Laidlaw checking in here…
As Dobber announced on Monday I have been named Associate Editor along with Michael Amato. You will be hearing more and more from us as the summer goes on. I want to personally thank Dobber for this incredible opportunity. As well, I’d like to thank Gates Imbeau for his encouragement, Jeff Angus for his guidance and all of you for reading. So here’s hoping you don’t tire of me!
What a great Stanley Cup Final. Really tight hockey from what were definitely the two best teams in hockey this year. We won’t remember this even five years from now but Boston easily could have won the Cup this year not Chicago. So many close games and any time it goes to overtime you are practically flipping a coin. Obviously there’s more to it than that – you make your own luck – but like I said these were the two best teams playing really tight hockey. It could’ve gone either way.
But in the end Chicago triumphed and yes they were deserving of their victory. Both Boston and Chicago faced great adversity and the threat of elimination on the road to Final and then matched up excellently against one another. We won’t just remember how great a matchup these two were in the Final but we will remember how tough it was just getting there and that’s what made this year’s playoffs so great. The best teams won in the end but their opponents (for the most part) game them all they could handle.
Very proud to be a hockey fan right now.
So now hockey is over? I guess it always feels this way but the regular season feels like it happened a year ago. In reality, the playoffs lasted less than two months, just 56 days total but contrast that with the shortened lockout season, which was 100 days long and these playoffs felt like eons. Not that they dragged on – they were exciting throughout – but even the first round feels like it happened in another season.
For what it’s worth, I think this lockout shortened season more closely resembled what the NHL season should look like than a standard 82-game season does. Not in terms of timing – these playoffs ended the latest I can remember them ending, which isn’t a good thing – but rather in terms of number of games played.
No, I’m not pushing for more 48-game seasons but something like 66 games would be well in range. As we saw this season, more games increases the value of each game, which increases the overall intensity and quality of each game. I also believe that by spreading the games out more – for instance playing 66 games in the time teams typically play 82 – would yield better rested players, further increasing the quality of play. All we want to see is the best players competing with the highest stakes, this would accomplish that.
Of course, the NHL would never go for it. They need all the money they can get. Constant growth is their goal and you can’t achieve that by cutting down on games. But in my utopian world that’s where we end up.
There would be a fine side benefit of spreading things out as well, in that it would make scheduling around Olympic years much easier and would reduce the wear and tear on Olympians during those years in particular.
Speaking of which, the NHL is getting closer to finalizing an agreement with the IOC to send NHL players to the 2014 Olympics.
However, the major hurdle was cleared a while ago, when the IOC was convinced by the NHL and NHLPA to open its massive wallet and pay the lion’s share of the costs of shutting the North American league down for two weeks and bringing the players to Russia. This includes the most expensive item – insurance on the NHL players’ contracts in case of injury – but also a host of other issues of equal importance to management as well as the players.
I am not at all concerned about NHL players missing out on the Olympics but it is still good news to see things progressing.
Now let’s get into some fantasy news…
Miikka Kiprusoff is set to retire. This should come as no surprise to anyone as he was long rumoured to be contemplating such a move. Frankly, good for him. His time in the NHL was over.
Certainly there was no sense hanging on to play for the rebuilding Flames. Could Kipper have tried to go to a contender (even one on the fringe like Toronto) and chased a Cup?
I’d sooner him go this route. He isn’t going out on top but he isn’t embarrassing himself either. When we look back on Kiprusoff’s career we will remember him as one of the best goaltenders of his generation and a man who could once claim he was the best at his position, even just for a little while.
So now the question becomes; is Kiprusoff a Hall-of-Famer? I don’t think so but I’m curious about your thoughts. I am typically very inclusive when it comes to Hall of Fame inductions but Kipper just wasn’t around long enough for my liking.
So who takes over between the pipes for the Flames and should you even care?
I’d argue you shouldn’t care because the Flames will probably suck next year but in case your league is really deep and you are desperate for goaltending, Karri Ramo is now the man in Calgary. And every goaltender in the system receives a slight little shot in the arm in terms of fantasy value because all it takes is an injury and everyone moves up the assembly line another slot. It seems like half of becoming a successful starter in the NHL is luck so this improves the odds for everyone in the system.
The St. Louis Blues have signed restricted free agent Patrick Berglund to a contract extension. It’s a one year deal worth $3.25 million.
I like the deal for the Blues. It was very important for them to keep Berglund in house and while they gave him a pretty generous raise, the contract is still just for one year and Berglund will remain an RFA once this deal is over so the team maintains leverage. Now they just need to deal with their other five thousand RFAs.
I kid, but they do have quite a few left to sign including Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Chris Stewart and Kris Russell. I’d argue that Stewart is the only expendable one of the bunch.
Back to Berglund though. You had to assume he’d be back with St. Louis barring an insane offer sheet. This means more Hitchcock treatment. Count on Berglund for no more than 50 points next season.
He’s only 25 but if we ever hope to see Berglund become a real scoring threat he needs to leave St. Louis soon.
Salomaki is fantasy worthy in so much as any Predator forward is fantasy worthy. I mean, we can just pencil his peak production in the 30-50 point range and no higher. There’s value in that in some leagues I suppose.
Anyhow, Salomaki will apparently make the leap to the AHL next season so he’s one step closer for those of you in really deep leagues.
It is going to be a really hectic couple of weeks with the NHL Entry Draft coming on Sunday, June 30th and then free agency opening on Friday, July 5th. So let me try to get you hyped up for the coming week and a bit.
I LOVE that free agency doesn’t open until July 5th. We all know the first day of free agency is the true day of trade frenzy and you know what I don’t want to do on a national holiday? Sit around on the couch watching TV and my computer screen. Sorry, I do that about 350 days out of the year but July 1st, Canada Day, that’s a sacred day. I need to be out and about on Canada Day, draped in as many red maple leaves as possible and consuming adult beverages. NHL free agency messes with that every year but not this year.
So July 5th couldn’t work out any better for me. Sure, I will be working all day anyhow but at least it isn’t messing with my holiday.
Free agency won’t be that exciting this year anyhow. There just aren’t that many big names out there, which means this is a summer where some teams could get into some real trouble. Mostly everyone is in the market for more help up the middle and this crop of free agents just screams trouble.
Mike Ribeiro, Stephen Weiss, Valtteri Filppula, Derek Roy… these are all second line centers on good teams and yet at least one or two teams out there is going to pay them far more than that. So just sit back and pray your team isn’t foolish enough to get in on these sweepstakes.
I didn’t even mention Tyler Bozak who is also a big name in this free agency class. Can you imagine your team giving him over $4 million a year? It could happen.
And I don’t mean to disparage these guys. They are all fantastic hockey players and they deserve a paycheck but if they want to win they really ought to pick their spot wisely.
You could say similar things about the crop of power forwards this year:
David Clarkson, Bryan Bickell, Ryane Clowe, Nathan Horton, Dustin Penner…
These guys have all been key players on teams that have gone deep into the post season the past couple of years and teams will pay for that sort of proven commodity, even though trying to unearth their own hidden gem is the true secret to post-season success in this salary cap era. Nevertheless, these men will most certainly get paid and they may even be worth it but again, if they really care about winning they will pick their spot wisely.
As an Oiler fan I am sitting here praying that my team can sign one or two of these big bodies but do so without overpaying. Is it too much to ask that I have my cake and eat it too?
There will be a ton of action at the draft as well. I think that as more and more compliance buyouts start to come in we will see teams really putting themselves in position to make some moves and the draft table is where it will happen first.
It just feels like there is a sense of urgency for everyone to compete right away. I can’t think of any team that really wants to take the long road to rebuilding like the Oilers in recent years.
Just look at the top of the draft:
Colorado just made big changes in the front office bringing in Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy. Those guys are born winners. They don’t want to rebuild. Plus, the Avs have spent practically as much time in the lottery these past few years as any other team. They want to get back to winning and the time is seemingly now.
Tampa Bay really should be better than they are. They have some of the best forwards in the league and their AHL affiliate is loaded with more talent. It’s tough to remember that this team was a conference finalist just a few years ago, with virtually the same group. They need to get back to winning and stop wasting Steven Stamkos’ prime and what’s left of Martin St. Louis’ career.
Nashville is only a year removed from seven playoff appearances in eight years. Hockey doesn’t work in Nashville unless the team is winning.
Carolina just made some huge moves last summer and they expect those moves to pay dividends because they are still a small market team with an internal budget and they are headed into a tougher division. They need to get back on solid ground.
Calgary seems to be rebuilding but really they also kind of refuse to rebuild and with three first rounders this year anything is in play. Well, anything but moving up to first overall.
Edmonton has been rebuilding for how long now? New GM Craig MacTavish is promising bold moves.
Terry Pegula has been anything but patient since becoming owner of the Buffalo Sabres so they’ve got to be thinking about big moves and they’ve got two picks in the top 16.
And I could keep going.
The only team I didn’t mention there was Florida who with Dale Tallon at the helm is definitely not afraid of taking the long road. But even they could be desperate enough to make a big play to trade up to first overall and it could even be worth it depending on the price.
So what does that all mean? Trades, of course. Moving up, moving down, acquiring established players for picks - it's all in play! I don't know who will strike first, biggest or most frequently but I can promise moves. And if nothing else, fresh-faced talent coming into the league.
Hopefully that has you sufficiently pumped up for the draft. Hell, use some of this material to pump up your leaguemates on the value of this draft. I tend to find that everyone gets really hyped up about the draft as you lead up to it. Once the draft actually starts the hype tails off though. So you have four days to really start pitching the immense value of your picks and see what kind of return you can fetch.
That is, of course, assuming you don’t have a top two pick. If you’ve got a top two pick just take Drouin or MacKinnon and go home happy.
Speaking of which, I hope to have a special draft edition Cage Match coming out later today so watch out for it!
A nice recap of the highlights from the 2013 NHL regular season: