Today, yours truly turns 25 and is celebrating his end of his quarter life crisis. So what better way to celebrate this morning with 25 thoughts on 25. Here we go…
1. Ah yes, we have hit the popular time of year for rumors, scuttlebutt and innuendo. But how will this year’s trade deadline fare? After all we’ve already seen the likes of Tomas Kaberle, James Neal, Mike Fisher and Kris Versteeg traded away, just to name a few. Early prognostications, the trade deadline will obviously see fewer trades than in years past. I’ll set the over/under at 19.5 trades.
2. Speaking of the trade deadline, Chris Wassel and I will be holding a special podcast on February 28th from 3-5 p.m. on Blog Talk Radio. Many of the fine folks from Inside Hockey will be joining us to share their thoughts on the day’s activity as we put a fantasy hockey spin into this. Feel free to call and join in on the trade discussion (or lack thereof) at 1-347-826-7358.
3. Speaking of fantasy hockey, the IHFDL has hit the stretch run, and I have to say it’s a part time job in and of itself. Yes, yours truly is currently leading the league, but this is a dynasty league don’t forget. For a refresher, the IHFDL includes contract assignments, a prospect draft and a free agency auction at the end of each season. That said, I’ve probably put a jinx on my team as we speak.
4. Continuing with the fantasy hockey route, our fine insiders, Chris and Aaron Brouwer, have delivered top notch content throughout the season for IH. But let’s not forget they’ve also been contributing some of their hard to work to sites like The Program, Fantasy Hockey Coach and numerous other sites. We’ve been happy with both Chris and Aaron’s contributions throughout the season on numerous platforms, including IH. Keep up the good work!
5. If you’re looking for fantasy advice from me, then you’ve come to the right column as well. Here’s a few ideas for now: 1. Stay away from starting any members of the Ottawa Senators after the trade deadline with the exception of Erik Karlsson (in keeper leagues only). 2. Keeping in touch with the waiver wire? Surprisingly, Drew Stafford and Marc-Andre Bergeron might be available in most leagues. I’d try to snatch them quickly if you can. 3. If you’re. looking for good additions during your league’s trade deadlines then look for some players who’s team is in the heat of the Western Conference playoff race.
6. Which leads me to my next point. This year’s race for the last few playoff spots in the West could be one of the most exciting finishes in recent memory. It almost seems like a complete role reversal from the race for the final spots in the East last year that same year where the Flyers and Rangers battled it out on the last day of the year for the last playoff spot. Looking at this year’s schedule for the end of the year, it would be no surprise if the Ducks and the Kings were in a similar position come April 8 and 9 when the two rivals battle it out in a home and home for the final two games. And for an added bonus the Sharks and the Coyotes could have some playoff implications in their home and home series also April 8-9.
7. Going back to the East, there’s no doubt that Philly, Pittsburgh and Boston all improved with their recent acquisitions. Kaberle should significantly help the Bruins’ power play while Versteeg adds scoring depth for the Flyers and the Pens’ acquisitions of Neal, Matt Niskanen and Alex Kovalev should be a welcome addition for Sidney Crosby’s return. I’m sure Sid and Niskanen will bury the hatchet (if they haven’t already) after the two dropped the gloves earlier in the season.
8. Another segway to the next topic, it seems like more teams are dropping the gloves than ever this year. Yes, I have seen some entertaining bouts while covering the Bruins this season including ones against Atlanta, Dallas and Montreal (lucky me). But its gone far beyond that in the league this year. Obviously there are a few who are still talking about the Islanders-Penguins brawl a couple of weeks ago, and Pens owner Mario Lemieux is still probably thinking about whether he wants to be a part of the league.
9. OK, I honestly understand Lemieux’s concerns on how the league hasn’t hit the Islanders hard after Colin Campbell handed out the suspensions. But this is the same team who employs a pest in Matt Cooke, who has now become the villain of many teams in the league. Whether Lemieux takes that responsibility we will never know, but he should be lucky that the Wheel of Justice hasn’t been too harsh on Cooke.
10. Onto something more positive, we are nearing the one-year anniversary of the epic US-Canada Gold Medal game in Vancouver. Quite frankly it was one of the best pure hockey games I have seen and it will be hard to top it. I’m not a Crosby mark, nor am I a Sid hater, but he deserved that moment without a doubt.
11. One year later, we have moved from talking about Crosby’s greatest moment to perhaps Crosby’s darkest season in his young career. He has not played since January and his timetable to return should be relatively soon. There are still a few concerns about the Pens come playoff time, but don’t forget this is the same team who came out of nowhere under interim coach Dan Bylsma to win the Cup in 2009.
12. Still early, but for those asking about my early Stanley Cup favorites? I have to go with the Flyers and the Red Wings. The Bruins have improved no doubt and the Canucks are the top team right now in the West, but their haunted playoff history still exists.
13. Speaking of Vancouver, will they also pull a deal at the deadline? They have limited cap space to make a move, but with the numerous injuries to their blue-line I wonder if Mike Gillis and company are thinking about pulling the trigger on a deadline. It’s nothing that is expected per se, nor do I expect them to make a huge splash, but you have to wonder.
14. Another team who might be interested in acquiring a defenseman is the Montreal Canadiens. But to see what Carey Price has done between the pipes with the numerous injuries the Habs have had this season has been pretty impressive, which should give him some consideration for the Vezina Trophy.
15. But while Price might get some consideration for the league’s top goalie, Tim Thomas should be the runaway Vezina winner in June. Raise your hand if you thought Thomas would even have a bounce back season. Anyone? Bueller?
16. Thomas’ counterpart, Tuukka Rask, has had a couple of nice performances as of late and has given Timmy some much-needed rest. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuukka reclaims the starting spot next year, only because Thomas’ trade value would be at the highest of his career and teams might be willing to take a chance on him, even with his cap hit on his current contract, which has two years remaining after this year. Peter Chiarelli should get something good in return if he chooses to take this route. Of course this is all pure speculation.
17. Need to know my thoughts on yesterday’s trades? I like the addition of Kovalev in Pittsburgh. Although he’s still a risky rental, the veteran provides some playoff leadership and some secondary scoring, something that the Pens desperately needed. And yes, the Panthers are in seller mode (again).
18. Another team who might fall into the desperate category is the Washington Capitals now. After seeing fellow Eastern foes Philly, Boston, Pittsburgh and Carolina make moves, I wonder if its time that George McPhee finally pulls the trigger to improve his team. Alex Ovechkin and company could certainly use an added scoring presence (when is the last time you ever heard that?).
19. In the West, the Nashville Predators should be looking for a playmaker in these next few days, even after they added Fisher. Sergei Kostitsyn has been a pleasant surprise and Patric Hornqvist continues to impress. But for a team who is near the bottom of the league in scoring, they might be a one and done team under Barry Trotz come playoff time (again).
20. While we are in the home stretch of the NHL season, these are the last two weeks of the college hockey regular season. As much as I like BC’s chances to repeat as National Champions this year, the Eagles will have a huge target on their chests come tournament time. I still like them to make the Frozen Four along with North Dakota, Michigan and Minnesota-Duluth. I am not also sold on Yale quite yet either.
21. A lot of you IH readers might wonder why I haven’t been covering as much college hockey this year? As much as I love the game and think Paul Kelly is doing a tremendous job at College Hockey Inc, I can only devote so much time with my duties as an editor on the website to go along with my “day job” as a sports editor for Easton Patch. I miss covering games on a Friday or Saturday night at the rink, but I also enjoy covering some high school and other community sporting events for Patch.
22. One who enjoyed being a part of the community was the late Craig Charron, who played for Oliver Ames high school in Easton and had a great four-year collegiate career at UMass-Lowell before playing for the Rochester Amerks of the AHL to end his hockey career. I never got a chance to meet Craig, who passed away in October after a lengthy battle with cancer. But after covering a charity game featuring Oliver Ames and Spencerport High School (NY) – where his son, Jackson, is a freshman and a member of the hockey team – one thing is certain; Craig’s legacy – as a hockey player and human being – lives on.
23. As much time as I enjoy the hard work at Inside Hockey and Patch, I also appreciate the hard work put together from both the mainstream media and the hockey blogosphere. The sport has been growing in recent years thanks to blogs like Puck Daddy and Pro Hockey Talk. Heck, Greg Wyshinsky at PD even threw in some wrestling references in all 30 team previews early in the year, which I thouroughly enjoyed. Speaking of which, here are my early Wrestlemania Picks. Undertaker defeats Triple H to go 19-0 (duh!), John Cena over The Miz, Alberto Del Rio over Edge, and The Rock will electrify the crowd in Atlanta more so than the Thrashers in recent weeks.
24. Just in the last few months alone, we have redesigned our website (all thanks to the Editor-in-Chief, Kevin Greenstein), we have added several new writers to the staff and increased our following in the social networking department via Facebook (which has over 2,200 fans), Twitter (over 1,800 followers) and YouTube (over 240,000 video views). Many thanks need to go around to the two Kevin’s (Greenstein and Edelson) to Brad Kurtzberg, Biz Jacobs, to our two photo editors (Brian Fluharty and Kevin Burns) and to all the other staff writers and daily readers on the site.
25. Finally, for our readers in the Boston area, yours truly will be at Patriots Place tonight around 9 p.m. celebrating this occasion with a few friends over at CBS Scene and Bar Louie. Come by and say hello!