Friday, August 31, 2007



Apart from Flames/Oilers, what I'm most interested -- most curious -- to see about the new NHL season is how good the Avalanche are going to be.

Indicators for "they'll be awesome":
Added Ryan Smyth (1st liner) and Scott Hannan (1st pair quality); Jordan Leopold (1st pair quality) should be healthy; Paul Stastny might get better; they were incredible down the stretch last season; quality coach and GM whose next moves are more liable to be right than wrong

Indicators for "maybe not":
Sakic is one year older; Theodore is still Theodore, so they'll be relying on Peter Budaj; division is still pretty tough

I can see them nuking the NW by a dozen points, but I can also see them being stuck in the pack right to the end.

Bonus thought: while Sidney Crosby is most likely going to have the better career, I don't think we'll ever look back on 2005/06 and say, "Geez, how did Ovechkin win the Calder!" 50 goals is a milestone with a lot of weight, and rightly so.

However, I think it's quite possible, even likely, that it won't be long before we're looking back a little more closely on 06/07 and saying that Paul Stastny got robbed of the Calder. The case for Malkin is essentially a few more points (which happened to be due entirely to more PP time than Stastny, and playing with the Art Ross winner thereon) and the big debut, where he scored in his first six games and essentially sewed up the trophy by November 2nd. Stastny is and will always be the far more complete player, and it says here he'll be more productive too.

Anyway, Avalanche thoughts? Or more interesting to me, what's the #1 thing you're interested to see play out when the season kicks off?


Ok, this Avalanche team reminds me of the 2005-06 Oilers in a way...

The big question mark is goaltending.

If they don't get it, maybe they struggle. If they wait until the deadline, maybe they pick up a guy (plus another bit player or two) and make a deep run?

As Lowetide has suggested...could that goalie be Dwayne Roloson? I hope the only way that happens is because Mathieu Garon has gone "Kipper 2004" on the Oilers, and not because they're having a fire-sale (it would irk me something fierce to see the Ducks with a top-ten pick next June).

Anyways, this Avs team is one player away from being a is it possible that Jose Theodore could undergo a Selanne-like resurrection in 2007-08?

If by some miracle he returns to his 2002-2004 form, look the hell out for the Avs, NHL.

It would be great and tragic all in one to see Ryan Smyth win the Stanley Cup now....burn in hell, Kevin Lowe. I'll take Ryan Smyth and a 2008 1st, 2nd and a 3rd over Nilsson, O'Marra, Plante, and Penner right about now, thank you very much....

what's the #1 thing you're interested to see play out when the season kicks off?

For me, I can't wait to see just how good Alex Ovechkin can be with a real playmaking center (sorry, Dainius).

His rushes were getting a little predictable at times last season because he had to do so much on his own. But now that he's got Nylander (or Backstrom) and a real powerplay quarterback in Poti (say what you will about the guy's game in his own end - there's little doubt he's a capable guy up a man and in the other end), as well as a bona fide secondary scoring threat in Alex Semin to take a little of the heat off, it's time to see just how great a player he can be.

Hadn't thought about Ovechkin's improved linemates. It's going to be fun to watch.

Oddly enough I find myself wanting to watch some Leafs games again, just to see what their team of pluggers can do. Somehow they remind me of that 1998 team that went to the conference finals.

The aves are going to be great this season, and yes goaltending will be the big question. But I like Budaj, he can be very solid. the problem is that most of the teams in our division have a great goaltender, (like Kipper and Lungo) and we have two pretty good goalies. But as an avalanche fan I'm afraid of Calgary this year. With Nolan, Tangay, Yelle, Phaneuf...the two teams create a great rivalry

I'm hoping that Ryan Smyth ran into Roger Clemens during his time in New York and that Clemens told him the secret of his fuck you to the Red Sox in his return to Fenway as a Blue Jay. I'm hoping that that all leads to a four goal night for Smyth on October 23rd, a first star selection and him pointing at Lowe's box on his way off the ice.

What SweatyO said.

Plus I'll add that Smyth will be to Sakic what Peca was to Horcoff ... someone to take the pressure off every now and again. Granted it's at a higher level there, I think we can all agree on that.

I mean surely it's just too much, psychologically, to carry that weight every game the way that Sakic has been doing for the last couple of years. I checked in on the first two games last year and it was all Modano, then all Goborik (I'll happily be corrected, just by memory, was checking becuase of some oddness the year before in the playoffs)

If you read the Isles blog, you saw Hill getting psyched because he's gotten the call from Nolan that he has moved him up with Witt to play against Sundin in the game over a day away. I mean surely he saw it coming, I guess it would be like Staios finding out he'd be moved up with Gator to play against Iginla. It tells you something about the player and the coach though. Nolan's got a way of making every fucker feel that they are the key to the game. He's hard to peg, but Nolan is genuinely brilliant IMHO.

Maybe it's the magic in the big box of Dad Stuff that Ray Shero shipped up to Sault Ste Marie when Ted was a faltering rookie coach rocked by the comment of talk radio callers, I dunno. But the man has an edge on the field there somewhere.

Back to topic: Rivers has often said (crude paraphrasing ahead) that just because a player has never been leaned on, doesn't mean he will fold under the pressure. Hossa is good evidence, but Sakic is proof positive of that IMO. The man is a beast, and seems to be thriving on it. But surely that wears on a guy, it just must. Granted, Sakic lived a pretty privileged existence for a long while.

Good thread btw, considering that the original post was, frankly, very lazy "fill the space" stuff.

Vic, re: Nolan - I have a buddy who is a lifelong Sabres fan and he describes Nolan's method thusly.

Every single player is given a defined role that he can succeed in right from the start of camp. Then as things move along and the player is doing well (and Nolan ensures they do well by making sure that they are put in a position to succeed) he is, if capable, put into a new role. At the beginning of the season he may have failed at this new role but he has been buoyed by success and invariably Nolan has put him into a good situation again.

Basic I guess but you look at that Islanders' team last season - Witt and Hill as the first pair, Poti in the second pair. Those guys were damn solid. Certainly outperformed their reps.

Thing is, Zhitnik was the first pairing guy, and he was traded away. Nolan was the guy who made small defenseman play against Lindros and the like. He made Zhitnik I think, because I don't know what he's listed as but he's not very tall by hockey player standards.

The Zhitnik trade was a cash dump (Wang has never spent big, just tricked us into thinking so with the occasional famous contract, and with the Lighthouse project on the verge of moving through (lest he move the team to Brooklyn [seriously] or elsewhere) ... well Wang is about to cash his chit. Good for him. That's $200 TO $400 million in public money that will be directed his way, depending on who you talk to. So who says that owning an NHL team is a mag's game. :)

I actually met Zhitnik in Club Malibu one night in Edmonton. He's a small guy - I'm a hair under 5'11" and I'd bet that he's two or three inches shorter than I am, which seems right as his height according to NHL sources is 5'11". He's got broader shoulders than just about anyone I've ever seen though - it was about 2:45 in the morning when I saw him, I was somewhat impaired and when I woke up the next day, I was like "Man...that guy had broad fucking shoulders."

Vic - I'm not as sold on Nolan as you are. To put it more precisely, while I'm willing to accept that he has a special talent at communicating with guys and making them feel important, I'm not so sure that that plays into results. I think that we can agree that Hasek was responsible for a lot of the results in Buffalo and Hasek didn't seem to like him that much. The guys I talked to didn't think all that highly of him, although Matthew Barnaby apparently wanted to carry his children.

I'll be interested to see how NY does this year. They had a lot of good fortune last year, I think - they played in a bad division in a bad conference and they didn't have to play against the NW division. Even then, it took lights out goaltending for most of the year as well as a sky high shooting percentage for them to make the playoffs. We'll see if that repeats.

Nolan is a terrific coach no matter which way you look at it. Its a shame what happened to him and good on Wang for giving him a chance. Hopefully when that ends he will get another shot. I like MacT and think he has become a good coach but sometimes I wonder how the Oil would fare with a guy like Nolan or Lemaire or Quennville behind the bench.
He's a hero amongst the natives in Northern Ontario especially Garden River, outside the Soo. He has done so much for the community up there. Pretty basic stuff once again - he preaches hard work, confidence and self reliance.

Well, surely that's something that we can all agree on -- that it's great that Nolan got a second chance to coach in this league.

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