Archive for September, 2010


The Season – Southeast Division

In At the Games Baby on September 30, 2010 by geespotting



…It’s a final look at the East Conference, and the Southeast Division. This just might be the weakest division in the league, but, it does boast the most potent offence in the game with the Caps, and all of their firepower. It is safe to say that Washington will once again be close to the top of the overall standings…and safe to say that the rest of the division will be fighting to stay out of the basement. Here’s a peek at how it should shake down:


FRANCHISE PLAYER: Alexander Ovechkin

…A remarkable regular season for the Caps came to a crashing halt in the post-season with an unlikely first round loss to the Canadiens. Sometimes, a hot goalie happens, and that was the case for Washington. What was most amazing in this series was losing 3 in a row, including 2 at home. It was a long off-season, but, maybe that was welcome relief, especially in the case of Alex Ovechkin. The star sniper struggled at times late in the season, into the post-season, and then at the World Championships for Russia. There may have been a lingering injury that kept Ovie from being the threat he usually is. That being said, a bad season for Alex is still a season where he finished 2nd in goals & points, and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy. I expect Alex to be back on track, as well as an explosive supporting cast that includes Nik Backstrom, Alex Semin, Mike Green and others. Actually, the Caps might even be a bit better this season. Expect big things from rookie defenceman John Carlson, who could contend for the Calder this year. The goaltending situation has Semyon Varlamov in the top spot, but, rookie Michal Neuvirth could pull a Tuukka Rask and snag that top spot away. As for the post-season…they won’t have to worry about Jaroslav Halak, providing they don’t meet the Blues for the Stanley Cup!

PRIME POOL PIX: Semyon Varlamov, Michal Neuvirth, Mike Green, Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, Thomas Fleischman.

BUYER BEWARE: Tom Poti, Mike Knuble



…The new season promises to be promising for Tampa…I promise. As a matter of fact, they could find themselves back into the playoffs this year, at the very least, a runner up spot in the division. Since the departure of Nikolai Khabibulin, goaltending has been a sore spot for the Lightning, but, this year, a pair of tenders will get that shot to compete for number one in Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. Each has showed flashes of brilliance before…but, those flashes usually only last as long as a Chris Neil scoring streak. How they will fare will be one of the big questions in the Eastern Conference this season. Otherwise, Tampa has improved this off season. Pavel Kubina is back, and adds some depth to a blueline that will include a better Victor Hedman, as well as Matthias Ohlund. Up front, that firepower is there with Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Steven Stamkos, who lived up to his potential by sharing the Rocket Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby. A big addition in the Summer was a trade with Philly that brought veteran Simon Gagne to the Sunshine State. If Gagne can stay healthy, he will look good playing with any of the big 3. The team has some added grit with the likes of Ryan Malone and Steve Downie. Tampa is a long way away from their only Cup win, but, in the case of getting back into the post season, expect Lightning to strike!

PRIME POOL PIX: Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Ryan Malone.

BUYER BEWARE: Mike Smith, Dan Ellis, Pavel Kubina.



…Ok, so, a picture of Eric Staal could also be above this analysis, but, if not for Staal and Ward…this team would be scraping the bottom of the basement. Ward had a dismal 09/10 season as injuries and personal issues came to the forefront of his year. I would imagine a full bounce-back is in the cards for this season. The ‘Canes do have some good depth on the blueline with Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason, and Jamie McBain, who has proven that he could be a d-man to watch out for in this new season. Up front however, there are a lot of holes. With the retirement of Rod Brind’Amour, comes the hard fact that Carolina is in re-building mode. Other than Staal, there are questions surrounding Jussi Jokinen, Sergei Samsonov and Erik Cole. Can either of those three stay healthy…and can they retain or regain years that have gone by? Tuomo Ruutu also falls in that category, but, if he plays half a season, then it is usually considered a victory. There are some good young players with the franchise, but, it may be too soon to expect much from Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman and others. This Hurricane season won’t be blowing anyone away.

PRIME POOL PIX: Cam Ward, Joni Pitkanen, Jamie McBain, Eric Staal, Jussi Jokinen.

BUYER BEWARE: Erik Cole, Sergei Samsonov, Tuomo Ruutu.



…For Panther fans, when Tomas Vokoun is the franchise, there shouldn’t be a whole lot expected. Actually, Vokoun is still a great player, but, this is a team that will only be able to survive if they play like the Panther team that made the Final almost 15 years ago. Bring back the trap, I say, and you might succeed. The blueline corp is still pretty good, with a veteran prescence that includes Dennis Wideman, Bryan McCabe, Bryan Allen, and youngster Dmitri Kulikov. Up front, it’s a mix of has beens, want to be’s, and still theres! Stephen Weiss is one that is still there, and should still lead this team in scoring, despite not having his favorite winger Nathan Horton anymore. Beyond that, there’s Cory Stillman, Radek Dvorak, Steven Reinprecht and others that can still play, but, their best years are long gone. There is some promise with Michal Frolik, and if David Booth can recover from his terrible concussion problems from last year. The Cat’s will also add some decent players from the draft, but, those players aren’t ready just yet. On the positive side, they won’t finish last!

PRIME POOL PIX: Tomas Vokoun, Bryan McCabe, Stephen Weiss, Michal Frolik, David Booth.

BUYER BEWARE: Dennis Wideman, Cory Stillman, Chris Higgins



…C’mon…you know Toby Enstrom, he’s a household name….in his own household. No offence to Tobias, but, in his defense, this defenceman is the best of the bunch in Atlanta. The Ilya Kovalchuk era is done, and I don’t know what will draw the people of Atlanta to the rink to watch them lose. Goaltending will be an issue, as Ondrej Pavelec and Chris Mason are the go to goalies, but, even if they excel, there is too much support on this Thrasher squad. Actually, there are some bright spots, like Enstrom, who will lead the way on the PP, along with Zach Bogosian, who should better entering his third season. After that, your best bet is Johnny Oduya. Up front, Nik Antropov will be counted on for the offence, and a rebound season will be needed from Brian Little, and more over-achieving from Rich Peverley. Atlanta did add some depth from the Hawks with Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien, who might actually start the season back on defence. There are some good young players too in Evander Kane and Nik Bergfors, but, I can’t see too much improvement from this club just yet. Cellar dwellars these Thrashers wll be.

PRIME POOL PIX: Ondrej Pavelec, Tobias Enstrom, Nik Antropov, Rich Peverley, Bryan Little, Nik Bergfors.

BUYER BEWARE: Chris Mason, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd.

…Ok, there is a run-down of the Eastern Conference, and each division. Where will each team finish in the conference? I will cover that for you next week, but, up tomorrow, our attention focuses on the West!



The Season – Atlantic Division

In Hockey Hits on September 29, 2010 by geespotting



…Now a look at what to expect this season in the Atlantic. It should be a good battle for top spot in the division between the Flyers, Devils and Pens. All three have had some big moves, good and bad, take place this off-season, but, they should all be playoff bound. Nothing new for the New York teams, as both the Rangers and Isles will struggle.



…This past Spring was another disappointing one in the swamp, as the Devils fell victim once again to an early post-season exit. It may happen again in 2011, but, they should be the best of the bunch in the Atlantic and finish first in the division. The key, even as he nears 40, is the play of Martin Brodeur. His game has dropped in the past few years, as injuries, and inconsistencies have taken their toll on the future Hall of Famer. That being said, he is still one of the top goalies in the world, and can still perform under pressure. Providing he is healthy, he should once again lead the way for the Devils, and get 60-65 games under his belt again. Marty will have some help on the blueline after Summer deals brought in Henrik Tallinder from the Sabres, and Anton Volchenkov from the Sens. I mentioned yesterday that it is so hard to replace a great shut-down d-man, and now the defence first Devils have one of the best in front of Marty. They did lose Paul Martin, which means that the point on the PP will suffer, but, Ilya Kovalchuk has proven to be a great point player. That Kovalchuk blast from the point could be the best in hockey. Retaining Kovalchuk was obviously the big move of the Summer, even with the headache between the NHL and NHLPA. Ilya and Zach Parise will form one of the top duos in the league, and having Travis Zajac in the middle setting them up will make a great line, providing that Travis can keep up! Beyond that, the forward position is littered with veteran performers in Elias, Langenbrunner, Rolston and Arnott. The moves on defence and the power of Kovalchuk will ensure a first place finish in Jersey.

PRIME POOL PIX: Martin Brodeur, Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner.

BUYER BEWARE: Brian Rolston, Danius Zubrus.



…It was a bizarre 2009/2010 season for Philly. They under-achieved all season long, and made it into the playoffs on the final afternoon of the season after a shootout win over the Rangers. They went into their first round series with the Devils with their 3rd string goalie (Brian Boucher) and ended up routing Jersey in 5. Round two brought the unlikely 3-0 comeback, done for only the 3rd time in hockey history. The Flyers went all the way to the Final, before falling in 6 to the Hawks. They saw, the good, bad and ugly. Heading into this season, there will be question marks in net with Michael Leighton and Boucher. Can they both play well enough to carry the team, or even stay healthy? Leighton is already on the shelf for the first month of the season. Chris Pronger will be back again, and has proven to be a winner wherever he plays, whether you like him or not. The supporting cast is pretty good too with Matt Carle, Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn. Up front, if the Flyer gunners can all stay healthy, they will once again have a pretty lethal attack. With the departure of Simon Gagne, that means more ice and expectations for the likes of Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk. The Flyers will be a strong contender to hit the Final again, but, this time, they won’t sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the season!

PRIME POOL PIX: Chris Pronger, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Nikolai Zherdev, Scott Hartnell, Ville Leino.

BUYER BEWARE: Michael Leighton, Kimmo Timonen, James Van Riemsdyk.



…The Pens are just one year removed from being Cup champs, but, they have now dipped to 3rd spot in the division. Marc-Andre Fleury will be solid in goal, but, it is the lack of offence that could be the achilles heel of this club. Funny saying that with Crosby and Malkin leading the way year after year. Beyond those two snipers, a lot of the firepower may have to come from the defence. Even with the loss of Sergei Gonchar, the Pens still have adequate puck movers in Alex Goligoski, Kris Letang, and the newly acquired Paul Martin. Each of those three will get a ton of pp time, and will be contributors. Pittsburgh will also have to be a better team defensively, and will certainly get that help by the addition of Zbynek Michalek from the Coyotes. Like Anton Volchenkov, he is a premier shutdown player in the NHL, and will be missed dearly on the desert. My problem with this team is the lack of help up front beyond Crosby and Malkin. They will rack up their points, and be among the top scorers in the league, but, after that, the lineup is weak. It doesn’t help that Jordan Staal will miss the early part of the season. The loss of Ponikarovsky (even if he was a deadline deal) and Bill Guerin will hurt the Pens, and I am sorry, but, Mike Comrie isn’t going to be rediscovering his game. That won’t happen unless a certain someone becomes Lizzy Maguire again. Pittsburgh still has a strong core, and that core will lead them into the playoffs once again. Think of all the players that the Hawks lost this past Summer. Then think of their core…and you still have a pretty solid hockey club. Same thing in Steeltown.

PRIME POOL PIX: Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex Goligoski, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin.

BUYER BEWARE: Kris Letang, Chris Kunitz, Jordan Staal.


FRANCHISE PLAYER: Henrik Lundqvist

…It was heartbreak in the Big Apple last Spring when the Rangers lost a shootout to the Flyers on the final game of the season. Philly to the Finals…the Rangers to the golf course. This time around, golf season will come early again for New York. King Henrik has been the face of the team since his rookie season, but, even a Vezina calibre type of a season (which he is capable of) won’t be able to save this team. They do have a young and talented blueline, but, more experience and depth will be needed to help get this team into the playoffs. More will be expected of a corp group that includes Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto and Dan Girardi. Up front, Marian Gaborik has adjusted well to being the big guy on Madison, and had a career year, finishing among the top 10 scorers for the first time. Beyond that, the rest of the forward lineup includes a ton of toughness, but, also a ton of under-achievers. The wait continues for the likes of Brandon Dubinksy and Ryan Callahan. An injury to Chris Drury will take away some more offence, and the up and down play of newcomer Alex Frolov might be the ultimate Manhattan project. Light ’em up Slats…could be a long one!

PRIME POOL PIX: Henrik Lundqvist, Michael Del Zotto, Marian Gaborik, Alex Frolov.

BUYER BEWARE: Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinksy, Vinnie Prospal, Chris Drury.



…It may take some time on the Island for this team to be competitive again, but, no team has suffered more in the pre-season than the Islanders. Two key players may be on the shelf for a long time, as Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo are both out for extended times. There are still some issues in goal as Dwayne Roloson stumbles to his retirement, and Rick Dipietro stumbles to the ice. On defence, there are a ton of holes, and not a ton of real talents on the horizon. Streit has proven to be one of the premier power play point producers in the game, and this injury will hurt the Islanders in a big way. Up front, New York does have a ton of young potential, but, one of those youngsters who was set to breakthrough was Okposo, who is having shoulder surgery, and essentially may have shot his season. Players like Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau and Matt Moulson will have to continue to grow and contribute, but, c’mon, if that is who you are depending on for goals…then you are already doomed! The gem is John Tavares. He had a so-so rookie campaign, but, a year in the league, and a fantastic world hockey championship, should be wonders for Tavares. As the Isles will falter, his game will thrive, ala Joe Sakic with the Nordiques in those dismal late 80’s, early 90’s years. It might be another early round draft pick for the Islanders this July, as they will finish in the bottom range of the league…once again.

PRIME POOL PICK: John Tavares.

BUYER BEWARE: Mark Streit, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson.

…So, there you go with the Atlantic. Tomorrow, a preview of the Southeast, where there will be more capital gains, some wild weather in Florida, and some more bottom dwelling. Details tomorrow!


The Season – Northeast Division

In Hockey Hits on September 28, 2010 by geespotting



…As promised, the first look at the 5 teams that will make up the Northeast Division. From an off-season standpoint, the Bruins made a few splashes with some moves they made, but, the big question in Beantown will be the status of star centre Marc Savard, and whether or not he is able to recover from last season’s concussion. The Habs, Sens & Sabres all lost some key players during the Summer, while the Leafs may have improved their roster the most of the 5 teams. Will it make a difference come playoff time? Not liking their chances. Here is a run-down of each team, starting with the predicted top team in the division. I will also cover prime pool picks, and highlight a few that you should possibly avoid heading into your respective draft parties.



…Expect the Bruins to be back on top in the Northeast, and nail down a top 3 position in the Eastern Conference. In net, they probably have the best tandem in the league with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas. Down the road, a healthy Thomas could be a good dangling tool if the Bruins want to improve their team closer to playoff time. Rask is that good, so much so, he was the better tender in the Bruins/Sabres first round series where he outplayed Ryan Miller. The franchise player is still big Z on D. Chara’s numbers were down last season, but, he proved his value by having a strong playoff. In the end, the pounding was too much for Chara against the big power forwards of the Flyers. I do expect a bounce-back season from him. Up front, Boston made a big move in the off-season by acquiring Nathan Horton from the Panthers for Dennis Wideman. Horton was having a career year before an injury put him on the sidelines for a month and a half. His totals were close to a point a game. Not bad for a guy who had Stephen Weiss as his centre. No offence to Mr. Weiss, but, the potential of a Savard & Horton combo would mean bigger numbers for Nate. But, as we all know, the status of Savard is in question, as he continues to try and recover from last season’s terrible concussion courtesy of Matt Cooke. It doesn’t look all that good, at least for the first month or so of the new season. That being said, the Bruins will have a healthy David Krejci from the get-go, and Olympic Gold medallist Patrice Bergeron. It also means another spot opening up in the depth chart for rookie Tyler Seguin. The Bruins also hoping that Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler are able to put up good numbers after disappointing campaigns last year. The good news is that most of these players picked up their game in the playoffs…until one of the greatest collapses in playoff history. Finishing number one in the division will put those concerns to rest…at least until mid April.

PRIME POOL PIX: Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin.

BUYER BEWARE: Marc Savard, Marco Sturm (injuries), Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi



…Last year was a remarkable one for the Sabres. They won the division when many weren’t sure they would make the playoffs. They had the top goalie in the league, and at the Olympics as Ryan Miller won the Vezina and a Silver medal. And a star was born, as former Kelowna Rocket Tyler Myers took the league by storm and was the top rookie with his Calder Trophy win. Then reality hit for the Sabres as their top players were out-played by the Bruins. The likes of Mark Recchi and Miro Satan outscored Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and others. We already mentioned the Rask/Miller outcome too. I do believe that Buffalo will still be a strong team, and nail down the 2nd spot in the Division. Ryan Miller has proven himself finally, although, I doubt his numbers and game will be as big as they were last year. On defence, Tyler Myers now has the torch as the team’s top d-man. We will see how his game continues to grow, especially considering the losses of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman. Replacements are Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn. That combo certainly not as good as the Tallinder/Lydman one. Up front the Sabres are loaded with talent. The key is health, to such injury prone players as Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek. If they stay healthy, Buffalo’s attack will be one of the best in the league. Add to that youngsters Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis, and the Sabres should be in the thick of it once again come playoff time.

PRIME POOL PIX: Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly, Tyler Ennis.

BUYER BEWARE: Drew Stafford (will not reach potential), Jochen Hecht (best days behind him)



…It was one of those magical years in Montreal, as the Habs had an unlikely run in the playoffs making it to the Conference Final before being ousted by the Flyers. Along the way, the knocked out the highest scoring and point producing team in the league in the Capitals, and then followed it up with an upset over the Cup champs from Pittsburgh. Despite a huge playoff from the likes of Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, let’s not kid ourselves knowing that the reason why the Habs rolled through to the final four was the play of goalie Jaro Halak. He was one of the top tenders at the Olympics, and continued to knock ’em down through mid May. So…why did the Canadiens trade him? Well, they did, and that means, no more excuses for Carey Price. His exhibition start certainly wasn’t grand, but, beyond him…it’s Alex Auld. This is a career season for Carey. His play will be key in whether or not the Habs head back to the post season. A healthy Andrei Markov means a ton to the Canadiens, and is also pretty huge in the playoff aspirations. P.K. Subban was a breath of fresh air for Montreal last playoff, and he certainly is one of the front-runners for rookie of the year. Up front, Montreal has some good depth with the aforementioned Cammalleri and Gionta, as well as Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez. If they can keep it together and keep everyone healthy, they will be knocking on that playoff door once again.

PRIME POOL PIX: Carey Price, Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban, Mike Cammalleri, Tomas Plekanec, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta.

BUYER BEWARE: Jaroslav Spacek (numbers will be lower), Andrei Kostitsyn



…First off, I named a new player and one inching close to the end of his career as a franchise player. Apologies to the greatest Sen of all time in Daniel Alfredsson, and Jason Spezza, but, this off-season move is huge in terms of where Ottawa will finish this season. For years, the Sens have lost an impact defenceman year after year. Chara, Redden and now Volchenkov. This was the first time, that THEY made the splash in free agency. Ottawa has some tools up front to have a very effective power play, and have had a good one over the years, but, that QB on the point means that Spezza and Alfredsson don’t have to man the points…which means more points for them and wins for Ottawa. Even with Crosby and Malkin, watch how the PP in Pittsburgh will suffer this season without the big Gonch. Another key will be Erik Karlsson, who was incredible in the playoffs against the Pens. Ottawa will be on the brink of the playoffs, as they will have question marks in goal. Pascal Leclaire can be a great goalie, but, he normally can’t be a healthy one. As the season starts, he is in good shape and will be the number one goalie. I ain’t placing bets on Brian Elliott. Also noted is the loss of Anton Volchenkov. These days, having a top notch shut down man is almost as important, if not more so, than the PP d-man. He eats up minutes, eats up pucks, eats up power plays, and eats up players. Those type of players can not be replaced. Up front, I expect slim pickings beyond the tandem of Spezza and Alfredsson. Fisher, Kovalev and Michalek will be hard pressed to put up decent numbers, although Nick Foligno will be better, and that’s where you run into problems. A lot will have to go right for things to be Sen-sational this season in the Capital.

PRIME POOL PIX: Pascal Leclaire, Sergei Gonchar, Erik Karlsson, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson.

BUYER BEWARE: Mike Fisher, Alex Kovalev, Milan Michalek.



…The Leafs will be last in the division again. The Leafs will be better, no doubt, but, not playoff ready just yet. I think huge question marks still remain in goal with the heartbreak kid Jonas Gustavsson, and veteran J.S. Giguere. Gustavasson has the potential, but, his confidence is rather fragile in a hockey crazed market, and it remains to be seen if Giguere can regain the form that made him one of the top goalies in the world a few years ago. The defence has some big names…but, the mobility may not be there. Dion Phaneuf is the key to this team. He is only a year removed from being regarded as one of the top rearguards in hockey. It was a tough year for Dion, with the trade and not being named to the Canadian Olympic team. He will be better, and add to that Tomas Kaberle…and that duo looks pretty good manning the PP points. Despite the toughness of Mike Komirasek and Francois Beauchemin, it was far too often that they were burned last year (while healthy), and that also included a terrible sophomore season for Luke Schenn. All will have to be better. The Leafs added some depth up front… but, their top 6 forwards are still regarded as being in the lower 5 of a 30 team NHL. A full season from Phil Kessel will help, but, too many other questions remain with players like Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Nazem Kadri. If anything, the tough as nails approach in Toronto will be fun to watch, as will the losses!

PRIME POOL PIX: Dion Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Kris Versteeg.

BUYER BEWARE: Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Colby Armstrong.

…Alright hockey fans, there is part one of my divisional sneak peeks. Tomorrow, a look at the Atlantic Division. Don’t be singing any New York tunes on this one folks…details tomorrow!


the Hockey Comeback

In Hockey Hits on September 27, 2010 by geespotting

Ok, it has been awhile, no doubt. The computer crashed, and it failed me miserably during the playoffs. I will stop all seaches for nrop. I will attempt this thing called the comeback…and I will comeback in a big way. There may be the odd list of babes on the boob, or another sport, such as football or tennis, but, for the most part, the focus will be on hockey, the great game. So, what does a new season mean to geespotting? Well, here is a run-down of the next 10 days anyway.

1. Daily previews of each division. I will start out East, and have predictions and analysis of each team, and throw in some pool picks too.

2. In a week, I will move into the player predictions, who will win each award etc.

3. Once that is all done, I will run down how the season will unfold in terms of geespotting. What to expect each hockey day etc.

…It is a challenge, but, it starts with a comeback, so, comeback, and check it all out tomorrow when we start the preview.

That’s Geespotting…and all will be Ducky again.