Tag Archives: Ilya Kovalchuk

Looking back at my playoff predictions

So back before the playoffs started, I decided to make a few bold predictions.

davidgsteadman photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Roberto Luongo makes an easy save. So you know this has to be a picture from the regular season.

These were things I could see happening, but they probably wouldn’t. But it’s always fun to take a gamble on these things.

So here are my 10 predictions, and how I did.

There will be at least three goaltending controversies.

Looking back, there was only one. Vancouver going with Cory Schneider in game three instead of Roberto Luongo.. There were some other close ones. If Marc-Andre Fleury had a decent backup, there might have been one. And if Jaroslav Halak didn’t get injured, there could have been another one. But as it stands, there was only one. So not a good start.

No player will get more than 30 points.

Such a win. No player had more than 20 points. It helped that some of the more offensive teams were eliminated early. Plus the Kings never played many games. Claude Giroux had me worried after his 14-point first round, but he recovered nicely and only had three points in the second round (and one suspension).

There will be no sweeps in the first round

Another win. Every series went at least five games.

There will be at least one major upset (7 or 8 seed winning)

I actually took this one because I was pretty confident that Washington would win. And the Kings ended up with the upset as well. Looking good so far.

Ilya Kovalchuk will not score in the first round

A loss. He scored three times against the Panthers.

One team will not score a powerplay goal in the first round.

So close. San Jose and Boston each scored two power play goals. And the Blackhawks, in a seven-game series scored only one powerplay goal.

Roberto Luongo will have a game where he lets in at least seven goals.

To be fair, he wasn’t given the chance to suck that bad.

There will be two suspensions in the first round.

I didn’t realize how many there would be. I should have said at least two suspensions, as that is what I actually meant. There were eight suspensions, for a total of 40 games. And that doesn’t include Shea Weber, who should have been suspended.

Nick Backstrom will lead the league in points after round one

Not even close. My theory was that Washington would beat Boston in a six or seven-game series, and Backstrom would be better than a point-per-game. That would put him around the 10-point mark. But Backstrom only had four points and a suspension in the first round. So disappointing.

There will be one four-overtime game.

Another one that was so close. Washington and New York played three overtimes, and were only five minutes away from a fourth before the Rangers scored.

So in the end, I got four right, and came pretty close on a couple of others. Not too shabby.  I would have loved to have gotten the no powerplay goals one right, but I wasn’t that far off.

All in all, pretty good considering they were more off-the-wall picks.

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My NHL playoff predictions

Tonight is the start of the NHL playoffs.

Orlandkurtenbach photo, via Wikimedia Commons

If the puck is behind Roberto Luongo, you know he's in playoff form.

Before I get on to my series picks, I thought it would be fun to have some bold predictions.

So here are 10 slightly-off-the-wall predictions:

There will be at least three goaltending controversies

I figure there are five teams that could see fans start screaming for the backup: Vancouver, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, and all for different reasons.

St. Louis, for example, has two number one goalies. So if one struggles and the Blues are down two games in a series, I could see fans yelling for the other goalie.

In Philly, I could see Ilya Bryzgalov pitching two shutouts in the first two games. I could also see him being pulled after allowing 11 goals on 45 shots.

In Vancouver, there’s already speculation about Cory Schneider getting some playing time.

Last year, there was a small bit of talk about Tukka Rask being the starter for game three after Boston lost the first two games on home ice to Montreal, even though it wasn’t Tim Thomas’ fault.

And in Washington, I don’t even know who the #1 goalie is.

The seeds are already planted for at least three of those teams will have a goalie controversy.

No player will get more than 30 points

I understand with so many superstars in the playoffs, most people think 30 points is easily available. I’m less sure.

With so many good goalies and defensive teams, goals will be harder to come back. You’ll see more third- and fourth-liners winning games than the top two lines. That means scoring will be more spread out, and less points for the top players.

There will be no sweeps in the first round

I think the Blues-Sharks has the best chance for one, but I think every team wins at least one game.

There will be at least one major upset (7 or 8 seed winning)

I’m looking at Washington for this one. But I could easily see Ottawa beating the Rangers. But I don’t think the top two seeds will lose in the western conference.

Ilya Kovalchuk will not score in the first round

I think the Devils advance, but I think he’ll be snakebitten for the first round for some odd reason.

One team will not score a powerplay goal in the first round

This goes back to my earlier point about the defensive teams being so strong this year. New Jersey’s penalty kill is dynamite, so I think they’ll be the ones to do it.

Roberto Luongo will have a game where he lets in at least seven goals

Okay, so this one isn’t so off the wall, as he seems to do it every year.

There will be two suspensions in the first round

Pittsburgh and Philly, I’m looking to you guys to help me out on this one.

Nick Backstrom will lead the league in points after round one

Last year, the leading point-getter was Michael Cammalleri. So while Crosby, Malkin, Giroux, Sedin, etc. may be the top picks by a lot of people, I expect Backstrom to get at least eight points.

There will be one four-overtime game

We haven’t had one in a while. Last year, there were hardly any double-OT games. I think we’re due.

As for my series predictions:

Rangers over Senators in six

Capitals over Bruins in seven (upset special!)

Devils over Panthers in five

Penguins over Flyers in six

Canucks over Kings in six

Blues over Sharks in five

Blackhawks over Coyotes in six

Red Wings over Predators in six

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25 bold NHL predictions

Most web sites do a NHL predictions page. But most of those predictions are safe. They don’t really take a chance.

Photo by rubyswoon, via Wikimedia Commons

Zach Parise will score 50 goals this season.

Want some boldness? Read my predictions on the upcoming NHL season below.

1. There will be five players that crack the 50-goal barrier, the most since the 2005-06 campaign. My guess on the players would be Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek (with Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash coming close, and possibly Sidney Crosby, depending on how much time he misses).

2. Surprise good team of the year: Colorado Avalanche. They may not make the playoffs, but they’ll come close.

3. Surprise bad team of the year: Philadelphia Flyers. They’ll struggle for much of the year.

4. Don’t expect much out of the Bruins. A lot of teams in the East got better this past summer, and the Bruins will have a bit of a Stanley Cup hangover. They’ll still make the playoffs, but they’ll struggle.

5. Alexander Semin will be traded in a move designed to shake up the Capitals before the playoffs.

6. Daniel Alfredsson will be traded to the Red Wings to give him one last shot at the Stanley Cup before he retires.

7. Shane Doan will be traded to Winnipeg.

8. There will be at least two 20-game suspensions, as players don’t seem to understand the new headshot rule.

9. No player on the Habs will get 70 points.

10. On the wrong end of a few blowouts, and with a few scrapers on the team, the Senators will lead the league in fights.

11. Three Canadian teams will make the playoffs: The Canadiens, the Leafs and the Canucks.

12. Simon Gagne finds a way to stay healthy, score 30 goals and net 70 points.

Photo by Dan4th, via Wikimedia Commons

Dany Heatley will demand a trade this year.

13. Dany Heatley will demand a trade, and will end up in Winnipeg.

14. Surprise player of the year will be Bryan Little.

15. The Islanders make a big trade for a goalie.

16. The Calgary Flames will finish last in the West.

17. All three Calder finalists from last season — Jeff Skinner, Logan Couture and Michael Grabner  — have a sophomore slump.

18. Brad Richards does what most big-money free agents in New York do: he has a subpar season, finishing with 60 points.

19. One thing that bothers me about all these expert sites making predictions is they’re scared to take a chance to deviate from the norm. Really, you’re picking Steven Stamkos to win the Rocket Richard trophy? And Shea Weber to win the Norris? Wow, what a gutsy prediction. Blech. The following are my dark horse predictions for each of the trophies:

Rocket Richard: Zach Parise

20. Hart: Jarome Iginla

21. Art Ross:  Ryan Getzlaf

22. Selke: Tomas Plekanec

23. Norris: Dan Boyle

24. Calder: Luke Adam

25. The Devils will win the Stanley Cup, with Martin Brodeur retiring shortly thereafter.

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33 NHL thoughts

Once again, my 33 NHL thoughts, including my playoff predictions. I also list my choice on who is going to win the Stanley Cup.

Marcusvfx photo, via Wikimedia Commons

When the opposition scores, it's a good bet Chris Phillips is on the ice.

1. Bryan Murray was re-signed with the Sens. Some believe he deserved to be brought back after the trades he made this past half a season. Of course, it was his fault he had to trade away bloated contracts that he gave players, but that’s besides the point. Or so some would have you believe.

2. One thing I don’t understand. If Murray was able to fix his mistakes and the team competitive in the latter half of the season, why was his job safe and not Cory Clouston? Shouldn’t Clouston have also been rewarded for making a team of AHLers competitive?

3. Remember Murray giving Chris Phillips that bloated contract at the trade deadline? The one that will see Phillips get a little more than $3 million a year for the next three years? Since that deal, Phillips has been a minus 10, despite the Sens posting a winning record of 11 wins, eight losses and one overtime loss.

4. Phillips finished last in the league with a minus 35. That’s what $9 million gets you nowadays.

5. In the Habs-Sens game, Chris Neil challenged Scott Gomez to a fight. It seemed strange to me, considering he was getting a facewash from Hal Gill at the time. But that’s what Neil does. Instead of going after the other team’s tough guys, he decides to go after guys he knows he can beat. Of course, if my fights against tough guys went like this, I’d probably stop challenging them too.

6. I know the playoffs start today, and the Habs series starts tomorrow, but is it too late to fire coach Jacques Martin? I don’t get what the appeal is with him. He seems to get outcoached many times. He doesn’t even get credit for the playoff success last year, as a lot of the accolades went to Kirk Muller.

Tim Thomas should win the Hart trophy, but he won't be nominated.

7. Lots of talk about the Hart trophy, and about whether Daniel Sedin deserves it over Corey Perry. But as much as I hate the Bruins,  Tim Thomas put on a show that deserves the trophy this year. Perry finished with 50 goals, and Sedin just over a 100 points. But that’s not actually too rare. Thomas dominated this season, and had numbers that goalies haven’t had in more than a decade.

8. There’s actually been a lot of talk for various goalies being nominated for the Hart trophy (Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Henrik Lundqvist), but I don’t think any of them get nominated. Not even Thomas, despite my previous point.

9. Coach of the year has got to be Penguins coach Dan Blymsa. He lost Jordan Staal for the first half of the year, and then Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby for the second half. Yet they still finished fourth in the conference, and was actually making a push towards the division title down the stretch. That’s unbelievable.

10. Compare that to other teams, and think of their coaches. Could Vancouver have had the success they did if they missed Ryan Kesler for the first half, and the Sedin twins for the second half? Does Tampa make the playoffs if Vincent Lecavalier misses the first half of the season, and Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos the second half? I don’t think so.

11. I understand injuries play a role, but I’ve never understood why Jacques Martin likes to break up lines when they’re working. Case in point, the PhD line. Benoit Pouliot, Jeff Halpern and Mathieu Darche played great when they were on the same line. But they were broken up way too early. Hopefully, we’ll see them back together in the playoffs. 

12. No one got 60 points in Montreal? Not good. And there’s not a lot of cap space to go out and get help.

13. The Habs aren’t the only ones with that problem. Despite the “new” NHL leading to more scoring, there are plenty of teams without a 30-goal scorer or a 60-point guy.

14. What is Andrei Markov worth this summer? After three major injuries in the last two years, I’m not sure what the market will be like for Markov this summer. A team like Colorado might go after him, but really, I think Markov needs to sign a one-year deal with the Habs, have an awesome season, and then look to sign a big contract the following year.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Nazem Kadri won't be eligible for the Calder trophy next year because he played an extra four games this season.

15. Nazem Kadri won’t be eligible to win the Calder trophy next year. I understand the Leafs wanted to get the kid some games, but playing him in 29 games is a little silly, especially when the cutoff for rookie of year candidates is 25. They could have sat him out of an extra five games, and he would have had something extra to play for next year.

16. Scott Gomez finished the season with seven goals, meaning he is getting paid $1 million per goal. I wouldn’t mind if he was an Adam Oates type of player, getting tons of assists. Or if he was a hard hitter. Or if he actually contributed anything to the team. But he doesn’t. But because he makes so much money, he’s always on the top two lines. His minus 15 doesn’t help matters either.

17. The question now becomes, should the Habs buy Gomez out this summer? Of course they should. According to CapGeek.com, if the Habs buy him out, they would save $5.5 million next season. For that price, they could sign five guys who could score only seven goals a season.

18. I love PK Subban, but his penalty minutes need to be lower. Getting 42 minor penalties is way too much. That’s the worst in the league, and it’s way too much for such an important player on the Habs.

19. Don’t like the fact that Andrei Kostitsyn has more hits on the Habs than anyone else. Even though the Canadiens play a speedy game, they still need to have a couple of grinders that can help wear the other team down.

20. Leafs fans should curb their optimism about next season. Career year from certain guys helped, and so did a rookie goalie. But you can’t expect everyone to meet those same numbers next year.

21. Sens finished one goal ahead of their lowest scoring regular season in modern history. And there doesn’t seem to be a lot of offensive help coming. Can you count on Bobby Butler over the course of 82 games? History says no.

Moe photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Having Zach Parise for a full season will help the Devils next year.

22. If all the Devils do is re-sign Zach Parise this summer, they’ll be a playoff team next year. There’s no way guys like Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur start off the season as bad as what they did this year.

23. Is there any hope of Florida ever being a playoff team? Things look bleak there. I’m a huge NHL fan, but I don’t think I could name five Panthers.

24. It feels like there are more coaches than ever being fired right now. So far, Dallas, Minnesota, Ottawa and Florida have all fired their coaches already, and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. If there are a couple of first round upsets (Washington, for example), then there could be a couple of more coming, plus more from teams already eliminated. Not sure what the record is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a new one set for coaches fired in a single offseason.

25. It’ll be interesting to see how many playoff teams have trouble in the postseason thanks to the shootout inflating their points. Both the Kings and the Pens won 10 shootouts, with the Rangers winning nine. And the Kings, for example, only one won game in overtime during the whole season. It’ll be interesting to see how that translates to postseason success.

26. Interesting to note: Only one team has a winning percentage when losing after the first period. The Washington Capitals. So never count them out of a playoff game.

27. Way back at the start of the season, I tried to make some crazier predictions (see them all here). Some of them, I was way off, especially when it comes to the trades. Probably the worst prediction was saying Kris Versteeg will finish with 80 points. He had 46, and was traded once it became apparent he couldn’t be a top-line player.

Bridget Samuels photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Who would have guessed Michael Grabner would have such a good rookie season? Oh right, I did.

28. My favourite prediction that I came close on?  Michael Grabner for the Calder trophy. He probably won’t win, but he should be a nominee.

29. Other predictions I was right on: ” Daniel Sedin gets more points than his brother, Henrik.” Most people had it the other way, considering Henrik won the Hart trophy and the Art Ross last season.

30. “Despite all their rookies, no one on the Oilers will be nominated for the Calder trophy.” The nominees haven’t come out yet, but I feel pretty confident in this one.

31. My first round Eastern playoff predictions: Capitals over Rangers, Sabres over Flyers, Canadiens over Bruins and Lightning over Penguins.

32. Playoff predictions for the West: Blackhawks over the Canucks, Sharks over Kings, Wings over Coyotes and Ducks over Predators.

33. Stanley Cup finals will be between the Ducks and the Sabres, with the Ducks winning the Stanley Cup.

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33 NHL thoughts

One of my favourite columns each week is written by CBC’s Elliotte Friedman.

By Canada Hky, via Wikimedia Commons

Did Brayden Schenn inadvertently give Team Russia extra motivation?

Besides a main column, he also has something called 30 NHL thoughts, which are pretty insightful and fun to read.

So I figured I would borrow the idea, without the insightfulness. I would also make it 33 thoughts, for obvious reasons.

1. I loved watching Kings prospect Brayden Schenn play for Canada at the World Juniors this year, but after his goal that made it 3-0 for Canada against Russia in the gold medal game, Schenn celebrated by tugging at his jersey. It was his way of saying Canada is tops, I guess. But it’s no coincidence that Russia started coming back after that goal. And if you watch the Russian players and the bench after each third-period goal, they tugged at their jerseys. Rubbing it back in Schenn’s face? Did Schenn unwillingly give the Russians some motivation?

2: An underrated part of Sidney Crosby’s game is his faceoff record. So far this year, he’s winning 55.6% of the draws, which is amazing considering how many defensive specialists he faces off against. He also takes more than 40% of his team’s draws, tops in the league. He’s been getting steadily better. Two years ago, his winning percentage was 51.3%. In 2006-07, he was under 50%.

3: Has there been a bigger fantasy bust than Patrice Bergeron? I’m not talking about high drafts picks that never played, but more so guys who showed promise and teased fantasy owners with some good seasons. Bergeron showed so much promise early in his career with back-to-back 70-point seasons, but now is good for about 50 points a year. He’s still a good player and is strong defensively, but hockey poolies should stay away from him.

4: The Oilers shootouts look very disappointing. They have only one shooutout win in seven tries. Shouldn’t they be better with all their young talent?

By Bridget Samules (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bridgetds/5088655878/), via Wikimedia Commons

Wouldn't Sheldon Souray help the Oilers powerplay with his booming shot from the point?

5: And the Oilers powerplay doesn’t look good. Wouldn’t Sheldon Souray, who they are paying anyways, help them out with that big shot from the point?

6: For all the pomp and circumstance, the Winter Classic is actually dull to watch. The passes aren’t crisp. There’s not many goals. Hardly any scoring chances. It may be great to watch in person, but I usually tune out after the first period.

7: Former Barenaked Ladies singer Stephen Page sang the Canadian national anthem before the Winter Classic. But why have the Canadian anthem when it was Washington at Pittsburgh, with no Canadian teams involved? Does that mean the American national anthem will be sung before the Heritage Classic next month between Calgary and Montreal?

8: No major changes needed in New Jersey. Sometimes teams have a bad year. But they still have Kovalchuk (a two-time 50-goal scorer), 45-goal scorer Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and others. Just like some teams can have a season where everyone sets career highs, the opposite is also true, and that’s happening this season.

9: However, New Jersey needs to start grooming a backup to replace Martin Brodeur. If he doesn’t retire this summer, he only has another season or two left.

10. All that said, Lou Lammarello should be the next GM fired. He has trouble managing the salary cap since it came into being after the lockout. The Devils have only $9.6 million in cap space for next season, and they still need to re-sign Zach Parise.

11: Another fun thing to do is visit HFBoards, and read trade proposals by different fans. About 99% of them are laughable, and would never actually happen. Case in point? This one, which suggests Eric Staal straight up for Evgeni Malkin. Or this one, where Calgary trades Jarome Iginla and Anton Babchuk to Washington for Alex Semin, Karl Alzner and a 1st round. Doesn’t make sense for Calgary to trade their top player for an unrestricted free agent and a late first rounder.

12: The Chicago Blackhawks could be having another fire sale this summer. They have only $17 million in cap space, but still need to re-sign  a bunch of players. In fact, they only have 10 players signed for next season, and no goalies. Once players like Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and others re-sign, that doesn’t give them a lot of room to go after anyone. It could be time to trade another couple of guys.

By Dan4th Nicholas, via Wikimedia Commons

Is Evgeni Malkin a top 10 player?

13: There used to be a time when Evgeni Malkin was considered one of the top three players in the league. Now, he may not even crack the top five, once you take into account Crosby, Steven Stamkos, the Sedins, Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Nick Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Brad Richards, etc. And that doesn’t include goalies or defencemen. In fact, Malkin may not even crack the top 10.

14: Overlooked player of the year so far: Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. As a sophomore, he has 40 points in 40 games, and is leading the Avalanche to a great season so far. Which is important, considering Avs goalie Craig Anderson has taken a step back this season.

15: With so many shootouts this year (62 in total so far), it’s amazing the Canadiens haven’t had one yet. In fact, they’ve only gone into overtime on five occassions this year, and are 2-3 in those games.

16: One reason why Brad Richards will be sought after at the trade deadline and this season that no one talks about: His shootout record. Richards is tied for third all time in shootout goals, with 24. That’s important extra points for teams looking to make the playoffs. Add that to a potential 90-point guy, and Richards should be able to get about $7 million a season.

17: In case you’re wondering, Petteri Nummelin has the best shooting percentage of all-time in the shootout (minimum 10 shots). He’s scored on eight of them, for a percentage of 80%. Outside of the shootout, In 139 regular season games, he has nine goals.

18: Some of the all-time worst shooting percentages in the shootout belong to Bobby Ryan, Marian Gaborik, Tomas Plekanec and Eric Staal. Dany Heatley ranks up there as well, with only four goals in 25 tries. So why does he keep getting opportunities if he’s not good at the shootout?

19: This past summer, the Minnesota Wild gave Mikko Koivu a $7 million a season deal for five years. This year, Koivu has only nine goals in 39 games (along with 25 assists), and the Wild are out of the playoffs. If this were happening in a place like Montreal, Ottawa or Toronto, people would be screaming that he’s overpaid.

Oiler cheerleaders aren't necessarily a bad thing.

20. The Edmonton Oilers debuted their cheerleaders a couple of weeks ago, called the Octane. There were some who think this was a bad idea, but I don’t see it that way. Cheerleaders are used in almost every sport, and some groups, such as the Laker girls and Dallas Cowgirls, bring more to the team, especially when it comes to extra revenue. Plus, the list of people who have been cheerleaders at some point is long. It includes names such as Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Steve Martin. If the Octane take off, the Oilers could make extra money with calendars, merchandise and promotions, and that’s never a bad thing.

21: Every team in the NHL has scored at least one shorthanded goal except for one: The Tampa Bay Lightning. That surprises me, considering the speed of the team (which generally leads to short handed breakaways).

22: Can’t see anyone willing to take a chance on Alexei Kovalev and trying to trade for him. Even though he’s a free agent this summer, he’s a distraction, and most playoff teams would be better off without him. People can dream about him playing on Crosby’s wing, but you have to remember this is 2010 Kovalev, not 2001.

23: Yes, the future looks bright in Edmonton, but there’s a lot of work to do there. The team is in the bottom five in powerplay, faceoff percentage, overtime losses and last in penalty killing and goals against.

24: A lot is being made of Vancouver’s great record so far this season. But could they be peaking too early? The regular season looks awesome, but the team has had trouble in the playoffs, especially Roberto Luongo. If they lose in the first or second round again, would anyone actually care if they came first?

25: Everyone thinks the Penguins get the benefit of calls from the referees, but the team is actually the most penalized in the league. No team has been shorthanded more times (172) than the Pens.

26: It’s important for the Canadiens to get off to a quick start. Their record when trailing after the first period is 0-11. They’re the only team in the league to not get a single point if trailing after one.

By Bridget Samuels, via Wikimedia Commons

Atlanta is winning because of contributions from all their defencemen, not just Dustin Byfuglien.

27: While everyone talks about Dustin Byfuglien as being a Norris trophy candidate, the other Atlanta defencemen deserve a lot of praise as well. Three of the defencemen (Brent Sopel, Tobias Enstrom and Ron Hainsey) are in the top seven in the league in blocked shots, with Johnny Oduya being 14th. That’s a lot of shots that never make it to the goaltender.

28: One of the problems with the Toronto Maple Leafs is the giveaways by their defencemen. Francois Beauchemin leads the league in this category, Luke Schenn is third and Tomas Kaberle is eighth. When your defencemen are giving up the puck that much, that leads to a lot of odd-man rushes and scoring chances against your team.

29: For my money, the most overpaid player has to be Thomas Vanek. More than $7 million a year for a 30-goal scorer. Edmonton should be grateful that Buffalo matched that contract.

30: Things don’t look good for most of the free agents this summer. Out of the 26 UFAs currently making more than $3.5 million, I think only two of them get a pay raise (if they don’t take hometown discounts): Joni Pitkanen and Ilya Bryzgalov. The rest of the names, such as Michael Ryder, Alexei Kovalev, Andrei Markov, Tomas Vokoun, Pascal Leclaire, J.S. Giguere, etc. will probably have to take pay cuts.

31: That’s especially true with so many young restricted free agent studs needing to be locked up. Some of the RFAs this summer include Steven Stamkos, Shea Weber, Drew Doughty, Zach Parise, Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, Brent Seabrook and more. If teams spend money on their youth, that takes up a lot of the salary cap, and doesn’t leave much for the guys who are becoming restricted free agents.

32: It’s amazing Detroit Red Wings keeps rolling along. Despite their age, and now injuries (Dan Cleary, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Modano are all out), the Wings keep finding ways to win. Sitting second in the West, you have to wonder if it will ever catch up to the Wings.

33: Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, would it be considered a successful season in some fans’ eyes if they don’t finish in the bottom five of the league. Especially if one of those teams are the Ottawa Senators. It could happen. The Leafs are only five points back with five games in hand.

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New Jersey Devils preview

Overview: With all the talk about the Ilya Kovalchuk contract/non-contract debate over the summer, many people never bothered to focus on exactly what Kovalchuk brings to the team.

The Devils have a great nucleus in place, with Travis Zajac and Zach Parise representing the talented youth players, Jason Arnott and Patrick Elias representing the experienced players, and Marty Brodeur backing everyone up.

The only thing they’re missing is an offensive defenceman. While the Devils can have Kovalchuk on the point for the full two minutes during a powerplay, it’s the rest of the time when they are lacking. There’s no one who can give that breakout pass, or anyone with a booming shot from the point on the rush. They’re strong defensive defencemen, but that’s about it.

Best offseason move: Signing Ilya Kovalchuk. Who cares about the length of the deal, or the amount of money? Kovalchuk is money. He’s scored at least 40 goals every single season of his career except for his rookie season, when he had 29. He’s hit 50 goals twice. He was the only reason people watched Thrashers games. He’s exciting on the ice. Even if Kovalchuk is good for only 10 years of the contract, this was a good signing.

Worst offseason move: Giving Anton Volchenkov too many years. Yes, he’s a hitting and shot-blocking machine. But he’s also 28 years old going on 47. He misses more and more games every year, and he can’t score. I once compared him to Hal Gill, but without the offensive talent. About three years from now, he’ll be missing half the season as his body breaks down more and more. Nice signing, but it was too long.

Dark horse trophy candidate: Zach Parise for the Rocket Richard

Pool pick: Jason Arnott. After spending a few seasons in the city where offence goes to die (Nashville), Arnott will be centring the second line in New Jersey. He’ll be on a line with good offensive players, and won’t be the main concern of the other teams’ defensive players. Who to stay away from: Brian Rolston. A few years back, he was good for 60 points. Now, with so many other offensive talents, he’ll probably be on the third line in a more checking-type role.

Sporcle quiz: Can you name the New Jersey Devils leaders?

Best hall of fame choice: Martin Brodeur. The easiest choice of any team in the league. All-time leader in wins and shutouts. Has three Stanley Cup rings. Has two Olympic gold medals. Four Vezina trophies. A Calder trophy. etc etc. If the league were to disband right now, and they could only put one person in the hall of fame, it would be Brodeur.

Blog to follow: In Lou We Trust

My Prediction: Second in the Atlantic, fifth in the East

Famous celebrity from that city: Sunny (aka Tammy Lynn Sytch)

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Other Sens rallies

So it looks like Ottawa Senators fans will be holding a rally on Parliament Hill on June 19 to try to show Jason Spezza that he’s loved in Ottawa.

But for those who may not be aware, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other rallies that will that Sens fans will be holding this summer.

So, in my best Down Goes Brown imitation, here are some other rallies for Sens fans to attend.

• June 19: A rally to keep Jason Spezza in town.

June 20: A rally to raise money for Chris Neil.

• June 24: Trying to create positive karma, a rally in support of Bryan Murray and letting him know that they support all his past draft picks, Brian Lee included

• June 25: A rally to try to figure out how to properly pronounce first-round pick Tom Kuhnhackl’s name.

• June 30: A rally to show Murray that Ilya Kovalchuk would look good in a Sens jersey

• July 1: A rally to say that Kovalchuk is overrated, and the Leafs are stupid for signing him

• July 3: A rally for Murray to finally sign make a big splash in the free agency market

• July 4: A rally to show that signing Tomas Plekanec to a five-year, $27 million deal was a good pickup, despite his small size, poor faceoff percentage and horrible shootout record

• July 4: A rally to say that singing Olli Jokinen was a good signing and he can turn it around in Ottawa, especially on a line with Alexei Kovalev

• July 12: A rally to show that Pascal Leclaire is a true #1 goalie, no matter what his career stats say, all you need to do is look at Game 5 of the first round for proof of that.

• July 17: A rally at Scotiabank place to show general support for the team (the Leaf fans who show up drown out the Sens fans and their cheering)

• July 18: A rally by Sens fans to say classless Leafs fans should stop booing the Sens, because it upsets the Senators players and their fans

• August 1: A rally to convince themselves that Kovalev has only had three bad years of the past four seasons, and he’s due to turn it around

• August 7: A rally for Daniel Alfredsson, just so he doesn’t feel left out (Alfie guarantees the crowd his feelings weren’t hurt)

• August 19: A rally to show Mike Fisher that he’s still worth the $4.2 million cap hit, just because people can keep an eye out for Carrie Underwood

• August 24: A rally that celebrates the trade of that bum, Jason Spezza, for Scott Hannan and Milan Hejduk. Because former one-time 50-goal scorers who have seen a decrease every season since then is always a good thing to have, right?

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What the Habs should do this summer

This NHL postseason taught us a lot of things, and the Montreal Canadiens were the teachers for most it.

They showed you don’t need to build a team for the regular season, but for the playoffs. They showed that a really good goalie can steal a playoff series. And they showed that an average team has a shot against powerhouses if they have players who willing to sacrifice their bodies to block shots.

Unfortunately, they also showed that they are an average team, and don’t look to get much better in the future.

While they’re strong in nets and on defence, their offence doesn’t show a lot of signs of getting better. The young forwards look to be career third- and fourth-liners. Their two best young offensive players (a set of brothers) look to have played their last games with Montreal.

So while the playoffs gave us hope, there is still a lot of work to be done. If Mike Cammalleri didn’t score, then odds were the Habs weren’t going to win. They have no scoring depth, and need a couple more proven playoff performers to be able to make a serious run in the postseason.

They also need a different system. They can’t expect to get outshot, outchanced and outhit and still win four series. It just doesn’t work like that. It tires out a team, its defence and its goaltender.

Now, because of Montreal’s play this postseason, they get the 27th pick in the 2010 entry draft, so if they want to remain competitive, they need to make some moves. Remember, they had a brutal regular season, and lost its last three regular season games to non-playoff teams, even though they needed to win to make the playoffs.

So here are some things I think Montreal needs to do this summer. Now, it may sound like I’m blowing up the team, but I’m not. I’m keeping most of the core players. But there are some drastic changes that need to happen.

So here’s what I would do:

Trade Andrei Markov

Some may call this crazy, but it actually makes sense on so many levels.

First off is the fact he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer. This means teams can take a chance on him, and if he doesn’t work out, it’s no big deal for them. His cap hit is a manageable $5.75 million, which is great for a team looking for a #1 defenceman. Plus, he’s still a workhorse, playing huge minutes, manning the powerplay and killing penalties. In short, he can do it all.

So why get rid of him?

It’s simple. It’s like we mentioned above. He’s a free agent next year, and will be worth a lot this summer if the Habs want to trade him. They’ll never get more for him than they will now. Once the season starts, it will be harder to trade him because of cap space issues. But trade him early enough in the summer, and teams have plenty of space to take on his contract before signing other players. Also, Habs fans and players would be better off learning to live without Markov at the start of training camp than halfway through the season.

He’s also 31 years old (turning 32 this year), and has started to get hit by injuries. Sure, they’re freak injuries, but he missed the playoffs last year, got injured at the start of this season, and went down again in the first game of the second round. It’s got to be a concern.

Another reason is his salary. While it’s great for a top-tier defenceman, the Habs are going to have cap issues, so it’s better to deal with that now. Next summer, Markov will probably want something around $6.5 million, and the Habs wouldn’t be able to afford to keep him. Plus, this will probably be his last big contract, and will want big money.

He doesn’t want to be captain. While it’s great that he can admit he doesn’t feel comfortable in that role, I think I would rather have someone who can lead on the ice.

The final reason is that PK Subban is ready to join the team. He’ll eat up the minutes, kill penalties and play the point on the powerplay.

By trading Markov, the team can get prospects, draft picks, and possibly a good second-line player. Imagine if the team trades him to Colorado, who is in need of a top defenceman. The Avalanche have plenty of good prospects and young players. Imagine if Markov was traded for a package that includes Chris Stewart (a big youngster who had 28 goals and 64 points in his second full season). That’s not a bad return for a guy who may walk next summer.

Get rid of the Kostitsyn brothers

Andrei Kostitsyn especially. The guy has a tendency to play a few bad games, and then have an amazing game. Then he goes back to playing with no heart or passion.

Or, he’ll play a bad game, but then he’ll have one shift that shows he could be one of the most talented players on the team. It makes him frustrating to watch.

Sound familiar? All that’s missing are the words “The enigmatic.” You could substitute Alexei Kovalev’s name in there for any point of his career.

I think Kovalev rubbed off on the young players in a negative way when he was a Hab. Too many of youngsters started to float around and feel like they didn’t have to give it their all shift after shift after shift. That culture is now changing, though, and it’s time to finish it. Get rid of Andrei.

Sergei may be a different story. Although he took some heat for not practicing with his other teammates who were scratches during the second round, Sergei may still have a salvageable career in Montreal. He’s an offensive threat, and stronger defensively than his brother.

Besides being a restricted free agent, Sergei seemed to change once he was sent to the AHL earlier this year, and maybe he’ll be a better player if the team sends him another message of his brother being traded. But if not, then it’s time to cut ties with both of them.

The two of them are still young enough and talented enough that the Habs could get back a half-decent prospect or draft pick.

Don’t be afraid to let Plekanec walk

Tomas Plekanec had a great season this year. He led the team in points, was the key faceoff guy, and was responsible defensively. And he’ll probably want something among the lines of $5.5 million per season.

That said, unless he’s willing to sign a contract for a max of $3.5 million a year, the Habs need to let him walk. If the Habs overpay him, it would create another contract on the team that would be hard to trade once he starts to slip. Sure, that may not be the popular opinion, but it’s something  that needs to be done.

Here’s four reasons why:

1) Plekanec is a streaky player. His season point totals since the lockout goes like this: 29, 47, 69, 39,  and 70. Is that worth $5.5 million a year for four years? No, it’s not.

2) He was only 49 per cent faceoff winning percentage in the regular season (key faceoff guy, but loses the majority of his draws). That number plummeted to 47.1% in the playoffs. Not good for a #1 centre.

3) He’s not a great shootout guy. Only one for six in 2009-2010 and two for 13 in his career. Heck, Pierre Dagenais has two shootout goals for the Habs, and he only played 32 games in the shootout era. Winning shootouts gets you playoff spots, and a guy wanting a lot of money needs to be able to come through in the clutch.

and most importantly, 4) his size. He’s not a big guy (only 5′ 11, 190 pounds, which makes him big on the Habs, but not against other teams). The Habs have plenty of undersized players, and they don’t need to worry about keeping another one.

And this doesn’t take into his poor playoff performance. Sure, 11 points sounds good, but only four of those points were goals, and seven of those points came in the first six games against Washington. In his last 13 playoff games, he had zero goals and four assists. Yet his linemate, Michael Cammalleri, had eight goals in those 13 games. So Cammy was getting the points without his playmaking centreman setting him up. Not good.

When you look at other players that finished with around 70 points this season, this is what you get: Eric Staal, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Vincent Lecavallier. Yes, they all make more than $6 million, but for them, 70 points is a down year, not a career high.

In actuality, Plekanec should be making around what Derek Roy (69 points), Nik Antropov (67 points) and Alexandre Burrows (67 points) make: between $2 and $4 million a year.

So if Plekanec won’t take a cheap hometown discount, it would be better to let him go.

Trade Carey Price

I think Price should have been the future of this franchise, but that ship has sailed now. There’s no way the Habs can afford to keep both Price and Halak next year. And with the postseason that Halak had, more people will want to keep him. And that’s understandable. Wrong, but understandable.

If the Habs were to keep Price over Halak and not do well next year, that would create way too much pressure on Price and lead to a fan revolt.

So Price should be traded, where in a few years, he’ll be one of the top goalies in the league. Price is still young enough with a pedigree good enough that he would command a solid package in return. Maybe picks or prospects, or a decent second-line player.

There are still some teams out there that need a good young goalie. Philly is still in need of a top goalie after the Ray Emery experiment failed (I don’t think they’ll trust their franchise long-term to either Brian Boucher or Michael Leighton). Lightning haven’t had a good goalie since 2004. The Sharks could be losing Evgeni Nabakov to free agency this summer and will need someone to replace him. The Blues need to decide whether to sign Chris Mason or go with Ty Conklin in net.

I think Tampa and St. Louis would be the frontrunners. Any team with youth up front knows they are a few years away from being great, and having a young goalie that can grow up with the rest of the team would be a good thing.

Name a captain

This past season was the first time the Habs have ever gone without a captain. And many people didn’t like it.

Sure, a leader doesn’t actually need a C on his chest to lead, but it’s more for the fans. They want to be able to root for someone, or know that there’s someone that is going to be there for the team, and come through when most needed. It’s easier for the fans to be able to pick someone out that will answer the bell for the club.

I understand why they didn’t name a captain this past year. Markov didn’t want it, and the team had gone through such an overhaul that it was better to wait.

But the time has come now for someone to step forward, and really, it’s the easiest decision of the summer.

It’s gotta be Mike Cammalleri.

There’s the numbers that back this up. He’s the most dangerous man on the ice for the Habs. He’s the only player on the roster one figures could pot 50 goals next year. He had a great playoffs. He’s signed for a few more seasons (which means he’s less likely to leave), and he never gives up on the ice.

But it’s not just the numbers. More than any other player last year, he seemed to understand the history of the team and respect it. If there was something to do with the Habs 100th anniversary, he did it. If someone from the past came to the locker room, he seemed to genuinely be excited about it.

In short, he is proud to be a Montreal Canadien.

He also bought tickets for military troops and their families as a way to say thank you for serving our country.

He’s the team’s leader, on and off the ice, and should be made captain because of it.

Resign Dominic Moore

Showed a lot of fire in the playoffs, and works hard every shift. Scores timely goals. Can be a great third-liner, or a half-decent second liner. He can kill penalties, score the odd goal, and is good on faceoffs. If we can resign him for about $1 million or less (which should be doable, since he’s only making $1.1 million now), we should. 

Resign Glen Metropolit

He had a career year with 16 goals, 10 of which came on the powerplay. A hard worker, he isn’t scared to go to the front of the net, will battle through injuries, and is a presence on the ice. Because of his career year, he may want a salary increase from the $1 million he made last season. He’s 36 years old, so if we can sign him for about $1.25 million, I think we should. If he wants $1.5 million or higher though, we need to let him walk.

Resign Benoit Pouliot

I still think Minnesota got the better of the deal when the Canadiens traded Gui Latendresse for Pouliot, but Pouliot was a nice surprise. He scored 15 goals in 39 games for the Habs, after scoring only nine in 65 games for the Wild. Unfortunately, he’s a streaky player. He scored only one goal in the last 14 games of the regular season, and zero in 18 playoff games (with only two assists), despite spending a good amount of time on the second line and on the powerplay. I do like his speed, his work ethic and the fact he’s only 23 years old, which means he has lots of time to get better. I say we sign him to a two-year contract for about $1 million a year (a small increase from the $800,000 he currently makes), and see what he can do the next few years. If he’s able to be more consistent, that’s great. But if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t cost a lot and he’s gone in a couple of years.

Resign Maxim Lapierre

A poor man’s Claude Lemieux, he gets better in the playoffs. Not scared to be an agitator, will bump the other team’s goalies, and generally try to get the other team off their game. Yes, he had a bad season, but last summer people were considering him as captain material. That sort of stuff just doesn’t disappear. Another hard-worker, and a great third-liner for a team that is short of players wanting to mix it up. I wouldn’t mind if he was signed to a three-year deal for about $1.5 million a season, especially after the playoffs he just had.

Let Marc-Andre Bergeron walk

Last November, I wrote a letter to Marc-Andre Bergeron, asking him to leave the Habs because he wasn’t performing. He doesn’t like to hit, doesn’t like to be hit, and he actually seems to forget there’s a d in defence. He ended up scoring 13 goals, had 21 assists and was a -7 (that dropped to a league worst -12 in the playoffs). There’s probably a reason he’s played on four teams in the last three years, and wasn’t signed last summer until the Habs needed someone to replace Markov. His salary cap of $750,000 is impressive though, but in the end, I think it’s same thing as Markov. The Habs need to let Subban lead this team, and they’re actually deep at this position (with Hamrlik, Spacek, Gorges, O’Byrne and Gill, not to mention youngsters like Subban). Plus, I think there’s a couple a half-decent free agents that can take his place pretty easily.

Trade for Dustin Byfuglien

Yes, I know, easier said than done, especially after the playoffs he just had. But Chicago is going to have a hard time meeting the cap (they’re already at the cap limit for next season, and still need to sign Antti Niemi, John Madden, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Adam Burish, and about five other guys, or sign players to take their place). Byfuglien and Brent Seabrook are free agents next summer, and I think Chicago will want to hold on to Seabrook. That means Byfuglien could be available if the Blackhawks want to clear up space.

The guy is scrappy, can score (three straight seasons with 15 to 20 goals), can play as a defenceman if needed, can bother the other team and is a big strong body. I think he’d be great for the Montreal powerplay (just screen the other goalie) and makes $3 million next season.

I think the Blackhawks won’t trade Byfuglien for cheap, but the Habs need to make an effort to get a big body.

(P.S.- I originally wrote this part after the first round, when Byfuglien had zero playoff points because he was playing as a defenceman. His playing great upped the price, but I still think the Habs need someone like him.)

(P.P.S. – This is what I wrote on Dennis Kane’s Montreal Canadiens blog last week: “Maybe, just maybe, we could convince them to trade Campbell and Byfuglien for Markov and the Kostitsyns (with a draft pick or prospect thrown in). They save money (Markov is a free agent next summer, so they could use that money to resign Seabrook), and get speedy youth, and get rid of Campbell’s contract. We get a younger, more expensive and more skilled version of Markov, and the powerhouse we need. Could be a win-win.” I now think the Habs would have to add more to the deal, but if the Blackhawks want to get rid of Campbell, they’ll have to add something else to the deal)

Free agents

So let’s just say the Habs listen to me, and make all the moves I’ve outlined above. That means they’ll have about $10 million in salary cap space to play with (about $3.5 million extra if Plekanec doesn’t sign). They’ll also buy out Georges Laraque this summer, which will save them a little but more money as well. That’s quite a bit to make a move this summer in the free agency market. And despite what you may read elsewhere, there’s a good crop of players that could help the Habs.

Remember, most of the Habs core will be staying here (Gionta, Gomez, Cammalleri, etc.), so there’s no need to make drastic moves. All they need to do is get some complimentary players. Here’s the top 10 players that could help the Canadiens (and no, I don’t think we need to sign all of them, just a couple of them):

Ilya Kovalchuk: A bit more than a complimentary player, but the only true top-tier free agent out there, and I would like to see a 50-goal scorer in Montreal before the Canadiens celebrate their 200th season. But at the same time, the Habs don’t need to go overboard. If they make a pitch for him, make it a long-term deal similar to what Marian Hossa got, where the salary at the end of the contract is low to keep the cap hit down.

He just turned 27, but here’s the key. Unlike a lot of 50-goal scorers, Kovalchuk doesn’t need a lot of help to succeed. He doesn’t need an Adam Oates-type player to get him the puck. After all, he’s not Dany Heatley. He carried the Atlanta Thrashers team on his back with little help for years. He made Todd White get 73 points two seasons ago.

Only one time in his eight-year career has he scored less than 38 goals, and that was his rookie season when he got 29. The guy is money, and imagine him playing with someone like Gionta and Gomez, leaving Cammalleri on the second line as another scoring threat. That would be great.

Now, odds are this won’t happen. But the Habs need to make a pitch. Offer him a 12-year deal where he gets $9 to $10 million a year the first year, and close to $1 million a year near the end. Make the cap hit around $6-$7 million a year. And since everyone else will be making Kovalchuk the same type of offer, the Canadiens need to show him why Montreal is the place to be. Show him the fact the Habs have a system, that they can upset top teams in the playoffs, that Montreal is a great city to live in and the history is amazing. Appeal to his sense of playing in front of a rabid fan base (which would be a change after all those years of playing in Atlanta, followed by a few months in New Jersey).

Do what we can, but give it our best effort to sign this guy.

Paul Kariya: Failing Kovalchuk, there’s a lot of guys who can help fill out the second and third lines that could be signed for a good price. Kariya had an off-year, and still finished with 43 points, which would have had him fifth on the Habs scoring list this year. Kariya is a leader, and you can’t have too many quality guys. Won’t make anywhere near the $6 million a year he has been recently, but $3 to $3.5 million is doable, especially if he can score and get 50-60 points.

Ray Whitney: A consistent 20-goal scorer, strong skater, could teach some of the younger players what it takes to win. Has a Stanley Cup ring, and as these playoffs have shown with Hal Gill, that means a lot more than most people think. Could sign him for about $2 to $2.5 million.

Rob Blake: If the Sharks had won the cup, I could see him retiring. Would be a good leader to have on defence, and would be a calming influence. Gets nastier in the playoffs, and isn’t scared to clear the way in front of the net. Will probably be signed for $3 million.

Matt Cullen: Will be the most sought-after character guys in the free agent market. Will probably sign for about $3 million, and will want at least a three-year deal. He’s consistent, plays the powerplay, is a great penalty killer, and led the Sens in the playoffs this year.

John Madden: One of those third or fourth line guys that steps it up in the playoffs. Chicago won’t be able to resign him, so look for him to change teams. Maybe $2 million a year for one of the best shadowers in the league.

Teemu Selanne: He’ll probably retire, but I included him just in case. Even in old age, can still score a ton. Will probably cost about $4 million to sign though.

Bill Guerin: Another veteran. Just look what he did for the Penguins. Despite his age, he still plays the top line and on the powerplay, and is great come playoff time. He also scores about 20 goals a season, and his cap hit will be about $2 million.

Derek Boogaard: Yes, let the laughter out now, but I think the Habs need to get tougher, and not all of your guys need to be scoring machines. There’s a reason Boogaard is well-loved in Minnesota, and it’s not just the fighting. The guy knows how to hit, and hit often. And with his size, it hurts. He doesn’t score because he doesn’t need to (and the fact he only shoots the puck about once every four games helps that stat). I’d rather have Boogaard on the bench playing about six minutes a game than Matthew Darche sitting on the bench and not playing at all. Sign him for $1.5 million, and let him protect the smaller players.

Kurtis Foster: One of the most underated defencemen out there. Had nine goals and 48 points last year. Yes, that was well above his career high of 28 points, but he would be a nice fourth or fifth dman. Plus, he could probably be signed for about $800,000 (he made only $600,000 last season).

Do not sign

Under any circumstances, do not sign the following players: Andy Sutton (goes out of his way to make a big hit, leaving himself out of position), Matthew Lombardi (will want too much after a surprising year in Phoenix), Patrick Marleau (too expensive), Olli Jokinen (not a good leader, not consistent, has been traded three times in three years), Alexander Frolov (will want too much money), Joe Corvo (too much like Marc-Andre Bergeron), and Anton Volchenkov (will want too much money to block shots and not do anything else).

Lineup

So under my plan, our lineup next season could look like this (not including any players we might get from trading Markov or the Kostitsyn brothers):

Gionta-Gomez-Kovalchuk

Cammalleri-Kariya-Cullen

Lapierre-Moore-Pouliot

Boogaard-Moen-Metropolit (not including a trade to get Byfuglien)

Subban-Gorges

Hamrlik-Spacek

O’Byrne-Gill (with Blake in there somewhere)

Halak

Cheap backup to be named later

That team could compete, would be better than the team we just iced, would work hard, and would actually be under the cap by about $5 million, in case we want to make a deadline deal.

Will it happen? Probably not. But it’s fun to dream.

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Quick bag of sports stuff

Lots of sports stuff going on. Here are some quick hits on some of them.

Kovalchuk traded to the Devils

Ilya  Kovalchuk was traded to the New Jersey Devils for Johnny Oduya, rookie Niclas Bergfors, junior prospect Patrice Cormier and a 2010 first-round draft pick. The Devils also get defenceman Anssi Samlema, and the two teams swap second round draft picks.

Not a good deal for the Atlanta Thrashers. Know how I can tell? My wife had never heard of any of the players heading to Atlanta. She follows hockey enough to probably know half the players in the league. So if you’re trading one of the top three goal natural goal scorers in the league, you should get something back that other people have heard of.

So the Thrashers didn’t get any immediate help. The draft pick will be in the late 20s. And by swapping second round picks, the Devils will draft higher in the second round.

Plus Cormier is the kid who is suspended in the minors for that wicked elbow last month. It took Steve Downie a few years to recover from being known as a dirty player (to the point that this season is his first one that is memorable for something other than his suspensions).

After screwing up this trade and the Marian Hossa one a few years back, Atlanta general manager Don Waddell needs someone else to handle big deals for the team.

Sports Illustrated cover too sexual?

So U.S. downhill skier Lindsey Vonn has posed for the cover of Sports Illustrated in their Olympic preview.

It’s a nice picture. Obviously posed, but it appears as if she’s skiing.

Now some are suggesting that it may be a sexualized picture. They’re not directly coming out and saying it. But they’re suggesting it (read this Vancouver Sun story for comments about it).

But there’s nothing wrong with the photo. Is it really any different than a picture of Michael Phelps in his swim trunks with eight gold medals around his neck?

She’s an athlete, posing for a photo for a sport doing what she would do if she was actually participating in said sport. Nothing sexual about it.

Who will light the Olympic torch?

No one has come out and said who will be lighting the Olympic torch. There’s been some suggestions. Some say Trevor Linden, but that is only a popular choice in the Vancouver area.

Others think Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. But they’ve only played in one Olympics combined, and never won the gold as a player.

Donovan Bailey has also been suggested, but this is the winter Olympics, so they should stick to a winter sport. David Suzuki is the #1 choice at this online poll, but I think it should be an athlete, or have a link to it.

Betty Fox is a popular choice. I could see her being the choice, simply because of the fact her son is a true sport hero.

Other suggestions include Kerrin Lee-Gartner and Joe Sakic (probably the best hockey choice). I think Elizabeth Manley should be considered.

The Olympic committee won’t announce the decision until the person actually goes up to light it.

I have a suggestion.

Why not have a duo light the flame?

Either Nancy Greene and Barbara Ann Scott would be a good choice.

Greene won a gold and silver medals at the 1968 Olympics. She also won six Canadian ski championships and the U.S. championship three times. Since retiring, she spent much time working at advancing the sport.

Scott won the gold medal at the 1948 Olympics, and won the North American Figure Skating Championship from 1945 to 1948. Since the Olympics were cancelled in 1940 and ’44 because of the Second World War, and Canada only won three gold medals combined in the first four winter Olympics, it’s quite possible Scott is the oldest surviving Canadian gold medallist.  

So why not have both of them light it? They’ve both done so much for amateur Olympics, both are former gold medallists, and both are deserving.

Hopefully, the committee makes a better decision than in 1988, when a 12-year-old schoolgirl was chosen to light the flame.

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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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