Sports Outside the Beltway

Boston Bruins send RW Chuck Kobasew to Minnesota

Are two players plus a future draft pick too high a price for a player that scored 48 points all of last season. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild acquired right wing Chuck Kobasew from Boston on Sunday in a deal that sent right wings Craig Weller and Alexander Fallstrom to the Bruins.

The Wild also sent the rights to their second-round pick in the 2011 draft.

The 27-year-old Kobasew had one assist in seven games with the Bruins this season. He had 21 goals and 21 assists in 68 games last season, reaching the 20-goal mark for the third time in his career.

The Wild have scored 15 goals while going 1-6, and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora have been out with injuries.

Kobasew has gotten off to a slow start this year, so trading him may look premature. On the other hand Fallstrom was one of the Wild’s top prospects. He could end up a much better player than Kobasew but that won’t happen immediately.

Bottom line- I think Boston will come out better in the long-term.


Minnesota Wild sign G Wade Dubielewicz

He only appeared in five Columbus Blue Jacket games last year. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild have signed veteran goaltender Wade Dubielewicz to add depth behind All-Star Niklas Backstrom.

The move gives the Wild a third goaltender on the roster and more stability should they decide to trade backup Josh Harding, who had a 2.21 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage last season. The Wild signed Backstrom to an extension that will make him the No. 1 goaltender for the next four years.

The 30-year-old Dubielewicz has a career record of 17-15-1 with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage in 40 career appearances with the New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Now the Wild have a good #1 goalies, and two backups who haven’t played all that much but have shown good ability. The Florida Panthers have Tomas Vokoun and the recently acquired Scott Clemmensen. In addition to that, they have Mike Brodeur who played well at Rochester of the ACL and the recently acquired Alexander Salak. Some teams are awash in Goalie options.

Then you have the Washington Capitals. This team has the overpriced underperforming Jose Theodore and the inexperienced Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. Admittedly Varlamov did a good job during the last NHL playoffs but the Russian goalie has exactly six games of regular season experience. It is far too early to say if Varlamov is a quality NHL goalie. Harding and Dubilewicz don’t have much experience, but they aren’t trying to backup a #1 goalie who isn’t up to the job. Why Washington didn’t try to replace Theodore is beyond me. Throwing good money at a bad goalie makes economic sense, but won’t improve your chances of winning a Stanley Cup.


Did the NHL make a mess of the 2009-10 schedule?

The upcoming schedule was released yesterday. Right away I noticed something interesting. Florida has a home and home series with Nashville.

Nov 28 and Mar 29 are when the Panthers and Predators play next season.

What I find interesting is- Florida is playing Nashville home and home for the second straight season. In 2008-09, the Panthers and Predators played on November 1st and December 23rd.

In light of the way the NHL season is set up, namely that any Eastern or Western conference team plays only play 3 home and homes in any season, Florida and Nashville shouldn’t meet home and home more than once every five years 15 western conference teams divided by 3 home and home series equals five.

Here’s a link to the 2009-10 schedule. Anyone have theories as to what happened here or am I off base?


NJ Devils hire Jacques Lemaire to be head coach

This will be his second stint in New Jersey. From AP-

After six years without a Stanley Cup, the New Jersey Devils are handing over the team to the coach who led them to their first NHL title.

Jacques Lemaire, who coached the Devils for five seasons in the mid 1990s and led them to the Cup in 1995, is New Jersey’s coach again. He was hired on Monday, some five weeks after Brent Sutter resigned and eventually took over as coach of the Calgary Flames.

“I never thought I would be back,” the 63-year-old Lemaire said in a conference call. “I said at that time when I was leaving after five years, and it was five great years, I wanted to cherish this for the rest of my life and the rest of my career, but I never thought one day I would come back.”

The deal reunites Lemaire with general manager and president Lou Lamoriello and goaltender Martin Brodeur, the combination that turned that Devils from a contender to a champion in 1995.

“Jacques Lemaire is one of the most respected coaches in the game,” Lamoriello said. “He is a teacher and a communicator, and knows what it takes to have success.”

The Devils also won Stanley Cups in 2000 and 2003, but they have not come close in recent years. They were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs the past two seasons under Sutter.

Lemaire has been a very successful coach in the NHL. His Minnesota Wild teams had a very distinct style of play. Will Lemaire try to force the same system on the Devils? New Jersey has much more offensive punch than the Wild ever had. I think Lemaire will adapt to the personnel he will have in New Jersey. The Devils are good enough to make the Stanley Cup finals again IMHO.


Minnesota Wild name Todd Richards as their next head coach

He replaces the recently retired Jacques Lemaire. From AP-

Todd Richards represents the current NHL coaching trend: Inexperience is insignificant.

Richards has returned home to coach the Wild, and the Minnesota native brings with him the promise that the team will play a more exciting, up-tempo style.

He also carries the humility of a playing career consisting of eight NHL games — and a dozen years in the minor leagues.

“You always imagine yourself or picture yourself as a star in the NHL,” Richards said. “I wasn’t able to do that, but other avenues have opened up for me and this has been a great opportunity.”

He’s the latest hire with limited NHL coaching experience, a line on the resume that was far less important to new Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher than philosophy, intuition, and personality.

“I truly believe that talent is the most important thing. … How you deal with people, how you communicate, how you get the players to buy in and execute, your understanding of the game, your integrity,” Fletcher said. “I think your skill set and your overall talent takes precedence over experience.”

Richards was introduced Tuesday as the second head coach in the franchise’s nine-year history, completing a new power structure that began with Craig Leipold’s purchase of the team 1½ years ago. Fletcher was hired last month, when Richards immediately became a front-runner for this job despite only one season as an NHL assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks.

Prior NHL experience isn’t a prerequisite for coaching success in the league. Peter DeBoer never coached or played in the NHL, but took the Florida Panthers last season to its best record in a decade.

Richards will try molding the Wild into his type of team. Will it work? I just don’t know enough about the franchise or its personnel.


Niklas Backstrom, Steve Mason, and Tim Thomas named Viezina Finalists

That’s the trophy given to the best goalie in hockey for an individual season. From AP-

Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild, Steve Mason of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins are the finalists for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goaltender.

The league announced the finalists Monday. The winner, voted by general managers around the league, will be revealed June 18 at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas.

Mason, a rookie, posted a franchise-record three straight shutouts in December and helped the Blue Jackets reach the playoffs for the first time. Thomas led the NHL with a 2.10 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage for the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins.

Backstrom appeared in 71 games for Minnesota and ranked among the top five goaltenders in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. His 37 wins were a franchise record, and after playing in his first All-Star game he received a four-year, $24 million contract extension that will begin next season.

Here are the regular season stat lines for each goalie. Note only Thomas is still playing in the ongoing NHL playoffs for 2008-09.

Thomas- Games Played 54 Wins 36 Losses 11 Overtime Loses 7 Goals allowed 114
Shutouts 5 Goals against average 2.10 Save Pct .933

Backstrom- 71 37 24 8 159 8 2.33 .923
Mason- 61 33 20 7 140 10 2.29 .916

Sentimentally I’d vote for the rookie Mason, but Thomas clearly has the best stats of the three nominees.


Minnesota Wild coach Jacques Lemaire to retire

He is the only head coach in the franchise’s history. From AP-

The Wild have scheduled a news conference for Monday morning to make the news official and discuss plans for the future of the position.

“I think it’s time for the players to get a new coach and myself to look for other stuff,” Lemaire told writers from the Star Tribune of Minneapolis and the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the season finale at Columbus. “I always said there’ll be a time. There comes a time that you know it’s the right time to go, and I know this. I had a great time, man. I had eight great years.”

General manager Doug Risebrough hired his former Montreal teammate and good buddy Lemaire to preside over the expansion team, which began play in 2000. Lemaire used his superior strategic sense and defensive acumen to lead the team to the Western Conference finals in 2003 and to a Northwest Division title last season.

Lemaire was 291-256-107 with the Wild, including winning records in his last six seasons. Despite several significant injuries to Marian Gaborik, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, the Wild barely missed the playoffs this season.

The 2008-09 season was a frustrating one for the Wild. While there is no disputing Lemaire built an expansion Minnesota into a competitive NHL team, I think he outlived his usefulness to the franchise.

Lemaire who previously coached New Jersey and Montreal may find head coaching work again. The turnover rate in the NHL is very high.


Post NHL All-Star game playoff assessment- Western Conference

From top to bottom, the standings

Detroit Red Wings 51-37-10-4-78
San Jose Sharks 50-28-15-7-63
Dallas Stars 54-29-20-5-63
Anaheim Ducks 53-27 20-6-60
Minnesota Wild 50-28-19-3-59
Calgary Flames 50-25-17-8-58
Vancouver Canucks 51-26-20-5-57
Colorado Avalanche 50-26-20-4-56

Phoenix Coyotes 50-27-21-2-56
Columbus Blue Jackets 52-25-21-6-56
Nashville Predators 51-25-21-5-55
St Louis Blues 49-23-19-7-53
Edmonton Oilers 53-23-25-5-51
Chicago Blackhawks 50-23-23-4-50
Los Angeles Kings 52-20-29-3-43

Note- The numbers above from left to right are- Games played, wins, losses, Overtime losses, total points

Teams in Bold are Northwest Division teams

I think its more than reason to say Detroit, San Jose, Dallas, and Anaheim are going to make the playoffs, while the LA Kings have no chance. Edmonton’s chances are slim also.

The closest division is the Northwest. Three points separate first to fourth place. I like Vancouver because of Goalie Roberto Luongo. The division is both talented and very tight and I could see anyone but Edmonton could come out on top and deservingly so. The Avalanche, Wild, Canucks nor Flames rate as mediocre or badly underacheiving teams unlike members of the Southeast Division.


Minnesota Wild Marian Gaborik scores five goals vs. NY Rangers

This feat hadn’t been done by a NHL player in regulation play since 1996. From AP-

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Marian Gaborik posted the NHL’s first five-goal game in 11 years, lifting the Minnesota Wild to a 6-3 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Gaborik’s outburst was the biggest in the league since Sergei Fedorov scored five for Detroit on Dec. 26, 1996, in an overtime game against Washington. Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux was the last to net five in regulation, pulling off the feat on March 26, 1996, versus St. Louis.

Gaborik had a goal in the first period, two on power plays in the second, and found the net twice more in the third to set the team record for tallies in a game. No Wild player had ever had four goals in a game.

With an assist on Pierre-Marc Bouchard’s goal, Gaborik tied his career high with six points. That was established on Oct. 26, 2002, at Phoenix. It was his best offensive game since he scored three goals and helped set up another on April 9, 2006, at Colorado.

Gaborik now has 18 goals for the year or a little over 20% of all scores for Minnesota. The Wild score fewer goals per game than my hometown Florida Panthers, who also scored a rare five goals last night.(But by four different players.)


NHL owners approve scheduling changes

All NHL teams will meet again once every season. From AP-

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The NHL’s board of governors approved the sale of the Nashville Predators and changed the league’s scheduling format Thursday night to allow every team to face each other at least once every season.

Paul Kelly, the new executive director of the NHL Players Association, also addressed the league’s owners during a late-afternoon session to open the board’s two-day meeting at an elite resort on the Northern California coast.

After a three-year experiment in developing rivalries in hockey’s far-flung outposts, the NHL voted to go back to the scheduling format used before the 2004-05 lockout, most notably decreasing the current eight games against every team’s divisional opponents to six.

Starting next season, teams will play just 24 total games against their four divisional foes, 40 against the rest of the conference and 18 against the other conference — one game against all 15 foes, and three home-and-home series against wild-card opponents.

First let me state, my interest in hockey was only rekindled in the last year. Otherwise I had watched little of the sport since the end of the NY Islanders Dynasty in the early to mid eighties.

The arrangement where teams didn’t all meet seemed dumb to me. Fans in the west miss out on seeing players like Sidney Crosby and fans in the east miss getting to see……. well see what problem I have. LOL, make that former Florida Panther and ace goaltender Roberto Luongo. Now I can learn about the LA Kings, San Jose Sharks etc. To be honest I’m sick of Atlanta. You would be too if you had to see the Thrashers and Panthers cross sticks eight times a year.


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