Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Top 10 Fantasy Sleepers for 2007-2008: Forwards

1. Niklas Backstrom, WSH
2. Lee Stempniak, StL
3. Jiri Hudler, DET
4. Alexander Steen, TOR
5. Drew Strafford, BUF
6. Andrew Ladd, CAR
7. Jonathan Toews, CHI
8. Gilbert Brule, CLB
9. Scottie Upshall, PHI
10. Phil Kessel, BOS

I'm not sure if you'd call Steen or Kessel 'sleepers' so to speak, but they're sure to be drafted - and late. Backstrom or Toews will be the first of the rest to go. Backstrom especially will recieve attention from the keeners of the league. Analyze the hockey knowledge of the other players in your league - it will tell you how long you can wait before drafting one of these guys.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Post-Free Agency Boom: East - Northeast

This division has mainly stayed status quo, the biggest change obviously coming out of Buffalo with Drury and Briere packing their bags and heading to the Atlantic. Rumor has it that Briere's agent was never contacted by the Buffalo Sabres in order to negotiate a new deal. The bottom line is that the entire division has more parity, and with the exception of the Senators, each divisional game will be a fight. That's just the reality of the salary cap era.

Boston Bruins:
Looks like another year of development in Beantown. They seem to have adopted the ideology that improvement comes from consistency. At least you can say they'll have consistent goaltending now after signing Manny Fernandez. The matter of fact is that Fernandez will not be able to deliver the Bruins to the playoffs.

Buffalo Sabres:
The Buffalo Sabres certainly didn't make things easier for themselves in losing their two captains, but Kevin Lowe trying to swoop up Vanek for 10 million didn't help their cause either. If they didn't have Ryan Miller its safe to say they wouldn't be making the playoffs. The younger guys will have to step up, and a void of leadership is to be filled. Expect the youngsters to be able to do that. The Sabres will make the playoffs, but with their division still in good shape it will lead to more questions about the management of this offseason.

Montreal Canadiens:
It was the right time for Souray to go. There's no doubt that the Canadiens knew that. Hamrlik and Smolinski will be able to fill some of those gaps but there isn't a doubt in my mind that the team will be struggling to make the playoffs this year.

Ottawa Senators:
The key with the Senators this offseason will deal with the back end. Signing Emery is a priority and they had better hope the offer sheets don't present too high of a price - LA and Phoenix are rumored to have interest. The other deal is in shedding Martin Gerber's salary. They may be able to kill two birds with one stone by satisfying one of the teams looking for a goaltender as well as keeping Emery safe. As far as the overall team, you will expect much of the same. Heatley is in a contract year and will keep his scoring pace. The defensive core will continue to improve, and Redden should be back to his offensive ways. The coaching change isn't a surprise as Murry knows that the style of game the Sens went to this season will be preserved. It won't be a shock of the Sens take the division.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
Two of the nagging concerns this season were goaltending and supporting offence. GM John Fergusson knows very well that MLSE and the fans of Toronto demand the playoffs. And he also knows that he's out the door if he can't deliver. In admitting to his mistake, he signed Vesa Toskala to either take or split the number one job with Andrew Raycroft. Time will tell whether the draft picks surrendered (First 2007, Conditional First, 2nd 2008) were worth it. Jason Blake (40 G in 2006-2007) will wing with Mats and Mark Bell will help fill in the secondary scoring roll that was previously occupied by Jeff O'Neill. The Leafs may make the playoffs for the next few years, but they're pointed in the wrong direction of winning the Stanley Cup in terms of future prospects. Better hope that cap goes up again.


Friday, July 6, 2007

Post-Free Agency Boom: East - Atlantic

Well, I didn't exactly keep you up to date on the first week of free agency, but that's okay, because I'm sure you wouldn't have stopped here first anyways. However, I will offer you my thoughts on the current progress - who succeeded, failed and stayed at status-quo this July.

Atlantic Division
The Atlantic Division will be the division to watch this year. With Crosby's Penguins coming off an astonishing regular season performance, alongside the Devil's and the retooled Rangers and Flyers, anyone's guess is as good as mine to who is going to win. What is clear is that with the current number of divisional games, the intense competition may leave a talent-filled team with fewer wins than they expected. You can expect four teams from this conference to make the playoffs.

New Jersey Devils:
You've got to think losing Gomez and Rafalski will sting. Rumor has it the Devils have been interested in Souray. You've got to wonder why they would release Rafalski (+4) to the market while going after an arguably less well-rounded, -28 acruing, big bucks seeking Souray. The signing of goaltender Kevin Weekes will give Brodeur a bit more of a rest, while Dainus Zubrus will be responsible for providing secondary scoring as Parise gets bumped to the first line.

New York Islanders:
The beginning of the Islander's free agency splash was a bit of a belly flop. It's now described more like a roller coaster. After cutting ties with their salary-eating captain Yashin; after being unable to ink Smyth only months after he arrived; as well as losing Blake, Poti, Kozlov, Zednik and Hill, it looked like Garth Snow being in charge was fulfilling its prophecy of disaster. But he once again redeemed himself by locking up Guerin, Comrie, Fedetenko and Sim. Although this will soften the blow, it is clear that the net talent of the team has declined. Guerin will be the focus of attention as the aging star will be called upon to fill the leadership void as he already dons the 'C'. Comrie will also be an important piece, arguably having the most upside of the newest signings. But the fact is that the fate of the Islanders may not be in their hands this season. With all four other teams in the division improving on paper and hypothetically from last season, it's clear that the Islanders will have a tough 32 divisional games. If anything, this will sink them to the depths of the Eastern Conference standings.

New York Rangers:
Oh boy. The Rangers may have lost Nylander, but they landed both Drury and Gomez. Their talents will be synergetic alonside the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan and Petr Prucha. They might even have some cap room overall to make a few depth moves. The real question is, where are they all going to fit on the depth chart? Getting both was likely unneccessary, and in my opinion they should have gone for Hannan, Hamrlik, Rafalski or Schneider.

Philadelphia Flyers:
There had been a vibe to the team ever since the departure of Forsberg that the team was ready to turn the page, having learned from their post-lockout mistakes. Dispite losing Pitkanen, the team has vastly improved. Signings of Daniel Briere, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul add to an already impressive offense, while Timonen and Smith giving a huge upgrade in both offense and defense from the blue line.

Pittsburgh Penguins:
It's safe to say that the Penguins don't need to change much in their roster. Sykora, Sabourn and Sydor will all be key additions, but its safe to say that aside from small changes, their roster is basically set, and well under the salary cap.



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