheim, which likely spells a trip out of town for Mathieu Schneider. The Meszaros trade to Tampa was Defender Swap 1!, and there have been reports that Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would be willing to sign Mark Parrish or Glen Murray. Personally, I would pick Parrish, who is essentially the poor man's Cory Stillman (who the Senators just lost to Florida as a free agent. Man, are there connections all over the place or what?).

What the heck is Mats Sundin gonna do? And when?