Tag Archives: NHL

Quick or Bernier?

Los Angeles King's netminder Jonathan Quick, makes a glove save.

One of the biggest story lines that will be taking place in the Los Angeles Kings locker room is who is the number one goalie.  As of now it is 24-year old Jonathan Quick.  As long as Quick keeps playing well his job is safe.

“There’s no gray area there. Jonathan Quick is our No. 1 goaltender,” says Los Angeles King’s Head Coach Terry Murray.  “He’s going to play a lot of hockey this year.”

According to Murray, Quick is going to be their number one guy to start the season.  However, he is going to have to be competing every time he steps in between the pipes.

Jonathan Bernier of the Los Angeles Kings makes a blocker save.

Highly touted goaltender, Jonathan Bernier just won the back up job after the Kings recently placed Erik Ersberg on waivers today.  Ersberg backed up Quick last season.  Also not to mention that the club just signed Bernier for another two years.

Last season Bernier jumped between the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League.  During his time with the Kings he posted 3-0-0 record with a 1.30 goals-against average, a .957 save percentage, which also included a shutout.  Pretty impressive statistics if you ask me.

Personally I believe the Kings are doing the right thing with Bernier.  They are easing him into the starting position, rather than making him jump into the league too fast.  A mistake I believe Montreal made with Carey Price, who still can live up to his potential, but has not quite lived up to expectations.

Whether it is this season or next season, Bernier will be the starter for the Kings.  He is younger (22) than Quick, and has a lot more potential. For the time being, this is good for both goaltenders as they will be competing with each other every time they take the ice. This is the best situation any team can be in when it comes to goaltenders. No matter what, there is not going to be room for both goalies in the future. This means the club should be able to trade one of them and get something good in return.

Right now the Kings are doing the right thing, hopefully they can choose the right goaltender when the time comes.

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Top Five Players to Breakout this Season

John Taveres of the New York Islanders, highfives teammates after getting his first NHL assist.

In some scenarios we see top draft picks not live up to expectations in their rookie seasons or even after a couple seasons.  There are many reasons as to why this happens.  Some players are called up too soon and may need more development with the junior team or in the minors.  Injuries can be another reason for slow starts or the team/coaching style is just not the right fit for a player.

Last year we saw former first overall pick, Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, breakout in his sophomore season.  He went from 46 to 95 points, and also finishing with 51 goals in his second season with the Lightning.  It was good enough to be a co-winner of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, awarded to the leading scorer at the end of the National Hockey League season.

Now the question is who is going to be this years Steven Stamkos.  Here are my top five picks for players to breakout during the 2010-11 NHL season:

1.  John Tavares

Tavares was the 2009 first overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft.  He absolutely dominated the junior level in the Ontario Hockey League, the same league that Stamkos played in.  His best season he finished with 135 points in 67 games, which is impressive at any level.  During his rookie season Tavares looked like he was going to live up to the expectations that many had for him.  However, he finished the second half of the season not as strongly as the first.  He ended up with 54 points in 82 games, which was second among rookies.  After a year in the league, expect Tavares to make the same kind of improvements as Stamkos.  I am not saying he had a terrible rookie season but the way he finished can be considered disappointing to some.  Especially after a great start.  Tavares is the most likely candidate to do what Stamkos did last season, something that me and ESPN’s Robert Vollman can agree on.

2. Evander Kane

Evander Kane of the Atlanta Thrashers skate up ice with the puck

Atlantas 2009 4th overall pick should improve his totals this season.  Kane has too much potential to have any doubts about him being a 20+ goal scorer this year.  With Ilya Kovalchuk gone in New Jersey, expect more ice time for Kane and for his name to be called in key situations.  Also do not forget he just turned 19.  I will not be surprised to see Kane finish with 50-60 points this season on a weak Atlanta squad.

3. Joe Pavelski

Talk about clutch.  When Pavelski’s name was called to be out there in key situations during the 2010 playoffs, he came through.  Each of his four seasons in the NHL, he has put up solid numbers despite playing behind the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, and Patrick Marleau.  After a strong post season, many expect Pavelski to continue his strong play this coming season.  Look for him to play more minutes and be out on the ice in key situations.  Definitely a guy you want to keep an eye on this year.

4. Peter Mueller

After two in a half so-so seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes, Mueller was given a fresh start on a young Colorado Avalanche team.  Before suffering from a concussion he finished the season with the Avalanche, appearing in 15 games and finishing with 20 points.  Last season, Mueller showed that he was a great fit on a young up and coming Avalanche squad.  Look for him to play his best season yet.

5. Gilbert Brule

After five seasons in the league, most would consider Brule a bust.  His development has been slowed down by injuries, but showed some flashes last year in Edmonton that made him a former 6th overall pick.  I still have faith in him and believe that this year he is ready to take his game to the next level.  After watching this guy in juniors, it is hard to count this guy out.  He is capable to be a consistent point producer in this league.  Look for this year in Edmonton for him to find his stride.  After all, there is such things as late bloomers.

Return for Jagr?

Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Rebuplic takes the puck up ice during the 2010 Winter Olympic games in Vancouver.

Ever since the Winter Olympics have started people have been wondering if future Hall of Fame player Jaromir Jagr will return to the NHL.

Currently Jagr is playing in Russia for Avangard Omsk of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and is also playing for the Czech Republic in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

A popular question that Jagr has been asked is about whether or not he will be returning to the NHL next season.  He has proven so far at the Winter Olympics that he can still play with the NHL superstars.  Jagr has 3 points in 3 games for the Czech’s.  He is definitely thinking about playing in the NHL again.

“They treat me so well in Russia, but at the same, time I want to try to player here,” said Jagr. “When we get back to Russia we have to start the playoffs.  Then, I have to make a decision.  If it happens, it happens.”

No one knows what is going to happen except for Jagr himself but he is not ready to make his decision quite yet.  His contract with Omsk is a two year deal and an option for a third year if he decides to stay.  From what it seems like, Jagr is going to deny that option and attempt to make a return to the NHL.

Jagr is an 18-year veteran and began his NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  While there he won a Stanley Cup.  He has also played for the Washington Capitals and the New York Ranger, his last team before heading over seas.  He has 1,599 points in 1,273 NHL games, which are very impressive numbers.

Jaromir Jagr (left) sporting his famous mullet with legendary Pittsburgh Penguin teammate Mario Lemuiex (right).

While playing for the Rangers Jagr was slowed down by injuries, and said that “the rigors of the 82 game season had worn on him.”  Reports have been saying that Jagr is healthy again, which will be important since after all he will be a 39-year old free agent.

A return for Jagr in the NHL would be great.  The fans here love him and he has excelled in the league before.  He can help out any cup contender, that is if he is willing to take a pay cut.  A return to the Pittsburgh Penguins would be ideal so he could retire there and possibly playing with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.  The Edmonton Oilers were known to have made the best offer before Jagr went to Russia, and are most likely going to take a shot at obtaining him.  If Jagr did not want to play for them two years ago, I doubt he will now because they have not improved since then.

If Jagr continues his good play at the Winter Olympics then he could see a lot of offers knocking at his door.  Maybe even an earlier return than expected because the KHL season ends before the NHL season.  I would not be surprised if Jagr is back in an NHL sweater next season.

Hall and Seguin Gunnin’ for that Number One Spot

The OHL looks like they are going to be producing a majority of this years first round prospects in the NHL Entry Draft.  The top ten in the Central Scouting midterm rankings consist of six players from the OHL: 1. Taylor Hall, 2. Tyler Seguin, 3. Cam Fowler, 6. Erik Gudbranson, 7. Alexander Burmistrov, 10. John McFarland.  But the real debate is who is number one between Hall and Seguin.

Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers (Left) and Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires (Right) are projected to be the top two picks in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Central Scouting had Seguin ahead of Hall for the number one spot in the preliminary rankings at the beginning of the season.  When the midterm rankings came out, Hall had moved back to number one.  Last fall scouts thought Hall was a lock to go first overall in the 2010 draft.  With the emergence of Seguin, scouts are now unclear on who will go number one.

It’s the closest E.J. McGuire has seen the race for the top spot be since 2006, when Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Phil Kessel were top prospects.  All five of them were picked in that particular order starting from number one.

Hall however, has an advantage over Seguin.  He has a more impressive resume.  Hall represented Canada in the 2010 World Junior Championship in Saskatchewan.  He had 12 points in 6 games and was named to the tournament all-star team by coaches.  Canada fell short of the gold medal, and lost to the Americans in overtime and placed second.  Hall is also in his third year in the OHL. He also has led his team in a deep playoff run and been to the Memorial Cup.

Seguin however is currently leading the OHL in points and has more goals (37) and assists (49) than Hall, who is right behind him with 34 goals and 49 assists in 46 games.  He is playing only his second year in the league but has put up the same numbers as Hall.  There is no question that he will surpass Hall’s second year numbers (90 points in 63 games), as he already has 86 in 49 games.  The fact that he is a year younger than Hall may attract scouts. Seguin has less skill around him on the Plymouth Whalers, while Hall has a highly skilled Windsor Spitfires team to support him.

This debate has been going on all season and people have picked their sides but there is still no clear number one.  It is all going to be based on what the team with the number one overall pick needs.  Seguin is a center and Hall is a winger.

“We’re splitting hairs,” Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire told NHL.com. “What does a team need? That’s how close it is. Does a team need a right-shot center (Seguin)? There’s your answer. Does a team need a speedy left wing (Hall)? There’s your answer.

In my opinion I believe that this has similarities to the Ovechkin and Crosby debate. Ovechkin is Hall and Crosby is Seguin. Hall is the more flashy player and is going to be the one making big plays and standing out. Seguin is going to be the one with a better hockey sense and be more help to his team. Basing my opinion off or what have seen and heard about Hall, he will make a bigger impact right away for an NHL club. He has more experience and is older, meaning that he is more ready to make the jump than Seguin. Hall has better hands in tight corner and is considered to be more physical. Both players are really fast but Hall has the upper edge when it comes to straight line speed. Seguin however, makes things happen and has better hands at top speed. Not that Hall cannot do those things, Seguin just has the upper hand. Seguin is also considered the smarter player. My position depends on the question. If it is who is going to make an impact to the team drafting one of them right away, Hall is the answer because of experience and has superstar potential. If a team was looking for a player to help them in the long run Seguin would be the better player because his skill level and hockey sense is going to help his team out more. Both of these players will be successful but in the end I believe Hall will stand out more and Seguin will be the overall better player. Hall will be more of a fan favorite. If I were an NHL general manager I would pick Seguin. Still Hall is a very intriguing prospect and no one knows for sure who will be better at the next level. The skill level of the two have put them above all the other prospects in the upcoming draft. Opinions can only be evaluated by what they have accomplished so far in their careers and the jump to the NHL is a big step. They are in fact two different people and players and are going to bring something different to the table. Analyzing how they present themselves off the ice might be another factor on their draft stock that no one has really looked at yet.

Seguin Feature

Hall Feature

Who would you take with the number one pick?

Maple Leafs Add Two Big Name Players To Roster

Sunday January 31, 2010, the Toronto Maple Leafs made two huge roster changes by adding defenseman Dion Phaneuf and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

The Leafs sent Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Giguere.

In the Phaneuf trade the Leafs also acquired Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. They gave up Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames.

Toronto who has a disappointing 17-28-11 record and 45 points, and they are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for last in the Eastern Conference.

As of Sunday Phaneuf had 10 goals, 12 assists and 49 penalty minutes. Not exactly the numbers he has put up the last four seasons, but he is still playing solid D. Phaneuf is probably one of the best hitters in the game and has been compared to Hall of Famer Scott Stevens. Leaf’s General Manager Brian Burke says he is the “elite player” and made attempts to get him earlier in the season.

“This guy’s a warrior He’s got a cannon for a shot. He plays the game hard…I want players who play the game hard because they’re hard to play against,” says Burke.

Phaneuf says that he was surprised by the trade but has no hard feelings because “it’s part of the business.” On the other hand he says that he is very excited to be playing in Toronto because it is the biggest hockey market in the world. Hopefully he will be able to handle the media and fans, who tend to be pretty tough on the players, because he did not take it too well when his own coaching staff told him he needs to improve in certain areas.

Giguere was on his way out of Anaheim sooner or later because Jonas Hiller took the starting job from him and who also signed a 4 year extension on his contract.

Giguere has won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 when Burke was the general manager for the Ducks and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in the 2002-03 finals even though his team did not win. He also has a history with Toronto’s current goalie coach.

Hagman, Blake and White were probably the biggest loses for the Leafs but they came out on top in both deals. They still have Phil Kessel on the top line to carry the offense. They also have a ton of good prospects,

especially Nazim Kadri and Kyle Palmieri. Their defense is in good shape with the addition of Phaneuf. They still have Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, and Mike Komisarek. Giguere gives the team a solid starting goaltender, even though his numbers are not as good as they use to be, he is still capable of being a reliable starting goaltender, something that Toronto really needs. The Ducks got a pretty good deal by scoring Jason Blake who will most likely put up better stats playing along side more star quality players that are in Anaheim. Calgary however, probably could have got more for Phaneuf from another team. I think that they panicked and went for the deal. Only time will tell.

I am interested on other people’s thoughts are on the trades and who came out winners in the deal.

UPDATE 2/3/10

Phaneuf and Giguere made their debut’s with the Leafs Tuesday Feb. 2, 2010, beating the New Jersey Devils 3-0. Giguere recorded the shutout and was named first star by making 30 saves. Phaneuf was names second star and recorded no points but had 6 hits and got into a scrap. So far it seems like things are looking good, but it is only their first game with the club.

Crosby or Ovechkin?

E.J. Hradek of ESPN brought to my attention the Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin debate.  Who is the better player?

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin lineup on the ice next to each other.

Hradek was asked who he thought was better between the two superstars.  He believes that Ovechkin is the more dynamic player but thinks that Crosby is the more complete player.  Both players bring their own style to the game but if Hradek was building a team from scratch he says that he would take Crosby.

Over the years they have developed a competitive rivalry.  It was a rivalry that they did not really develop on their own.  They have been constantly compared to each other, especially when they both entered the league as rookies together. Ovechkin was drafted a year before Crosby but due to the lockout they played their rookie year during the same season.  The Calder cup went to Ovechkin that year.

When the two talk about their rivalry they do not believe it is a hate rivalry but a competitive one.

Here is what Crosby has to say about the topic:

“To say that we absolutely hate each other, I don’t think so,” Crosby said. “But

we’re competitive guys, and that’s the result of everything and the way it’s kind of built up. When you look at Canada-Russia [the players’ native countries], I mean, the list goes on and on. It’s made to be that way. We’re two different people. But you know what, I think he’s an amazing hockey player and I have a lot of respect for what he does out there for sure. I don’t think there’s any lack of respect there at all. We’re just different in a lot of ways.”

And this is Ovechkins view on the rivalry:

“I respect him like a player, like a person, but when I step on the ice, I respect only my teammates,” a jovial Ovechkin said at the team’s hotel in Pittsburgh. “Off the ice, I can shake hands and say hi like normal people, but on the ice, you don’t have friends.

“But I respect him as a player. He’s one of the best players in the league and he’s probably going to be even more unbelievable. But right now on the ice, he’s on my rival, just like everybody.”

Referee has to seperate Sidney Crosby(Left) and Alexander Ovechkin (Right)

They respect each other, but this is just what happens when you play a physical sport and compete against the same players throughout the season.

From a fans perspective they are very different.  Crosby usually tries to keep to himself while on the road.  He avoids huge group of fans but that does not mean he won’t sign autographs.  Crosby is willing to sign as long as it does not affect his teammates’ routines.  Ovechkin is a little more outgoing.  He has learned the English language pretty fast and does not shy away from meeting fans.

At this point I would say Ovechkin probably has more fans.  He is very charismatic and can finish on highlight reel plays.  Not that Crosby cannot, he just does not have that same presence that stands out like Ovechkin.

However, I think that Crosby is the better player.  He is always thinking outside of the box, plays a very good two way game, great skater, good hands, good leader, and is creative in tight situations.  Ovechkin on the other hand makes the ESPN highlight moves that fans tend to notice more.  He is a force out there on the ice, he is a very skilled power forward and posses many of the same qualities that Crosby does.  The main difference between the two superstars is that Crosby plays better at both ends of the rink.  This makes Crosby the complete player and giving him an edge over Ovechkin.  I would take Crosby over Ovechkin any day, but that is just my opinion.

When it comes to the debate they have a pretty even amount of supporters. Where do you stand? Well that is for you to decide.

Portland Winterhawks Thinking Deep Playoff Run With Addition Of Luca Sbisa

Luca Sbisa of the Anaheim Ducks

Western Hockey League (WHL) team, Portland Winterhawks added 19-year old defenseman Luca Sbisa at the January 10 trade deadline.  The Winterhawks gave up Daniel Johnston, Jacob Berglund, and a 1st round pick in the 2010 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft to the Lethbridge Hurricanes for Sbisa, a 1st round pick in the 2010 CHL Import Draft, and a 5th round pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft.

Sbisa was a first round draft choice for the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2008 National Hockey League Entry Draft.  Sbisa was traded June 26, 2009 to the Anaheim Ducks in the blockbuster deal involving Chris Pronger.

Scouting Profile for Luca Sbisa at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Sbisa however, is getting ready for the upcoming Winter Olympics with Switzerland, his home country. He also represented the Swiss in the World Junior Championships in December. Sbisa will be joining the Hawks after the games in Vancouver are over.

This was a good move for the Hawks because they are now 5th in their conference and will most likely make the playoffs this year.  Acquiring Sbisa gives them a good chance at making a deep run in the playoffs. He already has experience at the NHL level playing in a few games for the Flyers and Ducks and by the time he joins the Hawks he will have had played in the Winter Olympics.

Earlier in the year the Hawks traded for defenceman Eric Doyle.  The Hawks felt that they have the right tools on offense but needed to add more experience in their defense.  The Hawks started out with a very young group on defense at the beginning of the season.  Now with the addition of two players that have been in the league for a few years and have NHL futures, the Hawks are ready to take a shot at the Memorial Cup.  Even with a young group of players the Hawks are one of the best teams in the WHL right now, which is a huge improvement from finishing at the bottom of the standings last year.

Sources:

Winterhawks Press Releases

WHL Trade Deadline Recap