Monday, June 30, 2008

The Act that Keeps Entertaining

OK, here are the first two paragraphs from a story this morning...
"The Rangers' perfect 2008-09 world would feature Jaromir Jagr and Mats Sundin combining forces on the first line with Chris Drury moving to left wing to skate with Scott Gomez on the second unit.

"It's anybody's guess why Glen Sather hasn't made the effort to communicate that vision to Jagr, who has every right to be miffed over what can politely be described as the GM's cavalier approach to the captain's impending free agency, but trust me, the Rangers will be giddy if they can retain Jagr and unite him with Sundin."

Can you guess who wrote them? Of course, it's our old pal, Larry Brooks, who never ceases to bring a frothing message board fantasy league perspective to these times of year, when there is the possibility of player movement and the Rangers doing something dopey in that regard.

What makes anyone think a pairing of Mats Sundin and Jaromir Jagr would work any better than a pairing of Jagr and Chris Drury did?...or a pairing of Jagr and Scott Gomez did? Oh, Sundin's a name player with a big contract expiring, even though in the end, it's all about keeping Jagr.

Adding Drury and Gomez and $14.4 million in cap hit didn't have the desired effect. Now, signing Sundin, re-signing Jagr, re-signing Avery, and God knows who else from the free agency buffet, is supposed to do the trick?

Yeah, that kind of strategy works...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Jeff Schultz

Number four in the defenseman hit parade…

Jeff Schultz

Theme: “I think no virtue goes with size.”

One defenseman is 6’6, 221. The other is 6’6, 213. One is Jeff Schultz, the other…Chris Pronger. And that is the sort of comparison that leads to wonderment among Caps fans as to why Schultz doesn’t play more to his size, more like…Pronger.

Let’s leave behind the context of that quote from Emerson, above (it comes from a poem about a bird). It speaks to an important issue with respect to Schultz. Why does he become something of a whipping boy because he’s not a big hitter in a six-foot, six-inch body?

He had 40 fewer hits than did Minnesota’s Nick Schultz (who is six inches and 20 pounds smaller than Jeff), but as far as we are concerned, we don’t care if Schultz hits a guy or reads him Emerson, as long as whatever he does keeps opponents from putting pucks in the Capitals’ net. And the fact is Schultz – only 22 years old this morning – was more than merely a serviceable defenseman with a hitting problem this past season. In fact, he was pretty effective. If you look at his ten game splits, the usual lack of pizzazz one sees from offense-weighted statistics is there...

He did have a stretch of six games (December 8-17) in which he netted four of his five goals. But otherwise, the numbers have the look of a defenseman who tends to his own end rather than join any rush.

His season breaks down, as you might expect, into two pieces. However, it isn’t a “Hanlon” and a “Boudreau” segment. The dividing line is Christmas. Before December 25th, Schultz was 5-1-6, -4, in 29 games. He was even or better in 17 of those games, but was inconsistent. After Christmas, his offensive numbers did change some on per-game basis (0-12-12 in 43 games), but Schultz became much more consistent and reliable in his play. He finished the season +16 in his last 43 games and was +10 in his last 22 games as the Caps were turning into the stretch.

Jeff Schultz had only 38 games of NHL experience coming into this year (all earned last year). But by the end of this season, he was a dependable 18-20 minute a night defenseman (he averaged 18:41 in ice time after Christmas). What’s more, he’s quite a bargain in that role (cap hit: $750,000; 2008-2009 is the last year of his current contract). It’s hard to see what there is to complain about with Schultz, who looks to have a long NHL career ahead of him. We hope it’s with the Capitals.

By the way…it might bear noting that while Schultz had “only” 61 hits in 72 games this year, Pronger had only 74 in the same number of games, tied for 99th in the league.

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Tom Poti

Next up on the blue line…

Tom Poti

Theme: “What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”

Tom Poti came to the Capitals in 2007-2008 with certain expectations – a power play specialist (6-26-32 in power play scoring in 2006-2007, 11th in the league among defensemen), not an especially big hitter given his size (tied for 111th in the league among defensemen in 2006-2007), occasionally a liability in his own end (a minus player in five of his last six seasons entering this one).

If you look at Poti’s ten game splits, your disappointment in his performance (if that’s what you’re looking for) might be confirmed, to a point…

He had only those two goals, and he only had more than five points in a split once. But look a little harder. As with many Caps, his was two seasons. The “Hanlon”/”Boudreau” segment comparison is useful, but in Poti’s case, it is almost more an “injured/not injured” split.

In his “Hanlon” segment, Poti played in only 15 of 21 games, missing six with a groin injury. He finished that part of the schedule 0-4-4, -4, and certainly not looking like a player worth a $3.5 million price tag. However – and here we go again – Poti was 0-3-3, +1, in his first two games under the new coach, and it spring-loaded the rest of his season. In his last 56 games (he would miss another five games to injury over two separate incidents), he was 2-23-25, +13.

As far as expectations go, we can dispense with the hitting category right away. Poti was not a big hitter with the Caps any more than he was the year before on Long island. He finished tied for 159th in the league among defensemen in that category. While hitting has is uses and places, it is not the be-all or end-all of defense (we’ll get to that with Jeff Schultz later). Poti was second on the team among defensemen in plus-minus, second in total scoring, and second in average ice time.

But there is the matter of special teams – power play, specifically – and evidence of an altered role for Poti. As noted, in 2006-2007 Poti was 11th among defensemen in power play scoring – 6-26-32. This past season, he was 0-8-8. That’s the Mike Green effect (Green was 16th in power play scoring among defensemen this past season). Poti, who logged an average of 4:38 in power play ice time with the Islanders in 2006-2007, logged about two fewer minutes, on average (2:39), on the power play in 2007-2008.

Conversely, while Poti was only 0-6-6 at even strength with the Islanders in 2006-2007, he was 2-19-21 at even strength with the Caps this past season. The switch from emphasis on the power play to that of play at even strength looked to be reflected in his shots. The 99 shots on goal he registered was his lowest in the NHL since his rookie year in 1988-1999. On an average shots-per-game basis, he was down about 20 percent (1.39 shots-per-game last year versus 1.72 the year before). He was more “stable” than “specialist.” It was not a case of failing to achieve expectations than it was his carving out a different set of them.

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Shaone Morrisonn

If we’re going to do Mike Green, then next should be his partner on the blue line, which brings us to…

Shaone Morrisonn

Theme: The man who occupies the first place seldom plays the principal part.”

Hockey and “The Sorrows of Werther” probably don’t intersect much, but that quote from von Goethe does seem to offer a glimpse into the matter of pairs on the blue line and the complementary partnership of Mike Green and Shaone Morrisonn. Green is getting a lot of attention this week in his restricted free agency status, Morrisonn not as much, even though he – like Green – finds himself in the restricted free agency pool.

As for Morrisonn, one might wonder if Green would have had the breakout season he did without Morrisonn playing the patient, stay-at-home, let-Mikey-join-the-rush sort of defense that he did. Morrisonn’s ten-game splits will not look especially impressive…

…but his value isn’t going to be reflected in the usual offense-weighted statistics. In a curious way, one can see his value precisely in his offensive statistics. As with Green, it is useful to look at the “Hanlon” and “Boudreau” segments. Under Glen Hanlon, Morrisonn was 0-3-3, -10, paired mostly with Milan Jurcina. Morrisonn and Green were paired in Bruce Boudreau’s first game behind the Capitals’ bench, against Philadelphia on November 23rd, and the two were 1-1-2, +4, combined. Seems the coach was on to something.

Over the second half of the year, the two were a combined +28. Morrisonn, by himself, improved from a -10 in his “Hanlon” segment to +14 in his “Boudreau” segment.

Morrisonn seemed to rise to the occasion with respect to opponents, as well. Against the Atlantic Division, arguably the best and deepest of the divisions in the East last season, Morrisonn was on the plus side of the ledger against four of the five clubs – Pittsburgh being the exception. Against the other four clubs, Morrisonn was a combined +8 in 16 games. Extending that line of thought, Morrisonn was even or better in 41 of 55 games in his “Boudreau” segment for the year (only 11 for 21 in his “Hanlon” segment). Plus-minus always has a certain “chicken or the egg” air about it, but it remains that Morrisonn was more successful in his own game and as a partner to Green in those last 55 games he played for the season.

Morrisonn has been consistent in his three years with the Caps. Whether the Caps were finishing the year with 70 points, as they did in his first two years, or with 94 points and playoff spot, his statistical lines have been steady: 1-13-14, +7, in 2005-2006; 3-10-13, +3, in 2006-2007; and 1-9-10, +4, this past season. That kind of consistency, along with his attention to his stay-at-home role, doesn’t make for gaudy statistics. But perhaps it served as the basis for an important contribution to the success of the club this year.

However…Morrisonn’s one goal this year?

…it was a game-winner.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Lightning Looking for a Jump Start

The rights to negotiate with Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts for a conditional draft pick, reported to be a fourth or, perhaps, a third round pick (if Malone signs with the Lightning).

Well…that’s a way to go.

That is the deal the Tampa Bay Lightning worked out with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier today. New Lightning owner Oren Koules said of the deal, “We said earlier this week we would be aggressive in our pursuit of free agents in order to win and compete. This trade today doesn’t guarantee anything, but we believe it gives us a leg up in our attempt to sign these two impact players.”

Ten days ago, the Lightning surrendered a seventh round pick in the 2008 draft for the rights to negotiate with Flyer free agent Vaclav Prospal (Philadelphia selected Joacim Eriksson with the pick).

It has all the look of an effort to jump start the team, to try and bite off the entire 23 points or so (the difference between Tampa Bay’s 71 points last year and eight-place Boston’s 94 points) in one fell swoop. Perhaps it is an effort to replicate what Pittsburgh did two years ago (a 47-point improvement over the previous year), or what Philadelphia (39-point improvement) or even Washington (24-point improvement) accomplished this past season.

There is a difference.

In the cases of Pittsburgh, and then Philadelphia and Washington, the improvements could be tied largely to the emergence of young players. In Pittsburgh, Marc-Andre Fleury showed in 2006-2007 that he could be a bona fide number one goaltender (40-16-9, 2.83, .906). Ryan Whitney took on a bigger role on defense (a 21-point improvement). Sidney Crosby built on his fine rookie year to win the Hart, Ross, and Pearson trophies.

In Philadelphia this past season, the Flyers added Daniel Briere via free agency, but it was Mike Richards who led the team in scoring. He more than doubled his point output from the previous season (75 versus 32) and almost tripled his goals scored (28 versus 10). Jeff Carter had almost a 50 percent improvement in scoring (53 points versus 37) and more than doubled his goal scoring (29 versus 14). Joffrey Lupul, obtained in a trade with Edmonton and who is still under 25, would have had a career year in scoring, but for missing 26 games with injuries. He still managed 46 points in 56 games.

In Washington, Alex Ovechkin turned into a monster (a 19-goal, 20-point, +47 improvement over the previous season), Mike Green had a breakout year (a nine-fold increase in goals, almost a quadrupling of assists, a five-fold increase in total scoring over the previous year), and Nicklas Backstrom did well enough as a rookie to be named a Calder Trophy finalist.

Where is that youth infusion coming from in Tampa Bay next year? Steven Stamkos is reputed to be quite a player. He should be the second line center on the Lightning on opening night and will be among the favorites in the Calder Trophy race. But is that enough? Even with Malone, Roberts, and Prospal, not to mention Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, it is a team that will lack depth, defense, and goaltending. And if you don’t think that is important, consider the experiences of Philadelphia and Washington this year. While Philadelphia improved its goal-scoring by 34 goals this past season, they improved their goals allowed by 70. For Washington, the improvement on offense was seven goals, while on defense it was 55 goals.

From the Lightning perspective, the risk in these pre-free agency period signings is small – mid to low round draft picks. The problem is that it has all the look of sizzle, but not much steak. Even these signings were to take place, it’s hard to conceive of Tampa Bay as a contending team next year, and it is not as if the Lightning have a lot of talent in their prospect pool following in behind these guys.

It might be an effort to jump start a return to competitiveness, but we suspect there isn’t enough juice there to get that engine to turn over.

The 2007-2008 season, by the "tens" -- Defensemen: Mike Green

It’s been a while, but given where we are in the calendar, about to embark on the free agency period, it’s worth it to look back at the defense, some of whom are in the free agency mix. First up…

Mike Green

Theme: “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”

Coming into the 2007-2008 season, Mike Green had 92 games of NHL experience under his belt over two seasons, and he was 3-12-15, -18, in the process. One might have expected him to be a full-time NHL defenseman, but entering his second full year, and still being only to turn 22 in the first week of the season, one might not have expected him to be more than a second or third pair defenseman as he continued to learn the ropes.

And as the year started, that’s what he was. In the first 21 games of the year, Green averaged a shade under 19 minutes a game. Only twice did he log more than 20 minutes of ice time. And while he showed a glimmer of offense (3-4-7, which works out to a 12-16-28 pace over 82 games), he was stuck down on the depth chart.

The coaching change that took place on Thanksgiving had quite an effect on Green. He scored goals in each of his first two games after the change behind the bench, and took off from there, going 15-34-49 over his last 61 games. And, he averaged more than 25 minutes a game. Only twice did he log less than 20 minutes a game, and those were his first two games playing under new coach Bruce Boudreau. In fact, nine times in those last 61 games he logged in excess of 30 minutes of ice time. The ten-game splits end up looking like this…

Green had two especially productive stretches in those last 61 games. In a 19-game stretch from December 8th through January 19st, Green scored at better than a point-a-game pace: 9-12-21. Not coincidentally, the Caps were 12-4-3, raising their record from 9-17-2 to 21-21-5, the first time the Caps were at .500 since October 24th.

The second stretch came to close the season. Over the last 12 games, Green was 1-12-13, +9. That last figure – plus-9 – was twice as good as any he posted in any ten-game split of the year (plus-4 over the third set of ten-games he played). And, of course, the Caps finished 11-1-0 to capture the Southeast Division crown.

Overall, breaking his season into the “Hanlon” and Boudreau” segments, Green registered points in only five of the first 21 games – the “Hanlon” segment. He scored points in 32 of the 61 games he played under Bourdreau. And, while he had only two multi-point games in the first 21, he had 14 in his last 61.

There is a subtle clutch aspect to Green’s performance this year. Of his 18-38-56 points line this year, he was 9-15-24 when the Caps were tied in games. That included a 3-2-5 line in overtime games.

On the flip side, it bears noting that among the 175 defensemen playing more than 50 games in the NHL last season, only seven registered less shorthanded ice time per game than did Green (20 seconds).

Green might end up getting a very large offer from another team, which the Caps appear likely to match, unless the offer would push him well into the top-ten paid defenseman category (last year, that would have been the “Rob Blake” threshold -- $6 million/year). It will make next week more than a little interesting, but the season Mike Green had is what makes it so.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ten minutes...

"If someone puts an offer sheet in front of one of our players, we'll match it - probably in less than 10 minutes."

-- Capitals General Manager George McPhee

Yesterday at 5:00 pm, clubs could begin entering into negotiations with other clubs’ restricted free agents on new deals. And now we enter a gray area in the matter of the Caps’ most coveted prize – Mike Green. That gray area is the range of picks designated as compensation and that of the level compensation that might cause the Caps to think for a little more than 10 minutes about matching an offer sheet tendered to Green.

Consider an article written by Scott Cullen for In it, he lays out the compensation categories for restricted free agents and notes a few of the gems that could be available in each of those categories.

Where this starts to impact a player like Mike Green is in that hazy area of $5.2 - $6.5 million – where Green might see an offer sheet and where a free agent returns two first-rounders, a second-round pick and a third-round pick. Let’s look at this from a couple of different perspectives.

First, equivalence. Let’s say you’d look at this as a “trade.” And suppose – just suppose, mind you (The Peerless not being Eklund) – that this “trade” was with Edmonton. Further, let’s say that Edmonton, with Green, would be drafting in the middle of the first round the next few years. Would you trade Mike Green for Jordan Eberle (taken 22nd overall this year by Edmonton), Alexandre Plante (taken 15th last year), Jeff Petry (taken 45th in 2006), and Theo Peckham (taken 75th in 2006)?

You say you don’t know much about those guys? Well, GM’s do – a lot more than thee or me – and it is still an inexact science (that of evaluating the sort of talent you have to look at for the draft and in predicting where you might find yourself in the draft order).

Second, there is the matter of money, and here it gets even murkier (this is the grayest of the gray area). At the low end of the equivalence category for the picks coming in the scenario described above, you have the amount of $5,231,249. So, a team tenders an offer sheet to Green for seven years and $37 million ($5.285 million per year). If you’re the Caps, I suspect you don’t take those ten minutes, you inform the parties that you’re matching the offer, and everyone goes on their way.

OK, but what about at the top end of the range? There, the amount is $6,539,062. Let’s say that same team offers that seven-year deal, but instead of $37.1 million, it is for $45.5 million ($6.5 million per year). You’re only getting the same draft picks back – the two first-rounders, a second-round pick and a third-round pick – but you have the additional consideration of the additional $1.215 million in cap hit to consider.

Mike Green might be worth that extra $1.215 million – by himself – but you have to ask now if you are also going to be willing to cut loose or not re-sign a player you might have afforded (Brooks Laich?...Sergei Fedorov?) to accommodate that within the cap or, perhaps more relevant to the Caps – within your target budget.

In the end, I suspect Mike Green will be wearing a red sweater (no, not Calgary and not Carolina, not Ottawa and not Montreal, not Phoenix and not…hey, there are a lot of teams with red jerseys) come the fall. But I also suspect that the Caps are going to lose a name player or two in accommodating Green’s breakout season of last year. That’s all part of the new NHL, too.

GM’ing isn’t easy these days.

The patience of development

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."

-- Saint Augustine

With as many of our species as there are in Caps Nation, it is bound to happen from time to time that certain blogging topics will overlap (or collide, if you prefer). Such is the case this morning. The folks over at On Frozen Blog posted an entry yesterday on the time it takes for draftees to make the big time and make a difference. The money quote there is…

“Brooks Laich is the norm in NHL development. Mike Green is not.”

Over the past couple of days, as time allowed, we took a look at first round draft picks since 1999. We were curious to compare the number of regular season games they played at each step of the way before making their debut at the next level and then, when they finally “made it” – defined here as playing in at least 40 games at the NHL level. Here are the results…

Some of the interesting aspects of the results…

- Only one first round pick went from being drafted to being in uniform for opening night of the next season – Steve Eminger. He played in 17 games with the Caps before being returned to Kitchener.

- There is the expected apprenticeship served by most picks – particularly the North Americans -- and it goes something like this…the player is drafted, then they spend the next year with the club they were with when drafted. The following year they get a taste of NHL play (though not enough to crack the 40 games-played threshold), then they stick with the club the next year. Using that benchmark, John Carlson should be a reasonably stable fixture on the Caps blue line for the 2010-2011 season.

- There aren’t enough Europeans in this group to draw strong conclusions, and the three that have been drafted and dressed with the club have taken different paths to get here – Semin had some bumps along the way, Ovechkin stepped right in after the lockout, Backstrom paid his year of dues in Europe. It would be hard to predict what will happen with Anton Gustafsson other than he’ll be in Europe this coming season (way to step out on that limb, Peerless).

- You can see the effect of injury on the progress of Eric Fehr. Last season might have been his first with at least 40 games played with the club, but not for an injury that robbed him of a full season. If healthy, this should be his year to reach that level of play.- As you will note, the first three Caps in that list are no longer with the club (Beech with Pittsburgh, Sutherby with Anaheim, and Eminger with Philadelphia). However, all of the subsequent picks remain with the club.

This is a representation of the progress of first round picks. Even for such picks, development cannot be (and, in the Caps’ experience, isn’t) rushed. One might and should expect to perhaps add a year, perhaps two, in the development schedule for players drafted after the first round. For fans wondering when a Francois Bouchard (a second round pick) or a Mathieu Perreault (a sixth rounder) might crack the lineup, be patient. It takes time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bloggers are the root of all journalistic evil (well, a lot of it)

“And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.”

-- Luke 4:23

There is an article in the Vancouver Sun, penned last Friday by Iain MacIntyre, that covers a lot of matters pertaining to potential player movement, but there was one part of it that homes in on bloggers in a less-than-flattering light…

“The hottest rumour from earlier in the week -- that the Columbus Blue Jackets were about to acquire the negotiating rights to Pittsburgh Penguin Ryan Malone and sign the power forward to a five-year, $25-million-US contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 -- was shot down by the player himself.

"’I don't want any team I go to to give up a possible teammate, Malone told the Columbus Dispatch. ‘So we're going to wait until the first.’

“The Blue Jackets do want to acquire Malone. But the story got ahead of the facts.

“That happens frequently in the Age of the Blogger, who has chewed down the standards of journalism the way the pine beetle has decimated B.C. forests (emphasis added).”

You’ll read about this in other places (Barry Melrose Rocks, Japers’ Rink, Tom Benjamin’s NHL Blog), and they do a good job of conveying the offense taken among bloggers who do, in fact, try to adhere to journalistic standards in a blogging context. But there is another aspect of this that had me rolling my eyes in amusement…


As in, “spare me the indignation.”

Anyone who takes the craft of journalism seriously, who has studied it and practiced it over the years will, as is true for any profession, respect and follow the standards that govern it. But it isn’t as if you can’t see a hint of cracks in the armor right there in McIntyre’s article (got to read further, after the sermon)…

“It was [Anaheim Ducks General Manager Brian] Burke, of course, who admitted then that NHL GMs will lie, deceive, confuse, distort and fabricate with impunity if its helps their position leading up to the draft.

"’It's like a British officer who's taken prisoner; it is their sworn duty to try and escape,’ Burke reiterated Thursday of lying at the draft. ‘If I can get someone to take a player because they think I want him, that means the guy I really want drops one more space. Everyone does it; I'm just the only one to admit it. I think it's more fun to toy with the group when you have a high pick’…

"…’GMs are liars,’ one player agent said, as if stating the obvious. ‘That's their whole thing. If they want stuff out there, they know who to contact. You see a lot of media types who stand in front of television cameras holding their BlackBerrys.’"

Imagine that…GM’s trading on desires among the “media types” (or “journalists,” if you will) to get the story first – often at the sake of accuracy (we are dealing here, after all, with what amount to lies).

Getting things wrong in a head long race to be first is of some (but not much) consequence, but generally, a persistence in the practice leads to becoming an object of ridicule. But sometimes, it matters (the 2000 Presidential election in the U.S. comes to mind, and I’m not aware that bloggers had anything to do with calling one, then the other candidate, then no candidate as the winner that night).

Blogging isn't as developed an art or science as is journalism. It is finding its way, which explains the desire among many responsible bloggers to respect journalistic standards in the absence of such standards for blogging. It doesn't make blogging the root of evil or the equivalent of pests denuding whole forests of journalistic standards. There is enough shoddy reporting among mainstream professional journalists to tempt one – well, me – to shout, “Please!…spare us the indignation reflected in comments comparing bloggers decimating journalistic standards to pine beetles decimating whole forests!!” First, it overstates the influence (in my opinion) of bloggers. Second, journalism would be better served by paying more attention to the admonition in the gospel according to St. Luke, “physician, heal thyself.”

Be afraid, Caps very afraid.

If you click to an entry we made on the remaining free agents the Caps need to sign, you will find a couple of comments opining on the possibility of an offer sheet to be tendered to restricted free agent Mike Green.

This is not idle chatter or wild-eyed is a real possibility. Why, you ask? Well, just look...

Green and new Lightning owner Oren Koules share a certain kinship with respect to hair style choices.

Throw this into the mix...

...and there is more than a chance that the Lightning are poised to tender Green an offer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And then there were five...

In 2004-2005, hockey went dark. Good thing, from an aesthetic perspective, because for all intents and purposes the Capitals were an expansion team. When they came out of the darkness, the Caps iced a team in 2005-2006 that was not so much engineered to compete as to develop. Or, more accurately, allow kids to develop in Hershey and elsewhere.

While the strategy was paying dividends in some respects in 2005-2006 (Hershey, for example, won the AHL Calder Cup), the Capitals struggled, finishing that year with a 29-41-12 record. It was a club filled with role players, journeymen, youngsters, and one emerging star (that being Alex Ovechkin's rookie year).

Until yesterday, six players who played in at least half of the Capitals' games that season were still with the organization -- Ovechkin, Chris Clark, Brooks Laich, Matt Bradley, Shaone Morrisonn...

...and Ben Clymer.

Clymer was placed on waivers yesterday with the aim of buying out the remaining year of the three-year deal he signed in July 2006. Clymer spent all of last year in Hershey with the Bears, while the Caps were once more competing for a playoff spot. Before that, he played 143 games with the Caps over two seasons, going 23-30-53, -24, with 116 penalty minutes and three game-winning goals.

He was the epitome of the good soldier, accepting a changing role (moving to defense to start the 2006-2007 season, although that did not work out) and playing through an injury he suffered in training camp of the 2006-2007 season that plagued him until March, when he was finally shut down for the season.

Clymer is one of those players who risks being forgotten or having his contributions dismissed as the Caps become a more competitive team. But for a couple of years, he played his role and fulfilled his responsibilities faithfully on a club that despite its record, probably did better than most folks (this one included) would have predicted. And let's not forget, Clymer did play 66 games in the regular season and five playoff games for a Stanley Cup champion (Tampa Bay, in 2003-2004).

Still only 30 years old, with more than 400 games of NHL experience, Clymer may find himself employed by an NHL club this fall. Good luck to him in that effort.

Putting Cancer on Ice

We hope you click on that link over there in the right hand margin from time to time to "Put Cancer on Ice," a fundraising project sponsored by a trio of Caps fans.

PCOI has announced that it will hold its second annual "Dave Fay Memorial Hockey Game" at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Saturday, July 19, 2008, 8:30-10:00 pm.

Through February of this year, PCOI has raised more than $14,000 in proceeds to fight cancer from its monthly hockey games, annual golf tournaments, and contributions from sponsors. At this year's Dave Fay Memorial event, PCOI will be conducting a silent auction, in addition to the hockey game. An authenticated signed Nicklas Backstrom jersey and an authenticated signed "Young Guns" poster (Alex Ovechkin, Mike Green, Alexander Semin, and Nicklas Backstrom) are the featured items.

If you're looking for a hockey fix put on by folks who love the game and play in the name of a good cause, here's the ticket.

Monday, June 23, 2008

With one week to go...

There are eight players of note who have unresolved contract situations (their respective cap hits and salaries from last season shown here)...

Who gets signed? Who gets offer sheets tendered by other clubs? Will any or all of the UFA's be signed before next Tuesday? How much will the new contracts (if any) be worth?

Have at it.


They're Thrilled in Philly

OK, so it's only 1,213 votes at the Flyers' site, but vox populi and all that...

Steve Eminger...The People's Choice.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

With an agent like this...

...well, draw your own conclusions about how to end that sentence upon reading what Pat Morris -- agent for Ranger forward Sean Avery -- had to say about his client...
"...the balance, I think, is every coach says: 'Bring me a guy who wants to compete, who wants to win, who leaves his best on the ice. And off the ice, if he's an ax murderer, as long as he leaves his ax at home when he comes to play...'"

Morris went on to say that he wasn't comparing Avery to an axe murderer, just making a point that Avery "comes to play."

It looks as though he'll be taking his sticks and his axe to another team.

Wonder if it will be Jersey?

Was this power forward drafted?

Maybe teams were scared off because of the transfer agreement issues...

More Draft Stuff

When the TV lights go off. Tampa Bay drafted Steven Stamkos #1, then didn’t have another pick until #117 in the fourth round. But they might have had the classiest pick of all – David Carle in the seventh round. Carle, brother of San Jose defenseman Matt Carle and ranked 60th among North American skaters by Central Scouting, circulated a letter on the eve of the draft to all 30 teams informing them that he was withdrawing from the draft because he had been diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart ailment discovered by doctors during testing for the NHL combine last month. One of the new owners of the Lightning – Oren Koules, who is acquainted with the Carle family – said, "The kid worked his whole life to be drafted in the NHL, and I didn't see a reason he shouldn't be." David and Matt thus become the only brothers from Alaska drafted into the NHL. It was a nice gesture on the part of Koules and the Lightning.

“Mr. Irrelevant.” It is a title that stems, by and large, from the history of the NFL draft and applies to the very last player drafted, who often has very long odds of making the team that drafted him. This weekend, the NHL’s “Mr. Irrelevant” is a forward from Sweden – Jesper Samuelsson. Samuelsson (not ranked by Central Scouting among European skaters) had 62 points and 73 penalty minutes in 40 games. But is he “irrelevant?” Not so fast. He will play for Timra IK in the SEL this coming season. The Wings have another graduate of that club on their roster – Henrik Zetterberg.

Indy Car Racing…or hockey player.

Atlanta had seven picks in this year’s draft, and if you read the roster of picks really fast, you might be left with the impression they selected race driver Danica Patrick with their third round pick. Nope…it was Danick Paquette.

More names… The Carolina Hurricanes dipped into the storied history of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball program for their fourth-round pick…Michal Jordan. OK, Jordan (Michal, not Michael) is a defenseman from Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League. We don’t know if he can dunk a basketball.

Great names. We don’t think any sport has names as interesting as those in hockey. Some of the examples coming out of this draft…

- Eero Elo…a 5th round draft pick at left wing out of Lukko Jr., by Minnesota

- Nathan Moon…a 4th round selection at center from Kingston in the OHL, by Pittsburgh

- Joel Champagne…a center selected by Toronto in the 5th round from Chicoutimi in the QMJHL

- Prab Rai…selected by Vancouver in the 5th round, a center out of Seattle in the WHL

- Teighan Zahn…a defenseman from Saskatoon in the WHL, taken in the 5th round by Chicago

- Geordie Wudrick…taken by Los Angeles in the 3rd round, a left wing from Swift Current in the WHL

Past as prologue. There are more than a few names with NHL pedigrees coming out of this draft. Anton Gustafsson (son of Bengt) is best known by Caps fans. But there are a lot of draftees with names shared with former hockey personalities. We can’t vouch for whether all are related to their surnamed predecessors, but here are a few…

- Justin Jokinen, LW – a 4th round pick by Buffalo
- Shawn Lalonde, D – a 3rd round pick by Chicago
- Adam Comrie, D – a 3rd round pick by Florida
- Jean-Sebastien Berube, LW – a 7th round pick by New Jersey
- Kevin Poulin, G – a 5th round pick by the Islanders
- Viktor Tikhonov, forward – a 1st round pick taken by Phoenix
- Mathieu Brodeur, D – a 3rd round pick taken by Phoenix
- Brett Hextall, C – a 6th round pick taken by Phoenix
- Julien Demers, D – a 5th round pick taken by San Jose
- Jason Demers, D – a 7th round pick taken by…San Jose (hmm…)

Just some stuff to think about on a Sunday afternoon…

Youth is served

Picking prospects is an uncertain endeavor. Today's 18-year old picked in the first round might be bagging groceries by the time he's 25. Conversely, that 210th pick might turn out to be a Henrik Zetterberg.

Looking at the Caps, the group of under-25 prospects/players speaks well of Caps management at least putting the club in the position of being able to compete over the foreseeable future. You might quibble with the names, adding or subtracting your own, but here is an example of a team the club could ice this morning of only under-25 players (their 2008 opening night ages in parentheses)...

And...the Caps' 2008 Draft is Complete

The Caps completed their draft weekend by selecting a trio of forwards. Here they are (summaries courtesy of…

5th round/pick #144: Joel Broda – C (Moose Jaw Warriors): 6’, 196; 73 games, 30-23-53, -1

· Participated in the 2006 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge representing Team West.

· His first team was the East Hill Canadians and he played in the Prince Albert Minor Hockey Association near his hometown of Kamsack, Alberta for 14 years.

· He got his start in hockey at the age of four when he was at the local rink, he found a broken stick and after showing it to his dad, he put him in hockey that year.

· Patterns his game after Edmonton's Jarrett Stoll because "he's a solid two-way centerman with a good shot and he's a character player."

· Credits his parents for having had the most influence on his career – "they have been there every step of the way and have given me a lot of support".

· If he could invite any three people to dinner he would choose: Sidney Crosby, Joe Sakic and Bill Gates.

· His most embarrassing hockey moment was getting hit so hard in his first year of contact hockey that he skated to the other team's bench and the one thing he couldn't live without is his phone.

Scouting Report:

From Peter Sullivan (Central Scouting):

"Needs to work on his consistency and play with intensity on every shift – has the tools to be a pro but must use them. He skates well and has good speed. He is certainly big enough to play the role of a power-forward centerman."

From Chad Lang (GM, Moose Jaw):

"We are very excited to have the opportunity to acquire an offensively skilled, two way centerman, that also brings tremendous character to our dressing room. This move allows us to improve on our culture and provides us with balance throughout our lineup."

6th round/pick #174: Greg Burke – LW (New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs/Eastern Junior Hockey League); 6’1” 185, 40 games, 21-25-46

7th round/pick #204: Stefan Della Rovere (Barrie Colts) – 5’10” 196, 68 games, 13-19-32

Here is some video on young Mr. Della Rovere…seems to have an adequate helping of ornery (14 fights this year):

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sun Rises in East...Caps Draft Goalie

George McPhee has presided over 12 entry drafts for the Capitals, including this weekend’s festivities in Ottawa. In nine of them (including each of the last five), he has taken at least one goalie.

This year’s goalie draftee was taken in the fourth round, at pick #93. Here he is (courtesy of…

Braden Holtby – Saskatoon Blades, 6’1” 205

2007-2008 record: 64 games, 25-29-8, 2.84, .908, one shutout

· Faced the second most shots (1875), among WHL goaltenders in 2007-08, behind Portland Winter Hawks' goaltender Kurtis Mucha (1897). In 64 games, he won 25 games, posted one shutout and finished 15th in the league with a .908 save-percentage.

· Patterns his game after Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury but also tries to take something from a lot of different goaltenders to create his own style.

· His most memorable hockey moment was his first game with Saskatoon – "it was a dream of mine, since I was about five, to play for the Blades".

· His dad, Greg, was a goaltender for the Saskatoon Blades and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and he wears number one after his father.

· Got his start in hockey on the backyard rink that his dad built – "I always watched my dad when he played goal and I wanted to be just like him".

· His first hockey team was the Lashburn Flyers and he played his minor hockey with Lashburn (1994-03) and Lloydminster (2003-05).

· Credits his parents for having had the most influence on his career – "they have been tremendously supportive and have both taught me everything I know about life and hockey."

· The best advice he ever received was a quote by Victor Hugo written on a plaque given to him by his grandparents – "There is nothing like a dream to create the future".

· If he could invite any three people to dinner he would choose: Marc-Andre Fleury – "he is my favorite goalie and he always seems to have a good time", Sidney Crosby – "it's amazing how he handles himself in the spotlight and how he plays with so much passion" and Taylor Swift – "I love her music".

· His most embarrassing hockey moment was his first WHL game in Red Deer – "right before the national anthem a guy yells out the goalie's name and the whole crowd yells 'sucks' after. I went out to the hash marks and tripped and fell right as the crowd was yelling it out".

· If he wasn't playing hockey he would be playing baseball and if he could be in any one movie he would want to be Jason Bourne in the Bourne trilogy.

It’s worth noting that no goalie in the WHL played in more games last year (Chet Pickard also played in 64 games). Here’s his scouting report from NHL Central Scouting’s Al Jensen…

"He has unbelievable athleticism and quickness. He was able to keep his team in games and keep them competitive throughout the year. His recovery was exceptional as well as his ability to get his body in front of shots. He battled very hard and was strong. He is a flashy player – he has a very good glove hand and very quick hands and his play improved throughout the year."

Although Pickard has drawn comparisons to former (it’s still odd to say that) Caps’ goaltender Olaf Kolzig, Holtby might be fairly compared to him as well, especially in terms of Kolzig’s later years with the Caps. A lot of work on a team that struggled (29-34-9, ninth in the Eastern Conference of the WHL).

For the record, here is the compleat McPhee when is comes to goalies:

1997: Curtis Cruickshank (4th round/#89 overall), Pierre Luc-Therrien (8/200)
1998: Jomar Cruz (2/49), Rastislav Stana (7/193)
1999: none
2000: none
2001: Robert Mueller (9/275)
2002: Maxime Daigneault (2/59), Robert Gherson (5/145)
2003: none
2004: Justin Mrazek (8/230)
2005: Daren Machesney (5/143)
2006: Simeon Varlamov (1/21), Michal Neuvirth (2/34)
2007: Dan Dunn (6/154)
2008: Braden Holtby (4/93)

Meanwhile, in the second round...

Caps had two picks, at 57 and 58 (the 54th having been traded to New Jersey last night as part of a deal to move up to #21). Here are the picks, background courtesy of

#57: Eric Mestery – D (Tri-City Americans): 6’5”, 195; 71 games, 2-14-16, +9

· Credits his parents for having had the most influence on his career – "they've been there for me the whole way and they've put so much time, money and effort into my career".

· The best advice he has ever received was "play every shift like its your last" from Todd Davidson.

· Patterns his game after T.J. Fast because – "he is great with the puck, a good skater, smart and a very good role model".

· His most memorable hockey moment was setting the Tri-City franchise record for most wins in a season in 2006-07 – "we had such a great group of guys and it was fun to share it with them".

· If he could invite any three people to dinner he would choose: Wayne Gretzky, Steve Yzerman and his dad – "because Gretzky and Yzerman are our favorite players of all-time".

· His Grandpa Mestery pitched for the New York Yankees farm team.

· The most embarrassing song on his iPod is "Right kind of wrong" by Leann Rhimes and if he could be in any one movie he would want to be in Friday Night Lights.


NHL Team: Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers

NHL Player: Nicklas Lidstrom

Shootout move: "fake shot, make one move and go five hole or blocker"

Practice Drill: "Horseshoe with drop pass"

Video Game: NHL 08 and Call of Duty 4

Movie: Friday Night Lights

TV Show: Friends

Actor: Vince Vaughn

Group: Rise Against

Pump-up song: Anything by Rise Against or Hawthorn Heights

Food to cook: Grilled cheese

Sport (other than hockey): Golf

Activity away from the rink: Beach volleyball

Place to shop: Buckle

Place to visit: Home

Scouting Report:

NHL Central Scouting's Blair Macdonald...

"Eric has good mobility, is able to contain the opposition and plays well positionally. He moves the puck quickly and on the tape, and is a good skater which allows him to join the rush effectively. He needs to add a little bit more spark to his game and to play with more confidence to become a better defenseman."

#58: Dmitri Kugryshev – RW (CSKA-2 Moscow): 5’11” 183; 35 games, 29-29-58, 10th ranked European skater in CSS.

· Helped Team Russia capture the bronze medal at the 2008 World Junior Championships, playing in all seven games and posting four points (1-3-4).

· Also won a silver medal at the 2008 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, posting three points (2-1-3) in three games.

Scouting Report:

"Dmitri is a skilled winger with good vision and the ability to make plays under pressure. He needs to improve his physical presence and his overall speed, but his work ethic and balance on his skates still make him an effective winger."

Notes from Day One

Some notes about the first round…

- In 2004 (the last draft before the lockout), one player was drafted in the first round who was shorter than 6’0” (Rob Schremp, 25th overall to Edmonton)…last night, seven sub-six players were drafted.

- In 2004, 16 players under 200 pounds were selected, last night…20. However, where in 2004 no players under 175 pounds were taken, last night there were six players under 175 taken, and three (including top pick Steven Stamkos, plus Mattias Tedenby and Zach Boychuk) barely cleared the bar.

- On the other side, in 2004 nine players taller than 6’2” were selected; last night – six. And, while in 2004 there were 12 players more than 200 pounds selected, last night there were ten.

- In 2004, two…count ‘em, two (Wojtek Wolski and Schremp) were picked out of the OHL. Last night…11 players were picked from the OHL, including the first four picks.

- In 2004, seven centers were selected in the first round. Last night, twelve. Conversely, there were nine defensemen picked in the first round in 2004, last night there were 12.

- The United States was a constant in representation in the first round – six Americans were taken in 2004, six last night. Even for all the talk about the Russians and the uncertainty about their status this year, there were three Russians taken in 2004 (including the top two picks), two last night. It was the rest of Europe that took it in the teeth, compared to that 2004 draft:

- The big difference between the years was in trades. In 2004, with labor uncertainty hanging over the proceedings, only six deals were made in two days. Last night there were fourteen trades made in the first round involving 18 teams. Three teams – Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Nashville – made three trades apiece.

- This is the fifth year in the last seven that the Caps had multiple picks in the first round (last night’s second pick coming by virtue of a trade with Philadelphia, where the Caps parted with Steve Eminger and the 84th overall pick in this draft to get the 27th overall pick). With those picks, the Caps have now selected:

2002: Steve Eminger, Alexander Semin, Boyd Gordon
2004: Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green
2005: Sasha Pokulok, Joe Finley
2006: Nicklas Backstrom, Simeon Varlamov
2008: Anton Gustafsson, John Carlson

- This is only the sixth time that the Caps have taken a center with their first pick. The list…

1978: Ryan Walter
1981: Bobby Carpenter
1999: Kris Beech
2000: Brian Sutherby
2006: Nicklas Backstrom
2008: Anton Gustafsson

Two of the previous five logged more than 1,000 NHL games, and only one has played less than 198 games (Nicklas Backstrom…we think he’ll pass that mark before too long).

And, if you’re wondering about Bengt – Anton’s father – he was a fourth round pick of the Caps (55th overall) in the 1978 amateur draft, the Caps’ seventh selection in that draft.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Live Blog From Real Live Bloggers

In a fit of what must be a beer-addled stupor or a profound lack of good judgment, The Peerless has been invited to participate in a live blog this evening, covering the NHL Entry Draft. JP from Japers' Rink, Eric McErlain of Off Wing Opinion and The Sporting News, and pucksandbooks from On Frozen Blog will participate...maybe more as the tsunami of Caps bloggers threatens to overwhelm the draft.

We plan on being there to offer what fans of this space will recognize as deep (as in what you'd find in the lowest corner of the pig pen) analysis, biting (or just plain "bites") commentary, and a soupcon (we heard that word on Food Network once) of bad humor.

Anyway, our advice is when you hook up with the live blog, turn the sound down so you can hear the dulcet tones of the Versus crew.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

For your mocking pleasure...The Peerless' 2008 Mock Draft

It’s that time once more, when your Peerless Prognosticator dons his thinking cap and provides you, the erudite hockey fan, with a look into the entry draft. We have not seen any of these fine gentlemen in action, but quite frankly, we don’t think it matters. After reading and listening to the usual media suspects opine on such things over the years, we think our track record is just fine by comparison. So, as we eagerly await men in top hats and tuxes pulling Gary Bettman out of a tree stump to see if he sees his shadow to proclaim three more months of off-season, here are the only picks you need to get you off and running for another beer…

1 Tampa Bay

Steven Stamkos – C (Sarnia Sting): 61 games, 58-47-105, +18

Needs: Tampa had and continues to have goaltending issues. But in the long term, they look reasonably solid with Karri Ramo and Riku Helenius in the prospect pool. It is a club without much offensive depth on the parent club, once one gets past Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and its prospect pool does not look especially promising in that regard. They need some offensive punch.

Twice in franchise history the Lightning have held the first overall pick. In 1992, the Lighting selected Roman Hamrlik with their first ever draft pick. In 1998, the Lightning picked Vincent Lecavalier. This year, they will pick Stamkos. There has been no drama about this pick – no wonder over the who, no rumor about trades, nothing. His name is an anagram for “man stokes vets.” Maybe he can lift Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and the rest of the Lightning out of the cellar.

2 Los Angeles

Drew Doughty – D (Guelph Storm): 58 games 13-37-50, -1

Needs: The Kings were 28th in goals allowed per game last year. It is a reflection of weak defense and goaltending. There are no franchise goalies expected to go at the top of this draft, but there are a number of defensemen with promise. That is the key need moving forward – for next season and looking further into the future.

The Kings have had two number-two picks in franchise history – Doug Smith in 1981 and Jimmy Carson in 1986. Both had decent careers (Carson had a 55-goal season with the Kings before being part of an answer to a trivia question – “who did the Kings give up for Wayne Gretzky?” -- Smith played in 535 games in his career).

Last year, Karl Alzner was described as the most “NHL-ready” of the defensemen in his class. His partner on the Canadian world juniors team might carry that label into this draft. Ottawa Senators coach Craig Hartsburg had Doughty on that juniors team and said of him, “He's been dominant at both ends of the rink. Offensively he's carried the puck with authority. He's been strong defensively, he's killed penalties, he's been outstanding." The Kings could use that sort of defenseman.

3 Atlanta

Zach Bogosian – D (Peterborough Petes): 11-50-61, +8

Needs: Well, they need a coach, but there aren’t any who are draft eligible. They need defense. 29th in goals-allowed last year, a team with one defenseman on the plus side of the ledger (Niclas Havelid) and two worse than -20, little in the way of blue line prospects in their system.

Bogosian is described as a more physical player than Doughty, and this would fill a gap created when the club dealt Braydon Coburn to Philadelphia in 2007. In his own words, “I like to compete, that’s my game, and some nights I might not always be on top, but I always compete.” This pick bears watching. The Thrashers essentially passed on last year’s draft with single picks only in the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Will they move this pick for volume – to try to restock the club?

Atlanta has never had a third-overall pick, but they spent much of their early history (their first four years) with first or second overall picks. They netted: Patrik Stefan, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Kari Lehtonen. Stefan might be considered a bust (188 points in 455 NHL games, and he spent last year in Europe), but the other three are foundation players, even if Heatley is playing that role in Ottawa.

4 St. Louis

Luke Schenn – D (Kelowna Rockets): 7-21-28, +5

Needs: For years, St. Louis was that team that was solid enough to make the playoffs, but not so good as to win the prize. Their needs have that same feel to them – they appear reasonably solid as most positions in the prospect pool, but few players jump off the page. What that means is that they don’t have one specific need, but they could stand improvement overall. This is a situation made for the “best player available” pick…or a trade.

Schenn is described alternately as a “defensive” or “shut down” defenseman. But there might be more there. A member of the Rockets management said of him, “…we really liked his passing…as a young guy he was just a great passer of the puck…we knew he was an excellent young guy who made very good decisions with the puck."

Only once have the Blues had the fourth overall pick. They selected Gene Carr with that pick in the 1971 entry draft. He played 14 games with the Blues before moving on to four other teams and 451 more NHL games.

5 NY Islanders

Alex Pietrangelo – D (Niagara IceDogs): 13-40-53, +29

Needs: Describing what the Islanders don’t need would be a much shorter list. But this being a draft deep in defensemen at the top of the board, the Islanders could do worse than pick one here.

Pietrangelo is described as “smart,” “poised,” and a “puck-moving defenseman.” The last of these can be descriptive, or code for “doesn’t play to his size.” Listed at 6’3”, 206 pounds, the physical side of his game is characterized as “developing.” But he had a big year and a fine playoff season (before illness – mononucleosis – knocked him out).

The Islanders have some experience with this slot. They picked Darius Kasparaitis at #5 in 1992, Eric Brewer in 1997, and Raffi Torres in 2000.

6 Columbus

Colin Wilson – C (Boston University): 37 games, 12-23-35, +12

Needs: A center. This is the first of two picks the Blue Jackets have in the first round (they have Colorado’s #19 overall pick; they have three of the top 37 picks overall), and the possibility exists here that the Blue Jackets will move one of the first rounders for immediate help (fun fact: Columbus didn’t have a center with as many as 35 points last year, and it’s not like they have a lot past Derick Brassard in the prospect pool).

Reading about Wilson, one gets an image of a solid player (he should be; his father Carey played 13 seasons in the NHL). There might be forwards with more upside than Wilson (Nikita Filatov comes to mind), but Columbus needs to build a foundation – something that has been lacking in their eight-year history.

Columbus has had the sixth overall pick twice in their history, selecting Gilbert Brule in 2005 and Derick Brassard in 2006. Brule has 146 games of experience, but scored only one goal this past year (and that on October 31st) while spending 16 games (plus 13 playoff games) in Syracuse in the AHL.

7 Toronto

Cody Hodgson – C (Brampton Battalion): 68 games, 40-45-85, +15

Needs: A GM. No, seriously. The Globe and Mail reported last Thursday that Cliff Fletcher would hang on to the term “interim” general manager for “at least” one more year. What in heaven’s name is in the water in Ontario?...LSD fizzies? The scenario, as that story points out, somehow leads to Brian Burke making his way to Toronto. In the meantime, the Leafs are doing…well, what exactly? Punting the season?

In the meantime, Hodgson is another one of those guys who looks like he will be a solid, but perhaps not spectacular NHLer. Given the shortage of pivots in the Maple Leaf system, they could do a lot worse (and might even try to, like drafting Cody Gifford).

Toronto has had two #7 selections since the draft was instituted -- Russ Courtnall in 1983, Luke Richardson in 1987 (would that be 1987 B.C., or does it just seem that way?)

8 Phoenix

Tyler Myers – D (Kelowna Rockets): 65 games, 6-13-19, -16

Needs: In the long term, the Coyotes will need to fill some holes on the blue line – they have two defensemen under contract after next year (Ed Jovanovski and Zbynek Michalek). They only have four forwards signed, but seem deeper up front in the prospect pool.

If one looks up the word “project” in the dictionary, young Mr. Myers’ photo might appear. He is a converted forward who is 6’7.” He’s got some catching up to do in a game that seems to have been reengineered to benefit players of smaller stature. However, he is ranked highly on a number of boards (for example, Central Scouting has him as the #3 North American defenseman, ISS has him as the #6 defenseman, The Hockey News has him 5th).

Three times has Phoenix had the eighth overall pick (including its previous life in Winnipeg) -- Andrew McBain in 1983, Pat Eleniuk in 1986, Peter Mueller in 2006. Given Mueller’s rookie season, perhaps they are getting better at this.

9 Nashville (from FLA)

Mikkel Boedker – LW (Kitchener): 29-43-73, +6

Needs: Forwards. Nashville has a young defense and a good prospect pool at that position. However, it is a team that has some difficulty scoring now and doesn’t have as deep or rich a pool of forwards coming through its system.

“Good puck skills”…”quickness and breakaway speed”…”great foot-speed”…”soft hands”…”natural playmaking skills.” Anyone in Nashville fit that description? The thing is…he bears a strange resemblance to Doogie Howser. We don’t know if that’s disqualifying or not, but we thought we’d point it out.

Nashville has never had a ninth overall pick in their short history, but they’ve had the sixth pick three times – Brian Finley in 1999, Scott Hartnell in 2000, and Scottie Upshall in 2001. Good thing the Preds aren’t picking sixth…or else Boedker might need to test his affinity for cheese steaks a few years from now.

10 Vancouver

Josh Bailey – C (Windsor Spitfires): 67 games, 29-67-96, +30

Needs: Centers. Vancouver has one center under contract after the 2008-2009 season (Ryan Kesler), and their prospect pool is not deep at this position.

The Hockey News reported one scout as saying that Bailey would “probably max out as a 60-point guy.” Well, Vancouver had one center last year with 76 points (Henrik Sedin)…the next one (Kesler) had 37. 60 would be an improvement.

Vancouver has had four picks at this slot in its history -- Garth Butcher in 1981, J.J. Daigneault in 1984, Brad Ference in 1997, and Luc Bourdon in 2005…all were defensemen.

11 Chicago

Colten Teubert – D (Regina Pats): 66 games, 7-16-23, -8

Needs: The Blackhawks have a decent group of young defensemen – Cam Barker, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith (all under 25), but there isn’t much in the pipeline past that group.

Red Line Report’s Kyle Woodlief said this about Teubert in his look at defensemen for USA Today…” Out of all the top defensemen this year, he's the one who scares and intimidates opposing forwards with a mean, nasty, consistently physical component. He's a huge bruiser who hits to hurt and makes forwards pay a dear price for wandering into the crease when he's on the ice.” Pat Kane will breathe easier if this guy arrives.

Chicago has had three #11 overall picks since the amateur draft was instituted -- Wayne Davison in 1963, Dave Manson in 1985, and Pavel Vorobiev in 2000. Davison never played for the Hawks, Manson played in more than 1,100 NHL games (432 of them with Chicago), Vorobiev in 57 games before returning to Russia in 2006.

12 Anaheim (from EDM)

Kyle Beach – C (Everett Silvertips): 60 games, 27-33-60, -4

Needs: Anaheim is getting long in the tooth in a few positions, most notably at center and defense. They appear deeper among prospects on defense than they do at center.

A scout commenting in The Hockey News described Beach as a six-foot-three-inch Sean Avery. Woodlief describes him as an “abrasive agitator.” Anaheim has a theme – “super size.” For example, in the last three drafts only two of 19 players selected were under 6’0.” And, the Ducks are famously rough around the edges. They’re probably cheesed that Teubert is gone at this position. But Beach might do fine.

The Ducks have had one 12th overall pick in their history -- Alexei Smirnov in 2000. Please, don’t thank me for pointing that out.

13 Buffalo

Luca Sbisa – D (Lethbridge Hurricanes): 62 games, 6-27-33, +21

Needs: Perhaps a goalie. Ryan Miller is entering his walk year, and there will be persistent wonderment over the possibility of his leaving for Detroit the following year as a UFA. They need to consider where Jhonas Enroth fits in the scheme of things. But Buffalo is an interesting mix. Only three players under contract for next year are over 30 (Jochen Hecht, Jaroslav Spacek, Toni Lydman). Goalie issues aside, they could opt for any position on the board.

Reading about this youngster, it seems scouts are as much impressed with his decision to come to North America to acclimate himself to that style of play than anything he did on the ice (he is a native of Switzerland). The director of Central Scouting called him “a smart player who moves the puck at the right time and carries the puck correctly.” He seems a good fit with Buffalo’s approach.

The Sabres have spent a lot of picks at this position in the past – Larry Playfair in 1978, Joel Savage in 1988, Phillippe Boucher in 1993, Drew Stafford in 2003, Marek Zagrapan in 2004.

14 Carolina

Colby Robak – D (Brandon Wheat Kings): 71 games, 6-24-30, -6

Needs: Carolina is in a bit of a mess. They have three defensemen under contract after this next season, none of them younger than 31; their prospect pool at this position is very thin.

Robak is a big guy (6’3”, 194) who was described by a scout quoted in The Hockey News as being similar to Bret Hedican – another Hurricane (currently a UFA).

You have to go all the way back to 1982 – when the Hurricanes were the Hartford Whalers – to find a #14 overall pick…Paul Lawless. He had 239 games in his career with four teams. Carolina is hoping this works out better.

15 Nashville

Zach Boychuk – C (Lethbridge Hurricanes): 61 games, 33-39-72, +26

Needs: see above, ninth overall pick

Boychuk seems to be one of those guys who plays with the motor revved up. He reads like a Chris Bourque with more offensive upside.

Nashville has had one pick at this spot in their history -- Alexander Radulov in 2004.

16 Boston

Joe Colborne – LW (Camrose Kodiacs): 55 games, 33-57-90, +48

Needs: The Bruins aren’t set at any one position for the foreseeable future, unless Tuukka Rask is their goalie of the future. They could use some help on the wings going forward.

Colborne is a big guy (6’5”, 190). He is also described as needing to ramp up his intensity. He’s off to the University of Denver next year – one of the finer NCAA programs, so he’ll have a chance to develop the holes in his game. Work ethic might not be an issue, but it will be a question.

Mike Bloom in 1972, Clayton Pachal in 1976, Dwight Foster in 1977, Al Secord in 1978, Dmitri Kvartalnov in 1992. Bloom, Foster, and Secord played in a significant number of games, but generally with someone else.

17 Calgary

Mattias Tedenby – LW (HV-71): 23 games, 3-3-6, +5

Needs: This is not an especially old team requiring plug-ins, but it is not at all deep in skill, either. The Flames need to upgrade in that respect.

In looking at several opinions on Tedenby, the player he seems projected by most to become is a Martin St. Louis type player. He’s certainly small enough (5’9”, 165). Now, as to whether he can take the pounding or avoid it…

The Flames have one 17th overall pick in their history -- Chris Biotti in 1985. Please note that he was picked before the Flames selected Joe Nieuwendyk in that draft (27th). Biotti never played a game in the NHL.

18 Ottawa

Michael Del Zotto – D (Oshawa Generals): 64 games, 16-47-63, +7

Ottawa has been so talented for so long, it was bound to happen that the well would dry up. Their prospect pool is – these days – rather thin. They seem especially thin regarding defensemen in the pipeline.

Reading about Del Zotto, the player that came to mind was “Mike Green.” He’s described as a good puck mover and shooter – a “prototypical” offensive defenseman – but perhaps with some weaknesses to attend to in the defensive aspects of the game.

Ottawa has never had an 18th overall pick in its history. The closest they’ve been to this position is when they selected 16th in 2002 – Jakub Klepis. Be afraid….be very afraid, Senators fans.

19 Columbus (from COL)

Zac Dalpe – C (Penticton Vees): 46 games, 27-36-63

Needs: see above, seventh overall pick

Dalpe could fill out some (170 pounds on a six-foot frame), but the common thread in descriptions of him is that he has the skills, and he is among the fastest risers in the assorted draft rankings.

Columbus has never picked from this position. Usually, their first round picks are in the single digits overall…ok, not usually, in every draft they’ve had so far.

20 NY Rangers

Nikita Filatov – LW (Moscow CSKA):

Needs: Wingers. After Alexei Cherepanov, there seems to be a big drop off in the prospect pool. And, after next season the Rangers have four wingers on their roster under contract, none of whom look to be a scoring line player.

There is no doubt about Filatov’s willingness, even eagerness to play in the NHL (``I want to play in the NHL right now and I’ll do anything to make that happen as fast as possible…”), and the NHL’s Director of European Scouting, noted a couple of weeks ago that ``If Nikita can guarantee that he will play in North America next year, I see no reason why he wouldn’t be a top-five selection.’’ The trouble is in that word, “guarantee,” and that word could make him this year’s Alexei Cherepanov, who dropped to 17th in last year’s draft (scooped up by the Rangers), although Filatov’s contract is up with his Russian squad. Frankly, it’s difficult to see him dropping this far based on the lavish praise heaped on his game in scouting reports…but if anyone might drop this far, it would seem to be this player.

The Rangers have had three picks in this position since the debut of the amateur draft -- Cam Allison in 1963, Jack Egers in 1966, Steven Rice in 1989. Allison never played in an NHL game, Rice played only 11 games with the Rangers on route to a 329-game career with three clubs, and Egers played 14 games in the Capitals’ 1974-1975 natural disaster of a season.

21 New Jersey

Chet Pickard – G (Tri-City Americans): 46-12-4, 2.32, .918, 2 shutouts

Needs: Yes, it’s time. Martin Brodeur will be 37 years old when next season comes to a close, and the Devils farm system is littered with guys in a off-Broadway version of “Waiting for Marty (to retire, or maybe slow down).” Jeff Frazee, Jordan Parise, Josh Disher, Jason Smith, Matus Kostur, Ari Ahonen, Jean-Francois Damphousse, Scott Clemmensen, Chris Mason, Frederic Henry, Luciano Caravaggio, Scott Swanjord, and Judd Lambert are the goalies drafted by the Devils since Brodeur was picked #20 overall in 1990.

Pickard has some experience in replacing a highly-thought of goalie, albeit in miniature. He replaced Carey Price at Tri-City. And as for that, well, as reported at…” All the media was talking about the Carey Price ghost. I never put pressure on myself. I knew I was a good goalie."

New Jersey has never selected 21st. But they have selected 20th on two occasions – Travis Zajac in 2004 and that Brodeur guy in 1990.

22 Edmonton (from ANA)

Tyler Cuma - D (Ottawa 67’s): 59 games, 4-28-32, +4

Needs: The Oilers have stockpiled a fair amount of young talent. The parent roster is young, and they have players coming through the system that could step in over the next several years. They might be thinnest on the blue line.

The sum of the descriptions of Cuma suggest a solid, not flashy player, a good, all-around player. He seems to excel more at the offensive aspects of the game.

Only once has Edmonton selected in this spot, taking Marc-Antoine Poulliot in 2003.

23 Washington

John Carlson – D (Indiana – USHL): 53 games, 9-28-37

Needs: There aren’t many teams with better or deeper prospect pools than the Capitals. The Caps can go a number of ways (although this is a team that tends toward the “best player available). The club has a long history of emphasizing defense and two-way play. Since the lockout, six of ten first or second round picks have been defensemen. But on the other hand, if there is one persistent weakness, it is at center. The team has one center under 35 on the parent roster under contract past next season (Nicklas Backstrom). Despite the numbers put up by Mathieu Perrault in Canadian junior (233 points in his last two seasons), there is no slam dunk second line center in the system.

OK, here’s the deal. Bengt Gustafsson was and remains our favorite Cap of all time, the epitome of the two-way player who subordinated some of his offensive game to fit into the Caps’ style of the time. The sentimental pick would be the Caps taking his son, Anton. Where did we miss that part where sentiment played a role in building a team? Anton has potential, but he is also a big unknown, not having yet played against elite competition. Carlson, while not addressing “need,” is perhaps a longer term project for the blue line. One comparison he draws – from Bob McKenzie at TSN – is to Mike Komisarek. That sort of defenseman is in short supply in the Caps’ system.

The Caps have had three picks at #23 in their history – Paul MacKinnon in 1978, Miika Elomo in 1995, and Simeon Varlamov in 2006.

24 Minnesota

Erik Karlsson – D (Frolunda-SWE): 38 games, 13-24-37

Needs: Only Brent Burns and Nick Schultz among under-30 defensemen are signed to the parent club after next season. The farm system looks light in defenseman prospects.

Karlsson will need to bulk up, or risk getting mauled in front of his own net. His skill set descriptions include the usual references to stick, skating, and passing ability.

Minnesota does not have a 24th overall pick in their history. The closest they’ve been to this spot is in 2003, when they selected Brent Burns 20th overall.

25 Montreal

Nicolas Deschamps – C (Chicoutimi Sagueneens): 70 games, 24-43-67

Needs: not much. Montreal is young and deep, both on the parent roster and in its farm system.

Deschamps led all rookies in the OMJHL in scoring. He seems, from descriptions of him, to be something of a late bloomer or late riser in the rankings, with the potential to be a fine all-around player.

Montreal has had two picks at this spot since the inception of the amateur draft – Terry French in 1971, and Alexander Perezhogin in 2001. French never played in the NHL and Perezhogin played 128 games in the league before signing to play in Russia last year.

26 Buffalo (from S.J.)

Jake Allen – G (St. John’s Fog Devils): 9-12 3.14, .901, 2 shutouts

Needs: see above, 13th overall pick

Allen didn’t have a great regular season (he was a rookie in the QMJHL), but had an excellent World Under-18 torunament. He is the youngest of the top-five goalies ranked by ISS; he might take the longest to develop. But the Sabres might be thinking down the road with respect to their goalie situation.

The Sabres have picked twice in this slot in their history – Mike Anderson in 1982 and Greg Brown in 1986

27 Philadelphia

Cody Goloubef – D (Wisconsin-NCAA): 40 games, 4-6-10

Needs: Philadelphia has one defenseman (two, if one counts Ryan Parent, who did not have a consistent role on the parent roster) under the age of 33 under contract past next year – Braydon Coburn. They have a number of prospects with some potential to draw an NHL paycheck, but there doesn’t seem to be high-end potential there. They also lack a clear #1 goaltending prospect.

Goloubef finished his freshman year at Wisconsin with four goals – three of them were game winners. Hey, his name is GOAL-a-bef…he’s got to be a good player. What comes out from reading about this youngster is that he is a solid two-way player whose offensive game might be hidden a bit under a bushel basket at Wisconsin.

Philadelphia has selected 27th overall twice in its history, picking Scott Melanby in 1984 and Jeff Woywitka in 2001.

28 Los Angeles (from DAL)

David Toews - LW (Shattuck-St. Mary’s): 51 games, 44-56-100

Needs: see above, second overall pick

If there is a theme in this draft, it’s “bloodlines.” There seem to be a lot of candidates whose brothers, fathers, or grandfathers have come this way before. Toews is the brother of Jonathan, and he seems to suffer in the comparison. It doesn’t appear he’s as highly thought of as his brother, but that hasn’t kept him from being ranked highly on some charts (ISS: 27, CSS: THN: 40).

The Kings have had two selections at this position in their history – Paul Holden in 1988 and Brandy Semchuk in 1990

29 Atlanta (from PIT)

Jake Gardiner – D (Minnetonka-HS): 21 games, 20-28-48

Needs: see above, third overall pick

Gardiner is a converted forward, and with that would appear to be the problem of his brains catching up with his skills. He is described, though, as one of the best skaters in the draft. But if there is an odd undercurrent here, it is that there are rumblings that the Thrashers could move goalie Kari Lehtonen. Could they package him and this pick and move up?

Atlanta has never picked from this position. The closest they’ve been is at #30, where they took Luke Sellars in 1999 and Jim Slater in 2002.

30 Detroit

Aaron Ness – D (Roseau): 31 games, 28-44-72

Needs: Whatever they are, Detroit seems to fill them. They bring back virtually everyone of consequence from last year’s Stanley Cup champion, but after next year things get interesting. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen are UFAs. The interesting fact here is that with their last eight first round draft picks (going back to 1993), the Red Wings have taken defensemen.

Ness is smallish…ok, small (5’10”, 162), but his coach said, “he sees the ice and moves the puck better than any player I've ever seen. He reminds me of Phil Housley.”

There are lots of place out there that have worked very hard in assessing this talent, and it is such a benefit to hockey fans that such sources are available (for us to torture the information). The usual suspects like the Central Scouting rankings, ISS, Red Line Report, TSN, or The Hockey News year after year provide hockey fans with just about everything they could hope for in terms of pre-draft reviews and analysis. But there is also another crop of sources that do their own analysis or aggregate the data available…,, as well as the assorted mock drafts one can peruse at Seek, and you shall find. It certainly is a golden age for the draft geeks out there.