CALGARY – Flames forwards Radim Vrbata and Pavel Datsyuk each had two point nights while goaltender Ryan Miller stopped 39 of 41 shots as Calgary defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 on home ice Monday night.
Shawn Bates and Sheldon Souray joined Vrbata in the goal scoring for Calgary while Paul Cavallini and Derian Hatcher scored for the Broadway Blueshirts in the loss. With the win, Calgary extends their unbeaten streak to six games.
ST. LOUIS – Scott Young scored twice and added an assist, Michal Pivonka and Michael Nylander added the others, and the Ottawa Senators beat the Central-leading St.Louis Blues 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Manny Legace stopped 21 shots, and Rick Lessard had an aggressive night finishing with a game-high eight hits. Mikael Renberg and Shane Hnidy scored for St. Louis, and Patrick Roy made 24 saves. Renberg also had an assist on the night and Bob Joyce chipped in with a pair of assists in the loss.
WINNIPEG – The Calgary Flames continue to roll extending their unbeaten streak to seven games (5-0-2) with their tie on the road versus the always tough Winnipeg Jets.
Pavel Datsyuk and Kip Miller each scored for the Flames, while Ryan Miller pushed aside 32 of the 34 shots he faced. Winnipeg’s Shawn Burr and Mike Sillinger answered for the Jets and Craig Anderson made 24 saves. Burr led all skaters with nine shots on goal, while Calgary’s Andrew Cassels led the Flames with six.
PITTSBURGH – Patrick Lalime stopped 35 shots, Vyacheslav Kozlov had a pair of goals and New York held on to beat Pittsburgh on GD72.
Mathieu Schneider opened the scoring with his 6th of the season for the Rangers, who improved to 2-0-1 against their divisional rival. For Lalime, the unbeaten streak is of importance as the 27-year-old netminder had spent his first six seasons in the league with Pittsburgh before being dealt to the Rangers via the Calgary Flames in an offseason transaction. Sean Burke finished with 24 saves, and Jeff Finley and Tim Sweeney scored in the third period for Pittsburgh, which had been on a four game unbeaten streak since their 4-2 loss to the Rangers on GD 60.
BOSTON – Al MacInnis and Pavel Bure each scored twice, Simon Gagne had three assists, and the Boston Bruins beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-4 on Wednesday night.
Defenders Vladimir Malakhov and Wade Redden each had a goal for the Bruins, who led 4-1 midway through the second period and 5-2 to start the third. Grant Fuhr, starting in place of young starter Johan Holmqvist, stopped 43 shots. The Bruins won for the 7th time (7-1-1) in 9 games with big wins over Vancouver, Philadelphia, Toronto and Montreal and beat the Penguins for the second time in three meetings this season. Eric Desjardins had a pair of goals while Pat LaFontaine and Miro Satan had the others for the Penguins, who have lost two of their last three games. Sean Burke stopped 34 of 40 shots in the loss.
NEW YORK – Joe Nieuwendyk scored a pair of goals, Patrick Lalime made 29 saves and the New York Rangers continue to stay hot with another win over their hated rivals from Pittsburgh.
Bryan Smolinski also scored in the Blueshirts’ second win in three games – the other, a tie versus New Jersey. For the Rangers the win continues a trend of strong play, with 1 loss (@ CGY) in their last 14 games – a stretch in which they have gone 11-1-2. Pat LaFontaine scored his 10th goal and Martin Prusek stopped 32 shots for the Penguins, who have lost in back-to-back games and three of their last four. With the win, New York has moved to within three points of the Atlantic Division leading Penguins.
MINNESOTA – Calgary forward Andrew Cassels led the charge with a pair of assists while John Druce, Jan Caloun and Pavel Datsyuk each scored in Calgary’s 3-3 tie versus the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday night. After a 2-1 win in Chicago on GD 76, Calgary has now extended their unbeaten streak to nine games (6-0-3). Since their 4-game losing streak that started on GD 45 with a 5-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and ended with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on GD 52, the Flames have gone an impressive 8-1-3.
SPOTLIGHT: Northeast Division Charlie Kurta
Today we're going to throw the lights on and examine the trends in the Northeast division. We'll see who's hot, who's not, and try to locate some hope for the Toronto faithful, if there is any. Sit back with us and take a minute as we make this dive past the Brass Bonanza juggernaut and take a look at the whole picture as it stands right now :
HARTFORD WHALERS (current run: 8-1-0) - GM Dustin Funk has his crew in top form, a surprise to absolutely no one. Keeping other teams at arm’s length is their specialty, and (perhaps appropriately) the only team able to harpoon them this week was the Milwaukee Admirals with a solid 4-2 victory. Alexei Zhamnov made himself a Russian nightmare in the first period as the Admirals staked themselves to a 3-1 lead and didn't look back. It was a rare sign to the rest of the league that the Whalers do have their mortal moments, but they demonstrate a remarkable ability to win even the close ones. Are they bound for the silver this year?
BOSTON BRUINS (current run: 6-2-1) - Steve Tindall's bunch is doing their best to pretend they have enough earplugs to silence all the tuba coming from about two hours westward, with emphatic victories over the Canadiens and Flyers this week. The oddball game in this stretch was actually a scoreless tie with the Red Wings, featuring backup Johan Holmqvist dueling with Mike Richter and serving notice that he belongs in the VHL. Incidentally, it was the league's second scoreless game of the season (PHI at MIN was the other). Making a mark is great, but making points will be most important to the Bruins going forward if they have any hope of staying in the division hunt. And, they can’t afford to look behind them, either...
OTTAWA SENATORS (current run: 8-2-0) - Champs are champs for a reason, and the Senators are charging through. Tied with the Rangers for league best winning streak, the Sens have taken full advantage of the soft spot in their schedule to catapult themselves back into the conversation. Notably, they had to survive a close one with the Habs despite blitzing them 40-17 in shots en route to a 2-1 victory. Looking ahead, they've got potential stumbling blocks against Boston and Buffalo, but they will be playing nine of the next ten at home. Don't sleep on these guys......
BUFFALO SABRES (current run: 5-4-0) - The definition of a middle of the pack team, the Sabres are in a tough spot right now. Though they're competitive more often than not, scoring tends to leave them completely at inopportune times. Every time they grab some momentum such as a 4-1 win over the Rangers, the script gets flipped in reverse the next game. They've been blown out recently by those same Rangers and the Wild, but they have solid victories to balance the equation and the ability to get points when they need them. Enough talent to make a surge and be a presence come playoff time, too.
MONTREAL CANADIENS (current run: 0-8-2) -- Yikes, it's getting ugly in Quebec.....GM Ryan Torrie has to be frustrated, and you have to wonder if coach Pat Quinn will survive this season. The Habs aren't deep, granted....but they have too much talent defensively to be THIS awful. It's a shame all around for a great market but the Habs fans are enduring one of the most painful seasons possible, and there’s a lot to do. To make matters worse, rookie Martin Erat has been hurt. It is a testament to his ability that Kirk Muller has had an amazing season, given these circumstances.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS (current run 0-7-1) - If it's ugly in Montreal, it's still hideous in Toronto. GM Ian Constable's renovation project is in a word, painstaking. With half the lineup worthy of Newmarket, wins are next to impossible even when Kipper isn't exhausted. Hopefully the fanbase can give the front office the patience they deserve to clean up this mess and are able to cheer the future when it gets here. God save Iginla and company in the present though.
TML Rebuild Matt Schroor
O Toronto. It was recently written by a fellow GM in the VHL that the Maple Leafs has been in a perpetual state of rebuild. I have been around for just over three years and the team was rebuilding then and it still is. It is no secret that GM Ian Constable had a tough road ahead of him when he was hired by the Leafs. In my opinion he is doing a simply splendid job doing it. He came to a team that had no playoff appearances in the previous five years and only been to the post season twice in the organization’s history. The team was putting together 60 to 70 point seasons for those five seasons thus leaving the team picking later in the first and missing the opportunity to draft true difference makers.
I believe that the Toronto organization is just about to turn the corner, and by “just” I mean in the next couple seasons. I believe that you will start to see them climb in the standings over the next couple seasons and be battling for a playoff spot. That is with their current stable of talent. They have two aspects of the game locked up. Mikka in net solidifies the crease, and there are more than enough young defenders on the roster. Brendan Witt is already a stud on the blueline followed closely by Phillips, Rozsvial, Morris, Skoula, Vaananen. They already have a solid defensive core right now, and should only get better in the next couple years. The forwards are what are lagging behind, but are on the right track. They have established Whitney and Yashin that should be able to help the young guys come along. Iggy is improving every season and he is only going to get better as more talent is added to the team. Ribeiro, Connolly, Nagy, and Daze are all in Newmarket developing skills at an increase rate. Good job Ian in not calling guys up too quickly.
As impressive as the current youngsters on the team are the players that have been drafted by the Leafs. In selling off some pieces Toronto fell a little in the standing and has been able to draft higher. I believe he got an absolute steal in Gaborik at 4 in the S10 draft. He might not have been the complete player that Hartnall was but can score, and that is what Toronto will need in the future. In the most recent draft they got to pick twice in the top 5. They got a future top pairing defender in Hamhuis, and very talented all-round MikkoKoivu. All three should come in and make an immediate impact.
But wait there is more. The draft capital that the Leafs have is very impressive. As of right now the team is in the driver’s seat to land Rick Nash. He is easily the best player that is in the upcoming draft, and only true difference maker. He also has the Saskatoon 1st in this draft. As of right now it looks like it could be outside of the top 10 but the West is kinda a crap shoot at the moment. What is more impressive is the accumulation of 1sts in the S14 draft. The Toronto, Montreal and Chicago picks should all be in the top 10. S14 is an extremely deep draft and having three high 1sts should land him high end forward talent. The moves made to get the picks are equally impressive to the amount of picks. The Montreal one was acquired by trading a 2nd and Felix Potvin. The Chicago one was a big deal that cannot be judged quite yet but it was the 1st overall in S10 for the 6th overall that year and future 1sts in S12 and S14. So basically HendrikSedin for Damian Surma(traded for Chris Phillips), MikkoKoivu, and the 1st in S14. It was a move for the long term success and will in my opinion work out in Toronto’s favour. The Toronto organization has so much young talent and draft capital that it would be very shocking that this team is not an elite power in a couple years. I have to give Ian credit for his masterful way that he is bringing the rebuild to a close and being VHL Cup bound in 5 years.
Money, Money, Money ... Nathan Schroor
I’m a numbers guy, right? That’s what I tell myself as I read literature regarding government policy and best practices before taking my own stab in the dark at running these great cities in our great countries. Because I’m a numbers guy I won’t have any trouble drawing conclusions on the best bang for your buck top line combinations in the Pacific Division so far this season. Now I can’t say how long this combo has played together but they have been on the roster together long enough to be judged so here are some numbers and facts.
Calgary Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - John Druce 3G / 7A, 1G / 5A 3,009,000 C – Andrew Cassels 9G / 14A, 3G / 11A 2,581,000 RW – David Bruce 4G / 3A 2,669,000 Combined - 16G / 24A, 4G / 16A 8,259,000 Percentage of offense / Playing Time: 21.8% / 30% Price Per Point: $137,650
Notes – With the exception of Scott Gomez, Andrew Cassels is the best value centerman at just under $70,000 per point. Not surprisingly, his line mates didn’t fare so well with John Druce being the most expensive forward on the power play at over $500,000 per point and David Bruce is the worst top line player in the Pacific at $381,000 per point. Not counting the rudderless Sharks, the Flames top line plays a division low 30 percent of the even strength minutes.
Edmonton Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - Dmitri Kvartalnov 9G / 9A, 7G / 7A 1,665,000 C – Ron Francis 4G / 14A, 4G / 4A 9,519,000 RW – Jeremy Roenick 10G / 14A, 5G / 15A 2,669,000 Combined - 23G / 37 A, 16G / 26A 17,790,000 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 26.8% / 31% Price Per Point: $174,412
Notes –Surprise surprise, Ron Francis is over paid. New Jersey learned that lesson the hard way and got pennies on the dollar to send him to Edmonton, even in commissioner land the veteran is currently the most expensive top line forward. At $1,189,000 per point power play return and a combined value of $366,115.18 per point Ron plays more and does less than even the second most expensive forward Vincent Damphousse ($257,125 per point). If it wasn’t for Dmitri Kvartalnov (best value LW at $52,000 per point) the unit would look even worse; guess I should have kept that contract.
Los Angeles Position - Even - Strength Power - Play Salary LW - Shayne Corson 11G / 11A, 6G / 8A 6,415,000 C – Scott Gomez 7G / 9A, 1G / 4A 550,000 RW – Keith Tkachuk 8G / 6A, 3G / 2A 3,872,400 Combined - 26G / 26A, 10G / 14A 10,837,400 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 26.3% / 37% Price Per Point: $142,597
Notes - Let’s not pick on the Flames for a minute; guess who doesn’t belong here and I’ll tell you why the Kings appear to need a rebuild (they’re not): Adam Oates, Eric Lindros, Vincent Damphousse, Ron Francis, Trevor Linden and Scott Gomez. While the value of a rookie is outstanding at $26,190 per point the inability to help the other two players perform is glaring. Tkachuk and Corson are among the most expensive PP forwards, 2nd and 5th priciest at $774,000 and $458,000 respectively and one wonders if they, and the team, could be much better with a stronger center.
San Jose Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - Michel Picard 8G / 7A, 2G / 6A 2,460,000 C – Vincent Damphousse 8G / 12A, 6G / 6A 8,228,000 RW – Claude Lemieux 8G / 6A, 4G / 11A 5,856,000 Combined - 24G / 23A, 12G / 23A 16,544,000 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 25.6% / 25% Price Per Point: $196,952
Notes –One must wonder what an actual strategy or GM might have done with this squad in the first half of the season, but the new GM has the top line now at 41% (up from 25%). The Sharks are the highest cost per point from their top three forwards but the ice time might account for why Damphousse and Lemieux are among the most expensive top line forwards and over $400,000 per even strength point. Damphousse is still more than $100,000 cheaper than the awful price tag on Ron Francis but because this squad now has a leader, I won’t make any further judgements. I will note however that this was the only top line in the Pacific to play the 0-0-5 strategy and it doesn’t appear to have had much success.
Saskatoon Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - Dean McAmmond 2G / 2A, 5G / 8A 2,327,000 C – Eric Lindros 11G / 10A, 8G / 8A 6,986,000 RW – Brendan Morrison 4G / 6A, 3G / 12A 1,973,000 Combined - 17G / 18A, 18G / 28A 11,286,000 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 24.7% / 35% Price Per Point: $142,861
Notes – Dean McAmmond is terrible at even strength and GM Chris Beersie needs to find a better player and even Mike Craig would be an improvement. Brendan Morrison is one of the great surprises and the 2nd best value RW at almost $79,000 per point, and in spite of Eric Lindros’ big contract the three players are among the best value lines in the VHL thanks to their great play. As good as this line has been however, they only contribute 19.7% of the teams even strength offense (worst in the Pacific) and likely a big reason the team has seen a drop off in success in the standings.
Vancouver Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - Theoren Fleury 20G / 13A, 2G / 16A 7,615,000 C – Trevor Linden 9G / 14A, 7G / 12A 8,606,000 RW – David Vyborny 8G / 12A, 2G / 5A 1,710,000 Combined - 37G / 39A, 11G / 33A 17,931,000 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 32.3% / 36% Price Per Point: $149,425
Notes – Well the most expensive line in the VHL is also the most productive, if the Canucks could get a goaltender (?!?) then they should be unstoppable. David Vyborny is the best value RW (sorry Brendan) at $63,000 per point and while Trevor Linden is expensive (4th worst, $204,904 per point) the team goes however Fleury and Linden go; at least until Toskala is settled in again. These 3 have a combined 120 points which is double that of Calgary’s top 3, and one of only 3 teams to have a top line over the century mark.
Winnipeg Position - Even Strength - Power Play - Salary LW - Tony Amonte 19G / 17A, 4G / 8A 5,265,000 C – Adam Oates 10G / 17A, 7G / 7A 5,962,000 RW – Teemu Selanne 13G / 11A, 0G / 12A 4,397,000 Combined - 32G / 45A, 11G / 27A 15,624,000 Percentage of offense/ Playing Time: 28.8% / 35% Price Per Point: $135,861
Notes – They may not like it but this looks at lot like the Canucks in terms of numbers and if they had a good goalie they would be unstoppable. Move a top goalie here and they might even beat the Senators (going to have to leave the first round then I guess). Not one of these three is in the top five for best or worst price points, just great performance by great players earning their keep. It is strange to note Teemu has 0 power play goals but this is the best dollar for dollar three forward combination in the Pacific Division.
Just to wrap this up there were a couple things of note: not one team plays physical on their top lines here (not really a surprise) and top defense pairings might have made an impact but I don’t feel enough to change the conclusions.
Best Value Line ($3,925,000 Cap Hit), ($47,555 Per Point) LW Dmitri Kvartalnov C Scott Gomez RW David Vyborny Worse Value Line($15,197,000 Cap Hit), ($311,821 Per Point) LW John Druce C Ron Francis RW David Bruce
Central Intelligence Steve Tindall
A large part of the attractiveness and the fun of sim hockey is getting to rewrite history. The ultimate end result of this power is uncertainty. If anything can happen, what will happen? I love speculating and came up with some “What Ifs?” for the ugly step child of the VHL, the Central Division.
Detroit What if the Wings trade Lidstrom? Now in the reality of the NHL this would be almost unthinkable. Lidstrom, even more so than Zetterberg and Datsyuk, was the bedrock those competitive Detroit teams was built on. Which made him all but unmoveable. Things are a tad bit different in our little world. Lidstrom is in his final year of his contract. The Wings still have all their offers but we all know how finicky extensions are. Lidstrom is a good VHL defenseman but far from the generational defenseman he was in the NHL. These factors lead to a distinct possibility that he could be moved. Detroit could definitely get a good haul for his name alone. Then add the fact that he is having a very solid campaign so far. An offensive puck moving defenseman is a commodity in high demand these days.
Kansas City What if the Scouts tanking had worked and they got the 1st overall pick? So the question immediately becomes would they take Kovalchuk or still draft Spezza at 1? They don’t have a greater need for a wing over center. Hell, they have a need everywhere. Given GM Matt George’s love for Commies and the fact that Kovalchuk was pretty much the consensus #1 prospect, odds are very good that the Scouts take Ilya. Now, does that mean that they are better off? When you look at their ratings, the two players are almost identical except in scoring where Kovalchuk has a distinct advantage. So you would think the obvious answer is yes. However, when you look at their stats from this year, Spezza is averaging over 2pts a game with 33pts. Kovalchuk is comparatively scuffling along with only 20. Now that could change very quickly as the Russian has explosive scoring potential. Honestly I would be happy with either of these prospects and I think KC is too.
Milwaukee What if the Admirals had kept Prospal? Now this one really affects two teams. Prospal is the franchise cornerstone for the Blues now. Without Vinny, the Blues would still be working on their rebuilding instead of adding to their foundation and competing at their current level. Milwaukee would have had Prospal for their improbable playoff run. Would that mean making it to another round? I’m not certain. What I do know is one of the two 1sts they got is KC’s in the ridiculous 2003 draft. That pick could easily become Weber, Staal, or Getzlaf. The rest of the Blues package was shipped to LA for Brindamour and Smith. So it becomes Prospal and the chance that you could have had a better run in the playoffs or Brindy, Smith and the KC pick. To me Prospal is a little more desirable because of his youth but it is basically a wash talent/production wise with Brindamour. Smith is a good rated D man but his DI and PIMs are killers (especially in the playoffs) and he gets hurt too often for his pay level. That makes it come down to a better shot at winning versus a highly talented prospect for the future. I know where I stand, winning is why we play the game. If I can win now, I’ll worry about the future in the future. I’m sure Jeff is looking forward to the future when he gets one of the best prospects in the game while being a Central Division contender now.
St. Louis What if Roy stayed in Boston? Again this one has a cascading effect on another team. I was extremely curious to see what I would get from a full season of St. Patrick in Boston. If I had foreseen this type of performance, I may have tried to just work the roster around him. So the Blues wouldn’t have the Vezina calibre Roy they are currently enjoying. They would have a good secondary scoring option in Friesen though. If they played him with Prospal, he could be having a career year. Vokoun doesn’t have bad numbers by any means. If he was full time again, would he be almost as good as Roy? The stats seem to say that is a distinct possibility. Except for the wins, they tell a different story. With the Sim having Roy playing like Roy (finally!) the Blues have only lost 7 of the 29 games Roy has started. Vokoun on the other hand has only won 2 of his 7 starts. The counter to that is would the additional offense of Friesen be enough to change some of those losses/ties to wins? Which of course is countered by what if he didn’t provide any offense? And down the rabbit hole we go. In my opinion, without Roy, I think the Blues would be where they were before, in the 2-4 spot in the division and competing for the last playoff spot. Instead they are comfortably in first and look to have home ice advantage.
Minnesota What if the Wild say screw it and start the rebuild? Minny went through an awful season last year. Used to competing for top spot in the division, the Wild were unexpected cellar dwellers. Things have been better this year but still not where expectations are. If the playoffs started now, they would be an 8 seed and have a date with the Oilers. Not an enviable situation. So an alternative is to turn around an aging roster and start building again. Modano could net an unbelievable package. A top player with a decent salary with a lot of years left to play? Start the bidding, do I hear 2 firsts and a prospect? The two Ulfs would bring back good assets and even some numpty (just for you Jeff) would give something for Wendy. That still leaves a good young core. The only thing standing in the way is I think Charlie thinks like I do. If I can win now, I’m going to try and win now.
Chicago What if the Hawks had kept Jumbo Joe? Dan, close your eyes and repeat after me “this is all just pretend. Joe is still mine”. The Blackhawks had selected Thornton with the first overall pick the previous draft but we all know how Mr. Kirby loves to draft 1st if given the chance. Ottawa came calling with that chance. They offered the BOS pick (which had somehow won the lottery) that they received for Dale Hawerchuk, an additional 1st and a 2nd for Joe and the 16th overall in the season 8 draft (which became Brad Stuart). The consensus top prospect was Vinny Lecavalier and he did not look to be that much of a downgrade from Thornton. Well unfortunately appearances can be deceiving. Thornton has already turned into a top player. Vinny has yet to live up to his considerable potential. The other pick became Niklas Kronwall who was used in a package to get Stephane Richer. Now there is a very good chance Lecavalier eventually reaches Thornton’s level but I’ll take the proven over the potential any day. Can you imagine Thornton, Richards, Luongo, AND the Sedins? Yikes….