Monthly Archives: January 2010

Leafs win two big trades

The Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t waiting for the trade deadline.

While many of the teams in contention for the Stanley Cup are getting ready to pull the trigger on major trades, the Leafs beat them to the punch. They addressed several of their needs, and landed two major players.

The first deal saw the Leafs get Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. In return, the Calgary Flames get Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers and Niklas Hagman.

This is a deal that happens to benefit both teams. The Leafs get a potential franchise defenceman, and the Flames get secondary scoring help. Stajan has 16 goals this year, and Hagman has 20 (and has also scored 20 or more goals for the last three years).

The second deal saw the Leafs send Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake for J.S. Giguere from the Anaheim Ducks.

This was another good deal for Toronto. They give up on a goalie making $4 million a year that is so bad he lost the starting job to a 25-year-old rookie with a bad heart, and a forward that has 10 goals this year and making $4 million a year.

So in the end, the Leafs ended up with the best player in each trade.

As well, they shed about $15 million in salary total, and got $13.25 million back.

They now have some extra holes on their roster, which will be filled with young players next season, such as Nazem Kadri. They have a couple of extra defencemen now, but Mike Van Ryn and Garnet Exelby are free agents this summer. So is Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Wayne Primeau and John Mitchell. They’ll have plenty of cap space to go after big free agents, such as Ilya Kovalchuk or Patrick Marleau.

In the end, the Leafs won big time today. And they’re not even in the race for a playoff spot. Wonder what the general managers of those teams will be doing in the next few weeks.

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16 NHL thoughts for the week

Here are 16 quick thoughts I have about the NHL this week:

1) Don’t think the Washington Capitals will want to make a pitch for Iyla Kovalchuk? They have only $38 million tied up in salary next season, and only have Nick Backstrom as a major free agent player to sign. Imagine a powerplay with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Green, Semin and Kovalchuk. They’d be unstoppable. It also wouldn’t matter if they signed all their cash in a few guys, because they all like to take five-minute shifts. This team could be the first one of the modern era to only roll three lines. They could run a promotion where three lucky fans get to sit on the bench every game as a fourth liner and not actually play. Or as Georges Laraque calls it, a normal hockey game.

2) It will be interesting to see if players on the Russian team spend part of the Olympics trying to convince Kovalchuk to sign there. He’ll be surrounded by Malkin, Ovechkin and Gonchar and other NHLers. How many of them put a bug in his ear about how their respective cities are great places to play?

3) Is there any one besides the players who think no trade movements are a good idea? Teams don’t like them, general managers don’t like them and the fans certainly don’t like them. They’ve hampered a lot of teams (Edmonton, Toronto and Ottawa are just three examples).

4) Why did the Sens bother to go out and get Pascal Leclaire last year when Brian Elliott was playing well? And now that Leclaire has been injured several times, Elliott has stepped forward… again! Isn’t it time to announce the inevitable: that Elliott should be the #1 guy in Ottawa?

5) Flames general manager Darryl Sutter is denying rumours that he’s trading Dion Phaneuf. But would a GM ever come out and say they were going to trade someone, unless that guy asked for a trade?

6) A lot of Habs fans are saying that while Price is the goalie of the future, they need to have Jaroslav Halak as the #1. I disagree with that. If Carey Price is your go-to guy, then he’s got to get the bulk of the starts. What good will Price be if he doesn’t get a high amount of starts?

7) Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has given a vote of confidence to head coach Claude Julien. Take the under of five weeks before Julien is fired.

8 ) Where will Kovalchuk end up? For some reason, I’m guessing the Pens. They like to make a big splash at the trade deadline. Maybe Kunitz, another players, picks and a prospect or seven.

9) The Habs won’t make the playoffs this year. Too many teams (two point separate eight teams fighting for three playoff spots), and the Habs haven’t been consistent all year. Plus, because of their cap space, they can’t afford to do anything major.

10) With so many teams fighting for so few playoff spots, a couple of them will have to realize they’ll be sellers this year. Besides Montreal (who doesn’t have a lot of value for trades), I think the Rangers will also be looking to sell at the deadline.

11) Best dark horse for buyers? The New York Islanders. They’re hoping to make the playoffs for only the second time in five years (and remember, they traded a lot for Ryan Smyth a couple of years back). They’ve got a good young team, and a round of playoff experience (even a big loss) can do wonders for a team. Just ask the Penguins.

12) Darren Dreger of TSN says Peter Mueller may be traded. After a 22-goal, 54-point rookie season a couple of years back, he has suffered horribly, as did many young players under coach Gretzky. Maybe the Great One quitting the team back in training camp was actually the best thing to happen to the Coyotes.

13) Someone will take a chance on Mueller. As Latendresse and Pouillot proved earlier this year, a change of scenery can do wonders for a young hockey player.

14) The Sharks may have the best record in the league right now, but they still need a top-six forward with Stanley Cup experience for the playoffs. Who fits that mould? Ray Whitney. Would the Canes accept Ryan Clowe or a Devin Setoguchi for him?

15) Don’t believe Sheldon Souray will wind up with the Kings at all. L.A. already has good young defencemen in Johnson and Doughty, and bringing in a guy for their powerplay will only hurt their development.

16) Just heard this NHL rumour. Three-way deal: Price to L.A., Dion Phaneuf to Montreal and someone from L.A. to Calgary. I don’t think it will happen though. One, we have enough defencemen as it is, so much so, we have two of them playing forward on some nights. Two, I don’t think Gainey will ever trade Price. Three, Quick is playing great for L.A., so I don’t think they need a goalie. and four, Phaneuf is making $6.5 million a year, so we’d need to give up more than Price to make it work salary-cap wise.

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Major keeper pool trade

So I made yet another trade in my keeper pool.

And it was probably the biggest trade I will ever make.

The trade was I would give up Evgeni Nabokov, Marian Gaborik, Scott Niedermayer, Sergei Gonchar and Stephen Weiss.

In return, I get Steven Stamkos, Marty Turco, Matt Duchene, Ryan Whitney, Kyle Quincey and a first round pick in 2011.

First, a bit of background. I was in third place, but about 100 points out. The guy in second, Matt, needed a top goalie to catch up to first place, as he was about 55 points out. So he came up with this deal.

It put Matt into first place by a few points, and I get a team that is looking good for years. For forwards, I now have Stamkos, Duchene, Malkin, Semin, Cammalleri, Roy, Wheeler and Evander Kane.

On defence, I now have Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter, Whitney, Quincy and Pitkanen.

And for goalies, I now have Turco, Price, and Gustavsson.

Overall, this helped both teams. But I am very happy with this trade. I have two young potential superstars in Stamkos and Duchene, and the potential to get another one next year with the first rounder.

Most of all is what I did with my defence. At the beginning of the year, I had Gonchar, Niedermeyer, Rob Blake and Mathieu Schneider. I plan on dropping Blake and Scheider during the offseason (we get to keep 15 players plus two rookies). My defence is so much younger now, and should be good to go there.

The only position I really need to improve on is goalie. I have two young good goalies in Price and Gustavsson, who should be #1 goalies next season for their respective teams, but I think I still need to get a great #1 goalie. So I’ll be looking to trade for one next year or see if I can pick one up in the draft.

So what do you think? Was it was a good trade?

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Semifinal NFL picks

So last week, I went 0-4 in my picks, proving once and for all that nobody is perfect.

I may be close, but not quite.

But this week, I figure I have a 25 per cent chance of having a perfect week. Even if I flip a coin, I have a one-in-four chance of going undefeated this week.

Unfortunately, I’m not flipping a coin, so my odds are probably lower.

Anyways, on my picks::

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favoured by 7 1/2

The Jets have surprised a lot of people so far in the playoffs. Needing a lot of help to even make it to the postseason, the Jets have used a good mix of running and strong defence to be this year’s Cinderella team. 

Well Cinderella, it’s about to strike midnight, and that great ride you’re on is about to turn into a pumpkin.

And there’s no Prince Charming to save you from the wicked stepsisters.

And there’s no fairy Godmother… ah… screw it.

Basically, the Jets are in trouble. They’re playing the Colts, who has been the best team in the NFL this year. The Colts are one of those teams that will change their strategy every week to beat other teams. That may sound like common sense, but there are plenty of teams that keep doing the same thing week after week.

They also have the greatest quarterback of the past 10 years in Peyton Manning. He knows how to win, and I believe he’s actually more comfortable playing in a game that is 24-21 in the fourth quarter, as opposed to the Colts being up by 31. He thrives on pressure, and hates to lose.

Manning will be under a lot of pressure this week, as the Jets like to blitz. Look for Manning to figure out how to keep the Jets from blitzing as often, and taking over the game.

How do you spell loser?

J-E-T-S! JETS JETS JETS

Colts to win.

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 3 1/2

Way back in week one, I wrote this about the Vikings:

“The Vikings offensive line is outstanding  (which means less sacks and more runningback room). They have the top runningback in the league. They have a half-decent quarterback. And their defence is one of the best in the league.”

Nothing has changed since then. Brett Farve has one of his best years in quite a while. Adrian Peterson had a career rushing season. Several wide receivers had their best seasons.

The defence is the same. I know the Saints can get involved in shootouts, but this isn’t the Arizona defence they’re facing. The Vikings can stop the run and the pass. New Orleans will have to be creative to score on the Vikings. If the Saints can keep it close, they could win it by a late field goal. But I think the Vikings will win it outright.

Vikings to win.

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The Book of Eli movie review

So I had a chance to see The Book of Eli the other night, and contrary to a lot of critics’ opinions, I thought it was very well done.

For those not familiar with the movie, it stars Denzel Washington walking across America 30 years after some incident (called the Flash) during a war. They never quite explain what the incident is, which is kind of important, but you could take an educated guess. Time doesn’t matter anymore, and time is known as two-different periods: pre-flash and post-flash.

Most of the humans have died, and those that are left are mostly in it for themselves. People lie, steal and kill to get what they need, especially water. And apparently, no one has bothered to learn how to read after the flash.

Anyways, so Eli is taking a book across America, one that is so important that everyone wants it. In face, there’s only one of the book left across the entire planet, which makes it so valuable.

The name of the book? If I Did It, by O.J. Simpson.

Okay, a slight lie there. If you’ve seen any commercials about this movie, you know it’s the Bible, even if the movie tries to keep it a secret for half the film. It also keeps his name a secret, although if you’re seeing the film, you know his name.

So apparently, every book of the Bible in the world was destroyed after the war. Not sure how that was accomplished, but Eli has the last remaining one. He’s also a pretty good killer. He won’t start trouble, or even help out those who are in trouble, but he certainly finishes it.

If you’re the type of person who normally likes a lot of answers to questions, you might not like this film. I say ‘might’, because I’m normally one of those people, but in this film it doesn’t matter.

Unresolved questions include: How does Eli know all those fighting skills? What was the war about? How can you possibly destroy every copy of the Bible in the world?

Also, near the end of the film is a surprise twist. Not quite The Sixth Sense type of twist, but one that leaves you wondering. It almost makes you want to see the film again for clues, but upon looking back at the film, no clues jump out.

(As a side note, the twist apparently has created a little bit of debate: I don’t want to ruin it for you here, but just keep an eye out for it).

As a surprise, Mila Kunis is in this film. I had no idea, so I was shocked when she appeared. She plays the daughter of a blind woman married to Gary Oldman’s character, Carnegie, who is determined to get the book from Eli.

Her role as a sidekick is actually a pretty good one, although it creates another question at the end (again, I won’t give it away).

Anyways, I recommend this movie. It’s pretty good, although a bit gory at the beginning. I give it four out of five stars.

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Captain Canada not very classy

Strangely enough, hockey has more in common with professional wrestling than any other sport.

It’s a tough, physical sport, but the players need to trust their opponents with their bodies. Sure, they’re trying to win, but with the game played at such a high speed, players need to know the other team will have some respect and not take liberties when they are out there.

That’s why some players never seem to get respect in the league, because they don’t respect their opponents. The last NHL player to be like that was/is Steve Downie.

For those who don’t know, Downie was suspended in the juniors for cross-checking his teammate because his teammate wouldn’t be hazed. In an NHL preseason game, he left his feet with a hit on Dean McAmmond that got Downie suspended for 20 games. He’s also been suspended in the AHL for abuse of an official.

All this has not led to a great NHL career, as you can imagine. Guys who cheapshot rarely have a great run.

And now you can add Patrice Cormier to that list. This guy, who was captain of team Canada at the world juniors last month, has a penchant for illegal elbows. After using it a few times with cheapshots at the World Juniors (you can see that video here), Cormier decided to keep it up.

So far, Cormier has been suspended indefinitely, and there are possible charges coming from the police.

This is disgusting. Cormier doesn’t deserve to be playing professional hockey. He’s a cheapshot guy, and as Downie has showed, once a cheap shot guy, always a cheap shot guy.

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NFL playoff semifinal picks

They say week two of the NFL playoffs is the time when the home team wins.

The stats back it up, and it makes a lot of sense. The best teams have had a bye week, which gives them more rest. And they’re obviously the better teams (hence the reason for the bye).

Normally, I agree with this. And I think the majority of the home teams will win this weekend. But I think most of the road teams will cover the spread.

Sounds crazy, I know. But I think all of the road teams have a good shot at winning their games, or at least keeping it close.

So on to the picks:

Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints, Saints favoured by 6 1/2

If someone predicted a final score of 72-68, would you really doubt that person that much? These are two teams that score often, and score quickly. Look at the Cardinals time of possessions last week that led to touchdowns: 3:38, 0:48, 4:30, 3:45, 1:27 and 6:02. In fact, they only had the ball twice where it took longer than five minutes. You just don’t see a lot of 10-minute drives where they wear down the defence.

However, the Cardinals will probably do that a couple of times this week. The Saints allowed 122.2 rushing yards per game this year and 19 touchdowns total. Those numbers would probably be worse except for the fact in the first half of the season, they had such big leads on teams, their opponents had to throw more in an effort to catch up. I expect the Cardinals to run a little more, which would be unexpected by the Saints defence.

The other factor in my pick is the Saints record in the second half of the season. They lost their last three games (one of them to the 2-12 Tampa Bay, and another to 7-8 Carolina). They struggled against teams such as Washington and Atlanta. They just haven’t looked good lately, and that’s not a good sign.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, seem to kick it up a notch in the playoffs.

Arizona to cover (if not outright win).

Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, Colts favoured by 6 1/2

For Baltimore to win this game, Joe Flacco needs to be a better quarterback. He only went four-for-ten against the Patriots last week.

But the key to the game is in the running. The Ravens were fifth in the league in rushing yards per game, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns. The Colts, on the other hand, were in the bottom ten in the league in rushing yards allowed. They’re going to do their best to stop the run, and make Flacco beat them.

I think the Colts are going to win, but I don’t think it will be by a touchdown. Ravens to cover.

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings, Vikings favoured by 2 1/2

All right, all right. I’m a believer now. The Cowboys can win in December and January.

The Vikings have an old quarterback, and a team that peaked early in the season. They struggled in the last month, losing games to teams with sub-.500 records. Not a good sign.

They’re also a mediocre team when it comes to pass defence (10th worst in the league in passing touchdowns allowed), but are great at rush defence (second in rushing yards allowed, and tied for first in rushing touchdowns allowed).

The Cowboys are one of those rare teams that has both a solid running game and a passing games. If they can keep the Vikings defence guessing, that should put them in a key position to win.

Plus, I keep waiting for the Brett Favre meltdown, where he decides to not hand off the ball, and end up throwing three straight interceptions on three straight series.

Cowboys to win.

New York Jets at San Diego Chargers, Chargers favoured by 7 1/2

The largest spread of the week, and this has to be the game where I think the favourites will win. The Chargers were the best team down the stretch, winning 11 straight games (although that is a little deceptive: only five of those games were against teams with better than .500 records).

But as the other playoff teams show, the better teams don’t always win against the underdogs (see Saints, New Orleans).

Don’t believe all the hype about the Jets great streak (running the football, strong defence, etc.). Look at the Jets last seven games:

* Nov. 29: A win against a 4-6 Panthers team

* Dec. 3: A win against a 4-7 Buffalo team

* Dec. 13: A win against a 1-11 Tampa Bay team

* Dec. 20: A loss to a 6-7 Atlanta team

* Dec. 27: A win against a 14-0 Indianapolis team that rested all its starters

* Jan. 3: A win against a 10-5 Cincinnati team that rested its starters

* Jan. 9: A win against the Bengals in the playoffs

So in those seven games, they played one tough team for a full 60 minutes, and that was in the playoffs last week against a team that has an emotional season.

So the Jets stats aren’t enough to convince me yet. They still have to beat a good team for me to want to choose them.

Chargers to win.

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Sens season review so far

So when I did my Habs half-year end review a few weeks back, I meant to do one for the Senators as well. 

Since the Sens have already gone past the halfway point, I figured I should change the title.

So welcome to The Ottawa Senators 58.5 Per Cent Season Review.

Overall, the Sens have been like pretty much every team out there: injury prone. Not sure why this year seems to be worse than other years, but it’s been crazy. The Habs, for example, have had major injuries to Andrei Markov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Brian Gionta, Roman Hamrlik and Georges Laraque. The Penguins, at one point, played with five defencemen injured, as well as injuries to Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. The Red Wings have seen injuries to Niklas Kronwall, Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Cleary and Valtteri Filppula.

So sure, the Sens have seen Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov, Jesse Winchester and Pascal Leclaire go down this season, but it’s no worse than what other teams have suffered through. Besides Spezza was having a horrible year, Leclaire hasn’t looked good, Michalek had only scored one goal in 19 games before his injury, and Winchester was… well… Winchester-like.

Here’s a look at what else has gone wrong with the team this year.

The Sens goalie problems seem to be very Philadelphia Flyers-esque. For some reason, the Sens never seem to get a dominant goalie (except for Dominik Hasek, who was a basket case when he was with the Sens). Remember in spring of 2008, when there were rumours of trading Spezza for Roberto Luongo? A lot of Sens fans believed that was a bad deal for the Sens, because they loved Spezza (he was coming off a 92-point season that year).

I think that’s the key factor when it comes to Sens players. They’re too well-loved by fans. Wade Redden was huge in Ottawa, until his skills started declining (many fans chose Redden over Zdeno Chara). Patrick Lalime was a great goalie until that game seven against Toronto. Chris Phillips and Chris Neils are way popular (despite the fact both are on the decline). Neil is a good gritty player, but he’s not worth $2 million a year.

This is a story that sums up Sens fans pretty well. When Alexei Yashin sat out a year because he wanted a new contract, he finally came back when a court said he had to honour his contract. Some friends of mine argued that Yashin would want to prove he deserved a new contract, and they instantly started to love him again.

They believe their players are the greatest out there, and instead of thinking of upgrades, they wait until the guy is on the downside of his career, and then wonder why he’s not tradeable.

When Leclaire was traded here, he was seen as the saviour. Sens fans couldn’t see past the numbers, the fact that Leclaire benefitted from a Ken Hitchcock-type defensive system in Columbus. It didn’t matter. They convinced themselves that he was a great goalie, no matter what.

But I’m ranting.

There are a few places where they could upgrade.

For example, on the defence. Chris Phillips is breaking down. He’s becoming like Jason Smith was in his last year with the Sens. Expected to be the great defensive defenceman he was five years ago, but you can tell it’s catching up with him. Phillips seems one step behind out there, has trouble winning battles in the corners, and gives away the puck more than ever. It’s time to trade him, while they can still get a good return for him.

And if they’re trading, they should go all the way: Trade Alfredsson. Get some good young prospects in return. Same with Spezza. They won’t get a lot in return for Spezza, but it clears up a lot of cap space. Use that money that is saved to get a quality free agent.

They don’t have anyone they can build this team around going forward (and no, you can’t build a team around a 38-year-old captain). This team needs to be blown up and start over. They need to tank for a couple of seasons, and rebuild with some quality draft picks.

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Book of Basketball review

So I recently sat down to read the Book of Basketball, the latest book from Bill Simmons. 

It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s 700 pages, so if you want to read it, you need to be a fan of Simmons or the NBA.

Pretty much, Simmons doesn’t rewrite NBA history so much as put it in historical context. He believes the Hall of Fame should be like a pyramid. That way, someone doesn’t get elected just to the hall, but to a certain level. There can also be only a certain amount of players on each level, so players could technically get bumped down if someone passes them.

For example, the top level might have 12 players. If Lebron retires and is one of the top 12 of all time, he goes to the top echelon, and number 12 gets bumped down to the second level. So Simmons ranks the top 96 players of all time (in his eyes). The only way you can rank the players is to try and compare them, and how they would match up today. For example, would Oscar Robertson have the same success today against guys like Chris Paul, Lebron James and Dwight Howard?

One of the other main topics is what he calls The Secret.

Apparently it’s a big deal to NBA players, but NHLers have understood it for decades. The Secret? It’s not all about the basketball, but about chemistry on and off the court, and making the sacrifices. It’s not about getting your own numbers, but about winning the game.

Like I said, NHLers have known about this for a long time. The most successful teams have players that make those sacrifices (giving more ice time to the checking line, or maybe not getting as much powerplay time, or willing to block shots ad nauseum). But apparently, in the NBA, it’s not that well known.

So much of the book focuses on The Secret, what guys had it and what guys didn’t. Basketball fans will like the book, non-basketball fans won’t, especially considering its length (it’s the largest book I’ve read since the Stand).

I found only two problems with it.

The first has to do with all of his columns/books: too much focus on the Boston sports scene, and letting those teams influence him. For example, Simmons assumes Lenny Bias (drafted second overall in 1986) was going to be a great player for the Celtics, even though he died of a cocaine overdose a couple of days after being drafted. Yet Simmons constantly mentions how cocaine ruined players in the late 70s and affected their playing careers. But I can’t remember one example where he mentions the fact cocaine would have ruined Bias.

As well, there’s no proof that Ferry would have been a great player. What would have happened if his career turned out more like Danny Ferry, Tyson Chandler or Darko Milicic?

He also spends too long arguing that Bill Russell is better than Wilt Chamberlain, when he concedes neither is the best all time.

The other problem has to do with the impact the international competition is having on the game today. Simmons focuses on the ABA, and African Americans changing the game. But nothing about Europeans, even though they’re having an impact. There’s Anderson Varejao, Yao Ming, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Dirk Nowitzki, Andrea Bargnani, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jose Calderon, and others. They’re changing the way the game is being seen around the world, but there was hardly any focus on it in his book.

In a way, hockey and basketball have a lot in common. There’s the debates about who’s better (Wilt Chamberlain vs Bill Russell in the NBA, Mario Lemieux vs Wayne Gretzky vs Bobby Orr in the NHL), competing leagues in the 70s that were eventually swallowed up (the ABA and the WHA) and whether someone actually belongs in the hall of fame (too numerous to mention).

But you would not be able to write a 700-page book on the history of the NHL without focusing some on the Summit Series in 1972, Russia’s domination on the world hockey stage for decades, or the influx of European players over the past 20 years. It would have been nice for Simmons to spend a little bit of time talking about how the impact of the U.S. national team losing at the 2002 Worlds, 2004 Olympics and 2006 Worlds, and whether that is changing the style of play in the NBA as more Europeans come into the league.

One last thing. Simmons rails on the media for not going after different stories, afraid that teams might stop talking to such and such a reporter. He thinks the media won’t rag on a certain player at times because they are worried they’ll lose the friend-like atmosphere between the journalist and the athlete. What’s the worse that can happen, he asks, that the teams will get angry at a reporter? But Simmons admits fear at Isiah because of columns he wrote that made fun of Isiah. So Simmons wants more print media to be like him, when he doesn’t even need to worry about seeing these people every day, but he admits to be worried about meeting someone he made fun of (and didn’t even want to meet Isiah). Sounds a little hypocritical.

Overall though, it’s a good, if lengthy read. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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Possible trades for the Habs?

Sure, we’re two months away from the NHL trade deadline, but because of the Olympic break, there’s only 17 games until then (and actually only one after the break).

So really, the Habs need to spend this next month looking at its roster and deciding what they want to do.

The biggest need is obvious: More scoring help.

So I figured I would help out Bob Gainey (we all know he needs it), and show him what he could get before the March 3 deadline.

To keep this post semi-short, I decided to use teams that are struggling and may not make the playoffs.

To make these trades doable, I figured I would focus on guys who were free agents at the end of the year, unless there were already Montreal trade rumours involved with certain players. 

And these trades hinge on the fact Montreal would be contenders for a playoff spot. If they fall way out of the race, they’ll be sellers more than buyers.

Let’s start off with the west.

Edmonton: With the Oilers free-falling, they may be looking at some trades to a) shake things up, b) get rid of cap space and c) get some help for next year. I’ve read they may be wanting to get rid of Sheldon Souray’s contract, but the Habs won’t want, or be able to afford, his $5.4 million a year salary.

More likely to be traded is Fernando Pisani. He’s been out since Nov. 11 with ulcerative colitis. But he’s not exactly what the Habs need either.

The best bet for the Habs would be Mike Comrie. He’s a free agent next summer and his salary is only $1.25 million, so the Habs would only need to pay a portion of that. Comrie can chip in with some extra offence (he gets a point about every second game: not great, but better than Sergei Kostitsyn). Comrie would probably only cost a draft pick.

Anaheim: The Ducks have a few guys who they might be willing to part with, considering the decline in the team’s game this year. Unrestricted free agents include Scott Niedermeyer, Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne. I doubt Montreal will trade for Koivu, since they let him walk last season. Niedermeyer is not what they need, and he makes too much money.

So that leaves Selanne. Making $2,625,000 this year, Selanne could retire at the end of the season. The Ducks would be looking for youth, and I think they would need some defence if they trade Niedermeyer (and since they also traded Pronger last summer). Montreal has some extra defencemen now, and P.K. Subban will probably make the team next year.

So how about either Ryan O’Byrne or Josh Georges and a draft pick for Selanne. Montreal’s defence is still Hall Gill, Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Mara, Marc-Andre Bergeron and either O’Byrne or Georges (which ever one isn’t a part of this trade). That’s seven good defencemen, and with Mara and Bergeron free agents this summer, leaves room for a young guy next year.

The problem with this trade is that it may not be enough, especially if you have other teams also making a push for Selanne (which they probably will). So the Habs may need to add an extra prospect to the mix, depending of what the draft pick they would give.

St. Louis: With Chris Mason being a free agent next year, the Blues might be interested in trading for Jaroslav Halak. The problem is the Blues don’t have a lot to offer the Habs. They won’t be trading their young players, and their veterans make too much money (Paul Kariya, for example, makes $6 million a year).

I can’t see there being any deal made between the two teams, unless St. Louis is willing to give up someone like TJ Oshie or David Backes for Halak (and I don’t think they would be willing to).

Toronto: The Leafs are in a tough situation for the Habs to be able to make a trade with. They have 11 unrestricted free agents this summer, but they’re mostly third or fourth liners. The Habs have enough of those type of players, so I can’t see much of a deal getting done.

As an aside, look for the Leafs to sign a major player this summer. They only have about $35 million in cap space for next year, so I anticipate they’ll try to make a big splash in the free agent pool.

Carolina: The rumour going around is that Carolina officials wants half of the team gone for next year, so they’ll be the easiest trading parter.

Matt Cullen would be a good pickup, but I prefer Ray Whitney (I also think Erik Cole could be gotten for cheap, as he’s not having the greatest season, but he’s not a free agent in the summer). I think the Habs could make a good deal for Whitney.

I would like to see the Habs offer Andrei Kostitsyn for Whitney. The Habs would then clear up some cap space for next year (they have $45 million already tied up next season, and at least Price, Halak, D’Agostini, Lapierre, Pouliot, Sergei Kostitsyn and Plekanec to sign). I don’t think Kostitsyn will ever live up to his billing of a 10th overall pick, and he’s too streaky a player to keep. Trading him for Whitney gives Carolina a good young player to help their team in the future, and helps Montreal by clearing cap space.

Philadelphia: I’m breaking away from the free agency rule for this one, because of the rumours of Halak to Philly for Jeff Carter.

I still think some version of this trade will happen (yes, I know the Philly GM has said he’s not trading Carter, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. How many times in the past have we heard about such and such a coach not being fired, and then he gets fired?). Ray Emery will be a free agent next summer, and that experiment has pretty much failed. I also don’t think Philly wants to keep Brian Boucher as their #1 goalie.

Philly is up against the cap, with about $47 million tied up next year, but only three defencemen signed and Boucher being the only goalie.

So the two teams should be able to swing a trade. I expect it to be Halak, Max Pacioretty and Sergei Kostitsyn for Carter. The Flyers get their #1 goalie, and two young skilled players who won’t cost a lot. The Habs get a good young leader and someone who can help offensively. It also helps the Habs because they don’t need to worry about resigning both goalies this summer.

Atlanta: Ilya Kovalchuk? Is it possible the Habs could make an offer for the 50-goal scorer?

I hope so. They were in the Marian Hossa sweepstakes a couple of years back, and the still have enough young guys that a trade would be possible. For Kovalchuk, Atlanta would want at least what they received for Hossa, and probably a little but more.

To recap, Hossa and Pascal Dupuis were traded for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2008. So look for the Thrashers to be getting some quality players in a trade. Can the Habs do it? I think so. Here’s what I was envisioning:

Kovalchuk for Maxim Lapierre, Andre Kostitsyn, PK Subban and a first-rounder.

Of course, this is the kind of deal that can only happen if the Habs are in a playoff run. But Gainey needs the team to make it to at least the second round this season, because the team hasn’t done well in the playoffs since he’s been in charge.

Conclusion:

Overall, the Habs can’t make all these trades. But just say they make the Anaheim, Philly and Carolina deals.

All of a sudden, their lines look like this:

Cammalleri – Plekanec – Ray Whitney

Carter – Lapierre – Selanne

Pouliot – Gomez – Gionta

Laraque – Metropolit – Moen

Markov – Gorges

Hamrlik – Spacek

Gill – Bergeron

Price (and a backup from Hamilton)

This puts the Habs a bit over the cap space this year, but they’ve saved on some salary because of injuries earlier this season (if a player is on injured reserve for 10 games or more, the team saves the salary while that person is injured) to Markov, Gionta and a few others.

They would lose guys like Selanne, Whitney, Mara, etc. over the summer, giving them some cap space to sign Price, Plekanec and whoever else they need to sign.

And what about next season? No worries. With those trades, and a few resignings (Pouliot for $800,000, Lapierre for $900,000, Plekanec for $5 million and Price for $3 million), the Habs have 15 players on their roster, and $2.3 million in cap space, if the cap doesn’t go up. That leaves more than enough to sign some fourth line guys (or use guys from Hamilton).

See, it’s not that difficult to make trades. A couple of drafts picks and youth, and we have a potential 50-goal scorer for next season in Carter, more depth up front, and you create some room for other young guys to crack the lineup.

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