OPEN THE FLOODGATES

 

The soap opera is over.  Theyíve only been saying it for years, but finally the Washington Capitals unloaded Jaromir Jagr to New York, with Anson Carter going the other way.  As if New Jersey Devils fans needed another reason to chant ďRangers SuckĒ during every home game.  If you ask me, Jagr hasnít been the same since Ron Francis left the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh.  Perhaps the spotlight of Broadway and having Mark Messier in the dressing room is just what the doctor ordered.  But letís be real here, if the Rangers really think this deal will help them secure a playoff spot, they really havenít learned anything about building a team.    

And the Caps arenít done.  They seem to be following suit to Pittsburgh last year, if you donít have a hope in hell of making the playoffs, may as well dump some salaries before the as yet uncertain NHL future doesnít allow it.  The fire sale has officially started.  Expect Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar to have new postal codes by the time you read this, and maybe even Robert Lang before itís all over.  Ottawa is expected to snag Bondra for a prospect and/or high draft pick.  Shane Hnidy, Brian Pothier and Peter Schastlivy are all names mentioned in trade rumors, and Schastlivy will probably end up the odd man out as he is really the only weak link on the heavily favored Senators team.  Gonchar could find himself in Toronto, where regardless of where they sit in the standings, need one or two proven defensemen if they have any hope in the playoffs.  Itís anybodyís guess where Lang will end up.  Perhaps New Jersey will nab him to add offense.  It seems weird suggesting the Stanley Cup Champs need more offense, but if it wasnít for Martin Brodeur who knows where theyíd be?

With all the uncertainty of next season, teams on the bubble are making decisions early.  Do they shed salaries and cut their losses or stock up for the stretch run?  One thing youíre going to see are teams trimming their rosters earlier than usual, as nobody wants to get stuck with a $2 billion payroll with the prospect of a salary cap being implemented.  Washington wonít be the only team holding a garage sale this spring.  The floodgates are now officially open and some big names are available to the highest bidder!

Iíll have much more on some of the big moves as they develop, and of course as always you can count on Puckiní Around to deliver the lowdown on the trade deadline.  Stay tuned, itís heating up out there.

"HEY NOW, YOU'RE AN ALL-STAR?"

Just whoís in charge of picking the rosters for the All-Star game anyway?  I donít mean the votes from fans.  I mean the rest of the players who will make up the All-Star lineup in Minnesota.  Since when are Tomas Vokoun, Dwayne Roloson and Marty Turco considered the best goalies in the West?  Turco was a fan vote, so heíll start, but what about Jean-Sebastien Giguere?  Dan Cloutier?  David Aebischer?  Brian Boucher?  Sean Burke?  While weíre at it, why not vote Marc Denis to the squad?  It would make more sense than the other two who are going.  We have three goalies playing for teams who could all miss the playoffs!  Letís forget the net for a minute.  Do you mean to tell me Filip Kuba would be going if he played anywhere other than Minnesota?  I think not.  Personally I would have sent Alexandre Daigle before I would have even considered Kuba, because he deserves it more.

What happened to picking a representative from every team?  When did this change?  Not even one member of the Edmonton Oilers?  Ryan Smyth?  Nobody from last yearís Stanley Cup finalist Anaheim?  Hey, what about Peter Forsberg from Colorado?  How can Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Lidstrom be the only Detroit Red Wings going? 

Hereís a prediction for you.  The Eastern Conference will win by triple the score, and the score will be double digits.  Does 12-4 for the East seem like too much?  Weíll see.  Martin Brodeur, Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermeyer will start.  Jose Theodore and Roberto Luongo will be the other two goalies, which begs the question, what about Patrick Lalime, or dare I even say Ed Belfour?  Although, the East shouldnít need the goaltending, when they have firepower like Ilya Kovalchuk, Joe Thornton (both voted starters by the fans), not to mention Marian Hossa, Daniel Alfredsson, Gary Roberts, Mats Sundin, Jeremy Roenick, Keith Primeau, Wade Redden, Martin St. Louis, and Sheldon Souray.  Surprisingly, even Jaromir Jagr will be there.  Does the West even have a chance?

Whatever the result, this yearly popularity contest should yield some interesting moments, most notably Gary Bettmanís yearly interview with Hockey Night In Canada.  Donít you dare miss it.

So let me get this straight, Jeremy Roenick is the only player out of the NHLís 700+ members with enough balls to speak out about the officiating?  Maybe if more players would come out and call out the NHLís feeble attempt at policing the game then and only then there might be an improvement.  Itís really sad to see Hockeyís showcase league struggle on a nightly basis to get the calls right.  I know Iíve had my say on this many times, so at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Iíll leave the subject alone, but consider this: Even a baseball umpire doesnít miss as many calls as 75% of the referees in the NHL.

If watching the Boston Bruins raise Cam Neelyís #8 to the rafters didnít leave you teary eyed, youíre either not a hockey fan or didnít have the opportunity to watch him play.  All I have to say is itís about time.  Next stop, the Hockey Hall of Fame, they have to make it happen.

With the Neely ceremony aside, one couldnít help but wonder whatís wrong with the NHL when a ceremony to retire Camís jersey drew more fans to the Fleet Centre than a historic rivalry match between Boston and Montreal.

As much as everybody would love to see it happen, just how credible and serious are the prospects of an NHL franchise relocating to Winnipeg?  Better than you may think.  The word on the street is there are a handful of teams who are already in big trouble and could be on the move if the league doesnít get its own house in order, especially if we face any sort of lockout whatsoever.  After the mayor of Winnipeg was snubbed by Pittsburgh, speculation has been running rampant, and any one of the following teams could end up relocating to the brand new MTS Centre, due to open this fall: Buffalo, Carolina, Washington, New Jersey, Nashville, Anaheim and maybe even Pittsburgh (although they wonít admit it).  One would have to think a stable economic system for the NHL will be essential to making this happen, but we all know attendance was never a problem for the Winnipeg Jets, and certainly wonít be a problem if and when an NHL franchise could ever grace the city again.  Phoenix should take notice.

There is a great website about this located at http://www.jetsowner.com.  If the NHL is willing to listen, Iím sure this could happen, but it is mere speculation at this point.  As a writer of all things "puck", I'll be sure and talk more about this as it happens.

If anybody happens to know the whereabouts of Adam Oates, please notify the Edmonton Oilers immediately before they fall too far out of playoff contention, if it isnít already too late.

Finally, hats off to recently retired defenseman Phil Housley for an outstanding 21 year career.

Thatís all for now folks.  For better or for worse, enjoy the All-Star break, and look for the brand-spanking new redesigned Puckiní Around website, located in its rightful domain - RIGHT HERE!!

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