Around the league - Jan 28, 2010

Jason Gregor
January 28 2010 11:07AM

It is January 28th, 2010 and Alberta is rebounding nicely from a financially tough 2009, but if the first month of the New Year is any indication, then 2010 will be much harder on the hearts of hockey fans in Canada’s richest province than 2009 was on their wallets.

The Oilers have lost all ten games in January and the Flames have now lost eight in a row and have been outscored 30-12 in those games. The Oilers play the Blues tonight, while the Flames are in Phoenix and if both lose tonight they will clash for an epic Battle of Alberta on Saturday night.

Nothing like a combined 20 game losing streak to get Albertans excited about hockey.

The big question is who is in worse situation right now?

The Oilers have ZERO chance of making the playoffs and fans are left to cheer for the THRIST for FIRST (keep losing and finish last and have a 48.1% chance of getting the 1st pick) and trying to figure out which players Steve Tambellini will deal before March 3rd. For the remainder of the season they will watch the games while debating whether to cheer more for an Oiler goal or an opposing one. Fun stuff.

Flames fans are on the edge of insanity. Some have called out Jarome Iginla’s leadership and many feel that dealing Dion Phaneuf is the cure to the Flames’ scoring woes. The Flames can’t score, but should we be surprised?

Darryl Sutter continues to build his team around goaltending and defence. He had Mike Cammalleri, but decided that Olli Jokinen would be a better option moving forward. Wrong.

Craig Conroy, a hell of quote, is currently their first line centre. Conroy makes Oiler fans think that maybe Shawn Horcoff isn’t the worst first line centre in the league.

Oilers fans are sick of losing, but now they are forced to dream about a possible franchise player being drafted. I wonder if Flames’ fans realize that their team doesn’t have a first or second round draft pick this season. Imagine if they miss the playoffs and don’t have a pick in the first 60 players? It will be hard to replenish a depleted farm system without any top picks.

Even if the Flames make the playoffs is there any reason to believe they can avoid another first round exit? Right now fans of the Red and White need to pray that Sutter can convince someone to take Phaneuf’s remaining four years and his $6.5 million cap hit, and get a proven scorer in return. If not, they will either miss the playoffs, or squeak into the playoffs and lose in the first round and then sell their fans that not having a pick in the first two rounds isn’t a big deal.

I don’t know if any fans will be cheering for their team to win on Saturday. An Oiler win might get them on a hot streak before their biggest game of the season --Monday in the TOILET BOWL battle with Carolina--, while a Flames win might be the start of something and convince Sutter nothing is wrong with his team.

Ice women of the week

Who said the Coyotes don’t have any fans? Brazilian Daniella Sarahbya might be their hottest fan. I wonder if Dave Tippett told his team she would show up for an autograph session if they made the playoffs?

Random thoughts

  • Keep it in mind that today the Leafs, Flames and Flyers don’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick in the 2010 draft. Both Leaf picks belong to Boston due to the Phil Kessel trade. The Flyers’ picks belong to Anaheim as part of the Human Rake (Chris Pronger) trade, while Phoenix owns the Flames 1st rounder as part of the Olli Jokinen trade and the Blackhawks have the 2nd rounder as part of Rene Bourque trade from July 1st, 2008. The Leafs will miss the playoffs; the Flames are currently in 9th while the Flyers are tied for 6th, but only one point ahead of 9th, 10th and 11th.
  • I wonder how many heads will roll if these three teams all miss the playoffs, and don’t have a first or second round pick?
  • Since firing their goaltending coach, Eli Wilson, the Senators have won seven straight. Of course Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza have returned, but Brian Elliot was named First Star of the Week, last week so clearly he hasn’t missed his goaltending coach.
  • The Red Wings reign is over. They gave up two goals in the final 1:30, and then lost in OT to Phoenix on Wednesday. Chicago is the new big dog in the Central division, while the Red Wings are in a fight just to make the playoffs. Only one player from the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 drafts has played in the NHL. Shawn Matthias has played 41 games for the Florida Panthers. We will see if the Red Wings scouting staff can re-build the Wings.
  • The Oilers and Flames only have two players with 12 or more goals. Iginla (21), Bourque (17), Penner (21) and Gagner 12. Only the Rangers with Gaborik (29) and Callhan (13) have the distinction of having limited goal-scoring threats.
  • Ethan Moreau is a hot commodity out west. San Jose, LA and Anaheim are interested. Putting him on a solid checking line with Pisani and Horcoff is as much of a showcase as it is Pat Quinn trying to shelter his young players from the opposition’s top lines. The Sharks and Ducks seem the most interested.
  • Sheldon Souray, if he is moved, could easily follow Moreau out west. Keep in mind that Dean Lombardi is very skeptical of acquiring any player who he thinks wants to be in LA for anything other than hockey. So Souray would have to convince him that he isn’t interested in any type of acting until he is done playing.
  • I spoke with a few agents this week and it seems many GMs are hesitant to make a move until after the Olympic break. If they make a move before the Feb 12th deadline, they will have to pay a player 16 days of his salary before he plays a game. That might not seem like much, but in a cap-tight world it could be.
  • The year is 193 days and the salary cap is broken day on a day-to-day basis. Ilya Kovalchuk and his $6.4 million cap hit means he costs $33,160 a day. So if a team trades for him before the break he’d cost an extra $530,569 against the cap.
  • Souray would cost an extra $447,668, while Moreau costs $165,803. It might not seem like a lot, but many teams are trying to save money, but more importantly fit contracts under the cap.
  • It sounds like Mike Gillis wants a physical D-man and possibly a centreman. The Canucks are on fire and I can’t see how he doesn’t make a move or two before March 3rd.
  • I wonder why Brent Sutter continues to use Daymond Langkow as his go-to-guy on faceoffs? Langkow is a woeful 43.6% on draws. Olli Jokinen is 49.4% and Craig Conroy is 50.2%. None of the numbers are great, but the Flames are tied with the Oilers as worst faceoff teams in the NHL at 47.1%. Wow, Alberta teams suck right now!!!!

Leaders through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
35: Patrick Marleau
34: Alex Ovechkin
33: Sidney Crosby
30: Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley
29: Marian Gaborik
28: Steven Stamkos
26: Mike Cammalleri
25: Alexander Semin
24: Henrik Sedin, Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash

Assists:
54: Joe Thornton
52: Henrik Sedin
44: Brad Richards
42: Martin St. Louis
39: Ovechkin, Tomas Plekanec and Mike Green
38: Patrick Kane and Vincent Lecavalier
37: Tomas Kaberle, Duncan Keith, Nicklas Backstrom and Paul Stastny

Points:
76: H. Sedin
73: Ovechkin
67: Crosby and Thornton
61: Gaborik
59: Kane and B. Richards
58: Backstrom
57: Marleau
56: Heatley, Kovalchuk and St. Louis

Plus/Minus:
+32: Ovechkin
+27: Jeff Schultz, Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Burrows
+25: H. Sedin
+24: Brent Seabrook
+23: D. Sedin, Zach Parise and Backstrom
+22: Marleau and Green
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads the race for the Green Jacket at -24, one ahead of Shawn Horcoff at -23.  Patrick O’Sullivan sits at -22 and Robert Nilsson is -19.

PP Goals:
Twelve: Gaborik and Heatley
Eleven: Stamkos
Ten: Mike Richards, Marleau, Evgeni Malkin and Kovalchuk
Nine: Ryan Smyth

Hits:
213: Cal Clutterbuck
194: Ryan Callahan
190: Dustin Brown
181: Steve Ott
179: Stephane Robidas
174: Brooks Orpik
160: Mike Fisher
158: Matt Greene
155: Scott Nichol
154: Doug Murray

Shots:
237: Ovechkin
230: Parise
223: Jeff Carter
197: Crosby
195: Gaborik and Rick Nash
190: Malkin
189: Phil Kessel and Marleau
188: Mike Cammalleri

Final points

If Kovalchuk honestly believes he should be paid close to Crosby, Ovechkin or Malkin then he is disillusioned. He’s never won the Hart or the Art Ross trophy and he has never led his team to a playoff victory. His agent should tell him to wake the hell up if he honestly believes he is worthy of $8 million. He is a great scorer, but is way too selfish of a player to be considered with the elite of the elite.

And why did Brent Sutter use Iginla in the shootout last night. He is now 0 for 3 this season and 7 of 26 for his career. He isn’t good in shootouts, so why keep using him?

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 RossCreekNation
January 29 2010, 12:40AM
Trash it!
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@Jason Gregor

He had Mike Cammalleri, but decided that Olli Jokinen would be a better option moving forward.

They chose Bouwmeester over Cammalleri, not Jokinen, right? The long-term $ was spent on J-Bo rather than Cammi. Jokinen had just this year left, and they had them both last season, subtracting Cammalleri for Bouwmeester this season. They really couldn't have kept Cammalleri and added Bouwmeester, even if they got rid of Jokinen because that would've been a lot of term tied up.

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#52 Chris.
January 29 2010, 09:15AM
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RossCreekNation wrote:
He had Mike Cammalleri, but decided that Olli Jokinen would be a better option moving forward.

They chose Bouwmeester over Cammalleri, not Jokinen, right? The long-term $ was spent on J-Bo rather than Cammi. Jokinen had just this year left, and they had them both last season, subtracting Cammalleri for Bouwmeester this season. They really couldn't have kept Cammalleri and added Bouwmeester, even if they got rid of Jokinen because that would've been a lot of term tied up.

Everyone (including Cammalleri) knew the score when Sutter sold the farm for Jokinen... IMO, Cammalleri's play down the stretch reflected that. Classic over-tinkering by management. It would be funny if the Oilers finally broke their streak down in Cow Town saturday.

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#53 RossCreekNation
January 29 2010, 08:46PM
Trash it!
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@Chris.

They chose to spend the long-term dollars on Bouwmeester over Cammalleri.They weren't gonna spend long-term on both. So, they found what they thought would be a suitable replacement on a short-term deal (Jokinen). They couldn't have signed BOTH Bouwmeester AND Cammalleri to long-term deals (technically I suppose they could have, but that would've put them into a bigger bind cap-wise then the method they chose).

If you want to argue that they should have signed Cammalleri over Bouwmeester, then that's a whole different argument (one I'd still likely disagree with - waiting to see if they now deal Phaneuf for a forward that's better than Cammalleri and Jokinen).

Capice?

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