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Blue Line Buzz: Maximizing defensive strategy

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

New Year's Resolutions, Part I

Anaheim: For Cam Fowler to be stronger in his defensive end and stop saddling owners relying on the talented youngster with a minus-18 rating -- he is currently on pace for 33 points and a minus-40. Lastly, for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to pick up the pace and follow the example the ageless Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, is setting.

Boston: Someone other than Zdeno Chara needs to contribute more consistently from the blue line. Joe Corvo has been posting points a bit more often, but Dennis Seidenberg should resolve to find the back of the net more, as it certainly isn't for want of trying. For those in deep leagues that count shots on goal, Seidenberg isn't a horrible option. Boston has no problem finding balance in their forward scoring, as eight forwards own 20 points or more with Brad Marchand enjoying a huge season and Rich Peverly being surprisingly productive.

Buffalo: Resolve to find some more healthy bodies on defense. Tyler Myers remains out with a broken wrist and had just six points in 19 games before the injury, while Christian Ehrhoff left Friday's loss to Washington with an apparent upper-body injury. The Ehrhoff injury is a bit more frustrating as his game showed signs of turning around, but he will miss some time. This leaves us with Jordan Leopold (a solid six goals on the season) and the vexing Marc-Andre Gragnani, owner of nine points in 31 games. Brayden McNabb lit up the WHL last season and has the most upside on the Buffalo blue line.

Calgary: What is more surprising about Calgary? That Olli Jokinen has a team-leading 31 points through 39 games, or that Curtis Glencross has more goals, 15, than Jarome Iginla's 14 through Friday? The Flames have not been kind defensively to owners, as Jay Bouwmeester has more points than Mark Giordano, as does Chris Butler and Derek Smith. Not much positive can be said about the Flames, as just four players on the team have more than 15 points through Friday.

Carolina: For Jamie McBain to resolve to take full control of the team's power play and offensive contributions from the blue line in the wake of an injury to Joni Pitkanen and the trade of Tomas Kaberle. McBain, a trendy pick that started horribly, had nine points in December. Tim Gleason may want to resolve to play more consistently offensively, as he will be forever compared to Jack Johnson.

Chicago: Resolve to get more goals from Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook, as the high-flying trio has just six tallies combined on the season despite 54 total points.

Colorado: The Avs finally resolved to put Kyle Quicney back in the lineup after having him a healthy scratch for four games prior to Thursday's win over Winnipeg. Quincey responded with an assist and hopefully will remain in the coaching staff's good graces going forward. Quincey has 18 points on the season with a surprising minus-1 rating, which is quite good for a Colorado defenseman. Rookie Stefan Elliott has been teasing owners this season with flashes of what is to come, going on scoring binges then disappearing. He has three points in five games through Friday, will turn 21 at the end of January and is entirely worth the frustration.

Columbus: Nikita Nikitin, Fedor Tyutin and Grant Clitsome have yet another opportunity to be highly productive on a flailing Columbus team. All three have shown flashes, but have not been terribly consistent. Their teammate, James Wisniewski, will be out of action for four-to-six weeks, suffering a broken ankle Thursday against Dallas while blocking a shot. See what happens when you get in the way of shots to keep the opposition from scoring.

Dallas: Resolve to find a shred of consistency for their defenders in terms of scoring. Sheldon Souray disappeared after a strong start while Alex Goligoski is making Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero look like a genius for dealing him last winter for a player that is currently one of the league's top goal scorers in James Neal. Seriously though, Dallas has been a game of shadows on the back end with Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas popping up like whack-a-moles only to hide quickly. Unrelated, Dallas forward Eric Nystrom has 12 goals on 57 shots for an astounding 21.1 shooting percentage.

Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Ian White have combined for 59 points and 21 goals through Friday, not bad. The Wings are again proving to be one of the tops in the NHL and Pavel Datsyuk continues to amaze, as his deflected goal Tuesday against St. Louis was highly impressive.

Edmonton: Resolve to not rely on Ryan Whitney, as the analogy of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown is in full effect for the Oilers. Knee and ankle injuries have limited Whitney to just 17 games this season with a meager three points. Tom Gilbert and Cory Potter have shown flashes of productivity but hardly any consistency, although Potter had three points in three games through Friday.

Florida: Resolve to continue what they are doing. Carrot Top impersonator Brian Campbell is second amongst NHL defenders in scoring while Jason Garrison has slammed home 11 goals, good enough for the most in the league. Dmitry Kulikov was showing consistency with 20 points in 27 games, but has gone pointless in 10 straight contests heading into Saturday. A talented, yet inconsistent Russian player? Such a travesty is simply unheard of.

Los Angeles: Drew Doughty needs to emerge as the leader he was paid to be. The team fired its head coach, Terry Murray, earlier in December after many believed the Kings were capable of a deep run into the playoffs. Regardless, Jonathan Quick has a 2.09 goals-against average and Anze Kopitar sports 34 points through 38 games. Jack Johnson's pace has fallen off and Slava Voynov has experienced the peaks and valleys associated with rookie defensemen.

Minnesota: Resolve to clone Cal Clutterbuck and receive a semblance of productivity from their defenders. Jared Spurgeon leads all Wild rearguards with 15 points, but could miss a few more games following a rough hit from Phoenix's Cody McLeod. Marek Zidlicky has nine points in 26 games this season. For those of you that haven't watched Clutterbuck play, he is pure energy on the ice, a player you want on your team. His 148 hits are second in the NHL and he is shooting at a 12.8 percent clip.

Montreal: Resolve to let your "interim" coach off the hook for his lack of speaking French. Randy Cunneyworth's benching of P.K. Subban last week took some guts considering the team had lost four straight games prior to Monday's outburst win in Ottawa. Subban returned that game with authority, notching a goal and an assist. With Andrei Markov's return date quite murky, Subban will need to let his consistency catch up with his talent while toning down his attitude a bit.

Nashville: Resolve to lock up Gary Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts as soon as possible. Weber will be eligible to negotiate a new deal on January 1 after going through a messy arbitration hearing and Suter is a UFA this coming summer as well. Speaking of Weber, here's hoping that Weber's concussion is as mild as it can be (however, the term mild has never seemed adequate to describe concussions). Weber and Suter are in the midst of career seasons and are currently ranked first and third on the team's scoring list -- great for Fantasy hockey players but the Predators' forwards should resolve to contribute more offensively.

New Jersey: Resolve to stop allowing short-handed goals. The Devils have surrendered 11 a league-leading 11 shorties on the season, adding another in Monday's loss to Carolina. Highly touted rookie Adam Larsson leads all Devils' defenders with 13 points but has not seen a shred of power play time in recent weeks. Kurtis Foster has four assists in seven games with the Devils. New Jersey won't score much from the back end, but the Devils are the only NHL team with seven players sporting 10 goals or more.

New York Islanders : Resolve to show up for more than a few games at a time. Mark Streit has been quietly productive, as his 18 points are good enough for fourth on the team through Friday. Pierre Parenteau and John Tavares lead the way with 30 and 29 points, respectively, through 35 games, which is surprising when you consider the team has been shut out seven times this season. Travis Hamonic has been steadier of late, but his season's point totals are just three points higher than Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios each. Odd stat of the day: goalie Rick DiPietro has two assists in eight games while Jay Pandolfo has one helper in 21 games.

New York Rangers : Viewers of HBO's "24/7" may want Dan Girardi's son, Landon, to replace his father on the team's blue line, as his son has been just about as productive of late. Girardi has seen his offensive numbers plummet in December, with two assists in the last 16 games and no goals since November 11. After all, Landon did look ready, taking one timers in the show's second episode. As paltry as Girardi has been of late, teammate Michael Del Zotto is enjoying a career season with 22 points and a staggering plus-minus of plus-25, all the more impressive considering he registered a minus-20 just two seasons earlier as a rookie. Lastly, let the Rangers resolve the Sean Avery situation once and for all; the team waived him a second time on Friday after Avery had been a healthy scratch in nine straight games.

Happy New Year to all.

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Player News
Patrik Berglund
Blues' Berglund To Require Shoulder Surgery
Patrik Berglund, C, STL
10:19 AM
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
10:08 AM
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
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News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
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8:45 AM
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8:35 AM
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
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7:39 AM
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
Analysis: Both sides are hoping to get an agreement done before the start of the season but the parameters on a new deal could be difficult to negotiate. Kyle Okposo will make $4.5 million this season and could command a deal north of $6 million per year on the open market, a figure the Islanders may not be willing to approach at this time. If the two sides can't come to an agreement before the start of the season then Okposo's name will be one we will hear quite often in trade rumors.

Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
Sami Aittokallio, G, COL
8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
Analysis: Sami Aittokallio appears to be the clear No. 4 goalie in the Colorado organization behind Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, and Reto Berra, so it's somewhat surprising he elected to commit for another year rather than bolt for Europe. Even so, Aittokallio's contract does at least include a clause for him to play overseas if he isn't guaranteed a roster spot with the Avalanche, potentially opening the door for him to leave the club if he's assigned to the AHL out of training camp, as expected.

Adam Cracknell
Canucks Ink Cracknell To Two-Way Deal
Adam Cracknell, RW, VAN
8/26/2015
News: Adam Cracknell signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Canucks on Tuesday.
Analysis: Mostly due to the Blue Jackets' array of injuries last season, Adam Cracknell saw 17 games at the NHL level, producing no goals and one assist. He'll function as an organizational depth piece for the Canucks, but will once again require several players to go down before skating in the NHL. Even if that materializes, he'd likely be limited to a bottom-six role with limited ice time.

Daniel Carcillo
Retirement Imminent For Hawks' Carcillo
Daniel Carcillo, LW, CHI
8/26/2015
News: Daniel Carcillo told Kap and Haugh of WGN Radio on Wednesday that he's "about 98 percent ready to move on" from professional hockey.
Analysis: The news isn't especially surprising after the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month that Daniel Carcillo was focusing his offseason efforts on establishing a not-for-profit organization for post-career NHL players. Carcillo's rough-around-the-edges game doesn't really fit well in the modern NHL, which has resulted in him receiving limited interest in free agency this summer. Unless the 30-year-old has a change of heart once training camps start up in September, expect him to formally announce his retirement at some point in the near future.

 
 
 
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