Do you think Boston will make a serious push to bring in either a top defense or top scoring forwards before the tradeline or are they goin to stay with what they have??
I would be surprised if GM Peter Chiarelli makes a big splash at the deadline. Could they use some offensive depth with Marco Sturm out long-term? Maybe. But this is a pretty dynamic team both offensively and defensively. I would be very surprised if the Bruins do anything other than tinker. I would be surprised if they moved either Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez this offseason.
Assuming that the Avs end up with a high draft pick and have a strong offseason, can you see them turning things around next season a la the Flyers of last year? Or is this a team that's more than a couple players and a goaltender away and is set for a 3-5 year rebuild?
It's shocking to look at the standings today and seeing them tied for last in the West. You hit on the real issue moving forward: goaltending. The Avs simply not have recovered from the retirement of Patrick Roy. Until they find a bonafide NHL starter, the playoffs will be a struggle. There are interesting pieces there, but this is not yet close to being a playoff team. That may take 2-3 years. Top-flight goaltenders do not grow on trees.
Your opinion on the Pens: Playoff bound or even further down their slippery slope.
As we speak, they are tied with the NY Islanders, with new head coach Dan Bylsma behind the bench for his first game, after the Penguins fired Michel Therrien late yesterday afternoon. Shocking to imagine that a team that could have two of the top three scorers--Malkin and Crosby--may well miss the playoffs, a year after going to the Finals. The problem for the penguins is that the teams they will need to catch--Buffalo, Florida, the Rangers, Montreal--I'm not sure they will fall far enough for the Penguins to catch them. I would be surprised if they claw their way back to the postseason.
Would you say that the Red Wings main struggles come from a weak defense or weak goaltending?
Certainly no defense that has Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, and Niklas Kronwall, along with a strong supporting cast, will ever be described as weak. Has their play been up to their usual standard? Probably not. Every year we ask, do the Wings have enough goaltending to be contenders? Do they stack up against San Jose or Dallas or Calgary? Probably not. But is it good enough to win a second straight Cup? Maybe. It is such a cliche, and yet so true--it's so hard to repeat as champs. The season after winning is fraught with ups and downs. Of course, they are one point behind San Jose in the West.
Last night's game vs carolina something to be worried about for sabres fans or was it just a night EVERY player (except lalime) took off?
I think the Sabres are sort of suffering through post-Vanek syndrome. They lose their most dynamic scorer for a month or a month-and-a-half, and it disrupts the chemistry and energy the Sabres had in crawling back to the playoff picture. I think this Sabre team is slowly maturing, and it has a lot more character than it did even a year ago. Young players are becoming leaders, so I don't see them falling out of the playoff picture.
Do you see the Caps making a move for a top veteran defenseman, and if so, who?
Well, it won't be Matthieu Schneider, who was traded to Montreal from Atlanta this afternoon. I suppose in a perfect world, George McPhee would look to add another puck-moving defenseman, but I think top teams will be reluctant to give away too much in futures for a big-ticket player. With the odd exception--Jay Bouwmeester--GMs will be cautious, given the uncertain economic future.
Do you think the Rangers will make the playoffs? If so what kind of changes do you think they need to make if any?
Of the teams that are currently in the playoff bracket in the East, I think the Rangers are most susceptible to dropping out completely. They are tentative defensively, lack cohesion up front, and are one of the lowest-scoring teams up front. The expectation is that Sean Avery will rejoin the team within a week or two. That may be the kind of spark the Rangers will need to turn the team around. That is a lot of pressure to put on a player coming off an embarrassing episode--being thrown off the Stars because he was such a jerk. It may, however, be enough to keep them in the playoffs, at least for the first round.
Is Kovy still a Thrasher after the deadline? Seems like Waddell would maximize his return if he traded him now rather than purely as a 2 month rental next season.
Certainly all of the noise emanating from the Thrasher front office is that Kovalchuk will remain a Thrasher indefinitely. But the reality is, a player of his caliber is going to want to exit Atlanta at the earliest possible opportunity. He will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. I think the time to move him is now, so I agree with you. Teams like the Penguins would offer a king's ransom for a player of his talent. The Thrashers are in desperate need of future assets--draft picks, prospects--but I doubt it will happen before March 4. The talks will heat up again before the draft in June.
So have the Devils put to rest the whole "Sharks v. Bruins" Cup Finals prediction everyone had up until about 3 days ago?
I don't think anyone who has watched any hockey for the last three months is dismissive of the Devils. There has always been a misconception about the Devils--they will always be perceived as the boring, shutdown 90s Devils teams. They are a much more dynamic team under Brent Sutter, as well as being exceptional defensively. You can make a case for any of the top three teams in the eastern conference, so I don't think it's a given that Boston and SJ will meet up, though you have to love the Thornton homecoming storylines. But the Devils would have something to say about that.
Hey scotty, whats wrong with the sharks, is this funk permanent, or just some mid season struggles that will work there way out by March and April?
This is a bump in the road, precipitated by a flu bug that has ravaged the team. They have lost three straight, but there is no need to worry. Thornton said that these stretches are healthy for a team that has gone along as smoothly as the Sharks have. A little adversity now is better than in mid-April.
Do you think Columbus has a serious shot at making the playoffs finally? Also, do you think they will be looking to make any trades before March 4th. Specifically for a Center, or a good special teams player.
I don't think there's any doubt they will be looking high and low for someone to play down the middle. There are not a lot of top-notch centers available around the deadline. Maybe a player like Nik Antropov in Toronto might be a nice fit in Columbus. Thanks largely to the play of Steve Mason, the Blue Jackets currently hold down seventh place in the Western Conference. I must admit, I remain amazed at a team that does struggle offensively, that has had the worst power play over much of the season, may find its way into the postseason for the first time. There is no understating how important making the playoffs would be to that franchise. It's a credit to Mason and the coaching staff that that team continues to be as competitive as it is.
With emergence of Claude Giroux and the Danny Briere coming back soon, do the Flyers trade Joffrey Lupul at the deadline?
The Flyers are a team that would like to make a move that would shore up their blue line around March 4. They have a surplus of skilled forwards and assets that would be attractive to many other teams. Lupul's name comes up often--he would be easier to move than Briere. Lupul makes sense on paper, if the Flyers are to make that kind of move. Mike Knubel also comes up in these talks, but he is too valuable in terms of offense and leadership, so I don't expect them to make a move other than to resign him.
Thanks again, and let's do it again next Monday!