GAME ON              

 

It’s been a long summer, but as the Pro-Line commercial used to say, Hockey’s back, and not a moment too soon!

I’m joined for my first commentary of the regular season by Stephan Souliere, a.k.a. Stephular, or “uLAr” for short, our winner in the 2003 Playoff pool.  Keeping true to my word, I’ve allowed him to lend his hand in breaking down the NHL for the upcoming season which is already underway in earnest!  I’ll chime in with some editorial comments where I see it fit, in the grand tradition of the Sports Byline “Point-Counterpoint” column.  Here we go!

The uLAr 2003-2004 Fearless Forecasts

Alright !

It's been a long summer of anticipation in what many think will be the final season in the next couple years.  I don't know about you, but the beginning of the new campaign has been somewhat stained for me, with the unfortunate car accident involving one of the game's brightest young stars in Dany Heatley, and one of the game's brightest examples of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey in Dan Snyder.  If the last part of that sentence sounded familiar, it's because it's what the Bill Masterton Award is given out for at the end of the season, and here's an early prediction: it will be awarded to a deceased player this year.  The Atlanta Thrasher's Snyder died last weekend, and in any article you read since the accident, the stories were just too strong to not feel sorrow.  The story of a humble young man who was told time and time again he lacked the size or skill to make it to the NHL, who went undrafted, persevered and managed to crack the lineup of a team looking, like him, to show everyone that not only did they have what it takes to play in the World's number one League, but that they belonged there.  He'll be missed by his family, teammates, and all of us fans who truly were praying for him to make it.  The prayers now shift over to young Dany Heatley, 2002's Rookie of the Year who was driving the car involved in the accident, and who now faces charges of vehicular manslaughter.  I really don't wish to get into all the debates this has brought on, but I'd like to point out one thing:  Is it fair to say that his "celebrity" status should not be allowed to influence the decision, while at the same time saying that he should be "used as an example" come sentencing, because of that same celebrity status?

With that out of the way, let's get down to business and check out Yours Truly's Fearless Forecasts for the year.  Instead of breaking everything apart like most publications do, I decided to pretty much keep it simple.  Breaking it down as simply as possible, by analyzing each Division, within each Conference.  At the end of this piece, you'll find my predictions for pretty much everything there is to predict, which will be a lot of fun to recap come season's end.  As winner of the Playoff Pool, my reputation is always on the line as a “Master of Puckology”, so let's get to it!

(Note from Puckin’ Around: “Master of Puckology?  Oh REALLY?!?!”)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

ATLANTIC DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

New Jersey Devils

2

2

Philadelphia Flyers

4

3

New York Rangers

7

4

New York Islanders

11

5

Pittsburgh Penguins

13

IN BRIEF:  The Devils didn't suffer too much of a loss on its roster since winning the Cup last year, and should battle with the Flyers until the last week of the season.  The Devils have a team philosophy that proved successful last year and should again help them capture first place in the Atlantic.  Flyers still don't have premium goaltending in Jeff Hackett.  With Pavel Bure gone, Eric Lindros in tremendous shape, the Rangers should finally see the post-season this year.  Alexei Kovalev and Anson Carter will get to play a full season, Chris Simon and Martin Rucinsky are great additions, but not as important as Greg de Vries, who will join Brian Leetch, Tom Poti, and Dmitri Mironov on an impressive defense.  The Islanders didn't do much in the off-season, and I see them coming up just a little short.  Poolies should take a chance on Mattias Wienhandl however, coming off an impressive season last year, and Adrian Aucoin, who will be a workhorse on defense in all game situations.  Finally, the Penguins will finish at the bottom of the ocean in the Atlantic; all eyes will be on Marc-Andre Fleury and Mario Lemieux.  After those two players, nothing else is quite shiny enough to add respectability to this rebuilding franchise.  This could be the longest season yet for Mario, maybe his last? 

Puckin’ Around says:  There’s always hope Lemieux will realize he needs to explore other avenues, or just retire already.  Need more proof it’s time?  Look no further than Hedberg in Vancouver.  His first game with the Canucks resulted in a shutout.

Let’s not also forget about Mark Messier, who has a chance to pass Gordie Howe on the all time points list.  Even though folks say he’s washed up and should retire, he should be able to put up at least 7 points this season to become second only to Wayne Gretzky.

NORTHEAST DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

Ottawa Senators

1

2

Buffalo Sabres

5

3

Boston Bruins

6

4

Toronto Maple Leafs

9

5

Montreal Canadiens

12

IN BRIEF:  If the old saying "You have to lose before you can win in the Stanley Cup Playoffs" has any truth to it, then the Senators are the top candidates to sip from the Cup come June 2004.  This team has more depth than the other four teams in their division combined.  Folks, when your lineup is without players like Magnus Arvedson and Martin Havlat, and it doesn't hurt you one bit (Havlat had 24 goals, 59 points last year) we're talking contenders here.  Thankfully, Havlat has signed on the dotted line, giving the Sens three potent scoring lines.  Patrick Lalime is inching closer to establishing himself as one of the great goaltenders of our time, Marian Hossa is knocking on the 50-goal scorers' door, and they'll let him in this year.  Daniel Alfredsson continues to provide this team with amazing leadership, and coach Jacques Martin continues to find a way to make this mix of youth and experience buy into his system.  I could devote this whole column to the Senators, but something tells me I'll get many chances to do so this season.  Buffalo could be the surprise team of the division, and possibly the conference.  Chris Drury and Daniel Briere always find a way to make it on the score sheet, Satan is signed and ready to go and goaltender Martin Biron is still due to breakout anytime.  Andy Delmore and Alexei Zhitnik are a huge threat anchoring a power play that should prove very effective.  A few good streaks, and this team will be in the playoff picture.  The Bruins boast an impressive first line in Joe Thornton, Glen Murray and Sergei Samsonov, but we've seen last year in the playoffs that if this line is shut down, the team becomes ineffective.  Somehow, I fail to see how Ted Donato and Sandy McCarthy, the two major additions for the B's thus far, will address this, although the late addition of Travis Green shows that the Bruins also know this.  Felix Potvin is a big question mark in goal.  The only reason I have them third in the division is not because of how strong they are, but rather, because of how weak the other teams are.  The Montreal Canadiens are rebuilding, and other than goaltending, need help all over the place.  Fans in Montreal will have lots to complain about this winter.  The Leafs are no better off.  The Blueshirts have one of the league's thinnest defense, and will rely on Belfour to pick up the slack.  I see them dropping off the playoff picture in the last two weeks of the season, where they'll meet up with teams like Ottawa (twice), Colorado, Boston, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, to name a few.

Puckin’ Around says:  No argument from the peanut gallery, even though I think Toronto with their usual baloney karma will make the playoffs but still hear “1967” raining down on them.  As for myself, I’ve really been impressed with the play of both Jason Spezza and Peter Schaefer in this so far baby season (John Grahame can you say “penalty shot”?).  If you’ve registered in a hockey pool this fall, make sure you have Spezza as one of your picks!  I can’t wait to see him and Havlat reunited on the top line.  I should also mention the great work done by one of the master general managers of our time, John Muckler.  His willingness to end a potentially long contract dispute, along with his “plan B” threat to sign Steve Thomas for the basement bargain price of $900 thousand did its part to get a deal done (and don’t be surprised if Thomas still ends up in red, black and gold before season’s end!).  Now Havlat’s agent can concentrate on getting a contract done in Minnesota for flashy forward Marion Gaborik.

Finally, rounding out the East:

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

Tampa Bay Lightning

3

2

Washington Capitals

8

3

Carolina Hurricanes

10

4

Florida Panthers

14

5

Atlanta Thrashers

15

IN BRIEF:  Tampa Bay should take the Division with relative ease, as is almost custom with the Southeast.  The addition of Cory Stillman should erase the hole left by the departure of Vaclav Prospal, last season's leading scorer for the Bolts.  The team stays pretty much the same as the one they iced last season, only with a round of playoff experience under this young team's belt.  Another team that remained inactive in the off-season is the Washington Capitals, which in this case, is not a good thing.  The Caps have seen flashy forward Sergei Berezin leave, and lost two core defensemen in Ken Klee and Calle Johansson.  A lot rides on the re-emergence of Jaromir Jagr, and I'm one to bet he'll be returning in great form this year.  If my forecast holds true, expect the Caps to sneak in the 8th spot; if I'm wrong, just replace with the Hurricanes.  The return of a healthy Brind'Amour will be welcome in Carolina, where the 'Canes look to save Paul Maurice's job.  After making it to the Finals two years ago, this team needs to make the hockey world realize that last year was the fluke, and not their run at the Cup two years ago.  The defense is solid, the but goaltending remains questionable and offence relies too greatly on top line.  Look for this team to clean house starting with coach Maurice and building around young future star Eric Staal if this season doesn't pan out.  The Florida Panthers have been quietly improving throughout the off-season and should be stronger defensively with the addition of Lyle Odelein and Todd Gill.  However, the offence is inexperienced and thin.  The good thing:  Valeri Bure returns, and here's betting he'll be the top-scoring Bure brother this year!  Finally, I just don't see a silver lining in Atlanta now that they will face a season without superstar Dany Heatley, and with the added weight of losing teammate Snyder.  This is the one time I hope I am wrong.

Puckin’ Around notes: While I agree with Tampa winning their division again, no matter what anybody says, I have a funny feeling the Atlanta Thrashers will rally around the Dan Snyder/Dany Heatley situation and be a better team for it.  Bob Hartley will have this team moving in his first full season with the hockey club.  Shawn McEachern looks to put up numbers similar to what he put up in Ottawa, and Ilya Kovalchuk will get more ice time.  Byron Dafoe should have a better outing than he did last year.  I’m going to say it here and now:  Atlanta will make the playoffs this year.  I also believe even though the outlook looks bleak on paper for Toronto and Montreal, they will somehow stick a feather in their cap and call it macaroni.  In other words, they’ll find a way to make it into the playoffs, even though I agree they won’t get very far because if my predictions hold true they will both match up against elite teams in the playoffs.  As for Washington, I expect them to slip a little bit, there’s no question, but in my mind, they won’t even make the playoffs, unless Olaf Kolzig stands on his head and/or Jagr scores a 200 point season.  And make no bones about it, Paul Maurice will get fired this season, mark it down.  The Rangers should improve early on, but it will be the same old story in Slater’s shrine.  As for Valeri Bure being the top scoring Bure brother, do I sense a little tongue-in-cheek sarcasm (for those of you who don’t know, Pavel is out indefinitely with yet another knee injury)?  The Panthers are my sleeper pick.  “uLAr” and I seem to be in agreement with the top four but I see it differently beyond this.  Here’s how I see the East shaping up:

1    Ottawa Senators

2    New Jersey Devils

3    Tampa Bay Lightning

4    Philadelphia Flyers

5    Toronto Maple Leafs

6    Boston Bruins

7    Montreal Canadiens

8    Atlanta Thrashers

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9    New York Islanders

10    Florida Panthers

11    New York Rangers

12    Pittsburgh Penguins

13    Buffalo Sabres

14    Washington Capitals

15    Carolina Hurricanes

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

CENTRAL DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

Detroit Red Wings

2

2

St-Louis Blues

5

3

Nashville Predators

9

4

Columbus Blue Jackets

10

5

Chicago Black Hawks

14

IN BRIEF:  The Red Wings are surefire contenders for the Cup again this year.  Although Fedorov has left for California, Ray Whitney should help alleviate the pain somewhat.  The Dominator returns, the question is, can he return to his previous form?  If he can't, well, CuJo is still here... for now.  Either way you look at it, this is one goaltending problem any GM would welcome (isn't that right Bobby Clarke?)  Is there a bigger threat on the blue line than Derian Hatcher and Nicholas Lidstrom?  Maybe in St-Louis, where Chris Pronger is back, injury-free.  Just how focused is he?  He gave the captaincy to Al MacInnis so he can have no distractions.  That's just downright scary.  Add the offensive punch of Pavol Demitra, Doug Weight, Keith Tkachuk and all the Blues have to worry about is whether goaltender Osgood can show some consistency in the one position that was chaotic last year.  Nashville has lost what I think was one of their unsung heroes last year.  Andy Delmore had 18 goals, 2 more than he had assists last year, 14 of them on the Power Play, 6 of them being game-winners.  How you replace a defenseman like that is beyond me, and it doesn't get any better.  The Preds let go of most of their older players, and should find themselves victims of mistakes more often than not this year.  I personally see this team as taking a step back this year.  Another team that's failed to address any of their needs are the Chicago Blackhawks.  Jocelyn Thibeault started strong last year, but returned to his old inconsistent self by mid-season, and was downright disastrous by the time the Hawks lost their 33rd game.  Want an interesting fact?  Chicago finished 9th in the Western Conference last year - 13 points behind Edmonton in 8th !  The only bright spot in this lineup is newcomer Tuomo Ruutu.  Let's hope it's not enough to keep fans coming to the games, because that's the only way owner Bill Wirtz will ever sink money in this team!  The Blue Jackets are no better, losing Ray Whitney in the off-season.  Marc Denis now has a backup goalie in Brathwaite, which should help him take a few nights off after setting the record for Minutes Played by a goaltender last season.  A lot of pressure rests on guys like Darryl Sydor, Jeff Sanderson and Andrew Cassels - all guys who have never quite played up to their potential.  I see little improvement here.

Puckin’ Around says:  I know we’re talking hockey here, but it should be noted the Chicago Cubs are currently going through an awesome playoff run and this will have an effect on attendance at Blackhawks games.  At least that’s what the optimist in me says, especially when there are just as many people hanging around outside of Wrigley field as there is inside!  World Series fever has definitely hit the Windy City in a big way!  The same can be said for Boston in the Eastern Conference, as the Red Sox and New York Yankees hook up in the American League.  In both situations attendance was lower than usual for their respective home openers.

NORTHWEST DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

Colorado Avalanche

1

2

Vancouver Canucks

4

3

Minnesota Wild

7

4

Calgary Flames

12

5

Edmonton Oilers

13

IN BRIEF:  Can't make it to the All-Star Game this year?  No problem, just make sure you get tickets to see your local NHL team play the Colorado Avalanche.  If your local team happens to be Colorado, then you're in luck, because the Avs boast two lines that are just explosive in Paul Kariya – Joe Sakic – Teemu Selanne and Alex Tanguay – Petr Forsberg – Milan Hejduk.  Let's not forget dependable Rob Blake and Adam Foote on defense, but alas, it ends there.  All the hype about Kariya and Selanne joining the team has allowed many to overlook some key players that are not returning, the role players who have helped Colorado in the past years.  Guys like Greg de Vries, Steve Reinprecht, Mike Keane, Bryan Marchment  and Eric Messier might come back to haunt the team.  Goaltending is a question for now in the unproven David Aebischer and Philip Sauvé tandem, but Pierre Lacroix is only a phone call away from rectifying that, and I don't see it being as major as having an unproven coach in Tony Granato (who was horribly out-coached in the Playoffs last year).  The Canucks should finish a close second.  Unlike many teams in the West, Vancouver has addressed their needs by signing Johan Hedberg to compete with the inconsistent Dan Cloutier in goal, and improving their scoring with Magnus Arvedson from Ottawa.  The Canucks have one of the best duo in the league in Markus Naslund and Todd Bertuzzi, complemented by a dominating defense, led by Ed Jovanovski and supported with Sami Salo, Mattias Ohlund and Brent Sopel.  The Wild have not done much in the off-season, but the old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind here.  Coach Jacques Lemaire will make an AHL team competitive if they execute his system as well as the Wild do.  Minnesota will need to get Marian Gaborik signed sooner than later if they hope to be part of the playoff picture.  The Flames lost Chris Drury, and this will undoubtedly hurt them, but if Jarome Iginla can take the captaincy to heart and produce this season, it may not show so much in the final standings.  While they are far from being Cup contenders, they should be able to compete for the 8th spot.  Steve Reinprecht and Rhett Warrener were good additions, and should help them out of the Northwest basement.  The Oilers have lost Dan Cleary, Todd Marchant, and looks like Mike Comrie might be next.  The team is even younger this year, and should provide fans with even more speed.  Ryan Smyth will have the offensive load to carry all year, and Tommy Salo will have to find consistency if the Oilers want to compete for a playoff spot.  Inexperience and an open style of hockey may cost them the chance to see the post-season.

Puckin’ Around says:  I beg to differ about the Edmonton Oilers, not just because they’re one of my favorite teams to watch, if not my favorite, but because a good percentage of the younger players on the team got a little taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, and for a very brief moment enjoyed some success.  I’m talking about players like Ales Hemsky and Fernando Pisani, not to mention Marc-Andre Bergeron.  All three will see full action this season, especially if the Comrie situation doesn’t get rectified soon, if at all.  Because they have a young group of players, they will have a little more jump and endurance towards the end of a game, and the veteran presence of guys like Eric Brewer, Smyth (if he stays healthy), and even Georges Laraque should be enough to keep the Oilers a consistent team throughout the season.  Let’s not forget also, Brad Isbister and Radek Dvorak, two flashy players who will have a full season to put up some decent numbers.  Salo will have an AHL Calder Cup finalist in Ty Conklin backing him up, so they should be a fairly good tandem in goal.  What they must do, however, is stay out of the penalty box!  Coach Craig MacTavish is preaching defense first mixed with their usual speed and finesse, and if the team buys into the system, they should do away with most of the third period meltdowns they experienced last season.  And if not, they can always do what they’ve been doing since trading Gretzky (even though they managed to win a cup in 1990), rebuild, again.

PACIFIC DIVISION

DIVISION RANK

TEAM

CONFERENCE RANK

1

Dallas Stars

3

2

Anaheim Mighty Ducks

6

3

San Jose Sharks

8

4

Los Angeles Kings

11

5

Phoenix Coyotes

15

IN BRIEF:    Was there really talks about the Stars starting from scratch this summer?  While Colorado and Detroit garnered all the media this off-season, Dallas quietly went about their business.  The lineup on paper is impressive, especially up front.  Mike Modano, Bill Guerin, Pierre Turgeon, Jason Arnott, Stu Barnes, and even Scott Young and Brendan Morrow are all reasons why the Stars won't get shut out much this year.  Marty Turco makes them really strong between the pipes.  The only weakness, if you can call it as such, will be the hole left on defense with the loss of captain Derian Hatcher.  It's interesting to note, however, that Sergei Zubov, Don Sweeney, Teppo Numminen and Richard Matvichuk aren't newcomers, and should make Dallas the team to beat in the Pacific.  Anaheim lost their marquee player in Kariya, but were quick to sign Vinny Prospal & Sergei Fedorov, which should more than make up for the loss of their captain.  Adam Oates and Steve Thomas will be sorely missed, especially when the Ducks make the playoffs, which is a no-brainer.  J.S. Giguere has already proven he's the goaltender of the future, and Sandis Ozolinsh will quarterback a pretty potent power play, which is why the Ducks will still be playing late in April.  The Sharks are secure in goal, which bodes better than last year.  Goaltender Nabokov is signed, and they'll need him to bring his "A" game if they want to secure that 8th spot.  The rest of the team is not deep, and will need to stay healthy.  Let's not forget that Teemu Selanne and Owen Nolan are gone, so it will be up to Vincent Damphousse, Patrick Marleau, Mike Ricci and Scott Thornton to be consistent.  Same goes for the defense, and it looks like they will be minus Brad Stuart to start the year.  The load now is on Mike Rathje and Kyle MacLaren, who will log many minutes, and will need to be physical.  Look for Alyn McCauley to have a breakthrough year as he should get more ice time here than in Toronto.  The Kings have got to be the unluckiest team in the league.  Both Adam Deadmarsh and Jason Allison are out, after being out most of the season last year.  Add to that the fact that Ziggy Palffy also has a history of being injured, and you understand why the Kings will be golfing come April (Although nothing stops people in L.A. from golfing in the winter now, does it?).  OK, then make it golfing full-time in April!  Luc Robitaille and Joseph Stumpel return for another stint, and let's face it, they have a lot to prove.  That about sums up the offence, which was the positive part !  After Matt Norstrom, no one stands out on the blue line, and no one would make the top 4 of the elite teams in the NHL, which would be ok if you had an outstanding goaltender, but the kings have – Roman Cechmanek !  Overall, too many "ifs" on a team where too many players have too much to prove - no post-season for you!  Finally, Phoenix, where a major cleaning out has been underway for the past two seasons.  Goodbye Roenick, Tkachuk, Amonte, Numminen and Carney.  Welcome Mike Sillinger, Chris Gratton, Nagy, Paul Mara and Suchy !  Yikes!  This team is in the rebuilding process with one problem - they don't know who they are building the team around.   The acquisition of Jan Hrdina was a good one, and they do have talent in Shane Doan and Johnson, but lost a lot of leadership on the blue line when Numminen left.  Sean Burke is solid in goal, thank goodness, because backup Brian Boucher has been anything but.  The new uniforms are a good fit, because the Coyotes are starting over.

Puckin’ Around notes:  Both uLAr and I see the west differently it would appear.  He says the Avalanche will place first, and maybe he’ll be right, but consider this: last season the Vancouver Canucks lost out on winning their division on the last game of the regular season, allowing the Avs to clinch third place in the conference.  You have to think fortunes will be better for the team after Naslund told the Vancouver fans in attendance they “choked”.  Well Naslund and Bertuzzi are back, big things are expected out of the Sedin twins, goaltender Cloutier has more than a capable backup in Hedberg, and the final piece of the puzzle, Mike Keane, an experienced veteran presence, is signed sealed and delivered!  I see the Canucks taking the conference to set up a rematch of last year’s Western Conference quarterfinal against the Wild (provided they make it).  Colorado has the offense, but do they have the goaltending?  Maybe, but Tony Granato is not Marc Crawford or Bob Hartley, not to mention we could have a case of too many cooks in the kitchen.  “uLAr” picks the Sharks to squeak into eighth, I just don’t see it happening.  They can’t even decide on a full time captain, let alone get some points on the board!  Calgary will once again lose the battle of Alberta, and Edmonton may finally break the Dallas jinx, but both will contend for a spot.  The Ducks haven’t started off the season the way they’d like, but I still think they’ll improve upon their eighth place finish from last year.  At least they’d better if they don’t want to be labeled as a bunch of “I told you so”s.  My sleeper pick of the west will be Los Angeles if they don’t fall prey to the Cech-Magnet syndrome.  So far they’ve looked very good, save for a late third period goal by Steve Yzerman.  Gretzky’s team may sport a new uniform and a new arena which they’ll move into after Christmas, but it will be the same old dog days of winter for Phoenix, or will it?  The Coyotes have looked impressive early on, but in my mind you can’t win every game in overtime.  And of course, the usual suspects of Detroit, Dallas and St. Louis will be there as they always seem to be.  Bring it on!  My picks for the west shape up like this:

1    Vancouver Canucks

2    Detroit Red Wings

3    Dallas Stars

4    Colorado Avalanche

5    Mighty Ducks Of Anaheim

6    St. Louis Blues

7    Edmonton Oilers

8     Minnesota Wild

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9    Calgary Flames

10    Nashville Predators

11    Los Angeles Kings

12    San Jose Sharks

13    Columbus Blue Jackets

14    Phoenix Coyotes

15    Chicago Blackhawks

And now, one final time, here’s “uLAr”!:

RANDUMB THOUGHTS

 Alright, the season's all wrapped up, the draft has passed, free-agents have been snagged up by the usual suspects... now time for a few entertaining "Randumb Thoughts".

Let's start off by saying thank you to a few people:  Patrick Roy (retired), Roger Nielson and Herb Brooks (deceased), Pat LaFontaine, Grant Fuhr, Brian Kilrea and Mike Ilitch (Hall Of Fame inductees), and finally, the New Jersey Devils (Stanley Cup Champions)
It's been three years now, is anyone impressed by Mary-Kate and Ashley Sedin in Vancouver? 
Biker gangs, loan-sharking, Hells Angels' parties; no I'm not talking about a night out with Theo Fleury.  If Jose Theodore has written his ticket out of Montreal, wouldn't it be nice to see him replace Patrick Roy in Colorado?  Say what you will, the rumors are getting stronger, which means it won't happen, since Colorado likes to shock everyone when acquiring players (Kariya, Selanne, Bourque to name a few).
The latest player paying the price for Bobby Clarke's mistakes: Roman Cechmanek.  The next:  Jeff Hackett or John LeClair.
When the Mighty Ducks failed to win the Stanley Cup this season, Martin Brodeur remained the ONLY Quebec goaltender to win it other than Patrick Roy.  What's this about the Quebec goaltender dominance?
The Bruins refused to sign defenseman Bryan Berard after he was awarded a 2.5 million dollar salary by an independent arbitrator.  The only other player who was not signed after an arbitration hearing was Dimitri Kristich by, yup, the Boston Bruins.  To add insult to injury, the Bruins are now saying they can’t afford to sign Berard since they’ve spent their budget on Steve Shields and Travis Green!
Mario Lemieux may play, Mario Lemieux may not play - does anyone outside Pittsburgh care ?  The saddest thing about Mario's career is his refusal to leave the Penguins in his twilight years.  One can only wonder how great Le Magnifique would have been on a more talented team.
How long until player agent Alan Walsh compares one of his protégés to Steve Yzerman, and asks for double his salary, since they will be playing on not one, but TWO good knees ?
Finally, what's Randumb Thoughts without a parting shot:  The NHL lost $ 300 million last year.  Both Ottawa and Buffalo went through bankruptcy.  Is the league still in greater shape than it's ever been Mr. Bettman ?

Agree ?  Disagree ?  Comments ?  Questions ?  Hate Mail ?  Mail me here: ular@puckinaround.net

Puckin’ Around Says: Hey, what about thanking me for letting you rant and rave?

Let’s hear a warm round of applause for Steph-uLAr!  Very well done, thanks very much for your input, the fans and I both appreciate it! 

Next time around I’ll be back in my normal slot.  The season is here, so you never know what may happen or where I may be, so stay tuned!

On behalf of Stephan and Sports Byline, I’m Adam Hill, and that’s Puckin’ Around!  Take care and enjoy the games!

 

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