Wednesday, July 12, 2006

State of the Canadian Game

All of the Canadian NHL teams have been busy little bees this season, Montreal becoming the last to jump on the bandwagon today with a flurry of signings and trades of their own. Let's take a look at what the more northernly teams have been up to, accompanied by our expert (snicker) commentary. From east to west, here we go.

In: Sergei Samsonov, Mike Johnson
Out: Richard Zednik

Montreal was good last year, without being great. Next season looks to be more of the same. They don't have a number one goalie; Aebischer and Cristobal Huet will have to duke it out for that honour. Samsonov is a nice addition, though he kind of went MIA in Edmonton last year at the end, he still has his goal scoring touch. Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev are just another year older though. And why do they still pay Radek Bonk?

In: Martin Gerber, Joe Corvo, Tom Preissing
Out: Zdeno Chara, Dominik Hasek, Martin Havlat, Bryan Smolinski, Tyler Arnason, Bryan Pothier

Unlike Ottawa GM John Muckler, we're not so
keen on his new-look Senators. At best, this team is merely as good as the one that preceded it, but we're skeptical that it's better. We like their move in net, signing Carolina's Gerber, which gives them a legit number one, and an end to the Hasek circus (How did signing him ever seem like a good idea?). They also completed one of the more confusing trades of the off-season, sending Havlet and Smolinski to Chicago for San Jose's Preissing. We're told that Corvo and Preissing are both underrated defensemen, but do they equal one Chara? We're skeptical. We're also from Toronto. Go figure.

In: Andrew Raycroft, Hal Gill, Pavel Kubina
Out: Eddie Belfour, Tie Domi

Our beloved Maple Leafs are looking younger and better than ever. They have a former rookie of the year in net, plus four legitimite defensemen. And GM John Ferguson has shown the door to the old Leaf policy of hiring old timers well past their prime (Sorry Gary Roberts, not this time). The future is bright in the centre of the universe. Oh, and how many more chances does Nik Antropov get before the Leafs' brass give up on him? Four, minimum, is our guess.

Winne...oh, right.

In: Daniel Tjarnqvist, Marty Reasoner, Joffry Lupul
Out: Chris Pronger

It doesn't matter what the Oilers do now, they've lost Pronger. That's an imbalance no amount of signings is going to fix. Lupul is no slouch, and the handful of draft picks are nice, but they don't add up to one Pronger. And Dwayne Roloson has suckered them into giving him a three-year contract. We suspect that by the end of that, somebody is going to regret signing that contract, and it's not going to be Roloson. On the other hand, the Oilers have a bunch of great young guys, so it's way too early to write them off.

In: Alex Tanguay, Jeff Freisen, Andrei Zyuzin
Out: Jordan Leopold

Dare we say it, but Calgary is shaping up to be a team we could actually cheer for. Our main sticking point last season was that they played old-style defensive hockey in the new goal-happy era. Mikka Kiprusoff was the very deserving Vezina winning goalie thanks to that system, which saw the Flames take one goal leads and then shut down the game. But now with another goal scorer or two on the team not named Iginla, this is shaping up as a very interesting team. Also, coach Darryl Sutter (and not, as I almost typed, Darryl Sittler) resigned as coach, for better or for worse. He's still the GM, and the new coach (the hilariously named Jim Playfair) was his old assistant coach, so we all know who's pulling the strings.

In: Roberto Luongo, Marc Chouinard, Willie Mitchell
Out: Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, Dan Cloutier, Ed Jovanovski

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Vancouver pulled off an amazing trade in getting Luongo, and dumping Bertuzzi. The Canucks have all the pieces now. They have the scoring, the goaltending, and most of the defense, though losing Jovanovski never helps. This team badly underachieved last year, somehow managing to miss the playoffs. Marcus Naslund needs to shape up, Anson Carter needs to come back, and Luongo needs to put up the same numbers he did with the Panthers. Vancouver should do much, much better this season. Or they could crash and burn, again. You know, whatever's easier.

So could this be the year that all six Canadian teams make the playoffs? You better believe it. Not only that, but this could be the year that the Cup comes home. A Canadian team to win it all this season? Why not.

With eleven months to go until the Stanley Cup is next awarded, we're going to go out on a limb and predict that the Leafs will win it all. Let's say in a four game sweep of Calgary, no wait, Detroit, no, no, we got it: Columbus. Yeah, Columbus. We'd be willing to put large sums of money on it, in fact.

Until then,


No comments: