Around the league – Dec 24 2009

Merry Christmas to all our loyal Nation readers, with your help we continue to grow and we look forward to bigger and better things in the New Year. In less than a week the most anticipated announcement of the Olympics will occur: Steve Yzerman will announce the players for the men’s hockey team.

I’m sure you will be inundated with prognostications of who will be on the team, so before I go I thought I’d get a jump on things.

I think there are some easy choices that everyone will have on the team. The goaltenders will be Martin Brodeur; he will be the starter, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury. There are no other realistic options.

Sidney Crosby, Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Ryan Getzlaf are locks to make it up front, while Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Jay Bouwmeester and Shea Weber are sure bets.

That is 13 guaranteed spots, which leaves ten.

There are other guys who you could consider locks, but there will be some minimal debate on whether they deserve to be on the team.

Rather than pick who I think Yzerman will pick, I will fill out the remaining ten spots with the seven forwards and three defensemen I would take, although I suspect most of these ten will make the final squad.

Corey Perry will make it. He is an ass to play against, has won a Cup, is having a great season and has chemistry with Getzlaf.

I’d take Patrick Marleau because rather than pout about losing his captaincy he has flourished in San Jose, and he is underrated defensively. And with only one practice Mike Babcock can put him with Heatley and Thornton and they won’t need anytime to gel.

Mike Richards is my fourth line centre. He is physical, has good enough hands and he has the ability to change the momentum with an energy-type shift.

Brad Richards is finally healthy again, has proven he can be a clutch player and is versatile enough to play any forward position.

Vincent Lecavalier is having a decent season, but it’s his size and grit side that I’d like on my team. He would be my third line centre and thrive playing with Getzlaf and Perry.

I want Eric Staal because last May he was one of the most dominant players in the game. His playoff record shows he performs when it matters most, and he could easily play the wing. I know he hasn’t had a great season, but I still want him on my team.

Jonathon Toews with his speed, versatility and youthful exuberance makes the squad. He could easily play on the fourth line because if Babcock asks him to be defensive-minded his game is well-rounded enough to do.

Some guys who will be disappointed include: Dustin Penner, 39 solid games aren’t enough this time around, Jeff Carter, no room for a guy who misses the net one out of every three shots and Shane Doan, a great role guy, but Perry and M. Richards are better at this point.

Dan Boyle is the most underrated D-man in the game. He has incredible hockey sense, has won a Cup and is just as comfortable running the PP as he is anchoring the PK.

Duncan Keith’s skating ability and elite puck-moving skills make him a must on my squad.

Drew Doughty is only twenty but this kid is the real deal. The only reason he doesn’t make the team is because of his age, but he has proven he is mature beyond his years plus he looks like he is 30. I think within two years he will be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate.

I don’t need a one-dimensional D-man like Robyn Regehr on my team because Weber and Pronger have that nastiness if you need it. Mike Green’s defensive game could be dicey in the medal rounds, despite is unreal offensive game. He is the best offensive defenseman in the game, but in a short tourney that isn’t enough.

The debate won’t end on December 30th when the team is announced, but it will continue until the Olympics start, and if Canada doesn’t win the Gold then the debate over what a difference “this guy or that guy” would have made will be epic.

ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK

I will be in Costa Rica for the next two weeks, so ATL will take a break until my return, so to make up for it I’ve added a few extra women as an early Christmas present. The Stars girls really like their job based on their smiles. Here is a blonde,  a brunette and an auburn just for you.

 

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • I won’t lie, I can’t think of anything good this week because all I’m thinking about is the sand, sun and babes of Tamarindo.
  • But I will leave you with this….As you make a wish list for who you’d like to see your team add in 2010 here are some guys who will most surely be moved before the trade deadline.
  • Ray Whitney will be an excellent depth player for a team that needs a bit more offence and some help on the powerplay.
  • Saku Koivu has started to play better in Anaheim and unless the Ducks have a huge turnaround he will be on the move.
  • Andy Sutton is 6’5” and one of the top teams will want some depth and size on the backend.
  • Ethan Moreau and Steve Staios could be a small piece of a big puzzle if a team wants guys with limited skill, but lots of effort and heart. Moreau could use a change of scenery and Staios would welcome a shot at a ring.
  • The Leafs will have a fire sale with guys like Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Lee Stempiak and Garret Exelby all being available and they have some, albeit limited, cache for the right team. Mayers is solid 4th liner, while Exelby could be a sixth D-man on a team lacking in grit. Stajan has leveled off in Toronto, but I could see him potting a few key goals for a team down the stretch.

LEADERS THROUGH THE SEASON

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

Goals:
26: Marian Gaborik
24: Alex Ovechkin
23: Patrick Marleau
22: Sidney Crosby and Dany Heatley
21: Ilya Kovalchuk and Steven Stamkos
19: Jarome Iginla, Dustin Penner and Rick Nash

Assists:
41:
Joe Thornton
36: Tomas Plekanec
34: Martin St. Louis
32: Brad Richards
31: Henrik Sedin, Ryan Getzlaf and Tomas Kaberle
29: Paul Stastny
28: Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green
***Same ten guys for third consecutive week****

Points:
51:
Thornton
49: Gaborik
47: H. Sedin
46: Crosby
44: Ovechkin
43: Plekanec
42: Backstrom and B. Richards
41: Heatley, Getzlaf and St. Louis
***Plekanec has nine points this week and has been great for a month**

Plus/Minus:
+20:
Parise
+18: Ovechkin
+16: Jonathon Toews, Christian Ehrhoff and Jeff Schultz.
+15: Pavel Kubina and Brendan Morrison
+14: Crosby, Marleau and Mike Green
*** Rod Brind’Amour still leads for the Green Jacket with a whopping -20, but Patrick O’Sullivan and Brendan Witt are close at -19. In fact the Hurricanes (Aaron Ward -17, Joni Pitkanen -16, Chad Larose -14 and Sergei Samsonov -14), Islanders (Witt and Richard Park -16) and the Oilers (O’Sullivan, Shawn Horcoff -18 and J.F Jacques -14) have ten of the worst eleven +/- ratings. Only Ales Kotalik from the Rangers makes this group at -16. ***

PP Goals:
Twelve:
Gaborik
Ten: Heatley
Eight:
John Tavares, Niclas Bergfors, Andrew Brunette and Kovalchuk
Seven:
Teemu Selanne, Tomas Holmstrom, Mason Raymond, Stephane Robidas, Mike Richards, Stamkos, Crosby and Ovechkin

Hits:
139:
Stephane Robidas
137: Cal Clutterbuck
126: Ryan Callahan
120: Dustin Brown
119: Matt Greene
118: Andrew Alberts
116: Brooks Orpik
113: Brendan Morrow
112: Steve Ott
110: Justin Abdelkader and Dustin Byfuglien

Shots:
161:
Jeff Carter
157: Parise
155: Ovechkin
152: Rick Nash
135: Crosby
133: Vincent Lecavalier and Gaborik
132: Evgeni Malkin
131: Radim Vrbata and Henrik Zetterberg

FINAL POINTS

Just a heads up to all the guys out there who have a wife or girlfriend, be prepared to have to go see the movie Valentine’s Day. It will be released just prior or on Valentine’s Day and is a romantic comedy with a bunch of good looking people all looking for love or who are in love. It is inevitable boys that if you want to be or stay in the good books that you’ll have to take her, or at least most women will want to see it.

If you are wondering what the hell this has to do with sports it was a preview prior to The Blind Side. Great sports movie by the way.

A Merry Christmas and all the best in 2010 to those in the Nation! Talk to you in a few weeks.