1. 4.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Due to the 2010 Winter Olympics, the Vancouver Canucks will enter the NHL record book by embarking on an epic 14-game road trip...or so sayeth the propaganda machine, anyway. In reality, the Canucks take an 8-game, 16-day trip prior to the two-week Olympic break, then go back out on a 6-game, 9-day tour immediately after the Olympics.

The majority of the first trip takes place in the Eastern time zone, beginning with games at Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston. The pre-Olympics trip also includes what the immortal Mo Wanchuk (R.I.P., Brad Sullivan) would call a "Southern Tour", in which the Canucks play just two games in five days while down in F-L-A. Following the second Sunshine State game (vs. the Panthers), Vancouver travels to Columbus for their only back-to-back set of the trip, then makes a brief stop in Minnesota on their way back home for the two-week Olympic break.

The post-Games sojourn is tougher, as back-to-back sets bookend the six-game trip (at Columbus/Detroit and Colorado/Phoenix), with stops in Chicago and Nashville in between. While their second trip may prove more difficult, Vancouver should benefit from it - the road is a great place for a team to come together and shake off the rust after a two-week layoff.

The Canucks' reward for playing 14 consecutive road games is this: They play 10 of their last 15 games at home, with only two back-to-back sets. One of those B2Bs is at Los Angeles and Anaheim, so they don't even have to travel between games. I'd say the NHL provided ample compensation for the "Longest Road Trip in League History", and if Vancouver somehow fails to make the playoffs, it won't be because of their Olympic odyssey.

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1. 4.

Monday, July 27, 2009


Over the next two weeks, The Colonel looks at his 10 teams’ 2009/10 Regular Season schedules and their significance. Of particular importance are: what the opening 10 games look like and how they relate to this year’s momentum; how many days it takes to play 10-game segments of the schedule minus the Olympic break, from the first through last night of the segment and including Games 81 and 82 at the end to determine any fatigue factor; how many miles they must travel for their schedule, also because of player wear and tear; and what does the last 10-game segment of the schedule look like as they push to the Playoffs. Today’s post will cover Anaheim, Atlanta, Buffalo, Edmonton, and Minnesota.

Anaheim Ducks

The Ducks play their first 10-game segment over 24 days, a number only two other Western teams eclipse. This means they are right about average as far as the West is concerned. They open at home on 3 October and promptly launch on a four-game, Midwestern/Eastern swing with one back-to-back pairing. Their first five games are played in nine days ending at MSG against the Rangers. They play the last half of this segment in a relatively leisurely 15 days and all at home. Depending on how they launch out of the gate – and they have NOT done well the last two seasons averaging only 2.5 wins in 10 – their last five games in the segment should round them out to about average, or a bit under .600 hockey.

Their remaining 10-game segments are played in 21, 18, 21, 18, 21, 21, and 22 days. This is a rather predictable rhythm that makes for an average of one game every 1.972 days. These segments include another 16 back-to-back pairs. Of particular interest are Games 31-40 and 41-50 with three each back-to-back pairs which do not allow for much time to heal. All six of these pairs are on the road except for one game. Look for the team to carry extra players on the roster during this stretch. But since the Lockout, they have had a positive spike in wins over these 20 games in all but last season which indicates they tend to rise to the occasion at this time of the year.

Over the season, Anaheim will log an increased 1158 miles on the road. Of the Western teams who increase their road miles this season, all but one team travels a greater distance than the Ducks. (Courtesy Dirk Hoag’s “How much does your favorite
team travel? Check the NHL Super Schedule,” on Ballhype, 16 July 2009.)

The ending 10 games are all played against Western Conference teams. They have home-and-away games against DAL, EDM, LAK, and VAN and one contest each at COL and STL. Those 10 games – which may mean the difference in qualification for the 2010Playoffs – will be a tough 19 days for the Ducks especially when you consider the Kings may be playing for their first post-season berth since the Lockout, Dallas is likely to be resurgent and Vancouver and St. Louis could be challenging again.

Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers play their first 10-game segment over a more leisurely 29 days. This includes two four-day, and one five-day, break between tilts. It even takes 15 days to finish Games 1 – 5. They open at home on 3 October and have four days off before a mini-road trip to STL and OTT, then a five-day rest before Games 4 and 5 on the road at NJD and BUF. The last half of this segment is done over 12 days from Game 6 to 10, providing a third less rest than the beginning of the season. This suggests possible difficulty with establishing a comfortable game rhythm from the start unless more practice time is what the doctor orders.

Their following 10-game segments come over 20, 18, 19, 20, 22, 17, and 22 days. This is one game every 1.917 days which is quite similar to Anaheim above. There are 15 more back-to-back pairs in the Game 11 – 82 segments with only Games 11 – 20 having three pairs on the schedule. The Game 61 – 70 segment is played in the least number of days. This segment holds two back-to-back pairs, but only two games are on the road, underscoring the importance of the home crowd in March.

Over the season, Atlanta will travel 4404 miles less on the road than last season. (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009.) This should decrease fatigue on the team, doubly advantageous when you consider the young legs on the team compared to some clubs.

Their last 10 games are all played in the East with six of 10 on the road. They have a home-and-home pair each against CAR, PIT, TOR, and WSH and one each at BOS and NJD. Based on last season’s conclusion, we have to say, “Ouch!” That’s the two Eastern Conference finalists, one of which raised The Cup, and three other teams who qualified for the Playoffs. It also includes two contests against TOR who, if not actually making the first round, will push hard for a berth right down the stretch. So Atlanta must build up a strong bank of W’s before this tough, final segment or it will be Tee Time in April again.

Buffalo Sabres

The Sabres first 10-game segment stretches 28 days. It holds only four road games, but, strangely, three are played over an eight-day stretch. The first two in that mix are at FLA and TBL over four days, a pairing which is played many times in either back-to-back or over only three days. They will quite possibly return home from the Sunshine State for three days until they play NJD at The Rock, however, which potentially throws off a good playing rhythm. Favorably, only three of these 10games are played against foes who qualified for the 2009 Playoffs, so there is hope for a strong start out of the gate.

Their remaining 10-game segments are played in 22, 18, 19, 21, 20, 19, and 22 days, an average of one game every 1.958 days. There are 17 more back-to-back pairs in the Game 11 – 82 segments with Games 21 – 30 and 71 – 82 each having three, back-to-back pairs on the schedule.

Over the season, Buffalo will log 4631 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009) with the same potential, positive effect on their recovery time than mentioned with ATL above.

Finally, their ending 10 games are all played in the East with half on the road. They have a home-and-away pair against OTT, two games at BOS, and one each against FLA, MTL, NYR, TBL, and TOR in this time span. They have three, back-to-back pairs at this time, however. The larger number of back-to-backs and road time hinder preparation requirements and take away some of the players’ predictability at season’s end.

Edmonton Oilers

Not lost on Edmonton fans is the fact that last season took until 15 November for the team to hold its fifth home game. Mercifully, that 5th home game occurs a whole month earlier this year. The Oilers first 10-game segment runs only 22 days. But in that stretch, there are NO back-to-back games. There is also a rather predictable 1-or-2 days in between each contest. Thus a better start would seem to be in the offing (despite three of the 10 games being against Queen Elizabeth II Highway-foe Calgary).

Their remaining 10-game segments take 22, 22, 22, 23, 17, 16, and 24 days, an average of one game every 2.028 days. There are only 11 total back-to-back pairs the entire season, a drop of five from 2008/9. It almost seems as if an apology for the kick in the shorts at the start of last season is offered here. However, in the Games 51 – 60 and 61 – 70 segments, 12-of-20 games are on the road and 11 total contests are against 2008/9 Playoff teams. Hmmm… Opening season good will seems to drop off here.

Over the season, Edmonton will log a modest 750 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009), providing some predictability to veterans on the team who will remember the pace from the previous year.

Their season-ending 10 are all played in the tough Western Conference. They have a home-and-away pair against ANA and one each against COL, DAL, DET, LAK, MIN, PHX, STL, and VAN. Why so many one-timers? As nature seeks equilibrium, so too, does the NHL Scheduler. There is a four-day road trip over seven days in the middle of this stretch and the last two games are played in California. So much for good will.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota fans are used to a strong seasonal start since the Lockout. Their re-vamped Wild team’s first 10-games require an identical 22 days to Edmonton’s start. In this stretch for them, however, there is a pair of back-to-back games. Opening at CBJ on 3 October, they return home for a game against ANA before a 5-games-in-10-days western road trip. Nothing like seeing how much gas you have in the tank right from the get-go.

Their remaining 10-game segments take 21, 22, 19, 19, 23, 18, and 23 days, an exact average of one game every two (2) days. There are a total of 15 back-to-back pairs during the season, a drop of two from 2008/9.

Over the season, Minnesota will only travel 484 miles less on the road than last season (Hoag, Ballhype, 16 July 2009), a practical wash.

Nine of the last 10 games are all played in the West. They have two home games against SJS, a tough road pair against PHI and then DET, three singles at home against CHI, DAL and LAK and a three-game, western Canadian swing against CGY, EDM and VAN. This last 10 games is a toss-up as to its overall affect on any Minnesota aspirations for the post-season. But if it comes down to one win equaling a post-season berth, it will be one earned through the likes of DAL.

The Colonel will continue this analysis next week with a dissection of schedules for New Jersey, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

Be sure to stay tuned this week for more blogging from Big Tex and the Frozen Pill.

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1. 4.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Frozen Pill's series of Off-Season Updates begins today and will be updated throughout the 'dog days' for the Pill's 10 teams.

Today, we start at the bottom AND the top. The Atlantic Division New York Islanders finished dead last in the NHL in the 2008/09 regular season but were awarded the top pick of 2009 in the draft lottery. GM Garth Snow went with the top prospect available and the much touted John Tavares was drafted number one, joining the rebuild on the Island...perhaps in more ways than one.

With the Lighthouse project approaching a critical public-hearing date (more on that later) and also gaining support in the community, perhaps Tavares will help build the house the youngsters started.

Or perhaps the fact the Isles will play a pre-season game in Kansas City, the town much discussed as a potential new home for the Islanders (Lighthouse again), guarantees the Islanders are going to be getting more attention this season. And their play should follow suit. Isles faithful have much to look forward to and perhaps some to fret.

WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THE SEASON ENDED? Although not a comprehensive list of activities, here are some of the highlights of off-season changes and events:

  • Isles drafted twice in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Taking number one overall, John Tavares. They also traded up from 26 to 16 and then to 12 to select their future Power Play specialist, defenseman Calvin de Haan. They then drafted a giant of a netminder with their 2nd round pick (31st overall) in Mikko Koskinen (6'7"). For a complete list click here and scroll to the New York Islanders.
  • The NYI management did a good job getting the picks they wanted during the draft and adding more youthful prospects with promise in the continuing rebuilding effort. Tavares alone generates enough press to ensure the Isles will have more of an audience this season. And management was smart when having him sign a two-way, entry level, 3 year contract. He will need to compete and perform to make the final cut, like all other prospects. Think he'll make the team? He's already listed on the Islanders' website in the starting roster (here)
  • The Isles signed multiple depth players from within other teams' depth charts. Keeping costs low by mining for gold nuggets, they signed :
  1. Mark Flood (prev. w/ CAR), Greg Mauldin (prev. w/ OTT), Matt Moulson (prev. w/ LAK), Greg Moore (prev. w/ NYR) all on July 6th.
  2. Also added Jeremy Reich (prev. w/ BOS), Brett Westgarth (prev. w/ SJS), Scott Munroe (prev. w/ PHI), Dwayne Roloson (prev. w./ EDM)
  3. The Isles traded Ben Walter to NJD for a hometown prospect, Tony Romano who grew up in the area and had idolized the Islanders since childhood. Think he's excited?
  4. Few departures (G-Yann Danis, signed w/ NJD on July 10th) from the Isles organization due to free agency and only a couple of players who have yet to resign and may enter arbitration (Blake Comeau and Nate Thompson).
  • The addition of veteran Dwayne Roloson gives the Isles a sense of security in net considering the injury-prone Rick DiPietro. Last season, they became reliant on superb performances by depth goalies...now, they have a backup.
  • UPDATE: Yesterday, the Isles announced they had also signed Philadelphia's Martin Biron to a one year contract. Now, having three legitimate starters on the roster perhaps belies a slow injury rehab for Rick DiPietro. Will Roloson and Biron alternate starting slots or will they compete for the job? Will DiPietro even be ready to go at the start of the season? Time will tell.
  • GM Snow is on the hunt for another enforcer for this team. There are now a lot of high-value, young players carrying the weight of this team and a new Sheriff might help keep the team healthy throughout the season. Colton Orr (NYR) was in their sights, but too pricey (4 years, 4 MM in Toronto). The hunt continues...

The Islanders held their mini-camp for prospects from July 10th to the 15th. Some notes of interest from the camp:
  • John Tavares hit the ice for the first time as an Islander. Yes, 90% of the fans who showed up were wearing TAVARES sweaters.
  • The hunt for protection for the younguns probably made for an interesting mini-camp for attendee, Joel Rechlicz. Opportunity knocks, er, heads?
  • Josh Bailey was at camp, practically the veteran leader having spent the majority of last season on the team. Bailey is an important part of the future of this team and such opportunities are a good part of the building/learning process.
  • If 09 draft choice Calvin de Haan were to get a call-up in the middle of the season (unlikely), he could play alongside and learn from Mark Streit. Scary.
  • University of Minnesota defenseman Aaron Ness turned some heads
  • 6'7" Goalie Mikko Koskinen could have used the top of the goal as a stool when standing in his skates in front of the net
  • Shuhei Kuji had some impressive speed. Invited to attend by GM Garth Snow, Kuji plays for Wasata University in Japan and for the Japanese National Team.

BETWEEN NOW AND THEN...From now until the start of the 09-10 season:


More important to the success of the New York Islanders than the performance of their prospects and draft picks is the performance of management and interested parties in convincing the Town of Hempstead they should take action to keep the Islanders playing on the Long Island. If the proposed future home of the Isles, the Lighthouse, is not turned into a reality soon, most project a departure of the storied franchise even though their lease would not be up at the current home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Last season, media reports bounced around about a deal that would bring the Islanders to Kansas City where they have an arena, the Sprint Center, missing a hockey team.

All the more interesting, then, they should play a pre-season game in Kansas City this September 22nd in the Lighthouse Classic.

And all the more important a successful outcome of the upcoming town-hall is to the Isles staying on the Isle. The Town of Hempstead announced Tuesday, August 4, 2009 as the latest date for a public hearing for the Lighthouse project. "This meeting is of ultimate importance to the project" and local fans are urged to attend and show their support. NY Governor David Paterson will be in attendance to throw his support behind the project.


The Islanders released their pre-season schedule showing only one home game on September, 23rd against the New Jersey Devils. They begin their pre-season on September 14th when they play the Vancouver Canucks as a part of Kraft Hockeyville 2009.

From the Islanders website:

The Islanders will also play two games at their training camp facility, the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatoon. On Saturday, September 19th they will face off against the Calgary Flames and the following evening, Sunday, September 20th, take on the Edmonton Oilers. At the close of Training Camp the Islanders will head to Kansas City, where they will play the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday, September, 22nd at 6 p.m. local time at the Sprint Center.
Opening Night of the Regular Season will be played against the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins and the official debut of the New New York Islanders.


NYI Ice Girl Tryouts gets a mention because the OGA Team was able to attend an early season game last year at the Coliseum and were unanimously impressed with the skills exhibited by the Islanders' Ice Girls. In fact, we came to the conclusion they are the best dressed of Ice Girls around the NHL and kudos to their official wardrobe manager. Supporting evidence can be found here. So, for the public's sake,
Auditions for the 2009-2010 Ice Girls will take place August 15th at Islanders Iceworks in Syosset. Info Here
Also, it was announced on Tuesday that Islanders President Chris Dey told the radio announcers team of Chris King and Steve Mears their contracts would not be renewed for the upcoming season. The radio duties will be given to a simulcast from Madison Square Garden Network announcers Billy Jaffe and Howie Rose. A shrewd move in terms of payroll/finances but a sour blow to those fans who like to watch the broadcast on TV and listen to the game on the radio. However, the word on Comments Street has it the signals for the radio broadcast were weak and sounded good to no one. So, perhaps it is a wash in the end except for the loss of some nostalgia.

All in all, it should be a wild ride this year on the Island. Since my OGA partners are rabid Rangers fans, I can't wait for the season to start and the chirping to begin. Any updates or breaking news for the Islanders will be available on forthcoming updates with the Frozen Pill's Off-Season Updates.

More to come later...
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1. 4.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


NEW YORK RANGERS: The jury is still out on my beloved Blueshirts, but I see more pluses than minuses for Sather this offseason.
Gomez for Higgins (and prospects McDonagh and Valentenko)? Anytime you can get rid of an overpaid underachiever, that's a good day. When you can trade said o.u. for a solid player with potential for a rebound season AND get a couple of decent prospects AND clear cap space, that's a great day. PLUS.
Using that newly-cleared cap space to land Gaborik, one of the top snipers in the league (when he's healthy)? Given Gaby's recent health history, this is a bit of a calculated risk. As a poker player, I can appreciate that. PLUS, but only if Gaborik pots 40+ this year.
Letting fan-favorite and sparkplug Colton Orr slip away and replacing him with Donald Brashear? Orr signed a 4yr, $4mil contract with Toronto, while the Rangers are going to pay Brashear $2.8mil over 2 years. Personally, I'd prefer four more years of Orr. MINUS.
Letting penalty-killer extrordinaire Blair Betts walk and signing Brian Boyle as his replacement? I haven't seen enough of Boyle to have an impression, but I know what the Rangers are losing. This would be a huge MINUS if Boyle weren't 6'7", 252 lbs. For now, we'll call this one EVEN.
Signing UFA Ales Kotalik? A proven 20-goal man for the reasonable price of 3yrs,$9mil. PLUS.
Re-signing Ryan Callahan? Getting this deal done was a must. For my money, Callahan was the Blueshirts' best skater last season. PLUS.
Swapping Korpikoski for Lisin? Lisin projects to be another 20+ goal scorer, but Korpi seems to me to be a more complete player. EVEN for now, and a PLUS if Lisin scores 25+.
While Ranger fans everywhere will continue to dream of a scenario in which Ottawa accepts Wade Redden and a like-new smart car for Dany Heatley, the reality is that re-signing Brandon Dubinsky is CRITICAL. Without Dubie, the Rangers don't even have anyone who can fake the role of #1 Center. You've had a good summer thus far, Slats - don't blow it now by losing Dubinsky.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: I'll make this one short and sweet: Much has been said (and written) about the firing of GM Dale Tallon and the acquisition of Marian Hossa (and summary dismissal of Martin Havlat). Trade rumors abound as the entire league wonders which players will have to be moved in order for the Hawks to attempt to re-sign Kane, Toews and Keith next year. Fans and pundits debate whether or not to crown Chicago "09-10 Stanley Cup Contenders". Since winning the Cup is ultimately what it's all about (take that, Hokey Pokey!), it's important to note the utter failure of Chicago management to address the weakest link on the Blackhawks' roster: Cristobal Huet. Sure, they tried to deal Huet, but there were no takers for his (rather substantial) contract. Now, Chicago is stuck with a goalie who might've hit the pinnacle of his career over a 13-game span in the spring of 2008. Can Huet prove himself worthy of the starting job on a vastly improved Blackhawk squad? The answer to that question should tell you all you need to know about the Hawks' Cup chances.
1. 4.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2005/6: An Olympics Hangover by The Colonel

From 13 – 27 February 2006 and just a bit more than half-way through the season, a halt was applied to the inertia of the NHL season in order to allow the game’s best players to represent their native countries in the XX Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. Did this stoppage create ‘An Olympic Hangover’ – the ‘O.H.’ – where teams failed to play as well as they did before the break? Could that happen again during the 2009/10 season?

To answer the first question about an Italian O.H., we turn to the results of that season. Taking several measurements of NHL wins as a whole and the number of wins in 10 games both before and after the Olympic break, here is what the analysis tells us:

Average number of wins EVERY 10 GAMES in the NHL to secure a playoff berth: 5.67

Number of teams above the 10-game NHL average before the Olympics: 15

Number of teams below the 10-game NHL average before the Olympics: 12

Number of teams above their pre-Olympic 10-game wins post-Turin: 11

Number of teams equal to their pre-Olympic 10-game wins post-Turin: 5

Number of teams below their pre-Olympic 10-game wins post-Turin: 14

Difference in post-Olympic 10-game wins + above the NHL average: +2 games

Difference in post-Olympic 10-game wins + below the NHL average: -1.46 games

So overall, there IS a slight drop off in NHL average wins between pre- and post-Olympic timeframes. A little deeper analysis than the above produces two additionally noteworthy insights:

First is that of the 11 teams who improved between the two periods bookending the Olympiad, three of them (Atlanta, Florida and the NY Islanders) did not wind up qualifying for the 2006 Playoffs. So the improvement in post-Olympic play was only of benefit to eight teams, or 50% of the Playoff pool, when all was said and done.

And the stats also show that Vancouver missed the eighth Playoff seed by a margin of 1.5 wins. From the season’s outcome, the O.H. could be thought of as a reason they failed to make the 2006 Playoffs because that is exactly their deficit in wins after the break. Atlanta and Toronto both missed the Playoffs by that same 1.5 game margin or less but actually improved in wins post-Turin. The two teams' identical seven-game skid in January/February were the clubs’ undoing.

So using the 2006 Winter Games as an example, it can be said an O.H. exists because less teams play above the average number of NHL wins required to qualify for the number eight position in conference standings than prior to the Olympics. The O.H. let down also equaled the exact difference in wins Vancouver needed to secure the eighth seed in the West that season. Will a similar O.H. occur this season?

Where did I put my Magic Eight Ball? Dang. Without that thing to shake up, I have to give you my best guess at an answer to this question. So here goes: Yes, Virginia, there will be an O.H. this year. BUT…

It will not be as prevalent because the games are in Vancouver and not an ocean away. This will equal less fatigue/jetlag to adversely affect each participant’s personal output on the ice. You are likely to see a more discombobulating affect when the Trade Deadline occurs and team chemistries are thrown out of whack.

And for most teams, the drop off in production due to the O.H. will be relative. If only 3.33% of all NHL teams in 2006 can potentially tie their Playoff-qualifying demise to their play in the 10 games following the XX Winter Games, you might argue the O.H. has only a cursory affect on who does and does not enter the chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Or you can point to the fact that after last season, four teams missed the Playoffs by that same 1.5-Game margin or less.

Or just look at the West’s tight race to land at least Number 8 and see:
  • A Dallas team that, minus the key injuries suffered last year, stands a chance of having the largest bounce-back of any team in the League this season.
  • Nashville, minus a five-game losing skid in late December/early January of last year, would have been a contender.
  • Team chemistry-dependant, what looks like an improved Los Angeles Kings squad might just be poised to enter the Playoff race this season.
Or, or, or.

A 2010 O.H. should be a mild one, but might also impact the Playoff picture in minor ways. Only time will tell.

Is it October yet?
1. 4.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

OGA Over The Boards, Part II

New Jersey Devils

16 July 2009: Just when you thought you might see some offense from the Devils, back out of Minnesota comes Jacques Lemaire to potentially strangle the ‘O’ in favor of the ‘D.’ To be fair, the man IS a winner, having brought the Devils their first Stanley Cup. But if the Devils are going to play the kind of game Lemaire had the Wild playing for years, this team is not going to hoist a Cup unless every stick in the Eastern Conference dries up… Travis Zajac is going to arbitration. This is NOT the time for the Devils to pinch pennies as this is the Centerman that helped bring you 94 points from Zach Parise on last year’s number one line. Fans will see soon what the monetary bottom line is in New Jersey.

Ottawa Senators

16 July 2009: That Heatley Thang, Ottawa Style… At OGA, we cannot help but feel Danny Heatley may not necessarily have been THE piece of locker room chemistry destruction that was last year’s Senators. But we do believe if he remains with this team come the drop of the first puck in 2009/10, he will be an albatross of ill will hanging around this team’s neck. He is the villain in the Ottawa press for wanting to jump ship, he did not produce last year like he did in the previous two seasons, and now waffles on whether or not he will go to Edmonton, or, as reported on XM Radio, one of the other two, un-named, interested teams. A good, potentially great, Hockey player, Heatley must go away from Ottawa… The hardest working player in Development Camp? Those honors according to caches would go to Robin Lehner, the top-ranked Euro Goalie in the draft.

St. Louis Blues

16 July 2009: David Backes has been working out. Blues strength and conditioning coach Nelson Ayotte says his strengthening and developing regimen had him report in a few days ago 12 percent quicker and faster in testing. Could there be more than 31 goals on his tick next season?.. Great news for the Blues includes reports that defenseman Erik Johnson looks to be in top form. He is shooting, passing and skating with confidence on his 6-4, 235-pound frame. Blues’ staff – and Johnson himself – all say he is ready to go for the 2009/10 season…

Talk of the Blues’ Pre-Orientation camp was the line combination including T.J. Oshie (2 Assists) and Philp McRae (Basil’s son, with 2 Goals) in the Blue vs Gold scrimmage. Talk is that it may be a few years before they play together, but that would be up to Philip to change, now wouldn’t it?

Tampa Bay Lightning

16 July 2009: Think Hockey doesn’t work in the Sunbelt? How about 4,717 reasons that thought is wrong? That’s how many fans were in attendance at the St. Pete Times’ Forum last Saturday, 11 July, to see Victor Hedman and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Young Guns Development Camp scrimmage. Way to go Bolts and Bolts’ fans!..

Tampa Bay has been busy, some would say, smartly acquiring off-season talent. Anterro Nittymaki brings a quality backup for starting goalie Mike Smith, giving a more formidable punch in a net that lost too many games in extra periods or by 1-to-2 goals last season. For the blueline, a reason (along with chemistry) that many close games were lost, has had significant additions as well. Kurtis Foster comes in at 6-5, 220 courtesy of free agency, along with former Canuck defender Mattias Ohlund (6-2, 227), one of the top free agent defenders on the market this summer. Matt Walker at 6-3, 214 from the Blackhawks, also joins the re-signed 6-2, 196-pound Lukas Krajicek, 6-2, 218 Andrej Meszaros, 6-3, 208 Paul Ranger and 6-2, 218 Josef Melichar amongst other prospects. Along with Victor Hedman, that gives Tampa eight, yes, EIGHT defenders that are all 6-2 or better. If your strategy is to build from the goal outward, this looks like a good step in that direction.

Washington Capitals

16 July 2009: Capitals’ Development Camp is just opening as this is being written. In Day 1 interviews, Coach Boudreau indicated John Carlson was impressive for his puck movement, the way he closes gaps and his speed in execution. Mathieu Perreault is going to get a good look at Training Camp, and worst case, will be a call up to replace an injury next season. Cody Eaken and Trevor Bruess also were noted by Coach Boudreau in his off-ice interview at http://capitals.nhl.com/

Mark French’s hiring as the new coach of the Hershey Bears continues the line of continuity in the Capitals’ system. French coming from an Assistant Coach position because the head coach moved up to the main club shows that Washington develops coaches like they do their players. The same Capitals’ system will remain in place given some personality-driven tweaks that continue to fight for the success of the team while preparing the Caps’ prospects to move up the ladder when ready or as required. This strategy cannot help but ensure the affective growth of the team as a whole.
1. 4.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Over The Boards With The OGA Blogs

Anaheim Ducks

15 July 2009: James Wisniewski was re-signed on Monday, 13 July. His return to the team adds proven veteran blue line stability with Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Whitney. These three will mix with Luca Sbisa, Steve McCarthy, Nick Boynton and a host of popular, young defenders to overcome the loss of both Chris Pronger and Francois Beauchemin. This roster position will require further evaluation in Training Camp and the Pre-Season to see how they compare to the well-respected Ducks of past seasons…

Several notes were posted when the Ducks acquired Saku Koivu on 8 July:

Bob Murray – “…I think it’s a good fit for both Saku and us. He’s been a No. 1 or No. 2 center for years and a captain in Montreal. I think it puts us in a position where we have two good scoring lines and I prefer to think of it that way rather than a 1 or a 2….”

Saku Koivu: “…I kind of felt Minnesota was Mikko’s place in a way, and I wanted him to have his privacy and make his own name there for his career… Obviously I’m hoping and I’m confident that things will work out and I’ll play many years in Anaheim. But I thought it was an easier decision to take one year at a time at this point and see how everything works out. We’ll see how we like it there, and if everything works out well, we can spend many years there to come… (And) I like the chemistry and the core guys they have on this team. If I can come in and help the team and hopefully take some pressure off on them at the same time, I think at this point of my career it’s the perfect fit and something that I wanted….”

Atlanta Thrashers

15 July 2009: The Thrashers are into the quickly advancing internet technology scene. They invited several of the more prolific Thrashers’ bloggers to their prospect camp media availability day on Saturday, 11 July. Read the blogs and get a good perspective on the camp… What would be the impact of a Kovalchuk – Antropov – Little line? Based on a repeat of last year’s scoring, that would be 102 Goals and 99 Assists. Add to that over 30 points each for Kubina, Hainsey, Entstrom, and Bogosian (projected if he was healthy all 82 games) and you have the makings of an improved Thrashers’ team for 2009/10.

Buffalo Sabres

15 July 2009: Day 1 quote from Coach Ruff at the Sabres’ Development Camp: “…(Nathan) Gerbe… (is) more of a goal scorer and (Tim)Kennedy more of a playmaker… Both players are going to be NHL players… (But) it’s a situation where you’re gonna end up battling for spots….” Additional notes indicate special mention of Brayden McNabb’s (the 2009 #3 draft pick) stamina where he was #1 on the Combine Fatigue Index, and Tyler Myers (the 2008 #1 draft pick) looks HUGE compared to other players in camp…

The Sabres are going to arbitration with Clarke MacArthur. Hopefully, this text is old when printed and a Buffalo team which has not brought in much from the free agent market will have already settled with this talented winger. While he only had 31 points in 71 games, he was strong down the stretch with five goals in his last eight games. Either way you slice it from simply repeating last season’s average Points Per Game to projecting what he did in his last eight games over a full, 82-game season, he looks to contribute anywhere from 36 – 52 points this season.

Edmonton Oilers

15 July 2009: Assistant Coach Tom Renny’s comments about the Oilers Development Camp are that he likes the players’ size, speed, skill and toughness. His interview on “Oilers On Demand” (web) TV shows enthusiasm for the youngsters in the Oilers’ system… That Heatley Thing: From Edmonton’s perspective, they want the guy. You can sense the frustration in Danny’s hesitancy to waive his no-trade clause and sign, particularly when everyone thought his movement may be a done deal. This is not about money, however, as that is already set for the next six years. What is the issue is strictly where Heatley wants to play that brings a palatable (trade) return for Ottawa. If Heatley is coming this summer, he comes to the sound of a lot of critics for the hesitancy shown. But if he does come, he likely knows all he has to do to silence them is to score goals, something he can certainly do.

Minnesota Wild

15 July 2009: Tyler Cuma has recovered nicely from knee surgery as evidenced by his performance at Development Camp. He has done well enough to sign an entry level contract out of development camp… Colton Gillies looked good in Development Camp scrimmage scoring a couple of nice goals. A look at Minnesota Wild TV from their web site Prospects Highlights reel shows a great 1-on-3 move through the middle of the defense by Erik Haula for a goal… The Wild opened up their final scrimmage to the public which drew an estimated 1,650 fans to the Excel Center.