Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thursday NHL Thoughts - 10/19/06

If you were to open the sports section of your newspaper this morning and go to the NHL standings, you would see that while Buffalo and Atlanta have dominated the conference, the Stanley Cup champions from2 years ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning are sitting in 13th place, with only 2 wins in 6 games. Right now, the talk around the league is that John Tortorella's ways might've run their course and that the players might not be responding to him anymore. His job could be in jeopardy, some might say. With 3 superstars like Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, with a supporting cast that includes Vaclav Prospal, Ruslan Fedotenko and defenseman Dan Boyle as well as newly acquired Marc Denis in net, Tortorella has the elements to win. So if these elements are just not responding to the coach anymore, you have to fire the coach, right?

Personally, I think this is a bunch of crap. The players are not responding to the coach anymore? Well, youngster Ryan Craig, with 5 points in 6 games, seems to be responding. So does Fedotenko, who has 4 points. Nikita Alexeev also has 4 and is +4, so he's getting his points at 5-on-5. Defensemen Luke Richardson, Corey Sarich, Doug Janik, Paul Ranger and Nolan Pratt are all even or better on a team that has scored a measly 11 goals so far. So what;s wronf with the Lightning? Very simply, the stars have to start living up to their billing. Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards have to start producing. Dan Boyle needs to become dangerous again on the power play. Marc Denis needs to start playing like a #1 goaltender. These players are the core of the team. GM jay Feaster gave up Fredrik Modin and his 30 goals/year to get Denis, so he needs to start living up to his billing. As for the 19.5 M/year gang (St. Louis, Lecavalier and Richards), letting the media blame your coach for your pathetic performance is just lame.

As a team, the Lightning are playing pretty good defense, allowing 2.5 goals/game and only 21.5 shots/game. If Denis can improve on his .888 save percentage, that would be a good start. Then, you need your top guys to get a dismal power play (8.6% efficiency) to get the power play going.

I can udnerstand a coach needs to go when his whole team has tuned him out. In the case of Tortorella, his team is playing hard for him, except for a few players. I believe that the Lightning will start winning games sooner than later, and when it is all said and done, they will be in the playoffs. But sometimes, it would be nice to see players being held accountable for their lack of effort. If Tortorella gets canned, it won't be his fault or the GM's fault; instead, it will lie on the shoulders of 3 or 4 lazy superstars.

My early thoughts on the 6 Canadian Teams:
  • Calgary Flames (2-3-1): In the 2006 playoffs, Calgary's lack of scoring punch was finally exposed. So, in the offseason, Darryl Sutter went out and traded for Alex Tanguay. Tanguay is a good player, but his point totals have been inflated for years while playing with Milan Hejduk, Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg. He now plays with Jarome Iginla, but it is clear that they need a true #1 center. Sutter will have to start working the phones sooner than later. He has many good defensemen, and with the best goalie in the NHL, he can afford to give up one or two. In a division as strong as the Northwest, they can't stay in this funk for 2 long.
  • Edmonton Oilers (4-2): Losing Chris Pronger doesn't seem to have affected the team's defense as much as anticipated. The Oilers are sitting at 6th in the league in goals against/game. Dwayne Roloson is playing great for them. Petr Sykora, signed as a free agent, is playing exceptionally well with Ales Hemsky. Ryan Smyth is also producing. If they have one concern, it's that Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll have failed to score 1 goal so far. But the whole team has shown a lot of heart and things are truly looking good.
  • Montreal Canadiens (3-1-2): The Canadiens, led by Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev, are playing very good hockey right now. Their first line of Koivu, Higgins and Ryder is dominating the opposition. They are playing good team defense as well. The one issue they have right now is that Kovalev seems to be alone sometimes. Sergei Samsonov, aside from noe nice goal scored Saturday night, has been invisible. Tomas Plekanec, for his part, looks a lot more like Jan Bulis than Mike Ribeiro right now. But if the Canadiens can learn to win some shootouts, they will be more than ok.
  • Ottawa Senators (2-3): Let's see... Martin Gerber is playing like he did at the start of the playoffs and not like in the regular season, which is really bad news. Spezza, Alfredsson and Heatley have 9 points combined in 5 games. That's bad news too. They are giving up almost 3 goals/game. More bad news. The good news? They are too talented to be this bad. They will get a lot better.
  • Toronto Maple Leafs (3-2-2): Well, they are playing much better than pundits predicted. Like the Canadiens, they have already lost 2 games in the shootout. They are scoring a lot, but have given up the same amount of goals as they have scored. Common sense they won't keep it up, but you never know...
  • Vancouver Canucks (3-3-1): As the only potent offensive threat on this team, the trio of Markus Naslund and the Sedin Twins is doing well (comined 22 points in 7 games). After that, there's a huge dropoff. Roberto Luongo has played well for them, but not exceptionally well. And since they lost Anson Carter, Eddie Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi and Alex Auld to get him and then sign him, he needs to be exceptional. Their season will ride on his shoulders, there's no doubt about that.

And finally, we get to the pool. Sweet LP has has a great week, and he is now sitting on top of the standings. Nick The Dick, who has been a real dick about the choices that were made for him while he was doing God-knows-what with Champagne bottles in Paris, is sitting in second. Mat and Veillotron, who is used to smelling the rotten basement of the standings, are not too far behind. Huy has seen choices like Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal backfire so far (those were just bad, bad picks... somewhat reminiscent of The Dick picking Brett Hull last year). As for yours truly, well, I can bitch all I want about the teams, but I'm sitting dead last, surrounded by the incredible futility of my top picks. But the season is young, and I will be back...

Dwarf out.


At 7:46 AM, Anonymous huy said...

Plekanec is playing more like Bulis than Ribeiro? i'm not sure which one is an insult and which on is a compliment


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