Five things: Dare we dream it's true?

Ryan Lambert
August 29 2012 07:02AM

1. Please tell me this actually happened

Apparently, and this comes directly from Facebook via a newspaper and columnist you've never heard of in your life, but a Winnipeg Jets fan ran into Cory Sarich over the summer and asked him when he would request a trade back to his native province. Unfortunately, Sarich seems not to have responded, "Right away!" and ripped off his shirt revealing a Winnipeg Jets logo tattooed onto his chest.

"And while Sarich would be a welcomed addition to almost any team, the Jets already have enough manpower and depth on defense any way," Marshall Stevenson wrote.

No, listen though, you need Sarich. Can never have too many defensemen. He's signed for two years! His cap hit is pretty low! What more could you possibly want out of a deal like that? Man, what a pickup that would be for Winnipeg. He already knows Olli Jokinen. What will you give Jay Feaster for him? Nothing? Perfect. He'll be at the airport in the morning.

2. People going overseas

I wrote about part of this issue for Monday morning on Puck Daddy and as often happens with this kind of thing, soon after speculating on what guys might or might not do, many made decisions that immediately rendered my thoughts both obsolete and prescient.

Evgeni Malkin, for example, has potentially signed a lockout-dependent contract with the KHL side Metallurg Magnitogorsk, which you'll recall is the team he literally had to escape from in the middle of the night when he came to North America to play in the NHL. Rumors of other players have been circulating as well, including Scott Hartnell and his possible interest in playing for the Finnish hockey Kalpa, to the point where the team's GM publically acknowledged that he asked for a deal with the team.I find this all interesting. Dennis Seidenberg has kicked around the idea of playing with his brother in the German league.

Not that these players, or any others in the NHL, would attempt to ply their trades in foreign countries once they're prevented from doing so here, but more that all this is coming now, in the day or two before the NHL was allegedly going to give the Players' Association its second proposal or counter-counter-proposal or whatever else you want to call it.

I suppose I don't get the psychology of it. The owners cannot have possibly considered the league to be safe from players' jumping overseas for a few months, and even if they do, what's the big deal? As we saw with Alex Radulov, guys can come back. Perhaps not happily, at least in his case, but there's nothing that prevents them from being able to do so.

The only concern I can imagine they'd have, and it's another thing I touched on for PD, is that maybe there's a concern Scott Hartnell gets his knee whacked all to hell in his first Finnish game. This could be particularly important given that he's now locked up for too much money and too many years by Philadelphia, the owner of which seems to be very much in the driver's seat when it comes to these CBA negotiations.

The problem with this smattering of possible overseas signees, even augmented by rumors of more (including Alex Ovechkin) is that it's not going to be enough to move the needle. Haven't heard a word about Sid Crosby's plans, for example, or Zach Parise's or Jonathan Quick's or Jonathan Toews' or the Sedins' or anyone else who is considered a top-flight — more importantly: marketable — player in this league. Just Hartnell and Malkin and maybe Ovechkin and Nail Yakupov. Plus, the league knows it'll have all its good young players putting in time in the AHL anyway, so that's another possible concern to cross off your list.

Until players start making these deals en masse, no one is really going to care. And even then, will they really?

3. Here's something else about playing overseas

Y'know what, I'll say this on the subject too: Players should not only do this as a means of applying pressure to ownership in whatever weird way they think will work, but to stay on top of their games.

I don't know how many of you were around before and after the last lockout (probably most) but let's recall the cautionary tale of Jarome Iginla. He won the Rocket Richard in the year before the lockout — with a laughable 41 goals, tied with Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk — and scored 27 at even strength. Then he didn't play during the lockout, and, in a league with far more scoring, he went out and scored 35 when everyone came back. Only 17 of those were at even strength. Now granted, there were about a billion more power plays in the post-lockout season than the one before it, but anecdotal evidence (the dreaded Eyeball Test) suggested he simply didn't have It, whatever It was.

I can't imagine what sitting out a lockout of more than a month or two would do to Iginla's game at this point, but the answer certainly isn't "help."

The same perhaps could be true of other players as well, but it's clear that those players who actually went and played either in the AHL or overseas during the 2004-05 lockout had a much better go of things when they returned to the NHL a year later, so that's another reason to pursue such a deal, beyond the silliness of ineffectively leaning on ownership.

4. Calgary's place in the division

So people are starting to come out with their predictions for the upcoming season and most of the ones I've seen have Calgary exactly where you'd expect: In the 10-12 spot, behind Minnesota and, obviously, Vancouver, but ahead of Edmonton and Colorado.

Yeah, that seems about right, but you gotta give a little flexibility here for the fact that either of the teams below them will perform better than we expect, or that the Wild won't be as good as the hype (Exhibit A: That defense). Most importantly, I've read some stuff, like Kent's season preview, about how things don't exactly look super-rosy for the Flames even when viewed in a vacuum, such as Iginla's continuing decline and the very real possibility that Miikka Kiprusoff comes back to earth hard.

Personally, I think finishing third in the division should be the team's goal this year, something to strive for. And I don't think it'll be handed to them on a silver platter. This is a third-place-and-not-in-the-postseason spot they'll have to fight for. That's not pleasant, but it's not unrealistic either.

5. Some thoughts on fantasy hockey

Yahoo recently released its top-100 ranked fantasy players for the upcoming season, and the NHL is currently running through its own rankings by position, with left wings having come out yesterday.

People have expressed some amount of exasperation about them, which is to be expected because while there are some very legitimate questions such as, "How does Pavel Datsyuk not make your list of the 100 best fantasy players in the league?"  or, "You seriously think Scott Hartnell is the third-best left wing in hockey?" usually surround this stuff, all of it is a load of crap to begin with.
 
Let's put it this way: If you're in a league with, say, nine other people, and they're going by either list, you're either going to be able to get Alex Ovechkin after Scott friggin' Hartnell comes off the board, you could hope that Pavel Datsyuk falls to you in about the 10th round. If you are in such a league, and your competitors are that stupid, these lists are a very, very easy way for you to part fools from their money. Be happy about it.

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Kent Wilson
August 29 2012, 11:49AM
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@First Name Unidentified

it's interesting that a lot of folks are picking MIN ahead of COL. The Avs finished 7 points ahead of them and had a goal differential of -12 to the Wild's -49.

I know Minny signed the two big whales, but they are coming from a long ways back. Im bullish on COL because of guys like O'Reilly, Landeskog, Duchene, Parentueau, Downie, McGinn as well.

If I'm picking the NW right now, it goes:

VAN COL MIN CGY EDM

With not a lot of separation between the last 3.

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#2 RossCreekNation
August 29 2012, 09:11AM
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Unless the Coyotes are moving to Saskatchewan, I'm fairly certain that Cory Sarich will never play in his home province. Ha...

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#3 Kent Wilson
August 29 2012, 09:28AM
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@RossCreekNation

Good cathc. Sarich is indeed Sask born and bred. I suppose that's kinda close to Winnipeg though...

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#4 RossCreekNation
August 29 2012, 09:31AM
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Well, according to the prestigious wikipedia, Sarich & Oil dman Nick Schultz are bro-inlaws... so, EDMONTON!! Doesn't get any closer to Saskatoon than that, lol.

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#5 First Name Unidentified
August 29 2012, 11:33AM
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There is a very decent probability that the Flames will finish either 4th or 5th in the NW division this season, if there is one. Good timing in terms of quality of draft year.

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#6 McRib
August 29 2012, 01:51PM
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My picks would be: VAN MIN CGY EDM COL

Just not sold on Colorado much like Dallas this off season and the fact that some people still think Phoenix is a playoff team is beyond me.

Compared to Edmonton, COL are very similar in terms of major weaknesses on Defense and Mediocre Goaltending, but Edmonton has much more dynamic young forwards.

P.A Parenteau had to have been the most grossly overpaid free agent signing. Thanks Tavares!! If Zetterberg inflated Hudler stats then what in the world did Tavares do for P.A he gave him tap in's. Hudler out scores P.A this season by at least 15 points.

Also its not like Colorado needs more young 2/3 line forwards thats all they have, need a game breaker or two up front. Landeskog will be in a couple years but RHN tied him for points and played in 20 less games.

O'Reilly led their team in scoring with 55 points, considering David Jones was fourth in team scoring with 37 points they didn't have much depth either. Matt Duchene will need one hell of a bounce back year if they plan on even thinking about the playoffs.

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#7 First Name Unidentified
August 29 2012, 02:01PM
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@Kent Wilson

I totally agree with your ranking of the 5 teams in NW division:

I think Avs will comfortably be in a palyoff position this season which obviously means they will be 2nd in the NW. Minny might be a wild card but they would definitely surprise everybody - either in a good way or in a terrible way.

@McCrib

"but RHN tied him for points and played in 20 less games" Yes, but Landeskog was on a much better team and played much less minutes compared to RNH. Nothing against RNH personally (I'm actually a big RNH fan) but Landeskog deserves all the credit. It's like comparing Seguin and Hall and concluding that Hall is way superior purely based on numbers. Give it a few years...

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#8 Kent Wilson
August 29 2012, 02:09PM
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@McRib

The Avs have some issues, first amongst them is cheap ownership. That said, I think it's likely at least one if not several of their kids take steps forward this season.

The Avs also suffered from the second lowest SH% at 5on5 last year in the league (6.8%). I doubt that happens again.

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#9 McRib
August 29 2012, 02:28PM
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@First Name Unidentified

" Yes, but Landeskog was on a much better team and played much less minutes compared to RNH"

Gabriel Landeskog: Shifts Per Game 24.3 / Average Time On Ice 18:36 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: Shifts Per Game 21.0 / Average Time On Ice: 17:36

Nope actually Landeskog played much more.

Langeskog is going to be a solid two-way player who consistently scores 60-70 he is also captain material, but once RHN fills out he will be a 90+ point top scorer in the league. This coming from a Flames fan.

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#10 McRib
August 29 2012, 02:51PM
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@Kent Wilson

Ownership is a major issue and for the past two season's Colorado's weakness has been a complete lack of leadership with Adam Foote gone it only gets worse. They just didn't show up every night last season. Actually they rarely showed up as a complete team, when I watched them at least.

They have the young talent but none of them are ever going to turn into game breaker first liners in my mind outside of Landeskog who is more of complmentary player. Thought Matt Duchene was going to be but wow he was invisible last season 28 Points... What a fall from grace.

If Colorado picked up a Top. 4 Defenseman maybe they make the playoffs, but the young offensive talent they have doesn't offset the defense/goaltending complete lack of leadership. See more of a playoff push from Edmonton, though they are a year or two away.

Honestly Colorado was the only team last season that the Flames didn't bring their "a" game and still came out with the win. They did it three times against them.

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#11 Kent Wilson
August 29 2012, 03:10PM
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@McRib

Im willing to bet Landeskog will be considered an elite talent by the time he's 22 years old. O'Reilly is already one of the best two-way youngsters in the game as well. If Erik Johnson manages to take just one more step forward, he'll be a capable top pairing guy as well.

It's a relatively enviable core if you assume Duchene will rebound (which I do).

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#12 First Name Unidentified
August 29 2012, 03:33PM
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@McRib

Here is a better set of stats for you from a source i trust more than TSN.CA/nhl when it comes to advanced stats and stats in general - Behindthenet

Landeskog: TOI 14.69 (5on5), 2.14 (PP), QualComp 0.036, OZone 54.8% total TOI: 16.83

RNH: TOI 14.16 (5on5), 2.92 (PP), QualComp 0.015, OZone 62.5% total TOI: 17.08

Obviously, RNH had easier minutes compared to Landeskog.

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#13 McRib
August 29 2012, 03:39PM
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Honestly for me the main reason that I don't see Colorado's young talent having a major spike is, I know someone who had a cup of coffee with the Avalance two seasons ago, he said Joe Sacco was never around the rink. He was like a ghost.

He shows up an hour before games says a speech and high tails it out afterward. Adam Foote for all intensive purposes was the coach.

I was once in the camp that thought Duchene should have at least been considered over Tavares, but he will never succeed with a coach who is never around and like his other young teammates like Erik Johnson, need more guidance to become consistant enough to make the playoffs.

I was actually shocked when he told me because the year before he was named a finialist for the Jack Adams, it explains a lot though. Because I like many thought Colorado would be a playoff team last season. I don't think the same this season.

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#14 McRib
August 29 2012, 03:58PM
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@First Name Unidentified

You trust Behindthenet over the NHL..... Weird, I don't.

Honestly they both will be great players in their own right but in terms of offensive production think it will not even be close.

Landeskog is much more physically developed, yet in 20 less games RNH put up the same points. After watching RNH in Red Deer its only the tip of the iceberg.

Landeskog was +20 on a mediocre team so offense is absolutly not everything for him and in a couple years he could be a Captain and one of the most complete players in the league, but in terms of offense he won't touch RHN imo.

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#15 Subversive
August 29 2012, 05:11PM
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Regarding #3, I'd be interested to see some numbers to back up the assertion that those who played in Europe (or wherever) during the lockout came back stronger than those who didn't. It seems intuitively correct, but you state it as a fact, do you have some evidence?

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#16 RexLibris
August 29 2012, 05:39PM
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Subversive wrote:

Regarding #3, I'd be interested to see some numbers to back up the assertion that those who played in Europe (or wherever) during the lockout came back stronger than those who didn't. It seems intuitively correct, but you state it as a fact, do you have some evidence?

I had a quick look at the Flames that went overseas during 2004-2005. Admittedly, it was a cursory look as nobody has compiled the data in one place, but from what I could tell there really wasn't a correlation between any player staying home or playing abroad and an improvement in play.

For some of the players it was already in the cards which way their careers were going to break. Marcus Nilson? Martin Sonnenberg?

While some players who stayed home had either regressions (Iginla, if I recall correctly) or improvements (Langkow had a very good year the following season).

So I really don't have any "evidence" in terms of straight stats, but it looked like what a player chooses to do during any work stoppage doesn't necessarily affect their play once work resumes.

Assuming they don't decide to sit down and eat a monster plate of yummy pancakes, of course.

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#17 Parallex
August 30 2012, 12:39PM
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Re: Standings

1: Vancouver

*Bigish Gap*

2: Calgary 3: Colarado 4: Minnesota

*Smallish Gap*

5: Edmonton

Really Minnesota may have landed the big whales of free agency but they were really not good last year. So yes they improve but not so much to turn an also ran into a surefire contender. Add to that the fact that after Suter their D stinks and they have weak weak forward depth outside the top six, add to that the inevitable injuries, and then finally add to that the possibility of a CBA that reduces the player share but involves no rollbacks (who do they buy out that equals $9M after replacement?) and you have a recipe for potential disaster in the "State of Hockey".

I'll buck the pessimism trend and say I think the Flames and Colarado both improved (and in the Flames case the likelihood that they won't be as injured as last year) and Vancouver is probably Status Quo and I think the standing shake out as above.

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