2010 Olympic Preview Part IV

The Velvet (although not technically) Sleeper (not really) #2

 

6. Finland

 

The Fins have talent, there is no denying it, but when it comes down to it I feel much the same way about them I do about the Czechs.  With the exception, their depth is good, but not quite to the point where they have four lines that you can expect to score.  Also like the Czechs, they really don’t have many guys that you really have to watch out for. 

This is what keeps both of these teams out of the top five, and in my opinion, out of the medals.  The 6 and 7 slots really could have gone either way.  The Czechs take a slight edge at forward, defenseman is pretty much a wash (maybe a slight edge to the Fins), but a sizable edge at Goaltender for the Fins.  In the short tournament, I will take my chances on a hot goaltender, rather than the flash up front.  With all due respect to Vokoun, he would probably be the 3rd, maybe even 4th string goalie for Finland. 

Having said that, I have always been a believer that goaltending is only a part of team defense, only slightly more important than play of skaters in their own end (after all, how many goals would one really blame the goaltender for at high levels), and Finland does not intimidate along the blue line by any means.  Just as importantly, who is Finland going to look to when they need a big goal?  Jokinen probably, possibly Selanne (if he can turn back the clock).  Those guys are fine, but I will take my chances with the Crosbys, Ovechkins, Parises or Hossas of the world.  Mainly for that reason, a medal seems like a long shot for the white and blue.

 

(most importantly, Finnish names are absolute hell to attempt to spell phonetically- Mika Kippersof?  Valateri Phillipula?  Hell no, try Miikka Kiprusoff and Valtteri Filppula…and excuse me for assuming that Kari Lehtonen and Jere Lehtinen had the same last name-, so just know that this post was a grind to put together)

 

Line 1

 

Teemu Selanne (RW- ANA) – Olli Jokinen (C- CGY) – Antti Miettinen (LW- MIN)

 

Didn’t believe me about the lack of top end talent? 

How about now?

Jokinen is certainly capable of being a first liner on an international team, and Selanne probably is as well (at least he was 3 years ago), but is Miettinen really the best left wing option for a team hoping to contend for Gold?  Yes and no.  Yes, in that he is indeed Finland’s best option (as you will see in the following lines), and no in that he really shouldn’t be on the first line of an international power.

That is nothing against Miettinen, I actually like him as a player.  His 41 points in 65 games this year are respectable, if not remarkable, but he doesn’t compare to anyone playing on a first line for the top 7 teams (those with hopes of winning a medal).  Miettenan didn’t even play on the first line for Dallas last year or for Minnesota this year.  This is a glaring weakness, despite the fact that he really is their best option at that spot.

Olli Jokinen has often been criticized for inconsistent play, but never for a lack of talent.  Jokinen is a premier centerman in the NHL, with a combination of size, good hands and an excellent shot that makes him a deadly scorer when on.  Having said all of that, Jokinen doesn’t quite stack up against the elite players in the tournament (at least on a consistent basis).  He is a great player, but perhaps not an absolute top tier one.  For Finland to have a shot, he will need to make himself one for at least two weeks.

Selanne is something of a wild card for the Fins.  Presumably he has the talent to be a solid first liner for them, but he has played just 76 games in the last two seasons for Anaheim.  His production has been solid this year, he has 40 points in 50 games despite injuring his quad and missing most of December and January.  Despite the fact that he will be 39 when the games are played, Finland will need Selanne to be a key part of their offense in Vancouver.

 

Line 2

Mikko Koivu (RW- MIN) – Saku Koivu (C- MTL) – Niklas Hagman (LW- TOR)

 

In another similarity to the Czech team, the second line for the Fins is nearly as potent as their first.  The Koivu brothers are on the opposite ends of their careers (Saku is 9 years older than Miku), but both are productive players.  Mikko is enjoying something of a breakout season in Minnesota with 58 points in 65 games, already eclipsing his previous high of 54 points in 2007.  Saku has been less productive, playing in only 49 games and registering only 36 points thus far for Les Habitants, but he is a solid second line centerman who plays both ends of the ice and will bring veteran savvy to the Finnish team.

Hagman is another extremely skilled European player who has yet to show the grit to play consistently (I’m starting to sound like this guy).  Prone to spectacular goals, his numbers have never reflected any sort of consistency in the NHL. 

Realistically, either Hagman or Mikko could take Miettenan’s spot on the first line, but Miettenan’s numbers the past couple of years are slightly better than those of his former teammate, and I like the idea of the Koivu brothers playing together (any chemistry you can forge in a tournament with such limited preparation is a plus), so Antti gets the nod over his current teammate.

 

Line 3

Jere Lehtinen (RW- DAL) – Valtteri Filppula (C- DET) – Jussi Jokinen (LW- CAR)

 

A fairly mediocre line, these guys won’t hurt you, and may even be able to put the puck in the net on occasion, but they certainly aren’t going to scare anyone.  Filppula is working on his second consecutive 30 point season in Detroit (he is just shy of his career high of 36), but he is hardly asked to carry the scoring for the Red Wings, and luckily for him, that will not be his job for the Fins either.  Lehtinen is another vet for this Finland team which will have 7 forwards 30 years or older at the Vancouver games (the Czechs, by comparison, had only 4, even the aging Russians have just 6).  He has been injured the past two years, but may be capable of one more 40-50 point season if healthy.  To be honest though, any offense from those two would be gravy, for a Finland team that will rely heavily on goaltending and the top two lines to win tight games.  Jokinen is the one player who is a legitimate threat to put the puck away on this line.  Olli’s younger brother scored 55 points his rookie season in Dallas, but has been unable to stay healthy the past few years, bouncing from North Texas to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and now to North Carolina in the process.  Still, Jokinen has established himself as very skilled (not to mention perhaps the most efficient player in the world in the shootout) in his 292 career NHL games, and would be an excellent addition to the score sheet for the Fins.

(Although I am going to stick with Miettenan for now, should he falter, sticking Jussi with his brother on the first line would be a logical adjustment for the Fins.)

 

Line 4

Jarkko Ruutu (RW- OTT) – Tuomo Ruutu (C- CAR) – Ville Peltonen (LW- FLA)

 

I can’t think of anything nice to say about the Ruutu brothers, so I will let Don Cherry take over:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcerBrY816c]



This line will add some grit, but shouldn’t bring much offensively.  Peltonen has only scored 30 points once (2007), and the Ruutus have other goals on the ice.

 

Defense 1

Kimmo Timonen (D- PHI) – Joni Pitkanen (D- CAR)

 

Ville Koistinen (D- NSH) – Sami Salo (D-EDM)

 

Toni Lydman (D- BUF) – Teppo Numminen (D- BUF)

 

This team really isn’t getting any younger once you go back to defense.  Teppo, the most recognizable name in the group, is going to be 41 years old by the time these games are played.  While he is no longer the offensive threat he once was, he is still a solid puck moving defenseman.  Kimmo Timonen is the blueline ace for the Fins, and he will be relied upon to anchor a powerplay that the Fins will need in order to put up any sort of offensive numbers.  Beyond Timonen, none of these guys really create much offense.  The transition game could be an issue, making life harder for the Finnish arsenal of goaltenders.

 

Goaltenders

 

Miikka Kiprusoff (G- CGY) (Starter) – Niklas Backstrom (G- MIN) (2nd String) – Kari Lehtonen (G- ATL) (3rd String) – Vesa Toskala (G- TOR) (4th String) – Pekka Rinne (G- NSH) (5th String) – Antero Nittymaki (G- PHI) (6th String) – Tuukka Rask (G- BOS) (7th String)

 

Obviously, the Finnish team will not carry 7 goalies, but I listed all of them to make the point that Finland may very well have taken over from Quebec as the goaltending capital of the world (there are 6 starters, and one blue chip prospect- Rask- in that list, Canada only has 11 starters in the NHL, of which 5 are French).

More importantly, Kiprusoff gives the Finnish as solid a backstop as anyone, including Canada.  If he should go down, there are three, maybe four guys that the Fins should feel comfortable going to.  I just feel like they won’t have enough help in front of them to go anywhere.  A medal will be a long shot in Vancouver, and to repeat or improve on their silver from 2006 seems all but impossible from where I’m standing.

2010 Olympic Preview Part III

The Velvet Sleeper #1

7. Czech Republic 

Just two Olympic tournaments removed from a Gold Medal in Nagano, the Czech team has, in my mind, moved to the bottom of the list of countries who are able to fill their rosters (at least almost) entirely with NHLers.  The Czechs will sleep on no one, having been considered among the elite in international hockey since that gold in ‘96, but they lack the top end talent that most of the other contenders have on their roster, and while they have good depth, it is not overwhelming, especially compared to that of the top end teams. 

Having said that, the Czechs certainly (and clearly) outclass any of the teams 8-12 in this list, and will likely be able to hang with most of the teams ranked ahead of them.  Young stars such as Erat, Krejci and Hemsky could very well step up and lead the Czechs into the medals, but I, for one, don’t see it as none of those three have legitimized themselves as top end NHL stars (even if Hemsky has the talent to), and they will need to carry veterans who will likely be behind the pace of play in British Columbia.

Line 1

Ales Hemsky (LW-EDM) – Robert Lang (C-MTL) – David Krejci (LW- BOS)

The first line for the Czechs is certainly not overwhelming considering that they will likely be considered a contender heading into Vancouver.  All three of these players are certainly potent scorers, but the Czech team lacks a headline scorer.  Hemsky is likely the most skilled player on the squad (and indeed one of the most skilled in the tournament), but he has been inconsistent throughout his career in Edmonton.  Hemsky will dazzle at times, seeming able to put the puck in the net at will, yet at other times he seems soft and disinterested.  Which Hemsky shows up in February 2010 will be a key question (possibly the key question) for the Czech team.

Placing Lang at center on the first line may actually be optimistic.  The Montreal star recently suffered one of the more gruesome and painful sounding injuries in recent memory when another player’s skate slipped between the heel of the skate and the back of Lang’s leg, slicing through his sock and severing Lang’s Achilles tendon.  Placing him here is assuming that he will recover fully and be the player he was prior to the injury.  If he is, Lang is a gifted scorer who should flourish with a talented

Krejci is also a question mark for the Czechs.  He has certainly put up numbers worthy of a first line spot in 2008-2009 (+31, 59 points through 61 games), but this greatly outstrips his career pace.  Krejci is young (22 years old), so it is only logical that his production will increase with successive seasons, but that is not to say that a 5 month tear guarantees that he is an elite talent in international play.  I am giving Krejci the benefit of the doubt here, and placing him with Lang and Hemsky, but the Czechs likely won’t know what they have in the Boston youngster until shortly before the tournament.

Line 2

Patrick Elias (LW- NJD) – Martin Havlat (C-CHI) – Martin Erat (RW-NSH)

The second line for the Czechs is still a formidable scoring threat.  Havlat is similar to Hemsky in that he is outrageously skilled, but sometimes lacks the grit and drive to make the most of his gifts.  Unlike Hemsky, who is young, and beginning to come into his own as a player, Havlat has been in the NHL for 8 seasons, and has only maintained point per game production (the most relevant figure, as injuries have kept him from playing a single full season) twice in his career (’03-’04 and ’05-’06), something that should come easily to a player with the natural ability of Havlat.  The fact remains, however, that Havlat is extraordinarily skilled and is capable of having a huge tournament.  By that logic, he would be capable of being a first liner (as he may have to be should Lang be unable to recover).

Elias has had something of a resurrection in New Jersey this year.  Through just 65 games, the left winger has 69 points, equaling the highest mark he has put up since the 2003-2004 campaign.  Appearing healthy for the first time in years, even at 33, Elias should be a key component on the Czech’s second scoring line.

Finally, Erat will round out the second line.  Erat has never put up top tier numbers (his career highs are 23, 41 and 57), but he has never played with elite talent either.  Erat could likely thrive on a team where he is not expected to create as much, as will be the case with the Czech team.

Line 3

Milan Hejduk (LW- COL)  – Milan Michalek (LW- SJ)  – Ales Kotalik (RW- EDM)

This line is the best example of the Czech’s strengths.  For a third line, it is extremely talented.  If the Czechs are to establish themselves as a top tier team in the Olympics, it will be because teams from the Germans to the Slovakians and even Fins cannot hang once they get into the third and fourth lines.

As for the actual makeup of the line, I would put Michalek, who plays wing in San Jose in the middle, mainly because I believe that he can complement these two, and he has the size and speed to be a good center, even in a tournament as chalked full of top talent as this.  Kotalik is a pure sniper who can shoot with the best of them, but has a limited game.  Putting him with a playmaker like Michalek should maximize his effectiveness.  (For a read on Kotalik, one is better going to YouTube than NHL.com.)

Hejduk, is also extremely adept at putting the puck in the net.  He has scored 50 goals (in 2003) and has scored 24 through 65 games this year despite playing with one of the worst teams in the league.  Hejduk is also a consistent plus player (this season is the first time he has ever been a minus), something that is key for a third liner. 

This line could just as easily be a first or second.  Scorers like Kotalik and Hejduk on a third line is something that anyone (even the Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Russians etc) would love to have.  Despite not having a natural center, Michalek’s size and skating, and Hedjuk’s defensive ability should enable the Czech coaches to match them up with anyone.

Line 4

Petr Sykora (LW- PIT) – Jiri Hudler (C- DET) – Jaromir Jagr (RW- KHL)

Admittedly, it is doubtful that, should he chose to play, the most celebrated hockey player in Czech history will be relegated to the fourth line.  Having said that, the KHL is certainly not at the same level as the NHL (yet, at any rate), and Jagr isn’t getting any younger (he will turn 38 during the tournament.  Combine that with the fact that he registered just 71 points in his last year in the NHL (a solid number, but it will be two years ago by the time the tournament starts). 

The fact is, unless Jagr can turn back the clock, this is a fairly underwhelming line.  Sykora has decent numbers, but most of his production comes on one timers and rebounds from Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby.  Even if the Czechs had players of that ilk, they have more complete, better suited options to clean up (such as Krejci and Kotalik).  Hudler, the center on this line is fine, but uninspiring.  He has played well for Detroit (50 points in 66 games), but is really more of a very good third liner (he is in Detroit, and doesn’t see a lot of checking lines), whereas most of the contending teams will be made up of first and second liners

Defense 1

Roman Hamerlik (MTL) – Tomas Kaberle (TOR)

Defense 2

Michal Roszival (NYR) – Pavel Kubina (TOR)

Defense 3

Marek Zidlicky (MIN) – Filip Kuba (OTT)

This is a truly uninspiring group.  So uninspiring, in fact, that I can’t even bring myself to break them down pair by pair.  All of these guys are fine, and shouldn’t necessarily sink the Czechs, but none of them are really elite defensemen.   Kaberle and Hamerlik were both all-stars, but Hamerlik because of heavily skewed voting by the Montreal fans and Kaberle as the representative of a putrid Toronto team.  One through six they have viable options, but this really is neither a strength nor a weakness for the Czechs.

Goaltender

Tomas Vokoun (NSH) (starter) – Andrej Pavelec (ATL) (backup)

Vokoun is really the only option available to the Czechs.  Luckily for them, he is a good one.  Vokoun has been an important part of Florida’s turnaround this season.  Vokoun has posted a .926 Save Percentage, a 2.47 GAA for a Panther team that is 6th in the Eastern Conference despite registering just 2.79 goals per game.  If Vokoun goes down, the Czechs are in major trouble, Pavelec has only played in 11 games as Atlanta’s third string goalie, but he is the best option for the Czechs backup.  With him, however, they have a solid option at goaltender.

Quick Update

A few notes here very quickly

 
First of all, after reading ESPN.com’s NHL rumor mill, I want to add one more trade to my wish list.
Wild 
Michael Nylander (3 years- 4.8 M)
3rd Round Draft Pick
John Carlson (D-USHL)

Capitals
Niklas Backstrom (1 year, 3.1 M)
Kurtis Foster (1 year, 1.025 M)

I’m going to be honest, this one is pretty selfish.  I just want to see Niklas Backstrom on the same team as Nicklas Backstrom.  At any rate, that was rumored this morning, so I couldn’t resist adding it to the list.  I figured while I was hear, I would make it work for both teams (it is what I do), and the Caps are looking to dump Nylander anyways.  This keeps both of the teams under the cap, and the pick and prospect are thrown in to make the deal appealing for Minnesota, who certainly gives up more in Backstrom than they would get in Nylander alone.  Carlson was a first rounder though for the Caps (who have a deep system and can afford to move some prospects), and probably pushes this over the top, as Backstrom could leave after this year.
God I’m good at this.
A couple of other quick notes
- I will get back to the Olympic stuff soon enough, I just wanted to get the deadline thing in before it became too late (Wednesday at noon, not Tuesday as I wrote yesterday)….please give it a look, I really think it is some of my better work.
- It may be a few more days until I get to the Olympic stuff…don’t blame me, blame my professors for giving me 3 essays and 2 tests this week, sorry

Breaking the Silence- My Trade Deadline Wish List

                Despite the fact that I have been watching hockey (you’re welcome) more than any other sport, and in fact, probably more than any other activity outside of going to the gym and studying (make any inference about my social life from this statement that you wish- it is probably justified), I have remained relatively silent about the subject so far in the 2008-2009 season.  Thumbing through the archives, it turns out that the last strictly NHL column that I wrote was back in June when I made a half hearted attempt at following the draft.  The reasons are twofold.  First of all, there hasn’t been that much to talk about.  The season has been compelling enough, but nothing has jumped out at me as something that needed to be addressed.  Alas, there was one thing that normally I would jump at the chance to editorialize about, the Sharks dominance of the Western Conference (at least for the first half).  Due to the inconvenience of starting college with the lofty expectations of not carrying a 1.5 GPA through my freshman year, time was scarce. (I actually could care less, it’s just that I just need a 2.0 to play hockey)

While I had plenty to say about the Sharks, and I relished the chance to brag about them, I kept putting it off while they were on their historically hot start.  After a while, I decided that it would be too late to talk about the start, but I could still probably find an angle.  While searching for this angle it occurred to me, I had refrained from writing about my favorite team for two or three months, and they had been unstoppable.  To break my own streak in the middle of their hot streak would have been terrible karma, selfish (plus I wasn’t exactly looking for ways to kill time).  Alas, like all good things, the Sharks tear came to an end.  Unfourtunately though, they are a paltry 8-8 since the all-star break.  Therefore, I have deemed it safe to break my silence on the NHL, just in time for what is often one of my favorite dates on the NHL calendar.

Last year, I wrote an (excessively) extensive wrap up of the NHL trade deadline, going through every trade.  This year, I am taking the other side.  With just over 65 hours until the deadline as I write this, there are a number of deals (some of which are for selfish reasons, others that I just think would be good for both sides/the NHL).  So here is my NHL trade deadline wish list.  3 moves (with cap space considered), in no particular order that I would like to see go down before noon on Tuesday.

(Players are listed under the team that they would go to, with their cap figures in parentheses- years include 2008-2009 season)

 

San Jose-

Tim Connolly (3 years- 2.9 M)

 

Buffalo-

Jonathan Cheechoo (1 year- 3.0 M)

2010 2nd Round Pick

 

This trade would be a slam dunk for San Jose.  Connolly would fit perfectly between Michalek and Clowe, making that one of the top second lines in the NHL (it already is with Pavelski).  Connolly’s game is more powerful than that of Little Joe, giving the second line a devastating forecheck that could wear down defensemen, especially in a seven game series.  As much as I like the Sharks team as is, I can’t shake the feeling that they need one more scorer.  If Pavelski moved down to the third line (with Grier and Mitchell if he comes back and is effective, Roenick if Mitchell needs more time), that gives San Jose three legitimate scoring lines.  Cheechoo is an effective scorer on a first or second line, but is little more than a grinder if on a checking line (although he does a good job of it). 

On top of that, to have an additional $3 million coming off of the books this summer would be a good thing for San Jose.  If San Jose uses Connolly as a rental and loses him in July, they have $3 million in cap space to re-sign Clowe and Mitchell and possibly Roenick, Grier and Blake, which would potentially clear space to go after a free agent.  If they re-sign Connolly, even better.  The second rounder would be going back to Buffalo, as the Sharks acquired it for Craig Rivet last summer.

As far as Buffalo is concerned, this deal makes sense, mainly if they think they may lose Connolly in the offseason.  Cheechoo, while having a terrible year, is still a valuable asset.  He will likely never sniff 50 goals again, like he did in 2006, but he is more than capable of helping a team win hockey games.  As I alluded to above, Cheechoo is something of a chameleon.  Put on the third line, he accepts his role, and plays a grinder’s game, but his production suffers.  He is most valuable when playing with a playmaker (Drew Stafford anyone?), going to the net, and scoring goals.  In San Jose, he has been shut out by a team with too many good scorers.  A change of scenery would do him good, and while it would be somewhat of a risk, it is certainly worth it (with the draft pick sweetening the deal for Buffalo).

(plus he has some of the best cellys in the league, which is at least the equivalent of a second round draft pick, right?)

(note:  I wouldn’t feel good about moving Cheechoo as a Sharks fan.  I like him as a player.  I really do.  I just think that he has a lot more value for about 25 other NHL teams.  Not only is it best for the Sharks to unload a $3 million role player- he is, like it or not- but it would be the best thing for Cheech.  I really do believe he can be a star in this league again, but he has to be on a first line to do it, and that’s not what the Sharks need from him.  This really would be better for all parties involved.  I promise.)

 

Montreal-

Vinnie Lecavalier (11 years- 6.78 M, moves to 7.72 starting in 2009-2010)

 

Tampa Bay-

2009 First Round Pick

2009 Second Round Pick

2010 Second Round Pick

Alexei Kovalev (1 year- 4.5 M)

Mathieu Dandenault (1 year- 1.725 M)

Robert Lang’s Contract (1 year- 4.0 M)

 

($10 million in expiring contracts and Draft Picks/Prospects)

 

Believe it or not, this trade really does work for both sides.  For Montreal, it is a no brainer.  They lack a go-to scorer, which Lecavalier is in spades.  On top of that, it really is important for the Habs to have a French-Canadian star.  No one is more provincial than Quebeckers.  Lecavalier, in terms of talent, really is in the same league as the Crosbys, Malkins and Ovechkins, but he is largely forgotten (since 2004) on the Gulf Coast.  Put him in Montreal and he becomes the biggest star in the league (in his own market, at any rate). 

Did I mention that they don’t have to give up a single player of value to get him?  They were willing to keep Kovalev home just a week ago, Dandenault wants out anyways, and Lang is out for the year.  This makes them exponentially better, and they will sell about 5 million jerseys in the next two weeks. 

For the Bolts, it is a bit of a tougher sell, but there is certainly logic in the deal.  They aren’t winning with Vinnie, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to build the depth they sorely need with a contract approaching $8 million next year.  Sure, plenty of teams have been able to compete with one player making more than that, but the Lightning’s cap situation really is dire.  Next year, they are on the hook for $36 million to just 11 players (players from a team that may finish dead last at that).  Ideally they would package Ryan Malone’s God awful contract in the Lecavalier deal, but the Habs really can’t afford it.  While those three guys are worthless to the Habs, who can win now, they have major value to the Lightning simply because they will open up cap room in the offseason.  The more I write about this, the more it makes sense (but wait, there’s more).

All the cap talk is one thing, but that doesn’t even factor in the fact that the Lightning have a half empty building in the worst economy in 80+ years.  Is there any way, I mean any way that they are going to spend $55 million if that is where the cap is next year?  You are telling me that it doesn’t make sense to shed what will probably be about a sixth of the payroll on a team that has no chance of making the playoffs anyways?  Think about how much sense it makes to have an NHL team in Nashville, Miami, Tampa Bay, Raleigh and Atlanta, then think about the complete opposite of that.  That’s how much sense this makes.

All this saving money is nice, I hear you saying, but what about the on ice product?  I would say I’m glad you asked, but the fact is the Lightning owners don’t care….

                Seriously, they could care less….

                I’m not joking, complete indifference…

                Really, it is a non-factor….but I will tell you anyways.  As I said the Lightning can’t win with Vinnie.  That much has been proven.  Let’s say that they get rid of the $10 million that expires from this deal, so that leaves them with $29 million in payroll.  Now, they probably don’t spend the entire $55 million, but they could certainly spend around $45 (easy for me to say, I know, but really, they could).  That leaves them $16 million to fill 10 roster spots.  With that kind of flexibility, they could go after a prize like Marion Gaborik, Mike Cammalerri or Daniel Sedin (all UFAs), pick up a $3-4 Million dollar player such as the aforementioned Connolly, Mike Comrie, Brian Gionta or Johan Franzen (also UFAs) and have plenty of room to fill the rest of the roster with solid depth, and still be $10 million under the cap.  On top of that, they are probably not going to win many games with Kovalev, St. Louis, Prospal and a bunch of AHLers.  While this sounds like a bad thing, it means that they will be in the top 2-3 (at worst) in a draft loaded with top end talent.  Now they are building around Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, their prize free agent signing and Jonathan Tavares, Viktor Hedman or “worst case” Matt Duchene or Evander Kane.  That may not win in 2010, but you can bet that if they play their cards right, it will by, say, 2012.  

This really is the single best thing that could happen for the National Hockey League.  Unfortunately, NHL owners are, almost without exception, unable to look big picture, as the Lightning would have to do, which makes this unlikely to go down, because God forbid they have to tell their “fans” that they traded Dan Boyle and Lecavalier in the same year! Even if it is the best thing for their team.  If David Stern ran the NHL, he would absolutely make this happen.

 

(I really could keep going, but I’m starting to get mad thinking about how much sense this makes and the fact that it will never happen, let’s just move on.)

 

Atlanta-

Anyone

 

Anywhere (other than the Southeast division with the possible exception of Washington)-

Ilya Kovalchuk

 

Vinnie at least won a cup in Tampa, Kovalchuk is a top 5 talent in the NHL and plays in empty buildings, but only until early April.  They won’t trade him, but if there is any justice in the world he will leave in the summer of 2010.  What an enormous shame it would be for him to stay in Atlanta much longer.

 

(Ok, that doesn’t count, I’ll do one more)

NBA-

Gary Betteman

 

NHL-

David Stern

 

If you have ever read me before, you don’t need an explanation, if not read this, this, this (not direct, but pretty scathing), this, or thisThat’s 6 Betteman slams in 30 sports columns (four of the posts are notes, one isn’t about sports) we are around 1 in 5, that is Simmons-Isaiah territory.

 

(Fine, one more real one)

 

(I would do Jay Beowmeister for Chris Pronger, but that would be good for this guy and the Ducks, and it is my wish list.  The only place that Pronger gets traded on my wish list is to Siberia in exchange for a turd sandwich, but I already did two joke trades, and I couldn’t find the turd sandwich’s cap figure.  That and the fact that this trade doesn’t really make sense for either team, I just wanted to do the turd joke.)

 

Columbus-

Olli Jokinen (2 years- 5.2 M)

 

Phoenix-

Derick Brassard (2 years- 1.24 M)

 

I really don’t know why Phoenix would want to trade Jokinen, he is probably the best player on a young team that has a chance to be good as early as next year, and he isn’t in a contract year.  Everyone else seems to think he could move, though, so I am more than happy to go with it. 

                For Columbus, this is a statement move.  That statement: we want to win now.  Jokinen isn’t old, and they really wouldn’t be getting worse down the road, but that is certainly the message in dealing a guy who was the best rookie in the NHL before going down.  It would be difficult to part ways with Brassard, but the upside is too large to turn down.  Nash and Jokinen would thrive together, not to mention be one of the scariest first lines in hockey and give the Jackets a legitimate chance to go deep in the playoffs.  It is a particularly large upgrade for this year, as Brassard is out for the rest of the season.

                Again, I don’t really get dealing Jokinen, but as long as they are going to, they can’t do any better than this.  The injury shouldn’t bother them, they have no real shot of contending this season, and Brassard is young enough that he will make a full recovery.  More importantly, this keeps with the two things they are looking to accomplish.  Picking up the 21 year old Brassard would keep with the build for the future strategy currently in place, and they manage to dump most of Jokinen’s contract, which is the only logical explanation why they would want to get rid of him this year. 

 

So, three trades, three win-wins.  I don’t ask for much Gary (debatable, I know, but go with it), just get this done for me.