Kukla's Korner

The Puck Stops Here

World Junior Hockey Preliminary Round

First, I would like to apologize for a much longer than expected Christmas vacation from the internet. 

The World Junior hockey Championships are underway in Ottawa.  The preliminary round has been completed.  Here are the results.

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Team USA World Junior Championships

The World Junior Hockey Championships run from December 26th to January 5th in Ottawa, Ontario.  Team USA’s roster has been announced

Here it is:  (listed as player, current team, current league, NHL affiliation)

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Team Canada World Junior Championships

The World Junior Hockey Championships run from December 26th to January 5th in Ottawa, Ontario.  Team Canada’s roster has been announced

Here it is:  (listed as player, current team, current league, NHL affiliation)

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Dallas Stars Scapegoat

The Dallas Stars are not having a good season.  They are last in the West Conference with an 11-18 record (with four regulation tie points).  They have had the worst goaltending in the NHL with a .878 saves percentage so far this season.  Marty Turco has not played well (though his game is improving) and his backup Tobias Stephan does not appear to be an NHL calibre goalie.  This leaves Dallas with the third worst goals against average in the league at 3.45.  Their special teams have been bad.  Their 13.0% efficiency on the power play is third worst in the league.  Their penalty kill is also third worst in the NHL with a 76.9% success rate.  Their offence has been a little bit better.  It is ninth worst in the league with 2.66 goals scored per game.  Their top scorer Mike Ribeiro is the second lowest scoring player who leads his team in scoring (only Jay Bouwmeester of Florida has fewer points).  Their captain Brenden Morrow is injured and likely won’t play again this season.  Who is at fault for this?

Obviously, it’s Sean Avery.

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What Happened To The Senators?

As recently as 2006/07, the Ottawa Senators were one of the top teams in the NHL.  They had their fourth straight 100+ point season and went to the Stanley Cup finals.  This season, their 11-17 record (with 5 regulation tie points) puts them 12th in the East Conference.  How did this team fall apart?

The obvious problem when looking at the team’s statistics is the current Senators have no depth.  They have only three players (Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza) with more than four goals scored this season.  In 2006/07 they had 15 players on their team finish the season with 30 or more points.  The depth is gone.  Some of the depth players are gone in Wade Redden, Peter Schaeffer, Mike Comrie and Joe Corvo, but that is to be expected.  Teams cannot stay the same year after year in the salary capped era.  Some of the 2007 depth players remain in Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly, but they are not scoring anymore.  Nobody has been added to the mix who is much of an offensive threat.  Nick Foligno, Jarkko Ruutu, Jesse Winchester etc. are not significant offensive players.

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Devils Fine Without Brodeur

When superstar goaltender Martin Brodeur was hurt for the Devils earlier this season, they were written off by a lot of people.  Brodeur had surgery on his torn tendons in his left bicep.  The surgery occurred in early November and with recovery expected to take 3-4 months, he would project to return in February at the earliest. 

Martin Brodeur has been the heart and soul of the Devils franchise for years.  His goaltending has been one of the main reasons for the Devils success.  Without an elite goaltender, the Devils might be in for a long season.

Not so fast!  The Devils have been 9-1 in their last ten starts without Brodeur.  Scott Clemmensen has filled in marvelously.  He has been the winning goalie for the Devils in eight of those nine wins.

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A New Surprise Vezina Leader

I have been picking Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins as the Vezina Trophy leader this season.  He is clearly having a good season and it is a surprise to see him doing as well as he is, but there is another goalie who has been playing even better and his status as my new Vezina leader is even more surprising.  I think Craig Anderson of the Florida Panthers is the current Vezina leader.  Anderson has taken over the number one goaltender job on Florida from Tomas Vokoun.  This is no easy feat as Vokoun is a proven All Star goalie.  Anderson currently leads the NHL with a .946 saves percentage and is second to Thomas with a 1.94 GAA despite facing significantly more shots per game.

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The Unbalanced Early Season Schedule

We are over two months into the NHL season.  That should be long enough to get a pretty good gage on how well teams are doing so far this year.  There are many factors which may need to be put into context to properly make sense of the standings.  One of them is a huge home/away imbalance exists at this point.  On one extreme, the Edmonton Oilers have played 18 road games but only 8 home games so far.  On the other extreme, the Los Angeles Kings have only 9 road games to go with 17 home games.  It should be clear that teams that have spent most of the first two months of the season on the road are probably performing below their expectations and teams that have spent most of their first two months are home are probably performing above expectations. 

While I do not expect that every casual hockey fan has noticed this fact, I expect better from Adam Proteau of the Hockey News.  He writes the misleading sentence:

In Edmonton, it’s difficult to be cheery, what with the Oilers having won just three home games this season.

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How To Get Out Of A Contract

The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest splash in the free agency market this summer.  They spent significant amounts of money to sign free agents Ryan Malone, Radim Vrbata, Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts, Olaf Kolzig and others.  For the most part, they are regretting those decisions as the Lightning sit in last place in the NHL with a 6-21 record (with eight regulation tie points).  One of the signings they regret the most is that of Radim Vrbata.  Vrbata has 6 points so far in 18 games played.  He has been a healthy scratch for the Lightning in several games this season.  They bought that for the healthy price of $9 million paid over three years. 

In the crazily run Tampa Bay organization it wasn’t too long before they decided to undo the Vrbata signing.  They magically made his contract disappear this season.  Vrbata has returned to his native Czech Republic.  He will play with BK Mlada Bolesov.  Although this has been presented as Vrbata making the decision, one can’t help but suspect that Tampa Bay ownership pushed him out the door and are happy he left.

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What Happened To Parity?

There was an interesting comment in the if only they had goaltending post where I argued that the Detroit Red Wings have been let down by their goaltending and would really benefit by better goaltending - which may have to be acquired via trade.  A commenter JH says:

I’m curious why you think Detroit is currently on pace to have its best season, points-wise, since the “looser” point was established, with 56 wins? Is their goalie really holding them back?

It is an interesting comment despite the fact it is not factually true.  Since the shootout was instituted and every game had a winner, the most wins in a season was the Detroit Red Wings in 2005/06 who had 58 wins.  Currently this season, the San Jose Sharks are on pace for 67 wins, Boston Bruins 58 wins and the Detroit Red Wings 57 wins.  Although one must be cautioned that those are win projections, as opposed to actual win totals, it is interesting that three different teams are on pace to have some of the best seasons we have seen since the lockout.  Wasn’t the salary cap supposed to usher in parity to the league?  Why isn’t that happening?

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About The Puck Stops Here

imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

Why are you reading it? ???

Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com

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