Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Northwest Division Breakdown

Has anyone ever noticed that all the Canadian teams are corraled into one division in each of the conferences? Conspiracy.

No one can ever accuse Darryl Sutter of being an inactive GM. Perpetually wheeling and dealing in order to make his team better looks great to the fans, but when your ass is planted so firmly against the cap that you can't dress the necessary amount of defenseman for a game, maybe you should re-think making all those moves. In any case, Sutter's the winner of the J-Bouw sweepstakes, and all he had to do was offer up the rights to Jordan Leopold to Florida. I don't think there's anyone home, and the lights aren't on either down in Sunrise, but I digress. The Flames defense is now scary good with the pick-up of Jay, and the dropping of Adrian Aucoin who found work in Phoenix. Daz also let Cammalleri walk to the Canadiens and Bertuzzi back to Detroit via FA, those two were his big pick-ups last offseason. He picked up Freddy Shoes from the Rangers, but more importantly he swiped his brother Brent from Jersey Lou, that's definetely an upgrade from Iron Mike. The Flames always seem to be in it, but never true contenders, even in their run against Tampa. They'll be strong and in the post this year, but probably behind Vancouver.

Offseason Grade: B, Bouwmeester was the big FA signing of the summer, shit, we talked about it all season long.
Regular Season Finish: 5th in the West, 2nd in the Northwest

When the biggest event of the summer for your team is the retirement of the face of the franchise, you know you are bound for a re-build. And so with the third pick of the Entry Draft they took forward Matt Duchene, and began to clean house. Ian Laperriere, a heart and soul guy, left for a more natural fit with Philly, Ryan Smith got traded to LA, they finally got rid of perpetual suck Tyler Arnason, (who went to NYR, but got cut), Ben Guite went Honky Tonk, and Andrew Raycroft somehow found yet another job (VAN). They picked up too solid defensemen in the Smyth trade, Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing, but the most curious addition with Craig Anderson from Florida. Andy showed signs of brilliance on a dismal Florida team, stringing together shutouts from time to time while filling in for an oft-injured Vokoun. He has yet to prove himself as a number one, but he will probably split time with Budaj unless he wins the spot with his play. Bottom line, there's not much to look forward to after Joe Sakic's jersey retirement until the next draft. Suck is the new black in Colorado.

Offseason Grade: D, this grade could be lowered if Anderson vanishes in a few months.
Regular Season Finish: 14th in West, 5th in Northwest

The only way to get players to come to this shithole is to throw ridiculous amounts of money at them. Pronger's wife demanded a trade, Dany wouldn't go even after he was shown the promotional video. But if your next destination is the KHL and someone's offering you the money, you'll take it right? Edmonton can't be that much different than Russia, can it? Khabby has grabbed a four year $15million deal at age 36, not bad for a guy who just gave up in the playoffs. Rolosson left the three-goalie rotation in Edmonton for one on the Island, Sabourin (BOS) left to make sure Rask doesn't freak out like last season, and Kotalik left so that Sather could overpay him. If you look at the D on paper, it doesn't read too bad, and with Nikky in back this could be a tough team to score against. The Oil have a bunch of talented young forwards that just can't seem to take that next step, they'll need a push via trade, if they can get anyone to go up there. A bubble team for sure, you could put them on either side of the line in the sand, but I have them on the wrong side.

Offseason Grade: D, help is needed on offense, and Comrie is not thy name.
Regular Season Finish: 9th in the West, 3rd in the Northwest

I get the feeling like the honeymoon with a new GM, coach, and team philosophy will not be as sweet as everyone is thinking. Yes its great to see that this team will actually start to play an offensive up-tempo type hockey, but I think the whole team in general is going to have a tough time adjusting to this new style after 10 years of dictatorship rule. The funny thing is that once the playing style changes, Gaborik is off to New York. Marian had to suffer through boring hockey while his play is electrifying. Definetely a big hit losing him, but they brought in Martin Havlat to make up the difference. Havlat (6 years $30million) is most definetely a difference-maker, he can score and set-up, so the swap out may pay off in the long run. Sheriff Shane Hnidy (BOS) was brought in to replace Kurtis Foster who left for Tampa, other than that, we're going to see if Backstrom's numbers are as good, and if they aren't if Harding can shine. Growing pains will be prevalent in Minnesota.

Offseason Grade: C, Havlat for Gaborik, only time will tell.
Regular Season Finish: 13th in West, 4th in Northwest. Sorry Minny.

I really believe that this team is built for the postseason and on the verge of success. I've been pleasantly surprised by GM Gillis's shrewd moves and outside-the-box thinking, that's allowed him to put together a solid team. You've got grit, you've got skill, you've got youth, you've got depth, and you've got probably the best goaltender in the league locked up for the rest of his career. Its hard to argue with. Getting the Sedin's re-signed was a major point in the direction of the franchise, if they didn't return to BC, this team would be a lot different, no question. Stealing Samuelsson (3 years, $7.5million) away from the big Red machine was huge, and I think that might be the most underrated pick-up in FA. Defecting from the KHL, Shirokov has been the surprise of the preseason and the jury's still out on Hodgson's development with a back injury at camp. Taylor Pyatt has found a new home in Phoenix as did backup LaBarbera, and Ohlund violated the NAFTA by signing with the Lightning 5 minutes before free agency started. Wellwood showed up to camp streamlined, but they later found a 40pack of Timbits in his locker. The Canucks are poised, otherwise we'll have Boberto crying in the locker room again, and no one wants to see Lu cry.

Offseason Grade: A, Great additions, good subtractions.
Regular Season Finish: 3rd in the West, 1st in the Northwest

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