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.
Filed in: Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, NHL Entry Draft, Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
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
My initial plans for last night/this morning called for a Tampa Bay Lightning playoff-clinching column but, while the Bolts held up their end of the bargain, those pesky Carolina Hurricanes didn’t cooperate, toppling the Washington Capitals in a shootout.
Instead, I’ll toss out some quick food for thought today, stemming from a press box discussion last night as we sifted through every possible combination and computation related to clinching scenarios and tiebreakers and so on and so forth.
I’ve moaned about three-point games already this season but, as we subtracted a point from Tampa Bay’s magic number when Carolina and Washington were knotted after regulation, carried the one when the ‘Canes prevailed in the shootout, multiplied by six when the Lightning one and determined the square root of the product thereof (or, um, something), another angle of the ridiculousness of the loser point struck me.
This is just far too complicated.
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
Three Southeast tilts on tap for this evening, all with playoff implications. The Thrashers and Hurricanes, each still aiming for a post-season berth, square off against each other in Raleigh, while the Capitals and Lightning, fresh off head-to-head battle of their own on Monday night that culminated in a 2-1 shootout win and a two-point lead in the division for Washington, each host Western Conference opponents this evening in Edmonton and Chicago, respectively.
Thrashers at Hurricanes
Atlanta bested Florida in overtime on Saturday but had dropped seven of eight and 16 of 19 overall prior to that, leaving them seven points behind the playoff cut line, presently, with 16 games to go. With Carolina a point behind eighth place Buffalo, tonight’s game is crucial for any late-season playoff rally for the Thrashers.
The Blackhawks dropped the Hurricanes in Chicago on Friday in a 5-2 final, putting an end to Carolina’s mini two-game win streak and paving the way for the Sabres to take advantage of some games in hand and overtake the ‘Canes in race for the East’s final playoff spot. Carolina and Buffalo still meet twice more down the stretch but the Hurricanes would be doing themselves a huge service in shutting down any Atlanta push from behind before it really starts.
With this game and another remaining to close out the season series, Carolina is 4-0-0 against Atlanta this season, with just one of those victories coming in regulation.
Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
Four Southeast Division teams are in action tonight, with two of them facing each other, after a trade deadline day that was significantly less frantic than in recent years but still had plenty of movement as far as this particular division was concerned.
Let’s kick things off today with a pair of clubs who dealt with each other yesterday, getting the awkwardness of swapping dressing rooms for the first time out of the way immediately for a couple of players…
Panthers at Hurricanes
Florida was busy early and often yesterday, making four separate deals, including three with other Southeast teams. General manager Dale Tallon hooked up with his Hurricanes counterpart, Jim Rutherford, for a second deal in five days, sending defenseman Bryan Allen Raleigh-way in exchange for forward Sergei Samsonov after last week’s swap of Cory Stillman for Ryan Carter and a fifth-round pick.
In Allen, the ‘Canes get the defensive help they’d sought as they try to keep pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Carolina, as of this morning, is just two points up on Buffalo for the eighth seed and the Sabres have two games in hand.