Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Interview with Stuttgart GM, Josh Deitell

1. what is your most exciting hockey memory? Your earliest hockey memory?

They're one and the same for me. I went to Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals where the Kings, after their upset of the Red Wings in the first round, were down 3 games to 2 against the heavily favored Colorado Avalanche. I was in the last row at Staples' Center and the game ended up going to double overtime as a 0-0 tie, it was an incredible goaltending duel between Felix Potvin and Patrick Roy. Finally, Glen Murray took a slapshot from the point on a rush and while Roy made the initial save, it trickled behind him and before it even crossed the line, the place erupted. I'll never forget it.

2. You're Gary Bettman for a day. Which current NHL teams, if any, do you relocate? Where to?

I've always thought Minnesota could support two hockey teams, and I think Canada could manage a few more. I'd move the Islanders (New York would still have two teams, and there'd be another in the same city), Coyotes (they've got some good fans but not enough to financially support a team), and the Blue Jackets (ditto Phoenix). Some of the teams in the South could be candidates to move as well.

3. Why Stuttgart? Do you have any connections to Germany or are you just a fan of the name (it's awesome by the way).

Three of my friends and I took a trip to Europe two summers ago and while we were in Munich, we ended up drinking with a soccer team from Stuttgart. They were really friendly and ended up inviting us back to their hometown, Herrenberg (which is just outside of Stuttgart). They housed us and fed us food and beer and just showed us an all around good time, so I remember Germany, and especially Stuttgart, very fondly. The Stuttgart Scorpions are actually an American Football team over there.

4. Tell us a bit about your fantasy hockey experience. Any championships or particularly fond seasons?

This is really my first year keeping track of my team throughout the season. Unfortunately, I've been in leagues where all the managers bail halfway through, and that makes it hard to maintain my own team when there's really no competition. I did play a lot of Eastside Hockey Manager 2005.

5. Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne, Pavel Bure (all in their prime) and Alex Ovechkin in a fastest skater competition. Who takes the cake?

Kariya in his prime was one of the quickest players I've ever seen, and Ovechkin and Selanne both have an intimidating shot/speed combination, but nobody can match Panthers era Pavel Bure at full stride.

6. It's early, but take your best stab at a Cup prediction. Who will come out of the East and West?

My East pick is New Jersey, my West pick is Chicago.

7. Do you have a message for your new fan base in Stuttgart? What brand of hockey should they expect this year and in the future?

I'm not going to sugarcoat anything, I'm blowing it up and rebuilding, but this will be a competitive team next year, you can count on that. I like run-and-gun hockey that involves the point men and depends on turnovers to create outnumbered attacks. This is going to be a smart, gritty team with guys who aren't afraid to get creative in the offensive zone.

Fantasy Roundup at The Dark Horse Corral

By Mark Edwards

When a player is placed on the IR, the only predictable result is another roster move. But who gets the call? Do you sign a promising rookie before someone else does? Or, do you opt for a grinder or proven vet who is finally getting an opportunity? Sometimes, a Dark Horse is an injury away.

Here, in no particular order, are some injured players and potential free agent beneficiaries.

Milan Lucic (LW): Out indefinitely with an unspecified ailment in his left foot. The Byron Bitz experiment on Boston's top line might be temporary, but monitor the situation. Bitz's long-term fantasy value will drop if he can't score with the big guns.

Jason Spezza (C): Out 4-6 weeks with a torn MCL. Jesse Winchester's ice time has doubled while centering Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. No guarantee to stick, but the opportunity is his to lose. Peter Regin gets a temporary boost while Nick Foligno is out for at least 2 weeks.

Joe Corvo (D): Out 8-12 weeks with a lacerated calf. Not a good year for leg protection in Carolina (see Cam Ward), or for Carolina in general. Bryan Rodney figures to be part of the youth movement in Raleigh and has short-term value while Tim Gleason and Niclas Wallin are nursing injuries.

The Detroit Red Wings: With Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Fillpula, Dan Cleary, and Jason Williams all on the shelf, ice time is ripe for the earning in Motor City. Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller are the guys to watch here. Both offer short-term value on LW. Center Kris Newbury also has an outside shot if he can string together some points.

Teemu Selanne and Joffrey Lupul (RW): He's taken, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Dan Sexton. Fresh out of Bowling Green State University, Sexton has transitioned seamlessly into the pro game and onto Anaheim's second line. Even when Selanne comes back after Christmas, this type of production should keep Sexton around. He is someone to remember at the draft next year if he isn't kept.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Brighter Days Ahead for Defending Champs

By Mark Edwards

SAGINAW, Michigan--After the champagne is gone, the parade is over, and crumbs dot the world's finest cereal bowl, reality sets in. You are the defending Stanley Cup champions and every hot shot in town will be gunning for you.

On September 30th, 2009, Saginaw faithful and general manager Tom Lusty did not seem fazed one bit by the lofty expectations that come with a title defense. And for good reason. Last October, Lusty's Saginaw Spirit built a colossal lead and never looked back. With the end game in play, Lusty acquired a second 1st round selection to boost his chances in 2009-2010.

Saginaw used both 1st round picks on elite goaltenders Niklas Backstrom and Cam Ward - two selections that none would criticize at the time. All engines go. Start printing T-shirts. Another year, another cup. That would just be too simple, wouldn't it?

Hockey is the fastest sport on Earth, not counting NASCAR or Jai alai, and a team's fortunes can crumble faster than a Joe Sakic wrister. A freak injury and multiple slow starts later, the defending champs find themselves underachieving. No one could predict Cam Ward getting his left quadricep lacerated by Rick Nash's skate blade, but are Saginaw's repeat-season struggles really that surprising?

In addition to being the coolest championship trophy in sports, the Stanley Cup has become one of the hardest to retain. Quite a change. Until Montreal ended the Pittsburgh Penguins' two-year cup run in 1993, it seemed that the Stanley Cup was available only for long-term leasing. The Flyers won it in 1974 and '75. For the next four year it was monopolized by the Montreal Canadiens, who were dethroned by the New York Islanders, who won four straight titles before yielding to the Edmonton Oilers, who won five Cups between 1984 and '90. No NHL team has won back-to-back since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and '98.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Interview with Saginaw GM, Tom Lusty

Q: What is your earliest hockey memory? Your most memorable hockey moment(s)?
A: Earliest hockey memory has to be attempting to play goalie in my driveway with make shift pads. I didn't have a blocker so I just used 2 roller blading knee pads. Yea I wasn't so hot at goalie back then either...Most memorable would have to be watching the Stanley cup finals between the Avs v Devils. Roy v Brodeur, Sakic, Forsberg, Bourque. A ton of hall of famers duking it out, and when you factor in that we traded Bourque just so that he could have a chance to win, it was great!

Q: Favorite hockey team/players. Why?
A: I don't really have huge favorites. I find myself more a fan of the game in general. A good game is a good game, and will pull me in whoever is playing.

Q: Why do you like hockey?
A: Hockey takes more than just a strength in any one skill. It takes a much more balanced athlete to be good at hockey. You can take someone who is very strong, or fast, or someone who is very bright and they all have a slot on a football, or baseball, or most teams. But in hockey you can't have such a concentration of talent in individual players. Players need to be more well rounded if they want to have a future in the sport, and that feels more natural (and fun) to me.

Q: What did you do on your day with the Stanley Cup?
A: Well the misses and I threw a lovely party and used it as a jello mold. And I certainly had a few bowls of cereal out of it. Everything just tastes so much better when eating out of Lord Stanley's Cup :)

Q: What was your key to success last year?
A: Good goal tending drove my success last year. That and some solid sleeper picks. I just had a solid, not amazing, not poor, team of skaters, with a very very strong pair of goaltenders. And it worked like a champ (see what I did there?)

Q: You knew this was coming. Why is your team struggling in 2009?
A: Well as you might have noticed I've been ravaged by injuries. I had 2 first round picks this year, and picked goalies that historically are very very good, and they are on track for career lows this season. Hell Carolina is the worst team in the league, that means they don't win much, meaning I don't get many points. That definitely hurts when he was a 1st round pick. Oh, and then he got injured. Minnesota hasn't exactly been hot either. I think those two high picks doing SO poorly is a big reason why we're in the middle of the pack and not near the top.

Q: Who do you like in the Olympics?
A: USA! Is there any other?! I don't have a favorite NHL team, but the national pride runs deep. Whether we have a shot or not, I haven't the slightest, but hopefully we'll put up a good fight.

Q: Positives going forward?
A: I'm excited that I picked up Rask, as he's already paying dividends, and has many years ahead. There are a few younger forwards that I'm looking forward to developing, Stastny is only going to get better, and Clutterbuck has really made an impression on the Saginaw Brass. Good things for the future indeed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

No Surprise: AO Tops Elias Rankings

By Colin Smith

PORTLAND, Maine--There are three things you can count on with Montreal 100’s left winger Alex Ovechkin: he’s going to shoot the puck, he’s going to bang the body, and he’s going to get paid.

No surprise then that the Russian rapscallion is projected to be the World Hockey League’s highest-paid player next year in the Elias Sports Bureau’s first official Player Value Report, which was released Sunday by the bureau’s Portland office.

Ovechkin, who was taken first overall by Montreal in the 2009 WHL draft and received a $99 signing bonus, currently ranks second in the Elias rankings and is projected to earn a slight raise in 2010-11 to $105.10. The next tier of earners--Evgeni Nabokov of the California Kwijibos, Henrik Lundqvist of the Beantown Ball Busters, and Sidney Crosby of the Portland Pints--is currently projected to make $78.10.

Elias, one of the nation’s top statistical companies and the official statistician for a number of professional leagues, was contracted by the WHL following offseason labor negotiations in which owners won the right to retain 5 players from one year to the next. Similar to the Free Agent rankings that the bureau provides for Major League Baseball, Elias’s WHL Player Value Reports are used by arbitrators to determine how much of a raise or pay cut each player will receive. An updated reported is issued at least monthly throughout the season.

Though the season is still young, New Jersey Wall Flowers goaltender Craig Anderson has put himself in a position to earn a hefty raise. Given a $37 bonus as the 94th pick in the draft, Anderson currently sits atop the Elias rankings and could be due as much as $74.80 next season.

Moving in the other direction is Hartford Whalers center Pavel Datsyuk. While Datsyuk has not performed poorly, his numbers are not up to the lofty standards of a third overall pick. He could be facing a nearly $27 pay cut from his $85 bonus if he doesn’t play at an elite level.