It's A Wild Situation In Minnesota

Monday, June 29, 2009

A lot of teams like to focus on signing a natural goal scorer come July 1st, but no one is in more need than the Minnesota Wild. The Wild's team is made of a solid defensive core, which is great for a team and their goalie. But if you can't score goals, you have no chance of winning hockey games. The only real 30-40 goal scorer they have is right winger Marian Gaborik, who hits the free agent market come the first of July.

The biggest name on this Wild roster is Gaborik who, due to injury, only played in 17 games this past season. In those 17 games though, he scored 13 goals which simply proves right there he knows how to find the back of the net. Can you only imagine how much damage he would have done if healthy? Along with his 13 goals he put up 10 assists to total 23 points which averages out to at least one point a game. Now he has a contract of $7.5 million at the age of 27. To me, that's a lot of money but Gaborik's probably worth it if he can stay healthy. He's never played all 82 games in a season, coming close in 2002-2003 playing in 81. According to, Minnesota, Vancouver, Edmonton, Los Angeles and Dallas are interested in him. My personal opinion: if Minnesota wants to make playoffs next year, they either keep Gaborik or sign a player like Heatley or Hossa.

Other forwards that will be free agents are centers Krystofer Kolanos ($500,000), Bryan Lundbohm ($500,000), and left winger Stephane Veilleux ($862,500). Veilleux is the same age as Gaborik and scored just as many points, only difference is he participated in all but one of the Wild's games this season. He is still a reliable forward though. As for the other two, if Minnesota is serious about getting another goal scorer, these two players could be traded as a package deal. Kolanos played in 21 games for the Wild and Lundbohm spent most of his season with the affiliate team, Houston Aeros.

On the defensive side of things, they have four free agents, one of them being the stay at home defenseman, Martin Skoula. For a blue-liner, he didn't have many penalty minutes as he had only 10, which is a plus. He put up 16 points through 81 games last season. So should Minnesota re-sign him? I believe they should, simply because for the 10 years he has been in the NHL, he's always been reliable.

Other free agent defensemen the Wild have is Marc-Andre Bergeron ($1.69 million), Kurtis Foster ($1.025 million), and Tomas Mojzis ($500,000). Bergeron is more of the offensive type of defenseman. During the 2008-2009 season, he scored 14 goals in 72 games to make a total of 32 points. In the past, he has had one 20 goal season, two 17 goal seasons, and one 15 goal season. This is a player the Wild really shouldn't let go of. The Wild have enough cap space to sign Bergeron and Foster if they wanted to.

About the goaltending situation, they already signed Niklas Backstrom, one of the candidates for the Vezina Trophy this past Awards Ceremony. They inked him to a four year, $24 million deal. Backstrom went 37-24-8 this past season.

On the night of the draft, the Wild acquired Kyle Brodziak, a center from the Edmonton Oilers. He's not one to put up big numbers on the score board, but he's one to stay healthy, be physical but stay out of the box, and keep his +/- at a reasonable number. I guess you could say he is one of those players who make up for the offense by doing the little things.

During the off season, the main focus of this team should be on scoring. Of course it could never hurt to add talent and depth to your defense as well, but if they don't, they should be fine.

Sens' Off Season Situations

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Ottawa Senators were once a team to be reckoned with. They were a playoff contending team for years, including making it to the Stanley Cup Finals, eventually losing to the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. This past season, however, everything fell apart for the Sens. They didn't make the playoffs, they stayed at the bottom of the standings, and their line of Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Daniel Alfredsson just wasn't the same.

Now Heatley wants out. This is something Ottawa really can't control. Yes, he is one of their best players, but Canada's capital city doesn't suit him anymore. Heatley has a list of teams he would go too (might I add one of them being my Boston Bruins =D ) and Ottawa was hoping to get a trade done before the NHL draft this Friday. On his list of teams includes the Bruins, as I mentioned, the Kings, Rangers, Sharks, Red Wings, Blackhawks, and Canucks. For a player like Heatley, Sens fans better hope they get some good players out of a trade with him.

The Sens also have two unrestricted free agents in forwards Mike Comrie and Chris Neil. Comrie, acquired before the trade deadline, put up three goals and four assists in 22 games played with Ottawa. Neil, on the other hand, has spent his whole career with Ottawa. He has played in 511 career games, posting 61 career goals. If Ottawa was to only resign one, my personal opinion is Comrie is the better guy to go with. Only problem is, he has a $4 million contract to pay, while Neil's is only $1.2 million. Although when it comes to signing players, it's sometimes better to go with the player with more quality.

Thirty-two year old defenseman, Filip Kuba, will become a free agent as well. This past season he produced 40 points, three of which were goals. He also ended the season a +4, with 28 penalty minutes which isn't bad for a blue liner. His contract is worth $3 million.

Ottawa has a few small contracts that will be free agents as of July 1st, such as Brad Isbister ($650,000), Greg Mauldin ($500,000), Drew Fata ($550,000), Luke Richardson ($500,000), and Brian Elliott ($758,000).

As far as the draft goes, Ottawa should look for a goaltender that they can use as a back up to Alex Auld. Auld, if he doesn't get traded, should make for a solid starting goalie. Goaltending was a slight problem during the 2008-2009 season, so a goalie should be top priority for General Manager, Bryan Murray.

The Wanna B's Woes

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hockey season has sadly been over for eleven long, dreadful days, but there are still plenty of things to cover during the offseason. There will be time to cover the draft as well as free agency, so I'm going to start my summer off with the Providence Bruins.

The Baby Bruins roster is always changing. Whether players get sent back to juniors, get called up to Boston, get traded, and on an every night basis: alternate every other game because there are so many of them. Whatever the case, I never know who I'm going to get to see play that night. Heading into next season, however, there are some names I definitely want to see back on the roster and some that I don't think will be back.

Starting with the guys from the point, there are a total of eight defenseman on the P-Bruins roster right now. Alain Goulet signed to Amateur Tryout in April, after joining fellow Bruins the past two years at the Rookie Development Camp. This name is not one I've seen brought up in talk with Providence; therefore I am not sure he will be returning next year. Most likely, he will be released from his contract. David Kolomatis and Matt Stephenson are two other defensemen that were added to the roster late in the season. Both players who alternated different games, and are ones I would place on the "unsure to return" list.

Names known in Providence and by Bruins fans are Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Jeff Penner, and Andrew Bodnarchuk. Boychuk definitely proved why he deserves to be wearing a Bruins jersey. This past season he was the leading scorer of the team with 66 points and 20 goals. As a defenseman, these are impressive stats. McQuaid, on the other hand, is more of a reliable defenseman. He doesn't always show up on the score sheet, but he makes up for it on the back end by always throwing his body around and passing the puck up to his forwards. Penner's style is one of the most unique I've seen. He's used on the power play, he's one to stay healthy all season, ended up a team hight +22, plays physical, and can rush the puck up the ice. To me, he's a very skilled defenseman, and it actually blows my mind he hasn't gotten called up by Boston yet. Bodnarchuck has some experience with the team, having played for them the past 2 seasons. Again, he's another one that doesn't contribute as much offense as some, but still plays a big part for this club.

As for forwards, there are fifteen of them total, while a hockey roster only allows 12 on the bench. This is where the alternating came in also. There are too many centers and wingers to sit here and write something about each of them, so I will simply mention a few. First, there's Vladimir Sobotka who knows Route 95 very well. For those of you outside Boston, that is the highway taken to get from Providence to Boston, which Sobotka seems to be doing more often than not. He's always getting called up and sent back down. I love when he plays in Boston because his style of play at a young age amazes me. Be sure to see him on the roster for Providence next year. Other notables that I think will be on the 2009-2010 roster are Brad Marchand, Wacey Rabbit, Matt Marquadt, Marty St. Pierre, and Jordan Knackstedt.

Out of the four goalies currently on the roster, I strongly believe (and hope) that Tuukka Rask will be playing for Boston next year. Rask played all sixteen of Providence's playoff games and 57 of the regular season. His first call up from Boston last season was versus the New York Rangers where he posted his first NHL career shutout. Adam Courchaine, Kevin Regan, and Kevin Natsiuk will have some competition during Development Camp to see who gets the top spot.

*I will post updates from the week of July 6th- July 12th from Ristuccia, on the Providence Bruins and draft picks*

Do You Want Me to Thank Your Wife, Manny?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Well the awards show is over...THANK GOD, and if you don't know what my title means then you definitely missed the only funny thing that happened. I am happy all three of the Bruins won their awards, respectively, but the show was a mess. (good article on that, read here: )

Alright, so I'm going to start with the Calder Trophy, also known as "Rookie of the Year". The nominees up for this one all had amazing seasons, but I knew who I wanted to win and I knew who was GOING to win. Steve Mason, hands down, had this award. He is probably 90% of the reason Columbus earned themselves a playoff berth. I'm glad for him.

Now on to the Lester B. Pearson Award, which is given to the player most outstanding in regular season. I wanted Evgeni Malkin to win this because I feel as though he works so hard, and sometimes goes unnoticed just because of how amazing Alex Ovechkin is. I love Ovechkin, but everybody already knows how great he can be. So as you can tell from what I just said, Ovie did end up winning this award. Yay for Ovie.

I'm skipping out of order from when they were given out simply to get all the Pavel Datsyuk ones out of the way. I'm a big fan of Datsyuk, his play, and skills but think one of the awards he won could have also gone to another nominee. That award being the Frank J. Selke Award given to an outstanding defensive forward. The other two nominees were Ryan Kesler and Mike Richards, both who deserved this as well. The other award Datsyuk won was the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, which he's won several times before. This one I think he deserved more than the other nominees in Marty St. Louis and Zach Parise. Jeez, Datsyuk wins all these awards yet; his English still isn't that great? Oh well, next award.

Time for the MVP. I probably should have saved that for last, but I'm doing the Bruins hat trick last seeing as how it was my favorite part of the night. OK so the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) went to whom else but Ovie once again! This is another one Malkin could have won, but he has the Stanley Cup so I guess that's all that matters.

Masterton Trophy is one of my favorite trophies because it's awarded to the player "who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey." Players who win this always deserve it and last nights winner was Steve Sullivan from the Nashville Predators. I was really hoping he'd win and not Richard Zednik. I know Zednik went through a tramatic time when he was cut with a blade of a skate, but I've always had a random grudge against this player since his days in Montreal. Enough about him though, it's time for the boys of Boston.

I was very proud to have my Bruins take home four awards. The Jennings Trophy I already knew they had won, since it's given to the pair of goalies who allow the least amount of goals in regular season, so that's not what the best part about it was. It was the humor of Tim Thomas, which Bruins fans usually only understand. Last night he was thanking the organization, coaches, team, and his family which is basically the same people Manny Fernandez would need to thank. So casually he turned to Fernandez and said "Do you want me to thank your wife, Manny?" There you have my title of this post!

Thomas also was awarded the Vezina Trophy for outstanding goaltender. His speech for this was what I thought was the best of the night; hopefully I'm not being too biased there. I can't explain how excited I was for him. He deserved this award. Zdeno Chara finally won the James Norris Memorial Trophy awarded to the most outstanding defenseman. He was nominated last year, but favorite Nick Lidstrom had won it again. Not this year, it was Chara's turn. Last, is the Jack Adams Award. It’s an award for the most outstanding coach. Bruins bench boss, Claude Julien, won for turning this Bruins team in the right direction. This made my night complete, and it was a hat trick for the Boston Bruins.

(see video of Tim Thomas & Manny Fernandez here: )

And the Nominees Are...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The NHL Awards Ceremony is only a day away and hopefully this year some awards will be brought home to Boston.The 2008-2009 Bruins roster was successful, hard working, and overall determined. Those three qualities definitely deserve some recognition from the NHL and the writers who vote for the winners. There are three Bruins up for awards, including Coach Claude Julien, goaltender Tim Thomas, and six-foot-nine defenseman Zdeno Chara, Chara being up for two.

Starting with Chara, what else can you say about this man besides he's a big impact? Well, he's up for the Norris Trophy once again which is given to the best defenseman. Chara is more than deserving. He is a hard hitter, who's strong on the puck, with that touch of being an offensive threat. On the power play, goalies must prepare themselves for his one-timer from the blueline. A four time All Star, he defended his Hardest Shot title for the third straight year at the All-Star SuperSkills competition, breaking the Skills all-time record with a mind blowing 105.4 mph. Since being with the Bruins, he's done nothing but improve. In his first season in 2006, he recorded 11 goals earning 43 points. This past season he recorded 19 goals with a total of 50 points. He also ended the season being a reasonable +/- of 23. Chara is up against defending Norris Trophy winner Nick Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, and Capitals' Mike Green.

The other award Chara is a finalist for is the Mark Messier Leadership Award, where he is up against the face of the NHL in Sidney Crosby from the Pittsburgh Penguins, and also Flames' forward Jarome Iginla. The Messier Award is an award that recognizes an individual as a superior leader within their sport, and as a contributing member of society. It honors a player who leads by a positive example in their on ice performance as well as their motivation to teammates and the community. All three finalists easily deserve this. Chara supports the Right to Play Program which works with volunteers to use sport and play to enhance child development in areas of disadvantage. During the 2009 All-Star Game, Chara set up a competition with fellow hockey players participating in the Hardest Shot. Each player donated $1,000 and their teams matched it with the league adding on an extra $6,000 making the total come to $18,000. The winner of the event got to donate the money to a charity of their choice, Chara of course, being the winner. As captain of the Bruins, he is also a great example for teammates and young guys. His work ethic is one to envy, and I think this award was made for him.

When I found out that the goalie I watch play every game was up for the Vezina Trophy, I was probably almost excited as Tim, himself. The Vezina Trophy is handed “to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.” Bruins net minder, Tim Thomas, is phenomenal with his acrobatic saves and the intensity he brings every night. Thomas is a two time All-Star and has recorded two win in his appearances. Since the 2002-2003 season, Bruins fans knew there was something about Thomas' style of goaltending that was unlike the usual. Over the years he has become the starting goaltending for the B's and this past season; he earned himself a career high in wins with 36. Both Thomas and back up goalie, Manny Fernandez, were rewarded the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the least amount of goals scored in the league. Thomas has a good shot of winning and he is up against Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom and Columbus rookie Steve Mason.

Finally onto the brilliant bench boss of the black and gold, Claude Julien. Without him, I believe the Bruins would still be the 13th placed team they were before he arrived. He turned this team in the right direction with his effective system. Julien turned many of his players into an all-around player by making each play defensivley first and then offensively. He has also given all of his young players in the system the chance to prove a spot on the team and bring this team to a new level. Julien, hands down should win the Jack Adams Award which is annually awarded to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success. He is up against San Jose's Todd McLellan and St. Louis' Andy Murray.

In my opinion I think the most deserving of these three would be Zdeno Chara for the Mark Messier Leadership Award, even though it is really hard to pick just one because all three of these Bruins deserve to win their awards respectively. From 7:30-9:00, the NHL Awards Show will be held in Las Vegas on Versus. It'll be a successful night in my opinion, if at least one Bruins can take home a prize.

A Look Back at This Years Playoffs

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Yes, I watched the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, I watched just about every Stanley Cup playoff game in 2009. Although this is true, today is really the first day I got a chance to sit down and think back to all the good and bad this year's playoffs brought, including my second favorite team hoisting the Cup.

First Round: My personal favorite moment was the sweeping of the rivaled Montreal Canadiens by the team I call my own, Boston Bruins. It's been a long time coming for something as bittersweet as this to happen, and after the Bruins almost pulled an upset in last year's playoffs, this was just about the best thing that could have happened. Also grabbing some headlines was the brilliant work of a hot-tempered coach. During game five versus the Washington Capitals, New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella acted as a hypocrite for his actions just after benching Sean Avery for the same reason. Washington fans sitting behind the bench insulted him and his team also pouring a beer on him, which caused him to snap. Tortorella, being an NHL coach and all, should definitely know better to keep his composure, but hey, it made for great TV. He then turned around to spray the fans with bottles of water, and throwing it into the crowd hitting a woman. Professional, right?

One last thing to remember of round one, is the Carolina Hurricanes versus the New Jersey Devils. Just this season goaltender Marty Brodeur broke the all-time record of wins and is known to be one of the best goalies ever. Well in a hard fought seven game series, he was outplayed by Carolina's net minder, Cam Ward. Twice Brodeur let up last second goals that decided the game, one being in a series deciding game seven. Carolina scored two goals in the remaining 1:20 of the game, to move onto round three. First goal came from Jussi Jokinen to tie it, and then with 31.7 seconds to go, Eric Staal put the game away.

Second Round: NHL fans know that when Sidney Crosby is in the picture, all media attention goes straight to him and his Penguins. Now add super star Alex Ovechkin to all that. It's a battle of the best. This second round series consisted of the league's top talent when the Caps faced off against the Pens. They sure didn't disappoint. In game two of the series, both Crosby and Ovechkin scored hat tricks, with Ovechkin's team winning that game. Other notables would be the Scott Walker-Aaron Ward situation. In game five, the Bruins had a 4-0 lead with only minutes remaining. Walker sucker punched Ward and he received a match penalty which means an automatic suspension. The suspension was waved off and this irked Bruins fans. Let's just say that if Walker got his two game suspension as he deserved, the Bruins probably would have made the third round...just saying.

Third Round: The Carolina-Pittsburgh series was fun to watch for me, being the Bruins and Penguins fan that I am. It was fun as a Bruins fan to simply see the Hurricanes get swept, and to see Gonchar lay out bad-guy Scott Walker. Even better than this though, was the back-handed goal scored by Evgeni Malkin. He was a one man team in this play. After the puck was dropped, Malkin got the puck through the legs of an opponent and to the corner where he was the first player to reach it. From there he skated around the net, and flipped the puck passed Cam Ward. (see goal here: Malkin got a hat trick this game.

Finally, onto the Stanley Cup Finals. What a great series it was. Detroit fans must have thought it was all over once their team went up two games to none. That wasn't the case however, because on home ice, the Pens tied the series and secured themselves a game five and six. Pittsburgh was blown out in game five, losing 5-0 but went on to win 2-1 at home in game six. At this point in the series, the team at home hadn't lost in their building. This all changed in a thrilling game seven, where the Pittsburgh Penguins earned themselves their third Stanley Cup in their franchise. My favorite moment personally, was seeing Malkin win the Conn Smythe trophy, because it was well deserved. I also enjoyed seeing the youngest captain in history raise the cup. I am sad that the season is over, but it's one I will always remember.

Krejci Signed, Others Waiting

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bruins have a lot of work to do this off season. Atop of the list is signing key components to this Bruins team, including Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick, and Byron Bitz. Already signing David Krejci to a three year deal worth $11 million, they have to decide who is going and who is staying in order to keep their top free agents.

Krejci was phenomenal throughout the entire 2008-2009 season, establishing career highs in different aspects of his game. He played in all 82 games this season, although he suffered through injury for the better part of it. Krejci also had a new career high in goals, assists, and points as well going 22-51-73. Most Boston fans figured this top young forward would be first priority to sign. So does this signing leave room for other top young forward, Phil Kessel? I'm sure Peter Chiarelli would love to keep Phil the Thrill in Boston, but Krejci and Kessel were both outstanding through regular season and playoffs that it might just cost too much.

One advantage the personnel in the Hub of Hockey have is the injuries to both of these player and the surgeries they had. Chiarelli & Co already signed Krejci, for a reasonable amount and now it's on to Kessel. It's an advantage that Kessel had to have surgery simply because he won't be ready for the start of the season which might scare off buyers and lower his cost for the Bruins to be able to afford him.

There are some minor changes that would have to be made to this roster in order to keep Kessel and also defenseman Matt Hunwick and forward Byron Bitz. One decision needing to be made is to trade net minder, Manny Fernandez. He may have started the season off on a good note, but his nagging injury and inability to play consistently has caused him and his goaltending not wanted in Boston. Whether he retires or the B's trade him, they need to get rid of his $4.75 million contract and bring up Tuukka Rask from Providence whose price is about $850,000. Also, free agents like long-time Bruin, P.J. Axelsson, and Shane Hnidy probably won't be back next year if the Bruins are serious about signing their young players.

On the need to go list is also defenseman, Steve Montador, who did nothing to wow Bruins fans when he was acquired at the trade deadline. However, Mark Recchi who was also aquired at the trade dead line was the complete opposite. Whether or not the Bruins will re-sign him is still up in the air. With a small amount of $1.25 million, it's possible he could be suited up in a Black and Gold uniform come next October.

The roster for the 2009-2010 campaign may be completely different if the Bruins can't figure out a way to re-sign the three very important free agents in Kessel, Hunwick, and Bitz. Hopefully they don't let them all wait until July 1st, because they just might be gone. Either way it's an exciting time of year and I can't wait to see the outcome.

Game Three: Series Shifts to Pittsburgh

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It was a weird sight in Mellon Arena Tuesday night. The Detroit Red Wings actually looked like they were chasing after pucks and not making picture perfect plays. Oh wait, that was only the first five minutes. Well both teams did battle and the "White Out Crowd" at the Igloo was loud and ready to criticize Marian Hossa.

I'm going to keep this short and sweet. First period: Mostly back and forth play and the score is tied at two. Pittsburgh tallied first with a goal from Max Talbot. Detroit struck back to tie with a goal from Henrik Zetterberg. The Pens then found themselves down by one when Johan Franzen put it behind Fleury on the power play. It did eventually get tied up when my personal favorite Penguin, Kris Letang, scored on a Pens power play to even the score.

Second Period: Was scoreless, but not boring. There were some big hits and some good scoring chances. No goals however, so the score is still tied at two.

Third Period: Pittsburgh broke the tie about half way through the third period with a Sergei Gonchar power play goal, the Penguins second power play goal of the night. After that goal was scored, players started scrambling on both sides. Detroit because they needed to make a a comeback and Pittsburgh because they needed to hold onto their lead. Pittsburgh won that battle and the empty netter went to Max Talbot for his second of the night.

Pittsburgh went on to win 4-2 on home ice. It was a beautiful sight for Penguins fans as their team cut the series lead in half. Game five will be necessary.

Best Player of the Game: Kris Letang.
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