Tuesday, September 30, 2008
When you talk about solid human beings, you have to talk about R.L Stine and his series “Goosebumps.”
He graced us with some big time literature in the mid-90’s.
If you weren’t reading goosebumps books, people took notice.
Goosebumps then became a TV Series that jobbed around for awhile.
But R.L Stine has now been tainted by the King of queer himself, Don Cherry.
It is tough to watch- forward to the end.
We also didn't get to introduce a lot of the team bloggers.
But to wrap up this failed experiment it is time to bring in the "Chief."
We first started our feud with [Abel To Yzerman] after last years season preview, because we called Detroit "HomoTown."
Thanfully, Bill Houlihan, who runs the site on world class human Paul Kukla's [KuklasKorner] is as immature as we are, and he gave it to us right back.
We'd insult Bill, but he has his world championship ring stuck in his ear.
He also holds the world championship blogger belt.
Without further ado.
The Chief has the floor:
Oh. And it will.
And now you're whining, like little bitches. Stop. That wasn't a slam. There will be a few, but that wasn't one of them. You're coming out of the East and we're going to see the same two teams in the Final next June. I'll leave it up to you geniuses to obsess over the reason the Pens will be there.
I'll let you know why Detroit will join them.
The most talented pair of men this side of Darren Garcia and PensBlog Charlie. Hank Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Better than Gary's Baby Boy and his Invisible sister Evgeni? Yes. But, your girls are gaining. When Crosby makes his debut on a penalty killing unit, we may consider him nearly Zetterberg's equal.
Last year's loss to The Dynasty, if Crosby has any heart at all, should have been bouncing around his head all summer. Kinda like the Wings' sweep at the hands of New Jersey in '95. There's a good chance Steve Yzerman spent the months of June, July and August that year perched in a belltower with a sniper rifle.
If Crosby hates losing as much as Yzerman did, and if he doesn't take one Finals appearance for granted as some sort of annual privelege, he'll get his Cup...eventually.
If he's angry.
Zetterberg and Datsyuk were angry last season. The loss to Anaheim the year before, a shaft job if there ever was one, pissed them off because they know--as we all did--that Detroit outplayed the Poultry. If not for a fluttering prison washroom assault of a goal to tie Game 5, the Wings win that series then sweep the candy ass Sens.
So they were motivated. They still are, but now for different reasons. Winning the Cup was fun. So was winning the Selke and the Conn Smythe. Stamping a Dynasty will be even better and that's their goal.
Start gritting your teeth Cbloggers. Reason number two all the Wings will do is kick ass?
My Uncle Mike has been scribbling lines on the back of Phonics workbooks all summer, speaking in Pentacostal tongues, just fucking babbling to himself about power play units. He's had strange visions of Hossa, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Filppula, Hudler, Holmstrom doing things with each other on the ice that would be illegal in most states other than Tennessee and either one of the illiterate backward-ass Carolinas.
The core of Detroit forwards was talented before, as you're all fully and horrifically aware. But with the addition of your boy, it creates the strong possibility that Detroit will average somewhere around 19 goals/game. Just from the two top lines. Offensively, I could make a case that this could be one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
Better than your second favorite team, the Oilers of the 80's? Well, when you think that each of the Wing forwards is as committed to back checking as they are scoring? It's possible.
Consider this: with Datsyuk, Draper, Zetterberg and Filppula the Wings have two Selke Trophy winners and two more on the way. Zetterberg's a lock to win one within the next two years and Filppula's next in line after him.
Hell, Hossa may even win it this year considering he's shown a tendency toward defensive responsibility and will be even more prone to that with all the influence surrounding him.
Nick Lidstrom is the best defenseman to ever play the game. Well maybe second best behind Orpik. Lidstrom is the king..acknowledged. But Kronwall is the next one. He's not a Lidstrom clone though, actually much more like Konstantinov than anyone else. This year you'll see more offense out of him than a lot of people realize is possible. To the tune of about 65 points.
Lidstrom, Rafalski, Kronwall, Stuart: all the geniuses said Anaheim had assembled "the best blue line ever" last year, but they were nothing compared to Detroit's top 4. This season we may end up seeing another Holland draft day miracle, Jonathon Ericsson. There's a good chance that by the time our reunion takes place in next year's Final, Ericsson will be the number 5 dman. You'll dig him. Fleury will be in a puddle of his own feces after the first 120 mph slapshot bounces off his forehead.
Yeah, despite all the talent and the potential for greatness, there could be an issue. You may look at Detroit and see decay. You find it easy to pick on our city, our glorious mayor, our football team and our state slogan, "what happens at the cabin, stays at the cabin...until your sister opens her big fat trap". But none of those, in our minds, constitute weakness. If there is one, it could be the old standard: goaltending.
Chris Osgood, as brilliant as he was last year, could slip into mediocrity. Is it likely? Not really because the Wings will still only give up about twenty shots per game, and most of those won't be quality. There's no reason to expect Osgood won't be very good. Brilliant? No. Just real good. But we don't think that way.
Wing fans aren't saying it now. But secretly, when we're scared and it's raining and the carnival workers are wandering the streets? We worry about Osgood.
Thankfully we got ourselves a quality backup for like 8 bucks. Can't remember who he is or where we snagged him from, but I just know we got one. Help me out there if you can.
Will we need Conklin to earn his 850? Maybe fifteen times. The Wings, thanks to pal of PensBlog Gary Bettman, have more back to back games than any team in the league (16). Add in a few more if (when) Osgood gets hurt and he'll play a key role.
Or he won't. No team in the league asks less of their goaltender than the Wings do.
If Osgood does his job. If the Wings stay healthy. Those are the two keys. If those "ifs" both turn out in Detroit's favor? The greatest regular season in NHL history. In year's past that would be a punchline leading to, "followed by another first round choke job". But not anymore. Not after the last two years.
Nope. The Wings will be back in the Finals, and your boys will be there too. You want it. I want it. Most importantly, Little Gary Bettman wants it.
This is just some dude who predicted the current economic crisis.
Last line of the movie:
"That's all the dollar's gonna be worth, is a penny."
What a move.
Build that arena. Fast.
Monday, September 29, 2008
GONCHAR TO MISS 4-6 MONTHS WITH SHOULDER SURGERY.
[ ESPN ]
Grab the keys to the DeLorean
Left shoulder got annihilated.
Fast forward to how that same shoulder got jobbed this preseason:
We reiterate: Jesus.
Buckle up. Again.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Here is a video of the Pens first practice and shit.
We want more people to play, but our roster is as big as it can be.
Is someone interested in heading up a PS3 Teampensblog split squad?
We have about 15 or so names ready to add.
Just let us know.
The team is already made just needs a GM
Here is his goal from the other night.
It looks like he has a real shot to make the team:
[Thanks to Eric P] already in mid-season form.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Click the link up at the top of the page for the skinny.
Don't flood these comments with EASHL stuff please.
Friday, September 26, 2008
The Devils have a team with players
By Greg Wyshynski
My buddy Dave Pagnotta from The Fourth Period thinks my beloved New Jersey Devils are going to miss the playoffs this season, and for good reason: He’s a bitter fucking Habs fan who has seen Lou Lamoriello borrow Montreal players, coaches, systems and mystique for the last 14 years to win three Stanley Cups and four conference championships. Which is slightly better than having Brian Savage and Michael Ryder teach a generation of Canadiens fans the French word for crushing disappointment. (I believe it’s pronounced “Tremblay.”)
Of course, pissing off others is a basic tenet of the NJD faith; a point of pride akin to being a Nader supporter in a blue state. The Devils play the trap. The Devils are boring. The Devils ruined hockey. Lamoriello wrote secret loopholes into the CBA that only he knows about. Brodeur is a product of a defensive system/illegal equipment/east coast bias. We hear it, we accept it, and then we giggle about Sergei Brylin having his name on the Cup three times.
But here’s the truth: We know they’re boring. Painfully boring. Offensively challenged, creatively bankrupt and with about as much personality as Ben Stein reading the NASDAQ. The box scores show the Devils occasionally will receive things called “power plays.” I’m pretty sure they decline them.
So it was interesting to see Jersey make a legit free-agent splash, signing Brian Rolston. Granted, he already has Lou’s Kool-Aid pumping through his veins, but he’s a player that suddenly gives the Devils two better-than-average scoring lines and allows the depth to trickle down to the fourth line. And he may actually give the team a pulse on the power play.
Here are some other reasons I’m rather excited about the Devils this season:
Losing to the Rangers in the first round last year was pretty much rock fucking bottom. Being in your own building and seeing more fans for the opponents than the home team … boy, we were partying like it was 1994 again. I don’t want to say losing to the Rangers is still an emasculating experience for a Devils fan, but I’m pretty sure the last playoff home game in Newark was Modell’s ball gag and gimp box night. Speaking of which …
No one was killed at the Prudential Center on a game night last season. Not only did Barry Melrose get out of Newark with his wallet, but the police state around the arena offered a modicum of safety for those frightened North Jersey white people that came in on the train. Now that we’re in Year 2, the Star Trek Genesis project that is a professional sports arena will begin to transform the surrounding neighborhood. Goodbye ethnic nail salons; hello shitty bars that overcharge for imported beer!
Zach Parise is dreamy. The kid’s been over 30 goals in each of the last two seasons, and is sort of the David Wright of the Devils: Natural talent, cornerstone of the franchise and a player you’re genuinely excited to see continue to mature. Until he decides the Devils’ system is holding him back, he has a bitter contract dispute with Lamoriello and is unceremoniously traded away and/or leaves as a free agent. Happens to the best of them.
Brodeur will continue to be the Lysol for our shitty defense. The Devils defense once had Stevens, Niedermayer, Daneyko and Rafalski. Now it has Oduya, Salvador, Mottau and Martin. Marty’s playing behind the hockey equivalent of wet toilet tissue every night, and yet his numbers remain strong and he’s winning Nabokov’s Vezinas. Best of all: No Sean Avery to call him fat, wave his stick in his face and make fun of him for reading Elle instead of Vogue.
Bobby Holik is back. I really can’t get jacked about this signing, what with Mike Peluso and Randy McKay out of the league. But it’s cool, because the Devils are paying him like the guy who cleans the shitters at White Castle. Who, ironically, is also the guy who makes the burgers.
Finally, we’re not the Islanders. The Flyers, Penguins, Rangers and Devils are all making the playoffs. The Islanders are making sure the aisles are clean for the New York Dragons arena football season. Because that team’s won at least one division title in the last 20 years … unlike other Coliseum tenants.
So, in summary, fuck Frank Pietrangelo. Thanks for reading.
We've got some solid 'shops.
This isn't an expo so we're not posting all of the photoshops.
We tried to pick ten of our favorites.
1 - [JS]
This photoshop is money for several reasons.
Note the layering and near perfect matching of font.
The "Glory Hole" is a bonus that is much appreciated.
2 - [WXDX]
Huge job by our boys from the Penguins flagship.
Hossa was a popular target all day.
And it works on every level.
3 - [Allison Y.]
This isn't the best photoshop of the bunch, but the mere idea is enough to make you laugh.
4 - [Jason C.]
This is one of our favorites, mostly because Scott Hartnell deserves this cover as much as anyone.
The Melrose caption is gold.
5 - [Sam A.]
Solid job by Sam A.
He went the extra mile and did all the sub captions.
And who wouldn't read the Briere Sex Tape scandal?
6 - [Shawn D.]
This 'shop might be the odds-on favorite to win it all.
Work of art.
7 - [Jenni P]
Jenni went a completely different route, and we dig that.
8 - [John from Dormont]
The layering on this photoshop is what photoshoping is about.
9 - [Andy B]
This one could be a dark horse.
If People Magazine could somehow actually get the words "Old Douche" on the cover, the world would end.
10 - [Lee L]
Just because it says "Penis."
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Sabu makes a sick save.
Check out 66's reaction.
TSN doesn't let you embed, but check out the screen cap.
That shirt is illegal in five states.
Apparently that cracker.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Thanks to everyone who sent it along.
It never gets old.
The game means nothing, so the Leafs will win.
The game is being streamed live on the internet.
There will be no announcers. It is a raw feed of the jumbotron.
Which is better than listening to the Canadian feed.
:: Bing is out tonight, groin injury. [pg]
:: The big news of the day though, is Gonch is out for what could be awhile with a dislocated shoulder.[pp]
“Sergei will continue to be evaluated as our team medical personnel consider several treatment options,” Shero said. “In the meantime, we will look for our other defensemen to step up and fill the void created by his absence.”
Huge times for Letang and Goligoski.
But we figured his computer still has water damage from all the crying he did in the playoffs last year.
So we're going to preview the Rangers.
Glen Sather eats poop.
Have fun without Double J.
We're to lazy too count.
Game tonight at Mellon city.
Pens made cuts yesterday.
From the [PG]:
Forwards Kris Beech, Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich were among 13 players assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. That leaves 29 players -- 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and three goaltenders -- on the Penguins' roster, which must be cut to 24 before the team leaves Saturday for Sweden. The others sent to the Baby Penguins are forwards Adam Henrich, Aaron Boogard, Tim Wallace, David Gove and Christopher Minard, defensemen Deryk Engelland, T.J. Kemp, Ben Lovejoy and Joey Mormina, and goaltender David Brown.
Sonni Abatta = Stunned
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Joe @ MHH here, bringing you the lowdown on the Avalanche from [MileHighHockey.com.]
Thanks to the heroes behind the Pensblog (and especially Charlie, wink wink), I'm honored to bring you all a preview of the Colorado Avalanche as the 2008-09 season nears. Why should you care about the Avalanche? Because your bitter defeat at the hands of the nefarious Red Wings in the finals last season makes you brothers and sisters to all Avalanche fans everywhere.
We Avs fans feel your pain. The Avalanche went 0-4 against the Red Wings in the regular season, and then 0-4 in the playoffs, for a grand total of 8 losses in 8 games last season. You think losing in the Stanley Cup Finals hurts? Well, I don't know if it does because the Avalanche have never lost in the Stanley Cup Finals. Sorry, I digress. Losing eight games straight to your arch rivals is pretty lousy. What I'm trying to say is, we feel your pain, and you no doubt feel ours.
So the preview.
There was a distinct possibility that the Joe Sakic era in Colorado would be over this summer. Super Joe, our patron saint and savior, took his sweet time figuring out if he wanted to come back or not. Thankfully, he figured one more season wouldn't hurt too bad---and neither would another $6 million. If that piece of shit Chelios can keep playing, you know Joe can do it. Consider it a Christmas present in August.
So Sakic returns as captain and leader of the Avalanche offense. That offense is not quite as impressive as it was back in the day, but it's still got some punch. Still hanging around is Milan Hejduk, who can score a few goals when he's got a decent center feeding him the puck. The other grizzled veteran is Ryan Smyth, who had a rough year under a lousy coach (Joel Quenneville) and will hopefully be back to his old pain-in-the-slot hijinks that made him famous in Edmonton.
The rest of the offense is pretty young. Paul Stastny, one of the four or five best young players in the entire NHL, is back and will lead the second line. His fellow young scoring threats, Wojtek Wolski and Marek Svatos, are also back for more fun. Wolski is a superb skater and passer, and Svatos is a dynamite finisher, especially off of rebounds.
Those six, Sakic, Hejduk, Smyth, Stastny, Wolski and Svatos, are the main scoring threats. The rest of the forwards, with the exception of one guy, are all agitators and bangers. Ian Laperriere, the heart and soul of the team, will lead a rag tag bunch of third and fourth liners to spend literally hours in the penalty box, no doubt. New pickups include Darcy Tucker and Swedish bad boy Per Ledin, along with returning toughs Ben Guite, Codys McLeod and McCormick, and Scott Parker. The one exception to this impressive band of dickheads is Tyler Arnason, who can neither hit nor score with any regularity. He's weak on defense, weak on offense, and has about as much heart as that "Amumshiba" guy from Temple of Doom.
Oh yeah, and Peter Forsberg might come back some time. Nobody really knows. So I won't hold out too much hope that we'll get to see more of this:
All of those guys could be your dad.
Other players to look out for are whippersnappers TJ Hensick, Chris Stewart, David Jones and Jack Combs, who could all be making the transition from the minors soon, depending on how bad everybody else gets hurt this year.
The defense is the most solid part of the Avalanche, at least until the injuries start piling up again. Adam Foote re-signed over the summer and will lead the blueliners. The top six include Foote, Brett Clark, male model John-Michael Liles, Ruslan Salei, Scott Hannan and constantly-wounded Jordan Leopold. Or "Leoprone," as we call him at MHH. In that bunch you have hitters, passers and scorers, and they should provide pretty solid support for the Avalanche goalie.
And who is that goalie? That goalie's name is Peter Budaj. Not Andrew Raycroft, who sucked something awful for Toronto, and not some unnamed minor leaguer, either. Peter Budaj. After three seasons with the Avalanche spent almost entirely in the shadow of Jose Theodore, Budaj will finally get his chance to be the undisputed number one goalie. And he's earned it. Though his overall record is okay but not awesome, he's excelled any time he's been given consistent starts. Over at MHH, I noted that in the four times he's been given extended, uninterrupted starts, Budaj has gone 31-10-7. While some Avalanche "fans" have convinced themselves that Budaj is unreliable or unready, we at MHH are fully confident he will be a solid starter.
As far as the coaching staff goes, the Avalanche will have a new but old face behind the bench. Tony Granato, once the head coach for a brief period before Joel Quenneville's reign began at the end of the Lockout, will get a second chance. Granato actually has the best winning percentage of any of the four past Avalanche coaches, but he had a much better lineup back in the day. If he's really that good, the soft spots in the current lineup won't make any difference to him.
I'm crossing my fingers as hard as I can.
If you've read all of this, you're a hero. Congrats.
If you're just skipping along, all you really need to know about the Avalanche is that they could finish anywhere between 3rd and 10th in the West. At least that's how it looks to me. There are a lot of unknowns and unpredictables at work this year.
Personally, I'll be happy if the Avs just get to kick the crap out of the Wild again in the playoffs. That whole organization sucks. F them. Calgary sucks, too.
Monday, September 22, 2008
WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE STEELER GAME,
WHICH ACTUALLY CHRISTENED OUR NEW NICKNAME FOR ROETHLISBERGER:
THE BIG POTATO
ANOTHER AWESOME THREE HOURS WOULD BE THAT PENGUIN TEAM PLAYING TONIGHT IN TAMPA.
SCOOD MISSILE IS OUT WITH BRUISED RIBS.
EATON WILL PLAY BY HIMSELF IN ONE OF THE PAIRINGS.
THE USUAL REPLACEMENT FOR SCUDERI WON'T BE THERE TONIGHT.
HE'S GOT SOMETHING ELSE GOING ON:
WHICH BRINGS US TO THOSE AWESOME THREE HOURS WE ARE TOUCHING OURSELVES ABOUT.
HOLD ONTO YOUR RECTI.
IT'S GONNA BE UNREAL.
Hello all, from Whale4ever from The Litter Box. Here's the preview that millions have awaited, nations have fought over, and promises change we can ALL believe in.
- Set a record for most points by a first-year NHL team in their inaugural season of 1993-94.
- An unlikely trip to the SC finals two years later, only to be swept by the powerhouse troika of the Roy/Forsberg/Sakic-led Avalanche.
- Scott Mellanby's warm relationship with the ASPCA
- Gave up Stu Barnes for Chris Wells. Ouch.
- Grabbed Pavel Bure - and later his brother - in what appeared to be a masterstroke.
- Lost Bure - and later his brother - not long after.
- Hired and fired Mike Keenan - twice. Inexcusable.
- Stole the pants off of Islanders GM Mike Milbury by acquiring Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen. In the same deal. Did Oleg Kvasha really have that much upside? Ask the Isles.
- Promoted a power struggle versus Luongo by taking him to arbitration in 2005, leading to a long and drawn-out divorce. For the record, neither side appears to have been innocent.
- Bertuzzi. Nuff said.
- Sent longtime Cat Jokinen packing, a deal which many - through ignorance of the return? - still criticize.
- Made world news - and YouTube immortality - for the most unfortunate of reasons: Richard Zednik.
- Seven years out of the postseason, early-year struggles, late-year comebacks, injuries, changes in management, the kids never pan out, J-Bo is G-Bye, yada yada.
On the precipice of yet another new season, and naysayers are simply going through their annual motions, sharpening the knives and ready to pull the plug yet again on the forever 11th of 12th or 13th place Cats, will past history finally make way for a bright future?
A few items of note are important when discussing this year's Florida Panthers, version 15.
Managing owner Alan Cohen has been in place for seven years. Agreed, no playoffs, and LOTS of turnover in mangement, but perhaps his decision to hold on to Jacques Martin as GM, after firing him as coach, was his signature move, if not the most highly divisive. Stuck by Jokinen as a staunch ally, finally giving permission to deal him once the writing was on the wall. Some semblence of familiarity by management, for the players, fans, league, can only be a good thing at this point. He has steadfastly commited to the future of the club in Sunrise, and allowed his front office team to do their bidding, without his meddling - at least publicly.
- Olli Jokinen is now a former Panther. All signs point to his having a productive and prolific year - if not career - in Phoenix, and there is not a Cat fan anywhere who doesn't bow to his loyalty and commitment to the community. He was not, however, an effective leader in Florida, all too often remaining what appeared to be passive when the heat was on. Often-criticized buddy-buddy relationships with a few subordinates - impressionable Nate Horton comes immediately to mind - did not assist his status as captain. He was just too nice. An apparently negative relationship with coach Martin ("We don't go out to dinner" is but one of the loaded quotes in their time together), though probably mutual, went far in sealing his fate. Jokinen's days in Sunrise were effectively over following that fateful night in February, inadvertantly horribly injuring teammate Zednik. He was a lost soul after that game in Buffalo, never to recover, which fortunately allowed several others, including the rapid emergence of David Booth - The Dood himself - to ascend to higher spots on the roster. The captaincy remains up for grabs, though many believe the short list includes Stephen Weiss, Cory Stillman, and Bryan McCabe.
- JM is "just" the GM now. Martin completes his third full summer in charge of the club, and no one can argue his accomplishments (Vokoun, Ballard, "The Beach" Boynton, Stillman, coach DeBoer, morphing Bertuzzi into Matthias and Roberts into Welch, the Rochester situation)...basically undoing - and hopefully stting right - the Keenan era. Tough times as coach reached a breaking point with captain Jokinen, to the tune of no turning back. Cries of misery were unleashed following JM's retention of the general manger's spot, many of those cries having a solid basis: too cozy with the owner, not enough positive change in the building, a "boring", defensively-based on-ice philosophy. The guy will never have a Bryan Burke personality, but his soft-spoken demeaner seems to have worked well upstairs, if not in the dressing room. Freed of the day-to-day constraints which shackled him as a Head Coach/GM, Martin should - should - find the creative and strategic juices he'll need to create a winner, if he can divorce himself completely from the coaching side of the game. Did he install a puppet in Peter DeBoer? A fine scouting department, along with assistant GM Randy Sexton, complement his lack of experience in the office, and let's be honest: anyone who attempts to undue an Iron Mike legacy in a market such as this is worthy of at least an honest shot. You've gotta admire his spunk. Give him three more years to get his design to the promised land.
On to the roster. We'll shake it up up a bit and begin with the tenders.
Carryovers: Tomas Vokoun (starter), Craig Anderson (backup).
On the farm: Tyler Plante, David Shantz, Tyler Beckford-Tseu.
Vokoun (30-29-8, .919, 2.25, 4 SO) has been hailed around the hockey media from "elite" to "servicible" (no, I don't get that one either.) He has proven himself to be a number one in the west, having routinely fended off the likes of Detroit and San Jose, and among Southeast netminders (where the wins matter most) he is arguably at the top of the division. 2007-08, his first with the Cats, placed high expectations squarely on his shoulders, and unfairly so, given the fluctuating status of the defensive squad in front of him. With a solid - SOLID - core before him in J-Bo, Allen, Ballard, The Beach, Murphy, McCabe, etc, T-Vo's stats will edge upward. If the offense takes flight, the wins will grow as well. To most of the more insightful Cat fans, Vokoun was in essence the captain of this club last year. His outspoken demeanor and Mike Liut-style comments reflected his desire to win at all costs, even basically naming names when fewer than the entire roster showed up on any given night. A refreshing change, and a welcome show of emotion for fans who have grown way too accustomed to insightful bromides from Jokinen, such as "we've got to play as a team". A few more nights off wouldn't hurt.
Anderson, who made headlines as the first goaltender - starter or otherwise - in league history to record back-to-back shutouts on the road (90+ saves!), returns as the undisputed secondary netminder. Toward the latter half of the year, Martin played him with more frequency, and given his increasing success during each start, this was a wise move. Vokoun was beaten up, and Andy (8-6-1, .935, 2.25, 2 SO) deserved the opportunity, paving the way for more starts under coach DeBoer this season. Also known for an uncanny ability to spot janitorial talent. Yeah, I used it again.
Carryovers: Bryan Allen, Cory Murphy, Jay Bouwmeester, Karlis Skrastins, Noah Welch, Wade Belak (F/D), Rory Fitzpatrick (yeah, THAT Rory Fitzpatrick).
Newbs: Keith Ballard, Bryan McCabe, Nick Boynton
Lost: Mike Van Ryn, Magnus Johansson, Steve Montador, Branislav Mezei, Jassen Cullimore
On the farm: Keaton Ellerby, Luke Beaverson, Mike Caruso
"Formidable" is not an exaggeration when perusing a defensive roster containing names such as Ballard, McCabe, Allen, The Beach, J-Bo (for now, at least), Murphy, and Skrastins. Consider the potential of Ellerby, the 10th overall pick in 2007, and the loss of Mezei is somewhat reduced in importance. Sarcasm, peeps.
Montador was, before his departure, a favorite for the captaincy, and he certainly embodied all the right attributes. A popular and versatile d-man who could play forward in a pinch, he was oftentimes the only experienced enforcer on the club, and not a heavyweight at that.
Tomas Vokoun has to be sleeping much more soundly these days, knowing a more-than-competent group of soldiers will be minding the zone in front of him. A major problem last year, given Murphy, Van Ryn, and Welch's long-term health troubles, a full-bore turnover of talent hopes to ignite the ranks of defensemen. McCabe brings a big-league shot, Ballard can hit anything open-ice, and few if any want to tangle with The Beach. Skrastis is much more consistent and "safer" than Salei, and Murphy is a proven second-line PP quarterback.
The future of Bouwmeester and his recently-minted one-year deal will, of course, always figure in to any discussion of Florida's blueline. Many pundits have already deemed him gone, and that may well be the case. A popular theory is that he and his agent are in a holding pattern of sorts, waiting to see whether the new DeBoer regime, along with summer pickups, can translate to a winning atmosphere on the ice, before deciding to hit the trail. If he chooses to depart, the Cats will score and score big at the trade deadline in filling holes. We're way ahead of Jokinen here, and JM is no Keenan. Either way, he doesn't walk come UFA day.
Ellerby will most likely wind up in Rochester for at least the next season after a progressive (23 points in 53 games, 81 PIM) campaign with Moose Jaw of the WHL. Former Rochester defenseman Fitzpatrick was simply an experienced roster spot fill-in for the Amerks, and is probably eyed for the captaincy. A solid PR move by Martin for the now-sole Panthers American League affiliate.
Carryovers: Stephen Weiss, David Booth, Nathan Horton, Richard Zednik, Rostislav Olesz, Gregory Campbell, Ville Peltonen, Radek Dvorak, Wade Belak (F/D), Kamil Kreps, Brett McLean
Newbs: Cory Stillman
Lost: Olli Jokinen, Jozef Stumpel
On the farm: Shawn Matthias, Anthony Stewart, Michael Frolik, Drew Larman, Janis Sprukts (again...)
Much has been made of the loss of former captain Olli Jokinen, but the departure must be split into two discussions. One was covered above, that of the leadership question. The other is obvious: just how does JM replace those 34 goals (and -19...yikes!)?
Cory Stillman was a wise choice. He's been generally consistent (602 points in 839 games, 20 goals-plus in eight seasons), if a bit injury-prone. In the 2006 playoffs, he posted 26 points in 25 games, and two Stanley Cup etchings certainly don't detract from his pedigree. At 34, is he ready to do it all again? He's unquestionably good for 20 goals, but does the right set-up man reside here? DeBoer had better find a center for him, and fast. No time for experimentation here. The big upside? Florida doesn't have to play against him. Goals taken away are goals scored.
(Eternally) Potential power-forward Nathan Horton (drafted 3rd overall in 2003, directly behind Carolina's Eric Staal) continues to be an enigma. Oozing with talent, he has yet to deliver on the promise (27-35-62, +15, 85 PIM...most of which came after moving off of Olli's line). This is no surprise to anyone following the Cats. In fact, bring up any of Florida's recent first rounders with NHL experience (Weiss, Bouwmeester, and Olesz stand high) and "low return" comes to mind. Is this the year for Nate? Perhaps the long-rumored switch to center will seal it.
David Booth had a phenomenal (22-18-40, +13) second year, which only improved once matched with the horrifically-named "Sunrise Express" line partnering him with Horton and Weiss. It's easy to imagine The Dood overachieving, to the tune of 35 goals, but this is most likely entirely unrealistic on a club constructed such as this. Bank on 25 and be happy.
Stephen Weiss: first-line or second-line? Therein lies the question. Another question: captain or not?
Richard Zednik is skating and all signs point to him being in the opening night lineup. If he stays there, look for 15 goals if he gets comfy on the right line.
The real question mark here is Olesz. Rusty made great strides were last season, resulting in 26 points (14 goals). This kid has the speed, the shot, the character. Will losing his mentor (Stumpel) constrain or release him?
We all know about Belak and his pugillistic skills. Brett McLean is the definitive "energy" forward.
The underlying excitement for this year comes in the form of Shawn Matthias. Acquired from the Wings in return for rental Todd Bertuzzi (the most glaring of very few black marks on Detroit GM Ken Holland's resume), Matthias has dazzled with Belleville of the OHL (56 gp, 32-47-79!, +21) while banging out 2 goals in four games for the Cats last year due to an emergency call-up. Kudos to JM for not pushing a good thing, keeping him here and wearing him out.
Frolik likely will see a full season in Rochester, while Stewart, ever the dilemma, could wind up anywhere. One thing is for certain: it's his last chance to avoid the title of "draft bust".
DeBoer (l), and JM the GM
Former Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer takes the helm of his first non-juniors position. An unusual ascension, but generally considered around the NHL to have been in high demand; the Senators had him in their sights. P-De promises a far more up-tempo, fire-wagon attacking game, as opposed to JM's slower (boring?) defensive approach. Considering the blue-line guns at his disposal, this will result in an exciting, crash-the-net type of offense, sorely missing in Sunrise, well, forever, minus the one-man highlight reel of Pavel Bure. Just recently 40, DeBoer will be under the microscope of many this year, especially those clubs that passed on him. If he can resist the temptation of consulting his general manager for coaching decisions, he'll be fun to watch. The contests against Tampa's offense and Florida's defense should be classic.
What is the sum of these parts? Sounds like a cop-out, but who really knows? There are so many new variables in place, not to mention a division whose character is constantly changing...obvious answers are impossible.
One thing is certain: this is a Cats club that is - for better or worse - like no other.
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