Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Remaining Pieces

IMHO, The Missing Links to a 'Canes playoff season...

We now have youth on the blueline. Johnson, Commodore, Hutchinson, Walser, Hagemo, etc. The first forward we took in the draft was a big physical kid with potential head case issues. Nary a goalie in the mix. So, what's going on in Hurricane world?

First of all, I think the departure of Jeff O'Neill will be followed shortly by the departures of Marty Murray, Bret Hedican, and Aaron Ward. I think JR will move quickly in the hope of getting there the first-est with the most-est in a pitch to Adrian Aucoin. This gives us the playmaker #1 defenseman we've sorely lacked. I think the 'Canes will then re-sign Glen Wesley at a much reduced salary as our #2 blueliner. With Frankie Kaberle as the puck-carrying #3 with Commodore, and Bruno and Wallin bringing up the rear.

I think our big-ticket forward addition will/should be Corey Stillman. He was the #8 ranked point scorer in the league in '03-'04 and relatively affordable. It does however give us yet another center. I think Kevyn Adams or Matt Cullen could move to wing to accommodate. Other options might be Miro Satan who Buffalo is dying to move. Longshot acquisitions might be Pavol Demitra or even Keith Tkachuk who the Blues are dying to move. Tkachuk will be expensive this year, but not so next. Rumors abound about Gary Roberts coming back or the potentially dain bramaged Jason Allison joining us. I don't dig old and brittle at this point.

Should be a fun couple of weeks, eh?

Friday, July 29, 2005

CasonBlog Draft Day prognostication

Day After Note: Re: My Prognostications-In the immortal words of that '80's superband, Rockpile, "Let's face it I'm wrong again..."
Meet New Carolina Hurricane Bobby Ryan
Welcome to one of the giddiest days of the year for us puckheads. I'm going to take a moment here late Friday night to prognosticate on what I think might shake out tomorrow with the top ten picks in the draft. My Schnauzer Gretyl and I have just finished pouring over stats, player profiles, high school transcripts, and psychological analyses on a number of prospects and the rogues gallery of often megalomaniac NHL GMs as we look around 15 hours into the future. I've got two takes on what might shake out. Here is a daring look at what might be "the mother of all draft days." So, here we go...

CasonBlog 2005 Entry Draft Forecast

1. Sydney Crosby-Pens ( Traded then to the Rangers for Jagr-just kidding)

2. Jack Johnson-Ducks (Traded then to Blues with Giguere for their pick, Chris Pronger and Tkachuk because Burke's ego will drive him to making a splash on draft day. The Blues get to take a huge bite out of their salary structure and they get an answer in goal for around half the price of Tkachuk)

3. Bobby Ryan-Hurricanes (recent additions of Commodore and Hutchinson fill immediate need for young blueliners. Otherwise I think they might have traded down for Staal if Johnson wasn't available)

4. Gilbert Brule-Wild (Lemaire's kind of gritty forward)

5. Benoit Pouliot-Habs (The Habs have been missing a French guy who skates gracefully and scores spectacular goals since Lefleur)

6. Anze Koptiar-Jackets (Finishes the Nash, Zherdev, ____ line)

7. Carey Price-Blackhawks (Issues in abound in goal with the rebuilding Hawks)

8. Jack Skille-Thrashers (Gives the Trash a power forward to compliment the more graceful Heatley and Kovalchuk)

9. Marc Staal-Sens (Ontario boy stays in Ontario and doesn't go to the hated Leafs)

10. Ryan O'Marra-Nucks (Safe pick for a new GM trying to hold on to Naslund, wait out the Bertuzzi appeal process, and figure out what to do with Cloutier. I also think he knows better than to try and emulate his flamboyant predecessor)

'Canes Sign Mike Commodore

'Canes add Size, Physicality, Personality and Big Red Hair
This move is not surprising given they way the Hurricanes do business. They tend to recruit players from Karmanos' OHL Plymouth Whalers (Justin Williams, for example). In this case, it was the shared roster relationship with Calgary for the Lowell AHL team that probably created the opportunity to get Commodore. I wish we could wrench Chuck Kobasew away as well.

I like this pickup. Commodore is big (6'4", 230), young, and physical. He's got Cup playoff experience and has built an on-ice and clubhouse rapport with Staal and crew.

I also like an intangible with this guy. He's got personality to go with the big hair. He's a bit of a character-a flake. Name another guy with any charisma on the 'Canes? Can't think of one, can you? Aaron Ward is probably the closest thing. Jeff O'Neill has a kind of rebel without a clue or human train wreck waiting to happen appeal, but it's not the same. I think Commodore might just be the fan-favorite the 'Canes have been lacking. Let's hope so.

Possible Trade-ups to Number Two on D Minus One?

'Canes Fans Remember Sandis Oh-NOzolinsh the matador defenseman
It's getting exciting here on the day before the draft. Rumors are flying about teams pitching trades ideas to the Ducks. Spector reports the Av's offering Hedjuk and Tanguay for Federov, Chistov and the pick. If that's true, the Ducks would be dumb to pass it up. They dump the aging Federov and his huge contract. They get two young and proven scorers to build around and who could be in place for the next 5-7 years. Yes, they move down to 27 in the draft, but they'll get two picks from this spot in rapid succession.

Another potential deal would involve the clearly unhappy Pronger to the Ducks. Paired with Sandis Oh NOzolinsh who carries the puck but plays no defense, this might give the Ducks a great 1-2 punch on D. This looks like it would pretty much be a 1 for 1 deal. Trade a guy you couldn't afford and don't plan to keep past this year for the next Pronger/Scott Stevens in Jack Johnson.

Finally there appears to be a Philly deal as well. They might want to trade up to get Bobby Ryan. What would Philly offer? The recently signed Carter or Richards? How about Simon Gagne. I've heard Bobby Clarke and Philly fans run hot and cold on this guy, so he might be good trade bait. Patrick Sharp is another rising star who they might give up to get Ryan.

The gamblers are shaking out be the clubs in the most secure markets. One might have thought that their focus would have been on unloading expensive talent, but they seem inclined to re-sign these guys even as their names come up as the most active in trade rumors. I guess it's easy to gamble when the life or death of the franchise isn't on the line. When was the last Stanley Cub the Leafs won? Who cares in Toronto? It's a new season and the Leafs are gonna win it all, right?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

NHL GM's to Experience Shock and Awe


Bobby The Missing-Holik: An Unfortunate Burp in Human Evolution
Me thinks the floodgates are about to open in player movement and stay open until well into the start of the season. It must be both terrifying and exhilirating to be an NHL general manager right about now. In the next couple of months the winners will be those who quickly figure out the answers to some key questions:

  • How will the rule changes will effect the nature of the game and what type of talent is best suited for this new reality?
  • Who to keep, who to let go, and who to buy out?
  • Should you buy a player out or hold on to them in the hopes of making a trade?
  • Draft in your current spot or move if you're not sure about how your roster is going to shake out?
Case in point-The Rangers. They have only six players signed. They don't know if Jagr and his $10mil are going to stay in Europe or come back. They've got serious dead wood issues in what to do with Exhaspiritis and the Missing-Holik. They traded for Weekes before the cancellation of last season and now have to make a decision on whether to sign him as their guy in goal. I would be very scared right now to be the GM for both New York teams, Dallas, St. Louis, Vancouver and Boston. These teams are either way high on the salary front and/or lacking signed talent.
I might be fun right now to be the GM in Phoenix. They are loaded with signed talent and at a total salary level of $28.5 mil. If they come up with a goalie solution, add a blueliner, and find a way to stay under the cap in the next few weeks, look out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Now I'm the GM!

Cap'n Roddy
If I were the 'Canes GM, I'd try and correct two glaring weaknesses from the 'Canes recent past-putting the puck in the net and fashioning a defensive corps that includes real power play quarterbacking from the blueline. First, I'd cut the deadwood. Gone would be:

  • Jeff O'Neill
  • Marty Murray
  • Pavel Brendl
  • Bret Hedican

I would then try and add scoring and powerplay grit by adding Cory Stillman (8th in the league in points in '04) and Darren McCarty. On the blueline I would go out and get Adrian Aucoin-because he's good and it looks like Pete says so. The more interesting addition would be Brian Rafalski to QB the powerplay. Both the PP and penalty kill get better with the addition of these guys.

Here's my $30.5 million 2005-2006 Carolina Hurricanes Dream Team:
Brind'Amour C
Staal C
Cullen C
Adams C
Cole W
Williams W
Ladd W
Vrbata W
Vasicek W
McCarty W
Forbes W
Stillman W
Boulerice W

St. Jacques


Monday, July 25, 2005

Can you say "Oui?"

Bring on JJ the Hurricane!

I'm not a fan of many things French, so my analysis may well be rooted in this bias. I may attribute tendencies to them and their motivations surrounding the draft that might be based more on my pre-disposition to disdain for all things Gaul. That being said, the third position in draft is a potentially powerful one. Right now, I think the Anaheim Ducks decision will drive what the Hurricanes do. My guess is that the Hurricanes brain trust wants Jack Johnson if the Ducks pick a forward with their second pick. If Johnson is gone, I think Pete and Jim might dangle the pick for a move down.

So who might want to move up to the third pick for Pouliot, Brule, Ryan or Kopitar? I say the Montreal Canadians. After missing out on the chance to get the French-speaking Crosby, I think Pouliot might be the next best thing. Frenchness is important to le Habitants, oui??

What could they offer to a team like the Hurricanes in need of immediate defensive help? First of all the fifth pick and possibly with it Marc Staal. This sibling stuff could help slightly in the 'Canes marketing department. But the move up should also cost the Canadians at least an additional pick or some talent.

Let's look at their talent. No, I don't want Brisbois and his attitude. Plus I think they just released the guy, so I think he's out as part of a deal. Rivet is a defenseman they might dangle, but he's 5th or 6th on the depth chart. What about Souray? Sheldon is oft injured, but that's largely a product of his aggressive style of play-y'all remember Hurricane short-timer Dany Markov?

On the prospect front, the Canadians have the Russian forward Kostsitsyn, and the American Higgins. Both are the cream of their prospect crop, so I don't think that will happen. Highly touted US defenseman Ron Hainsey is their top blueline prospect. Overall, I don't think they have that much the can or will offer, but I wouldn't be surprised if those same Canadians who just pitched Pittsburgh about the availability of dropping down out of the Crosby stakes might try for the 'Canes pick.

But what if the Canadians are talking to the Ducks even as I blog?

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why the obvious choices for contraction might not be the right choices

Now that the NHL is on the verge of returning from self-imposed exile, we are starting to hear about contraction as a means of strengthening the game. Obvious candidates to become this sacrifice to the know-it-alls in the northeast and "Great White North" are the Florida Panthers, Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes.

I say not so fast. Some of the games most exciting young players and some of the emerging best teams play in these fast growing cities. If the focus of this new version of the game is going to be on teams of affordable players and letting skill players demonstrate their skill without interference, then some of these teams might put the best product on the ice. Think about it. Haven't you, the real hockey fan, had enough of plodding old sweater grabbers like Tie Domi and Bobby Holik? Are you sitting there thinking, I can't wait to see Eric Lindros back on the ice? No way. If the marketing gurus around the league are smart this time, they'll start to sell the speed, the youth, and the skills of these emerging superstars.

Wings fans will always be there. Hurricane fans are going to have to be won and won back. I think clubs like the Hurricanes will use this CBA and the forcasts of impending doom to rise from the ashes with a new and better product and more focused marketing effort.

Yes, I'm one of the few-the proud-I'm a Carolina Hurricanes fan. I hope my club makes it through this transition. I'm excited at the prospect of a season with young guys like Eric Stall, Justin Williams, Erik Cole, and Andrew Ladd taking the ice in red, black, white and silver.