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Sunday, May 3, 2009

First round fallout

Well we are off into the 2nd round of the playoffs but I wanted to take some time and reflect on the teams eliminated in the first round.

Every year there are teams that believe they have what it takes to be cup contenders. Every year some of those teams exit the playoffs in the first round wondering where things went wrong.

Let's take a look at the first round losers and the possible fallout.

WEST

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Expectations: The Jackets weren't even expected to make the playoffs so when they got there most considered the season a success. Unfortunately there were not much of match for the defending cup champs in Detroit.

Fallout: Since Howson didn't sell the farm to get there and Hitch pretty much maxed out what he had both GM and Coach are as safe as you can get. The biggest fallout in Cbus will be the re-evaluation of players after good and bad playoff showings. Also gaps that were exposed such as backup goaltending and a poor PP and will need addressed in the offseason.

SAN JOSE SHARKS
Expectations: With the best record in the NHL the Sharks expected nothing less than winning the Stanley Cup. Their certainly ended in major disappointment when they were upset by the 8th seeded Anaheim Ducks.

Fallout: The Sharks window to win the cup is now. They bolstered their defense in the offseason and steamrolled through the regular season but yet failed to make any noise in the playoffs. It has already been announced that the GM in Doug Wilson is safe so it will be interesting to watch if there is any player turnover. One player to keep a close eye on is Joe Thornton who has yet to show the ability to lead this Sharks team past the 2nd round of the playoffs. There will be some player movement here.

ST. LOUIS BLUES
Expectations: Similar to the Jackets in that nobody expected the Blues to be here thus just due to the fact they make the big dance most consider the Blues season a success. They also suffered a similar fate in getting swept by the Vancouver Canucks.

Fallout: Both their GM and Coach are safe. They do have some key UFAs but for the most part I don't expect a whole lot of movement here as also like the Jackets, they'll expect most of their improvement next year to come from a very good young core of players. They will also have some key players in Erik Johnson and Paul Kariya that will be back from injury. They'll fill a gap or two but that should be about it.

CALGARY FLAMES
Expectations: After their aggressive moves at the deadline they were expected to take a serious run at the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately just as their team sputtered down the stretch so did their playoffs as they lost in 6 to Chicago.

Fallout: There could be a lot of turnover on the red mile. I expect the GM to be back but who knows about their coach in Mike Keenan. After their aggressive moves at the deadline they don't have a whole lot of picks to work with and a first round exit to show for it. They have a couple of free agents including second leading scorer Michael Cammalleri. I'd look for a trade or two in this group... but they will also expect guys like Dion Phaneuf to have a much better season next year.
EAST

MONTREAL CANADIENS
Expectations: After a surprising 1st place finish in the Eastern Conference last year the Habs were expected to compete for the cup in their bicentennial season. Unfortunately for them things did not go as planned as they fired their coach Guy Carbonneau, barely squeaked in the playoffs in the 8th spot and were swept by their rival the Boston Bruins. To say their season was a huge disappointment would be an understatement.

Fallout: GM Bob Gainey is probably safe but expect a lot of chances for the les habitants. They have a ton of free agents including captain Saku Koivu and stay at home d-man Mike Komisarek. First they'll need to hire a new coach but the big rumor is that the Canadiens are hot after hometown boy Vincent Lecavalier and if a blockbuster is coming it will most likely go down at the draft. Expect some offseason fireworks in Montreal.

NEW YORK RANGERS
Expectations: Honestly I'm not so sure anyone knew what to expect out of this squad. They had a lot of turnover both at the forward and defensive positions in the offseason. Like the Canadiens the Rangers had a lot of turmoil throughout their season. After a fast start they also cooled and had to fire their coach in order to save their season. Many of their big ticket contracts failed to deliver and then they blew a 3-1 series lead and ultimately were eliminated by the Washington Capitals.

Fallout: There will be changes but who knows how and who. They would most certainly like to make some sweeping changes but they have found themselves in cap hell. The Rangers have a lot of bloated contracts that nobody in this league is going to touch. They do have deep pockets and may either 1. buy out bad contacts or 2. waive them and bury players in the minors. In a market that expects instant gratification it certainly will be interesting to watch and see Rangers are able to accomplish. My question is when will the real problem with the Rangers going to get addressed in GM Glen Slather?

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Expectations: After making it to the Eastern Conference finals last season the hopes were high in the city of brotherly love to take that next step and challenge for the cup. They sputtered a bit down the stretch and it cost them home ice advantage against rival Pittsburgh and they fell in 6. A first round elimination is considered a major disappointment for the a team that has spent to the cap in the Flyers.

Fallout: The GM and coach should be safe. The Flyers brass certainly won't sit on their hands but like the Rangers their hands are tied due to the cap. They'll look to clear some cap space and will most certainly try to shore up their goaltending in the process. I definitely look for a trade or two out of this franchise before free agency starts.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Expectations: Like the Detroit Red Wings the Devils expect to compete for the cup every season. They survived their franchise goalie's first significant injury to finish 3rd in the Western Conference with 106 points. It was also the breakout year for young Zach Parise. A sudden collapse at the tail end of game 7 with only minutes to go against the Carolina Hurricanes put a sudden and disappointing end to their season.

Fallout: You know Lou will be back but there is some speculation that head coach Brent Sutter could walk away. New Jersey also has their fair share of free agents and will certainly look to reload for the next campaign. They'll look to shore up their defense and perhaps add some more punch up front. One thing is for certain and that is that Martin Brodeur will be expected to do a lot of heavy lifting for them again next season.

There will certainly be some shakeups out of this group. I would expect the least amount of movement from Columbus and St. Louis although gaps will be filled. I think we could see some major movement out of New York (you know they'll do somethin), Montreal, San Jose and perhaps Calgary.

Can the Jackets capitalize on any of these team's situations? Perhaps but they won't be taking back any of the bloated contracts some of these teams will be lookin to unload. Instead pay attention to the list of UFAs on these squads that may not be back. For instance a guy that really interests me is John Madden from New Jeresy although I just can't see the Devils letting him go. He would be perfect in that 3rd line center role for the union blue. Defensemen Johnny Oduya is another guy that interests me.

-LTL

4 comments:

Max said...

To be honest, I'm surprised Sutter made it past the season without getting canned. Ol' Lou has shown he's not afraid to step behind the bench for the playoffs. The Devils need to look at how much Brodeur is played next year. He's not young anymore, and I think that New Jersey's goaltending situation was shown as a strength this year. I think they need to use it. Also, don't forget that the Devils were matched up against a team that was peaking at just the right time...

The Sharks were my pick to win the Cup. I can see a total rebuild happening up front. The leadership core (Marleau and Thornton) aren't getting it done. There will be a big forward turnover, and maybe a goaltending change.

When will the NYR owners see that Renney is the problem? He's still living in the pre-cap NHL, where he could pay bloated contracts and not be in TOO much trouble. They've got a good coach and a decent team, but there's no way to add pieces now.

Iron Mike has outworn his welcome in Calgary. Look for him to be an Oiler next season.

Montreal needs to get rid of Gainey. He's got no idea of what he's doing. But, it wasn't all his fault this year. With all the off ice distractions, it's easy for a team to perform poorly. Also, they faced the team who will represent the East in the Stanley Cup finals.

HBK49ers said...

The Sharks GM is Doug Wilson, not Ron Wilson.

tom said...

What would the CBJ need to offer to get Joe Thornton on our top line with Rick Nash?

LTL said...

Hey Tom.

The thought of Jumbo Joe is a juicy one but I honestly don't see Howson pulling the trigger on a deal to land him for three main reasons:

1. His 7+ mil price tag over the next couple of years would really screw with the Jackets salary/budget structure.

2. He wouldn't sacrafice the assets it would most certainly take to land him. To get in the discussions I'm guessing this year's first round pick plus one of Brass/Voracek/Filatov would have to go the other way at a minimum.

3. Howson believes in the build from within approach as that is how long term success is generated.

For Columbus to be a successful franchise for the long term they just can't afford to tie 14 million up in two players. With a budget of 50 mil they just can't afford it.

Instead he's complimented this roster with quality affordable talent and will expect the likes of Nash, Brass, Filatov, Voracek, Russ, Mase and co. to develop and lead us to the promiseland.

As a fan I'm completely sold on this approach.

-LTL