The return of Lecavalier, free agency predictions, replacing Rafalski, the next Zetterberg, and more.


1. The surprise retirement of Brian Rafalski has significant fantasy ramifications. Detroit suddenly has a huge need for an offensively-inclined defenseman, and Rafalski’s $6 million cap hit is now off the books. They’ll be huge players in the free agent market, targeting the likes of Kevin Bieksa, James Wisniewski, and Christian Ehrhoff. The team is probably expecting Nicklas Kronwall to take a step forward offensively, as well.


2. The player to watch, regardless of who the Wings do or do not sign, is top prospect Brendan Smith. Smith cracked the top three on my top 10 keeper league defenseman prospects list a few months ago, and this news does nothing but increase his stock. He had a dominant college career at Wisconson and made a quick and smooth transition to the pro game in Grand Rapids. He’s big, gritty, skilled, and extremely confident in his abilities.


Detroit is notoriously patient with their prospects, but spending one season learning from Nick Lidstrom wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, would it?


3. The Malkin/Stamkos debate that has raged on here at DobberHockey for the past few months needed some hard numbers. A must read analysis of the two fantasy studs. I’ve made no secret that I favour Malkin. Consider him a risk after the knee injury/surgery, but I can’t erase the memories of the 2009 postseason from my mind.


4. The Tampa Bay Lightning will clear about $9 million in cap space this summer with the expiring contracts of Simon Gagne and Eric Brewer. Do they take a run at Brad Richards? On the surface, another offensive center with Stamkos/Lecavalier makes little sense. However, Richards would give them countless options at even strength and on the power play.


If I were a betting man, I’d expect the Rangers to open their wallet in a big way for Richards. Tortorella loved him in Tampa Bay and they clearly need a top line center to pair with Marian Gaborik. Richards wouldn’t be a bad player for Derek Stepan and Artem Anisimov to learn from, either. People may bring up the failed signings of Scott Gomez and Chris Drury, but the difference with Richards is that he actually is a top line center.


5. Are Vincent Lecavalier’s days done as an elite point producer? Some say yes, citing his slow skating (which I don’t really get, considering he’s never been particularly quick or fast). Some say no, citing his fantastic stretch run and postseason. Lecavalier has been around forever but he is only 31. His recent couple of seasons have been filled with injuries, including a serious one to his shoulder courtesy of a Matt Cooke check. If I own Lecavalier, I’d be cautiously optimistic for next season and beyond. If I didn’t own him, I’d toss a feeler or two into the water to see what it would take to acquire him.


5. The Hurricanes were an extremely young team in 2010/11. With both Jussi Jokinen and Joni Pitkanen headed for free agency, they could be even younger in 2011/12. On defense, look for Jamie McBain to take a huge step forward in terms of production and overall play. He played well at times, but didn’t see enough power play ice time to get into any sort of groove. Joe Corvo is signed for another season, but Pitkanen’s minutes will mostly fall to McBain.


Up front, there could be a slew of youngsters joining Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal. Zac Dalpe is the best prospect and the future number two center, but I’m not sure he’s ready for a regular top six spot just yet. Zach Boychuk and Drayson Bowman also have top six upside, but both need to get bigger and stronger to play at the NHL level. It could be a long season in Carolina unless they get another Skinner-like emergence from one of their young players.


6. I came across this Stamkos training video, and was really interested by something he said at the 2:08 mark. Stamkos is talking about Guy Boucher and his philosophy regarding strengths and weaknesses. Instead of focusing on weaknesses and improving them, Boucher told Stamkos to spend 80 percent of his time on his strengths. His logic makes sense – if you are working on your weaknesses, they may become average or slightly above average, but your strengths will suffer. If you are working on your strengths, they become that much better. Boucher strongly believes in well-defined player roles, a mindset that fits in very well with the above philosophy.


7. Ottawa has some potential sleeper picks for next season up front. Colin Greening signed a three-year, one-way contract. He played well with Jason Spezza (not hard to do, mind you) down the stretch along with Bobby Butler. Ryan Potulny tore the AHL apart during the postseason, but he hasn’t been able to crack an NHL roster thus far in his professional career. Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson are both signed through next season, but neither can be counted on for top line production. Do the Senators speed up the rebuild and add a top six winger for Spezza to play with? Or do they stick with the likes of Butler and Greening?


The Senators need a legitimate center behind Spezza after trading Mike Fisher. Do they take a run at one of the second tier free agents?


8. No mention of Peter Regin, who was a monumental flop this past season. He was probably my biggest “miss.” He was Ottawa’s best forward during the final part of the 2008-09 season and into the postseason, and I figured that he would have carried it over into the next season. He didn’t.


9. Teddy Purcell became a legitimate NHL player in the span of a few months. It finally clicked with him that he needed to play with more intensity and physicality if he wanted to produce at the NHL level. Skill has never been the question with him. The Kings must be kicking themselves for giving him up early (they moved Purcell and a pick for Jeff Halpern at the deadline last season). He could have been the perfect playmaking winger to put with Anze Kopitar. To be fair to the Kings, Purcell was inconsistent and played a very perimeter game in his time with them.


10. Brooks Laich is a Swiss-army type of player – he can fill a variety of roles and positions on a team. It doesn’t sound like he will be returning to Washington next season. Where does he end up? His fantasy value could increase dramatically if he goes to a team that puts him in a position to succeed. Thanks to a weak free agent class, Laich may be the second best forward available.


11. Keep this name in mind – Calle Jarnkrok. Detroit’s best prospect has Henrik Zetterberg upside. He’s two years away, but should be able to jump right in to a scoring role in the NHL.


12. Make a point to watch what Buffalo does this summer. They have a new owner with deep pockets and a willingness to use them. They also have cap space and a few holes on the roster.


13. A few free agent predictions, as per multiple requests – Richards to New York, Gagne back to Philadelphia, Markov to Washington, Wisniewski sticks around in Montreal, Ehrhoff to Tampa Bay, Bieksa stays with the Canucks, and Vokoun to Colorado. Philadelphia will move either Carter/Hartnell for a defenseman or cap space, opening up a spot for Gagne in the top six.


14. My writing has improved leaps and bounds since joining the DobberHockey team, but it is still far from perfect. Anyone looking to improve their writing should go and pick up a copy of On Writing Well – I use it every time I sit down to write a column.


15. I have received a few questions as to how I see Vancouver’s blue line shaping up for next season. The cap increase is definitely going to help them, as they’ll need to spend some bucks to keep one or both of Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff. Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler will be around. I don’t see Sami Salo returning (retirement, other team). Keith Ballard will probably be dealt if both defensemen are re-signed (and yes, he does have trade value). Chris Tanev will have to have a miserable camp not to make the squad. I’d guess Bieksa re-signs at a discount, and Ehrhoff receives a ridiculous contract and leaves town.


Enjoy the rest of the Final.


Jeff Angus has been writing at DobberHockey since 2007. His monthly 15 Points to Consider column was inspired by Elliotte Friedman’s weekly 30 Thoughts column on the CBC website –  the best read in hockey. Friedman is insightful, articulate, knowledgeable, fair, and most importantly, interesting. He has sources and contacts in the hockey world that most could only dream of. Most importantly, has an ability which is rare in this day and age - providing a balanced and reasonable opinion on the league, the players, and all 30 of the clubs.


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Comments (12)add comment

Michal Sk said:

... Obviously as i modified my comment, the sentence in the middle about two dmen does not make sense. I mentioned three smilies/cheesy.gif It's like that joke about army officer saying to his soldiers: The machine gun has four parts, they are these three: barrel and stock smilies/grin.gif
June 05, 2011
Votes: +1

Michal Sk said:

... Another interesting piece of this series by Angus. Thanks. I think Detroit will use cap space to get one missing piece, even one of those three free agents - Bieksa, Wisniewski, Ehrhoff . Don't be surprised if one of those two dmen signs with them. Best Detroit prospect forward in my eyes is Tomas Tatar. He is always ahead of expectations and the only thing missing is size. However he does not hesitate to go to the corners. At one stage he was among top 16 in AHL productivity even though he missed a bunch of games while playing for Detroit.
June 05, 2011
Votes: +0

Mabus said:

... Boucher's philosophy is mor in line with what you would see in football or basketball. You can be productive with one or two elite skills. After developing those, you round out the game. This is relatively common in the NHL too. I would limit This philosophy to only the core items - shot power, shot accuracy, speed, core strength, stick handling, etc. If you are extremely fast, don't focus on strength because it might slow you down and make you average with both. Very few people can be elite or near elite in all areas.
June 04, 2011
Votes: +0

Larry said:

... I wouldnt be surprised if Buffalo is a serious contender for Richards. He would be a huge upgrade over Connolly and when you consider how much time Connolly misses- the extra dough is worth it, not to mention the upgrade in offense/leadership. Add a top 4 dmen and a decent backup to spell Miller- and theyve got a pretty good team-lots of youth- and more coming (Adam,Kassian,Foligno).

As for the Canucks d, not sure why Ballard isnt playing ahead of Rome (who granted has played some great hockey this post season), but obviously Rome and Tanev are AV's preference, so the only way Ballard stays- is if the Canucks lose both Bieksa and Ehrhoff. Salo may take a hometown discount for a final year-but if another team throws a big payday at him (ala Ohlund) then he may be elsewhere next year. Oddly enough Ehrhoff may draw the biggest offers, and he maybe the l dman the Nucks miss the least. Edler and Bieksa both can be top 10 dmen in the NHL and with Tanev- who knows- has yet to look out of place. They do have some decent prospects,but most are likely 2 years away. Gillis will somehow make sure they have plenty of NHL dmen ready - his plan has paid off in spades this year.
June 04, 2011
Votes: +0

ultrawhiteness said:

Boucher i think the Boucher bit is more of a reminder to players to not forget to work on what got them to the show in the first place.

some NHL players, and i'm thinking of more than a few Flames right now, seem to have stopped working on the fundamentals like shooting and puck handling in favour of bulking up and learning to play defensively. it's not that you should do all of one or the other, or probably even 80% of one or the other... it's just that you gotta consciously make time for everything.

defensive play will come with experience and coaching. for a kid like Stamkos, his shooting is the reason there is even a debate about being top 3 (he ain't smilies/tongue.gif).
June 03, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

... "Kesler: Truly multidimensional. Can Score, pass, carry the puck, defend, hit, agitate, lead, and pretty much anything else."

This is all you needed to write.

Kesler is almost completely without weaknesses. He does everything VERY well.
The Canucks are in the Cup because he has been such a complete player.
It's almost like he has no weaknesses... hmmm...

June 03, 2011
Votes: +0

doulos said:

Boucher I'd say it's more likely Boucher has been reading some personal development and management books lately and took the idea from something like Now, Discover Your Strengths and figured, hey, why not give it a try.
June 03, 2011
Votes: +0

Austin said:

... And I completely disagree with YOU.

Sorry but that is the sort of thinking that led everyone to believe that you NEED to bully your way to win the Cup (Anaheim)and that you NEED lots of Veterans to guide you to the Cup (Detroit) or that you can't win a cup without a couple of Superstars (Pittsburg).

Yes a team has to have well rounded players but not everyone is like a Crosby or Stevie Y in that they can focus on something and BOOM they are awesome at it (Yzerman and defense and Crosby with goals and faceoffs).

That does not mean that a lot of people on your team have to be well rounded. You have to be ok to a certain extent but don't try to elevate your weaknesses to the level of your strengths.

Let us look at the Canucks as an example.
The Sedins are almost completely one dimensional players. They play a puck possession, tic-tac-toe game better then anyone else in the league. They have extremely low takeaway numbers and are not that fast and do not hit or fight. That is one-dimensional.
Burrows used to be a one dimensional grinder/superpest. Now he is the speedy digger who gets the puck for the Sedins and taps it in the net. He has takeaways and goals, that is about it. About halfway through the game in game one Burr had 12 touches of the puck and the Sedins had 53 and 56 each. He has one dimensional "the third Sedin" playing that way with anyone else would not work at all.

Raymond: Speed, speed more speed with some hands thrown in. He could be considered well rounded as his speed helps him defensively but there is nothing else about him that stands out. He has decent hands and is ok at puck possesion but everything else is below or above average.

Kesler: Truly multidimensional. Can Score, pass, carry the puck, defend, hit, agitate, lead, and pretty much anything else.

Higgins: Have not seen enough of him to get a real feel on exactly what he brings... Someone can comment but he seems pretty much well rounded with nothing sticking out except maybe hysicality and taking the puck to the net.

Torres: Recent goal aside the dude is a bowling ball. The puck bounces off of him and into the corner where some poor soul gets it before the bowling ball hits him full force. Nothing else stands out.

Lapierre: Seems well rounded but again have not seen enough to conclusively describe what he brings.

Hansen: Becoming much more well rounded. Non playoffs he is great defensively with a huge amount of takeaways per 60 min. Fast forechecking and backchecking. Now he seems to have developed more vision and hands.

4th line is the 4th line and we have about 6 of them. One who could play next game is possibly the most one-dimensional in the league; Malhotra. Wins faceoffs and plays great defense. That is it.

I don't have time to do the Defense but not all of them are as well rounded as they appear. Edler:Offense with hitting, Ehrhoff: puck moving. Salo: Well rounded. Ballard: Puck moving, rush joining with a hipcheck in the arsenal. Bieksa: More well rounded now. Rome: Stay at home. Hamhuis: Great Defensive d who can move the puck. Tanev: Great first pass and composure. Alberts: Big body. All but Salo have significant weaknesses but they compliment each other and most share the trait of being puckmovers.

2-4 of the 18 players I named were truly well rounded the rest of them are great at what they do but have only one or two things that are their "role". The Sedins might be the best roleplayers in the NHL today.
June 03, 2011
Votes: +1

5hole said:

Pengwin7 I do agree with you, but i think what boucher may be saying is: As a young player focus on your strengths now using 80% of your time and energy until you have mastered them and developed the confidence to shift that % and time into the other aspects of your game. I dont think he's saying "Dont play defence" i think he's saying make your skating stronger your shot harder and more accurate, make your drives to the net more powerfull, Go threw your checks, dig deeper!!! Then when you have all that mastered u will have everything necessary including the experience in the pro game to tackle the defensive end!
Just my perception smilies/smiley.gif
June 03, 2011
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Excellent... except. A very, very, VERY good 15 points. I really enjoyed them.

I strongly disagree with one statement "His logic makes sense – if you are working on your weaknesses, they may become average or slightly above average, but your strengths will suffer."

This is complete BS. Look at the leadership on the most recent Stanley Cup winners: Toews/Keith, Crosby, Datsyuk/Zetterberg/Lidstrom. These are some of the game's best two-way, well-rounded players. Hossa's been to the last 3 Cups - and he has is one of the most well-rounded players in the game. There is a good story about Steve Yzerman and how even he was asked to focus more on the defensive portion of his game. This resulted in the Wings elevating their team game to a Stanley Cup level.

Perhaps the game's most singly dimensional player is Ilya Kovalchuk. Give me a count on his Stanley Cups... or playoff victories even.

Every GM in the league wants well-rounded players. Yzerman is no different. I can guarantee you he wants his players to work on their weaknesses.

{shaking head}
June 03, 2011
Votes: -1

mike hess said:

Gagne - Philadelphia Angus great thought process as usual...On the Flyer side why do what they have hinted at trade Carter, then they can pick up both Gagne and Bryzgalov....should be doable.
June 03, 2011
Votes: +1

Mabus said:

... Great article Angus. I think there will be a mutiny in Philly if they clear cap space and use it on Gagne instead of Bryzgalov, Schneider or Vokoun. That said, you might still be right.

June 03, 2011
Votes: +1
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