Saturday, February 24, 2007

You Bet Your Ass I Know Hockey!

BREAKING NEWS: I woke up this morning to find out that Keith Tkachuk had been traded from St. Louis to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit, a first round pick, and two other draft picks. Now back to my original post...

I guess everyone is a little on edge right now, what with Sean Avery bringing plenty of snarl to New York and the Blueshirts doing nothing to support their superhuman goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. Anyway, you kind of got the feeling that tonight would be rough for the New York Rangers following a very hard-fought home and home series against the New Jersey Devils this week, in which the Broadway Blues only picked up one point.

The Columbus Blue Jackets don't exactly stir up a lot of emotion for anyone in these parts. The word going around the Internet this morning was that the outcome from the slate of games scheduled for tonight, would determine who will be the buyers and who will be the sellers leading up to Tuesday's 3 p.m. trade deadline.

The numbers just aren't good for the Blueshirts right now. Twenty games to go and six points out of a playoff spot following tonight's loss to the Blue Jackets.

So which way does GM Glen Sather go on Tuesday? Well, first off Sather won't even be in New York to participate in the flurry of activity that is expected; whether or not the Rangers are participants. No, Slats will be up in Edmonton for the retiring of Mark Messier's number 11 when the Oilers host the Phoenix Coyotes and Head Coach Wayne Gretzky. Just wondering if Wayne is going to thank Mark for enticing him to come to New York before Mess took a heap of money to play in Vancouver? Even more chuckles comes from the fact that Sather will be accompanied by Assistant GM Don Maloney, who you might expect to be the heir apparent to Sather's job. But, oh yeah, I forgot, Messier has already lobbied for that position. I suppose though Sather can be about as inept from Edmonton as he has been from New York. But let's get back to reality:

What I said in my previous posting still remains the same. If it takes 93 or 94 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, that would mean the Rangers would have to win 15 of their last 20. This from a team that has been a .500 squad all season. It's just too hard to turn it on like that. There are just too many teams for the 12th place 'Shirts to leap over.

Here's some guys who are definitely tradeable:

Goalie Kevin Weekes would bring back a draft pick, but unfortunately he's out with a strained quad muscle in his right leg. I would love to see the Rangers deal him in order to give a few games to all-world goalie, Al Montoya. I've read Weekes could be back in a week or so, however.

Of the d-men who could retrieve something of value, Aaron Ward is the most likely. Ward has been pretty mediocre with the Blueshirts after signing as a free agent last summer following a Cup victory with Carolina. Yes, I seem urgent in dealing Mr. Ward. No, it is not because he is an outspoken liberal. Nice try.

Karel Rachunek probably would only fetch a prospect, but it would be addition by subtraction if the Rangers were to get rid of him. Marek Malik, a veteran, would probably be the most attractive to the many teams in contention who need a good defenseman. Malik is a solid number four on a good team and I wouldn't mind seeing him go.

I like the core of youngsters New York has assembled on the blueline: Michal Rozsival (28), Fedor Tyutin (23), Dan Girardi (22), and Thomas Pock (26). Rozsival should right now be in his prime as a defenseman, it generally takes a player four years to get used to manning an NHL blueline, so Rozsival is basically in his prime and probably is not going to get any better than he currently is. So would you use him in a big deal?

Most of the forwards aren't going anywhere. The only guy I could see being dealt is Matt Cullen. I wouldn't do it, but he would bring back some value. Of course, Petr Prucha has been rumored all season to be on his way out. But I just can't understand why the Rangers would trade a young player who has proven he can score goals and plays hard. The thinking is that Prucha is bound to get seriously injured. He plays with reckless abandon and at 175 pounds I bet the Blueshirt brass feels it's just a matter of when, and not if the 24-year old Czech is unable to get up after a vicious hit.

There are two teams in the Eastern Conference who have a legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup: the New Jersey Devils and the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres have at least five players out with injuries (including Captain Chris Drury) and are set to deal backup goalie Martin Biron. I expect Buffalo to be very active. Biron is absolutely a number one goalie in the NHL and most definitely will return a very high impact player.

You never know what Devils' GM Lou Lamoriello has up his sleeve. The Devs are scheduled to move in to a brand new arena in Newark (if they are ever able to put a roof on the darn thing) and are always in need of some offense. Martin Brodeur is playing better than ever, considering the fact that he no longer has Scott Stevens, Ken Daneyko, and Scott Neidermeier in front of him. Could the GM and Bill Guerin make up long enough for a playoff run? Probably not. I expect NJ to add a defenseman though. I'm big on Phoenix's Derek Morris in a Devils' uniform.

Pittsburgh is a long shot to win a Cup, but their core of young players is incredible. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jordan Staal, plus goalie Marc-Andre Fleury need a veteran or two to help forward Marc Recchi guide the young Pens through their first foray in the playoffs. Guerin would be a great fit in the Steel City. I know it's unlikely, but Kevin Weekes would be an upgrade in Pitt over current backup Jocelyn Thibault.

Atlanta also has high hopes. News has just come down that they have acquired Alexei Zhitnik from the Flyers. The Thrashers have enough to make a strong run, possibly to the Eastern Conference Finals. Superstars Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa can score like any twosome in the league; they have great leadership in Scott Melanby, Bobby Holik, and Steve Rucchin. If he can stay healthy, their goalie 6'4" Kari Lehtonen could carry the Thrashers very far.

The NHL would benefit greatly if Atlanta met Pittsburgh in the playoffs. Who wouldn't want to see the Thrashers' Kovalchuck/Hossa duo go up against the Pittsburgh tag team of Crosby/Malkin.

In the Western Conference, there are three teams with a real shot at capturing the Cup: Detroit, Anaheim, and Nashville. A close long shot is San Jose if that makes any sense. Detroit will probably look to add a defenseman, because you can never have enough of those. Anaheim probably is looking for some depth on the wing; while Nashville is most likely done dealing after they traded for Peter Forsberg. San Jose could be the most active. The Sharks are definitely a notch below the obvious triumvirate of Cup hopefuls, however, Keith Tkachuk would look great with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

There are quite a few teams who will not make the playoffs that have some goods vets to dump, such as Colorado (Joe Sakic, Jose Theodore), Florida (Gary Roberts, Jozef Stumpel, Martin Gelinas), Philadelphia (Joni Pitkanen, Derian Hatcher, Simon Gagne) St. Louis (Keith Tkachuk, Bill Guerin, Martin Rucinsky) and Phoenix (Jeremy Roenick, Kevyn Adams, Owen Nolan, Yanic Perreault). So in a sense the sellers can't be too greedy because there is more than enough to go around. I expect Tuesday to be a very busy day, so here are some things to chew on:

Will Tampa Bay bring back Stanley Cup winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin from Chicago?

Will Joe Sakic/Jose Theodore be dealt from Colorado?

Which of these teams will make a blockbuster deal: Dallas, San Jose, or Buffalo?

Will Rob Blake waive his no-trade and agree to go from L.A. to a contender?

For answers to these and other pertinent questions, there's only one place to go and that's right here.

Stay Onsides!

No comments: