August 30, 2010
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
So the Canucks signed Raffi Torres(notes), and that makes for a hell of a nice looking bottom six. And earlier this summer they signed Dan Hamhuis(notes) and Keith Ballard(notes) to round out a solid D corps. And they have that Roberto Luongo(notes) guy.
That got the Vancouver Province and Hockey News wondering: Are the Canucks now the best team in the West?
And honestly, I don't even think you have to ask it as a question any more.
The Vancouver Canucks are simply the best team in the Western Conference, and maybe in the NHL. Go look at their roster and tell me who gets more points than that team. A wonderful combination of skill and toughness, plus two of the top three players at their position in the league. And a genuinely terrible Northwest Division sure isn't going to hurt.
Others might be able to put together a convincing line of reasoning about how the Canucks have a lot to prove yet, and that no awards are won for a roster in August. Fair points, obviously. But you look at every other major competitor for best in the West, or indeed the league and you see some teams with major holes that Vancouver simply doesn't have.
(COMING UP: The Avalanche's new owner; Mark Staal wants to be a Ranger; Kovalchuk contract update; Nicklas Grossman(notes) signs with Dallas; Finally, something awesome about Marty Turco(notes) in 2010; Tim Kennedy(notes) is brooding; Alexander Burmistrov vs. food; Clarke MacArthur(notes) becomes a Leaf; Joe Pavelski(notes) didn't really pay attention to hockey news this summer; Flyers make a jersey choice; Matt Bradley(notes) is secretly skilled; Boston's good and bad weekend; and a way for Khabibulin to leave Edmonton.)
Quite simply, the Blackhawks paid a heavy price this summer for that Stanley Cup win. But while Chicago is certainly still very good, so much of the depth that made them the best team in the world had to be shipped out of town. If they were to meet Vancouver in the playoffs, I don't think we'd be hearing as much Chelsea Dagger as we did in the past.
San Jose is usually another pretty safe bet to at least challenge for the top spot in the conference, if not the President's Trophy, but seriously, how good can a team leaning on Antero Niitymaki and a rookie be? The same is true of Detroit, where benefiting from a division softer than Kyle Wellwood's(notes) midsection is going to inflate point totals and expectations above where they should be, and even that might not be enough to overcome creaky players that decidedly looked their age down the stretch and into the postseason.
You could also make an argument that the Kings or Coyotes could, when all is said and done, sneak away with the No. 1 seed. Just not a very good one.
Beyond that small handful of teams, everyone has flaws that will keep them well out of contention for the title of "Best in the West."
And even more than that, it's honestly rather difficult to come up with a team in the East that can stack up with Vancouver's roster. Pittsburgh's good down the middle and has an excellent D corps, but that wing depth (what wing depth?) and goaltending leave a lot to be desired. Washington has a very good forward group, obviously, but not so much on defense or in net. Boston's looking for a bounceback year. New Jersey's typically good-not-great these days. Philly has potential problems in net and to a lesser extent up front.
None of this, of course, is to say that Vancouver is any sort of lock to win the Stanley Cup since they have a nasty habit of being awful in the second round of the playoffs. But if you're laying down money on a team that'll win the President's Trophy last year (eh, Wysh?) then you'd do a lot worse than the Canucks.
Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks signed Joe DiPenta(notes) to an AHL deal. He hasn't played in the NHL since 2008 but played with the Ducks for parts of three seasons, including when they won the Stanley Cup. Fun.
Atlanta Thrashers: Rick Dudley says he wouldn't be shocked to see first-round pick Alexander Burmistrov make the NHL roster. Only problem is he's only 180 pounds. So what's Burmistrov's plan to put on weight? "Work out and eat," he said. "Eat a lot." Worked for Vladimir Krutov.
Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets will only have 75 of their 82 games aired on local TV. A couple will be on Versus, but most of the other seven just won't be aired at all, which is ridiculous in this day and age.
Detroit Red Wings: Justin Abdelkader(notes) left Michigan State to sign with the Wings after his junior year, and he's been plugging away at earning his degree ever since. He might even take a course during the season. Good for him.
Florida Panthers: Much-discussed goaltending prospect Jacob Markstrom(notes) thinks he can make the big club. It'd take a lot to get that done, what with Vokoun and Clemmensen pretty well slated to have to top two spots locked up.
New Jersey Devils: Said Lou Lamoriello of the new Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) contract: "It's just waiting for the league to give, hopefully, their approval." Upon reading this, Gary Bettman likely performed a spit take.
Philadelphia Flyers: Remember how awesome those Flyers Winter Classic jerseys were? Well if you don't, you're going to get to see 'em every road game. Unfortunately the Bruins aren't doing the same with their Winter Classic jerseys.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski says both the Sharks and Blackhawks have improved in the offseason. Which Blackhawks could he possibly be talking about? The Waterloo Blackhawks maybe. Definitely not Chicago.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues' official season preview lists Alex Pietrangelo(notes) and Jaroslav Halak(notes) as "New arrivals to watch." I'm guessing the more accurate header "Only arrivals to watch" got cut.
Gold Star Award
Big big thanks to the NHL Network for replaying the Flyers/Bruins series all day on Sunday. That was awesome.
Minus of the Weekend
On Saturday NESN was showing a classic Bruins game from (I think) 1988 and Cam Neely was wearing a visor. I thought he was supposed to be some sort of tough guy.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "disorder" has a way to solve ALL the Oilers' problems.
Khabibulin for Thomas
Boston gets some salary relief at the cost of dealing with some BS.
Edmonton gets arguably the better of the two at the cost of 2mil or so in cap space.
Really? Did "nothing" cancel?