Tag Archives: Sergei Gonchar

10 reasons why Bryan Murray should be fired

I can only imagine what it was like to be an Ottawa Senators fan in the spring of 2007.

Bryan Murray should be fired as Senators GM.

The team is riding high, having gone to the Stanley Cup finals. The future looked bright, and the Sens have a respected general manager leading the way.

Then the team fired said general manager, and replaced him with Bryan Murray.

And since then, the team has, quite frankly, sucked. Star players have demanded to be traded, bad draft picks have been made and horrible free agents have haunted this team.

As Murray retooled the team in his image, many players have come and gone. In fact, only six (6!) players from the 2007 finals are still with the team. That’s a lot of turnaround in three years for a team that almost won the Cup.

Now, the Sens struggle each season, the player personal isn’t great, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot to be excited about.

So how does Bryan Murray still have a job?

And now, with the Senators still struggling, some in the Ottawa media are saying head coach Cory Clouston should be fired. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun is reporting that Murray tried to do just that, but was told by owner Eugene Melnyk that wasn’t an option.

So what’s the best option? Getting rid of Murray.

When John Muckler was the general manager of the Sens from 2002 to 2007, the Sens went to the finals once, the semi-finals once and the second round once (with one elimination in the first round). His record in the playoffs was 32-23. As mentioned above, Murray’s record is 2-8, both first round exits, and one season when the team never made the playoffs.

I wonder who Murray would put as coach if he fired Clouston. Hmmmm...

So why was Muckler fired? It makes no sense. He was a smart GM, who made made smart moves, smart signings and smart trades. Murray has done none of that.

Maybe it’s karma, coming back to bite the Sens in the butt for their treatment of Muckler.

Just like my post last year on Bob Gainey, I now present to you the top 10 reasons why Bryan Murray should be fired, with 10 representing the number of playoff games the Sens have played since Murray took over as GM (the Sens are 2-8 in those 10 games).

Goaltending

This has been the Achilles heel for the Sens. But at least John Muckler tried to get a superstar goalie. He did sign Dominik Hasek and Martin Gerber, who was a #1 goalie in Carolina before Cam Ward took over.

Murray though, apparently doesn’t pay enough attention to NHL goalies. He traded for Pascal Leclaire, even though it was obvious Leclaire was only good because of the defence-first system employed by Ken Hitchcock in Columbus, not to mention it was a bad omen that Murray traded for an injured Leclaire.

Murray never made an effort to get a true #1 goalie, similar to Hasek. You know, someone with a proven track record.

But hey, if you believe Leclair and Brian Elliott is the best tandem you have, then go with that. Just don’t be surprised if the team doesn’t do too well.

Dany Heatley trade

I’m actually surprised this deal hasn’t caused Murray to be fired yet. I understand his hand was forced, but has there been a more one-sided deal involving a superstar since the Patrick Roy trade?

Heatley was traded for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, and a 2010 second round pick. Michalek has been brutal for Ottawa, especially this season. Cheechoo was so bad he was sent to the AHL half-way through the season and then his contract was bought out. And that pick? Traded for Andy Sutton, who played a total of 18 regular season games with the Sens.

That’s the return from a 50-goal scorer. Yes, Heatley demanded a trade. But a year and a half after the deal, all that’s left is a 30-point guy.

In comparison, when the Phoenix Coyotes traded Olli Jokinen to Calgary at the trade 2009 trade deadline, they got a return of Matthew Lombardi, Brandon Prust and a first rounder. Lombardi had 53 points last year for Phoenix, before suffering a concussion this year. Prust, now with the Rangers, is on the same pace for points as Michalek. And the first rounder turned out to be Brandon Gormley, a highly-touted defensive prospect.

So how did Phoenix get more for Jokinen than Ottawa did for Heatley?

Murray got hosed on his deal, and for most general managers, that means an immediate firing. But Murray seems to get a pass.

Horrible free agent signing #1

So, considering many players don’t want to sign in Ottawa, Murray felt pressure to make a move. Any move. If not, then it would seem like he can’t do his job. So he decided to sign Alexei Kovalev to a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million.

Yelling at Kovalev won't help.

Maybe it’s not just goalies Murray has trouble scouting. Kovalev had one good season in seven years before signing this deal. He gave interviews in Russian criticizing the Montreal Franchise when he was still a player there. His play was so lackadaisical, that Bob Gainey had to basically ground him and tell him to stay away from the team for a weekend. He was streaky,

So what did Murray think was going to happen to a 36-year-old player on the downside of his career? That he would magically pick it up and put up 100 points?

And how did Kovalev reward Ottawa fans? Before even playing his first game as a Sen, he told the media that he would love to play for Montreal again at some point. Like that’s not a slap in the face.

On top of that, he gave Kovalev a no-movement clause, which makes him almost untradeable. Silly move. But hey, who could have seen this coming?

Horrible free agent signing #2

Okay, so we’ve already covered the goaltenders and the forwards. Maybe Murray is better at scouting defencemen. There’s no way he could overpay there, could he?

What’s that? He paid a 36-year-old d-man $16.5 million over three years to play defence? And Murray gave him a no-trade clause as well.

Gonchar is on pace for 36 points, which would his lowest point-scoring non-injury season since 1997-98, when he was a member of the Washington Capitals. His -20 rating is the worst of any player in the league that doesn’t play for the New Jersey Devils.

Maybe Murray only signs these players because he feels like he has no other choice. But sometimes, it’s better to do nothing, than to make your team worse.

Not signing Gary Roberts

Now, this may seem like a silly reason. I mean, there’s a bunch of players that the Senators haven’t traded for or signed. Why choose Gary Roberts?

Because not getting Roberts was seen as the biggest reason the Sens fired John Muckler. Even though the Ottawa Senators made it to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007, Muckler was fired because he wouldn’t pull the trigger on a deal for Roberts. Sens fans will deny this now, but that summer, despite the Sens playoff success, there were a lot of upset people over the fact there was no Roberts on the team.

Instead, the Penguins traded for Roberts, giving that team the leadership they needed. The Sens, got manhandled by the Ducks in the finals, and fired their general manager for it.

Yet, Murray can’t get Roberts in Ottawa either, and that’s not seen as a failure?

Making trades for free agents, and then not re-signing them

One of the keys to a successful franchise is not just keying in and trying to sign free agents in the summer. It’s also trying to get those players in advance so you can have an advantage.

Why don't players want to sign in Ottawa?

For example, last season, the New Jersey Devils traded for soon-to-be free agent Ilya Kovalchuk. This past summer, they signed him to a long-term deal.

The Minnesota Wild traded for Guillaume Latendresse last season, and then re-signed him to a two-year deal this past summer.

Last summer, the Colorado Avalanche traded for defenceman Kyle Quincey. He was re-signed this past summer.

In 2009, the Carolina Hurricanes traded for Jussi Jokinen, and the re-signed him in the summer.

Same goes for players such as Bill Guerin, Erik Cole, Mark Recchi, Mikhail Grabovski, and more.

Bryan Murray, on the other, can’t seem to do the same. Over and over, he trades for upcoming free agents, and then can’t sign them. Maybe he can’t convince them Ottawa can be a Stanley Cup contender. Maybe the players don’t like their time in Canada’s capital. Whatever the reason, it ends up hurting the team.

The Sens trade young players and prospects, and end up with nothing in return. Matt Cullen, Andy Sutton, Mike Comrie, Martin Lapointe, Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman are just some of the free agents Murray has traded for, and none of them has played more than 26 regular season games as a Senator.

Too many coaches

Has any team had more coaches in the past three seasons than the Ottawa Senators?

First it was John Paddock, who lasted 64 games. He was replaced by Murray himself, who had a brutal 7-9-2 record. So Murray brought in Craig Hartsburg. Hartsburg was the worst of the group, with a horrendous 17-24-7 record, before he was sacked. So Murray brought in Cory Clouston. Clouston was pretty good for a while, but has only a 3-5-1 record this season.

So what is it with Murray’s inability to hire good coaches. Four coaches in three plus seasons? That’s not the sign of a good general manager. And now, with Steve Simmons reporting that Murray is stuck with Clouston, it appears as if Murray doesn’t have a coach scapegoat for this team, this time around.

Too streaky a team

It’s no secret the Sens are the streakiest team in the NHL. Already this season, they have lost five of six games, won six of seven, lost five of six, and lost five of six. It’s been like this with this team since the middle of the 2008 season. They see more losing streaks than winning streaks.

How do they break out of it? Leadership. The Sens need people to step up when streaks like this occur. And I’m not knocking Daniel Alfredsson’s leadership abilities (even though I think they do lack a little bit). But to break out of them, a few guys need to step up and say enough is enough, go on the ice, knock some skulls and score some goals. Ottawa doesn’t have enough leaders who can do that.  And why not?

Because Murray hasn’t gone out and traded for, signed or drafted them. You can’t point to four people on this team that can take a game over consistently and win games for the team when they need to.

No clear vision

Does anyone know the vision Murray has for the Sena?

Is this team trying to win now, or building for the future? Do they want to make the playoffs, or give their young guys a chance to develop? Does anyone even know what they hope to accomplish?

At least with the Oilers, Islanders, Avalanche and Kings, you know they are rebuilding. But with Ottawa, it seems as if Murray wants to rebuild while staying competitive. And that’s really difficult to do, almost impossible. In the cap world, teams in need of a rebuild need to go through a few hard years to get good draft picks.

But fans in most cities can accept that, if they know that’s what is happening. They’d be willing to see a poor team for a few years if it meant a competitive team down the road. But they’re not willing to see a poor team if there’s nothing to look forward to.

And fans aren’t attending. The team hasn’t had a sellout yet this year. Surprised? I was. Scotiabank Place holds 20,500 fans. The most they’ve had this year has been 20,275. And there’s only been five out of 22 home games with more than 20,000 this season. For eight games, there’s been less than 17,000 fans. And for a game when the hated Dany Heatley came back to town, there was about 1,000 empty seats.

That’s just sad, but the blame lies at the feet of Murray. A more competitive team means more butts in the seats.

Expecting too much out of third liners

Look, I understand the need to shift guys around on different lines. Maybe you put an energy guy on the top line to get something going.

But seriously, if you honestly expect guys like Nick Foligno, Peter Regin, Jesse Winchester and Ryan Shannon to be able to produce enough to possibly warrant top-line ice time, then you have a problem with your team. The highest single-season point total for any of these players is a paltry 32 points. Yet, over the past few years, all of them have been expected to be a top-line player. It’s absurd.

Throw in guys like Chris Kelly, Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu, and the Sens lead the league in third liners. But there’s not enough skill for the offence. All they have is Daniel Alfredsson (on the downside of his career), Jason Spezza (injury-prone and inconsistent), Mike Fisher (overpaid and will never be more than a 50-point guy) and Milan Michalek (not the same since he left San Jose, and on pace for 30 points this season).

Conclusion

It’s no secret that Ottawa fans are a fickle lot. They may not like to hear that, or even deny it, but when the team struggles, fans stop going to games. They only support a winner.

That’s why it’s imperative that the Sens win games, and soon. If they don’t, then they lose money. And that’s not a good thing for Bryan Murray.

And with the Sens losing, and losing a lot, then Murray deserves to go. Especially considering where they were just a few short years ago, when he took over this team. I guess he had to put his stamp on this team. Unfortunately for Sens fans, that stamp is one of losing.

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Ottawa Senators preview

Overview: It’s no secret the Ottawa Senators are a streaky team. They go on massive winning streaks, followed by crippling losing streaks. It’s cost them playoff spots before (almost did in 2008, and actually did in 2009).

Sens fans should expect more of the losing streaks than the winning streaks this season. Jason Spezza will have a bounce-back season, and Milan Michalek should be better. But Mike Fisher will step back to his normal production, and Daniel Alfredsson has seen his numbers decrease each of the three seasons (look for the 38-year-old captain to finish with 20 goals and 65 points this year). And who knows what to expect from Alexei Kovalev.

Their goaltending is suspect, their defence is weaker, and they don’t have much scoring prowess (no offence to guys like Chris Kelly, Peter Regin, Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon).

In all, it doesn’t look like the playoffs are in the cards for the Senators.

Best offseason move: Signing Sergei Gonchar. Some may think he got too much ($16.5 million) for too many years (3) with too many fringe benefits (a no-trade clause), but Gonchar will help this team where they need it most. He’ll play about 25 minutes a game, and help a powerplay that was 22nd in the league last year. The Sens management knew its weaknesses, and took steps to try and rectify it.

Worst offseason move: Not getting a shutdown defenceman, which will kill their goalies this season. The Sens had trouble in nets last year (and the year before, and the year before, etc. etc.), and that was with shot-blocking machine Anton Volchenkov playing. They also lost Andy Sutton, who is a big guy that can clear the front of the net and lay people out with ferocious bodychecks. With Gonchar not being a great defensive player, that means the goalies will face more shots and see more traffic in front of them. Not a good sign if they were already having trouble before.

Dark horse trophy candidate: Erik Karlsson for the Lady Byng.

Pool pick: Milan Michalek. If he and Jason Spezza can stay healthy, Michalek should be good for about 60 points. Who to stay away from: Mike Fisher. I say this every year. His 25 goals and 53 points were a career year for him. Don’t anticipate him doing it again. In truth, he’ll probably finish with about 43 points. His stats were inflated because he had a good start to the year, but he finished off the season with 12 points in 25 games. Which is pretty much his career per-game average.

Sporcle quiz: Can you name the top 10 Senators point getters from each season?

Best hall of fame choice: Daniel Alfredsson. But he doesn’t deserve to be there (read here to find out why).

Blog to follow: Five for Smiting

My Prediction: Third in the Northeast, Ninth in the East

Famous celebrity from that city: Sarah Chalke

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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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Top 10 signs Ovechkin is a dirty player

To paraphrase Ric Flair, Alexander Ovechkin is the dirtiest player in the NHL today.

There's no doubt #8 is the dirtiest player in the NHL.

So far, he’s been protected because of his superstar status.

But guys are getting injured, and it’s time the NHL step in to do something.

Ovechkin has been in the league for a little more than three years. In that time, he has managed to injure player after player with questionable hits.

After the game earlier tonight (check out the video of the knee on knee against Tim Gleason below), there’s no doubt now that it’s time the NHL step in to suspend him. When Ovechkin got injured in a knee-on-knee hit that he created, there were probably many NHLers saying “Good, he deserved it.”

Here is video evidence of how dirty #8 can be.

Slewfoot on Rich Peverly

Knee on knee with Sergei Gonchar

Late hit on Daniel Briere

Hit from behind on Jamie Heward

Hit to the head in Russia

Knee on knee with Denis Wideman (go to the 1:38 mark)

Blindside hit on Dustin Brown

Late slap shot against Rob Scuderi

Boarding on Patrick Kaleta

Knee on knee with Tim Gleason

Conclusion

If you weren’t keeping count, that’s 10 examples of dirty hits from Ovechkin.

You want to guess how many times he was suspended? Once. By the Russian league for the elbow as he came off the bench.

The NHL needs to suspend this guy. We saw last night what could happen if the NHL continues to turn a blind eye. I’m just surprised that it was Ovechkin himself that was the cause of his own injury, as opposed to a teammate of someone he’s injured.

The NHL needs to step up and suspend Ovechkin for the safety of all NHL players, including #8 himself.

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Keeper pool update

So about two months, I blogged about entering my first ever keeper hockey pool league, and my draft results.

First-round pick Evgeni Malkin needs to pick it up.

Later, I wrote about a major trade that happened that I was involved in. I thought it would be fun to revisit those picks and see how I’m faring so far, about a quarter-way into the season.

Round 1, #2 overall: Evgeni Malkin (21 points in 17 games

Malkin was injured for a few games (pay attention to this, because you’re about to notice a trend as you read all these). Still the stud on my team, but I’m going to need him to up the point total if I’m going to win.

Round 2, #17 overall: Evgeni Nabokov  (38 points in 22 games

Awesome pick (best pick of the round). I only wish we wouldn’t lose so many games by 3-1 or 4-1 scores. Shutouts count for this league. 

Round 3, #20 overall: Nicklas Backstrom (the goalie)

He was part of a trade for Carey Price, so I’ll use Price’s stats here instead:

Carey Price: 15 points in 17 games It may not sound like a lot, but I’m happy with this. He’s not one of my top two goalies, and this trade was made for the future. Plus, he’s proven in the past few weeks that he is the #1 goalie in Montreal, so this bodes well for me in the future.

Round 4, #35 overall: Sergei Gonchar (8 points in 12 games)

He was on a tear early this season, until he got injured. Despite missing so many games, he’s still my third highest defenceman. He came back last week, and as soon as he shakes off some of the rust, he’ll be back on a good scoring pace.

Round 5, #38 overall: Alexander Semin (17 points in 18 games)

Just what I wanted: a point a game player. But he’s missing a little too much time for my liking. Is now out until the beginning of December. 

 Round 6, #53 overall: Marian Gaborik (32 points in 21 games)

My strategy in the draft was sound so far. Mostly point-per-game players. He’s only a point behind Anze Kopitar for best pick of the round. I took a gamble he would stay healthy, and so far, so good. 

Round 7, #56 overall: Mike Cammalleri (21 points in 24 games

Another solid pick, and getting better as the season moves along. If he can ever stop playing games with career AHLers, then he should finish with about 80 points.

Round 8, #71 overall: Duncan Keith (18 points in 22 games)

I was disappointed with this pick originally, but it’s turned into a great choice. He’s my highest-scoring d-man.

Duncan Keith is doing much better than I thought.

Round 9, #74 overall: Erik Karlsson (3 points in 9 games)

It doesn’t help he was sent down to the minors, and probably won’t get recalled unless he stays with the club for the season. Still, this was a pick for the future, so I’m happy with him staying in the AHL and getting better. Plus, if he doesn’t come back, he counts as a rookie again next season.

Round 10, #89 overall: Derick Brassard

 Brassard was part of the Price trade. So instead of Brassard…

Joni Pitkanin: 6 points in 15 games

I got younger on defence, and there’s no way Carolina continues to be this brutal. I’m convinced he’ll turn it around. 

Round 11, #92  overall: Alexei Kovalev (10 points in 19 games)

He’s a bum. Any one want him?

Round 12, #107 overall: Jonas Gustavsson

This is what I wrote originally: My third goalie, but this is more of a pick for the future. He’ll be the Leafs #1 guy by November.

He’s now the #1 guy. At one point, he was playing every game, until the team realized they were paying Toskala more. But with Toskala now injured, Jonas is the #1 goalie there. And right on time too.

Round 13, #110 overall: Scott Niedermayer (14 points in 22 games)

Solid pick. Lots of points, and an easy decision to drop him at the end of the season when he retires.  

Round 14, #125 overall: Blake Wheeler (12 points in 23 games) A bit of a slow start, but most of the Bruins struggled when Marc Savard was injured. With Savard back, look for the Bruins (including Wheeler) to get more points. 

Round 15, #128 overall: Marty Turco (27 points in 16 games)

Easily the best pick of the round (the next highest point getter from this round has 13 points). Turco picks me up some extra points because he’ll assist on about 10 goals this year. Will also make great trade bait if my team is struggling. 

Round 16, #143 overall: David Booth (3 points in 9 games)

This was a great pick until he got concussed. Hopefully, he recovers soon, but I doubt it. 

Round 17, #146 overall: Evander Kane (12 points in 20 games)

Lost some points when Kovalchuk went down with an injury, but I’m happy with the progress of the rookie. 

Round 18, #161 overall: Stephen Weiss (15 points in 22 games)

Started off the season horribly, but has recovered to a point-per-game guy for the last 10 games or so.  

Round 19, #164 overall: Rob Blake (6 points in 16 games) Slow start, now injured. Stupid Rob Blake! 

Round 20, #179 overall: Mathieu Schneider (4 points in 10 games)

I knew he was starting off the season slowly, but he hasn’t looked good since coming back.

Round 21, #182 overall: Brian Gionta (13 points in 19 games) 

 Did you notice the trend I pointed out at the first pick? Another solid choice who is injured.

Round 22, #197 overall: Teemu Selanne (15 points in 22 games)

My last choice, and is the best pick for the round. Great choice. 

Conclusion:

So what did we learn? Ten of my 22 picks have already seen some time on the injury list. I actually have the second-best points per game, but is second-worst when it comes to man games played. If my guys can stay healthy, I can hopefully put together a run in the last three-quarters of the season.

Rob Blake not playing. Just like my hockey pool team.

Blake Wheeler will have a much better season now that Savard is back.

Carey Price has stepped up his game lately.

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Keeper hockey pool: The draft results

So I had the draft for my first ever keeper hockey pool this past weekend.

This isnt quite the type of hockey pool I had in mind.

This isn't quite the type of hockey pool I had in mind.

It was a lot of fun, and the draft went faster than I thought. The nine owners all picked 22 players. We have five draft picks for the next two years. We can make trades for players or draft picks. At the end of the season, we need to get our roster down to 15 players plus two rookies (so 17 maximum). We then do the five round draft to get back up to 22, and repeat the season again. Goals and assists are worth a point, a goalie win is worth two and a shutout is an extra three.

We knew the draft order going in. I was going to be picking #2. So I came up with a strategy, one that I quickly got rid of.

So here are the results and thought process behind each of my picks.

Round 1, #2 overall: Evgeni Malkin

After Alexander Ovechkin went first overall, my next pick was pretty simple. I wanted Malkin over linemate Sidney Crosby because Crosby has shown a tendency to be more prone to injuries. So far, my strategy is sound.

Round 2, #17 overall: Evgeni Nabokov

There will be no laying down on the job on my team!

There will be no laying down on the job on my team!

No, my strategy was not to pick all players with the first name Evgeni. My original strategy was to pick three high-powered offensive players. I had thought that after the big three forwards, the top six goalies and star defenceman Mike Green would be gone before my pick. That would mean I would get three players who could get 90 points minimum a season, and would try to draft a Carey Price or Ray Emery later on. However, when Nabokov fell to me, I had to jump on it. The Sharks are a powerhouse team. Nabokov is going to get me points simply because of the team in front of him. I had him pegged to be one of the top three goalies gone, so I was pretty pleased to get him at this point.

Round 3, #20 overall: Nicklas Backstrom (the goalie)

Here’s a goalie that last year started 71 games, won 37 and had eight shutouts. That’s 98 points. He was easily the best goalie left, so I decided to go with two goalies early and worry about my offence in later rounds. If I’m going to screw up my strategy, I may as well go full-blast.

Round 4, #35 overall: Sergei Gonchar

I wanted to start bolstering my defence, because this position goes downhill quickly (or so I thought would happen). Gonchar missed a bunch of time last year, but I am confident he can put up at least 70 points manning a powerplay that includes Malkin and Crosby.

Round 5, #38 overall: Alexander Semin

As long as he stays healthy, Semin was a great pickup.

As long as he stays healthy, Semin was a great pickup.

I realize he’s only played 63 and 62 games the previous two years, but he’s cracked 70 points twice, including last year’s 79. Playing with Ovechkin is going to get him points. If he plays the full schedule, he should have no problem finishing with 100 points.

Round 6, #53 overall: Marian Gaborik

It was at this point I took some ribbing from the guys, especially Paul. My last three picks averaged about 35 games played last year. I’m confident Gaborik can turn it around with the Rangers though, especially since the Eastern conference isn’t as hard hitting as the West.

Round 7, #56 overall: Mike Cammalleri

My first Hab! Hoping he continues his upswing, and gets 40 goals and 80 points. It’ll make Habs games more exciting.

(Side note: I was considering Carey Price here, but I thought he’d slip down to me to the next pick, and I already had two goalies, so I felt I still had to concentrate on offence. Nick chose him right after my pick.).

Round 8, #71 overall: Duncan Keith

I had only one defenceman at this point, so I felt I had to start getting some for that position. Looking back, there were better options available. I’m disappointed with this one.

Round 9, #74 overall: Erik Karlsson

Erik Karlsson was my favourite draft pick, until the next round pick came in.

Erik Karlsson was my favourite draft pick, until the next round pick came in.

It sucks that I have to pick a Senator, but Karlsson filled a lot of holes for me here. He counts as a rookie, gives me a young player (which is coveted in this league) and counts as another defenceman. Plus, he’s expected to be the Sens top offensive d-man this year. This was my favourite pick of the draft so far.

Round 10, #89 overall: Derick Brassard

The guy is 22 years old, had 25 points in 31 games before getting injured last year and will be playing with Rick Nash for the next five years. This is my favourite pick of the draft since Erik Karlsson (sorry Erik, poolies are a fickle bunch).

Round 11, #92  overall: Alexei Kovalev

Another Sens player. I must be losing my mind. But Kovalev has a lot of upside. A highly skilled player looking to bounce back after a bad year last year. I can see him getting 40 goals and 85 points, or 22 goals and 49 points. He’s either going to suck and I’ll be happy that Sens are overpaying but sad he sucks in my pool, or he’s going to play great and I’ll be happy he’s getting me points in the pool but sad because the Sens made a smart free agent signing. This pick is going to stress me out all season. Maybe it’s time to trade him already.

Round 12, #107 overall: Jonas Gustavsson

My third goalie, but this is more of a pick for the future. He’ll be the Leafs #1 guy by November, but I expect him to really bloom in a few years, when this young team all matures.

Round 13, #110 overall: Scott Niedermayer

Scott Niedermayer is going to help win me a cup too!

Scott Niedermayer is going to help win me a cup too!

I still needed defenceman who can get me points. And with Chris Pronger gone to Philly, that means more offensive possibilities for Niedermayer. Plus, since I’ll have to drop guys at the end of the season, if he decides to retire, it’s an easy decision to drop him. It’s a win-win for me.

Round 14, #125 overall: Blake Wheeler

I don’t want to sing his praises too much because he’s a Bruin, but he had 45 points as a rookie, is 23 years old and should be taking Phil Kessel’s spot on the #1 line with Marc Savard. If he gets 15 points a game just against the Sens and sucks the rest of the year, I’ll be happy.

Round 15, #128 overall: Marty Turco

Okay, okay, I know. He’s my fourth goalie. But he’s insurance in case one of my top two get injured. Plus, under our rules, he’s still good for 75 points (his total from last year, which was an off-year for him). The other bonus is that there are other owners who drafted only two goalies. Turco gives me trade bait as the season wears on.

Round 16, #143 overall: David Booth

A young Florida Panther who has seen his ice time, goals and assists increase every season he’s been in the league.

Round 17, #146 overall: Evander Kane

Evander Kane will be a great addition to my lineup.

Evander Kane will be a great addition to my lineup.

Let me get this straight. Kane has made the Thrashers starting lineup, and will be on one of the top two lines, unlessMaxim Afinogenov signs, in which case Kane is on the third line. Does this make any sense to any one? And doesn’t this explain perfectly why the Thrashers are such a bad team?

Round 18, #161 overall: Stephen Weiss

The set-up man for Booth, and both play on the top line. If the Panthers can get a little more scoring help, I expect big things from these two.

Round 19, #164 overall: Rob Blake

Manning the point in San Jose (along with Dan Boyle). Despite the fact he’s 92 years old, he still had 45 points last year. A guy who is in another keeper pool won last season with two of his defencemen doing worse. In fact, Blake would have been the top scoring defenceman on two other teams in that same league (including Matt, who has a team in this league). Definitely a steal.

Sidenote: Blake would have outscored a total of 48 of 65 defencemen in that league, but no one wants him because he’s too old. Sometimes keeper pool owners focus too much on getting youth for the future, and not enough on actually winning in the present.

Round 20, #179 overall: Mathieu Schneider

See my plan here? Get lots of old defenceman who will get me points to win it all this year, and balance it out with youth up front for the future. Defenceman take a while to develop and get points, so I’d rather get an experience guy at that position than a young guy who probably won’t do anything for five years (*cough Jack Johnson *cough). I’d rather have Schenider here, than say a Zach Bogosian in the 10th round, Alex Goligoski in the 12th round or Duncan Keith in the 8th round.

Round 21, #182 overall: Brian Gionta

Brian Gionta better be doing a lot of this (scoring) if he wants to remain on my team

Brian Gionta better be doing a lot of this (scoring) if he wants to remain on my team

Another Hab to cheer for! Plus, a #1 line player whose upside is 80 points. At #182 overall? No wonder I’m going to win this pool.

Round 22, #197 overall: Teemu Selanne

See my reasoning for Scott Niedermeyer. Old guy, may retire (makes for an easy drop) who could see a revitalized season playing with one of his best friends (Saku Koivu). Can be a point per game player still.

What to expect from this team?

So my strategy is pretty simple. Except for a few young guys, I tried to get players that will win me the pool this year. The rest of my lineup is solid, with a good mix of young (Kane), moderate (Booth), old (Kovalev) and ancient (my entire defensive line). The defence will have to be replaced over the next few seasons, but I expect this team to be a contender for first place this year.

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Newfies in hockey: John Slaney

Welcome to a new feature here at the Ryan Coke Experience: Newfies in hockey. Periodically, I will be profiling different players that made it to the NHL (keep in mind, the number is less than 25, so I might start eventually stretching that to non-NHL players as well).

Do you remember: John Slaney?

John Slaney could have been a great NHL player if he was drafted by another team.

John Slaney could have been a great NHL player if he was drafted by another team.

While John Slaney took advantage of opportunities he was given, bad luck is probably the biggest factor on why he never made it stick in the NHL.

Slaney is best remembered for his game-winning goal against Russia in the 1991 world junior championships to give Canada the gold medal, and made Slaney one of the most famous Newfoundland athletes of all-time.

In juniors, Slaney was a scoring machine, scoring on average once every two games. Playing for the Cornwall Royals, Slaney won the Canadian Major Junior Defenceman of the Year award.

Because of his goal-scoring abilities, Slaney was drafted by the Washington Capitals ninth overall in the 1990 draft.

It was a great moment of pride for a Newfie to be taken so high. In what turned out to be a very deep draft, Slaney was chosen ahead of players such as Keith Tkachuk, Martin Brodeur, Chris Simon and Felix Potvin. Amongst defenceman, he was chosen just after Darryl Sydor and Derian Hatcher, but before Karl Dykhuis, Sergei Zubov and Jason York.

Unfortunately, Slaney was chosen by the Capitals. In a five-year time period from 1990 to 1995, the Capitals had tons of talent on the blue line. The year Slaney was drafted, the Capitals already had defencemen playing such as Kevin Hatcher, Scott Stevens, Calle Johansson and Rod Langway. That’s a tough lineup to crack.

John Slaney (bottom of the pile) scored the game winning goal at the 1991 world junior championships.

John Slaney (bottom of the pile) scored the game winning goal at the 1991 world junior championships.

Over the next few years, the Capitals defensive corps also included Al Iafrate, Mike Lalor, Joel Quenneville, Sylvain Cote, Sergei Gonchar and goons such as Enrico Ciccone and Brian Curran. While Slaney did get some games, there’s no way he was going to get enough playing time with that lineup to justify such a high pick.

Eventually, Slaney started making the rounds on the NHL circuit. He ended up playing with seven different teams (Caps, Pens, Flyers, Avalanche, Preds, Coyotes and Kings).

He also spent a lot of time playing in the AHL, where he had much of his hockey success. He won the Calder Cup with the Flyers’ farm team, the Phantoms, in 2005. Later that year, he became the all-time leading scorer among defenceman in the AHL. He is one of only four players to ever win the AHL defenceman of the year award two years in a row.

In 2007, he started playing overseas, and is now with the Frankfurt Lions in Germany.

If Slaney was drafted by a team not so deep in the defence position, Slaney could have had more of an opportunity to play at an NHL level. As it was, he had a lot of success, and should be a shoo-in for the AHL Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible.

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