3rd Time a Charm?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well it’s November 30th and in a little under 1 month this country will have 1 favorite team once again.  None of the NHL squads, not an AHL team, not a CHL crew, not even a loveable local AJHL club (shout out to the Lloydminster Bobcats).  No, of course I’m speaking of Team Canada and the under 20 world Jr. team.  MAYBE the most clichéd open I’ve ever written, how humiliating…

The camp invites got sent out Monday so I thought it would be a good time to look at what we might have.  There are a lot of questions surrounding this year’s group, and will they be able to regain the gold medal after a 2 year hiatus?  Will they even be able to make it back to the gold medal game for the 11th year in a row?

First of all let’s focus on that.  Talk about the most underrated streak not just in hockey, but in sports.  11 straight years of being in the gold medal game.  Unreal!  Yet so much gets put on the fact that they COULD have won another 4 gold’s, SHOULD have won another 2.

Then again you could say we shouldn’t have won in 08 or 09, and could have also gone either way in the 07 shootout vs the Americans so let’s chill and appreciate how far our program has come!

Now let’s hit on last year for a minute.  This isn’t why I’m writing this blog, but this has bugged me since around 8:30 PM MT on January 5th.  “We sucked, weren’t good enough to win”.  I heard that from a lot of fans and media.  And then in some cases, the same people, “we choked.”  WHAT?!?!  It literally can’t be both boys and girls.  We choked.

Hate saying that about 19 and 18 year old kids but it’s the fact of the matter.  They choked and it happens a lot in sports.  But they were good enough to win.  It was a well constructed team, and for the most part Dave Cameron did a good job.  They should have won, it sucks they didn’t…big time sucks they didn’t…but it happens.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest, now back to regularly scheduled blogging.  Starting in net, and the question is will he return as the starter in net?  Mark Visentin without a doubt will face a lot of scrutiny especially if he is back as the starter…and he likely will be.  My good friend Pete Loubardias has forgot more Jr hockey than I will ever know, so if you want to know more about Visentin and his ability to bounce back check the blog he wrote goldengoalsportsblog.com

 If you ask me, Tyler Bunz should be the other goaltender on this team.  Maybe it’s a WHL bias, an Oilers bias, I don’t know, but I know this kid has been awesome the last 2 seasons.  And notice I said other, not 2nd.  I think Bunz could take the number 1 gig and if that happened TeamCanada would be fine between the pipes.  I don’t know if Bunz could be a Manny Legace or Roberto Luongo for this team, but he won’t be Olivier Roy or Jake Allen.

The blueline is once again going to be the strength of the club like it was last season.  Ryan Murray has been invited to camp and if he is healthy he will be on the team.  Dougie Hamilton is a lock, Brandon Gormley is a lock, and in my opinion the kid who will have his coming out party is Red Deer’s Matthew Dumba.  You ask the people that see this kid often and basically they will tell you he has very few flaws in his game and he has an eye for the open ice hit much like former Rebel Dion Phaneuf, despite only being listed at 6’0, 185.

Up front in my opinion is a BIG upgrade.  Jaden Schwartz is back (and will almost assuredly wear the C) and will join 1st round studs Jonathan Huberdeau, Ryan Strome, and Mark Scheifele.  My guess is it’s Huberdeau that moves to the wing out of the 3.  But this year’s forward crop is a lot more talented than last beyond those 4.  Mark Stone, Ty Rattie, Tyler Toffoli, Ryan Spooner, and you still have guys like Quinten Howden (captain?) and Brad Ross to bring some nasty.

Last year we had great size.  It was built like a playoff team last year because that fit Cameron’s style and quite frankly it was the only way to do it.  That’s why a kid like Ryan Nugent Hopkins got left off the roster.

The end all be all maybe this year more than ever is goaltending.  If someone can step up in net we will win.  And I know that sounds cliché, but last year for example it was a huge question mark, but so was the talent up front.  This forward group will be much more talented and being a little bit smaller shouldn’t be an issue (though they won’t be much smaller).

If there is something lacking up front and on the backend it’s experience in this tournament.  Only 2 forwards returning up front, and no d-men (although had he been healthy Gormley would have been on the team last season).  Of course Visentin will likely be back, but a lot of you will say it’s not experience it’s baggage…we will see.

Here is what I SOMEWHAT expect the roster to be on December 26th.  This is what I would do with the lines but there are a lot of different scenarios you could roll with, I’m just trying to make the pieces fit.

Huberdeau – Scheifele – Schwartz

Spooner – Strome – Toffoli

Howden – F.Hamilton – Stone

Ross – Jenner – Bulmer

Danault

 

D.Hamilton – Gormley

Murphy –Murray(if healthy)

Pysyk – Beaulieu

Dumba

 

Visentin

Bunz

 

Trading Block: Kyle Turris

 

This one isn’t exactly a secret but it has to be discussed none the less because it’s pretty intriguing!  What’s he worth?  What’s his upside at this point?  Is he a bust?  Will Phoenix trade him?

Well, for starters let’s just assume they are going to deal him.  You keep hearing the magic number is 6 teams for the kid that carries the lunch kit. Calgary I believe would be the most hungry for him.  Now, I wrote a blog recently that banged on Jay Feaster pretty hard to start rebuilding the Flames.  I’m by no means moving off that point (big shout out at this point to the boys reading in Calgary, don’t know names yet but thanks for reading!), BUT you can do a deal for Turris and he fits both criteria’s.  He is still at this point a kid you can build around, yet he is begining to establish himself well as a top 2 centre.

Still has 1st line centre potential.  Now, he’s still filling out.  He’s still very weak on the puck.  But watching him in 4 games in last years playoffs I can tell you that he was easily the Coyotes top player.  He didn’t just put up the best point total out of all the yotes, he was their best player.  That’s the last he played.  I think he would be a great fit for Iginla should the Flames make another playoff push (it will fail even with Turris, but that’s Feaster’s call).  But should they choose to rebuild or choose to go for it, the Flames need to be the most aggressive team in chasing him.  1st line centre’s are near impossible to find as Flames fans know and even getting a guy that has the potential to be that player is worth it for them.

So what does he cost?  I’m going to guess Don Maloney will ask for a 1st round pick and a young roster player back.  I don’t think I would pay that price unless I was a team like Detroit or Philly who won’t pick until at least 15.  Even then I’m not sure.  I would have to have great trust in my pro scouting if they were telling me to do it.

In my opinion if you are talking about the Flames, I would offer Backlund and Greg Nemisz.  Nemisz might fool a GM that doesn’t do his homework.  Yes he was a 1st round pick, yes he has nice size.  But this kid doesn’t have high end talent.  In fact I don’t believe he has top 6 talent at all.  In fairness I haven’t watched him since the 2010 Mem Cup, but watching him a lot that year he looked terrible. Calgary can’t spare a lot of young pieces, but this is well worth the deal.  Having said that, can’t see Maloney doing it.

Now, as for other teams that will/are chasing him.  I don’t see Burke wanting him in Toronto but IF the Leafs want him I wonder how they would feel about a 1 for 1, Turris for Kadri?  VERY similar players, Turris is more so the playmaker.  I’m starting to wonder if the Leafs aren’t souring on Kadri.  I could see the yotes doing that.

Ottawa have a lot of nice young pieces to offer and could use a 2nd line centre (even though soft, RH, playmaking centre sounds awful familiar with that team…).  Stefan Noesen, Stef De Costa and a 3rd round pick might be the right package but it would depend on how the Coyotes feel about De Costa, I’m sure there are mixed reviews on him.

And finally the last place I could see having big interest (not a Canadian bias here, just a lot of Canadian teams could use him) would be Nashville.  Preds need offense.  And I think there is a fit here.  Colin Wilson who hasn’t really lived up to expectations as of this moment and a young goaltender like Chet Pickard for Turris and maybe a 2nd round pick in 2013 seems like an even deal to me. Phoenix gets a kid in Wilson that can supplant Turris and a tender of the future in Pickard who will likely be a trade chip now that the Preds signed Rinne for too many years and too much money (gotta love panic moves).  The Preds take a chance on Turris who has a higher ceiling offensively than Wilson and a decent draft pick as well that can be well utilized at the trade deadline.  Seems to me like a great fit for both teams.  And as we all know, if it’s a great fit in the NHL, there is not a chance in hell it will happen!

Having said EVERYTHING I have said to this point, Maloney maintains he won’t deal him.  He should.  This kid I don’t think is going to be a bust, but he likely won’t live up to his potential either (kind of the Jay Bouwmeester/Stephen Weiss bracket).  If he is making these kinds of demands with all that he HASN’T accomplished then you need to get him out of the organization.  Weather it’s Turris, or his agent, or whoever calling these shots.  Get rid of him.  Trade him now and be happy should you get something of value back for a kid that is progressing slowly and acting like a knob.

What Exactly was That?!

After coming back down to earth having lost 4 in a row and 5 of 6, the Edmonton Oilers, the NHL’s latest emerging talented darling completely dominated the team that used to own that moniker.  The West leading, 2010 Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.  An amazing night for both the Oilers and there fans.  But let’s get honest about it.

I’m not intentionally raining on Oilers fans parade (although I know I am), but you have to be honest.  The Hawks had been rolling till arriving in Western Canada this past week.  I didn’t see the game inVancouver but from what Kelly Hrudy was saying Saturday night, despite the Hawks apparent 5-1 Pauly D win (get it?  Pauly D win?  Blowout?  See what I did there?  But I digress…) they didn’t play that tight of a game.  Then in Calgary they didn’t seem into it.  Then in Edmonton they were without a doubt not into it!

What were the Hawks doing after the game?  Oh that’s right, Vegas for a little in season va-cay.  See where I’m going with this?  What happens on the last night of games before the All-Star break every year?  More often then not teams play terrible because most of the players are focused on getting away for a few days.  It is to the players as what Friday’s are to most of us.  “F the workout it’s Friday baby!!!”  Don’t tell me you haven’t said something along those lines before.  Or “I’m taking off early, it’s Friday bit**es!!!”  Right.  It’s human nature.

This is the biggest factor in what happened on Saturday night.  Don’t get me wrong, perfect storm happened to make it 9-2.  What made it 9-2 was a pissed off Oiler team who had just lost 5 of 6 looking to get back on track against a team that pretty much toyed with them 6 days earlier.  And they needed it.  It was Saturday night and a LOT of the crew was looking to slump bust!  Lucky for the Oil and there fans, a lot of them did, specifically of course a man named Taylor.  Yes, Chorney played terrific…

Aren’t I just FULL OF IT TONIGHT?!  But bad jokes aside, all I’m asking is to look at this domination rationally.  Oiler fans it was terrific and I’m glad you enjoyed every minute of it, these days have been a long time coming.  But as for going forward just keep it in perspective.  Stars and Preds back to back, this could be 7 of 9 by Wednesday morning.  And Hawks fans, they weren’t worried about the games in Calgary and especially Edmonton.

Kevin Weekes on the HNIC broadcast couldn’t understand why no push back from the Hawks?  Well it’s embarrassing, nobody wants to get hurt before going to VEGAS!

Burn it to the Ground Already

 

Wasn’t 2004 sweet for the Flames and their fans?!  Then a division title came in 2006!  Awesome!  And since…yikes.  Well they have beaten up on the Oilers in that time, so that’s…well that’s nothing to brag about cause everyone else has too.  They’ve made changes.  Sutter’s have come and gone.  But the time has come to over turn the roster.  Actually that’s a lie.  The roster turn over is well overdue!

 

On December 26th of last year Jay Feaster was brought in as GM after Daryl Sutter was “fired”.  I said it then and I’ll say it now…HATE the hire.  Oiler fans have loved it, as have Canuck fans.  First of all don’t credit Jay Feaster for the Stanley Cup winning roster that Rick Dudley put together.  Jay Feaster got there at the perfect time and slowly under his watch that team eroded.  His drafting record is terrible and his tenure inTampaBay proved more than anything that he was scared to take a big swing.

 

So in other words this isn’t the man needed to rebuild the Flames.  Calgary needs a guy to come in and clean house.  The fans know this, the media knows this, and I would even guess the players know this.  Yet…at least publically…Feaster refuses to acknowledge this.  In fairness to Feaster, this trade deadline seems like the right time to finally start blowing it up, but long term deals to Alex Tanguay and Curtis Glencross last summer don’t really indicate he wants to do that.

 

But it needs to be done so why don’t I do it?  Sweet, sounds good I will!  Start with Olli Jokinen.  “The Joke” won’t have MUCH value at the deadline, but in a deep draft and a team desperate to reload the system, a 3rd or 4th round pick should be welcome.  And you could say the same for all the impending UFA’s.  Lee Stempniak (3rd or 4th), David Moss (3rd or average prospect), Cory Sarich (2nd or decent prospect) and Scott Hannan (2nd or 3rd).  By the deadline all these guys should be gone.

 

Next is the big one for Feaster.  I think he will do what I just suggested weather he wants to accept a full on rebuild or not…he will need balls to do this one.  Of course I’m speaking of Jarome.  UNLESS Iginla goes Mats Sundin and refuses to ever waive his NMC, Feaster has to do this move.  I would.  I know he is the franchise but the franchise needs to go for the franchise to avoid being set back another 3 years.

Teams would line up to get him despite his contract.  You would get a 1st round pick for him and a high end prospect.  Of course you would need to take on salary, but this is true in just about any deal in today’s NHL.  As for what teams are the best fit, I’m thinking one team stands out above all else…Chicago.

 

The package?  Mark McNeil, Kyle Beach, a 1st round pick and Nik Hjalmarsson for Jarome Iginla and Scott Hannan (if he has yet to be dealt).  It’s a great fit for the Hawks, they have the cap space and could use another guy in there top 6 so to get a power forward with Iginla’s pedigree would be incredible and they get a veteran stay at home d-man in Hannan to replace Hjalmarsson.

 

Calgary gets a big power forward in McNeill, another power forward in Beach who the Hawks seem to have soured on, another 1st round pick in what is going to be a VERY deep draft, not to mention a good young stay at home d-man in Hjalmarsson.  It’s a big price for the Hawks to pay but I believe they will be in the perfect position to strike and Iginla would be willing to waive his NMC to go to Chicago.

 

You have to wait till the offseason for the Kipper move, as his NMC is up on July 1st.  Then it will be difficult on July 1st, but there is always one team (Philly) looking for a top end experienced netminder on July 1.  I’m thinking a team like Tampa Bay.  Roloson could be gone and they will need a guy like Kipper.  His contract will limit how much you can get back for him, but if the Flames got a kid like Carter Ashton I believe that would be a GREAT deal.

 

As for Bouwmeester, Bourque and Stajan, Flames fans will have to live with the fact that they aren’t going anywhere.  You can make a compelling argument for them dealing Tanguay and Giordano but it’s good to keep some vets around in a rebuild and I have gone on long enough 😉

 

I don’t think it SHOULD be hard to turn around the Flames, but there GM will have to start making SIGNIFICANT changes rather than just throwing some paint on a totaled car.

Soon it Will Be Decision Time For the Colts

Some Colt fans have already been gearing up for “the next one”

In my opinion today sealed it.  The Indianapolis Colts will pick first overall in the 2012 NFL draft.  They have sucked for Luck the best, a 19-3 beat down at the hands of the mighty Jags at home more than says that.  The Rams have 2 wins now and look good, should have 3.  The Dolphins now have 2 wins and look OK.  The Colts look like they have it.  Sure they could maybe win 1, but they still will have a 1 game lead and no other team looks like they’ll have less than 3 wins.  So it’s going to be decision time in Indy….

Here is what I believe will happen.  Indy will all but declare they will pick Luck, they have to.  Peyton is coming off 3 neck surgeries in 15 months, the rehab from this one hasn’t gone very smoothly just like the others, he’s 35 so he might have 3 good years left…and that might be stretching it.  You HAVE to pick Luck.

So with that in mind, one of 2 things will happen.  Either Luck will go public by stating he doesn’t want to sit behind Peyton Manning and force the Colts hand (similar to what Eli Manning did and John Elway did), or Manning will tell the Colts that if they pick the kid they need to either trade or release him.

I hear some analysts say “Luck can sit behind Manning for 2 or 3 years like Aaron Rodgers did”…no.  Luck is too good to sit behind anyone.  Rodgers wasn’t ready in 05, Luck is.  He will want to play now, and his camp will fully understand that if they want they can force the Colts hand.

If the Colts pick with there heads it’s no contest.  They will trade/release Manning, select Andrew Luck and rebuild around him.  My guess is that despite Manning’s injury issues and steep contract, someone will pony up for him (Dolphins, Redskins, Broncos).  But if the Colts pick with there hearts, they will trade that pick for the world and take a 3-4 year run at a few more Super Bowls with Manning under center.

It will be a very difficult decision for the Colts to make, but it’s one that I believe they will have to make come April 2012.

Trading Block: Sam Gagner

This is a drum I have a been beating for the better part of a year now.  I watch the Oilers very closely.  If you are unbias about it, you acknowledge that Gagner has hardly improved since his rookie season and now there is simply no fit for him with the Oilers.  Moving forward they need to add size in the top 6, and size down the middle.  Gagner provides neither.  He can still be a serviceable 2nd line centre in this league for some team, it just likely won’t be with the Oilers.  If Steve Tambellini is smart he will deal Gagner ASAP.

Lots of teams will have interest and the Oilers need help on defense despite how well there core has played so far this season.  I would package Gagner with a d-man and Linus Omark who falls into the same catagory that Sam does and see what that would fetch me.  Nashville to me is a perfect trade partner for the Oilers, especially if they can’t lock down at least one of Weber or Suter.  The Oilers have the assets the Preds need, the Preds have the number 1 horse the Oilers need.

It Had Been 7 years…So Worth It!

 

I was saying to one of my good friends a few weeks back “I just really hope MLB has a good playoffs, because it’s been a while”. My friend (what’s up C-Bass?!), die hard MLB fan, took a minute to think about it and seemed to agree. I can name numerous amazing games and series in the MLB postseason from 95-02.

Then in 03 and 04 MLB might have produced the 2 best postseasons ever. Maybe that’s what happened. Maybe I got spoiled watching 4 LCS series go 7 games in 2 years. Maybe I got spoiled by a loveable Red Sox team that was the ultimate underdog/dragon slayers. Maybe I got spoiled by a Yankees team that was so easy to hate that I reached the point that I would rather watch them lose than watch my favorite teams win. The list goes on and on and on.

But the point is just about every postseason in that time was memorable and filled with great games and great plays. Since then, it just seems like they have been few and far between. The playoff races seemed to fizzle out by mid September and the playoffs didn’t produce much.

The 05 White Sox didn’t have a particularly loveable team and really steam rolled through the playoffs. 06 was better and the Cardinals were a fun underdog to follow that season but at the same time the Tigers steam rolled through the AL only to be hammered in the World Series. Outside of game 7 between the Cards and Mets, and game 3 between the Yanks and Tigers, they were really all non descript games/series.

07 was a World Series sweep, an NLCS sweep, 3 LDS series sweeps, and really the only memorable game was the 1 game playoff between the Rocks and Padres. 08 produced a great ALCS but a disappointing World Series and again none of the LDS series were very good. 09 the World Series went 6 but unless Lee started for the Phillies the games weren’t really competitive and prior to that once again the LCS and LDS series lacked intrigue. 2010 was BETTER but not great.

2011 finally said enough is enough! Just when it looked like we were headed for another average postseason with all the playoff spots being set, the Red Sox and Braves both choke down the stretch which produced the greatest night in the regular season baseball has ever seen, and then 3 of the 4 LDS series go 5 games, every single game came down to the final pitch. UN-FREAKIN-REAL!!!

The LCS series were a letdown from what the LDS series were, but still both series went 6 games. The Tigers and Rangers had a couple of classics. Just when you thought the World Series was about to be 2-0 headed back to Arlington for the 2nd year in a row the Rangers stage a terrific 9th inning rally to even up the series. Then came game 5 with the series tied and the infamous 8th inning phone debacle which seemed to swing the series in the Rangers favor.

What needs to be said about game 6 other than in my opinion it was the greatest game ever played. And game 7 put an explanation point on the Cardinals Cinderella season. Sure the Cardinals and Rangers were not the sexiest teams, but likeable teams with some big star players none the less.

If you couldn’t get with this MLB postseason you aren’t a sports fan.