Saturday, July 2, 2011

Top 10 Video Special - Moments from 2010-11

It's been a while, but I think it's time to do another Top-10 chronicle. The following are the Top 10 moments that I will remember ten years from now. This is the seventh part of the Top 10 Video series. Enjoy, and I promise that we will all remember #1.



10. Have another waffle, Toronto!

While losing to an NHL team that doesn't even exist anymore, a Leafs fan decided that it would be amusing to throw waffles onto the ice...during the game.  That also made every hockey blogger's life much easier.



9. You want Gerbe, you get double Gerbe.

Trailing 4-0 to the Islanders, Buffalo's Nathan Gerbe decided he'd cut the deficit in less time than it takes for Brian Rolston to take one shot.


8. No goaltender required

Steven Stamkos is an elite goal scorer, but one night in Pittsburgh, things didn't go his way, especially when he was awarded a penalty shot.



7. Crashing Pittsburgh's party.

The downfall of Sidney Crosby's season began at the Winter Classic, when David Steckel knocked him out, leaving Crosby shaken up.



6. It ain't over until Tim Thomas says it's over

In a season that resulted in a Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup, Tim Thomas made several memorable saves, but perhaps none greater than this one in Toronto.


5. Finding top gear

Okay, so I'm a little bias, but here's one that Devils fans probably won't forget for a long time, as Ilya Kovalchuk continued to pile up game-winning goals.  This one would be the only one of the night for either team.



4. Welcome to the NHL, Jordan Eberle

The proverbial, or "ideal" first career NHL goal is often described as a perfect wrist shot that rings off the crossbar and into the net.  Well, Jordan Eberle might disagree with you.



3. Twice is a charm

The goal of the playoffs was undoubtedly Bobby Ryan's double-deke against the Predators.  Let's ignore the fact that he undressed a forward without a stick, let's pretend he undressed Suter and Weber.



2. Stanley Cup Champions

Can you believe the Bruins had the nerve to go into Vancouver and indirectly cause riots??!



1. Saving the best for last

Okay, this one's a bit of a joke, but I couldn't resist.  Brett Lebda scored a goal in Montreal this year, and the world shook.  Don't believe me?  Well, a) I was there, so I can tell you and b) here's video proof.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Guide for NHL General Managers for Free Agency 2011

It’s July 1st.  In a few brief hours, NHL Free Agency 2011 will begin.  You probably know who the big prizes are, and you probably know who many of the teams are with open checkbooks today.  Let’s take a look at a Free Agency spending guide that each General Manager should look at before making a plunge today.

Brian Burke – Today is actually Burke’s second favorite day of the year, right behind trade deadline day.  It’s also the day that waffle sales tend to spike in much of eastern Canada.
Player to watch: Burke has obviously made some noise on the Brad Richards front, but he’s not American.  Watch for Burke to pursue Chris Drury and Andy Greene.

Glen Sather – Unlike Burke, today is Sather’s favorite day of the year.  Unfortunately for him, the league doesn’t believe his annual “I got too excited so I added an extra “0” to that guy’s contract” speech when he tries to cut players’ salaries.
Player to watch: Sather wants Brad Richards.  I’d be curious to see where Richards would fall amongst Rangers greats such as Wade Redden, Chris Drury and Marian Gaborik.

Darcy Regier – Darcy has had the green light with the team’s checkbook already the off-season.  Strangely, a book titled “How to Spend the Most Money on July 1st” was spotted on his desk.  It was written by Glen Sather.
Player to watch: So far, Regier has brought in a defenseman whose name sounds like his and a former Canuck.  Basically, it’s time to cash in big today.

Stan Bowman – Chicago has over $11 million of cap space, so they might quietly make a big move today, which will most likely end up in Pierre McGuire explaining why that player will get along with Brian Campbell.
Player to watch: The Hawks don’t have one primary target, but they could be involved with just about anyone. 

Peter Chiarelli – Despite having an unlisted number, Peter is a bit upset that Mike Milbury found his number, since Milbury has left him dozens of messages of signings he wants to make today.
Player to watch: Although Tomas Kaberle wants to test the market, he might want to stay in Boston to avoid being overpaid, something players absolutely hate.

Kevin Cheveldayoff – Look for Winnipeg to sign a big name today as the first big move made with the team in Winnipeg.  Look for that player to use his entire salary to find a jacket heavy enough for this winter.
Player to watch: Ed Jovanovski.  One way or another, he probably figured he was going to Winnipeg this summer.

Dale Tallon – Tallon might have the biggest budget today.  He needs to spend $22 million just to get to the cap floor today.  Dale Tallon might have the most desired job in hockey.  Well, at least for today.
Player to watch: Steven Stamkos and Brad Richards.  Once he signs those two, he can throw a party for every Panthers fan with the money remaining.

Lou Lamoriello – While it’s never easy to figure out what Lou’s up to, Gary Bettman already promised to approve every contract Lou sends him today…barring it doesn’t include an NHL player.
Player to watch: Any retired player, because he might be coaching the Devils next year.

Ray Shero – Shero has some big decisions to make today, including Max Talbot and Mike Rupp.  It’s a good thing studs like Craig Adams and Arron Asham are already re-signed.
Player to watch: Jaromir Jagr, because whenever he feels like it, he could deke by an opposing player better than Bobby Ryan.

Pierre Gauthier – The Habs could lose Roman Hamrlik and Andrei Markov, in addition to James Wisniewski, but they do still have Hal Gill.
Player to watch: Forget Jagr, it would be far more amusing to see Alex Kovalev back in Montreal, assuming he still remembers how to get there.

Ken Holland – All of a sudden, Ken Holland looks like the overspending general manager, but it’s okay because the Red Wings are invincible to bad contracts.
Player to watch: Any defenseman.  They’ll look to replace Brian Rafalski, a smaller, undrafted free agent out of New Jersey.  Hey, we have one of those this summer!

Paul Holmgren – I can’t imagine what Holmgren has left to do other than trading Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell for draft picks.
Player to watch: Ville Leino and Simon Gagne.  Both need to be re-signed by the Flyers.

Garth Snow – Today is the first day that Alexei Yashin is just a distant memory.  The Islanders must celebrate by wasting their money on another player.
Player to watch: Tomas Vokoun.  He’s reportedly looking for a 15-year contract.  Perfect.

Mike Gillis – Vancouver lost Christian Ehrhoff got a 10-year deal with Buffalo, and Gillis also faces losing Sami Salo and Chris Higgins to free agency.
Player to watch: Tomas Kaberle.  If Gillis signed Kaberle and he turned out to be a bust, Canuck fans could say he had “Ballard-syndrome.”

Steve Yzerman – Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne highlight Yzerman’s priorities today during free agency, as the media has kindly reminded him that no other impact player needs a new contract.
Player to watch: Steven Stamkos.  You’d never know it, but Stamkos is a restricted free agent.

Dean Lombardi – The LA Kings will continue to try to sign a big name, high-scoring forward.  They will likely continue to fail once Sather signs Brad Richards.
Player to watch: Drew Doughty, as he could quietly be the player that slips away if Lombardi isn’t careful.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hockey bloggers unite: Your off-season guide to NHL teams

With the 2010-11 NHL season coming to an end recently, I decided that I wanted to put together one last memorable blog post for this year.  I think what I have here is just that.  I've invited several bloggers to help me write this post, in fact, I've done very little of the writing for this post.  These are all excellent hockey bloggers, and I would recommend following each of them on Twitter, and checking our their respective blogs.  Enjoy.


BOSTON BRUINS (written by Ryan Lambert, thetwolinepass.com, @twolinepass on Twitter)
2010-11 recap: They won the Stanley Cup with a fairly young roster and if not for Marc Savard's injury probably could have been the best team in the East in a runaway. So I guess that's pretty good.
Free agency: The only people of note they have leaving for free agency are Tomas Kaberle and Shawn Thornton. Guess which of those two get re-signed. Seriously, that's it. Everyone else from a Stanley Cup-winning team, save for RFA Brad Marchand, is back. And the Bruins have $7 million or so in cap space.
Draft: They pick ninth and they pick 40th. Yes, really. It doesn't seem fair, but here we are. They did a phenomenal job of stocking up on picks in previous seasons, and traded several for guys that would become key role players. And given the draft record, it's scary to think what the Bruins could pull this year.
2011-12 outlook: They have to be favorites to win the Cup again, right? Return almost everyone (except Mark Recchi) from a championship team, having a boatload of cap space, and another year of development and experience for guys like Seguin and Marchand? That's not pleasant for the rest of the East.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (written by Brandon Gee, @UTPBrandon on Twitter)

November: To celebrate the Bluejackets third jersey, the team unveils a new mascot.
What was supposed to a cannon, instead resembled a dildo with a wheelchair stuck to its ass.
That’s about all you need to know about how the Bluejackets season went.
    The Bluejackets are faced with a fanbase that skipped anger, and went straight to apathy. Fans are fed up with 1 short playoff run in its history and dumped their tickets en masse. Prior to the season, the Columbus Dispatch revealed the news the team had lost 2200 full-season ticket equivalents. They’ve also lost a metric shit-ton of cash: 80 million since the lockout. The Buckeye football team took a collection, but sadly fell about 20 mil. short, thanks for effort guys. tattoos are on me next time! Entitled Canadians are waiting to sink their fangs into my team and can’t wait to drag them off to Quebec City or Hamilton. Now GM Scott Howson is tasked with saving this sinking ship, good for him he has only option.
Win. That’s all they have to do, and this can all go away.
Well look at this, hello Jeff Carter.
Howson staked out Paul Holmgren’s ‘Going out of my f@#$! mind’ sale & executed a trade that improves the top six immensely. Thursday marked what Jackets fans hope will be the turning point for the franchise, finally, Rick Nash gets a center. One who has contributed 30 goals in each of the last 3 years. Someone who will take opposing teams defensive focus off of Nash & allow more flexibility & creativity on the first line. There’s going to be a time later where we all complain about the no-trade clause, and the cap hit that lasts another 10 years. For now, we can think of a playoff run, where.we.might.win.a.game. Can you imagine that! Also, this trade means we can breathe a sigh of relief that prized prospect center Ryan Johansen will get the time he needs to adapt to the pro game. ANOTHER BONUS, now i don’t have to listen to fans & commentators mention how we don’t have a center for Nash. Oh Thank Howson!
   
              Howson excels at the draft, making shrewd moves that have increased depth and added substantial roster players (Umberger was a draft weekend trade with PHI). Fans are convinced at least one other big move is coming, hopefully a d-man. Even if it doesnt happen, after this move we know Howson is exhausting all possible options to get deals done.
It's turning into Christmas for us: Santa Howson, we’ve been very good, please bring the Bluejackets a d-man who can score more than TWO goals on the powerplay. If not, could you at least fix this goalie i have, its turned into a raging primadonna and forgets to stop goals for the first 10 minutes of games. A full-time time nanny, ahem, coach, might do the trick.


DETROIT RED WINGS (written by Andy, @FightNightatJoe on Twitter, norwarizona.wordpress.com)

2010-2011 recap: The Detroit Red Wings had their second catastrophic season in a row, finishing third in the West and not getting further than only the second, SECOND (!), round of the playoffs, their worst two-year performance in seven years. While it’s tempting to blame this on the fact that the referees, NHL and everyone envies the Red Wings and hates their guts, the real blame is the media. Due to the media’s jokes about the team being too old, the Red Wings decided to prove their youth by playing with the attention span and consistency of a five year old and were rarely, if ever, able to focus on performing in a game for a full 60 minutes.

Free agency: With Rafalski gone the Wings will be looking to add a defenseman or two, but the extent of their free agency activity will be determined later this month when Nicklas Lidström reveals if he’s retiring or if he’s actually a greek God put on earth to dominate the NHL and look like he’s 25 for the rest of earth's history.

Draft: The first rounds matter little to the Red Wings, seeing as we know they’re going to draft some European player no one has ever heard of in the 6th round, and that said player will go on to dominate the NHL and win countless trophies for the next 15 years.

2011-12 outlook: Pavel Datsyuk is practicing for the season by being a pickpocket on the streets of Moscow, Chris Osgood finally looks like he’s of legal drinking age (if he’ll get to stay is a different question) and this might just be the year when Tomas Holmström learns to speak understandable English (no it isn’t, trust me, the guy is barely understandable in Swedish). So it should be another glorious year in Hockeytown. And if not, well, we can always blame Bettman.


FLORIDA PANTHERS (written by @JagsFan93 on Twitter, mattssportsmusings.blogspot.com)

2010-2011 Recap: The Panthers missed the playoffs. In other breaking news…Sarah Palin can’t see Russia from her house, John MacLean sucks, and Pierre McGuire is still dumb. So, still more of the same in South Florida. But, the Cats were not last in attendance (thanks Coyotes), and got rid of some dead weight, including a coach who is destined to make another mess.

Free Agency: Tomas Vokoun is the big Cat (no pun) to be signed. He could go to Philly, but he’s smarter than that. Other guys that could be important are Jack Skille, Mike Santorelli, and not Michael Grabner (Steve Bernier). The rest of the guys you don’t know and probably shouldn’t care about.

Draft: After years upon years of drafting badly (Here’s looking at you Keenan and Martin), things finally look good because Dale Tallon is at the helm. Because the Panthers scored fewer goals than the New York Red Bulls on average last season, a scorer would be nice. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Gabriel Landeskog could be the next 2 guys to try to score big BankAtlantic goals (cha-ching!)

2011-2012 Outlook: The team may actually put up a challenge to the Big 3 and steal some frontrunners away, because with a possible $25-30 million in salary cap space, the sky is the limit. And for this Panthers fan, one of the few and proud on twitter, relevancy is one step to finally making the playoffs.


MONTREAL CANADIENS (by Laura – Twitter: @habbykins, habbykins.blogspot.com)

I have been concerned about being too wordy even for a Habs fan. Apparently there is no such thing as being too long-winded especially when you are a Habs fan. 

2010-11 Recap: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Good – Finding a couple of players in the minors who were able to step up when the team needed it and having the guts to trade for a million defensemen who were all used this past season. One goes down? No worry, just pick up another. Some were upgrades; some were serviceable.  Carey Price did have a fairly good year, and then there is Subban who took his game to a new level when pressed.

The Bad – Too small and too inconsistent; too many passengers for too much of the season; taking shifts/games/weeks/months/season off.  Now I can see having a bad shift or game or even a slump happens to everybody in all skates of life, but how long do these have to last? What was that Gomer?  You have to play better lest you let down your team mates etc. How many times did you say this during the year? As one company in a former line of work would say: Just Do It.

The Ugly – While it is difficult to find ugly on my team of beauties I find myself looking squarely at JMart and his usage of the would-be marvellous top liner Travis Moen. There is nothing wrong with Moen. He plays hard etc., but beautiful hands he does not have.  He gets space and takes off down the ice on a break or semi-break regularly and if he had Cammy’s hands he would score 50 goals a season. Alas that is not the case.  Shakes head and rolls eyes.

Free Agency: Insanity
The definition of insanity according to Einstein is to do the same thing repeatedly and expect different results – so yes my team is insane.  So far Pierre Gauthier has taken to doling out one year contracts to all the same players at the same money. Last I checked none of them are getting any younger, nor are they getting any quicker and certainly are not growing vertically.  They have a lot of free agents on the defence this time around, so we will sign some of the billion defensemen that were around last year, BUT only the ones so far that were around at the beginning of last season.  Coulda/woulda/shoulda time at this time next year perhaps, but it looks like almost the whole team will be free-agents at the end of next season.

2011/12 Outlook: Reality Bites
So with essentially the same team as last year with a couple of changes it looks like same top 6 (barring any trades or signings) and some minor changes in the bottom 6.  Hey, let’s plan the parade.  Do I think this is a possibility? Check that definition of insanity again.


NEW JERSEY DEVILS (written by Down Goes Avery , @DownGoesAvery on
Twitter, downgoesavery.com)

2010-11 recap: This past season will probably go down as a failure, since it snapped a 13-year playoff run and 19 straight years over .500, but hey, look at the bright side, this season ended two Devils' coaches careers.  That's down from...well, it's about average for the Devils.

Free agency: Zach Parise is the Devils' biggest free agent that needs to be signed.  If Lou Lamoriello can't sweet-talk Parise, we may be stuck with Vladimir Zharkov as the Devils' star winger.  It's too bad the Devils don't have another world-class sniper from Russia...

Draft: The Devils haven't recovered from losing defenseman Mike Mottau, err...Paul Martin to free agency, so drafting Adam Larsson would be ideal.  Gary Bettman is still recovering from the heart attack he suffered when he found out that the Devils won the draft lottery.

2011-12 outlook: The Devils clear plenty of salary cap after 2011-12, but they should be good enough to not be the only team that fails to score 2.00 or more goals per game.  Oh and don't worry: Lou Lamoriello always stocks up on jelly in the off-season.  That's status quo.


NEW YORK RANGERS (written by PuckCentral, @PuckCentral on Twitter) 

2010-11 recap: This season ended the same exact way as the previous 16 seasons - Cupless! At the end of the day, whether you get to the Stanley Cup Finals and lose in triple OT or finish dead last during the regular season, the result is the same, you failed. From a fan standpoint the season ended pretty much as any realistic fan would've expected.

Free agency: The most expensive free agent signing of the summer may not be by the Rangers! Looks like Philly may be seriously overpaying for Ilya Bryzgalov. However, if the Rangers go hard after Brad Richards, as is expected, the Rangers may once again be the big spenders during the offseason. Big surprise!

Draft: Rangers fans just hope that the Rangers just don't make another HUGH mistake like they did in 2003. In all honesty though, even the Rangers can only draft such a dud once a decade.

2011-12 outlook: It looks like the Rangers will head into the new NHL season with a new captain, with all signs indicating that Chris Drury will be forced to retire due to a knee injury. With Gomez, Drury and Redden no longer on the team eating up cap space, who will the fans jump on next for being overpaid and a waste of space? Hopefully, Marian Gaborik comes out of the gate like a thoroughbred and doesn't give the naysayers any fodder. With the changing of the guard as far as leadership goes, the Rangers will continue to improve with an extremely young nucleus, of which the key cogs are actually homegrown talent! The Rangers will once again be playoff bound, hopefully the franchise is now at the point where that alone just isn't good enough....


OTTAWA SENATORS (by Ryan Classic, @RyanClassic on Twitter)

2010-11 recap: A train wreck of a season. Once it became clear that Ottawa would finish in a lottery position, GM Bryan Murray started unloading every player that had a modicum of value. In the process he traded goalie Brian Elliott to Colorado for Craig Anderson, who then singlehandedly screwed Ottawa out of a top-three pick by being the first capable goalie in team history. Also, New Jersey won the draft lottery and bumped the Senators to the 6th-overall pick. Thanks, New Jersey.

Free agency: Ottawa’s top three UFAs are Pascal Leclaire, Ryan Shannon, and Marek Svatos. That’s pretty sad. The only one worth retaining (and that’s a stretch) is Shannon. The Senators need a backup goalie who won’t challenge Anderson whatsoever. Other than that, it’s filler players who won’t help the team win.

Draft needs: Anyone who isn’t a defenceman. The Senators are already going into next season with possibly two rookie defencemen (with at least one another solid prospect on the farm). They need forwards. Really, any kind of forward will do. Winger, centre... anybody who can score. Ideally, they’d like Gabriel Landeskog or Jonathan Huberdeau, but Ryan Strome is probably their most-likely option. With the 21st-overall pick from Nashville, they can afford to take the best player available, so long as it isn’t a defenceman. They probably don’t need a goalie, either.

2011-12 outlook: Another lottery pick-calibre season, probably once more screwed over by Craig Anderson. This is a bad, bad team. How bad? Ryan Shannon was the 2nd-line centre by the end of last season. It’s their 20th-anniversary season, and they’ll probably finish last in their division and be one of the laughingstocks of the NHL. But that’s okay. Ottawa Senators hockey: it’s awful. But at least their new coach has an awesome mustache.


PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (written by Down Goes Spezza, downgoesspezza.com, @DownGoesSpezza on Twitter)

“Paul Holmgren's Draft Day Agenda”
We here at DGS have been trying to find out what Paul Holmgren would be doing on draft day since the Flyers apparently have negative picks. So, like any "responsible journalists" err crazy bloggers we sent the DGS SuperSpies to break into Paul Holmgren's office and we found Paul Holmgren's Draft Day agenda for the 2011 Draft in Minnesota.


Thursday June 23:

Flight to Minnesota: 3pm- remember to ask entire plane if anyone plays goalie, if you get a "yes" sign them.

Arrive in Minnesota: 5pm- remember to ask cab driver if he plays goalie, if he says yes, sign him

Arrive at Hotel in St. Paul: 6pm- Check in at the hotel, make dinner reservations for 7:30pm, ask concierge, bellhop and desk clerk at hotel if anyone plays goalie...sign them anyway

Dinner at 7:30p: Ask waiter if he plays goalie, sign him anyway. Call Glen Sather over to the table, tell him I plan on offering Alex Kovalev a contract, watch him offer Kovalev 6 years 39 million...laugh

Return to Hotel 9pm: Pull out scouting reports on draft eligible players, throw them into hotel pool for amusement.

Bedtime 10pm: I have a long day tomorrow, there's lots of work to be done. 

Wakeup 6am: Call other GMs, offer this thing called "4th round pick"  that I got for Simon Gagne last year. Maybe I can get that Steve Mason guy from Columbus I heard he plays goalie like a "right catching Mike Leighton" that sounds like a good thing.

Breakfast 7am: Remember to bring my jelly for my toast, Crazy Lou's gonna steal the rest of it from the hotel again.

Pre-Draft Reading 8am: Go http://www.hockey-reference.com/friv/birthplaces.cgi?country=US&province=&state=MN and read about goalies from Minnesota, see which ones are still alive, offer them contracts

College Visit 1pm: Drive to Bemidji State University, find out how to pronounce it. Pray that Matt Read works out. Hey wait, BSU is a college that has a hockey team, that means they have goalies. Sign them.

Head back to St Paul/Minneapolis 6pm: Drive to the Bufflin family home in Minneapolis, tell them to spell the name like it sounds. Find out if any of them play goalie. Sign them.

Back to the "Draft" 7:30pm: This is totally a beer party right? We pick if we like St Pauli Girl, Labatt or Molson or something, right?


SAN JOSE SHARKS (written by Chris Sampang, @chrissampang on Twitter)

...So I'm fighting a headache right now, in other words, a feeling not unfamiliar to most Sharks fans after the end of May comes around and Team Teal no longer shows up on the Versus ticker.  (On the other hand, if the Sharks were highlighted on the ESPN ticker at any point, I'd call for confetti and a state holiday here in California!)

What to do to cure this ailment, this lack of Bay Area on-ice activity in the month of June?  Hmm, how about a defenseman who is at least marginally more competent than the recently departed Niclas Wallin?   I guess Brent Burns is available!  Yay!
...wait.

So in order to get him, Doug Wilson decided that the 3-year deal Devin Setoguchi just signed was nothing more than trade bait, even while the ink was fresh?  Great.  What a way to continue to attract the high caliber of free agents that have come here, you know, like, um...uh...old Rob Blake...and...uh...yeah.  That's about it.

Apparently some prospect named Charlie Coyle also got sent off, which in HFBoards terms is almost like giving up a guaranteed Stanley Cup.  In rational words, all that matters is the Sharks now have someone on the blueline other than Boyle who has something resembling consistent puckhandling skills, which apparently were not a requirement before (Wallin, Huskins et al.) - ironic considering Wilson's Norris Trophy pedigree.

Also, Niemi is locked up for several years in net, even though the paradigm has CLEARLY shifted to Vezina Candidates Are Guaranteed Cup Finalists, just a year after Dollar Store Goalies Are Clearly Cup Finalists, and a year after two consecutive fourth rounds of Goalies Who Are Way More Impressive In The Postseason Than Regular Season Are What You Want.  What this means for Niemi's future results in teal? Who knows.

Back to this here draft thing, with the Burns transaction being the biggest story surrounding the team - a miniature, less drastic version of Paul Holmgren's "Let's Trade A Fan Favorite Away" strategy - everything else kinda pales in comparison.  Charlie Coyle's Boston University teammate Matt Nieto now joins the cupboard of potential, a California native who likes the idea of not having to change timezones if he ever makes it to the NHL.  Some stay-at-homer from the OHL named Justin Sefton also enters the fray, with potential to be a future bottom-pairing defenseman in the big league!  

Dan Boyle's alma mater of Miami University is represented by Sean Kuraly, who hopefully will not spend his time there practicing slapshots at the wrong goal.

And in a massive shocker, after 15 years of avoiding picking Russians in the draft, the Sharks shocked everyone (all 5 people still watching the live stream of the draft in the late hours) and picked one in Danil Sobchenko.  As one HFBoards poster pointed out, his 6th round berth in the draft (due to lack of exposure) clearly gives him a 50% chance of making it to Silicon Valley eventually, based on past Sharks history!  NEXT ZETTERBERG BY DEFAULT!!?

Hopefully next summer half of the folks listed above will be walking down Santa Clara Street with bling and ticker tape surrounding them.  Yes, that would mean if the Sharks make it to the Finals somehow and don't win a single game, it'd be such an improvement for this franchise that I think festivities would be in order, too.  It's only been a short wait, if short can be defined as "half of Toronto's cup drought."


TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (by Don't Trade Vinny.  www.donttradevinny.com, @DontTradeVinny on Twitter)

2010-11 recap: The Lightning had a season for the ages.  The season marked the return to the playoffs after a four year absence, the return of an NHL caliber starting goal tender, a sparkling debut for Steve Yzerman as GM, and the emergence of Guy Boucher's scar as a marquee NHL superstar. 

Free agency: Lots of free agency questions for this team, since Stevie Y's first move upon taking office was to sign every player to a one year deal.  And despite the glorious possibility of a Brad Richards Reunion Tour, the most pressing FA issue is RFA Steven Stamkos.  He's likely looking for a long term deal at around $7M a year.  Which, will give TBL fans what they all want; an excuse to call him overpaid and demand he gets traded when he gets hurt a couple times, or some idiot coach separates him from the linemates he's most successful with, or when he gets prematurely saddled with a letter on his jersey and struggles with the burden for a season or two.  This will also give funny, long time fans a reason to start the blog Don't Trade Stammer.  Make no mistake, the Stamkos contract talks are a defining moment for the franchise.

Draft: If I were Steve Yzerman, I'd spend the entire draft drafting defensemen and goalies.  Just by shear numbers, some of them would have to be good.  If he's not going to do that, I'd settle for one of two things:  Somebody who finally clear the damn crease once in a while; or a hypnotist that can convince Mattias Ohlund to retire.

2011-12 outlook: Jedi Master Yzerman (http://www.donttradevinny.com/2010/07/how-this-all-happened-how-stevie-got.html ) unloads Mattias Ohlund on an unsuspecting Winnipeg Thrashajetters organization, allowing us the cap room to sign Brad Richards, Steven Stamkos, and bring back Grandpa Roloson.  Guy Boucher's scar takes over the press conferences, allowing Bouch more time to study film.  Vinny Lecavalier continues his resurgence, and with BFF Richie returning records a 150 point season.  Marty St. Louis continues eating hockey sticks for breakfast and breaks into triple digit scoring as well.  The Lightning win the Stanley Cup, and piss off a whole lot of Bruins fans along the way. 


TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (written by Down Goes Brown, @DownGoesBrown on Twitter, downgoesbrown.com)

2010-11 recap: The Maple Leafs will be picking 30th out of 30 teams, thanks to Tomas Kaberle and the rest of the Stanley Cup champions! (Sorry, I like to write recaps that would excite any Leaf fans who are just waking up from a twelve month coma.)

Free agency: The Maple Leafs needs, in order of priority: a first line center; a first line winger; a second line center; a veteran goalie. So look for them to sign three more overpriced defencemen and call it a day.

Draft: The Leafs have two picks in the first round, both of which will involve them staring into the middle distance as the timer counts down before suddenly saying "Wait, is it round three already?"

2011-12 outlook: The Leafs own their own first round pick this year, so at least we know they won't be finishing in the lottery.


VANCOUVER CANUCKS (written by @Artemchubarov on Twitter)

2010-11 recap: Hard to call what was - by far - the most successful season in the franchises sad, sad history a failure; but this season was about winning the cup and the team failed to do it. Still, there are a lot of positives to take from the 2010-11 season: the team won 69 games, the Western Conference and the Presidents Trophy and will dominate next weeks awards show. Despite all the hardware, the Canucks are still as ringless as Smeagol - and that will be the defining image of the 2010-11 team, well, that and the embarrassing riot.

Free agency: Gillis' major quandry: Bieksa, Ehrhoff or both. Bieksa distinguished himself in the playoffs, and partnered effectively with Dan Hamhuis. Ehrhoff is a 50 point defenseman who is a force on the power-play, but he has some warts (his two-way play leaves this blogger cold). Both will be expensive, and will be looking for career pay-days. Though fan-boys are clamoring for a power-forward to lineup with Kesler, Gillis' most difficult offseason decisions concern his blue-line.

Draft: Canucks possess picks #30 and #60 in the 2011 NHL draft. Gillis will likely be looking at players like Stuart Percy, Duncan Siemens, Victor Rask, Rocco Grimaldi and Michael St. Croix at the end of the first round. Personally, I'm hoping Zach Phillips somehow falls to #30, but that is as likely as Canucks fans handling a game 7 finals loss with class.

2011-12 outlook: Canucks may have 8 UFAs and 2 RFAs, but they've also got 18+ in cap-space so hopefully a majority of those free-agents will return. Gillis should accuse Burke of tampering at least once this offseason, and will probably trade future 70 point scorer Cody Hodgson to the Islanders for Marc Eaton, who will promptly be scratched for the entirety of the playoffs.

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