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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On the day Jay Feaster’s interim tag was removed as Calgary’s general manager last Monday, his former club, the Tampa Bay Lightning, would jump out to a 1-0 series lead over the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final with a 5-2 performance on the road.
Feaster, who resigned from his post as Lightning GM in July of 2008, in the early days of the then-incoming OK Hockey ownership group, has taken notice of the rejuvenated Bolts – it’s been hard not to, of course – and, like so many others, has come away very impressed at what they’ve been able to accomplish in year one under new management, now just a pair of wins away from competing for the Stanley Cup, tied with Boston in the series at 2-2.
Impressed, naturally. But surprised at the quick results?
“Quite honestly, I am not surprised,” he explained. “I felt there were some excellent pieces of the puzzle already in place and I was confident that quality ownership and management would make a huge difference.”
The era of the regime under which Feaster’s days in the organization came to an end was marred with owner infighting, financial difficulties, questionable personnel decisions and poor on-ice results. All of that, he noted, was difficult to see transpire.
“It was painful to watch what we had built under [previous] ownership destroyed in such a short period of time,” said Feaster, referring to the late Bill Davidson, who owned the Lightning from 1999-2008. “It was also very difficult for me to talk with the many friends and colleagues I left behind and hear the kind of environment they were working in for that unpleasant period.”
But, just as it has for fans of the Lightning franchise, this year’s turnaround and the ongoing success of the team under owner Jeff Vinik, CEO Tod Leiweke, GM Steve Yzerman, head coach Guy Boucher and a host of other new faces throughout the organization has washed away a lot of that for the man who was at the helm for its Stanley Cup championship of 2004.
“Seeing the franchise rejuvenated and back on top means the world to me.”
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
[Update: At it again! Although a few teams that actually don’t play in the Southeast have now made moves as well, the Panthers strike again within their own division, moving defenseman Bryan Allen to Carolina in exchange for forward Sergei Samsonov. Florida’s tearin’ it down alright and, if they didn’t simply need enough bodies to ice a full roster from this point forward, I’d wonder aloud as to whether or not they might actually try to flip Samsonov again in the next 35 minutes… -JJ]
All Southeast, all day?
So far, we’ve had two separate trades between Southeast Division clubs (Florida moving Radek Dvorak to Atlanta and Dennis Wideman to Washington) and three waiver claims, all involving – yep – teams from the Southeast.
Carolina defenseman Brett Carson was picked up by Calgary, Curtis McElhinney’s Tampa Bay Lightning career is over before it starts as he is claimed by Ottawa and the Thrashers get a little more forward help by plucking Rob Schremp from the New York Islanders.
The guess here is that the Hurricanes will get aggressive in trying to land some defense help now with Carson gone, even if that just means adding some lower level depth. Lookin’ a little thin on the back end down the organizational depth chart now.