Can one’s thoughts be anything but scattered at this time of year?
I mean, hell, just look at Jaromir Jagr, who apparently disappeared off the face of the planet just when everyone was expecting him back in Pittsburgh. (How no one aside from myself has implicated the infamous Deven Dark in his apparent abduction to this point is beyond me. I mean, have you heard anything from “The NHL Guardians” since All-Star Weekend? Well… Have you?)
Aside from that, here’s a look at what else is burning up my remaining brain cells at the moment:
***I suppose I ought to start in my own neck of the woods and right about now, there’s no appropriate topic to kick that off other than what the wittiest members of the Twitterverse have dubbed either #Stamkosteria or #Stammergeddon. That Steven Stamkos has yet to be inked to a new deal by the Tampa Bay Lightning, with restricted free agency, oh, a little over 15 hours away, is neither cause for a panic attack nor a sure sign of the end of the world (chew on that, Mayans pointing to the NHL12 cover). However, with each passing minute (okay, maybe with each passing hour?) the situation becomes a little bit less comfortable, I guess we can say, for everyone involved.
All I can add to whatever you’ve read
everywhere else is that I’ve crunched numbers from every angle and no matter what, at this point, I see the Lightning as having to make some significant residual move or another after Stamkos is retained (and I most certainly do believe that, one way or another, that will still be the end result) not so much to fit everyone in under next season’s salary cap but to do so with some flexibility for both the long and the short term.
The NHL Entry Draft is one of those annual “hope springs eternal” events. If the awards show bids farewell to a season gone by, the selection process for the latest prospect crop marks the league’s transition into next year.
Just like that, every club starts anew.
Just like that, the page is turned for all.
The Boston Bruins reign as Stanley Cup champions has just begun and yet, as of tonight, even they have work to do. 29 other teams are now gunning for what they have. And for some, reshaping their franchises to make a run at hockey’s iconic chalice will start with their first overall selection tonight.
Of course, it’s been said that there aren’t any immediate game-changers to be had among this crop – and certainly not beyond a half-dozen or so prospects atop most draft boards. But the draft itself has become such an integral aspect of building a championship-caliber team, even the late round selections will be a product of weeks and months of internal debate and study on the part of a team’s decision-making hierarchy.
For other clubs, the leap from 2010-11 to 2011-12 will be aided during draft weekend by trade. This year, with the Philadelphia Flyers kicking things off with a pair of earth-rattlers a day in advance, shipping key components Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of town in separate deals yesterday, the expectation is that trade activity in St. Paul could be high. As teams gear up for free agency next week, some will look to get a jump on crazy season by filling holes and altering their salary scales with a deal or two and there is a wealth of big-name talent reportedly on the trade market already.
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Every year around this time, in writing this very piece, I usually begin with something along the lines of, “I swore I’d never make playoff predictions again.” For starters, everybody does it and I usually try my best to steer clear of being just like the rest of ‘em. But more than that, my repeated attempts to avoid postseason prognostication stem from my overwhelming lack of accuracy in years past. (The postseason underachievers of the world have drawn my ire time and again. San Jose, you still top my poop list for that reason.)
But worse than my failure to pick a set of winners that resembles anything close to accuracy is my perennial failure to avoid picking altogether.
Something always draws me in.
And now, I realize, I’m powerless to fight it. I’ll make my picks here today, do so again round after round and I’ll do it again next year (and the year after that, and so on and so forth). Might as well be honest with myself…
This year, the allure is in the series that will remain my primary focus, Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh. I have to admit, it’s still a bit surreal to see the hometown Bolts actually in the Stanley Cup playoffs. After the last two seasons of uncertainty, four seasons overall since their last playoff game and even despite the regular season success they managed early and often this year, the fact that exit medicals and getaway interviews haven’t already been conducted is still a bit of a walk through bizzarro-world for me. Better get over that, I suppose… The Lightning certainly aren’t thinking that way.
Filed in: Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
‘Canes Still Alive (Here’s How They Get In) Plus, Bolts Players in Cut for a Cure & JJ’s “Beard-Off”
Now, it gets fun.
The hockey world thanks you, Carolina Hurricanes, for being one of the scrappiest damn teams in this league. Had you listened to the odds at any point during your playoff chase, you’d have bowed out, oh, eleven times or so by now.
With almost zero wiggle room, and in a home stretch that has them finishing their season on Friday and Saturday with their seventh set (seventh!) of back-to-back games since March 3rd, Carolina has managed a 9-5-2 record in that span to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
After last night’s gutty 3-0 shutout of the visiting Detroit Red Wings (you know, those perennial Western Conference doormats?), the ‘Canes live to fight another day or, at least two, to get all technical about it.
But until they hit Atlanta to tackle the Thrashers on Friday, nothing at all is in their hands and, even then, their fate is not totally their own to decide.
A happy St. Patrick’s Day to the readers out there from yours truly! May you all be blessed with a plentiful helping of corned beef and cabbage, a pint or three of Guinness and, hell, a nip of Jameson for those of you feeling a wee bit adventurous! And, for the love of your favorite Irishman (or woman), please do avoid green beer at all costs. Dye the local pond, river or stream, if you must, but beer, my friends, should never be green!
A smorgasbord of news items and thoughts on each, in turn, for this fine Thursday afoot:
Farewell, Young Mr. Fadden
The troubling tenure of forward Mitch Fadden as a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect ends today upon his clearing unconditional release waivers and the termination of his contract. According to a report in the Salmon Arm Observer, Fadden, 22, was arrested in Salmon Arm earlier this month on charges of impaired driving, failing to provide a breath sample, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and obstructing a peace officer. All of this, according to the report, after police observed Fadden to be “grossly intoxicated” at – wait for it – 12:57 PM and that he became “violent with officers” upon apprehension.
Yikes. Hope it was a good party.
Filed in: Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
My latest collection of thoughts and opinion on recent events in the hockey world (tied together, of course, by less-than-nothing). In short, a little of this, a little of that and maybe even some of the other…
Three-Pointers Risk Diminished Integrity of the Standings
As the NHL GMs meet this week in Boca Raton, much of their agenda will focus on player safety – and rightfully so. Headshots, blindside hits and concussions will dominate their discussions.
But something not on the agenda this week that has been eating at the integrity of the standings in each conference since the lockout is the existence of the “loser point” in the all-too common three-point game – and, frankly, it’s beyond time to reconsider the way team standings are configured once again.
I won’t go railroading against the shootout again today. There seems no point in that anymore anyway, as it is here to stay, the way I understand things. The more valid argument instead is far simpler: The return of two points – and only two – on the line for each and every regular season game. The way things are now, which essentially rewards mediocrity and runs the risk of skewing the standings in such a way that deserving teams might be penalized through no fault of their own, is unacceptable.
Filed in: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink