Posts Tagged ‘Montreal Canadiens’

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If you are Canadian, I do not think anything in the sporting world tops the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. My friends and I do not say Merry Christmas to each other in December; we say it when the first puck is dropped in the round of 16. This first round had it all: a laughable sweep, line brawls, fat walrus accusations, Alex Ovechkin immediately flying overseas to play for Russia after another early exit (again), and of course, game sevens.

For most of us, our hockey teams run for Lord Stanley is over and we must accept, move on and pray that next year will be the year. There is another thing that you should be focusing on for the start of the 2013-14 season, and that is the future of your fantasy hockey teams. Chances are that you will not remember the second half Mats Zuccarello performances, but for your future fantasy purposes, you should. If you have been a fantasy GM for a while now, you know that it is the late round picks that will win you championships and even more importantly, ultimate chirping rights.

Eight teams were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, let’s take a look at what players could serve as a potential fantasy break out for the 2013-14 NHL season.

Marcus Johansson, Washington Capitals: Johansson saw his productivity increase this year in the shortened season, posting 22 points in 34 games and +3 rating. He was essentially invisible for the first two months of the season, but let’s be serious, so were the Washington Capitals. Take a look at his March and April; the kid recorded 21 points in 25 games. He is only 22 years old and will now head into the prime years of his career.  He should be considered as a late round add to your roster for next year.

Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild:  Before the season began, I highly doubt anyone could name the starting six defensemen for the Wild. I do not even think Mike Yeo could. There was nothing sexy about Brodins stat line this year (11 points in 45 GP), but there are fantasy implications that need to be considered going forward for the 10th overall pick in the 2011 entry draft. For starters, he is only nineteen. Secondly, look at the box scores in the first round. If we forget about Ryan Suter for a moment, Brodin led the way in ice time and on the man advantage showing how much trust the Wild have in the youngster. If an NHL organization can trust the kid with that much workload, so should you.

Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues: I make this pick because everyone has already heard of Vladimir Tarasenko and know that he is going to be a force. Schwartz posted 13 points in 45 GP this year, but really found his stride in the second half (10 pts in 29 GP). I am not expecting Schwartz to break out to begin the season next year, but once the annual injuries of Andy McDonald and Alex Steen occur, Schwartz could spring into a top six role and shine. Go check out Hockey’s Future, he’s got game.

Kyle Palmieri, Anaheim Ducks: He did not really play in January and had a lackluster March, but his February and April have me intrigued. When you are playing under Bruce Boudreau’s system, you are going to have chances to put up points in bundles. His fantasy status for next year will depend on whether or not he can crack the top six. If he can, draft him late in deep leagues and enjoy the return.

Raphael Diaz, Montreal Canadiens: Chances are you picked Diaz to start the season as he and Andrei Markov tore it up on the man advantage. I laughed when I saw him 100% owned in ESPN leagues, but hey, production is production. If he did not suffer a concussion, then I do not think we would be having this discussion. Diaz will head the 2nd unit for the Canadiens going forward, who seemed to re-kindle their power play success after last season. Diaz’s upside here will depend on whether or not Markov can stay healthy, which is always in question. Diaz should be a fifth or sixth d-man on your team next year with upside to be a potential top four.

Josh Bailey, New York Islanders: If we learned anything from the Penguins and Islanders series,  it is that the Isles might actually be for real for the first time since… Alexei Yashin? Was he relevant? Who knows. They will not be worth noting for long, as they have too many vital pieces that are just too old (Streit, Visnovsky, Nabokov). Bailey has always had the talent but has been known to have attitude issues. He is now 23 and headed into the prime of his career. The isles looked good this season, I expect that to continue for a season or two with Bailey providing the secondary scoring they so desperately need.

Zack Kassian, Vancouver Canucks: Kassian was a nice surprise to start the season, racking up five goals in seven games in January. As for the rest of the season, well, you would probably rather have Scott Gomez over him. The 13th overall pick in the 2009 entry draft has everything that the Canucks need: size, grit, skill and scoring potential. The Sedins need a player like Kassian to protect them, as we all know Jannik Hansen does not fit that profile. With Alex Burrows seemingly on the second line for good, a lackluster pool of prospects, and the need to get stronger, I see Kassian getting every possible chance to break out, which I believe he will. Draft him late and laugh at those who didn’t.

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs: I should not have to tell this to any Maple Leafs fan, but for the rest of you I will be blunt: this guy is legit. He is patient, smart with the puck, breaks into the offensive zone with ease and finally won over Randy Carlyle. Wherever he is projected to go next year in the fantasy rankings will more than likely be low, and thus a gift for those who wait on him to take him late. For keeper leagues especially, get him.

That is it for now, enjoy the second round and always be alert for possible fantasy surprises, it is what makes all the difference.

By: Alex Rodgers – Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

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The combination of a condensed 48 game season and the modern-day three point game (caused by overtime) has resulted in a mad dash to the finish.  With roughly 8 games left for each NHL team, there have been only two teams to clinch a playoff berth and very few completely out of the picture.  A hot streak down the stretch can buy a ticket to the first round, but a cold streak in these final games can be devastating.  It’s time to break down the Eastern Conference, revealing the contenders, and exposing the pretenders.

Contenders

1)  Pittsburgh Penguins:

The Pittsburgh Penguins sit atop the conference, a lock for the playoffs, but not guaranteed any favourable position in the top eight.  A week ago at the trade deadline I would have said they were the most dangerous team in the league.  Sydney Crosby had returned to form as an MVP candidate and GM Ray Shero was wheeling and dealing for players like Jerome Iginla.  However, the team has recently suffered from the injury bug and many of their stars have been sidelined.  Crosby himself is recovering from a broken jaw, James Neal has been concussed, and Kris Letang has had an ailing lower body injury.  This team will always be a threat with a “second line centre” to fill the void like Evgeni Malkin and a veteran goalie tandem in Fleury and Vokoun.  They should have an easy match-up in the first round, but if they expect to go the distance it will depend largely on the return of their injured players.  A healthy lineup will surely be a dominant force and favourites for the cup.

2)  Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins might be the strongest, most well-rounded, opponent in the East.  Their GM, Peter Chiarelli, was definitely outdueled at the trade deadline by Ray Shero, but the team added experienced sniper Jaromir Jagr and has tremendous depth.  Tuukka Rask has played well enough to earn Vezina honours and backup Anton Kudobin has even looked steady behind the Boston defence.  Zdeno Chara on the back-end with his enormous frame and hockey stick can make life difficult on even the best forwards.  A key injury to watch is forward Patrice Bergeron, a top two-way centre, who is currently out with a concussion.  Bergeron has a history of concussions at the NHL level, he is crucial to the Bruins’ success, and there is no indication of a return anytime soon.  I think that this team has got what it takes to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, with or without Bergeron.  The East is lacking the balance of the West and the Pittsburgh Penguins are likely their main obstacle to the Finals.  If Pittsburgh cannot get over their current injury woes or play to their true potential, a team like Boston could walk all over them.

3)  Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens have had a bounce back year, placing 15th in the conference last year, and now hold the Northeast division lead.  The resurgence of Andrei Markov as a premiere blue liner is a pleasant surprise and teammate PK Subban is in the running for a Norris trophy.  Goaltender, Carey Price, has had some off nights throughout the year but he is an elite puckstopper that deserves credit as well.   First-year GM, Marc Bergevin, has done an excellent job turning around this franchise in a short time.  Notably, he added gritty role players like Brandon Prust, shed some extra baggage (as in Gomez), and drafted a young superstar in Alex Galchenyuk.  His initial moves as general manager in the NHL, while some obvious, have paid dividends and the team is heading in the right direction.  Everything seems to be clicking for this group and they impressively won their season series with the Boston Bruins 3-1.  They could do damage in the postseason and at least move past the opening round or two.  If Boston and Pittsburgh falter early on, Montreal has the team to step up and make a run for it.

Pretenders

1)  Washington Capitals

The Washington Capitals were struggling all season, their offence wasn’t producing, and their goaltenders couldn’t stop a puck to save their life.  Now they are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with an 8-1-1 record in the last 10 games.  They went from a team that could get a very high draft pick to a division leader in the weak Southeast.  New coach Adam Oates received a lot of the blame for a slow start, but has since been praised for his work with Ovechkin and the rest of the Capitals.  Alex Ovechkin has arisen from the dead and is actually competing with Steven Stamkos for the Art Ross trophy.  The team has the top ranked powerplay and is 7th in goals for, but they have polar opposite penalty kill and goals against stats.  I think this hot streak will be short-lived and might cool off before season’s end.  If they maintain their status in the division, they will benefit from their high-ranking in the standings, but will soon be defeated by a quality team such as Boston or Pittsburgh.

2)  Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs have had their best season in years, they may just break the longest playoff drought in the NHL.  In fact, I am going to make the bold statement as a Leaf fan that they will make the playoffs.  They are sitting in 5th place at the moment with plenty of breathing room on the fringe playoff teams.  Nazem Kadri is having a breakout season with 40 points in 40 games and James Reimer has asserted himself as the number one starter.  Coach Randy Carlyle has really had a positive affect on this youthful bunch, holding everyone accountable and evaluating players on their play and not their salary.  Mike Komisarek and Tim Connolly will suit up for the Toronto Marlies until their contracts are up or bought out.  The players that remain are devoted to the game plan and realize a playoff berth is at stake.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have become more defensively responsible, consistent in scoring, and most importantly tougher to face.  However, there will be a lot of growing pains and playoff experience is necessary before any real push can be made.

Sleeper

The New York Rangers are still a powerhouse, but their dismal season makes them my sleeper pick for the playoffs.  It is shocking that the top team in the Eastern Conference last year has regressed since the acquisition of power forward Rick Nash.  They will be a sneaky low seeded team, similar to Los Angeles, and could hit their stride at the right time.  The problem was that they tried to win it all with superstars and sacrificed the “foot soldiers” (a.k.a. Brandon Prust).  GM Glen Sather addressed the situation by trading sniper Marian Gaborik, and bringing in Ryane Clowe, Derick Brassard, and Derek Dorsett.  The 2011-12 Vezina trophy winner, Henrik Lundqvist, is a difference maker and has the ability to steal games.  I wouldn’t worry too much about these guys, the season was fun, but the playoffs are for champions.

By: Andrew Smith – Lead Hockey Writer

Photo Credit: http://www.NHL.com

The P.K. Problem

Posted: January 27, 2013 by ajaysharma18 in Uncategorized
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To pay or not to pay?  That is the question concerning the Montreal Canadiens and their star defenseman P.K. Subban.  The  Canadiens are winning games, yet all the buzz is still around if and when a deal will be reached with the stubborn defenceman.  We here at The Sports Posse have had numerous discussions within our group as to what will ultimately stem from this root problem in Montreal.  Here’s something from our minds to yours.

Is P.K. Subban an all-star? Yes.  Is P.K. Subban an upgrade to the Montreal Defense? Yes.  Does P.K. Subban deserve the money he thinks he is worth?  We don’t think so.  That is where our debate kicks off.

Subban has shown some brilliance during his tenure in Quebec.  He lays the smack down on his hits, and has one of the hardest shots from the point in the league.  The Sports Posse are avid fans of players who play with a lot of passion.  Subban is arguably one of the most passionate players when he steps on the ice.  There are however many flaws to his game.  He often jumps into an offensive rush, leaving his defense partner out to dry.  He goes for a lot of big hits, which might make the TSN honor roll, but at the same time risking a missed a hit and being caught out of position.  P.K. is at a point in his career where many other players would be signing bridge contracts.  He deserves a raise,  but not to the extent he is hopeful for.  If you look at the most recent defensive Restricted Free Agent (RFA) signing, it is Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers.  Del Zotto was drafted one year after Subban, and is a first rounder.  Del Zotto was offered a 2 year deal worth 2.5M per.  I think this was an absolute steal for New York.  Del Zotto is an intricate part of New York’s power play and he logs major minutes.  The reason I bring Del Zotto up is that the contract he signed is a bridge contract.  At the end of his two years he will be signed for much more than 2.5 per season.  Subban is demanding in excess of 5.5 per year.  It reminds me a lot of the Drew Doughty situation of last year.  Doughty held out until he got the pay cheque that he wanted.  Subban seems to be following the same path.  Since P.K. is an RFA, it is tough to see him moving to another a team, but lets not sell that idea short.

Montreal’s management faces a tough situation.  Do they give into Subban’s demands, or do they shop him?  I don’t see any team in the league putting in an offer sheet for him.  I think everyone learned a lesson from Philadelphia’s offer sheet for Shea Weber last year.  The only option is to resign or trade.  There are many teams out there looking for upgrading their defense.  A team that jumps out is the Edmonton Oilers.  The Oilers have an abundance of youth, but they still lack a strong defensive corps.  They could trade a prospect plus a roster player and maybe even a pick to get Subban.  I came across an interesting article that proposed the idea of Los Angeles being interested.  Now that’s crazy talk.  But it just might work.  The Kings have the luxury of trading a first round pick.  They also have Jacob Muzzin.  Crazier things have happened in the past.  There are plenty of teams that might call for Subban’s services, but I don’t believe Montreal is ready to let Subban go.

The following statement will generate some discussion…Subban is not Montreal’s franchise player.  I know many will disagree, but I feel that tag belongs to Carey Price.  Alex Galchenyuk will be their number one centre for years to come.  If P.K. Subban wants, he can negotiate fairly and continue building a contender in Montreal. The Montreal hockey market is a pressure cooker.  The fans will turn on a player one night, and the next night they will be chanting his name.  Does anyone remember the Patrick Roy incident?  This writer believes that ultimately Subban will resign for a wage of 4.25m-5m per year. Even 5 seems a bit much.  The key here is that Andrei Markov is healthy and playing phenomenal.  As long as Montreal is winning, Subban will take a back seat.  Don’t be surprised if the stalemate continues and at the end of the negotiations Subban is wearing a different jersey.  I just hope to see him on the ice as soon as possible, as many other fans do as well.  He is a dynamic young player and the game is more exciting when he is on the ice.

By: Ajay Sharma – Hockey Writer