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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Down to the wire, indeed.
Game 82 tonight for the Carolina Hurricanes, against visiting division rival Tampa Bay could very well be a “win-and-in” situation for the home squad, depending on what the New York Rangers end up doing in today’s home tilt against New Jersey (2-1 Devils early in the second, as I type this).
With the ‘Canes currently in eighth, thanks to a greater number of regulation wins (35 to New York’s 34) after an even point total of 91, a Ranger loss in regulation today renders tonight’s game irrelevant. If the Blueshirts earn a single point, Carolina must at least do the same to regain eighth. New York wins, so must the Hurricanes.
Essentially, it’s follow the leader (or the trailer, as it were, in this case).
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
Hurricanes at Capitals
Washington’s lead over Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division remains at two points as the Caps host another division rival in the Carolina Hurricanes tonight, looking for their seventh straight victory.
A 5-0 blanking of the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday gave Washington their sixth win in a row and ninth in their last 11 games. Goaltender Braden Holtby, who starred in relief against Tampa Bay on Monday, earned his first career shutout against Edmonton with a 22-save performance.
With Semyon Varlamov on the mend, Michael Neuvirth steady in his place and Holtby shining of late, as The Washington Post’s Gene Wang writes, the Caps will have some tough choices ahead, in terms of who will start in goal on a nightly basis.
Just one Southeast team scheduled to lace ‘em up this evening as Tampa Bay’s road swing continues tonight in New Jersey.
Lightning at Devils
Tampa Bay hits the ice for the first time since the trade deadline exactly as they were before, with general manager Steve Yzerman opting not to make a move on Monday – a move signaling both supreme confidence in the group he has in place already and an unwillingness to pay what was said to be a lofty price for any addition of considerable impact.
The bottom line being, the Lightning didn’t have to do anything and held firm. Composure and discipline from the top permeates throughout an organization and exactly that has been in place since day one under the new regime.
On the ice, Tampa Bay maintains a lead in the Southeast Division over second place Washington, though the Capitals shrunk the gap to just three points last night with some last-minute heroics (and a classic overtime winner from Alex Ovechkin) against the New York Islanders. Still, the Bolts are firmly planted in the driver’s seat, with two games in hand on their Washington rivals, winners of three straight and having earned at least a point in 13 of their last 16 outings.
Seize the day, right?
Several NHL GMs will look to pounce on the opportunities that present themselves today but it remains to be seen what, if any, affect the steady stream of deals leading up to this year’s deadline will have on today’s action.
I have a few questions to answer from yesterday’s mailbag post but we’ll get to those in a moment.
First, a spattering of thoughts running through my head this morning:
*For starters, I’m expecting (though not betting too heavily either way) that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be relatively quiet today. The additions of Dwayne Roloson, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Eric Brewer have filled some specific needs already and, though some veteran forward depth would be nice, the question of which of the Lightning’s very effective, very consistent role players would be pulled from the lineup to make room for an import has always stood in the way. Point being, while some depth for injury protection would be nice, it isn’t necessary. And, with Ryan Malone now expected back in early April, as per the St. Pete Times, the Bolts can look at his return as a late-season addition as well.
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All five Southeast clubs are in action tonight, with four games on the docket, including a division matchup between the Panthers and Thrashers. All Southeasterners, save for Washington, have been busy already in the trade market and I don’t expect that will cease any time before it has to on Monday afternoon.
Now then, to tonight’s schedule…
Pittsburgh at Carolina
They’re gettin’ the band back together in Raleigh (again), as GM Jim Rutherford hooked up with his Florida Panthers counterpart, Dale Tallon, to bring Cory Stillman back to Carolina. Heading Florida-way is forward Ryan Carter and a fifth round draft pick for the Panthers, who most expect are only getting started on the trade front.
Stillman managed seven goals and 23 points in 44 games for Florida this year and the Hurricane hope is that he’ll give a lift to the power play and provide an overall spark to the offense.
The thinking here is that the addition of Stillman also gives Carolina a little more flexibility, in terms of moving any one (or more) of his forwards on expiring contracts for a little help on the blueline, if they so choose (or, perhaps, something bigger?) Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer he may not be done indeed but that he was not planning on peddling any of his top prospects.
Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink