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Saturday, January 14, 2006 

NHL Mid-Season Recap Part 2

Now that we’re at the halfway point of the NHL season, I’m continuing going to take a look back at my pre season power rankings. I went over the teams I ruled out of the playoffs yesterday, leaving my playoff picks for today. So, listed below are my picks, in order, before the season, along with their current rank in the standings by points per game.

16 NY Isles (23) –7 – Slight disappointment here, although nothing too unexpected. Dipietro has disappointed again, and is taking a definite step backwards in his climb to being one of the leagues elite goalies. But He is not the only one to blame here. Mark Parrish has dropped 20 points in +/- from last year to a –12. Satan, the big off-season acquisition, has only 31 points and is a –6. Niinimaa has yet to show up for a game this year, ending his failed time on the island just the other day. Bates and Kvasha have combined for only 29 points in 60 games. If these guys were playing up to their past standards, this would again be a playoff team. It’s almost like they’ve already given up on this season though, as proved quite thoroughly in the Niinimaa deal.

15 Edmonton (12) +3 – The Oilers are playing tough in a very tough division. I picked four divisional teams to make the playoffs before the season started, and they have done anything but let me down. Their entire division is 118-80-22, and Horcoff, Hemsky and Stoll have everything to do with their success. The trio’s average age is 24, so expect a lot from this team in the future. There may be a Stanley Cup run in Edmonton again in a couple years, if they manage to keep this nucleus together. On another note, a guy that Boston, Vancouver and Atlanta all gave up on (and for good reason) has really found his home in Edmonton. In his first 6 years in the league, Steve Staois had 47 points in 297 games and was a whopping –74. During his past 4 years in Edmonton, he has managed 79 points in 275 games, and is a surprising +51. Not enough has been said about his contribution to Edmonton’s turn around, he deserves a lot more credit than the complete lack that he gets.

14 Calgary (10) +4 – I don’t like this team, and I would much rather not comment on them. One of the few relics to the old game left, they are currently 4th last in goals for, and have allowed the 5th least goals against. Boring. Phaneuf has some spark, but even Iginla has only 34 points. Tony Amonte has 24. This team plays a horrible style to watch, but unfortunately it produces results to some extent still. I try to pretend they don’t exist.

13 Anaheim (17) –4 – 13th, 17th, close enough. These guys are doing just about exactly as I expected. Niedermayer, McDonald, Selanne, Lupul and Giguere are a pretty good 5 guys to have. I don’t like the Sykora trade, and Ozolinsh has been a disaster, but I hear they have the league leader in goals per game on the team so that should help. It’s just too bad that he’s only played one game, and that Giguere missed some time, otherwise they’d be right in the thick of things.

12 Pittsburgh (28) –16 – Some things that look good on paper should stay on paper. Enough has been said about this mistake already that I don’t need to repeat any of it here. If you foresaw Recchi, Jackman, Lemieux, Gonchar, LeClair and Malone combining for a –192 by the mid point of the season, let me know because I’ll be basing all my gambling in the future on your word. This team came together in such a… well, they really didn’t come together at all. At least not for an entire game at a time, that is.

11 Toronto (13) –2 – That’s about right. I talk enough about the Leafs normally to no go into much detail here, other than to say if McCabe goes down, so does the Leafs run at the playoffs. This guy shouldn’t just be in Norris talks, but at this point he’s the league MVP from what I can see. No one else has been so valuable to another playoff team.

10 Montreal (16) –6 – I expected a little bit more out of Theodore this year, but otherwise its been about exactly as expected. Tough fight for a playoff spot right to the end is in store for the Habs.

9 New Jersey (19) –10 – A decent team was assembled, but a very disappointing approach was taken to coaching them. Too many guys here are given up on too quickly, and it is not beneficial for this team. Elias’ return should help conjure up a playoff run, but without Mogilny and the defensive help they brought in during the off-season, it may just be to little too late. I am not used to seeing balls being dropped by the coaching and front office staff in New Jersey. Maybe it’s time for some all out changes in the swamp, because this season leaves a lot to the imagination.

8 Tampa bay (20) –12 – Yuck. Where did everybody go?

7 San Jose (15) –8 – They’ll be well up in the playoffs by the end of the year. Nabokov’s past his troubles, Thorntons in the mix, and Cheechoo has an inside shot at Rucchin of the year going strong into the second half. These guys are primed for a run.

6 Colorado (14) –8 – Svatos the savior should be the chant in Denver, because the usual suspects are not holding their own this year. I read an article by Scott Burnside on ESPN saying that Svatos, Prucha, Phaneuf and Lundqvist are having great years, but the rookie of the year is a two-person race between The Kid and The Egomaniac. The reason he gave was that “The two superstars-in-waiting have almost identical point totals (46 for Ovechkin, 45 for Crosby) that dwarf the competition. They log almost the same amount of ice time and have similar plus/minus ratings. “ Last time I checked, 46 and 45 didn’t dwarf the 42 points that Svatos has put up. And Svatos, while not great on defense, does have a slightly better +/- than his counterparts. If you consider the fact that his point a game pace has come while averaging only 13 and a half minutes a game versus Crosby’s 19 and a half minutes, and Ovechkin’s 21, then maybe what Svatos is doing should at least be considered in the same light as the big two. Anyway, this team will come together, and will move up the standings to where they belong. They just have too much talent no to.

5 Vancouver (11) –6 – You keep hearing that Bertuzzi isn’t living up to past expectations. For the life of me, I really don’t see what that’s based on. Ignoring +/-, Todd’s numbers are all better than they were in the 2003-2004 season. It’s funny what a year of over hyping someone can do to build up his expectations past what they should be. The offense as a whole has declined dramatically, however, as has the defensive effort, but for the first time in years they have someone who resembles a goalie in net. All these changes kind of wash each other out, and the Canucks will be in the playoffs again. This time they’ll have a goalie. I’d be a little worried to play against them.

4 Dallas (4) 0 – Bang on, and easy to predict. Turco, Lehtinen, Morrow, Arnott, Zubov, and Modano. Even with Guerin’s enormous slump there is enough firepower there to go around. I saw rankings with these guys in last in their division, near the bottom of the conference. It really made no sense, as the Stars have easily proven.

3 Philadelphia (3) 0 – Bang on. No mistaking what they brought in during the off-season. Good team + Forsberg = top of the standings.

2 Detroit (5) –3 – People picked he Wings to miss the playoffs. Legace never got the credit he deserved. His dominance this season should be no surprise. He has been a top 10 goalie in the league since 2000, but never got the chance to prove himself. The management even tried to bring back Osgood to keep him from being the everyday starter. Goalies aren’t hard to judge, but they seem to be the position that provides the most trouble for most coaches, GM’s and the media. And that was pretty evident in a lot of pre season rankings.

1 Ottawa (1) 0 – Hasek was the obvious Vezina winner before the season started. Why did people question it? Heatley was an obvious steal, even for Hossa. Why did people not see that? When this trade went down, it was said that Healtey was traded in exchange for Hossa and a defenseman. My initial reply to getting this news from the JF was “the defenseman better be redden or what a fucking joke. Why does Atlanta trade for Hossa at that price? 7 mil in 3 seasons? Hell no.” His reply was “good point. I’m just pissed Heatley and Kovalchuk are broke up. That was a good team they had going there.” And I finished with “so much wrong with that trade. so much.” And then the media and opinion kicked in, saying that Ottawa got ripped off, Atlanta stole so much in the trade and so on. Sometimes it baffles me how people cant just see things how they are. So lets look at the comparison so far: Heatley 27 goals, 30 assists and 57 points in 42 games, with a +26, 25 power play points and 3 game winning goals. Hossa has 5 less goals, 2 less points in 3 more games, is a +6 with 26 power play points. Hossa is by no means performing poorly, but he also isn’t in the running for MVP. Heatley is. And that is where the big difference is in this trade. And all the while Heatley makes less money. Ottawa has a team, and it’s hard to see them losing a playoff series at this point. Special note, also, to Meszaros, who in my mind is second only to Ovechkin in the rookie of the year race. 17 points on defense and a +25 in 42 games, and he looks like he’s been quarterbacking an NHL power play for 10 years. There isn’t a single team in the league who wouldn’t benefit from having this guy on their line, and that is almost unheard of to say of a rookie defenseman. Maybe if he wasn’t European you would hear a little more about him, but in 2 or 3 years there will be no ignoring him. Phantom Norris trophies, like hose in Prongers bookcase, are a thing of the past, as should Pronger be himself.

So that’s how my preseason rankings have held up. It got a little more long-winded than I had anticipated, so I’ll leave the award predictions for another day. And I’ll get ready to watch the Pats lose this weekend. I can’t stand to call myself a dumbass twice in a row, so they have to pull this one out for me. I just hope there’s one game worth watching this weekend.

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