Monday, February 26, 2007

Thoughts on the NHL and NBA Trade Deadlines

I think the NBA Trade Deadline this year was the sports equivalent of Y2K. Before the deadline we were hearing about all these names that were going to be moved: Bibby to Cleveland, Kidd to LA, Carter to Orlando, Gasol or Garnett to Chicago, Mike James to the Pistons. ESPN had a trade applet on their website so you could make your own trades and see if the salaries would match. They had an hour long chat with Chad Ford about the trade deadline.....and then the only move is Fred Jones for Juan Dixon. Kind of a let-down, because I was expecting to see something—even though I didn't seriously think any of the BIG names (like Kidd) were going anywhere. Bill Simmons had fun article about how stupid most of the teams in the league were for not making a move.

Both Detroit papers talked today about how the Pistons came out winners because no one in the East made a move. I'd agree with that. Detroit is clearly the team to beat, they made their big move when they signed Webber (who has been simply outstanding), and every other team seems to have a fatal flaw, be it lack of scoring (Chicago), lack of defense (Washington), general lack of supporting cast (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto), felonies (Indiana), or age and injuries (Miami). We could've used a guy like Mike James for sure, but I think it was pretty wise of Dumars to hang on to those first round picks this year since the draft is so deep. With Orlando slumping the way they are, that pick could actually be pretty good (maybe even a lottery pick—I think it's only top 5 protected).

The teams in the West are still ahead of Detroit, obviously, but I feel like we've played them all pretty tough this year for the most part. If we make the Finals, no doubt we're the underdog. But I don't think there's a team out there that would absolutely slaughter us.

As for the Wings, I'm trying to not be a pessimist. We've got the best record in the West, we're within sniffing distance of another President's Trophy. But they scare me. Over the last few weeks, the Wings have turned completely into a one-line team. The Williams/Lang/Cleary line has gone ice cold. The top line is the only one getting it done, but thankfully we've got one of the best in the league carrying us right now. The numbers that Zetterberg has put up lately are absolutely staggering. 13 goals, 25 points in his last ten games. 6 GWGs in the Wings' last 8 wins. 10 GWGs for the year, which leads the league.

But if they don't get any production from their other lines, they are going to be hurting to score come playoff time, because I still fully expect another tank-job out of Datsyuk. The game against Philly was just a preview of what will happen when teams start to get physical with him again.

The prices are reportedly very steep for players via the trade route at the moment. My preference would be for us to land Guerin, as I feel that he could bring a lot of what we've been missing since Shanahan left. But I don't want him for a 1st round pick and a prospect. That's too steep for a FA to be.

A guy whose name has been thrown around that I do like and would be willing to pay for is Ryan Smyth. 30 goal scorer, point a game guy, agitator, great on the power play. He'd cost a pretty penny I'm sure but if Edmonton is willing to deal him, he's the guy I would pony up for. I'd have an interest in Torres as well.

(Edit: The announcers were talking during the Wings/Oilers game Friday that Edmonton is looking to get Smyth signed by the deadline, so they may not be looking to deal him. Since they probably won't get in, however, I'd be looking to see if they'd move him, pick up an extra pick, and then have the compensation be conditional upon what he does in the offseason)

Tkachuk and Bertuzzi have been brought up. I can't stand either of them. I think Tkachuk is a complete idiot and I think it's just as likely that he'd pull a Martin Lapointe 2001 and blow the series as it is that he'd contribute to a Cup run.

(Edit: He has since been traded for an absolute mint to Atlanta. A first, a second, a third, and a player for Tkachuk? With an extra first rounder if he resigns? Yikes. If that's the going rate for St. Louis's players, then we'd be wise to stay far, far away from Guerin. This trade could end up being a complete disaster for Atlanta. They're right on the playoff bubble as it is…if they don't get in, this trade is going to look really bad. Scott Burnside had a great column about how it's a nice gamble for them, however. I still think they overpaid big-time.)

Bertuzzi I could live with, as long as the price isn't too high. He's a major, major injury question mark at this point. That worries me more than the thing between his ears does. If the price is low, since he's been out most of the year and likely won't play before the deadline, I could play ball with him.

Guys like Gelinas, Roberts, and Nolan intrigue me. They've had pretty decent years and the price might be significantly lower than what Tkachuk fetched.

One name that completely doesn't intrigue me is the aforementioned Lapointe. His name has come up in some discussions and I hate the idea of him coming back. He just doesn’t do anything anymore. Didn't like him when he was here, and he's not nearly as decent now. Plus he's got another year on his contract.

It's too bad Knuble ended up injured. I don't know if Philly would've been open to trading him, but if they ended up having a fire sale, he would've been right at the top of my list.

This is definitely one of those times that I'm glad I'm not a General Manager. My fears about this team have—for the most part—proven to be pretty accurate I think. We're in a position right now where we NEED another scorer—at least in my opinion—to have any shot of making a run. But the price of acquiring that scorer is extremely, extremely high. It's tough to balance making a run at the Cup this year with being responsible and looking toward the future.

I would also like to comment on my disappointment with Nik Kronwall. Maybe I was expecting too much with all the Baby Lidstrom comparisons (unfair as they may be), but he has been pretty bad this year. All I've really seen is a guy that sells out to make the big hit at the expense of defensive responsibility, someone who really isn't that great in his own end, and is remarkably unproductive on the offensive end for someone who was touted as an offensive defenseman. He is willing to hit—and he does it well—he just needs to get a lot smarter about when he does it. He's talented, but at this point, he scares the begeezus out of me. And I can't help but think we could've landed Jack Johnson for him…

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Sorry for the lack of blogging over the past two weeks. I've been planning a move to Badger Country, so between apartment hunting in Madison and packing I've been pretty busy.

I was planning on having a take on the NHL and NBA trade deadlines up on Friday, but an ill-timed truck-into-a-utility-pole knocked out the power in my office. So that'll be up tomorrow--only slightly updated to add in some comments about the mint that Atlanta gave up for Keith Tkachuk.

I don't have a ton of comments on Michigan hockey. Disappointing to split the last two weeks, especially against middle-of-the-pack CCHA teams, but we should be solidly in the tournament barring a complete disaster and that's really all that matters. I wasn't happy we lost last night, but it didn't disappoint me a bit that we dropped out of that 8-9 spot. It should be pretty clear by now that I want no part of Minnesota. They're beatable (in their last 6 series, they've swept two, been swept two, and split two), but not by us. Let someone else deal with them and if we've gotta play them later, so be it.

It was especially disappointing to see the defensive breakdowns rear their ugly head last night, giving up what was said to be two pretty awful goals in a 20 second span late in the second period last night. Sauer's been playing pretty well for awhile now, and though several posters disagreed that he could be faulted for the loss last night, the first goal and the sixth goal need to be stopped. He's entitled to a stinker with as well as he's played, but it needs to be a one-time thing.

Allow me to state the obvious for the next couple of paragraphs:

Overall, we are what we are--as much as I hate that expression. We're a team that has a stellar top line, a very productive second line, and not much else up front. We've got a lot of talent back on the blueline that doesn't always play well together. We've got a goalie who has had his ups and downs--but thankfully in the second half of the year it's been more ups--but still scares the hell out of me. And we've got special teams that probably aren't as good as they should be given the talent.

This year in college hockey has been a weird one, in that I don't think we head into the postseason with a clear-cut favorite. It looked like it was going to be Minnesota, but they've been strangely human the past few weeks. It's a wide open field and the Wolverines could just as easily bomb out in the first round as they could make the Frozen Four. The matchups will tell me a lot about this team's chances. If we have to beat two WCHA teams to make it, no shot. If we luck into a draw that includes Clarkson and/or Notre Dame, then we just might have a chance.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Snap Back to Reality

As nice as a win over Michigan State at the Joe would've been, I think if Michigan fans were being honest, most of them would've accepted a tie. We struggle with State, we struggle at the Joe, those teams have a history of ties. I guarantee that all Michigan fans would've gladly taken a tie if you asked them after the Wolverines fell behind 3-0 to the Spartans. Come back from that and the weekend is a success right? Maybe. Except for one small fact:

We lost to freaking Bowling Green!

When we were making our second half predictions on The Yost Post, and I accounted for "one loss in a game that we definitely shouldn't lose, just because..." I wasn't counting on it being to that joke of a team. I mean, c'mon. They had won two games since November!

Now, I will give it up to the Falcons. They've vastly improved since the last time we saw them. It was after that game that I called them the second worst CCHA team I had seen in the last 7 years--and I was pretty confident it wasn't an exaggeration. But they're playing better, they work their asses off, and they haven't quit on their season despite the lousy record that they've got.

I'm not going to go with the "typical Michigan arrogance" and say that Michigan just didn't show up. They played an ok game. But they did get outworked and outplayed by an inferior team. I think we got punched in the mouth by a team that wanted it more, and was just better that night. Was part of it looking ahead to State or taking the Falcons lightly? Probably. But I don't feel pinning the blame solely on that gives BGSU the credit that they deserve.

Sauer was outstanding again against BGSU. Amazingly, we needed him to be at his best in that game. And it still wasn't enough. Hensick also deserves a call. After the BGSU go-ahead goal, he took it down into the Falcon end and rang one off the bar, and then got on his horse and high-tailed it into the corner to keep them from clearing the puck. Great effort play all around.

Pretty obvious that the Falcons were going to score on the PP when Johnson and another Michigan player got crossed up at the bench for the Too Many Men call. It always seems that stupid penalties end up being the ones that bite you.

One last minor bone to pick...there should've been at least 3.7 seconds on the clock before the last faceoff. The puck was already behind the Michigan net (keep in mind it's automatic icing and all) when the clock hit 1.0. Not that it would've mattered, but you can't do anything in 1 second. 3.7 you've at least got a chance.

Halfway through the second period Saturday, this weekend looked like it was going to be a complete disaster. Down 3-0 to MSU, I was pissed off enough that I flipped the TV off. I wouldn't have been able to catch the third period anyway because of my own hockey game, but I had seen enough.

Luckily the Michigan team dug deep and didn't mail it in like they did in the GLI. I thought Summers looked outstanding at forward even before he started lighting the lamp behind Lerg. He had at least 3 or 4 great scoring opportunities in the game when I was watching--including one that he rung off the post.

I have to believe that the slightly-less-than-60-shots was a function of a generous statistician, but I don't doubt that we dominated that game. It bugs the hell out of me that B. Lerg scores every damn time we play MSU--or it at least seems that way. That decommit was a killer. He'd be a great fit on this team. I blame Dwight.

DC Nole came strong with his "State of the Team Address" that includes far more stats than I would have the time (or patience) to look up. In short (and the post is really worth a read), when our top line and top defense pairing are producing points, we win. When they're not, we lose. That by itself isn't a shocker, but some of the stats he provides are very interesting.

The one thing I disagree with is this passage: "And as it turns out, [the top line/pairing not producing points] has been the missing link in our bad games these last 6 weeks. Not defense. Not turnovers. Not goaltending. Not coaching. Who knew?!?"

He proved his point about the goaltending and defense, but I disagree that turnovers haven't played a big part in the goals we've allowed. Kampfer and Cogliano's turnovers on the point killed us against BGSU and MSU. Also, no one on our team came up with the puck on Sauer's hard around on the play where he "got run into" by Abdelkader. So that'd probably be one as well.

All in all though, that was a great post, and his summary does give us cause to still be excited about where this team could end up at the end of the season.

Our chances are even better if we end up with a bracket like this. I will gladly take anything come tournament time that doesn't involve us being in a Regional with Minnesota, and that doesn't require us to play UNH in New Hampshire. If we get Clarkson in a first round game, all the better. I'd love another crack at Notre Dame....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Another Sweep

Another weekend, another sweep for the Michigan hockey team. If they aren't careful, people are going to start getting used to this again.

Friday night:
No real comments on the Friday night game, as it wasn't on TV. Sauer gave up 4, but by some accounts only one was a soft goal. Hensick had another 4 point night, yawn. Can we just give him the Hobey already? Porter, Naurato, Cogliano and Johnson all kept their hot streaks going as well.

Saturday night:
You'd like to see them beat WMU by more than what was essentially a 2-1 game, but I'm actually happy they had a game like that. We've been winning with offense for awhile now. It's nice to see the boys dig deep and grit out a win in a low-scoring game against a team that has the capability to put the puck in the net.

Sauer deserves a lot of credit for that win, as he made some outstanding saves, including one on a 3 on 1 that was the best save of his Michigan career. He followed that up by stopping the rebound as well.

What was lost in the excitement of that save, however, was what a piss poor play it was by Chris Summers to get things rolling. 3 guys breaking out of the zone, he and his partner are the two men back for us, and he sells out to try to make a huge hit and misses, hence the 3 on 1. I've been kind of disappointed in Summers so far this season. He's clearly talented, and maybe my expectations were too high, but I expected more. I've been hearing rumblings that they may move him up to forward and slide Cook back to defense. Which would make sense, because I thought Summers looked a lot better up front when he was filling in for Lebler. He can hit, and he's extremely fast. He might be a really good forechecker.

Rohlfs' goal was uber-impressive. He made 3 great plays before he put it in the net. The first was chipping it off the boards to get around the WMU player. He chipped it a little too far, so another Bronco had a great shot at getting to the puck. The second great play was that Rohlfs got there and hooked the WMU player's stick so he missed the puck. Rohlfs picked it up, and then made an absolute pro-caliber shot into the net. That was a highlight reel goal.

There were some great hits in that game. Ciraulo, Kampfer and Summers all had great hip checks that sent the Bronco player head over heels.

Pio had one of the worst calls of the season when he sent Naurato off for tripping. It was actually Kampfer and it was the most blatant penalty of the year. He took the WMU kid out Marchment-style, knee-to-knee. I probably wouldn't have booed too much if he had given him 5 and a game...I'm not sure how you get the wrong kid on a play like that.

MGoLinks has put up their "Hensick for Hobey" page. I think it looks nice. The best part is the highlight reel on the left side of the page. There's some great stuff on there. TJ deserves that award. By the way, 57.8% on faceoffs? That's fantastic. To put it in perspective, the best player in the NHL with a good sample size is Yanic Perrault at 62%. Hensick's number would put him at like 8th place in the NHL. That's pretty outstanding, and I can't imagine there are too many players in college with a better percentage than that. Just one of those usually overlooked things that actually can make a huge difference in a game.

Mgoblog has a nice piece about how stupid the PWR system is. At least the PWR didn't vote for Florida. Oh wait, we're not really allowed to complain about that anymore are we. Damn.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

KABOOM!!! Maybe?

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday at this time, people were calling for Lloyd's head so we don't lose any more recruits, and the notion of Johnny Sears starting at corner was a very real one indeed.

Flash forward to today. DT Renaldo Sagesse out of Quebec is in. The Wolverines might be back in the mix (or maybe they were never out of it?) for RoJo, and there are extremely positive vibes coming in about 5 star corner Donovan Warren's announcement tonight. Enough good feelings that it will be a surprise if he isn't going Blue. Unless he's just screwing with everyone a la Marquise Hill. Or unless he gets into his car a Wolverine but gets out a Trojan. Or unless he has a child or two on the way to the press conference.

At this point, it appears Michigan won't be shut out when it comes to picking up a nasty corner.


Edit: And to make this day even better comes this photo courtesy of sure to save it to your computer because you're going to want it come next November.