Ah, May fifth. To some it may be Cinco de Maio. To some it may just be a lovely spring day. To me it's Pasxa (or 'Pascha'), the Greek word for 'Easter'.
So why is today Easter for Greeks (and other Orthodox Christians)? Well, that's complicated, but the short and woefully inadequate version is this: Once everyone used the Julian calendar. It was superseded in Western Europe by the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, but at that time the Greeks (and Jews) were confined within the Ottoman Empire. So they still use the old calendar to set the date for Easter (and Passover). Plus the Lunar calendar is involved. Anyway, Greek Pasxa never precedes Passover. Makes sense if you think about it, I suppose, especially since 'Pasxa' is Greek for 'Passover'. That's when the Crucifixion happened.
So what's all this got to do with sports? Thought you'd never ask.
Climb into the Wayback Machine and waaaay back we go... to the halcyon days of what we today call the 'Byzantine Empire'. In its day, the Western Europeans simply called it the 'Greek Empire' and the Greeks themselves called it by its original name, the 'Roman Empire'. After all, Constantine, the 4th Century Emperor who made Christianity the official religion of the Empire, had moved the capital from decaying Rome to his brand new city of New Rome. Never heard of it? Well, it was in the Greek East, Greeks are colloquial, and its popular name soon had become 'City of Constantine', or 'Constantinople'. It would remain that through 1100 years of Roman/Greek rule, then through 500 years of Ottoman Turkish rule, until the end of WWI when Ataturk changed it to 'Istanbul' to break all ties with the Ottomans (and Greeks) in what had shrunk to present-day Turkey. To this day the Turks, horrified at the prospect of Asia Minor being reassociated with the Greeks, discourage Byzantine archaeological expeditions.
So WHAT ABOUT SPORTS??? And what's this got to do with Greek Easter?
Well, Constantinople has been the seat of what we now call the 'Greek Orthodox Church' for 1700 years, even through Turkish rule. And sports were bigger there than you could ever imagine. Especially one sport.
In the 6th Century, Justinian was Emperor in Constantinople. The Church was a big deal, so gladiators were out. But they were never the most popular sport even in Rome itself. The Colosseum was never as popular as Circus Maximus (the big circle) where the chariot races were held and large sums changed hands. Chariots were long obsolete as weapons, but chariot racing was huge. Bigger than NASCAR. It would become huger.
After Rome had fallen to the Goths, Constantinople continued to thrive, and so did chariot racing. It was held in the Hippodrome ('horse course' in Greek). Back in Rome, four traditional teams had dominated (bet you didn't know chariot racing was a team sport). They were the Blues, Greens, Reds and Whites. By the 6th Century in Constantinople, only the Blues and Greens remained. The city was of course officially void of political parties. Empires frown on parties. But that didn't stop the Greeks from factionalizing. They did so around the racing teams. Their factions were called 'demes'.
Try to imagine a two-team NFL with the teams called 'the Democrats' and 'the Republicans'. Or perhaps voting for the Cowboys or the Giants. It was like that. But much worse.
Many have attempted to whitewash and/or rewrite what happened, but several things seem certain. Justinian was a Blue fan. The Greens weren't happy with that and many other things, high taxes among them. They also didn't care for his wife, the Empress Theodora, a former Alexandrian 'dancer'. The city was split, and the Hippodrome was the focal point for the venting of mutual hostilities. But one day it got out of hand.
At the races, both factions were upset about the imprisonment of one of each of their members for rioting and murder. Instead of shouting at each other, they all began to chant "Nike!" ("Conquer!") and the die was cast. The raucous race crowd boiled over into the streets, forming what were called the 'Nike Riots'. Crowds of Greens and Blues ravaged the city, demanding the ouster of Justinian and his wife (along with whatever they could grab or burn). Justinian was prepared to leave town but his upwardly-mobile Empress, who didn't relish the thought of returning to Egyptian 'night club' life, persuaded him to stay on.
Justinian had to act fast. He was in the middle of sensitive peace negotiations with the Persians and didn't dare let news of revolution reach them (nor let the revolution reach him). He knew he had to split the Blues and Greens apart, so he sent a eunuch into the Hippodrome, which had become riot headquarters, with a bag of gold. He went to the leaders of the Blues, reminded them that Justinian was a Blue, and greased their palms with gold coins. He also reminded them that they were about to crown Hypatius, a Green, as Emperor. The Blues suddenly got up and left, leaving 31,000 puzzled Greens in the stadium. At that point the army entered, locked the gates, and slaughtered them. All of them. A citizen massacre of incalculable proportions, something on a scale that even the Colosseum had never seen.
Is there a moral to this long-lost and incredible event? Probably too many to think of at once. One perhaps minor point is that it must rank as the #1 sports story of all time.
Okay, so she looks like the best thing I've seen that has anything to do with the Olympics...She is Portugal's Javelin Thrower, (is that the technical term?) Leryn Franco!
I like the Winter Olympics, but the Summer games do nothing for me...First off, they have shit like Ping-Pong...REALLY!?! If you can drink beers and play it in your garage, basement, or "rec room" for those in a higher tax bracket than me, it isn't a sport! Then you have shit like Soccer, and Tennis...Tennis has their "Grand Slam" events every year, that the world's best players take part in...So why is it part of the Olympics? Soccer has the "World Cup" which I have never watched, but I know that's their big fucking deal...So why is it in the Olympics? Shit, Cycling has the Tour de France, so why do we need it in the Olympics?
Hell even Basketball...99% of the worlds best players, play in the NBA...Shockingly, of that 99%, 70% of them make up the world's biggest assholes! So I wonder why do they need Basketball in the Olympics?
Once pro Basketball and Hockey players were allowed in the Olympics, both those events lost the excitement they once had...
Then there is synchronized swimming and diving...I'm sure it's tough as hell, but it's just not enjoyable to watch...And other than those two rich kids that keep trying to sue Mark Zuckerberg, who the hell wants to watch Crew? You want your swimming, fine...I'm not watching, but go for it...Hey Phelps, how's that Subway and Weed diet working out for ya? Track and field...Hell yeah...Too bad they hardly show any of that...Beach Volleyball...Well, they made the ladies cover up more, so that blows...But then they also have men's Beach Volleyball...That's just taking us back to that horribly gay scene from Top Gun...
Luckily Friday night I had plans, so there was no way I was going to get stuck watching the God awful Opening ceremonies...And it doesn't matter where the games are, the opening and closing are always a stupid, and colossal waste of money...Okay, it was on the TV at the joint we had dinner at with friends...But conversation kept me from being totally annoyed...Then we headed to the House of Blues for some Rock & Roll with Our Lady Peace...
Here is the 4th song of the set...
They ripped through the first 9 songs, not letting anyone catch their breath...Then they did an acoustic version of Little Beeze's favorite song, "Thief"...And then pounded out 4 more songs, including a new song "Rabbits" that I kept bugging them to play via Twitter for the last two weeks...They left the stage, for a moment, came back and did a 3 song encore, which started like this...
They left the stage again, leaving people shocked that they hadn't done fan favorite "4AM"...But they quickly returned to do it, with the crowd taking care of the vocals for the first verse and chorus...It was a great show, and our friends who were OLP virgins, had a blast too...Oh, and sorry for the shakiness in the videos...I was enjoying myself and plenty of beers too!
After that, the weekend was just chilling, and hanging with the kids, and avoiding the Olympics...My littlest one has been working on her phone skills...How do you think she's doing?
The majority of the forwards in Detroit are either in or approaching the prime of their career. One thing that Detroit fans have to be happy about, is that they only lost one of their elite d-men. With Rafalski retired, the departure of Lidstrom would have been quite the blow. Fortunately, Lidstrom will be playing at least one more season. With the departure of Rafalski, look for someone like Jakub Kindl or Doug Janik to see an increase in ice time and responsibility. However, their back end still has Kronwall, Stuart, Commodore and Ericsson. That is still not too bad. On offense, they have a smattering of players that could legitimately be on any other teams first line. After factoring in Zetterberg, Franzen and Datsyuk, you still have to deal with Bertuzzi, Cleary, Holmstrom, and Hudler. Offensively, Detroit is a very talented team. Defensively, Detroit is a very talented team. One area that they may need some help is in the nets. Howard put together a great season last year, racking up 37 wins, but his other numbers weren’t as impressive. Will Joey MacDonald function well enough as a backup this year and put the types of numbers that are expected of a backup?
Chicago bounced back remarkably after a complete overhaul of their team. Chicago has managed to retain the core of its younger players that helped them a season earlier. Chicago has had a steady stream of younger talent coming through their farm system, and players such as Leddy, Kruger and Smith are going to be expected to improve on last years playoffs and carry their momentum into the regular season. Last season, Chicago had the third highest goals scored total and they are going to be close to equaling that number again this year. Chicago is extremely deep on offense, and even after Toews, Hossa, Kane and Sharp, they have adequate secondary scoring from players such as Frolik, Bickell and Bolland. Defensively, players such as Hjalmarsson, Keith and Seabrook are going to be the workhorses on the back end this year. Last season, Chicago wasn’t as strong defensively as they were previously, but they are rebuilding their back end very effectively. Adding Steve Montador and Sean O’Donnell will help them improve on their penalty kill numbers, and Leddy will see an increase in ice time as well. Corey Crawford enters this season as the bona fide number one goalie, and Ray Emery is going to be expected to produce and win games when Crawford is given the night off.
St Louis Blues
The Blues are going to be one of the most improved clubs this year. They have put together a team with young talent and some veteran leadership. Young players such as Backes, Stewart, Oshie, Berglund and Steen are going to provide lots of scoring for the Blues this year. The additions of Arnott and Langenbrunner will only help. Defensively, the Blues are going to have a “youthful” core. Younger players such as Shattenkirk and Pietrangelo are going to have to improve on last years numbers with players like Huskins and Jackman leading the way. Defensively, the Blues allowed 234 goals against, which wasn’t that bad; but realistically, it will need to get better. In the nets, Halak is going to be ridden pretty hard this year, and it will be up to Brian Elliot to collect some wins while Halak gets some rest. However, if Elliot struggles again, watch for youngster Ben Bishop to get a couple looks. St Louis is in one of the harder divisions in recent years. While they aren’t good enough to win their division, they should win enough games to make the playoffs.
There is always one consistent in Nashville; Barry Trotz will get the most out of his team that he possibly can. After 13 seasons, the Preds finally won a playoff series. The Preds are slowly moving towards an area where they can be expected to win more than one playoff round per season. Offensively, the Preds are going to need some work. After scoring only 219 goals last season, they simply need more offense if a longer post season adventure is expected. However, Nashville has always played an effective defensive game under Trotz. That being said, bringing in players that are smart on both ends of the ice, such as Fisher, will help them a little, but not enough. If one of your d-men finished in the top four on team scoring, chances are you are going to need more offense. Hornqvist was expected to improve on his 51 point season, but failed to do so. More is going to be expected offensively from Hornqvist and Colin Wilson. Expect Wilson to show that he remains with the big club this year. Defensively, Nashville still has Weber and Suter on their back end, and youngster Laakso is going to see some more ice this year. Defensively, Nashville has a couple of studs on their blue line. After Weber and Suter, there is Klein and Blum. Lots of younger players are going to see an increase in ice time this season, but you can always trust on Trotz to get the most out of them. In the nets, Rinne played well enough last season to earn a nomination for the Vezina. If it wasn’t for Rinne’s play against the Canucks last season, the Preds would have been out of the playoffs much sooner. Anders Lindback is going to emerge as a reliable back up in Nashville this year, and Predator fans should look forward to watching him play.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus simply has to be better. Trading for Jeff Carter was a step in the right direction, but there is still lots of work to do. Columbus fans have to be enjoying the prospect of having a duo the likes of Carter and Nash, but Nash needed more help than just Carter. Aside from Umberger, Vermette and Brassard, Nash didn’t have much help at all. With the addition of Carter, Nash is going to be expected to return to career numbers once again. Carter will help Columbus’ mediocre power play, and the offense is going to have to score more than 215 goals if they expect to make the playoffs this year. Defensively, Klesla left a massive hole on the blue line. Adding Wisniewski will help alleviate some of that void, but more is going to be expected from younger d-men like Methot and Clitsome. Yup…possibly the greatest name is hockey. In the nets, youngster Steve Mason is going to be expected to regain his Calder winning form from a couple of seasons ago. Mason’s numbers last year were on par with his rookie season, and as a result, they simply have to improve. His backup this year is Curtis Sanford, and if the goalies struggle in St Louis this year, it should reflect on the d-core that is playing in front of them.
The Vancouver Canucks spent a lot of time this off season wondering what had happened. The Canucks walked through the regular season winning the Presidents Trophy and were the early favorites to win the Cup. Last season, the Canucks were the top scoring team in the NHL. As far as it pertains to their offense, it is basically the same team entering play this season. They did not lose a top 6 forward, and the loss of Glass and Torres was countered by the acquisition of Sturm and the retention of Higgins. Defensively, the Canucks do not have a lot of holes at all. Mike Gillis managed to hold on to Bieksa and Salo, and hopefully for Canucks fans Hamhuis can come back just as healthy. Watch for Keith Ballard to have a bounce back year and for Chris Tanev to start collecting more ice time and start cementing his role on the Canucks back end for a few years to come. Offensively, this team is stacked. Defensively, this team is solid. One thing that the defense can do this season is score some more goals and help add to the potent offense. In the nets, Luongo will be Luongo. He will have his rocky sections, and he will simply be unbeatable. When Luongo is on his game, there aren’t very many better. Cory Schneider is a more than adequate backup, but realistically, barring an injury to Bobby Lou, he shouldn’t expect to play more than 25 games. Vancouver is an extremely well balanced team, offensively and defensively. They should be considered a favorite to go deep into the playoffs again this season.
Even after the team finished strong last season, the majority of Flames fans were calling for a massive rebuild. If they make the playoffs this year, the rebuild will be put on hold. If they fail to make the playoffs, watch for the fire sale on the Flames. Last year, the Flames were handcuffed by a poor start, but they were one of the hottest teams from the Christmas break on. When it pertains to Iginla, there are very few questions. He will have another solid campaign, and Tanguay will have a lot to do with that. One area that the Flames needed help last season was at the center position. Even though Jokinen is very talented, his output varies. Other players on the Flames that were very inconsistent were Bourque, Glencross and Hagman. Offensively, the Flames are going to need some help. Fortunately, they have a strong back end that should be able to put some points on the board as well. Their d-core is anchored around Bouwmeester, Giordano and Sarich. New addition Scott Hannan will help provide some stability, and expect Derek Smith to start seeing the ice in all aspects of the game. With Craig Hartsburg as an associate coach, Flames fans can expect to see a different defensive product on the ice this year, but only in style. In the nets, Kiprusoff isn’t getting any younger. He isn’t the start stealing monster he once was, and expect Karlsson to get more starts and make the most of his opportunity.
Minnesota hasn’t made the playoffs in the last three seasons, and their fans shouldn’t expect this year to be any different. The Wild are not going to be fun to play against, and they are going to be very physical this season. Powe was added to a lineup that already featured hitter Clutterbuck. Scoring should come easier for the Wild this season, since they have added Heatley and Setoguchi. The Wild were the best in one category last season, and that was the “not hitting the net” category. The Wild were last in the league for shots on goal last season, and the additions of Heatley and Setoguchi should help them immensely in that category. On offense, watch for draft pick Granlund to get the call this year, and he will quickly make an impact if he is given the chance. Defensively, the departure of Burns will leave some work for the rest of the d-core, but if Zidlicky can build on last season, there will be some gains seen there. However, Burns departure will still leave the Wild weak on their back end. With that being said, Backstrom is going to be kept very busy this season, and his numbers may suffer as a result. Josh Harding will get some work in the nets this year, but the goalie combo may not be strong enough to make up for the lackluster d-core playing in front of them.
Going forward, Edmonton has a very talented, fast and young team. Edmonton has been banking and collecting high draft picks for the last few seasons, and RNH should make the team at some point this season. The Oilers have a good mix of veteran talent and younger players, with the younger players being more dangerous. Oilers fans need to be concerned about how much losing the younger players endure, and what it will do to their psyche. The Oilers are going to have to improve this year, and one area that they should improve first is offense. The Oilers scored the lowest amount of goals in the conference last season, and they are going to have to improve on that or else it will just be another season without any gains. The Oilers numbers were damaged last season by key injuries to Hall, Hemsky and Whitney. If they can come back and contribute a full healthy season, those numbers will right themselves. Losing Whitney hurt the Oilers defensively, and hopefully he can bounce back and have a productive year. However, not much should be expected from the Oilers d-core this year, with skaters such as Smid, Peckham, Gilbert, Sutton and Barker rounding out the top 6. In the nets, Dubnyk should be expecting to get more starts than last year, especially if Khabibulin fails to bounce back from last season. The Oilers are going to have to score lots of goals to be successful this season, as they won’t be getting much help from their back end.
Just like Edmonton, Colorado has some tremendously talented young players in their system. However, the Avalanche only have a couple key players signed long term; Statsny and Varlamov. The Avalanche have quite a few players up for RFA after this season, and they should do their best to make sure they retain players like Duchene, O’Reilly and Mueller. Mueller had a rough year last season, missing the entire year with a concussion. If Mueller can make a full return, he will only help the Avs offensive numbers, along with Statsny, McClement and Duchene. Statsny will also need to have a bounce back year, as his point total dropped 22 last season. Bringing in Kobasew will help the offensive output in Colorado this season, providing he can stay healthy. Defensively, there were none worse than the Avs last season. The Avs allowed a league worst 288 goals against last season, and that number will have to improve. Bringing in Erik Johnson will help, but more will be needed. Signing Jan Hejda will help, but it will not be enough. The Avs will have the worst d-core in the Western Conference this season, if not the league. Young defencemen prospects Barrie and Elliot will get their share of ice time this season, and they will not disappoint. In the nets, it is a matter of whether or not Giguere can stay healthy, and how long it will take Varlamov to realize he isn’t playing behind the Caps anymore. In acquiring Varlamov from the Caps, Colorado sent their first round draft pick over. By the looks of things this year, that could very well be a lottery pick for the Capitals. Both goalies will be kept very busy this season.Thanks for stopping by. Any and all feedback is appreciated.
Los Angeles Kings
Year by year, the Kings have been getting much better. Los Angeles is nicely set up for a nice long playoff run this season. Bringing in Mike Richards cost them Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn, but Richards acquisition will pay dividends for them this season. With Richards, the Kings are fairly deep at the Center along with Kopitar and Stoll. Watch for Dustin Brown and Justin Williams to have career years. As well, if Simon Gagne can remain healthy, the Kings are extremely talented offensive team. On their back end, the signing of Doughty will be one of the smartest moves that Lombardi has made. Defensively, the Kings are very deep, seeing as how the team was built from the back forward. Jack Johnson, Rob Scuderi, Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene round out the d-core, making it one of the more solid defensive cores in the Western Conference. In the nets, there are a couple of Jonathons for opposing skaters to deal with. Which one will see the majority of the starts? Bernier or Quick? Quick is going to be the go to goalie this season, with Bernier being more than capable to pick up some starts so that Quick can get some rest.
San Jose Sharks
San Jose tries year after year to shake the post season monkey off of their back. After tremendous regular seasons, they have failed to make it all the way to the finals. However, during the off season the Sharks dealt Heatley and Setoguchi to the Wild. However, in return, the Sharks received the very talented Burns and the very frustrating Havlat. Acquiring Burns will only add to the depth of the d-core in San Jose, and Havlat should be able to provide some extra punch to the Sharks offense. Heatley’s numbers have been slipping every year, and I feel that his lackluster performance in the playoffs this past spring may have helped seal his fate. As Pavelski continues to improve, he will slowly start to usurp Thornton in ice time. Burns will help offensively, as will the addition of Handzus. That being said, the Sharks are going to need more secondary scoring from their 3rd and 4th lines this season. Defensively, the Sharks have remained a very solid and consistent unit. They have an adequate collection of veterans mixed with youngsters that should help them decrease the number of goals against this season. Boasting a top two of Boyle and Burns, the Sharks have a formidable d-core. In the nets, Thomas Griess will be getting more starts this season, and he is a more than capable backup for Niemi. Expect Griess and Niemi to share the time in the net until one of them starts to run away with it.
Aside from Ryan, Perry and Getzlaf, do the Sharks really have much more offense? With Selanne coming back for another year, more is going to be expected from Blake. Blake produced only 32 points last season, and he is going to have to improve. Aside from Blake, Koivu and Selanne, the Ducks are a not that old. They have some young talent such as Macenauer, McMillan and Gordon. McMillan is going to be relied upon to improve on his 21 point season, and he can expect to earn more ice time this season. The older players on the Ducks will provide some secondary scoring, and now is the time for the younger players to make their mark. Defensively, the Ducks are fairly solid in their own end. Visnovsky was the the top scoring d-man in the league last year, and he will contribute nicely to the teams offense again this season. Cam Fowler is going to have to work hard and shake off his sophomore slump, and he shouldn’t have any problems doing that this year. One area that the Ducks are going to have to improve is in their penalty kill. The Ducks were in the bottom half of the league last season, and they are going to have to improve in that area, especially within their division. If Hiller can come back at 100% this season, expect him to have a career year. When healthy, Hiller is one of the better goalies in the game. Dan Ellis will be relied upon to take the odd start away from Hiller for rest, but Anaheim fans should expect Hiller to earn multiple starts this season.
The times, they are a changing in Dallas. The club is up for sale, and once that issue is resolved, the team can move forward. Losing Richards during the off season had many Stars fans shaking their head; why wouldn’t he have been moved when the team could have gained something from it? Dallas still has a solid core of players, but now they are missing that one big name player that can play in both areas. Strides were made last year in Dallas, with many players making the most of their opportunities. Jamie Benn pumped in 56 points in 69 games, and Stars fans should expect him to surpass that number this season. Eriksson is turning into the player that the Stars need, and Morrow will continue to contribute year after year. The pickup of Ryder will help with secondary scoring, but Stars fans shouldn’t expect more than 20 goals from him this season. Defensively, the Stars are fairly solid and physical on their back end. Picking up Pardy and Souray will nicely compliment Daley, Goligoski, Fistric, Grossman and Robidas. Defensively, the Stars are very solid. In their nets, Lehtonen is slowly turning into the type of player that Atlanta thought they were getting when they drafted him. Lehtonen started 68 games last season, and won 34 of them. As a backup, Raycroft will be an acceptable option, but Stars fans shouldn’t expect better than .500 numbers from him. The Stars back end is solid, but their Achilles heel this season may be their offense, or lack of secondary scoring.
This year, the Coyotes said goodbye to their number one goaltender, Bryzgalov. That hole is going to be up to Mike Smith to fill. Can he do it? Only time will tell. Offensively, Doan will be at the top of team scoring again, and no one should be surprised with that. Have the Coyotes learned from their last two rounds in the playoffs? Honestly, the Coyotes overachieved last year and we handled by the Red Wings. This year, I do not see the Coyotes making the post season. The Coyotes did not make the moves necessary to ensure another trip to the post season. One thing that may help the Coyotes this season, is the fact that they may not be done making moves. With Doan leading the team in scoring, fans should take solace in the fact that the majority of their forwards scored at least 30 points. Phoenix has some quality veteran leadership, but now is the time for their younger players to pick up the slack and add more to the scoring punch. Defensively, Keith Yandle had a career year last season. The Coyotes have a veteran rich d-core with players such as Aucoin, Morris and Klesla. There will be room this season for younger skaters to have a chance to see the ice and make their mark. Will Mike Smith be able to put up Vezina worthy numbers? That is a resounding no. Mike Smith is a goalie that is too good to be a regular backup, but also not good enough to start every game. Smith is going to really have to turn it on this year if Phoenix is expecting to do anything. When Smith starts to struggle, LaBarbera will be there to spell him off and take some starts.
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Additions: LW Jiri Hudler, C Mike Modano, D Ruslan Salei.
Subtractions: D Brett Lebda.
As the Wings start this season, there is one major person missing. This will be the first time since 83 that the Wings have started a season without Steve Yzerman on their payroll. Detroit has always drafted extremely well, and their lineup continues to be smattered with younger players looking to make their mark. One of those players looking to build on last seasons gains, is Jimmy Howard. Howard pretty much stole the starting job from Osgood and went on a tear right after the Olympics, going 13-0-2 in 15 games. How much longer does the old guard in Detroit have in them? Watching the playoffs last season, the Wings had more grey in their beards than Gandalf. Players such as Lidstrom (old but still good), Holmstrom, Draper, Maltby and Bertuzzi were starting to present their age. But like I mentioned before, the Wings have some tremendous young talent ready to step up. Datsyuk and Zetterberg will continue to impress, but players such as Abdelkader and Helm will continue to grow and prove themselves with the offer of more ice time. Defensively, the Wings are very solid in their own end. They have younger D men such as Ericsson learning of some of the best in the game with Lidstrom and Rafalski. Offensively, the Wings will benefit from a full season with Franzen. Franzen played 27 games last season, and if he can stay healthy this season, expect a breakout year. Add in the Holmstroms, Zetterbergs, Datsyuks, and Filppulas, the Wings should win their division this season and be ready for a deep run into the playoffs.
Prediction: 3rdin the Western Conference
Additions: D John Scott, LW Viktor Stalberg, C Jeff Taffe, D Ivan Vishnevsky, RW Fernando Pisani.
Subtractions: RW Adam Burish, RW/D Dustin Byfuglien, LW Ben Eager, LW Andrew Ladd, C John Madden, G Antti Niemi, D Brent Sopel, RW Kris Versteeg.
It almost seemed that some of the Blackhawks were getting pulled off the floats in the parade and were told that they were traded. Unfortunately, Chicago was just another victim of what we can expect in the years to come with the salary cap. Two of Chicago’s biggest losses was the movement of Niemi after an arbitration deal, and Byfuglien to the Thrashers. Buff led the Blackhawks in the post season in hits and was tied with Patrick Sharp for the team lead in goals scored. Their loss is Atlantas gain, but as I mentioned in the Thrashers breakdown, it is an experiment to see how Buff can play D for them. Fortunately for the ‘Hawks, they were able to keep their top three players in Kane, Toews, and Sharp. We can talk about who they lost this offseason, but the real story lies in who they kept. Toews, Sharp, Kane, Norris winner Keith, and D-men Seabrook, Campbell and Bolland. Chicago fans have been patient the last couple of decades, and this revamping in the summer isn’t that bad for the team at all. Bowman did what he had to in order to keep the team competitive and remain within the cap constraints. Bowman freed up some more cap room by loaning Huet to Europe and having his salary removed from the books. Sure, they are still paying him, but it doesn’t count against their cap. Chicagos back end is just as strong as last season, if not stronger. Chicago added solid defenseman John Scott from Minnesota. John Scott stands at 6’8” and was a force on Wilds back end last season. With a solid d-core, the Blackhawks and their fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the addition of Marty Turco. In the last couple of seasons, Turco was playing behind a struggling Stars team. Turco should do just fine in the nets for the Hawks this season, but if he does start to struggle or need a break, the Hawks will be looking at Corey Crawford to keep them in some games. Crawford has only started 5 games in 3 seasons, and he may be looking at a dramatic increase in ice time if Turco has a hard time regaining his previous form. Regardless of what happened this off season, the Hawks still look good for the next few years. Unfortunately, this season, they will be battling Detroit for the division title.
Prediction: 6thin the Western Conference
Additions: G Jaroslav Halak, C T.J. Hensick, C Vladimir Sobotka.
Subtractions: LW Paul Kariya, LW D.J. King, G Chris Mason, C Keith Tkachuk
The St Louis Blues had a gift fall in their lap this offseason. When the Blues traded for Halak, they picked up the Montreal goalie that carried the Habs to an unlikely and unexpected position last spring, and a goalie that has more wins than their highly touted number one goalie of the future. Halak should give the Blues that little boost that they need to make the playoffs this season. St Louis had already allowed fewer than 250 goals in each of the last 3 seasons, and the addition of Halak will only help them improve on that number. St Louis missed out on the playoffs last season, but should be in there this year. St Louis is looking east and taking direction from how the Pens and Caps have improved their team. St Louis is going to have a younger team this year, with players such as Oshie, Tarasenko, Berglund, Pietrangelo and Schwartz looking to prove that they belong with the club. Last season, the Blues had one of the best pk records in the league, mostly due to their forwards and d-men extremely willing to block shots. Backing up Halak in net this season will be Ty Conklin. As usual, Conklin can be counted on to relieve a struggling Halak, or just be available if Halak needs a night off. With this being the first full year for coach Davis Payne, Payne is going to have a good look at all the young prospects that the Blues will slowly start introducing this season. Throw in the return of players such as Boyes, MacDonald and Steen, and the Blues have enough offence to make the push for the playoffs this season.
Prediction: 8thin the Western Conference
Additions: RW Matt Halischuk, LW Sergei Kostitsyn, C Matthew Lombardi, D Ryan Parent.
Subtractions: C Jason Arnott, C Dustin Boyd, G Dan Ellis, D Dan Hamhuis, RW Ben Guite.
Here is an interesting stat. Nashville is one of 5 teams that had won more than 40 games in each of the past 5 seasons. The Preds were very smart in drafting a capable goalie in Rinne and gave him the time to develop in the minors before he was brought up for his shot. Other teams such as Montreal (Price) and Toronto (Pogge), have less than stellar records when it comes to bringing their goalies too quickly. Once Rinne had a couple of 30 win seasons under his belt, they gave him his shot. It has paid off immensely for them with Rinne having a record of 61-31-9 since being called up. Rinnes backups this year are Chet Pickard and Jeremy Smith, and both have little time in the NHL. However, on their back end, they have a relatively small d-core in comparison to other teams in their division. Their largest d-man right now is Shea Weber, unless Cody Fransen impresses enough to warrant the Preds keeping him up. The Preds have lots of puck moving defensemen the likes of Boullion and Suter, and their d-core makes up for their lack of size in that area. The Preds had 10 players score more than 30 points last season, and an improvement is going to sought this year. Nashville has been relying on their farm system to fill in gaps left by injured players, and that is one area that may hurt them this year. Last year, Nashville got lucky and only had 2 of their top 12 scorers play fewer than 70 games. Nashville has a fairly good team, but if they were to be hit by the injury bug, filling Hornqvists spot on the roster could be challenging for them. Nashville needs more depth in their farm system, and that could be their Achilles heel this season.
Prediction: 10thin the Western Conference
Additions: LW Ethan Moreau, RW Ben Guite.
If the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs this year, all they have to do is cut down on their goals against since they were 2ndlast in the conference last season. Columbus also needs to hold on to their leads better, as they were also 3rdlast in the league when it came to winning games that they scored first in. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they are going to have a hard time catching up to the rest of their division this season. Playing in the nets this season is Steve Mason. Last season, Mason had a rougher time than he did in 08-09, drastically decreasing his numbers in shutouts and victories. That being said, keep in mind that Mason is only 22 this year. This could be another team that should have gave their top goalie prospect some more time to season in the minors. Garon will be playing backup for Mason this year, and he is a fully capable backup goalie. Garon’s numbers were impressive last season, seeing as how he played in 35 games. With Ken Hitchcock no longer the coach in Columbus, it is now Scott Arniels chance to show what he can do with this team. Columbus fortunately has players like Nash, Umberger and the addition of Ethan Moreau that are more than willing to do what it takes to motivate their teammates. Nash is expected to lead the team in scoring this season, with players such as Vermette and Huselius contributing on a nightly basis. Columbus had 4 players score more than 20 goals last season, and if they expect to compete in their division, that is one area that they will have to improve. Columbus needs more consistency from their secondary scorers, and the steady improvement shown by Voracek and Brassard shows that they are on the right track. On their back end, the Jackets only had one defenseman in the pluses last season in Kris Russell. Columbus needs their d-core to clamp down and improve that aspect of their game. Stralman was the highest scoring d-man for the Jackets last season, but he was also a -17. Having a d-core that only has one player in the positive side of the +/- stat does not bode well. Jackets fans should expect draft pick Ryan Johansen to get some ice time this year, and try to secure a spot on their roster. Johansen’s game has been compared to that of Joe Thornton, and he should impress the fans with his ability if he gets the chance to dress for a couple of games. One thing that is going to hold Columbus back this year is their d-core. For their d-core to improve, Columbus either has to start burying more pucks or improve on their back end.
Prediction: 14thin the Western Conference
Now, your hockey fight of the week.
Ivanens is one tough prick, and to see him get dragged off the ice like this, makes MacIntryre look that much better to the younger players on the Oilers. They all grew 6" after this fight.