Sunday, September 17, 2006
Camp has started. Things are looking interesting in Oiler land (Sykora as centre between Hemsky and Torres, Horc, Smyth and Pisani as a line - like them both). Lowetide is churning out his usual terrific stuff including a review of the members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
I want to talk about chaos.
Or as I call it "What If?" theory.
What if Eric Staal explodes? What if Rod Brind'Amour, after years of decline, uses a year off to rest and returns to form? What if Frantisek Kaberle has a career year and a guy who looked like a minor leaguer or at best, a bottom pair defenceman, Mike Commodore suddenly emerges as a good defenceman. Then you have a team pegged as also rans going all the way.
And from there, the ripple effect, as Vic over at IOF calls it. Staal's emergence keys Erik Cole and also helps Brindamour and Matt Cullen, who see easier minutes. This in turn leads to Justin Williams emerging. On D, the performance of Commodore and Kaberle means less minutes for oldsters Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican and allows Laviolette to spread those D minutes out nice and even over 6 guys. In turn the better defence and offence, for that matter, leads to better results, giving the team confidence as a whole, etc etc.
The reason I bring this up now is because with predictions flying fast and furious around the internet the thing that I look at on each team are the what ifs.
And I'm not talking about injuries either. Even with the overall poor play and the Bertuzzi factor, the Canucks would have likely been in the playoffs and maybe even a high seed last year if they had not lost Cloutier and Jovonoski for months, Ohlund and Salo after the Olympics and if Naslund and Morrison had not been hobbled for nearly the entire season. Think about that - any team who lost their number one goalie and best defenceman long term as well as having their #2 and #3 Dmen out at a key point of the season (same time as the #1 too) and two thirds of their top line playing at far less then 100% - what would those team's chances be?
This can happen to any team - it seems like some teams (Montreal, LA) have worse luck then others - if Mikka Kiprusoff blows out his knee in October then the Flames are probably done but I'm not going to pick against the Flames using that thinking. Nobody has the depth anymore at every position to survive a handful of key players getting injured.
The only time I look at injuries is if a guy is always hurt (Eric Lindros) and a team is taking a big gamble by giving the guy a big role.
So, from team to team - what teams have one or two question marks? These teams are likely in really good shape. What teams have a dozen (Maple Leafs)? Are these teams doomed? No because everything might come together. But the likelihood of this happening? Not great.
So, what ifs in the Campbell:
Oilers - can the current cast on D do the job or do they bring someone in who can - they have the cap room to do so. Outlook - good.
Flames - can Kobasew and Lombardi provide that secondary scoring or do they need outside help also - in any case their outlook is good
Sharks - can the young D behind Hannan and MacLaren get the job done - I'd say so and, if not, once again, they have cap space - outlook is good
Ducks - does Selanne have another big year in him; can Penner, Getzlaf and Perry take the step that turns this team into one of the favourites - yes on Selanne, jury is out on the kids - outlook is still pretty good I'd say
Canucks - can secondary players Krajicek, Bulis, Cooke and Kesler provide bigger and better things then expected (more offence from Cooke, Bulis and Kesler), some top four minutes from Krajicek - if they all do so then the Canucks are in the thick of this thing - they have to because no help is coming - outlook - not impossible but they need at least a three for four, I think
Wings - with two lines instead of three to produce offence, how will guys like Lang, Samuellson and Williams react to facing less soft minutes - will Hasek, Osgood and Howard do the job in net - outlook - pretty good for the regular season (especially with that D and Datsyuk/Zetterberg up front) but the playoffs - early exit again I think
Preds - can the young D perform - how will Arnott do as "the man" instead of playing behind Modano - who replaces the minutes of all of the guys (mostly unsung types) who have left - outlook - iffy - I think this team takes a step back
Stars - who replaces Arnott's offence - Lindros - can he stay healthy? can Zubov do it again? was the #2 seed or the first round exit more indicative of where this team is at? I think the latter - its a general feeling but I think the slide is beginning for these guys
Wild - who replaces the five regular defencemen who are gone from last season's team - are we supposed to believe that Demitra and Parrish suddenly turn this team into an offensive juggernaut - outlook - count me among the doubters - too many questions
Blues - Is Weight done? Is Guerin? And this is two thirds of their first line. Good top four D, probably decent goaltending but no offence - seriously who scores on this team?
Hawks - Michael Handzus - first line centre? Ruutu's health? Havlat facing the toughest minutes for the first time. And this is their first line? Who else scores? Can the young D perform? Is Aucoin done (probably not)? Khabibulin (more likely)?
Jackets - Can all of the youngsters on this team move forward? (no) Can Adam Foote hang in there one more year? (likely) Is Federov completely useless? (almost) How does Doug MacLean hold onto his job?(beats me)
Coyotes - Can Nagy stay healthy? (probably not) Can Comrie get his head out of his ass for the entire season (likely not)? Will Roenick and Nolan contribute anything but headaches? (no) Curtis Joseph is the answer? (no) Bye bye Yotes.
Kings - who scores for this team? (nobody) are we to believe that O'Sullivan is going to tear it up as a rookie? (no) will Cloutier do the job in net? (probably)is Rob Blake done? (close to it)
Avs - can Svatos replace Tanguay? (no) can Theodore replace Roy? (no) can Leopold replace Blake? (yes) can Turgeon replace Forsberg? (no) can Brisebois replace Foote? (no) are the Avs a shadow of their former selves? (see above)
Looking back at this post - what a long and useless ramble - but what the hell. Things are starting to happen.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:24 PM