Saturday, October 31, 2009

Biron To Detroit?

From Lyle Richardson of Spectors Hockey:

As long as the Wings remain in the playoff hunt I suspect Holland will give Osgood and Howard more time. Potential trade options should Holland decide to go shopping for a goaltender include Minnesota's Josh Harding and the Islanders' Martin Biron once Rick DiPietro returns to action.
Dipietro could be back around Thanksgiving according to reports. For now the Islanders certainly have a good trade chip. The question is, assuming the Isles do trade with Detroit, what could they get in return for Biron? Detroit is an established team, with quite a bit of depth, so look for a decent draft pick in return for Biron.

2 In A Row Isles 4 Caps 3

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Prospect Watch: Aaron Ness

Updated 2.13.10 From Omair Taher

Ness continues to put up steady numbers in his sophomore season at Minnesota. He currently has one goal and nine assists through 28 games, second only to Cade Fairchild (STL) in scoring among Golden Gophers defensemen. While Ness's offensive production hasn’t improved much from last year, he did add about 10 pounds of muscle over the summer. This is a step in the right direction for the 2008 Mr. Hockey award recipient. Ness has the skill set to be a top offensive defenseman, but needs to bulk up a bit more before he can move up to the pros.



Update from the Daily News:

"All reports are that Aaron's playing well," Snow said. "We're excited that Aaron is playing college hockey and having some success. We'll keep monitoring Aaron, and hope he continues on that development path."- Garth Snow
"Aaron has outstanding skills, skating ability and hockey sense," Snow said. "He does a good job getting pucks to the net on the power play or in 5-on-5 situations. He makes a great first pass, and can skate the puck out of trouble when the opportunity presents itself."
From Minnesota coach Don Lucia

"The biggest change he needs is time, physically," Lucia said. "I think the biggest catching up he had to do was not the mental part of his game or the skill part, but just the physical part. He's probably put on a good 10 pounds of muscle from last year - he's still got a ways to go as far as that's concerned, and that's going to take some time."

Stats for Ness:


Drafted: 2008 Entry draft
Round: 2nd  (40th Overall)
NHL Central Scouting’s Jack Barzee
“Aaron is flamboyant and colorful. He is very quick, everything about him is quick -- his hands are quick, his feet are quick. He is a very good skater and he is gritty and physical. He’ll step right in to you without fear – he picks his spot when he does it. He’s a little more polished than some of the other high school defensemen with his passing and playmaking.  When I look at him he is quicker than Brian Leetch was at this age and he’s as fast as John-Michael Liles was at the same age." 


Stats:

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM
2008-09 U. of Minnesota NCAA 37 2 15 17 16
2009-10 U. of Minnesota NCAA 34 2 9 11 22
 
 
 
 My take: Ness could very well be a good defenseman in 2 years for the Islanders. For now he'll soak up as much as he can in Minnesota, eventually join the Sound Tigers, and see where he progresses from there. Ness is certainly a player to keep an eye on.
 
 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Are The Islanders Not Winning?

After the first 10 games, most fans begin to analyze how their teams are doing and begin dissecting their team down to the amount of ice time a certain fourth liner is playing. In the Islanders case, everything is being dissected. Why? Despite getting 7 points in 10 games, 2 points better than last years start, the Islanders only have 1win against the Hurricanes which saw Tavares, Neilsen, and Tambellini all score in the shoot-out. So the Islanders have not won in regulation yet so fans, writers, and bloggers alike are getting frustrated.

The "logical" thing to do is blame the GM and ownership for not signing veteran free agents.  My response to that is this: Hey, Miro Satan is still available, and he's even said he'll play anywhere! My point: No free agent will come, been there, talked about it, and over with. So who's next? Oh that's right the coach. His system does not work with this team. Problem is, the system is being used by other coaches in the NHL and are having success with it, so it's not the coach.

So now it's a lack of talent? This maybe true, maybe not a lack, just not enough experience. To prove my theory, I had asked several fans and fellow bloggers on twitter who they thought were the "core"  players for the Islanders. The definition of a core player for me is players whom fans think they would not trade at anytime. What I did was I took the most common answers and came up with a short list. They included the following:

Tavares, Okposo, Moulson, Streit & DiPietro

I would concur with this, but now I want fans to do this right now: Go back to that list, and read each name slowly, and I will assure you that most fans will not be impressed with such a short list. Why? Simple: What have they done? These five players have not even played together yet. Out of the three forwards, who is a proven winner in the NHL?  None!!! Why? They just got started!!! Okposo almost doubles the amount of games Tavares, and Moulson have played; DiPietro is still trying to make a comeback, and Streit is off to a slow start. What did you expect? 

Ah but me being the optimist, there are positives. The Islanders now have a legit first line in those three forwards. When was the last time a fan could say that? There seems to be a player or two ready to have a breakout year, especially Tambellini early on (3 goals in 2 games). The question is will there be someone else to step up? Probably, but fans have 72 games to watch and find out. Will any of these players become core players? Fans don't know. There's the problem. The Islanders fans need to see improvement and witness a few wins to lift up their spirits. But there is a player that has was only mentioned once (@Islanders1fan) as a core player player, out of all the lists who should be considered: Trent Hunter.

Now why on Earth would I mention a slow moving third liner, with potential to score 20 goals a year but can't because he always injured? Glad you asked. In doing some I have no-life, wife is out of the house, extensive research, since the lockout starting with the 2005-2006 season, every time Trent Hunter has scored, the Islanders are a staggering 42-10-6. You want to know why he gets a nice contract from Isles management? I would  say that would be a good reason. Even with Gordons system and depleted, young team of last year and this years goal, the Islanders are 7-6-1 when Trent scores. If Trent scores 2 goals in a game, the Islanders are 5-0. So let's add him to the list of "Core" players shall we?

Core players: Tavares, Moulson, Okposo, Hunter, Streit, and DiPietro.

Here is something to think about why the Islanders are not winning. The Islanders had only two core players since maybe 2007. That's not going to take a team very far.  There talent pool was depleted in the minors, and free agents did not want to come, nor stay on Long Island. If you think about it further, Snow signed 2 of those players and drafted 1 (jury will still be out on Moulson, but everyone thinks he's a core player now, so I'll run with it).

Of the five, two core players are still injured, three are still learning, and one is off to a bad start. While the secondary players are finding their way on this team, we need to remember that it will take more time for them to really get it together. For some, time may be running out. Let the season continue and things will start to unfold. You'll see Hunter and DiPietro healthy; the first line will gain more experience and learn how to win; the Islanders have an All-Star defenseman that will bounce back, and by the end of the year, fans will know who will be back, traded, have a breakout year etc.

But for now the Islanders are not winning because there "core" is still fragile, inexperienced and not complete.

 

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What A Difference A Win Can Make

Since the start of the season, Islanders fans have been faced with mutiple obsticals. Starting with the first game, a shoot-out loss to the Cup champ Penguins, owner Charles Wang publicly stated that he will be looking at other options for his Lighthouse Project, and his Islanders since he did not get a definite answer from the town of Hempstead. Since then the Islanders have blown leads, played poorly, and in once case, got out-plyed by Buffalo to go winless in 6 straight games.

From some of the articles and comments I have read on the web everything from the coach possibly being fired, to a GM defending his players, to no real enforcer (again) on a small-sized team, to bringing up AHL players, to replace players on one-way contracts, to waiving probably a third of the team, to not signing ANY free agents over the summer, proving once again certain fans are better, and should be the GM.....and so on and so forth.

But look what happens after a win by the Isles. Now all of a sudden certain players are being worshiped; no trading or waiving of certain players; that one FREE AGENT playing next to Tavares is scoring the big goals; and their star players wins it for the team in a shoot out. Now fans are saying things like "Great game, but need to start winning in regulation." I agree, but when your team is winless but still collecting points from the overtimes and shoot-outs, the drama queens need to shut up, and let the team come together to figure out how to win on a regular basis.

Let's remember: EVERYONE is healthy at this point (Hunter back by next week). By tis time last year, I'd say 2-3 players on injured reserve? This team is practically brand new, and the new players on here are still getting to know each other on the ice.  It's only the 7th game of an 82 game schedule. We're still in October. Here is a point for fans: The first 10 games of last year, the Islanders registered 5 points. Guess how many they have after 7? You guessed it, 5! Only 3 more games and maybe 3 more points, and what do you have? Improvement.

So the next time the Islanders go into a funk, don't be the National Inquirer of the Islanders, or play "GM." Start going to the games, give the team support, and confidence so that when they start winning, you won't remember the first six games.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weight Will Be Traded This Year?

From Authur Staple of Newsday:

So what happens as the March 3 trade deadline draws closer and Weight, signed only through this season, is the attractive rental for a team hoping he still has something in the tank for a playoff drive?
My Take: With the log jam of players the Islanders currently have, I will not be surprised if Weight is traded by the deadline, especially if his numbers are not productive. He's here for guidance and leadership, not to put up major points. There is no need right now to think trades of anybody just yet. However when the deadline approaches, Weights name will defenitely come up. 

Snow Keeping The Faith

Katie Strang of Newsday is reporting that despite the second worst start in franchise history, GM Garth Snow remains positive about the team and it's players.

"To a man, everyone in that locker room and the organization is disappointed with what has transpired, but we can't dwell on it," Snow said. "We've got to learn from our mistakes and play a full 60 minutes. I believe in the players in that locker room."

"We've got to put 60 minutes together,'' Snow said. "We see we can take control of games at times, but our goal and objective is to put 60 minutes together starting Wednesday and build momentum from there."

"You see two different teams. The first 20 minutes, we were disciplined, we played with a lot of jump and energy, But five minutes into the second, we were turning pucks over and not winning the one-on-one battles," Snow said.

"That's our first and foremost focus, that each shift turns into a period and each period turns into a full game. We need to play an effective, full game, which we haven't done to date."
Snow then went on to talk about his first line of Moulson, Tavares, and Okposo.

"They've generated scoring chances and been responsible in both ends," Snow said. "That's a plus for our team, but we need more secondary scoring and we need to play our brand of hockey for 60 minutes."
Finally, his thoughts on how the team can get out of a negative funk.

If the team can narrow its focus to stringing together three periods, Snow said, it can prevent the frustration from seeping in and manifesting itself as a negative presence.
"You can't get consumed by the big picture," Snow said. "You have to take it one shift at a time."
My Take: I will still stand by my original theory that the Islanders schedule has been nothing short of brutal. Every team they have played so far has had playoff potential and beyond. That is not the way to start a season off. Coming up this week, the Islanders play two beatable teams right now in Carolina, and Montreal. The Islanders must put the effort in for 60 minutes against these teams to garner the wins. More to come as the week begins.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

LIve Chat With Katie

I was able to get in a question to Katie Strang of Newsday about the Islanders playing Tambellini soon. But a few good questions were also asked and it fit into what I was looking for with regards to a few of the forwards.
 For example:

Is Schremp a keeper for this re-build?

Katie: I think so. After his first game, he looked much better and much more comfortable having acclimated to Gordon's style of play. He has shown that he has good vision and can make plays, especially on the power play. I believe that he'll step up his play even more now that he has the comfort level of playing at his natural position--center. Also, the fact that Weight was moved to the wing to facilitate the development of the team's young centers (including Schremp) is a testament, I think, to their belief in his potential.

In addition she went on to answer another question regarding what Islanders fans had to look forward to and this was part of her response.  

Katie: I think Schremp's development will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on, and I also believe the Moulson-Tavares-Okposo will be fun to watch and will yield results. 

This was when I had gotten my question answered. 

Me:  Hi Katie after talking with Gordon, will Tambs be playing anytime soon. Who does he replace? 

Katie: Good question. Unless Gordon subscribes to the theory of working players in once in a while to keep them fresh, I think Tambellini will be the odd man out until something changes. Gordon doesn't want to take Moulson out of the lineup. He also wants to see what Schremp is capable of. And occasionally, he's going to use Rechlicz if he is expecting a particularly physical game. It's not that the coaches don't like Tambellini, they do. He's a hard worker and a coachable guy, but his play has got to force the issue. 

Another good question was raised about Moulson.

Is Matt Moulson for real? How long do you see him sticking on the top line? 

Katie: Yes, I think he is a capable full-time NHL player that will contribute offensively. He's been able to score at every level, and it looks like that is translating for him this year up with the big club. As far as sticking with the first line, he will not be moved if that line continues to play well together and generate the amount of scoring chances they have so far.
And a final word on Tambellini from Katie.

Katie: Tambellini has definitely gotten his chances over the years. And remember Tambellini had all of training camp this year as well to show what he can do. Gordon knows what Tambellini can do, whereas he still wants to evaluate Schremp's capabilities.

Here is my take on Tambs. He is exactly where he should be right now. Moulson has stepped in to be a number one winger for Tavares. Schremp needs to have a closer looking into because he has only played a total of ten NHL games. On a bright spot, he does have four points in those games. As Katie has mentioned, the players to watch this year will be the first line, and Schremp. Tambellini may be able to fit in somewhere if there're injuries, but for now he will have to wait for what possibly might be his last chance for the Islanders. 


Weight Moving to Wing

From Katie Strang of Newsday:

"It turns out that Weight, who flanked Rob Schremp during Monday's game against LA, hasn't played on the wing since 1979.  Yes, that means he has not played the position since he was eight years old.
Regardless, Weight said he's comfortable with the transition and thinks that will be the best move for the team in the long run. With four young centers (John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Rob Schremp, and Frans Nielsen), Weight and Gordon discussed the idea and decided that moving Weight to the wing was best for the youth's development."
This will have more of a positive move with Schremp moving to his natural position, center.  He is certainly more comfortable there and should be able to produce more. What remains to be seen is where he will play when Frans Neilsen returns from injury by later next week. But for now, the scouting on Schremp will continue.

Statement From Charles Wang

From New York Islanders owener Charles Wang:

“Yesterday’s report on the Lighthouse project which appeared in the Long Island Press is untrue. There are no plans to abandon this project which is so vital to the future of Nassau County and Long Island as a whole.
As far as the status of the Lighthouse project, we have submitted to The Town of Hempstead and Supervisor Kate Murray all the studies and required documents. A lease has been negotiated. Supervisor Murray and the Town Board need to make a decision on the zoning.
Long Island stands in this defining moment waiting for an answer. Yes or no.
Moving forward, we will not discuss any meetings in the media. Any reports of meetings should be considered untrue.
My heart is still on Long Island. I love Long Island. This is where the Islanders belong. Let's play hockey."

Now that the fiasco is done for now, can we please get into some hockey. This is what happens when the Islanders have a long break in between games. As stated before, Long Island needs this in the worst way. Wang has come too far to say no now. More to come in this political drama.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Light Going Out On The Lighthouse?

From the Long Island Press:

A source has informed the Long Island Press that, although there has been no public announcement, the ambitious Lighthouse Project has already been abandoned internally by New York Islanders team owner Charles Wang.
This is not good. Not just for Islanders fans but for all of Long Island. The single most economic boost for the next decade may be coming to a close because of politics. For now, there is not enough information out there to get overly depressed yet. However, notable bloggers and Newsday reporters are not having their phone calls returned  to confirm anything. This still reminds me of Pittsburgh when the owners decided to make a formal announcement that the Penuins would be moving and then progress was made in the creation of their new building. I hope this dilemma can be recitified in the same manner, and the fans of the Islanders will be able to enjoy their team for many years to come.

DiPietro is Improving

From Katie Strang of Newsday:

The sounds of progress for the Islanders include the one-syllable epithet Rick DiPietro let loose when a puck finally got by him Tuesday. Before Jeff Tambellini put one in on the top shelf, the goalie had stopped everything in the first high-speed shooting drill of his knee rehab. DiPietro still is far from thinking about playing in a game, but he was feeling good enough to think about perfection.
He took a step Tuesday, on the ice with a half-dozen skaters, mostly players coming back from injuries or just needing extra ice time. Before that, he had taken shots mostly in a controlled environment. This time, the players were trying to score and they were skating hard.
They did breakaways, they stood in various spots and took turns shooting at him, they did curls around orange cones and fired shots. DiPietro stopped most of them and expected to stop all of them.
 Look for DiPietro to be back by mid-season. My hope is by Christmas. If he's only playing 47 minutes now, he is not ready by any protocal the Islanders have him on. For now the most important, long term idea is to have him ready at 100%. When he is, Biron will be the most sought out goaltender because all the other teams need a starter and the Islanders will not miss a beat with DP and Roloson between the pipes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Learning Curve

So the Islanders have played a total of four games, and the fans are already looking to waive or trade players to bring up some of the players from Bridgeport. My question is why? This is not late November, or December folks. The Islanders record is not bad. What is everybody's concern that changes need to be made now? At this point, only two players are injured (I don't count DP) and Neilsen is returning ahead of schedule. So I ask again, why make changes now after four games?

Welcome to the "Learning Curve" of a rebuilding organization. This is where the team will be competitive throughout the season, but come up short most of the games, and drive fans absolutely crazy. This is a team that players now know what is expected from them and execute the system that the coach has now implemented. What the players need right now are a few wins to boost their own confidence. If we look back to last year, after four games the Islanders had 4 points. This year they have 3. Oh no, one point short!! Let's trade all of the players now!! Please grow up. Let's not forget that the Islanders have played teams that have playoff talent, and yet the Islanders have points in 3 out of the 4 games. They could have been 0-4.

The young players have yet to learn to play a full 60 minutes. If they had, they would have won a few already. They continue to dig holes for themselves, and attempt to get themselves out. Just a few examples of whining I have read: "There is not enough consistency. They seem to play tentative. They're not getting depth scoring. The defense isn't that good."  All of this after 4 games? What did you expect? Okay maybe a win would have been nice. But what fans have to realize is that this young core of players do not know what it takes to win as a team on a nightly basis yet. They need to be on each other, to motivate, and thrive together. The Islanders need to be more disciplined and work for a full 60 minutes and not get laid back because quite frankly, they will get beat every time.

What fans need to learn is this: Before the Islanders can bring up the minor league prospects, the NHL players must first learn what it takes to win games often. That's where the veteran leaders of the team need to step in. They must lead by example and be vocal in the locker room. Once winning becomes the norm, and a tradition again, then the Isles can make moves to bring in the Smith's and Joensuus of the organization so that way winning becomes contageous for everyone in that locker room, and then fans can set standards for their team. The Learning Curve for winning started at the beginning of this season. What fans need to do now is let the curve be bigger than just four games.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Captain Has More "Weight" On His Shoulders


Last week the New York Islanders made the choice of forward Doug Weight as the team’s 12th captain in it's  37-year history. My opinion is that this was the correct choice for this team this year. He has the most experience, and everyone can learn something from a player who basically has done it all. Weight has more to contribute and share to this young team for the rest of this season. He is going to be the Don Mattingly of the Islanders.

"It's a tremendous responsibility and a great honor. But, in the grand scheme, it's a letter on your jersey. I'm here, I hope, for my hockey-playing ability first. I want to contribute to this team. So nothing changes about my outlook, but part of my job is a passing of the torch to younger leaders."
"So, first and foremost, it's to let these guys know they're part of the team, make them feel comfortable within the concept of knowing there is accountability and responsibility. You want them to speak up in that room, but they have to realize they have the privilege of playing in the best league in the world. And every day is going to demand harder work than the day before."-Doug Weight
With Weight bearing the "C" on his jersey, he will not only lead his team, but contribute and start the process of passing on his knowledge and his traits that has made him a successful captain in the past, present and to give the future Islanders captain(s) a blueprint for what will assuredly be a road back to better days. Better days start tonight in Ottawa.
 

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Playoffs?

So after a few days of waiting patiently for some Islanders news, I started reading other posts and listening to fans asking if the Islanders can sneak into the playoffs this year. Playoffs? The Islanders are ONE game into their season, an overtime loss to the Cup champs Penguins, and now people think the Islanders have a chance to make it to the playoffs? Waaaaaaaay to early to even think playoffs. Have the fans seen the upcoming schedule? It's brutal!!! However, the Islanders have made some strides during the pre-season that should have Islanders fans excited about the year.

I've mentioned this before, there is more confidence in this team now that they know what is expected out of them while playing a familiar system. No more thinking on the ice, it all comes naturally.

There is goaltending now, no matter who gets traded later.

The Islanders are starting the year with only one player injured for a lengthy period of time.

There is chemistry amongst the players, especially the new first line of Moulson, Tavares, and Okposo.

Speaking of Moulson, has Garth Snow done it again? So far Moulson could be another "Mark Streit" signing. Could fans imagine Moulson putting up impressive numbers with his buddy Tavares, and thus excellerating the youth movement?

Let's not forget that Snow also picked up another low risk- high reward player in Rob Schremp. All Schremp has to do is prove he can play in this League, and Snow wins big time.

Of course I waited to add Tavares last as a potential threat to other teams. He already has a goal and an assist but the thing I love about him is that he wants more.

What Islander fans have right now is hope. They have hope because this team has untapped potential. What has them all giddy inside is that the young players are starting to uncork that talent now, meaning this year.

What fans need to do is remain patient and not rush into a trash-talk fest with anyone else. The fans still do not know how much talent is in this team. The players are only at the tip of what hopes to be a huge iceberg.

If the Islanders are anywhere near a playoff spot say by January, then fans should start talking playoffs. Until then, learn from the younglings and take it one game at a time.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Western Conference Predictions

Okay I promised a Western conference predictions, and It is here before the puck drops at 10 tonight. Better late then never right? Here we go.

15. Colorado: You’re in a rebuild. You already know this. Look for positives out of some young players and build on that as the season goes. What you want to figure out by the end of the season will be how long your rebuild will be. Take it from a fan who has seen a few rebuilds from his team.

14. Phoenix: Thank God your drama from the summer is over.  Too many new players, but you have young talent with a blend of veterans. You go as far as Shane Doan will take you. This year, like the Avs fans, see what you have, and build from there.

13. Nashville: The Preds have a lot of teams to fight through to get into the playoffs. Getting Sullivan back will help, but it won’t be enough. Goaltending should be good, Shea Weber will be a Norris candidate, and the offense should be decent. I just don’t think they have enough to get past so many other teams.

12. Minnesota: New coach, new system, new atmosphere. A few new players, but like Nashville you’re going to need help. Goaltending is solid, defense should be okay, but it’s your offense, and depth that worries me, especially with a new system. If the Wild buy into the new coach and system, you always have a chance.

11. Edmonton: You’re players need to step up this year if you want in. They’re small, but fast, and they have skill on both offense, and defense. The goaltending will be in question because he just signed a new contract, and he doesn’t pick up his game until it’s the last year. If the players are driven to win, you’re in the playoffs.

10. Dallas: If the Stars stay healthy, they’ll be in it till the end. Modano should take a curtain call at every place this year. Stars go as far as Marty Turco will take them. If he can bounce back from a sub par year, and if they make a move or two during the season, I wouldn’t want to play you in the playoffs.

9. Dark Horse Kings: You’re growing as a team, and this could be your year. Nice addition of veterans, and forwards should be really good. The young defense is one more year experienced, and the goaltending is my only concern, but it’s not a huge ordeal. If the team starts out of the gate hot, Kings may be in.

8. Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus will win a playoff game this year. You signed your star player for a long time, and you have one of the up and coming goaltenders in the League. They will be buyers come trade deadline, and again, depending on who you play, will be harder to beat in the playoffs.

7. St. Louis: Some may say what you did last year was just luck. Well you’re getting a few stars back from injury, which is better then the free agency market. But the Blues must stay healthy this year if you want to make it. If you don’t, teams like LA, and Dallas will take a spot from you.

6. Anaheim: You traded Pronger, but got some nice talent for him. Same as St. Louis, not a lot of injuries, and your forwards must produce for a full season, not just your famous three. You have a good problem in net, and both of them will always give you a chance to win every night.

5. Calgary: Goaltending should be solid for the year. The defense is one of the best in the League. Those two combinations alone, and I will not be surprised if the Flames lead the League in one goal game wins. The offense is fine for now, but if you want the Cup, look for them to make a move or two by the deadline.

4. Detroit: This is not an insult. Two-time Western Conference Champs, and two years older. A lot of games plus a few new younglings, means your points will drop, but only during the regular season. A few moves before the trade deadline, and like Calgary, you’re back going for the Cup.

3. Vancouver: In my honest opinion, the only team that can beat the Canucks…..are the Canucks. Stop killing yourselves and start believing you can beat anybody. Take it to the other teams. The Canucks go as far as their captain. There is enough depth everywhere and now, there are certainly no excuses.

2. San Jose: See Vancouver. As far as going as far as your captain goes, you go as far as Joe Thorton. Danny Heatley is a big plus, but make sure he doesn’t turn into a cancer. Goaltending must be stellar this year, from both. No more drama.

1. Blackhawks: The deepest team of this year, but not next year. Huet must step in to replace the Bulin Wall. I think he can. There is just too much on this team that can help him out.  Kane must put his summer behind him, and he along with Toews will only improve. The defense is good and deep, and need to get Campbell on the same page.

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