So which is it the trading deadline or the start of free agency that is the hockey fans’ Christmas? I suppose it depends on which time of year it is and how lazy of a writer that you are dealing with. I have read many a blog that uses the term for both times of the year. If tomorrow, July 1st, is indeed NHL fans Christmas, well then Christmas this year is a rife with coal.
Sabres fans are giddy. And I guess they have a reason to be. They finally have an owner who wants to spend to the cap. Terry Pegula claims he will do whatever he needs to do to win the Cup.
Welcome to the world of almost a dozen other teams: get in line. That is the reality.
There are other teams that have had the same attitude for years and yet have not won the Cup. I submit: The New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Vancouver, San Jose, Washington, and Calgary as teams that spend the max money every year and don’t have anything but big time receipts to show for it in the past decade plus.
The add in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Boston, Tampa Bay, and Chicago as teams that will spend to the cap and have won, with the exception of Detroit, just once in that same time period. The field is crowded and you best not overspend on a player if you want to be in the latter group rather than the former. And yet many of the teams in the former group will overspend and stay in the spend to the cap and get nothing back club.
It is a weak sauce group of UFAs this year. What a shame for Buffalo fans, they finally get an owner who will open up his coffers, the free agency well is dry. Pegula and company would be better off making small moves now, saving the cash for salary dumps at the trade deadline or a trade. Somehow I doubt they will, as they have to differentiate themselves from the B. Thomas era. It will be a mistake of colossal proportions.
Here are my thoughts on the top 10 2011 Unrestricted Free Agents (according to The Sporting News):
1. Brad Richards: A nice player but the Rangers are in the mix at an overinflated price of 7 mil per. The last time the Rangers over bid that much on UFA centers: 2007. I submit Chris Drury and Scott Gomez as examples 1A and 1B as to why you should skip overpaying for Richards. He is a great player, but not elite.
2. Teemu Selanne: I would overpay if I were Winnipeg. It would be a great PR move to bring him back home. But everyone says it is the Ducks or retirement. I would love to see Teemu go out now as he had a strong year.
3. Christian Ehrhoff: I think he is a great number 2 or 3 backliner. So you cannot pay him the 6 million that he is rumored to be asking for. This would be a horrible signing for the Sabres(or any other team) as they need to resign Tyler Myers next year to a similar amount of cash and they need to add elite talent to the pivot. Overpaying for Ehrhoff will prevent them from doing both. He is not a 6 million dollar a year d-man, he is 4 million per at best.
4. Tomas Fleischmann: I really like him as a player, but the blood clot issues from last year would keep me from a bidding war. Slot him at 3 million for 1 year and he can skate his way to a bigger contract next year.
5. Tomas Vokoun: I question how he would perform in a hockey crazy market where goaltenders are looked at under a microscope. He could be a steal if he goes to the right situation. Just beware he could melt in a big time hockey market.
6. James Wisniewski: I have always appreciated the edge that he plays with. But in this thin market I suspect that he will get significantly overpaid. He is a borderline 2, more a 3/4 and as such you cannot afford to overpay him. Some team will and then will spend the middle years of the contract trying to ditch his deal.
7. Tomas Kaberle: His true colors came through in the Finals. He is a 3/4/PP guy at this point in his career and should be paid as such. If you are counting on him as a 1/2 and pay him as such you will have buyer’s remorse.
8. Simon Gagne: Skilled players with injury issues frighten me. Pass.
9. Ville Leino: I love this guy’s game. And while I am down on overpaying for players, ones like Ville are worth the gamble, IMO. He has a nice upside and has shown that he can perform on the biggest of stages. Many elite players wilt under the pressure, this guy did not.
10. Sean Bergenheim: Like Joel Ward he had a breakout playoff run in 2011. I am just not sure that I believe the hype. I am not sure what makes him different than Leino, but there is something about his run that I just don’t trust. I would not overpay him.
Teams have gotten smarter since the Sabres July 1st debacle in 2007. Most are locking up their core players well before July 1st. As such I suspect that the Trade Deadline will reassert itself as the true NHL fans’ Christmas. There will always be teams looking to ditch payroll to help salvage at least the bottom line during a lost season.
Looking forward to 2012 UFAs, there are only two that are even borderline elite (Coburn and Suter), and I doubt they make it to July 1. Or should I call it the NHL fans’ Festivus?
It is one of my favorite times of the year: playoff hockey. Thanks to cutting the cable cord and the NHL’s lack of vision in building an ad-based online streaming network I will be stuck with highlights the next day and NBC’s weekend coverage. I never thought I would be so happy to see Pierre Maguire and his dancing hands of doom.
Eastern Conference Finals
#3 Boston Bruins vs. #5 seed Tampa Bay Lightning
This is not an easy one for me to remain objective on: I hate both teams. The Bruins, well it is ingrained. Being a Sabre fan for most of my life many a spring evening ended with me to sobbing myself to sleep on a tear soaked “Empire Strikes Back” pillow, all thanks to the hated Bruins.
From the cruelty of 1989′s ouster in five games after a Game 1 rout by Buffalo to Adam Oates faceoff goal in 1992 the Bruins along with the Habs scuttled my youthful dreams of a Buffalo Stanley Cup for the better part of my youth. I will never forgive either team.
Even the post-season success against both franchises in the 90s and aughts could not wash away the stain of hatred I have for both teams. I hate the Bruins and Habs, even in my post-Sabres life I hold onto it. I likely always will, with the faux superiority of being an “Original Six”…well hooray for the Douglases.
It is also tough to root for the Bruins with Boston sports fans being so spoiled. Each of the other three major teams have won titles this decade; it would be nice if the Bruins kept the Chowds somewhat grounded.
However, it is hard for me to root for Tampa Bay. I still have not forgiven them for beating my favorite non-Sabres playoff team of all time: the 2004 Calgary Flames. It seemed so wrong that such a complete squad lost the Cup to the flashy, superstar dependent Lightning team.
That series gave us one of the most obnoxious celebrations by a homer broadcaster in sports history. It is just awful. Dave Mishkin, you should be ashamed.
That alone might be enough for me to root for the Bruins; I cannot stomach the thought of another bush league call like that. Not even Bob Uecker would go that low, I think. Not that the Bruins TV squad is much better, these two teams had the worst announcers to deal with when we had the Center Ice package in 2005-2006: just putrid.
Onto the hockey, if I can removed the bile in my throat from that Mishkin call.
I love their defensive depth. I hate Zdeno Chara, but the dude is a beast. The Bruins roll out three solid pairings (Love Seidenberg and Ference, rugged playoff defensemen) and have a difference making goaltender in Tim Thomas.
Up front I love the role players. Chris Kelly has deep playoff experience from his time in Ottawa. And I can see Rich Peverly being a potting a few against the 2nd and 3rd Lightning defensive pairings.
This team is in trouble if it becomes a shootout as Rollie the Goalie is better than all the Philly goaltenders combined and the Bruins have a pop gun offense.
I don’t see Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell and Sean Bergenheim having the same success they had last round against the loosey-goosey Caps. It will be up to St. Louis and Lecavalier to carry the day. It would also be helpful for the Lightning if Steve Stamkos would wake up. Tampa has little chance if their big three cannot break through and light the lamp on a regular basis.
I admittedly underrated the Lightning D when I reviewed them in the first round preview. The squad is solid 1-5, with Eric Brewer, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Mattias Ohlund providing solid play on the back end. The latter two also offer the occasional offensive spark.
Rollie the Goalie is the key. If he can keep up his play and frustrate the B’s then the Lightning have a great chance of pulling out a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
I like the Bruins defensive style for this time of year. That, combined with a lethargic Stamkos will doom Tampa. I can’t see him waking up against this physical group. I will take the Bs in six games.
“Mark it Dude”