Waiting For Kovalchuk…

A lot has happened since Ilya Kovalchuk (642 points in 621 NHL games) became the most talented free-agent in NHL history to hit the open market on July 1, but here we sit on July 18 and the Russian sniper (338 career goals) still hasn’t found a new home. New Jersey, which acquired him in a trade last season is still in the mix, and so are the in, out, in, out, in the Kovy-sweepstakes LA Kings. A third option could be the Russian KHL League, but a talented player in his prime like Kovalchuk needs to play in the league with the most talent and best competition — the NHL.

There are still very valuable players on the market besides Kovalchuk and it seems that the are all waiting for him to sign, before they decide where to go or maybe the other GMs are waiting to see where he lands — making for a very boring two weeks in July devoid of any substantial hockey news.  So, here’s what I am thinking about as we wait for Kovalchuk’s ‘decision’ to be made:

-The NY Islanders have made some solid, off the radar moves to shore up their blue line (Mark Eaton & Milan Jurcina), but more work needs to be done if they are to contend for a playoff spot out of the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. They should look to sign Alexei Ponikarovsky to play in the top-six and bring back two former Islanders to add more grit to their game — Andy Sutton & Raffi Torres. Sutton has said he would welcome a return to the Island and Torres would be a perfect fit on the third line alongside either Frans Nielsen or Doug Weight.

-What in the freaking world is going on in Calgary?!? They signed two ex-Flames, who both had less than stellar tenures the first time around. Alex Tanguay is a shell of the player he was in 2001 with Colorado and Olli Jokinen was traded away for Ales Kotalik and his ridiculous contract and then they re-sign Jokinen who never looked comfortable in Calgary alongside Jarome Iginla. A few days later ex-Tampa GM Jay Feaster as assistant to the GM who will be probably soon be fired in Darryl Sutter.

-There are still two solid goalies available — one via free agency (Marty Turco) and one via trade (Tim Thomas). It’s not every day you have these types of quality goalies available, so stop being cheap and give your team a decent chance to succeed next year (this means you Columbus, Toronto, Atlanta, Florida, Tampa, Montreal, Minnesota, LA, San Jose, Dallas).

-There are two enigmatic, but talented wingers available in Max Afinogenov and Alex Frolov and i haven’t heard peep about either yet. It’s possible that one of these two could wind up in the KHL, but in the right situation they can still be solid NHLers.

-Two talented centers are available for trade, but both have almost unmovable  contracts — Boston’s Marc Savard and Ottawa’s Jason Spezza. Hey, maybe they should just be traded for each other?

-It seemed odd to me that: Pittsburgh signed defenseman Paul Martin from New Jersey, New Jersey signed Anton Volchenkov from Ottawa and Ottawa signed Sergei Gonchar from Pittsburgh. This is just my opinion but, a three-way trade during the season would have been soooooo much cooler!

-If the Devils don’t sign Kovalchuk, they should take a hard look at Miroslav Satan, and not just because of the name. Miro proved in the playoffs that he can still produce and help a winning team go deep into the spring.

-Four solid long-time NHL vets are still on the market. Would Mike Modano, Paul Kariya, Teemu Selanne & Bill Guerin have lasted this long on the open market ten summers ago in 2000? I think not. Modano may go to Detroit, which makes sense in a lot of ways. What if Kariya and Selanne sign one-year deals in Pittsburgh like they did in Colorado? Apparently Sidney Crosby felt he didn’t need Guerin’s leadership, so maybe Guerin could ride shotgun with AO in DC?

-Finally where in the world is Petr Sykora? The rest of your buddies from 2000 are in NJ…..A-LINE, ASSEMBLE!!!!

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IRON MEN

In honor of the kick-ass IronMan 2 movie, here are the 88 NHL players that played in all 82 of their teams games this past season.
Quick Hits: Calgary had 7 players appear in every game, including defenseman Ian White (traded midseason from Toronto) who played in a league-high 83 games. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin led all Iron Men in points with 112 and Toronto’s Colton Orr had the fewest points (six) among those who played in every game. Colorado was the only team that didn’t have at least one player suit up for all 82 games. Only three rookies survived to play in every game — NY Isles’ center John Tavares, Dallas winger Jamie Benn and Buffalo defenseman Tyler Myers.

Anaheim: Jason Blake, Corey Perry
Atlanta: Maxim Afinogenov, Tobias Enstrom, Rich Peverley
Boston: Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler
Buffalo: Tyler Myers, Jason Pominville, Henrik Tallinder
Calgary: Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Niklas Hagman, Jarome Iginla, Eric Nystrom, Matt Stajan, Ian White
Carolina: Tom Kostopoulos
Chicago: Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Andrew Ladd, Patrick Sharp
Colorado: none
Columbus: RJ Umberger, Antoine Vermette
Dallas: Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Stephane Robidas
Detroit: Todd Bertuzzi, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart
Edmonton: Andrew Cogliano, Tom Gilbert, Dustin Penner
Florida: Keith Ballard, Michael Frolik, Bryan McCabe, Steven Reinprecht
Los Angeles: Dustin Brown, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar
Minnesota: Kyle Brodziak, Andrew Brunette
Montreal: Josh Gorges, Tomas Plekanec
Nashville: David Legwand, Steve Sullivan, Ryan Suter
New Jersey: Travis Zajac
NY Islanders: Matt Moulson, Mark Streit, John Tavares
NY Rangers: Artem Anisimov, Dan Girardi, Olli Jokinen, Michal Rozsival, Marc Staal
Ottawa: Chris Phillips, Jarko Ruutu
Philadelphia: Claude Giroux, Ian Laperierre, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Kimmo Timonen
Phoenix: Adrian Aucoin, Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata, Keith Yandle
Pittsburgh: Craig Adams, Jordan Staal
San Jose: Ryane Clowe, Dany Heatley, Kent Huskins, Patrick Marleau
St. Louis: Brad Boyes, Jay McClement, David Perron
Tampa: Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
Toronto: Francois Beauchemin, Tomas Kaberle, Colton Orr
Vancouver: Alex Burrows, Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin
Washington: Nicklas Backstrom

Devils-Ducks Postgame Quotes [11.11.09]

Here are some of the postgame quotes after Wednesday’s 3-1 Devils win over the Ducks:

Martin Brodeur:

Talk about the next three games (at Pitt, vs. Wash., at Philly)…

“It’s going to be a big week, a big weekend; these three games are going to be hard. This one is a back-to-back, so it was good to get a win in the front end.”

Did the ceremony make you think that you’d like to have a (Cup) celebration here at the Prudential Center?

“It doesn’t matter where (laughing), just another one would be awesome. I think it’s always nice to see things like that — because we worked really hard for the guys that were there — and for the young guys, it makes you realize what you can achieve. These things are great; it’s a special year with us playing all three teams that we beat in the Stanley Cup Finals in one season. And it’s definitely nice to see the faces on the scoreboard and the faces of the few guys that were here.”

The PK was real strong tonight going 6-for-6…

“Yeah well…we got ourselves in penalty troubles – again too many men on the ice – twice in the game. Sometimes you pay the price when give these kind of freebies to the opposition, but our guys stepped in; we didn’t quit. Guys worked really hard on the PK and that’s why we were able to be dominant tonight.”

Zach Parise:

Talk about your shorthanded goal…

“It was a good play by Whitey to step up and hold the blueline there and Jamie was able to thread the needle there (to me). I think I caught (Ryan) Whitney a little flat-footed there and was able to jump past him and get a breakaway.”
You’ve seen time on the PK this year, how do you like it?

“I like it a lot; it’s better than sitting on the bench for two minutes. You want that responsibility, you want to be one of those guys that they (the coaches) feel comfortable having on the ice. Yeah, I like penalty killing.”

They say the worst thing you can do is give up a goal in the first or last minute of a period, was your goal a backbreaker for them?

“Yeah, they were on the power play, it’s a 2-1 game, they were looking to tie it up and we know it doesn’t feel good (to give up a goal there). We’ve been on the other side of that.”

For you it had to be a great feeling to score there…

“Yeah, it’s a good feeling (to score), regardless of when it comes. It’s definitely a good feeling being able to contribute.”

Jamie Langenbrunner:

Tough schedule coming up…

“Obviously we have some tough games coming up and it’s nice to start off this segment with a win. The thing about this league is we have a game tomorrow so we have another tough game and we have to focus on that.”
Talk about your goal in the opening minute…

“It was definitely a focus of ours to have better starts. A great job by Zubie to win the face-off, good job by Zach jumping in to get it, good shot by Greenie; I just went to the net and was able to get my stick on it.”

What part of your stick did you get on it?

“I got the blade on it I think; I’m not 100% sure, but I think it was the blade.”

David Clarkson:

You had a nice goal tonight, describe it…

“I think Greenie made the pass, it was just one of those plays that I saw the D coming across so I just pulled the puck across (my body). I knew that if I did that the goalie would be coming the other way, so I put it (my shot) back the other way and it went in the net.”

It seemed (Jonas) Hiller gave up a lot of rebounds tonight; is that something the team talked about?

“Yeah, I think you pick up on stuff like that – rebounds around the net. We knew we had to get there. You see Zach’s goal, it was hard work – he just kept banging at it and banging at it and it went in. Those are things we did talk about; the rebounds around the net, get to them and get pucks at him, because there’s a chance it could go in.”

Talk about the penalty kill tonight…

“The penalty kill was great. I took a couple of penalties myself – I’d have to see the replay to see if they were real penalties – but they (the PK) were huge. I came out of the box and thanked them, because I was the guy in the box most of the night.”

Marty said he keeps telling you that the toe drag doesn’t work anymore…

“(laughing) Yeah we were joking it’s a men’s league move but I guess it worked there tonight. The guys were bugging me a little bit, but you know what I was just going to the net and its something you try right? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; tonight it worked and I’m happy the puck went in.”

The shootout goal (in Tampa) and now this one – two nice goals you have now this season…

“I’m learning stuff (all the time), from players in this room and trying to pick up some moves that guys make to try and make myself better; and I find it’s helping me.”

Jacques Lemaire:

Is your team getting better?

“I think in some aspects of the game we’re getting better; not all of it, not yet.”

Where are the exceptions?

“(Smiles, then laughs) we have to get better at too many men on the ice…that’s one thing.”
But you’re good at it.

“Yeah exactly, we’re getting good at it.”

When you have this (winning) streak, there’s some sort of formula that’s enabling this streak. What’s enabled it? It’s six in a row now…

“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to say. I think right now we’re getting some breaks, which is a big part of it. I think the guys believe that they can be successful, that is a big part. They believe we can do it, they believe we can come back. So I think it’s all of this. We’re playing as a team more and more, but there are still little things.”

What do you call a break, what break did you get tonight?

“Tonight we worked well; we worked well enough to win the game. When they scored the goal, we picked it up, again, which was good. I thought tonight was our best start since the beginning of the season.”

What will stick with you about Clarkson: the move/shot on his goal or the penalties?

“The three penalties; I want the guys to play for the team – which he does – all the time. He’s going to get some penalties, it could be accidental, but the one that I really didn’t like (the too many men on the ice call) was when he jumped on the ice, he got the puck…when Zach just came in front of him. That’s the one I didn’t like. But on the other hand, when you look at it after the game…his goal was a huge goal. His goal was a huge goal.”

How about this kid from Rome, NY, Tim Sestito, he seems to fit in really well?

“He’s playing with energy which I love. He’s on the puck, and he’s in good position, he takes the man and plays as aggressive as he can and skates well. So, that’s why he’s playing.”

Will Brian Rolston go to Pittsburgh?

“Yes, he will be playing tomorrow.”

How good was your D tonight?

“They were as good as they’ve been all year. Maybe at the start we couldn’t find the high man, our long passes were not good. We were going D-to-D, or back to D; we don’t want that. We have to find the open players, and that we didn’t do too well at the start. But we talked about it and during the first period they started to get better.”

How impressed are you with Mark Fraser?

“Very impressed, very impressed…he’s solid. You know who would say, at the start of the year that this kid would be with us? Secondly, playing, now he’s among the top four (defenseman). He’s getting a lot of minutes and I love the way he plays. He’s very safe and aggressive and he’s playing a man’s game out there.”

Andy Greene led you club in ice-time and added two assists, your thoughts?

“He’s been very steady all year; probably the best defenseman up till now. He’s so calm and knows the game well. He’s sneaky – what I mean is he is getting away from guys and putting pucks where his teammates can get them. These little passes that he makes…its all smarts, stuff that he does.”

How much does he remind you of Scott Niedermayer?

“Greene? He doesn’t have Nieder’s speed. He has his finesse, the speed does it all for Nieder.”

The PK tonight?

“Tonight had to be our best, our best PK of the year so far.”

How was Patrik Elias tonight?

“Very good, you know he’s getting better and that’s what I like. I know he’s not at his best, but he’s got good skills and its coming. When he’s in top shape he’s going to help us a lot.”

Is he going to Pittsburgh?

“Yeah, I think he’s ready (for back-to-back games).”

What You Need to Know [10.20.09]

Here is the link to my latest ‘What You Need to Know’ on NYCSN:

http://nycsportsnews.com/articles/details.htm?id=1021

This week’s highlights:

Nicklas Lidstrom reaches another milestone, a new Triple Crown line emerges in Los Angeles, Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan struggles out of the gates, while Tampa’s Martin St. Louis has a hot start to 2009-10.

Who’s left?

It has been one month and one day since free agency started and there are still some notable unrestricted free agent names who have yet to find a home. These are serviceable players, who if they find the right situation (i.e., linemate, coach, system), they can be a valuable asset to any hockey team and I’d be shocked if they are still not signed with a club…be it in the NHL or in Russia, Sweden, wherever…by September 1.
Here’s the best of who’s left:

PLAYER — OLD TEAM — THE LOW DOWN

Maxim Afinogenov — Buffalo — Could be headed to KHL, thought he’d fit well with Ilya Kovalchuk in Atlanta.
Marc-Andre Bergeron — Minnesota — Has one of the NHL’s hardest shots, but his defensive abilities are questionable at best.
Todd Bertuzzi — Calgary — Big Bert hasn’t gotten an offer from Calgary yet, and won’t. His size could be useful to a team like Detroit, for the right price.
Mike Comrie — Ottawa — After a midseason trade to the Sens, Comrie didn’t do much. Still, a few teams looking for a center could sign the 28-year-old to a one-year deal; he could work out in New Jersey if signed.
Manny Fernandez — Boston — Proved last season he can still tend goal in the NHL, but will he accept another backup role?
Mike Grier — San Jose — Solid, checking line, penalty killing forward is a hard worker who should be signed soon; preferably with the Devils, but could also help the Islanders or Toronto as well.
Robert Lang — Montreal — A risk coming off of a torn achilles at the age of 38, but most teams are in the market for a dependable center. Would Ottawa have enough cash to sign him to play on line two with AK-27?
Manny Malhotra — Columbus — I’m shocked he didn’t end up back in Columbus, as he seemed to really mature and develop under Ken Hitchcock there, but they also signed Sammy Pahlsson, who plays the same role. Would love for him to join the Devils though, Tampa could be an option too.
Miroslav Satan — Pittsburgh — His agent Twitted (or tweeted, whatever) that the Isles are interested, but not buying it. I say he goes to either Vancouver or the KHL. I’ve given up on the dream that Satan would join the Devils (for now).
Mats Sundin — Vancouver — Will he play, or won’t he? At 38, what does Sundin have left? If he isn’t going to give a full season, no one will want him after performing so poorly last season with the Canucks.
Petr Sykora — Pittsburgh — Has bounced around too much for a guy that can score when motivated or in the right situation. I’m thinking he lands in Minnesota or St. Louis.
Alex Tanguay — Montreal — The best of what’s left as far as I’m concerned. Will hate him less for his two-goal performance in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals if he signs with New Jersey. He’s only 29 and still has some productive years left. Join the Devils Legion Alex, join us.

Hopefully in the coming weeks, some of these guys find work, preferably with the Devils!

Depth Signing on the blueline…

The Devils have signed free agent defenseman Cory Murphy, who split last season between Tampa and Florida (what a hard season that must’ve been!). I doubt he will make the opening night roster, but if injuries occur he would be a nice option to go to…he has a decent shot from the point and could be used on the PP if he is around…