Northwest review (US edition)

Jean Lefebvre
July 07 2009 08:15PM

northwestern-division

Those ill-conceived knee-jerk rushes to judgment after the first few days of the free-agency period are so annoying, mostly because they get in the way of our own ill-conceived knee-jerk rushes to judgment.

Even though it’s still two months until training camps and National Hockey League rosters remain written in pencil only, it’s only natural at this point in time to collect our wits, take a deep breath and try to make sense of the strange fever that makes a general manager give full-time superstar money to a part-time labourer.

But enough about Glen Sather.

What we aim to do is take a quick inventory of the July activities to date for all the Northwest Division clubs and declare provisional winners and losers.

Today, we’ll start with the two clubs south of the border. We’ll follow up with the three Western Canadian members later this week.

MINNESOTA

We alluded to Marian Gaborik above and it would seem the cliché “addition by subtraction” was invented for the slick but oft-wounded Slovak and his former Twin City employers. It’s not that the good folks of Minnesota didn’t enjoy Gaborik’s spectacular cameo appearances in the Wild lineup but as his absences became more prolonged, the questions about possible malingering grew more pointed and the number of his staunch supporters in the dressing room dwindled.

Of course, it’s somewhat humourous that to replace Gaborik the Wild went out and grabbed Martin Havlat, who for much of his career has been as un-Garry-Ungerish as Gaborik. The games-played tally in 2008-09, however (81-17 in favour of Havlat) for now makes this seem like a good move for Minny.

The rest of Minnesota’s roster movement has been relatively minor, although a lot of smart hockey people seem to be big fans of Greg Zanon, a defenceman who didn’t get much exposure playing in the shadow the likes of Hamhuis, Suter and Weber in Nashville.

Of course, all eyes will be on the firm of Richards & Fletcher now that Lemaire & Risebrough have left the premises and while the complaints of the Wild’s supposed boring style have been greatly exaggerated, especially in recent seasons, it will be interesting to see what the new guys will do with the franchise that until now had known no other leaders.

KJR (Knee-Jerk Ruling): Moderate winner (which gets upgraded to big winner if you want to count the late-season re-signing that took the excellent Niklas Backstrom off the free-agent market before he ever got there).

COLORADO

From an emotional standpoint, this is going to be a tough summer for Avalanche fans. With long-time captain Joe Sakic apparently ready to skate off into the sunset, most of the lingering confusion between the Colorado teams of the glory days and the current bunch should evaporate.

Still, from a practical standpoint, and while this may sound like sacrilege, it’s not that big of a deal. With Sakic logging just 59 games over the past two seasons, the Avs have already had plenty of practice running without No. 19 on the anchor leg. And while Sakic had a remarkable 100-point season as a 37-year-old, how much could they have reasonably expected from Burnaby Joe at age 40?

Elsewhere in the minus department, the Avs will definitely miss Ian Laperriere, an honest hockey player who actually gave meaning to the usually hollow praise “he’s good in the room.” Conversely, the departure of Tyler Arnason and Andrew Raycroft will hardly be noticed at all, at least not in a negative sense.

Craig Anderson gives new coach Joe Sacco a better alternative to Peter Budaj than Raycroft gave Tony Granato, but it’s still a real stretch to call goaltending a strength with the Avs.

Getting Ryan Smyth’s off the books might make the accountants happy but loading up on Los Angeles Kings blue-line rejects has rarely fast-tracked a team into contention. The new administration in Denver is hardly advertising a Wait-Til-Next-Year philosophy but with top pick Matt Duchene likely to be given every chance to make the team and only $20 million in salary committed for 2010-11, the Avs seemed destined to wait until next summer before continuing with the roster reshaping.

By the way, don’t think that Sakic’s imminent retirement suddenly gives Colorado more dollars to spend. Indications are that the budget was set with the assumption Sakic was not returning because the captain had already privately told the club as much well before the news leaked publicly.

KJR: Loser, especially from the nostalgia standpoint. The previous time this franchise plowed ahead without Sakic, names such as Peter Stastny, Gaetan Duchesne, Mike Eagles, Normand Rochefort, Robert Picard and Mario (Goose) Gosselin populated the roster.

Next episode, we make enemies from Robson Street to Whitemud Drive to Stephen Avenue.

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Lefebvre is in that awkward stage of hockey following -- old enough to fondly remember the Cleveland Barons and too set in his ways to accept charity points and games where there's a winner but apparently no loser. As a long-time ink-stained wretch, he's also a firm believer in the old Bobby Knight quote about journalists: "All of us learn to write in second grade, but most of us go on to better things."
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#1 99thoilerfan
July 07 2009, 08:18PM
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Look at me! 1st!

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#2 bingofuel
July 07 2009, 08:19PM
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@ 99thoilerfan:

Really? Is this what it's come to?

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#3 99thoilerfan
July 07 2009, 08:25PM
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I am so sorry... I am like a Kid, who has to stick his tongue to the frosty fence post...

I could not resist...

I, on the other hand had just finished reading a great piece by Lefebve, who now has me looking forward to his follow up, focus on the Canadian Teams of the NWest.

I promise, I will not be 1st again, ever.

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#4 Harlie
July 07 2009, 08:27PM
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good article and spot on. Clearly the Wild and the Av's are the two most faceless teams in the NW. Hopefully we can put (or get) a face to our organization this year and get a running start on some of the teams like the Wild and Av's. Drop'em like it's hawt.

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#5 bingofuel
July 07 2009, 08:27PM
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@ 99thoilerfan:

You'll always be first in my books, 99th Oiler Fan.

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#6 Hoss
July 07 2009, 08:31PM
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Anyone think Heatley wants to go to Colorado? Not sure what they could offer in trade to Ottawa though.

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#7 99thoilerfan
July 07 2009, 08:38PM
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I am starting to think, he is not sure, himself.

But maybe up a mile high, might change his view point.

I guess the thing is, he says it is the coach, he says it's his ice time, lack of PP time...

He doesn't think he would get that here?

*Sigh* I think I might be getting to the 5th stage.. Acceptance ? That is the one, right ? *SIGH* Maybe not..

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#8 Archaeologuy
July 07 2009, 08:49PM
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I dont see how you failed to note the blockbuster trade that brought the power forward extraordinaire Kyle Brodziak to the Wild. That alone tipped the scales of power in Minnesota's favour.

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#9 Bill Rizer
July 07 2009, 08:49PM
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LA Kings rejects? Kyle Quincey is one hell of a hockey player and he's only 23. He alone is worth dealing old balls Smyth for.

They are rebuilding, hitting bottom, and collecting youth. The method that seems to work in the new NHL. With Stastny and Duchene down the middle the Avs have the formula figured out.

If only the Oil would have done that after their fall from grace.

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#10 Hoss
July 07 2009, 08:54PM
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Colorado looks like most of its contracts are up after next season is over, they may be poised to capitalize on the expected salary cap drop? Like trading draft picks for decent players that other teams won't be able to keep as it would put them over the cap.

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#11 Lefebvre
July 07 2009, 09:08PM
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Bill Rizer wrote:

LA Kings rejects? Kyle Quincey is one hell of a hockey player and he’s only 23.

Is castoff a better word? Either way, I'll grant you that the term may apply better to Preissing, who was occasionally healthy in L.A., than Quincey. I'm sure Quincey will be a regular on the Avs power play but from what I've seen of him he doesn't seem like a core d-man.

As for your other point, given the current state of their roster, I completely agree the Avs are smart to take a one step back to try and take two steps forward approach. How well it works will depend on what becomes of that young forward group of Stastny, Duchene and, to a lesser extent, Wolski.

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#12 Lefebvre
July 07 2009, 09:09PM
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That should have said that Preissing was an occasional healthy scratch. Sorry about that.

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#13 Bill Rizer
July 07 2009, 09:44PM
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I can agree with that. Although I'm higher on Quincey than you.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 10:08PM
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@ Bill Rizer:

Quincey's a good player, but if you want your team to win a hockey game tonight, Ryan Smyth does more for you.

Meanwhile, Colorado was nice enough to take on Tom Preissing who will earn 2.75 million for the next two seasons but was waived and buried in the minors to finish off this year.

It's a trade that made sense for both sides, not in the least because L.A was able to send away almost 3-million in dead weight.

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#15 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 10:11PM
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@ Lefebvre:

Did you really like the Backstrom signing? He's the 4th-highest paid goaltender in the NHL, and his numbers have certainly been inflated from playing in Lemaire-land.

I like Backstrom just fine, but I don't think he's the 4th-best goaltender in the world. Maybe top-ten.

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#16 flyricky
July 07 2009, 11:01PM
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If you think Kyle Quincy is a quality hockey player you obviously don't know anything about hockey.

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#17 ScubaSteve
July 07 2009, 11:17PM
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flyricky wrote:

If you think Kyle Quincy is a quality hockey player you obviously don’t know anything about hockey.

~Well, since you backed your comment up so well, you have me convinced.~

Quincey is not a top end talent, but would fit nicely into most team's top 4, and is one of the the best on the PP (12th in the league in pts).

Try backing up your opinion as opposed to just looking like a troll.

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#18 humantorch
July 08 2009, 01:07AM
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Hoss wrote:

Anyone think Heatley wants to go to Colorado? Not sure what they could offer in trade to Ottawa though.

I'd say that Colorado isn't really looking to take on a $7.5m player right now. Not when they're clearly looking to rebuild.

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#19 OvenChicken8
July 08 2009, 07:58AM
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@ humantorch: That and the fact that they lost a lot of leadership this summer (Sakic, Laperriere). I just couldn't see Heatley really fitting into that locker room without being a problem.

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#20 Ogden Brother
July 08 2009, 08:20AM
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flyricky wrote:

If you think Kyle Quincy is a quality hockey player you obviously don’t know anything about hockey.

Quincy = Grebs

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#21 Chaz
July 08 2009, 08:38AM
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"un-Garry-Ungerish"

That is priceless. If the Oilers trade for a tough guy who loves standing in front of the net taking pucks in the head, we should refer to his style of play as very Curt Brakenburyish.

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#22 Chaz
July 08 2009, 08:40AM
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And if any of you don't remember Brakenbury, that doesn't make me old. Just smart. S-M-R-T.

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#23 Wanye Gretz
July 08 2009, 08:48AM
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"I remember Curt Brackenbury well"

Signed, The Home team Bench at Rexall Place

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#24 Chaz
July 08 2009, 08:56AM
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"So do we."

Signed, The Penalty Box Attendants and Forum Inn Entertainers Local 1267.

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#25 Archaeologuy
July 08 2009, 09:08AM
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*totally unrelated*

According to Darren Dregger those goofs in Philly didnt realize that Pronger will be 35 when the new contract kicks in and if he retires they will be on the hook for his salary. Cant wait to see Pronger in the Phantoms at the end of his career.

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#26 DanMan
July 08 2009, 09:11AM
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Trade Tom Gilbert!

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#27 patty
July 08 2009, 09:40AM
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@ Archaeologuy:

Bill Daly slaps Homer into his place with that one. Maybe not the best move that Philly ever made.

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#28 LOIL
July 08 2009, 09:41AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

*totally unrelated* According to Darren Dregger those goofs in Philly didnt realize that Pronger will be 35 when the new contract kicks in and if he retires they will be on the hook for his salary. Cant wait to see Pronger in the Phantoms at the end of his career.

That is hilarious. All philli fans are up in arms defending the signing stating that "it wont count against the cap once he retires" haha. Priceless.

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#29 patty
July 08 2009, 09:43AM
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It also won't matter if he's in the minors. The cap hit stays on unless he goes to LTIR. So sweet.

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#30 LOIL
July 08 2009, 10:05AM
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I would be really surprised if Philli didnt know this ? If they made this mistake you have to wonder how these multi-million dollar companies are being run. I mean a mailing error almost costs the hawks 2 of their young studs and now this ? Amazing.

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#31 J
July 08 2009, 10:10AM
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@ Archaeologuy:

where did you read that? google says nothing.

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#32 Archaeologuy
July 08 2009, 10:15AM
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@ J: TSN.ca Darren Dreger Columnists/Blogs

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#33 J
July 08 2009, 10:23AM
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either Im blind, retarded, or was accidentally searching for Chris Pronger (instead of Christine). Anywho, there it is. Thanks.

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#34 Chaz
July 08 2009, 10:36AM
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@ patty: patty wrote:

It also won’t matter if he’s in the minors. The cap hit stays on unless he goes to LTIR. So sweet.

Is a player allowed to go on LTIR to get braces and have the massive spaces between his teeth fixed? You know, so it doesn't look like his tounge is in jail? If so, that could be Philly's out.

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#35 Jonathan Willis
July 08 2009, 11:42AM
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LOIL wrote:

I would be really surprised if Philli didnt know this ? If they made this mistake you have to wonder how these multi-million dollar companies are being run. I mean a mailing error almost costs the hawks 2 of their young studs and now this ? Amazing.

Boston may have made a similar error with Thomas.

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#36 Dominoiler
July 08 2009, 11:57AM
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hahahaha 99th...

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#37 risto
July 08 2009, 12:58PM
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Chaz wrote:

“So do we.” Signed, The Penalty Box Attendants and Forum Inn Entertainers Local 1267.

Love it! Send my regards to Kapuskasing

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#38 Lefebvre
July 08 2009, 10:08PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Lefebvre: Did you really like the Backstrom signing? He’s the 4th-highest paid goaltender in the NHL, and his numbers have certainly been inflated from playing in Lemaire-land. I like Backstrom just fine, but I don’t think he’s the 4th-best goaltender in the world. Maybe top-ten.

Not sure if I could justify my answer using the overall goalie payscale and Backstrom's No. 4 position on it. I do know Backstrom seems to me a much better option than Josh Harding or any other goaltender that may have been available to the Wild had Backstrom said no to a new deal.

Then again, maybe there is something to your point about the team making the goalie, although I do think Backstrom has some solid attributes of his own. It'll be interesting to monitor that this year with a new guy behind the bench.

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#39 Northwest review (Tim Hortons edition) - OilersNation.com
July 08 2009, 10:30PM
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[...] touching on the off-season activities of the Wild and Avalanche in a previous entry, we now discuss those other three teams in the Northwest [...]

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