Well I guess we can officially kiss summer goodbye. Just back from the U.S. Olympic orientation camp and will head to Calgary Sunday morning for the Canadian camp. Hockey's back. What took so long?
Even though the Devils lost a couple of key players, they still have the core guys that will put up some good numbers. The defence are not high profile players and were very good last year and will be even better this year under Lemaire. Why does no one consider them a legitimate threat in the East and do they have to prove otherwise every year?
Marc; Fair question. I must admit I think the loss of John Madden and Brian Gionta coupled with what was a very quiet off-season for GM and president Lou Lamoriello suggests the Devils will be in tough to make the playoffs. But you're right, every year Lou's Devils find a way to defy the skeptics. Still, I remain doubtful this is a team that has any chance to compete for a Cup.
With all the new faces during the offseason, do you think the NY Rangers will be a better team this year?
Every time I look at the Rangers' off-season I think of Glen Sather back in the pre-cap days when he'd scrounge up a pile of over-paid, underachieving free agents and then wonder why nothing ever happened. The good thing for the Rangers is that head coach John Tortorella will have the team from the start of the season. The bad news is there are more question marks now than a year ago and I don't think the Rangers are any closer to being a Cup contender.
As a Dallas Stars fan, I keep hearing rumors that Brad Richards could be sent to the NY Rangers? Is there any truth to this?- Jameson
Jameson; I would be surprised if such a deal did materialize although the Rangers would like to add another top forward and would have loved to bring in Dany Heatley. The Stars would like to shed salary so maybe there is a fit there. Of course, Richards won a Cup under John Tortorella in Tampa and there were rumors the Rangers were hot after Martin St. Louis at the deadline a year ago. Stay tuned.
Do you think Callahan has a legit shot to make the USA roster?
John; As rugged as Ryan Callahan is and as much as he has made huge strides I don't see room for him on the American squad barring a rash of injuries to more skilled, physically bigger players.
Where does Kessel end up playing this year and when does he sign?
Paul; Great question and wish I knew. So does Kessel. Chatted with him at the orientation camp and he is looking at a possible return in November so the urgency to get things done is less than if he was going to be ready to go at the start of camp. Still, I would be surprised if something doesn't happen that keeps Kessel a Bruin.
Thoughts of the Kings upgrades this year. Can they make the playoffs?
Bubba; Big year ahead for the Kings. Love additions of Rob Scuderi and Ryan Smyth. They aren't game-breakers but they are great glue guys and will help with the maturity of a young and talented squad. Still think the biggest question is in goal and whether Jonathan Quick is ready to be a full-time NHL starter or if Erik Ersberg can do the job. Bottom line is someone has to or the playoffs will be a long-shot.
So the Sharks big move this offseason is to strip the Captaincy from Marleau? Are they still players for Heatley or are they just not making any moves?
Bob; Strangely silent summer in San Jose after another playoff choke job. And taking away the captaincy from Marleau won't do much to enhance his trade value. Would think the Sharks are still interested in Heatley but it's a question of what the Senators are willing to take and GM Bryan Murray isn't selling a top asset cheap regardless of how much Heatley dislikes head coach Cory Clouston.
Hey Scott. Where do you think the Red Wings will finish? Other publications have all but handed the Central Division to Chicago, so I was wondering what your take is. Thanks!
Cam; I think the Wings have taken a step back losing Kopecky, Hudler, Samuelsson and bringing in Jason Williams and Todd Bertuzzi. Sorry that math doesn't add up. The bigger factor, I think, will be the Olympics where the Wings will see probably half a dozen players jet off to Vancouver for the 2010 Games. Remember the 2005-06 season and how the Wings were upset by the Oilers in the first round after the Turin Games. Never count the Wings out but I think their stock has fallen ever so slightly.
Hi Scott-What are your thoughts on Bertuzzi coming back to Detroit? I personally like it for 3 reasons: 1. He brings a BIG body with some skill to the team. 2. He's been here before so he knows what the expectatins are and 3. at 1.5M-he's a low-risk gamble
Jim; A quick follow-up on Bertuzzi. Injuries, lack of foot speed and a reluctance to play in traffic I think mitigate his usefulness. But he is a low-risk gamble given his salary cap hit.
Please explain to me why there is no respect for the Ducks. Complete absence of any nationally televised games. Everyone still has San Jose over them in the regular season. I mean they totally dominated them in the playoffs. I think this Ducks team will beat out San Jose for the pacific this year. What do you think?
Sean; Not really in a position to comment on television coverage - a bit of a conflict given who my masters are - but I can say I think the Ducks are an interesting team. Kudos to GM Bob Murray who has re-tooled on the fly. Got a boatload of talent and prospects for Chris Pronger whom he couldn't afford beyond this year. Saku Koivu is a great addition on a number of fronts not the least is leadership and they have a good solid blue line to take some of the burden off Scott Niedermayer. They are in my top three teams in the Western Conference for sure.
With Heatley finally ending his silence in the next few days will we finally see some players like Comrie find homes for next season?
Erik; Sadly, can't imagine anything Heatley will say (tomorrow I believe) that will change the fact he is almost untradeable. I think guys like Comrie, Alex Tanguay, Manny Malhotra, Michael Peca and others may end up waiting until training camp and the first spate of injuries start appearing to get deals. And the dollar value they'll be looking at will be a fraction of what many were making two or three years ago.
Do you think the Wild will make a trade once the Heatley saga is over?
Wesley; Again, not sure if the Heatley saga has any bearing on whether the Wild will make any other moves. Frankly a bit of a surprise that new GM Chuck Fletcher wasn't more active but the Wild have always been very conservative when it comes to these kinds of personnel moves. As it stands now I don't see this team being any better at all than the team that missed the playoffs last spring.
Who plays more games at the olympics; Miller or Thomas?
Adam; Interesting question. I am guessing Thomas (big leap of faith there) but I think it's clear head coach Ron Wilson will use both in the first two or maybe three games and then settle in on a starter. Nice dilemma for him to have given that both have great tools.
Why Philly v Boston for the outdoor game? I thought an original six matchup of BOS/NYR would be more appealing for the media and fans alike. Frankly, I'm more interested in the BU/BC game a week later.
Craig; Actually felt the same way when the match-up was first announced. It's a mystery how Alexander Ovechkin hasn't made his way onto the Winter Classic stage in this, the third installment. With all respect to the Flyers think it's a strange decision. Still, these games will always have built-in drama and storylines. Just not the best ones available to them.
Hey Scott, I enjoy your coverage and the Stanley Cup Video Series you did with Pierre. I'm a life-long Pens fan, but was curious how big of a loss Miike Grier will be to the Sharks .
Craig; You are a good and wise man. Funny, I think the loss of Mike Grier by the Buffalo Sabres after the 2005-06 season was a big blow in terms of leadership and two-way play. Sharks have deeper problems but again he will be missed, no question about that.
How will Gaborik fare in NY?
Jeff; One of the great questions heading into this season. If he stays healthy he's a point a game guy and one of the most dynamic players in the game. If. If. If. I think it'll be a miracle if he plays more than 65 games in which case his impact will be severely blunted.
what's with all the islander goalies? how many do they need?
TL; Well, Kevin Weekes is still available. And I think Manny Legace is, too. Actually I think the curious signing of both Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron suggests no one knows when/if Rick DiPietro will be game-ready again. If he comes back early on, though, it's going to be a headache for GM Garth Snow not to mention head coach Scott Gordon.
With the acquisitions this year for the Thrash do you think it is enough for them to flirt with Playoffs or will it be another year while my Chicken Parm Jersys hides in my closet?
Jerret; The Thrashers are an interesting case with the acquistion of Nik Antropov presumably to play in the middle with Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Kubina to what is an improving blue line led by Ron Hainsey and young stud Zach Bogosian. Still, lots of questions, though. What does GM Don Waddell do with Kovalchuk who can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the coming season and will netminder Kari Lehtonen actually fulfill the promise he has shown in spurts since arriving in the NHL? That said, they have a chance to stay close in a pretty mediocre Eastern Conference.
The home opener for the 2010 Phoenix Coyotes will be played in _________.
John; Oh boy, that's a good one. Won't be Hamilton. Beyond that it could be just about anywhere (Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto if the Leafs are looking the other way). Heck, might even be Phoenix. Maybe.
What do you feel was the best free agent pick up this offseason?
Eric; It's hard to ignore the Flames' acquisition fo Jay Bouwmeester even though the kid has never played in an NHL playoff game. And Marian Hossa makes the Blackhawks a Cup contender even with his shoulder issues. But the guy I like is Mike Knuble in Washington. Character guy who may be just the addition that will get the Caps over the hump. For my money, I'd have had Knuble at the U.S. orientation camp, not that Brian Burke asked my opinion.
I like the Rangers pickup of Prospal at reasonable 1.1 mill and question Kotalik at 3 mill. Who has the bigger impact this season?
Manny; Prospal has to be one of the streakiest players in the game and has a habit of disappearing when it matters most (ask the Flyers during the 2008 playoffs). But he knows John Tortorella and that should help. Agreed on Kotalik.
Thought on the Pronger trade from the Philly side? Thanks!
Andrew; As much as I think Bob Murray got great value for Pronger I likewise have to credit Paul Holmgren for having the gumption to bring in the one piece he thinks he needs to get over the hump. And when you look at having to go through Pittsburgh and/or Washington to get to a Cup Pronger may end up being worth his height in gold - or Stanley Cup silver. He's still a dominant force even if he is getting older and I will be shocked if he's not a Canadian Olympian again. Think, as is always the case, the question of Cup or not will rest on the man between the pipes for the Flyers.
Will Seattle ever get an NHL team? will the preseason game here this year foreshadow that?
Alex; I doubt it will ever happen. Enjoy the pre-season game but I don't think if foreshadows anything.
Do you think Mats Sundin will be back this year or is he done playing.If he plays were?
Peter; Will be in Stockholm for the premier games between Detroit and St. Louis. I wouldn't be surprised if this is it. Although Favre-like Sundin may well change his mind once the season gets going. Can't imagine there will be the kind of inflamed interest there was a year ago in the big center.
how do you think the senators will do this season
Bob; Hard to know how to answer without knowing where if anywhere Heatley ends up. I am assuming at this point he will remain a Senator. If Pascal Leclaire is fully healthy he may be the goalie they've been waiting for. Playoffs a definite possibility especially with expectations bound to be low in the Canadian capital. Expect Alex Kovalev to light it up at least six times during the season; whenever the Sens take on the Canadiens.
Did the hawks screw their future by signing that big contract for Hossa?
Kam; No. I think the contracts of Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet are more damaging, long-term. Hossa is actually quite manageable, just long.
Does Ray Emory keep it together for the season or do the Flyers end up having to deal for a more stable goalie?
Kristian; So, how about this. Emery implodes, DiPietro comes back and the Flyers end up sending a sixth round pick to the Islanders for Martin Biron. Actually, it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Emery play lights out.
Scott, why in most of your columns on the Devils do you have such a strong stance against them? It seems like you are/were pro- Rangers a lot and con- Devils.
Joe; I don't think I'm necessarily anti-Devils although it's probably fair to suggest I haven't picked them to win a playoff round since about 2003. Luckily for me they've been co-operative in failing to advance past the second round since then. But your point is well-taken. Actually was in Newark for Martin Brodeur's record-setting win and think Paul Martin is one of the most under-appreciated defensemen in the game.
Scott do you think this will be the last year NHL player will play in the olympics?
Bernie; I hope not. Honestly I don't think anyone really knows. I think it's 50-50 and there will be a lot of back-and-forth before plans for 2014 in Sochi, Russia are set. One thing for sure, if it's a great gold medal game in Vancouver; Canada/Russia, Canada/U.S., U.S./Russia; it will be harder for the NHL to walk away.
A Favre reference..... He is everywhere....
Jerret; A possibility he, too, will end up tending goal for the Islanders this season.
Hey Scott, what goalie or two do you see making the greatest improvement?
Craig; I think it'll be interesting to see if Jonas Hiller is the real deal in Anaheim and if he is if Bob Murray continues his efforts to try and move J.S. Giguere. I think Huet will have a better year in Chicago where he will be the undisputed starter from the get-go (or at least until he loses three in a row). Having seen Semyon (formerly known as Simeon) Varlamov up close during the playoffs I think he's the real deal and will at some point supplant Jose Theodore as the Caps starter.
Torts and Drury addressed the Brashear situation resulting from his cheap shot on Betts in the playoffs. You think anyone is man enough to challenge him at practice?
Joe; I doubt it will happen although I remain mystified at Sather's decision to sign him. But then again I remain mystified at most of Sather's moves.
Hey Scott...Every year you hate on the Devils and insist that "this will be the year they miss the playoffs." Well, you've said it for about 5 years now and every year they're in the playoffs so let me guess...."2009-2010 will be the year they miss the playoffs right?"
J.D.; No, just another year they spit the bit in the first or second round.
Scott, how do you see the Canadiens in terms of chemistry with all of the new additions for next year? Will Gomez and Gionta spark something special for the Habs?
Mark; I don't think anyone knows what will happen with the massive turnover in Montreal. Bottom line is that we have seen many teams who've done the same thing; the Bruins after the lockout, the Lightning last year; struggle mightily. Throw in a brand new coach and I think there is a strong chance it will be a long, miserable season in Montreal.
Thanks as always folks for taking the time, even the Devils fans who think I hate their squad (I really don't). Feels good to be back and glad you're along for the ride. Until next time.