Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pay The Man

Thomas, Ovechkin, Lundqvist expected to seek big paydays

By Colin Smith

PORTLAND, Maine—With one month in the books, the World Hockey League released its first player value report of the 2010-2011 season on Sunday, and to no one’s surprise, Alex Ovechkin of the Stuttgart Scorpions was projected to be the league’s most expensive player next season.

Ovechkin came in at $88 in the early-season ranking and there is still plenty of time for him to increase that cost as he seeks to regain the status he held in 2008 and 2009 as the WHL’s top overall player.

Not far behind the roughhousing Russian, though, were the surprising Tim Thomas (Arctic Eskies) at $86 and the stalwart Henrik Lundqvist (Sparta Praha) at $85. Thomas is off to a blistering 7-0 start with three shutouts and a sterling .967 save percentage. His 69.4 points are best in the league. Lundqvist, meanwhile, came into the year with a hefty price tag and hasn’t done anything to reduce his value, putting up 52.3 points to rank 5th in the league.

The players who have boosted their value the most in the early going are the NJ Wall Flowers’ Sergei Bobrovsky and the Russia Bearhuggers’ Brent Johnson. Both entered the season with price tags of $2, but have climbed to $40 with excellent play between the pipes. Other goalies who could be due for big raises are Michal Neuvirth, Jaroslav Halak, Kari Lehtonen and Mathieu Garon, while among skaters, Mount Vernon’s Justin Williams and Traverse City’s Clark MacArthur have seen the biggest jump in value so far.

Players whose values have taken a big hit so far this season include Marc-Andre Fleury (poor play), Ryan Miller (poor teammates) and Marian Gaborik (poor body).

Beginning this season, WHL owners will have the option of locking up their players in multi-year deals. In addition to costs for 2011-2012, the player value report released by the league on Sunday shows the projected costs for years two and three of any such deals, based on league-mandated salary increases.

Owners for the first time will also have the opportunity to re-sign their players during the season, rather than having to wait until the offseason. Current WHL rules allow any player with 40 games played or 25 goalie starts to be signed during the season. However, sources have reported rumblings that due to the complex nature of tracking games played by individual players, the league may look to change that structure. The most likely option, according to these sources, would be a Jan. 1 open season on signings, allowing teams to sign players any time from January to September. A league-wide vote may even be in the works already.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Merola Gambles Early

Rumor has it that Mt. Vernon Blades GM Chet Merola has an audition lined up with the hit CBS daytime Soap, The Bold and The Beautiful.

Okay, he doesn't, but one thing is for sure - Merola isn't shy about making a bold move if he thinks it will help his team. Earlier this month, Chet was involved in each of the first two trades of the season. One move saw Mount Vernon deal the highly-touted David Perron and veteran Fedor Tyutin to the Brooklyn Cyclones for Kimmo Timonen and grinder Colby Armstrong.

"Timonen was a no brainer", said Merola at a recent press confrence. "He gives me six solid two-way d-men. Armstrong gives a little grit that I may have been missing."

With a D corps of Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Kimmo Timonen, Alex Goligoski, Paul Martin, and Joe Corvo, it comes as no surprise that the Blades are in the top percentile for point production from the back end.

The second swap was a bit of a jaw-dropper. Merola sent Wojtek Wolski and Fernando Pisani packing to West Palm Beach in exchange for Bowling Green Alum, Dan Sexton. A mere five days after the trade, Sexton suffered a broken nose when WHL free agent Ruslan Salei reportedly hurled a puck from the stands that struck Sexton right on the button. Sexton was dropped two days a later, a surprising move considering that Sexton is only expected to miss two weeks.

"Sometimes deals that look odd at the time turn out to be great, and other times just don't work out the way you would like", continued Merola.

In a separate, yet equally startling situation, West Palm Beach GM, Bob Guarasciso decided to part ways with left wing Rene Bourque on October 16th. Bourque, who was dealing with a head injury at the time, returned via waivers to Beantown, where he spent the 2009-2010 season, and has amassed over 16 fantasy points through three games as of Oct. 26.

At least Guarasciso has Wolski to fall back on. As for Merola, he surely has another trick or ten up his sleeve.

"I like to keep two or three steps ahead when it comes to roster mangement. I have a few Ideas in mind, we'll see, it's all part of the fun."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Heights for WHL

Members of North American and International media outlets recently caught up with WHL Co-commissioner Colin Smith at an IIHF/WHL Global Summit, and collaborated on the following interview.

What feels different this year compared to the previous three seasons? It's a long road ahead, but do you get a sense that it's going to be a much tougher fight involving more than a handful of teams?

Oh, I think it's clear already that there a number of well-constructed teams who will be in it until the end. At this point of the season last year, there was only one team within 30 points of the first; this year we have seven. There are another six teams who are within 60. So, I'm not expecting a 2009 Saginaw-like runaway or even a 2010esque two-team battle. So far, I'd say the keeper salary cap has done a great job of leveling the playing field.

Talk a bit about the evolution of the WHL draft. This year was the WHL's first ever offline draft. Do you feel that it went well? Did it also present an opportunity for improvement? I've heard that certain measures have already been implemented to ensure a smoother and more efficient experience next October...any truth to this?

Considering some of the trials and tribulations we encountered in the draft testing phase, I thought it went swimmingly. The obvious flaw was that it just took too long. For next year, it's already written into the rules that the draft will only be 16 rounds, so that will cut some time right off the bat. One thing that made it take longer was attempts to draft players who were already gone. I think we can help abate that problem by making the list of available players automatically update after someone is drafted. We have the technology. In addition, we're going to have to be more stringent with the timer.

Continuous improvement seems to be the mantra for fantasy commissioners and GM's alike. Thinking back on the inaugural 2007-08 Yahoo! points league...what have been, in your mind, the most significant upgrades/changes? In other words, what is it that sets the WHL apart from standard leagues?

There's so much packed into the WHL that it's hard to pick just one thing. I would probably go with the addition of keepers and their associated salaries. I think the predetermined salaries helps keep the teams more even and makes things more interesting than just keeping your five top players. It's also nice to be able to use salaries without the grueling length of an auction draft (can you imagine that with 430 players?).

In a lot of leagues, if you're out of the running by Christmas, it's time to pack it in. Not true in the WHL. Why?

Well, obviously in a keeper league there's always next year to build for. If you tune out, you might miss that big breakout player or call-up. But we've also got the most improved race to try to keep teams invested, awarding the top pick to the team that performs the best turnaround in addition to a $50 bonus.

Two weeks in, have any individual player performances surprised you..either positively or negatively?

Well, I don't think anybody expected what we've seen from Clarke MacArthur, for one. As a Vokoun owner, the thing that's stood out to me most is the improvement of the Florida Panthers. They're consistently outshooting their opponents for a change, and have had the better of the play in every game, although they lack finishers. On the whole, though, I try not to put too much weight into five-game samples.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Draft Test

2010-11 Rulebook
2010 Keeper Cost Document
2010 Draft Pick Trade Chart

Friday, April 30, 2010

This is Praha! Sparta wins 2nd Cup in 3 years

PRAGUE—Led by the phenomenal goaltending of Ryan Miller, Sparta Praha continued its World Hockey League dominance by securing its second title in three years on Sunday.

After winning the championship in 2008, the Spartans temporarily relocated to Colorado in 2009, only to find themselves a distant second to the runaway Saginaw Spirit. Having returned to the comfort of Prague this year, the Spartans came roaring back, showing remarkable resilience throughout the season in a fierce battle with the upstart Portland Pints, who were seeking their first championship after sixth- and seventh-place finishes the last two seasons.

While Miller was unquestionably the team and league MVP after posting a league-leading 326 points, it was fellow goaltender Evgeni Nabokov who led the charge in the final week, accruing 22 points in three starts as Praha turned a 3-point lead into a comfortable 53-point advantage entering the last day of the season. Miller and right wing David Backes each chipped in over a dozen points in the final push.

“This is truly an amazing moment,” said Miller at the conclusion of Sunday’s action. “I’m so proud to be a part of the great Praha franchise.”

Asked if this helps alleviate the sting of losing to Canada at this year’s Olympics, Miller responded, “While there’s no substitute for a gold medal, there isn’t a hockey player in the world who hasn’t dreamt of raising the World Hockey League trophy since he was a kid.”

While the Spartan goalies prospered, garnering a combined 28 points in crucial matchups on Tuesday and Saturday, Portland’s tandem of Tomas Vokoun and Jonathan Quick foundered. The duo produced only 17.5 points in 20 starts over the last month of the season, including a devastating -5 in the final week.

Praha’s championship team was most notably marked by two things: a seeming revolving door of player personnel and an unwillingness to back down in the face of adversity.

The Spartans signed and dressed more players than any other team in the WHL and were one of only two teams to reach the 60-acquisition limit. This has been a hallmark of Praha’s success: its 2008 championship team led the league with 117 acquisitions and even the imposition of movement limits hasn’t deterred General Manager Mark Edwards’ penchant for wheeling and dealing.

Though Praha had a strong draft, bringing in such season-long stalwarts as Miller, centers Anze Kopitar and Ryan Kesler and defenseman Drew Doughty, it was the talent Edwards brought in midseason that made the difference. The December acquisitions of Alex Ovechkin, who gave the Spartans 119 points in 29 games before being dealt to Stuttgart, and Nabokov, who stabilized the second goaltending spot after Steve Mason’s struggles, were especially critical for Praha, which faced a 92-point deficit on December 18.

Other key trades for Praha included bringing in Nicklas Lidstrom, who looked lost in Montreal but blossomed with 80 points in 42 games in Prague, and Bobby Ryan, who had 95 points in 44 games. Ryan, in turn, helped Edwards bring in goaltender Chris Mason, who struggled early, but finished strong, providing a crucial 51 points in just 13 starts while in Prague.

After slowly chipping away at Portland’s 92-point cushion, bringing it down to 46 on Feb. 7, the Spartans had perhaps their most important stretch of the season, posting 116 points in four days to take a 22-point lead. Though the Pints came back to take a slim lead into the Olympic break, it was back and forth from that point on. Even when Portland went up by 40 with three weeks to go, it took only four days for Praha to come back.

“On behalf of the entire Pints organization, I would like to extend my congratulations to Mark Edwards and the Spartans,” said Portland General Manager Colin Smith. “Mark has shown once again why he is the premier front office man in the league, even if he is a rat bastard. Clearly we still have some work to do to bring a championship to Portland, but Pints fans can take some solace in knowing that Edwards is still a lousy chess player.”

Though Praha’s championship came at a price—Edwards had to relinquish his first-round pick in this year’s draft to bring in Nabokov—the Spartans have a bevy of exceptional keeper options and extra picks in the second and third rounds. Vegas will be hard-pressed not to have them as the early favorites for the 2011 title as well.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trade Deadline Round up

The dust has finally settled from the furious activity leading up the WHL trade deadline which passed on Wednesday. Here is a recap of the transactions from deadline day and eve.

West Palm <-------> Portland
Jarome Iginla---------Alex Burrows
Stephane Robidas----Roman Hamrlik
10th (MVB), 15th ----6th (WTF), 14th

New Jersey <----> Montreal
Troy Brouwer-----Carey Price

California <----> Portland
Simon Gagne-------Matt Cooke
11th, 13th----------8th, 15th

W. Edmonton <----> California
Brian Rolston------Kris Letang
Nick Schultz-------Alex Steen
5th, 7th-----------7th, 10th

Beantown <-------> Stuttgart
Niclas Bergfors----Guillaume Latendresse

New Jersey <-------> Stuttgart
Craig Anderson-------Erik Johnson
16th (PINT)----------12th

New Jersey <------------> Sparta
Henrik Zetterberg, 13th---2nd (CSKA)

California <-----> Sparta
Marek Zidlicky-----Christoph Schubert

A quick review of some key rules pertaining to keepers and trades:

* To be keeper-eligible, a player must be on a (not necessarily your) WHL roster by the trade deadline and remain on that roster for the rest of the season. This means that a player who is dropped after the trading deadline will lose keeper eligibility.

* There are two reasons for the keeper eligibility deadline: 1) to prevent a run on young, cheap players at the end of the season or in the offseason, which would circumvent the draft; 2) to make owners show at least a modest (one-month) commitment to a player before keeping him.

* Just like the NHL, trading is open during the offseason. Trades may be made from the day after the end of the regular season up until the keeper selection deadline (Sept. 8). Any player who is keeper eligible (see requirements above) will retain that eligibility if traded.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trade deadline looms; WHL owners review rules

With the trade deadline approaching, Mark and I felt we should review some of the rules, just so everybody’s on the same page.

* The trade deadline for the 2009-10 season is [b]Wednesday, March 10[/b] at noon.

* To be keeper-eligible, a player must be on a WHL roster by the trade deadline and remain on that roster for the rest of the season. This means that a player who is dropped after the trading deadline will lose keeper eligibility.

* There are two reasons for the keeper eligibility deadline: 1) to prevent a run on young, cheap players at the end of the season or in the offseason, which would circumvent the draft; 2) to make owners show at least a modest (one-month) commitment to a player before keeping him.

* Just like the NHL, trading is open during the offseason. Trades may be made from the day after the end of the regular season up until the keeper selection deadline (Sept. 8). Any player who is keeper eligible (see requirements above) will retain that eligibility if traded.

To reiterate Mark’s email, the current poll is to gauge interest in increasing the number of keepers after NEXT season. The 5 player, $200 cap keeper system will remain in place for this 2010 offseason. We would not change that midseason since everyone is making their plans based on that system.

That said, we are very pleased with the strong turnout in the poll! Thanks to all 16 teams that have voted. It appears that more than half of the league owners (13) approve of increasing keepers following the 2010-11 season, so we will likely hold a formal vote on that during the summer.

We’ve received some other great suggestions and valid concerns and we are taking them all into consideration. I am sure that there will be at least a couple other changes up for official vote during the summer.

Thanks again to everybody for your contributions to the league!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Out with the new, in with the old

By: Rob Merrills,

It's all change in Rhode Island again, as another trade - this time with the West Edmonton Mauls - sees a total of four new signings tip up at the Cocumcussoc building site. Eyebrows will no doubt be raised at the fact that two of the players are of veteran status, with Keith Tkachuk (37) and Cory Stillman (36) set to struggle in to their new scarlet, black and gold uniforms, while Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Radim Vrbata pack their thermals and head for the frozen tundra in Alberta.

"As far as the players involved are concerned" said Recoats GM Rob Merrills, "this is not a trade for the future. The thinking behind it was again to solidify production down the stretch and protect the hockey club's standing in the WHL's Most Improved race - that, of course, secures us an early pick in the opening rounds of the 2010 draft, and that's where the real talent will come from."

While most observers had Lucic nailed down as a keeper for the Redcoats, the young power forward has struggled to hit the heights since coming back from injury early this year. The signing of Phil Kessel - producing at a phenomenal rate recently - undermined Lucic's potential long term position, and when the opportunity to pick up Dan Carcillo arose, his outbound ticket was rubber-stamped. "Dan has generated 40% more points than Lucic since the New Year" said Merrills "In our position, I have to trade for that sort of upturn when the opportunity arises".

"Keith and Cory, point for point, are a minor downgrade compared to Bergeron and Vrbata at their best" continued the Rhode Island GM "but they offer solid, reliable production rather than peaks and troughs, and if they can carry that forward after resting up over the Olympic break, then they'll have done everything I can ask of them".

The final piece in the jigsaw sounds almost inconsequential, but was in reality the driving force behind the whole deal. Positional realignments opened up a free spot at center ice, and Greg Campbell was picked up off the waiver wire in place of Brad Winchester (LW), giving the club another near 50% boost in player for player point production. Further free agent signings in the near future may further increase this positive differential.

"It's mind-numbing stuff - bean counting to the n'th degree" said Merrills "but to lay the foundations for the future of the club, I'm trading names for numbers right now. If other GM's want to offer solid production from John Doe in return for a flashy name, they know where I am....".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Crosby, Stolls and Nash

Portland, ME--The rich got richer today as the Portland Pints added Rick Nash to an already star-studded roster. The Portland Pints acquire Nash, 2010 6th and 18th round picks and a player TBD from the New Jersey Wallflowers in a unique two-part transaction.

"The Pints organization is very pleased to welcome Rick to Portland and I'm proud of the creativity my front office staff showed in helping bring this deal to fruition," said Portland general manager Colin Smith. "The exact structure of this deal was actually inspired by a proposal we received from another team earlier in the season. That particular offer didn't pan out, but I admired my fellow GM's creativity," Smith continued.

Part one of the trade sees Nash and an 18th go to Portland for defenseman Zbynek Michalek and a 3rd round selection. To complete the deal in the off-season, Portland will send goaltender Jonathan Quick and a 16th round pick to the Wall Flowers in exchange for a 6th round draft choice and a player to be named later.

"Rick will really solidify the left wing position, where we haven't had a true top-liner since we traded Dustin to Rhode Island. What makes Rick a great player are his strong scoring instincts and willingness to shoot the puck. Obviously, being able to hold on to Quick for the rest of the season is what made this deal work for us and we were willing to pay extra in draft picks to make it happen."

Trade rumors have been swirling around the WHL in recent weeks. Names floating around include Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Mason, Marty Turco and Dion Phaneuf.

[i]Glad that you got it made
When did you finalize your last trade?
You are the only one I've ever seen
Do what you done[/i]
-[i]Got It Made[/i],Crosby, Stills & Nash

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Red Coats Press Release

By Rob Merrills

Cocumcussoc, RI--It’s been a big few days for various business sectors across Rhode Island recently, with the Redcoats’ front office making two impactful trades that will see five players changing uniform, subject to league approval. For those who like to dabble in share dealing, as well as having an interest in hockey, market analysts now predict that the time is now ripe to:

BUY in Providence telecoms companies, on the back of the frantic exchanges as the deals were put together by way of protracted negotiations

SELL an interests in local couture houses and bespoke wardrobe manufacturers, as Sean Avery is shipped out of town (which may also adversely affect burlesque houses in the region, but this – of course – is no more than unfounded speculation…)

BUY big in liquor stores, breweries, and domestic service providers, as marquee signing Mike Richards steams in to town and enlivens the area’s social scene. Lawyers engaged to act on behalf of the Providence Journal may also see an upturn in workload, while overtime for the ProJo hacks is certain to become the norm - Bourbon and cigarette sales are likely to increase exponentially, so convenience stores around Providence Place will see increased turnover….

For the hockey club, Richards had been a long-coveted target, but generally considered to be beyond the means of the struggling franchise. It was a bolt from the blue when CSKA Moscow offered Richards as part of a deal to secure the services of Ondrej Pavalec, and GM Rob Merrills took “about three or four seconds” to consider the offer before sending the goaltender back beyond the iron curtain, along with Stephen Weiss, in return for the abrasive centre who is likely to be presented to the public as epitomizing the Redcoats’ new brand of in your face hockey.

Lubomir Visnovsky also joins the club as part of the deal, and his arrival paved the way for the second big transaction, immediately making the constantly disappointing Jay Bouwmeester yet more surplus to requirements. The outgoing defensman, who’s much-vaunted “second half production” has entirely failed to materialise this season, served to balance the stats across a deal that also sends Avery and Matt Stajan to the Mount Vernon Blades, with Brian McCabe, Phil Kessel and Steve Reinprecht moving in the opposite direction.

The Redcoats’ front office quantified this second deal as a “kick up the backside” for the remaining players as the club looks to hold on to it’s coveted current high ranking in the WHL’s “most improved” standings. “Matt and Avery did a job for us” says Merrills, “but their figures showed they’d just been treading water since the New Year – and to be honest, Sean’s damn cologne just stank out the dressing room – and the Redcoats organisation has never been fully supportive of the concept of guys playing with dolls…..”.

“Steve (Reinpriecht) has the ability to make an impact down the stretch” continued Merrills, “and Phil makes a three way contribution, helping out in a problem position, making a solid contribution in points, and winding up everyone who lives in Boston, which can only be a good thing. McCabe is just a solid, hardworking guy with guaranteed production, rather than Jay’s promise of points that may or may not be accrued depending on some vague intangible – I can’t take this club forward on the basis of unfulfilled promise”

With Richards now likely to have completed the projected five man keeper line up for the club, it may also be reasonable to say that Kessel in particular will be viewed as more attractive trade-bait later in the year as the jostling for draft positions heats up than would Bouwmeester, who had been punted in several speculative deals without ever generating much interest.

All in all, a whirlwind few days for the Redcoats front office, and – with the acquisition of Richards – perhaps the first real statement of intent for a franchise looking to redefine itself after months of futility. To coin a phrase – the Redcoats are coming !

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Interview with Rhode Island GM Rob Merrills

1. What about the game of hockey draws you in as a fan?

It can be enjoyed on so many different levels - if you're feeling lazy,
just take in the speed, impacts, skill and physicality of the action on
the ice in its purest form - or take a little more interest and look at
the tactics, try to second guess the coaches, imagine how you'd counter
the defensive set up or protect your goaltender if you were wearing the
suit and tie during a game. And then - as with any US sport - there's the
stats (which is obviously where the fantasy interest comes in) - take a
couple of hours to watch a game, and then take the rest of the week to
make your analysis of it based on the figures. The way that the figures
are so integral to the TV coverage is great - everything's expressed in
numbers, in real time, no speculation or vacuous opinion - gives you the
chance to add so much more depth to what goes on if you're prepared to
take it all on board.

2. You mentioned that you played at the University level. Can you tell us
a bit about that (where, what position, fondest memories)?

Hah well - it was *while* I was at university, rather than at a level
anything approaching the US university programme - used to skate by way of
exercise at a rink near to campus and happened to be there as the local
semi-pro team was practicing one evening. Joined in to make up the
numbers, got thrown a mask and goaltenders stick as everyone else hated
going in nets, and took it up from there - loved it from the off. I was
part of the squad for just over a year - a National League team called the
Medway Bears - the standard was not good, so poor, in fact, that I managed
one appearance in a British League game when the first choice minder
deflected a puck up in to his face and went off to hospital, and the regular back up
was missing for some reason - took over for almost the entire third
period, and finished without conceding a goal. That was it in the senior
team, though, left University shortly after, and never picked up a stick
in anger again !

3. Favorite hockey smell?

same as with any other sports event - the stewed onions at the food
concession stands !

4. Does pro hockey exist in the UK? How is it viewed, in general?

It does exist, but is barely viewed at all, which is the problem. The
various leagues have never had much credibility in the media and get so
little coverage as to restrict it to very much minority sport level. There
is a national league, but the set up and teams seem to change on a regular
basis, which doesn't help to give it any sort of stability or lasting
profile. It might be different if the national team had any sort of
success, but it has made little or no impact on the world scene over the
years, and so there are no aspirational figures for young people to look
up to and hope to emulate, which kills the grassroots of the game. There's
a concerted effort to relaunch the game over here usually once a decade or
so, with a fanfare of high-level sponsorship and coverage on some minor
cable or satellite tv channel, but it invariably dies the death after a
season or so, and the game returns to its moribund state. Was - by all
accounts, very much more popular in the 1950's and 60's, but failed to
compete with football when TV sport became the big thing, and has never
regained significant popularity again

5. What are some of your favorite NHL moments?

the first winter classic was fantastic - got to see it live on tv over
here, and it was just great - the setting, the snow - everything (well -
other than the sabres losing - but that didn't really matter, in the
context...) - Other than that, Hartford beating the Nordiques in the mid
1980's for their one and only play-off series win - that was before
internet, satellite tv and any sort of coverage over here, so I had to
follow it on American Forces Radio and via three day old write ups in USA
Today !

6. Better movie - Mighty Ducks or Miracle?

Miracle by a country mile - it's next to impossible to get any sort of
feel for the history of the game over here, so anything that puts it in
perspective is great, even if it - errr - could have been slightly more
objective !

7. Daniel Carcillo, Sean Avery, Derek Boogard. Steel cage. Who wins?

Boogard only fights with kids, Carcillo only fights outdoors, and Avery is
a "jerk" (© Don Cherry) who messes with goaltenders: Pat Kaleta takes
the lot of 'em

8. You get to change one NHL rule. Go.

Get rid of the shoot out and go back to tied games - if two teams are even
over 60 minutes and overtime, then they're even, and don't need any circus
ring behaviour to artificially conjure up a "winner"

9. Your Stanley Cup prediction. Be bold.

Buffalo over San Jose in six; Sabres are down by at least three at one
point in all four games that they win...

10. You're in last place. What is it about your team that still brings
fans through the gate? Do you have a message for your fan base regarding the future of the

It's not necessarily the make up of the team per se that'll get fans
pouring in to the controversial new Cocumcussoc Auditorium when it's
complete - it'll be a continuation of the franchise's contrary attitude
that sets them apart from the rest of the WHL.

Take the name for starters – deliberately chosen to evoke (and probably
provoke) that deep seated colonial antipathy rooted in the Revolutionary
War, in the same way that the Columbus Bluejackets are unlikely to secure
too much market penetration in downtown Nashville and Atlanta, only
looking for disapproval on a non-exclusive nationwide basis. The Redcoats
are an unconventional, coldly analytical hockey club, with little loyalty
to underperforming players and an apparent predilection for inexplicable
trades that leave fans and hockey purists alike wondering exactly what is
going on.

It is, however, this outwardly shambolic lack of direction that appeals to
the fans - take your chances, make mistakes, hold on for the ride - the
one thing that there's not going to be is any predictability !

Undoubted future club captain Tyler Myers epitomises the club's ethic -
sure, the kid can play hockey with the best of ‘em, but why do the usual
dour, defenseman thing for twenty five minutes a game, when you can go on
rampaging forays up the ice, slipping the puck through the legs of other
guys and flailing slapshots to all parts - it's what the fans want to see
! Same with Del Zotto – fine two-way skater, but defensively flawed and
primarily an aspiring power-play quarterback – the emphasis is all about
outscoring an opponent, not blanking them. Milan Lucic, hey, a marquee
forward who’s not a natural goalscorer or skater, but can hold his own
when the gloves come off, and overpower a defense – he’s a Redcoat !
And Dustin Brown – probably the most gifted hockey player on the roster
and the leader on the ice – but no-one’s 100% certain exactly where
his lead may take the team….

It'll be a club made up of similar loose cannons when the recruiting is
done - maybe one or two regulation big names to fulfil the obligations
that a modern club has to the marketing and media sectors, but
predominantly, hard-nosed hockey mavericks with a more flair than tactical
savvy - more determination than delicate touches and probably twice as
many penalty minutes as points - the only thing that you can say for sure
about Redcoats hockey is that Lady Byng's Trophy will not be heading to
Rhode Island anytime soon....

As for the future, well, this half-season is just a cameo – a
scene-setting pretence of hockey playing normality on the back of
intransigent league-wide management and a waiver wire bereft of suitable
talent. It’ll be the 2010 draft that marks the real instigation of the
new order, and the season that follows will see a squad of Redcoats
players making their mark with Redcoats hockey. And no newts.

Veteran Swap

Portland,ME—Mark Recchi is a patient man. A veteran of 20 NHL seasons, the Recchin' Ball has been traded seven times. After winning the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 1990-91, Recchi brought the same grit and leadership to the rink every day for fifteen years before hoisting silver again. He's also accomplished a thing or ten. Recchi has two Stanley Cups, six All-Star appearances, competed for Canada in the Nagano Olympics, and is the only player to ever score a game-tying goal at Fenway Park.

Recchi, 41, now finds himself immersed in a new challenge playing for CSKA Moscow of the World Hockey League. General manager Nathan Fournier acquired the veteran from Steve Irvine's St. Boniface Saints on January 16th in exchange for John Madden and a 2010 4th round pick.

Madden, 36, has an interesting history as well. He grew up in a Toronto public housing project and never played major junior hockey, the highest level of minor hockey in Canada. He was passed over at the 1993 NHL Entry Draft (and remained undrafted), but went on to set the NCAA record for shorthanded goals with the University of Michigan Wolverines. Brendan Morrison, Madden's teammate at UM and the New Jersey Devil's 2nd round pick in '93, mentioned Madden to GM Lou Lamoriello, who later offered Madden a pro contract. After two stellar years in the American Hockey League, Madden went on to establish himself as a premier NHL checking forward and was even awarded the Frank J. Selke trophy in 2001 as the NHL's best defensive forward.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Heating Up

Mount Vernon—For Blades GM Chet Merola, the future is now. Merola made a big splash recently, acquiring Dany Heatley, Tomas Kaberle, Miro Satan and a 2010 5th round pick from the Brooklyn Cyclones in exchange for James Neal, Kris Versteeg, Clarke MacArthur and a 2010 2nd round pick.

A gutsy move, perhaps, for a 9th ranked team nearly 500 points removed from first place. From a different perspective, Mount Vernon ranks 5th in the WHL's most improved race, so selling young assets for an elite player may actually benefit Merola's rebuild via top draft picks in the first three rounds.

Brooklyn manager Mike Zecca is taking a more traditional approach in preparing for the 2010-11 season, waving goodbye to Heatley and his $58.9 million dollar contract and welcoming in younger and cheaper forwards James Neal and Kris Versteeg, and a 2010 2nd round pick.

With injuries and unpredictable trends always looming, there is no such thing as a full-proof strategy in fantasy sports. One thing is for sure - WHL managers have more rebuilding options now than ever before and several are showing no fear in taking risks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And They're Off!

BOSTON—With the new year comes new life for World Hockey League teams as they begin jockeying for position in the 2010 draft.

Friday’s Winter Classic at Fenway Park marked the beginning of the WHL Most Improved race, which will determine which GM gets to step to the podium first. Teams are ranked by how much they improve relative to their performance thus far.

Last week, WHL owners unanimously approved a change in the league’s draft structure that will lend even more importance to the race. The 11-0 vote will give the most improved team the first pick in the second round, as well as the first and third.

The standings going into Jan. 1 looked like this:

1. Portland Pints 1705.2
2. Sparta Praha 1654.8
3. California Kwijibos 1535.8
4. CSKA Moscow 1418.5
5. Arctic Eskies 1400.8
6. Beantown Ball Busters 1343.1
7. Brooklyn Cyclones 1338.4
8. NJ Wall Flowers 1291.2
9. Mount Vernon Blades 1268.1
10. Saginaw Spirit 1237.7
11. West Palm Beach 1233.3
12. Montreal 100's 1200
13. Yucca Valley Crunch 1128
14. Russia Bearhuggers 1068.2
15. Eight Spoked B 1033.8
16. Stuttgart Scorpions 1004.2
17. Buffalo Wings 959.2
18. Congo Commandos 909.5
19. Rhode Island Redcoats 836.7