Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Nashville Rising? Ar nott?

THN has the Preds finishing second in the conference. Last season they finished with 104 points, third best in the conference. Seeded fourth in the playoffs behind the division winning Flames they were bounced quickly by the San Jose Sharks.

They, like the Wings, benefitted from playing in the Central Division. Indeed, Mudcrutch was one who felt that this team was overrated from the start, iirc. (And actually talks about them in his latest post).And while they did pull away from the pack a little bit, just two more losses to each of those divisional weak sisters would have left them tied with Vancouver and likely on the outside looking in.

So, for the Preds, two issues. Can they pull ahead of the Wings, who finished 20 points ahead of them, thus guaranteeing a playoff spot and probably a # 1 or #2 seed?

Or, failing that, are they a good enough team (or is their division still weak enough) to not lose those ten points that would drop them to the magic 94 point plateau?

Sounds goofy? It sure is. If they can catch the Wings (and in a few days I will look at Detroit, who I think is about ready to slide after over a decade of having terrific teams) then they are likely a top seed. If they do not they could likely be right out of it.

Nashville added some size to a lineup that dearly needed some with big centres Jason Arnott (although to me the fact that Dallas would rather sign an aging Mike Modano coming off his worst season then extend Arnott last summer makes me wonder wtf) and Josef Vasicek. Gone - rentals Brendan Witt and Mike Sillinger as well as faceoff whiz and third leading scorer Yanic Perreault, ex-captain Greg Johnson, gritty Dman Danny Markov (on his fifth team now already?) and plugger Scott Walker, among others.

Nashville has one of the top keepers in the league in Tomas Vokoun although issues with blod clots sidelined him for the playoffs and probably make management pretty nervous.

Paul Kariya had a nice comeback year, like his old buddy Teemu. He and Steve Sullivan are two guys who made a lot of hay with the crackdown on obstruction.

The Preds have the potential to have a powerhouse D for the next few years with Timmonen and Zidlicky being the oldsters in a bunch that includes Lowetide's mancrush, who is 23, and two twenty one year olds, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.

For the Preds there are two issues that will make or break their year. One is Vokoun's health. The other is whether or not their kiddie corps D can take the next step. If they can then this team could win the division and earn one of those top two seeds. If not and their divisional foes improve enough to take some points off of them, they could take a step back right out of the playoffs.

Like Anaheim (and likely nearly every team in the league, I'm beginning to think) it comes back to the kids. I think they do well enough and Arnott and Vasicek add enough up front that they get in - not sure if they catch the Wings yet though.


Anonymous said...

BDHS - "it comes back to the kids" because under the current CBA, your RFA's are the only place where an organization can get more player than they have to pay for. If you are paying for all of the output that you're getting (no bargains), then it is up to coaching to make the difference. Not a hopeful situation.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Hiya anon - I realize that, of course. Someone, maybe Tom Benjamin, said that he thought the draft meant less now because teams would lose their youngsters sooner and teams can take advantage of FA to put their teams together.

I disagree with that - drafting and development is what will separate the best teams from the worst in the years upcoming.

For the two teams I have looked at so far the development of their kids means more so then others though. I mean if Nashville's D do not step up then this team is nowhere. Same with Anaheim's three young forwards.

Some other teams, including the Flames and Oilers need something else then the kids to come through though. If Smid can play for the Oilers that's great but realistically they need Bergeron to finally get his head out of his ass and Hejda to be a player.

For another post though.

namflashback said...

As you tour around the Central, I am curious to know what your thoughts on the other teams are. CBJ we have to expect will continue to suck nards -- particularly without Zherdev. With CHI, if Khabi plays as well enough, they have a good D corp, and Havlat somehow lives up to that salary. STL is a hodge podge, but there may be enough there to get a few points in.

Bottom line, I just want STL and CHI to get a few more points out of DET and NSH. Keep things nice and close.

Since in the PAC and NW, teams will be beating the crap out of each other.

Anonymous said...

bdhs - I agree that the comment about the draft diminishing in importance is not true. What is true about the new FA rules over the old is, there is much more player liquidity to fix a problem like the Blues and restore parity quickly. (It's too bad that they could not get the ownership issue solved in time to really play in this years' FA bonanza). There is no excuse for cellar-dwelling perennially. As you implied, excellence has to be drafted and will take patience.

For the two teams so far, the youth movements look like budget issues - Nashville can't spend because of revenue restrictions and Anaheim can't spend because of the $13M pair. It does not look like Kariya's "star' power enhanced ticket sales last year like the Preds were hoping. Anaheim's case is a problem of their own making and therefore can be blamed on management if it does not work.

I find it incredible that THN thinks this is such a wonderful move that they predict ANA will finish first. It looks plain goofy to me because in my eyes, the current cap is about 2M a roster spot. I doubt that a team built of 22 $2M players would win very much. Some more expensive players are required, which means you have to use less expensive players to fit them in. I personally think that the returns on a $6M vs. a $4M player are not worth the 2 extra $1M players that you have to carry. In Burke's case, he may know who his 2 $1M players are, but we will all see.

I will have more to say about these budgeting tradeoffs when you get to Mr Nonis's Canuckleheads.

Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

I think that there is player liquidity for sure but I don't think we are going to see NFL type turnarounds where a team goes from last to first and vice versa pretty regularly - although in the NFL I think a lot of that has to do with strength of schedule as well. The UFA market this summer was goofy as always and I think that teams like the Oilers who stayed away from the big ticket guys, by design or not, will be in a better position in the long run then a team like the Leafs which gave a ton of money to McCabe, Gill and Kubina and suddenly have nothing left to pay any forwards. Similarly the Ducks may figure they are in great shape for this season (I disagree although THN does not) but with 13M tied up in two older Dmen they may be in deep trouble in a year or two although Niedermeyer will probably age pretty nicely I think.

Your point on budgeting tradeoffs is an excellent one - when McCabe's contract came up I made a point about how his contract equalled the Oilers' D (without Pronger) and which team was getting better bang for their buck. Obvious conclusion there.

nam - not sure about the Central - the Blues are going to allow a lot less goals - they have a pretty solid top four assuming Brewer is healthy and Legace will help in net

the Hawks will be crap again; thye have alot of young D with potential and a few young forwards as well but I can't see it

if the Blue jackets get Zherdev under contract I think they may be better although I don't know about LeClaire as their starter - they may finally make a move

I could see only one team coming out of the central - probably 2 but you never know

Anonymous said...

BDHS - NFL turnarounds are also possible because of the depth of the talent pool. The NHL does not have this. I think that it will be reasonable to see that most of what an NHL team may need will be available in 2 or 3 years of free-agents.

The opposite of my uniform-salary team is the following: Jagr ($8.36M), Richards ($7.8M), Chara ($7.5M), Niedermeyer ($6.75M), Luongo ($6M) and 17 players making $450,000 (its actually $60,000 over the cap). I think that the uniform-salary team would actually do better, but that is just mental masturbation.