Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grier's 2007-08 Predictions

Here is how I see the season shaping up - division by divison.

1) Pittsburgh Penguins - I like what this team has done in the offseason. Surrounding Crosby and Malkin with the necessary veteran talent while keeping their core intact. Staal can only improve on his effort last year. They are going to be fun to watch for several years.

2) Philadelphia Flyers - I think this team added the vital pieces needed to revive a dormant franchise. Mixed with some of their already good young talent, the Flyers should have a resurgence this season. Unlike Mike, I think Biron could surprise.

3) New York Rangers - I'm not buying it. I think the Rangers made some big mistakes adding too many big dogs and alienating their role players. Will Drury, Gomez, Avery, Shanny and Jagr play nice together? I think this dressing room could implode and Jagr might be skating for a different team in March.

4) New Jersey Devils - They won't suck. With Brodeur in net, they have a chance to win every night, but letting Gomez and Rafalski walk and replacing them with Zubrus and Visnievski isn't gonna cut it. They miss the playoffs this year.

5) New York Islanders - Goon Central. Team will hate to play them and fans will hate to watch them. You can't polish a turd.

1) Ottawa Senators - Agreed. This team is poised for another run at the Cup. Ongoing contract issues with pending free agents could be a motivator or a distraction. Goaltending situaiton should be solved after Gerber is dealt soon - his value will never get much higher.

2) Toronto Maple Leafs - I think the Leafs have improved and are poised to be a serious threat this season. They can score with the best of them and adding Blake is a big bonus. Toskala will compensate for McCabe and Kaberle offensive tendencies.

3) Buffalo Sabres - They are going to miss Briere and Drury more than they think. A poor start leads to morale falling. They make the playoffs late.

4) Montreal Canadiens - Not sure what is happening here. Same old, same old. They need a big move and lack the pieces to make it.

5) Boston Bruins - Maybe some baby steps of improvement but they have no blueline to speak of besides Chara. Manny Fernandez sucks, by the way.

1) Washington Capitals - That's right. I said it. The Caps are the cream of this rancid division. They will benefit from a weak schedule and a solid second year from Semin and Backstrom. Adding Tom Poti and Nylander will push this team over the hump. Kolzig has a big year before he goes UFA.

2) Tampa Bay - No goaltending. That simple enough for you?

3) Florida - This team works hard and has some good young talent. Vokoun can shut down anyone on any night - so they could sneak up on some people. They will hang around the playoffs and crap out at the end.

4) Carolina - Old, old, old. This team is the NHL's version of the San Francisco Giants. Rumor has them willing to part with Cole - are they high?

5) Atlanta Thrashers - This teams window has come and gone and now they have to blow it up. Hossa is trade bait and will be skating in a different uni by March (maybe in Teal....?)


1) Calgary - They will find themselves at the top of the leagues toughest division. Their mix of toughness and goaltending is a tough match up. Only question could be lack of scoring.

2) Colorado - Smyth works his magic in Denver. I think Sakic will be rejuvinated and this team is going to be a giant pain in the ass to play. Don't forget they also have King Shutdown, Scotty Hannan. I feel like hating the Avs again.

3) Vancouver - Injuries are already killing this team and I just have a hunch it will continue for the rest of the season.

4) Minnesota - I don't see them taking the "next step" as everyone says. When has Gaborik been healthy for an entire season? Is Backstrom really the real deal? I think this team middles around again and maybe gets a late playoff seed. I'm not buying what Minnesota is selling.

5) Edmonton - Sheldon Souray can blow me. He'll wish he signed with the Sharks by December.

1) San Jose Sharks - This is not a homer pick, believe it or not. They are the real deal and are one veteran defensemen away from dominating the West. Nabby's health is also a minor concern because the net is thin after him...

2) Anahiem Ducks - I don't even think this is going to be close. The Ducks finish ten points behind the Sharks. They are going to miss Neidermeyer and Selanne big time and Bertuzzi either gets hurt early or sucks often.

3) LA Kings - I don't think they are going to be as bad as others think. The Kings will be difficult to play and are deep on the blueline. Goaltending is a serious issue but I see them adding Gerber any day now.

4) Dallas - This is the year this team fades away. Like New Jersey, the old guard has to die sometime. Bye Bye Dallas, we hardly knew you.

5) Phoenix - If the Sharks lose one game to Phoenix, I will shoot myself.

1) Detroit - I want to play in the Central! Rafalski is an improvement over Schneider and they kept their core together. Hasek's health always a question.

2) St. Louis - I know Mikey likes the Preds and Blackhawks, but I see St. Louis as a bottom playoff team this year. Some dangerous veterans, solid D and a decent goalie could help them prey upon a weak division.

3) Nashville - Depressions set in when this team realizes their best forward is Jason Arnott. They need to deal one of their bluechip defensemen for some scoring help.

4) Chicago - There is finally hope in Chicago that the team has a glimmer of future. Young players will cause some excitement but in the end, the vets they have (Lang, Samsanov) are terrible and won't provide any leadership to help this club make the push.

5) Columbus - A wispy fart better than Phoenix. This team also has no direction. They have cap room after Foote and Federov leave next year, but no one will come. Barren wasteland.

I am calling a Sharks/Maple Leafs final. Nabby vs. Toskala. Oh the Drama!

The Inevitable, but Hopefully Entertaining

2007-8 season predictions. Every damn blogger out there has 'em, and who am I to challenge my betters? It's mindless conformity that has made me who I am. And attracted our attractive readers, which I think I can now describe as "several", rather than "few" (recently upgraded from "both"). Don't worry, I won't let it go to my head.

1. Rangers - I drank the Kool-Aid, awright? I don't think Drury or Gomez will rock the boat too much. And I'm a fan of Jagr, though I forgot why. Their goaltending and D are definitely better than the...
2. Penguins - Young, dumb, and full of... you get the idea. Their PP will be electric, but winning games 6-5 is a risky proposition.
3. Flyers - Ok, they gained some dudes in the offseason, and they have some young guys. But when Derian Hatcher is still one of your best two defensemen, and you have a backup retread as your starting goalie, you'll be scratching to make the playoffs come January.
4. Devils - with a new coach, and a new system, it's time for this team to falter. The inevitable falling out between Sutter and Big Bad Lou will leave the team without a compass. I'd say it's even money that Lou will pull a "Claude Julien" on Sutter before April.
5. Islanders - Ted Nolan is a genius, and it's ridiculous that he couldn't get a job after leading the Sabres to the SCF all those years ago. But you can't polish a turd.

1. Senators - Stood pat in the offseason, and it will pay off. Even if Heatley gets all uppity about his contract, this team has too much talent and experience to lose the division.
2. Sabres - I wanted to put this team after the Leafs, but I wussed out. They still have solid goaltending and some talent. I will go out on a limb and say that we will be questioning Vanek's contract by the end of the year.
3. Maple Leafs - Now with our dearly departed Tosk in net, the Leafs will finally make the playoffs. But if no young guns step it up, it could be a long season of watching Sundin get slower and slower.... eyes.... closing....
4. Canadiens - Just like the Leafs, without as good goaltending or defense. Or offense.
5. Bruins - Unless Kessel gets cancer again, there will be nothing to talk about for the hapless Bruins. You can send your angry emails to

1. Lightning - Goaltending is a problem, and Boyle, on whom I have a man-crush, is a bit clumsy, ok?! With Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards, and several good defensive defensemen, Tampa Bay will again be on top, but only enough for the #3 seed.
2. Capitals - With Semin, AO, and Niclas Backstrom (no, the other one), this team will be dangerous every night. And long-forgotten Vezina winner Olaf Kolzig has still got some gas left in the tank.
3. Thrashers - I'm not sold on Lehtonen. I'm not sold on Kovalchuk, who can light it up, but is a defensive weakling. The only bona-fide they got is Hossa, who will only be looking to pad his stats so he can get the hell out of there.
4. Panthers - I feel bad for Horton, Bouwmeester and Jokinen, but if you can't win with Luongo, Vokoun is not the answer.
5. Hurricanes - So forgettable I forgot to include them in the first version of this post. 'Nuff said.

1. Detroit - Stupid Wings. When are you jagoffs gonna screw up?! Can't a guy get a break?!
2. Predators - Man, I really wanted to put them third, but even though they lost some guys, they still have enough to win some games. I really wanted to push the...
3. Blackhawks - I liked this team even before their owner died. Hooboy, that was even worse than the cancer comment. Seriously though, with young talent and a Cup-winning goalie, and who knows, maybe even the ability to spend at the trade deadline for the first time in 35 years, this team is going places.
4. St. Louis - Odd combination of rickety old guys and not-ready-yet youngsters promises an occasionally-gratifying, yet mostly-frustrating season with plenty-of-dashes.
5. Blue Jackets - Blow it up already. Trade Nash, ditch Foote, and hire a decent scouting department. If they are smart, they'll pack it in by early December and try to get Tavares.

1. Flames - This team proved last year that they can finally score, and this year, will lead them to the division title. If Kipper or Iginla falters or get injured though, watch out. They could fall quickly.
2. Wild - Niklas Backstrom (yes, that one) was my great early pick in fantasy, when some a$hole stole him from me. But I'm not bitter. He'll contend for the Vezina this year, and with Gaborik healthy, they'll be able to steal games from the...
3. Canucks - Luongo, while certainly in the Vezina hunt yet again, is not enough. This is the toughest division in hockey, and trotting out 89-year-old Trevor Linden may warm the ol' cockles of the heart, but is worth precisely squat on the ice.
4. Avalanche - Smyth, great addition. Man, do I wish the Sharks got him. Starting goaltender with no playoff experience and 2.75 lifetime GAA? Backed up by the worst backup (and highest paid) in hockey? Not so much.
5. Oilers - Kevin Lowe is becoming the Matt Millen of hockey. I like to see Canadian teams do well, really I do, but they will need divine intervention this year to get 75 points.

1. Sharks - but only if the Ducks don't get Niedermayer (motto: "Waaah! I want to play with my brother!") and Selanne back. I still worry about the D, but I think we'll see Michalek turn into an All-Star this year.
2. Ducks - With no Selanne, Neids, or Penner, they are missing 103 goals from last year. I think they are hoping they can create a currency market where they can convert fighting majors (or ill-conceived mustaches) into scoring opportunities.
3. Stars - Booorrrring. I think I've heard this tune before- good D, just enough scoring, great goaltending, then the whole thing falls apart in the playoffs. Just don't sing it to the tune of SexyBack.
4. Kings - One year away from overtaking the Stars, and making a run of it. Let's put it this way- Scott Thornton is still on the roster.
5. Coyotes - Holy criminy, the Yotes are bad. The worst team in hockey. If you are a season ticket holder for this team, my hat is off to you. It's a "My eyes! These goggles do nothing!" situation.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Roster - Grier Style

Well, great minds think alike Mikey. I happen to agree with almost all your roster predictions with a few possible exceptions.

I think Torrey Mitchell makes the big club this year. He is this seasons Vlasic story, the kid who came out of nowhere to grab a spot on the big club. Even if he only plays 50 games, Roenick and Brown will both need several nights off, especially on back to backs. He is an impact player, Mark Smith with much more skill and I see him as a staple in Teal for the next few years.

Bernier should be traded. His value is still high now but we currently have no roster spot for him and the Sharks are not in a position to wait and see if a player is going to pan out. Clowe, Pavelski, Setoguchi, Goc and, in my opinion, Torrey Mitchell, have all passed him on the depth chart. He is the odd man out and Doug Wilson could still get some value for him. If we let him sit as a healthy scratch, his value declines and the Sharks leverage declines. He is our best trading piece to get a potential impact veteran D-man to upgrade the #6 spot. I like Murray, but he is a #7 guy in my opinion.

Let me preface this by saying, I'm not a fan of Semenov, as you already know but I think the Sharks go with Semenov and cut ties with Ozolinsh....for now. If Sandis doesn't catch on with another team, or if he is willing to start the year at Worcester against live competition, he could be in a Sharks uniform sometime this Fall if someone gets hurt.

Here is my opening night roster and projected lines.


McLaren, Rivet, Carle, Vlasic, Ehrhoff, Murray (unless Bernier is traded for D-man)

SCRATCHES: Rob Davison (wing/D), Semenov (D), Mitchell (F/C)

TRADED: Bernier for defensemen or goaltending depth.

My 23-man Roster Prediction

As Grier mentioned in his last post, we will both be posting our opening day 23-man roster predictions, then laugh and point at each other when we get them wrong. I just read a story about the 7 guys jockeying for position for the last D spot, and it inspired me to give my predictions now, what the hell.

By the way, I'm only grouping them into lines because I don't want this post to be 20 pages long. The actual line combinations are too tough to call.

1. Joe - Clowe - Cheech
2. Patty - Setoguchi - Michalek
3. Grier - Brown - Little Joe
4. Rissmiller - JR - Goc

1. McLaren - Ehrhoff
2. Rivet - Carle
3. Vlasic - Ozolinsh

1. Nabby
2. Greiss

Spare Parts
1. Davison
2. Bernier
3. Murray

As you can see, I'm predicting Ozolinsh to make the team, which is my most controversial prediction. At this point, with all the cuts they've made, they clearly have seen something out of Ozolinsh. With Davison, Murray, McLaren, Vlasic, and Rivet all being solid D-first defensemen, I think the Sharks will take a flyer on the Oz, and hope he contributes some offensive spark.

This means Semenov is the odd man out. As Grier has said, he's too reminiscent of Mike Rathje. Too slow, and not really any bone crushing hits. He's got a 6-6, 235 lb frame in a division with the Ducks; he has to be a physical force to have a shot to make the club. At least Murray tries to level people. I put Davison at the top of the healthy scratch list because he's been willing to play a wing position as well, and unlike Bernier, is unafraid to get his hands dirty. Bernier we're stuck with- he's too valuable to release or send down, but not good enough to play every day. He's trade bait.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Preseason thoughts

After four preseason games and seeing one in person this weekend, it appears the Sharks have a new attitude and some of the young kids are all growns up!

Pavelski is taking the body, tough in the corners and scoring clutch goals in the preseason while Setoguchi has done nothing but bury the puck in the net. These two are a lock to make the club. The only question is who do they play with? Right now, The Gooch is making a case that he belongs on Joe or Patty's wing. I see Pavelski potentially raising hell with JR and Grier on the third line.

Does someone want to wake up Steve Bernier and tell him he's playing for a roster spot? Does this guy just think he's on the team? He is in for a rude surprise when he is either shipped to Worcester or traded away before the season starts. Use your powers for good Bernier! Atleast try and make this a tough call.

It looks like it is down to a four horse race with Brennan Evans not standing out as much as I'd hoped and Brad Norton not seeing the ice this homestand. From all accounts, Murray played well tonight and Davison was okay. I thought Semenov was better than advertised on Friday, jumping into the play when needed and willing to play the cop role. Ozolinsh is the mystery man and reports of him being in great shape are all we've heard so far.

Mike and I will have a post soon about our opening night roster predictions and season forecasts. So far, the Sharks look motivated and aggressive. More later. GO SHARKS!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Sharks' Last D Spot

The 6th defenseman spot is a free-for-all. On one hand, we have the two guys that basically platooned it last year, Davison and Murray. On another hand, we have a crop of young guys and new guys fighting for it, like Semenov, Joslin, Norton, and our new hero, Brennan Evans. For the young ones out there, this is how you fight:

  • Pull the other guy's jersey over his head
  • Swing at will

And on the third hand, we have Sandis Ozolinsh. Grier pointed out this section of a recent article in the Mercury News:

If veteran defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh earns a spot on the roster, it'll be strictly based on what he shows in practice.

Under conditions imposed by the NHL because of his involvement in the league's substance-abuse program, Ozolinsh cannot play in any exhibition games. He pleaded guilty in June 2006 to driving while impaired.

Wilson said that Ozolinsh, who is attempting his comeback with the team that first drafted him, reported in excellent shape - something not lost on assistant coach Rob Zettler, a teammate during their stint together in San Jose.

"Zets says it's a totally different body than the last time he was here," Wilson said, adding that Ozolinsh is a strong skater whose outlet passes could prove valuable on the power play.

So the Sharks have to make a blind decision on a 35 year old guy who hasn't been effective in the NHL since 2003. The problem with all of this is, if whoever we choose doesn't work out, we could be in trouble. Any replacement player would probably be subject to clearing waivers.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Teal and White, almost useless

Almost. The most exciting things of the night (by far) was seeing the new scoreboard, the new 'ribbon' screen that goes around the arena on the upper deck, and the new unis. Ryan Garner has a full screed on it, and I agree with his major points.

The scoreboard is great. It's bigger, much clearer, and does away with the hard-coded section for penalties, time left, shots, and timeouts. It's all integrated into the large hi-def screen display. Replays are actually worth watching. It's not quite as good as a decent consumer plasma or LCD, probably because of the size, but a fantastic improvement. Watching the action on the screen is no longer useless, although you do see trails on the puck when it moves quickly, which is most of the time.

When I first saw pictures of the new unis on yesterday, I was a little disappointed. I thought the teal was too bright, and I'm not a huge fan of the orange. I'm happy to report that the teal has not changed at all- I stood next to a guy with the new jersey wearing my old teal jersey, and the colors are the same. I'm not sure I like the shoulders, and wish they'd use the fin logo instead, but I'm ok with the overall look. The new home whites are actually pretty snazzy.

Enough about fashion. Supposedly a game happened, but I think I blocked it out. It was basically an 'A' level Sharks Ice game without the intensity. (For those not in SJ, Sharks Ice is the local place where the Sharks practice, and where I play amateur hockey. Badly.) Everyone was trying to thread the needle with passes, often bypassing a good shooting opportunity. Might be kind of exciting when it's Joe making the passes, but it's dull when it's Brad Norton. The goalies looked good- there were some times where I got to see Dakers' positioning and Greiss' blinding lateral speed. But the game ended in a 0-0 tie, then went to an unwatchable shootout, with only Steve Bernier scoring. Joe's shootout attempt was so lazy and slow that if I wasn't already bored with the whole thing, I would have been insulted.

Unfortunately, the quality of the game was so bad that it wasn't even possible to do any evaluation on the young kids and new players. Devin Setoguchi has good speed, Ty Wishart is a beast, and Logan Couture needs to gain size. But that's about all I could see. I'm hoping they will get good minutes in the preseason, so I can properly form an opinion about their chances of making the big club. The way the roster is so jammed up right now, Setoguchi may be the only one with a decent shot.

Since there probably won't be anything that exciting to debut next year, I have doubts about going. If I do go, I'll want to go early so I can at least get some free stuff.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ozolinsh - Why not?

I've been waiting for my prediction to come true - a veteran defensemen to join the Sharks core before the season started. Doug Wilson did deliver this player in a blast from the past that I think no one saw coming. Sandis Ozolinsh is in Sharks camp to give it one more go on a player try out and I say - why not? This can only be a good thing. If he has nothing in the tank, he is cut loose. If he can regain any of his seven time All Star form, than it is a huge bonus for the Sharkies. I think he could have something left and here is why...

Throwing last season out, in 05-06 Ozolinsh put up respectable numbers for the Ducks and Rangers in 36 games. He missed part of that season with a rib injury and a 19 game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. If he had played all 82 games, here are his projected stats.

2005-06 8 goals 32 assists 40 points 64 PIM

These are not the numbers of a washed up player. Last year he suffered multiple knee injuries and showed nothing in 21 games with the Rangers. Which Ozolinsh are the Sharks getting? I'm excited to find out. At the very least his presence will push Semenov, Murray and Davison to step up their game in hopes of gaining the sixth D-man role.

TEAL AND WHITE GAME TONIGHT! Mike and I will give a full report tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ring Your Bell

The NHL has finally decided on Mark Bell's punishment and thankfully he will be serving his fifteen game suspension as part of the Toronto Maple Leafs and not wasting a Sharks roster spot, like he did last season. I think the punishment is just and sends a message to all hockey players and professional athletes that drinking and driving sucks and criminal behavior will not be tolerated by the league.

Speaking of drinking, blogger Howard Berger must have had a few Canadien whisky shots when writing the following words, "Mark Bell Comeback Player of the Year". Read for yourself - obviously they haven't been exposed to this overrated player that provides some good thrills as a goon but little else in the way of skill. Anyone who runs from a hit and run car accident doesn't have the character to mount a comeback. He should call Lindsey Lohan and maybe they can be cellmates?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Great Pickup for the Sharks, if they made it 10 years ago

The newest Shark? Jeremy Roenick. No cap considerations to worry about, he's only making half a million dollars. But with all the young players we got, this makes no sense. After the obvious first line (Cheech, Joe, Michalek) look at the list of other players with a reasonable shot to make the team. Marleau, Pavelski, Grier, Clowe, Goc, Brown, Rissmiller, Bernier, Setoguchi, Kaspar, and now Roenick. I'm not a hockey GM or anything like that, but something says that there's a logjam here. That's 5 lines worth of offense.

Grier seems to think that there's a deal in the works for D, trading away some of these younger players (Goc, Pavelski, and Bernier seem likely candidates), but I still think Grier is on a bit of the 'ol crack. If there was a deal in the works, it would have happened by now. And there are several other free agents still out there that make more sense.