Commentary, opinion and news on the world of hockey.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

EA Sports: If it's in the game, I need a map

EA Sports has got to change it's catch phrase - "If it's in the game, it's in the game..." because honestly, it has absolutely no attachment to how the game actually plays.

Since the late 90's, EA's NHL franchise has been in steady decline. With every passing year, their versions of hockey went from the best available to the bottom of the heap (considering the NHL2k franchise, etc.). EA's NHL 04 was a huge improvement over the last several releases, however last year, NHL 05 was a major kick in the face to the game playing fanatics who dished out their hard earned coin for that barrel of dung.

Due mostly to file sharing programs like bit-torrent, several acquaintences were spared the agony of purchasing the product and simply downloaded it. However, the game mostly lay dormant. It truly says alot about the quality of a game when people who have obtained a free version don't even think it's worth the time to play.

Now comes NHL 06 (the PC version, in my case), and after playing the demo for a week or so, I decided that it was good enough, on it's face at least, for me to shell out the $39 to buy the full version. As it turns out, the demo was not indicative of what the full version brings.

The Positives

I'll start with the aspects of the game that are actually impressive - mostly because it won't take me long to type them. EA Sports has always been the leader in graphical presentation, and that holds true here. NHL 06 looks and sounds amazing - at least the on-ice portion of the game does. The player and arena detail are truly amazing, from the teams, players, on-ice advertising all the way up to the scoreboard and crowd. Every visual aspect of the on-ice game has been tuned and the presentation is second to none.

Secondly, the game is much harder over previous versions - at least so far. My main complaint about previous EA Sport's NHL releases was that they were much too easy. Take the last two years for example. Even on the most difficult settings, with the AI aggression tapped out, it was much too easy to score goals and much too easy to prevent the computer opponent from scoring them. I would routinely win games in the 9-1 range, and once I even went through an entire 82 game season with a mediocre team and didn't lose a single game. NHL 06 proves to be a much harder challenge on the 'difficult' setting (the 'medium' and lower settings are still much too easy).

The Negatives

However, as the old saying goes, be careful of what you wish for. EA's NHL 05 had many flaws, and one was the overabundance of hitting which barely allowed any kind of offensive game (for me, nearly 99% of my goals were scored from near the blueline off the rush). This flaw in the hitting game was incredibly annoying. Any player could smack the tar out of any other player despite physical attributes. Paul Kariya would have no problem bodychecking Zdeno Chara clear over the boards in NHL 05. Often a game (set on 5 minute periods) resulted in well over two hundred hits. Obviously this had to be changed substantially.

Well, it has been changed in NHL 2006. The problem is, EA has gone from a system that had way too many lumbering, interefering and ridiculous checks to a system where there are still ample body checks - but they simply have no effect. If an opposing player is carrying the puck and you dish out even the nastiest bodycheck, routinely the opposing player is shaken slightly - along with your own player - but almost always the opposing player manages to retain control of the puck while your own player has just thrown himself way out of position. This is the case for even some of the hardest checks dished out. The effect of body checks is laughable, and given the problems with last years version, highly ironic.

The lack of effective checking is a huge drawback in this game and it makes things extremely difficult when attempting to contain the AI team from moving around at will in your own end. Since body contact has virtually no effect on the opposing team's puck possesion (despite the 'puck control' setting cranked all the way to zero, and 'hitting power' cranked up to the max) there are very limited ways to take the puck from the other team. One option is the poke check. This works occasionaly, but just as frequently as it results in a turnover, it results in a tripping penalty. The other option is to hook or tie up the defender. This is somewhat effective, and there is a toggle setting in the game for how effective hooking is, however it often results in holding or interference penalties.

This brings me to another peeve of mine - lopsided penalties. As with the previous releases of EA's NHL franchise, NHL 2006 has craptastic penalty simulation. 30 games into a season, I've had 18 powerplays, while I've had to kill 102 penalties of my own. Holy lopsided Batman.

Not only is it lopsided in the numbers of penalties called, what's supremely more furstrating is the penalties that are not called on the opposition. The other team always gets away with hooking and interference galore, while your team will be sent to the sin bin as if they were trying to meet a quota. What gives with that, EA?

Given the huge defensive deficiencies that I talked about earlier, you can probably guess that my penalty killing is pretty bad. In fact, at a horrific 46% efficiency, my penalty killing would set world records for ineptness. But as I said before, there's not much you can do to stop the computer team from moving the puck around at will in your own end, especially down a man.

Which brings me to my next point - the goaltenders. Now, I will preface this by saying that I like it that the game is harder. In fact, harder scoring has long been a desire of mine. However, the agility of the goaltenders in the game is ludicrous. It is common for goaltenders to flip flop and sprawl their way to impossible saves time after time. After a while, it becomes extremely laughable - and irritating. Sure, there are always spectacular saves in hockey, however in NHL 06, there are spectacular saves up the wazoo. It gets to the point where you feel like giving up because the goaltenders routinely can and do stop shots that 99 times out of 100 in the real world would be a sure thing. I'm all for great goaltending, but this is beyond ridiculous.

And good luck trying to score on a slap-shot from the point (although the computer manages the feat). I've yet to score a goal from any further out than the hash marks. Even defensemen with cannon shots do not seem to tangle the twine. Gone is the use for the powerplay quarterbacks - and what fun is that?

Another glaring flaw - which has always been a complaint of mine - is that the AI is incredibly stupid. My own teammates will often stand completely still when the puck is directly in front of them. It doesn't matter where on the ice you are, the offensive or defensive zone, you pretty much have to constantly switch player control just in order to get the players to do what would come naturally to them in the real world. Has anyone ever seen a player in an NHL game just stand there and watch the puck slide past his feet as he stands in front of the wide-open opposition net? Or can anyone recall a defenseman instead of clearing a rebound, just standing motionless in front of his own net as the puck sits directly in front of him after his goalie made a save? I didn't think so. It's hard to believe that AI flaws like this still exist after this many years of development.

While the on-ice graphics are stunning, the user interface leaves much to be desired in some cases. Cycling though player and team stats is a chore. And why is it that there is only enough space to see the top 4 or 5 player stats on your team (before having to scroll down)? That's idiotic. I miss the good old days when an entire team's player stats would be displayed on on page without scrolling. Putting together trades is also very clunky and time consuming. They really could take a page from the Microsoft point and click system.

The Conclusion

Overall, EA Sport's NHL 06 is a small step up from 05, but that isn't really saying much. The presentation is impressive, as usual, but you know what they say about not judging a book by its cover. If style over substance is what you are after, then go ahead and dish out the cash, because EA does deliver graphically. However, if the great gameplay is what you seek, I don't think there's enough changes from last year to recommend buying it.

I have to shake my head again at EA Sports. They just seem to fly so far from the mark that it blows my mind. NHL 04 was a great game - it simply needed some minor tweaking to make it harder. Instead, EA has enhanced tha graphics (which is a good thing), but has strayed so far from realism, or fun, for the on-ice action, that I can't believe that we keep coming back to it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can the defense hack it?

I know it's only September, and narry a game has been played. But I have this sinking feeling in my gut. The Vancouver Canuck defense looks, well, thin to me. The top 3 compare well to any other top 3 in the league. But after that, the pickings are slim.

Alot of weight will be placed on the shoulders of Bryan Allen, a thought that makes me nervous.
"He's (Allen) the wild card in all this," Head coach Marc Crawford said. "We're going to be asking him to play 25 or 26 minutes a game."
Wow. 25 or 26 minutes a game from a guy who's never been asked to check the other team's best lines and still wound up a -10. Adding ten minutes/game of ice time is a serious request (he averaged roughly 16:30/game last season) and I have doubts about his ability to effectively punch in for almost half a game.

The fifth and sixth spots will probably be filled by McCarthy and Butenschon/Baumgartner, which is fine, because most teams depth chartys will be fairly thin at these spots anyways.

But in my opinion, the Canucks need one more solid defenseman to be a serious contender - someone of the ilk of Brendan Witt. I'm not a huge Cloutier fan, and I believe that he will need all the help he can get in front of him, and the current edition of the Canuck's blueline likely won't strike fear into the hearts of many.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Datsyuk heads home...

According to TSN, Pavel Datsyuk has turned down a $5 million contract offer from the Red Wings to play in Russia. Datsyuk thinks he's worth in the $6 millio/season range:
"I think I am worth at least what (Dany) Heatley or (Joe) Thornton got from their deals," Datsyuk told the Russian media.
There's a couple of things wrong with his logic. First, why would he think that his NHL career total of 53 goals matches up with what Joe Thornton has done? Right, it doesn't. Also, his totals in Russia last year were less than impressive.

Secondly, I believe that Dany Heatley is slated to make $3.5 million this year. I realize that over the life of his contract, he will average around $5 million/season, but reportedly the Red Wings have already offered Datsyuk that kind of cash. So what gives with that, Pavel?

I'm so sick of the nature of the modern athlete. Datsyuk is over-estimating his value on a massive scale. There's no way that he's worth that kind of money. I'm frankly shocked that he was offered $5 million. That's a ton of cash for a guy who has really had one solid season - at 27 years old. So you know what? Let Datsyuk move to Russia. Let him leave the cozy confines of a Stanley Cup contender to go play in Siberia.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Something Cooke-ing in Vancouver?

Canucks GM Dave Nonis and veteran forward Matt Cooke are apparently quite a ways apart on a new contract - and the fight is getting messy. Nonis and Cooke's agent, Pat Morris, have excahnged verbal shots through the media in the last few days. According to Nonis, the Cooke camp is looking to be #4 or #5 on the pay-scale for forwards - adding that "If he [Cooke] was looking for Sedin money ($1.25 million per), he would be signed already."

On the other side of the coin, Cooke's agent steadfastly disputes the claim that he is looking to be paid excessively, but refuses to say what Cooke's asking price is.

My question is, what is Matt Cooke doing? Yes, he is a popular player, but in no way is he irreplacable. Does he deserve to make more than the Sedins? I don't think that's the case at all. I may take some heat for that, but truly, Cooke is a 3rd line player - a very gritty and hard working one at that, but he is not indispensable.

If his gamble does not pay off, that leaves Cooke with limited options. If he is not signed by December 01, he won't collect a paycheque for the second straight year. How attractive is that? Considering that Nonis has publically stated that he would have signed Cooke for the Sedins salary, why would he risk that guarantee over an extra couple of hundred thousand dollars?

Sounds petty to me.

The ball is firmly in the Canuck's court here, and Nonis has options. The most likely is to trade Cooke for a decent defenseman. Will that happen? Who knows.

Today Nonis signed goaltender Brent Johnson, and I sort of scratch my head. When will Alex Auld get his shot? He's been waiting in the wings for quite some time and to get pushed back to Manitoba for Johnson this year can't inflate the ego much. If Auld isn't in the Canuck's plans, why keep him around at all?

Personally, I think he deserves a shot at the full-time backup (oxymoron extraordinaire!) spot, regardless of his minor league struggles.

Given the fact that the Canucks are on the verge of passing the cap limit, something has to be brewing here in Canuckville. What that is, we shall see.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Further disection....

I've already given my opinion on the Maple Leafs, so I turn my attention to who I think will win the Northeast division. It's actually a tough call, because you have two solid teams that I think will challenge right down to the wire.

Of course, I'm talking about the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. Many of my casual hockey pals are quick to say Ottawa is a no-brainer to lock up the division, but I say hold the truck boys.

The Senators have an impressive line-up, and the defense is solid throughout. But I have a couple of questions. First off, how well is Hasek going to do? Nevermind the arrogant attitude he has, and forget about the second career he will have as a professional diver, question number one is - can this guy still dominate?

Secondly, I rate the forwards very high, and I think you'll see guys like Spezza and Havlat have break-out years. The loss of Hossa doesn't damage them in my opinion, partly because I don't think that the team needs a player with the attitude he seemed to carry (demanding Iginla money is idiotic).

But, my second question is - will Dany Heatley return to All-star form? If the answer to both of the above questions is yes, then I have no problem counting the Senators as early favorites to win the division. But I don't think it's that simple.

Enter the Boston Bruins. They haven't earned much respect, at least out west, despite earning 100+ point seasons in two of the last three seasons. They did lose a few players, but made up for it by signing Zhamnov, Leetch, Scatchard and adding Brad Isbister by way of trade. The Bruins should be more than capable of putting up some offensive numbers. True, there are some minor question marks, but overall, a strong forward group.

The defense is looking a little on the thin side with Leetch, Boynton, Slegr, Girard et al, and Gill may not return. There's a definite edge to the Senators here.

In goal, Raycroft will be solid and is much less of a question mark as Hasek. But, given that Hasek and his Gumby-esque body may have returned to full health, it's a toss-up who has the edge here. Just for kicks, I'll give it to Boston.

Overall, I think these two teams will battle for the Northeast crown, but I guess I have to pick one team. In that case, I predict Dany Heatley to return to form (at least mostly), and the Ottawa Senators to win the division.

Direct your calls, questions, and derogatory comments to my secretary.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Will the new rule changes help?

I'm a natural skeptic, so when it comes to the NHL supposed crackdown on obstruction and supposed offensive generating rule changes, I'm not so certain that everything will turn out as many expect.

There's no doubt that the obstruction will be called - at least in the first 5-6 weeks of the schedule. After that, I'm not so sure it won't be back to the status quo. Besides, who really wants to see 25 powerplays per game anyways? I'm not convinced that a parade to the penalty box will be better for the game overall.

As for the new rules, such as eliminating the red line, I guess the verdict will come later. But did anyone watch any of the action over in Europe last year? Sometimes it was worse than the crap in the NHL. The current trend amongst NHL coaches - for various reasons that I won't get into now - is to defend, defend, defend. The bottom line is winning and that's the only way many teams can compete. I'm of the opinion that this trend will continue and the elimination of the red line will only drive the "trap line" further back. For those expecting spectacular end to end rushes may be disapointed.

But, for the record, I hope I'm wrong, but I'll have to see it to believe it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

There's rumours, and then there's this bunk

The latest rumour making its rounds out west centres around three unlikely dancing partners (Vancouver, Florida, New Jersey). Basically, the rumour is a three way trade. Normally I wouldn't even comment on such absurdity, but since I'm bored:
- Florida would end up with Ed Jovanovski and Dan Cloutier (or possibly Bertuzzi), Jamie Langenbrunner, and Jeff Friesen;

- Vancouver would end up with Roberto Luongo and Sergei Brylin;

- NJ would end up with a three high draft picks
I says, pardon?!?

Just so we're clear:

Dave Nonis gives up all-star defenseman Ed Jovanovski, presumably because he feels confident enough in his team to slide Sven Butenschon and Nolan Baumgartner into prime-time defensive positions, and go with five defensemen overall instead of six. Either that or he wants to see how good Luongo really is behind a defense that would have more holes than a cheese grater.

Nonis dumps Cloutier - which I'm actually ok with - and takes on a superb talent, but possible future salary cap nightmare in Luongo, who has already publically stated that his arbitration award of $3.2 million this season is about $265 billion below what he feels he's worth.

And nevermind the abundance of forwards the Canucks have, Nonis takes on Sergei Brylin just because he wants to show ex-Canuck GM Brian Burke that he too can have a guy on his team with the first name Sergei.

New Jersey is in a bit of salary cap trouble, but I don't see them parting ways with Brylin, Friesen and Langenbrunner to land draft picks. With Elias likely gone for a lengthy time, I find it hard to believe that Lamoriello ditches three decent offensive weapons and crosses his fingers that Mogilny turns back into a 76 goal scorer. Who's going to pick up the slack?

And Florida winds up snagging a top flight defenseman in Jovanovski, two solid forwards in Langebrunner and Friesen, and netminder Cloutier. Despite the major downgrade in goal, this is the only team that I can see this trade making sense for.

Mike Keenan may have already decided that Luongo requires an attitude adjustment and will either be whipped, shackled and publically berated or moved to another team - or all of the above. If that's the case, and the decision has been reached to cut him loose because it will be mutually beneficial, then I could see this deal from their perspective. However, I could be wrong about Keenan and Luongo, because Keenan has never been known to hold a grudge...... *cough*

What this rumour adds up to is nothing more than a serious amount of bogus. But I'm sure everyone already knows that. So why am I commenting on it? I dunno. Forgive me, I'm just bored.

One thing is for certain - if Brian Noonan or Stephane Matteau were still available, Keenan would likely trade for them.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Disecting the Northeast Division

I've got some friends who share a curious fondness for a certain Eastern team. They cheer for the Leafs, which in itself isn't unforgivable, but it's teetering on the edge. It's not that I mind the Maple Leafs - quite the contrary, it's just that the initiation into Leaf fandom (it is a word, dammit) seems to require ingesting long-term psychosis inducing drugs that de-evolve their brains to a level only slightly above that of a caveman. On second thought, even a caveman wouldn't predict a cup win for the Leafs this year.

Hallucinations amongst the Leaf fans I know are not only common, they're encouraged. Take for example some of the comments that I have been forced to endure over the last several weeks:

"If Allison and Lindros don't get injured the Leafs might be the best team in the league. "

"Talent wise Lindros may be the best player to ever put on the Maple Leaf. "

"The Leaf's depth is unreal with those signings (offseason Lindros, Allison, O'Neil). I don't see how they cannot make the cup final. Who's going to beat them?"

"With Belfour in net, and an all-star lineup the rest of the way, I feel that this is their year. At the very least they'll beat up on the Sens again..."
I will only provide a small sampling, because honestly, as I type these comments out, I cannot help but be struck with fits of laughter. Sometimes my pals make me forget that they are college graduates.

In all fairness, hockey fans are passionate, and Leaf fans are just as intense as any around. There's a sense of homerism (yes, that too is a word --- dammit) in most of the fans I know. And because I don't see a Cup Parade being planned for the centre of the unvierse, my friends have challenged me to disect the great Maple Leaf team, and predict their finish in the Northeast Division.

I will predict their finish, but they won't be happy with me. I see the Northeast shaping up like this:

1 & 2. Ottawa/Boston - I haven't decided in which order as of yet.
3. Toronto
4. Montreal
5. Buffalo

I'll explain my reasoning about the other teams in a later post, as well as the other divisions in the NHL over the next week or two. But as far as the Maple Leafs go, here's the Red Line take:

The Forwards:

Signing Jeff O'Neill was a no brainer, and what a great price. What he showed during the last season in Carolina is not indicative of what he brings to the table. At 29 years of age, he's hardly washed up and I expect him to rebound nicely and find the back of the net at least 30 times this year.

Jason Allison, while a minor gamble because of his strange injury situation (can anyone actually explain what it is he had?), is still a bargain at the base salary of $1.5 million. This guy is a supremely talented offensive guy. He's easily close to a point-per-game player when healthy. Heck, even last season he put up more than a ppg pace when his health was in question. If he can remain healthy, he will put up some solid numbers.

Now we come to Eric Lindros, my least favorite of the new forwards. I've had to endure countless bouts of "Lindros could score 50 goals and win the scoring title" or "Lindros is a better signing than Forsberg". First off, there's no doubting the raw talent he has. But get real, this guy's one stiff shoulder check away from steady speech therapy. While still able to post decent numbers, he's nothing more than a big perimeter player now, and while he may contribute in some situations when he's in the line-up, how often will that be?

However, it's not the centres that fail to impress me. The depth at wing is actually rather striking. I keep hearing that Darcy Tucker or Nik Antropov will slide into the top line along side Sundin and O'Neill. Not exactly prime time on that left side.

Let's look at the other forwards aside from the signed free agents - Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, Tie Domi, Chad Kilger, Clarke Wilm, possibly Alexander Steen, and Wade Belak. They don't really blow me away, to be honest. Assuming that Allison, Sundin and Lindros will not be on the same forward line together, who's going to score (other than O'Neill)? The centres will have to log mega-minutesto make up for the lack of depth on the wing. Someone will have to have a breakout season, in my opinion.

The defense

The defensive line-up as I type this looks something like this:

McCabe, Klee, Kaberle, Khavanov, Berg, Pilar/Colaiacovo.

I admit, taking a gander around the league, the Leaf's defense is not half bad, especially considering that Eddie Belfour, as ancient as he is, will continue to be an upper-end goaltender. McCabe was nominated for the Norris last year, Kaberle is steady, and Klee is underrated. The defense and goaltending are not the problem on this team.

The conclusion

So what does all this mean? Well, I think that my Leaf pals who have Stanley Cup on their minds will have to settle for the nocturnal emissions brought on by the routine dreams of a Leaf Cup celebration. The forward group does just not have enough depth to be considered a serious contender this year. They will be competitive, and they likely will make the playoffs. But aside from that, unless some moves are made, it could be a longer year than most expect.

I predict the Maple Leafs to finish 3rd in the division, behind Boston and Ottawa.

Ohlund locked up long-term

Mattias Ohlund signed on for four more years in Canuckville, and not only the legth of the deal impresses me, so does the price tag. It works out to be $3.5 million/season, and in my eyes, that's incredibly good, because he is one of the most underrated defensemen in the entire NHL.

Despite the ability, Ohlund may not put up huge offensive numbers, but that's not his primary role on this team. What he does bring to the table is a superb overall game. There's not many around that can match his depth of talent. He's routinely matched up against the opposition's top line, and he regularly logs mucho ice-time.

The fact that the Canucks locked him up for less than fellow blue-liner Ed Jovanovski is a feather in Dave Nonis's cap, and a reflection on the type of loyal and unselfish person that Ohlund is. In my mind, and many who know the Canucks, Ohlund is the true #1 defenseman on the Vancouver team.

That brings me to my second musing of the day. What will become of Ed Jovanovski? He'll be come an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and with the trend in the NHL the way it is, he damn well won't be taking a paycut. In fact, I surmise that he will likely command at least $5 million/season on the open market.

So, do the Canucks intend to shell out that kind of money? And even if they do, does Jovanovski have other plans for his future? Well, obviously no one can know what he's thinking on a personal level, but if the Canucks suffer yet another early playoff exit, why would he want to stick around on a team that can't make it over the playoff hump?

If I'm Dave Nonis, I may throw out some inquiring phone calls out to the GM's of the league - just to test the waters. If Jovanovski puts up solid numbers to start the season, his value will be quite high, and it's better to lose him for something than nothing at all. Sounds exactly like the Wade Redden situation in Ottawa, doesn't it? We may have to get used to this kind of thing happening everywhere.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hossa, Heatley - Hooray!

I'm sure everyone's heard by now: Danny Heatley for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries. My take? I like it from a Senator point of view. They managed to ditch a whining, snivelling little brat in Hossa - who had just signed a much too lucritive 3-year contract today. To boot, they ditched DeVries, who's slated to make $2.3 million this year.

Now the Senators can concentrate on locking up Redden and Chara long term, while in the same breath ridding themselves of a headache in Hossa, a player who had obviously irritated some of the Senators brass.

The only downside is that Heatley may be damaged goods. Everyone knows of his troubled past, and his performance at the team Canada camp was less than stellar. But in my opinion, Heatley will rebound and become the dominant player that he was blossoming into. That's great news for Ottawa fans.

There are those that say Hossa is a better talent whether or not Heatley is at full form- and I've heard that often today - but if Heatley does return to form, that just aint the case, guys. He was a scoring machine for a weak Thrasher team, and was steadily improving. Sure, he suffered a setback last season, but his totals were more than respectable (31gp - 13g - 12a - 25pts) given what he went through.

From a Thrasher standpoint, the deal makes sense because Heatley wanted out of Atlanta. If Heatley had wanted to stay, this deal probably doesn't get done. The addition of de Vries certainly solidifies the Thrasher back-end, and I think they may surprise some people this year. If Kovalchuk doesn't react negatively to this move, and Hossa can remain a consistent goal scorer, they will challenge for a playoff spot.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Ducks sign Selanne, Canucks grab McCarthy

Teemu Selanne has landed back in the duck pond, today signing a one year $1 million deal. Given the price tag - it's a good move, if you ask me.

Selanne has this to say:
"When I can't use my speed, I'm useless. I have really high expectations of this year, not only of myself but the team. It's a new start. I think the new rules are going to help this game a lot. Without the red line, I think the game is going to be faster, particularly for our team."
Will he morph back into the speed demon sniper that he once was? Not likely, but if the new offense producing rule changes hold up (laughter inserted here), he may return to 25-30 goal form, and in today's NHL, that calibre of goal scorer is nothing to sneeze at - especially if he's only making $1 million.

Selanne's career totals:
                                     GP    G    A  PTS
1992-93 Winnipeg Jets 84 76 56 132
1993-94 Winnipeg Jets 51 25 29 54
1994-95 Winnipeg Jets 45 22 26 48
1995-96 Winnipeg Jets 51 24 48 72
1995-96 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 28 16 20 36
1996-97 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 78 51 58 109
1997-98 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 73 52 34 86
1998-99 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 75 47 60 107
1999-00 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 79 33 52 85
2000-01 Anaheim Mighty Ducks 61 26 33 59
2000-01 San Jose Sharks 12 7 6 13
2001-02 San Jose Sharks 82 29 25 54
2002-03 San Jose Sharks 82 28 36 64
2003-04 Colorado Avalanche 78 16 16 32

NHL Totals 879 452 499 951
From an overall point of view, Anaheim may have to shake up the roster somewhat because by my count (well, TSN's count actually), they have roughly $35.5 million tied up in 18 players.
That's cutting it pretty close when it's all said and done.


The Vancouver Canucks today added some defensive depth by trading a 3rd round draft choice (2007) to Chicago for Steve McCarthy. The Canucks still need some more defensive depth, but I like the addition of the 6', 200 lbs McCarthy. He's a project for sure, but as a 6th defenseman, I don't mind that. In the new look NHL, it looks as though most teams are going to have to suffer through a period where they lack great depth at one position or another, and guys like McCarthy will probably fill out the rosters of many teams.

That said, I still think the Canucks are a couple of solid defenseman away from making an actual playoff run (sorry Canuck fans!). They have enough scoring on the back-end; what they need is some rugged, play it hard bruisers back there. Hopefully Nonis has something up his sleeve to land a rugged guy like Brendan Witt. If they don't, they may have to continue to win their games by outscoring the opposition as opposed to playing a more balanced game, which doesn't bode well for a lengthy playoff run.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Tough times for Tampa Bay?

With yesterday's signing of Vincent Lecavalier, the Lightning are in a precarious position. And don't think that everyone, including the players, haven't noticed.
"Everybody's doing the math, it's not rocket science to see what it means,'' said fellow Tampa star Brad Richards. "I'm very good friends with both guys (Lecavalier & St. Louis), it's a tough, tough situation - it sucks. There's no other way to put it...We've already lost (goalie) Nikolai Khabibulin and now it's going to be a big challenge to get Marty signed."
No kidding it's tough. Richards goes on to say:
"It sucks, there was a reason we didn't want a salary cap that low, especially for our team,'' said Richards. ''For some teams it's great, for some teams it sucks. But we're going to have live with it. We've already lost one of the best goalies in the world - which we could have signed without a cap - and now we don't know what's going to happen with our Hart Trophy winner."
Well Mr. Richards, your team also could have signed Khabibulin had he decided that hockey wasn't all about the money. Clearly his choice of Chicago screams monetary benefit. For cryin out loud, why else would he leave the defending Stanley Cup Champions, who could probably ice almost the same line-up, for the Blackhawks - a team that hasn't made any kind of serious playoff noise since I've been on this planet?

And did it ever occur to you dunderhead players that maybe taking less money to keep the team intact - in this case, a Championship team - is a good idea for all involved? Oh nevermind, I forgot about the built-in "me first" reflex that was surgically implanted on draft day.

And not surprisingly, Martin St. Louis will no doubt be feeling a little wary:
''I'm really happy for him, I have no problem with Vinny, I like Vinny,'' said St. Louis. ''It's not Vinny's fault. But does it affect me? Of course it does .... I'd be lying to you if I didn't say it affects me. Of course it does, but you have to forget about it when you hit the ice. I'm here to try and make the Olympic team. When I get off the ice, I get on the phone with my agent and try to assess the situation...."
Ah, good. Get on the phone with an agent. Good move from a personal perspective, no doubt. Maybe what you should do is get on the phone with a realtor and a reliable airline.

And of course it's not Lecavalier's fault. He couldn't possibly be expected to turn the dial on his ego down to 'semi-outrageously inflated' and sign a reasonable contract - could he? Good grief, no. In fact, Lecavalier actually did St. Louis a huge favour. Because realistically, if Lecavalier is worth that kind of money, then St. Louis can't be too far behind. He goes on:
''I think right now I'm in a pause mode,'' said St. Louis. ''I have to sit back and analyse the situation and see what's best for me and what's best for the team.''
You can take the last six words out of his last sentence. There's no way that he considers what's "best for the team." That's just not the pro athlete mentality, so please don't force feed us that recycled garbage.

So, what does Vinny himself have to say? Well, the usual drivel:
''Marty congratulated me right away,'' said a clearly uncomfortable Lecavalier. ''But with this new CBA, the GMs have a tough job .... We talked this morning and everything was fine. Marty's a great guy and I hope we play together for a long time.''
Yea, sure you do Vinny. Your gorked contract virtually ensures that either he or Brad Richards - or both - have new mailmen before the start of next season. It also probably ensures that the superb Tampa Bay team is methodically disassembled, or at least wattered down. Way to go, buddy.

Can you tell I'm bitter yet?

Last but not least, why is GM Jay Feaster dishing out this kind of money to Lecavalier. Not only is he not among the NHL's truly elite players (in my opinion), he's debatably not even the best player on his own team. Statistically speaking, he finished 4th in scoring last year while teammate St. Louis won the MVP and Richards won the Conn Smythe trophy. He has never eclipsed the 80 point mark, and only once has he gathered more than 70.

Is this what the NHL has come to? We are now paying 30 goal scorers $7 million per season? Did we as fans just get crapped on for an entire year simply just to take a breather from watching the League dance its way back into financial doom? Because from where I sit, things have not improved. They have gotten worse.

Surely, I can't be serious, right? Well, I am. And don't call me Shirley.

Boltsmag happens to share my point of view (well, more or less), and obviously has a much closer eye on the Tampa Bay situation.