Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stereotypes Don’t Lead To Any Shortcuts In Any NHL

The Pittsburgh Penguins signed a Finnish Elite player on Tuesday by the name of Janne Pesonen. He led the league in goals and points last season, and is praised by scouts for his finishing skills, something that Pittsburgh had trouble with in the last step of their run at Lord Stanley, which raises this question: what did happen to the team that had 49 goals in the first 14 games of the postseason?

We all knew the Pittsburgh Penguins were one step away. They had what it took to get out of the Eastern Conference with relative ease; solid scoring depth from two all star lines, a steady defensive system good enough to protect a young, talented goaltender in Marc Andre Fleury from some potent attacks during the first three rounds.

And then came the Detroit Red Wings.

Their superior team aspects came into play and shell-shocked the young Pittsburgh team. Offensively, the puck retrieval/possession game of the Red Wings poked holes through a defense that was just about ill-spirited during the biggest moments of their hockey careers. And when the stars of Detroit were through with the puck, and wanted to retrieve it again, they did by clogging the neutral zone efficiently. All of the forwards came back to help the star studded defense of the Wings through the middle, hard.

By the end of the series, Pittsburgh had started to generate some entries into the Detroit zone, and had some glorious scoring chances in front of Chris Osgood. And yet, they just couldn’t finish the job.

Detroit never had an aspect of their own game that overshadowed another one; in fact this team could be one of the greatest teams as far as being so good in any area of the game is concerned. That is what the Detroit model seems to be. Work hard and play well at each end of the ice. Nothing more, nothing less.

We see it every year. General Managers across the National Hockey League reflect at year’s end about their approach to building a contending team. They watch the Stanley Cup Finals, analyze the winning team and say “That’s the type of team I have to have to be a winner!” That quote being mentioned by any GM is just about a guarantee in this salary cap era (which won’t last any longer with inflating cap numbers year by year). It always happens. Take a look at how many teams went after Anaheim Ducks-type players the year they toughened their way on towards the Stanley Cup. That stereotypical theory has produced nothing but losers over the years.

The main ingredient towards Lord Stanley remains the same; a team that is consistently solid in three areas of the ice. The team part of it is what GMs need to focus on, using the right hockey minds as a source of input to create and build a strong mix out of a solid foundation of draft picks to build into the organization from the system, which includes young gems, proven stars still in their prime and seasoned veterans. Some aren’t brought up from the system in the beginning. They are brought in through trades, which mean that some of the players you work on drafting and grooming will be shipped off to create the final pieces of your championship puzzle.

Say, doesn’t that organizational method sound like the one of this year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Detroit Red Wings, the so-called ‘model franchise’ of the NHL? They have perfected this model for about 20 years now. Their ways require smarts and patience; if success doesn’t come right away, it is alright because the benefits you will get out of it will be substantial…but only if you do it right.

The Red Wings have been scouting, signing and training players with winning traits now for quite some time now. They have won four Stanley Cups in the past 11 years, and are always in the playoff picture. And it seems now that some organizations are catching on to this mold of consistency.

Some are doing it the right way. The New Jersey Devils may have different strategical approaches than the Wings, but have also been a very solid franchise during their Lou Lamoriello run. The Montreal Canadiens are currently in the creation stages of their team, and Bob Gainey is doing a very good job of not only attempting to get his team to the top, but trying to get them to always compete to stay there. Even the Toronto Maple Leafs are about to set foot on a new ideal which is based on Detroit’s.

Even this year’s sudden turnaround of the Philadelphia Flyers may have you thinking that their strategy can be sort of a shortcut. It isn’t. The main bodywork was done properly by both by Bobby Clarke through good draft years, and Paul Holmgren by identifying crucial roster needs and delivering them quickly through a free agency.

But some aren’t doing it just right. Instead, they believe in the philosophy of ‘stereotypical shortcuts’, as mentioned before, as in signing and drafting players who play like the champs of last year. Here’s an example.

Fabian Brunnstrom was a player from the Swedish Elite League that the Hockey News first reported of in about November. The first team to get a glimpse of him was the Detroit Red Wings. When that fact was known across the league, as many as 20 teams ended up showing interest for his services. Known as the first internet-bred star (via James Duthie), Brunnstrom had it down to five teams (including the Red Wings), and in the end, the 23-year old Swede chose the Dallas Stars as his destination.

By that time, the Wings were cruising through the playoffs as they had the whole entire season in picking up the Presidents Trophy. They thought Brunnstrom would be their little gem of a secret because he was the type of player Detroit liked.

Yes, Fabian the Fantastic has probably been overrated way before he will step on to his first NHL ice surface. By no means do I want to think that the kid will be a dud in any way. But in the end, this will probably be another ‘stereotypical shortcut’ that results in more negative than positive.

So, how does the Penguins’ acquisition of Janne Pesonen have to do with this rant? Well, here’s where everything comes together. Days after the Brunnstrom-Big D signing, the Wings went right ahead in signing the Finnish Elite League MVP, 24-year-old Ville Leino to an entry-level deal. Scouts in the organization used their instincts to perfection in tracking his instrumental progress throughout his year, and then signing him when he was proved worthy of a chance in the big show. Hockey people are thinking that Leino is a serious threat to lock down a second or third line spot on the team already further enhanced on Line One by the prudent arrival of Marian Hossa during the free agency period.

Hossa’s departure, along with those of key role players such as Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Georges Laraque, Jarko Ruutu will definitely affect the team quite heavily. GM Ray Shero did do a nice job of filling holes right away with key signings, but start the year as of right now with a team that is capable of taking the East yet again, but probably not with the manpower in which they did it in last season.

But how about the Pesonen signing? From what I hear, Shero had been watching Pesonen when he started to move up to the top of the scoring in that league this past season. And it sounds like in Leino’s case, Detroit had an eye on him for more than just one year. In fact, they have a very steady eye on all of the European elite leagues, an operation led by Euro-scouting genius Hakan Andersson.

Who knows if Pittsburgh took a shortcut in that route, but their move looked very reactionary at Detroit’s move of Leino. One thing is for sure in this case, regardless of Shero’s intent, they took a page out of Detroit’s successful manual.

The old saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in one day’ definitely has much truth to it under the circumstances of building a winner in the NHL today There’s no such thing as a shortcut to success in the NHL these days, and each organization has to learn to be down in the trenches before it gets its deserving shot of claiming the ultimate prize.

Isn’t it more worthwhile to have it that way anyways? Rather than getting what you want right away, doesn’t it make all the ups and downs and the bold moves that put you on the hot seat make it so rewarding?

I’m not the guy who can get you the total answer to that question; I’m not an expert general manager or a good enough player who knows what it takes to be in the league. But I am a fan who can understand the game as well as the next guy, and when I see the winning team of the Stanley Cup parade it around the rink with such emotion and energy, I get the feeling that they had to put so much of their lives on the line to get that gratifying experience.

That is probably said true as well to the people that build the team. Because their names, are put on that Cup for a good reason, along with the players. And believe me, they didn’t take any shortcuts to get there.

Hi, I'm Brodes, and I'll be writing these types of articles for Scotty and the HB team throughout the offseason, and season. I used to run another rumors website, but that disbanded after some early sucess. I've always loved to write about the world's greatest sport, and haven't stumbled across any good opportunities, until Scotty came along. He used to do some stuff over at my old website, and knows people from around the game to give you the latest!

New Hockey Bums Logo

The Hockey Bums staff has introduced a new logo that will be staple of the new blog. Its sleek and detailed design is what we see out of our staff and quality of work here at Hockey Bums.

It will be seen on the main page and anywhere else for different purposes.

Scotty:Id like to thank RipRock From Hockeybuzz For Designing this logo!

Tell us what you think of the logo in the comments section!!! Do you like it? Do you not? Do you have any ideas?

Winchester Signs With Blues

The St.Louis Blues have signed Big Guy Brad Winchester. Winchester has been tossed around a couple teams most notably the Edmonton Oilers and the Dallas Stars. Winchester who scored his first NHL goal with the Edmonton Oilers in a playoff game against the Detroit Red Wings is a Big Guy who can help the Blues in terms of size up front.

Montador A Duck

D-man Steve Montador was on the NHL.COM website for awhile marked down as a duck and it now is official. Steve Montador has signed a contract with the Anaheim Ducks worth just about 900,000 dollar. Now either the ducks will let D-man Joe DiPenta walk from free agency or they will trade d-man Mathieu Schneider.

Sometimes 2 is a crowd

Since the Huet signing I've thought a lot about what the next move would be. See the thing is this, not all tandems work in the NHL. In fact, there hasn't been many that have at all. That being said, I honestly don't think starting the season with Huet and Khabibulin is a good choice for Mr. Tallon. Tying that much money into goaltending alone is a bad choice.

The reason alot of tandems don't work is because for the most part goaltenders have never had to compete for a number 1 job. What I'm saying is, a number 1 goalie for most of his hockey playing life probably has been the number 1 guy. Most of them are great in pressure situations but once they have to compete for their job, its a different story. I called this the Jose Theodore effect. Jose played like a star in Montreal until Huet came along and started doing well, once he was shipped to Colorado he also had pressure coming from Peter Budaj. Last season once the Avs' basically handed Jose the starting job he once again excelled and took on the role like they expected him to and in my eyes deserved the comeback player of the year award. (if that exsisted)

There has been some great tandems in the NHL's history. Some that immediately come to mind are Mike Vernon/Chris Osgood, Mike Richter/John Vanbiesbrook, Grant Fuhr/Andy Moog, also Grant Fuhr/Bill Ranford, Eddie Bower/Terry Sawchuck, couple of more recent tandems that excelled have been J.S. Giguere/Ilya bryzgalov, and Ryan Miller/Martin Biron. And for the Blackhawks fans, hindsight shows us a tandem of Eddie Belfour and Dominik Hasek, although Hasek was merely a backup then.

I've read some rumors about some other plans the Hawks could be looking at instead of trading Khabibulin. Frankly, I haven't seen one I liked. First one I seen was trying to trade Robert Lang. Lang and Khabibulin both have 1 year remaining on their contracts, all you have to do is ask yourself who you would rather have around this season between these 2. We've already got a good goalie who last season not only carried a team into the playoffs but then got traded to another team and basically put them into the playoffs. Robert Lang is the type of player young teams bring in to teach, mentor and keep the young kids under wrap, all the while scoring 20-25 goals. So why would Tallon get rid of him? Another piece of trade-bait I've heard being thrown around is Cam Barker. Same thing applies here, Barker to me could end up being better then Duncan Keith and this to me is the season I believe he is going to break out. Out of the 2 right now I'd have to say bye to Barker if I had to choose between him and Lang, only because the Hawks defence is looking good and with the youth it's only gonna get better.

Don't get me wrong, as soon as I seen the Huet signing I was very happy, as Tallon signed a better younger goalie for 1 million less the what Khabibulin gets paid, but to me it only looks like a "great" move if they can get rid of Khabibulin. I do think that before the season starts though, we will see the end of the Bulin-wall and emergence of the Cristo-wall

Radulov Opts Out Of 3rd Year, Signs In Russia???

According to a Russian website Nashville forward Alexander Radulov has opted out of his 3rd and final year of his contract with the Nashville Predators and will now sign in Russia with Salavat Yulaev in Ufa. The Team will play in the newly formed Russian Kontinental League.

More: This is a quote from A Predators Blogger Named Brandon Felder in response to this comment: If Radulov Bolts For Russia Who Will Fill In:

"I wouldn't trust this. I called the Preds, and they have not even heard about it till I tipped them to it. That indicates to me this is false."

More On This If I Get More.

Minor free agents signings roundup

Around the league:

-The Capitals have re-signed RFA forward Eric Fehr to a one-year contract. The 22 year-old Fehr split last season between the Caps, where he played 23 games, recording 6 points, and the Hershey Bears of the AHL.
-The Lightning has signed UFA forward Zenon Konopka to a two-year deal. Konopka played 3 games with Columbus last season.
- The Blues have signed UFA defenseman Mike Weaver. Weaver recored 1 assist in 55 games with the Canucks last season.
- The Penguins have signed d-man Joey Mormina to a one-year contract. Mormina played for Albany (the Canes' affiliate) last season. He also played 1 game in the NHL.
- The Penguins have also re-signed forward Connor James to a one-year entry-level contract. The 26 year-old James played 13 games with the Pens in 2007-08 recording 1 goal.

Marleau as a plan B? Good or not?

The Sundin saga is still undecided and only a few teams are still in the race. Detroit and the Rangers are out, due to cap space, Toronto seems to be a little bit erased, only Montreal and Vancouver seems to keep pushing very hard to land Sundin. The Canucks are rumored offering Mats a 2 years/20 millions deal, while the Canadiens offer stand to 2 years/15 to 16 millions.

But, as a Habs fan, I am not sure we will have the big Swedish center in our lineup next year. This is why, I thought to some plan B, C or even D! In my opinion, as a plan B, we could land forward Jason Williams, he can be a good offensive talent who would play on our 3rd line and more important, he can play the point on the PP! We need someone to take Streit's place on the PP since he is gone. Plan C would of been landing Pavol Demitra, but he signed with the Canucks, I am glad he signed, I am not one of Pavol's fan. Not sure he would be a good fit with the Habs though...As for the plan D, it would be to resign Patrice Brisebois to a 1 year deal, he is cheap, and can be a decent PP quarterback. Well...this is what I think could happen if Sundin signs with Vancouver or Toronto...

I was quite shocked and surprised today, when I read on HockeyBuzz, that a rumor is going on that the Montreal Canadiens plan B, would be to land center Patrick Marleau. First, let's take an overall look at him. He is 28 ,plays Center or Left Wing, he is 6'2 tall, weights 220 and shoots left. He played 78 games this season, notching 19 goals and adding 29 assists for a grand total of 48 points. Marleau had a +/- rating of -19 and he was a point per game player in the last 2 seasons.

If we look at this, there is no doubt that Marleau would be the tallest and biggest center in our lineup. It is a good thing, because Koivu,Plekanec and Lapierre are not the most imposing guys in the league. His stats are decent this year, but compaired to the past seasons, he had a bad year. His +/- is just ugly, I don't know the guy a lot, but according to this stat, he is not a two way forward. So, the big question is, does Marleau can be a good player to land? If yes, at what price?

In my opinion, no. Even if many experts say that Montreal needs a big center, I doubt Marleau is the one we need. They guy started playing bad, since last year playoffs and played under the expectations this season, way under. We cannot say he is on the decline, he is only 28. But we can say that he need a change of scenary, does Montreal can be a good place for him? Maybe, but what is Marleau's value? The Sharks won't let him go for picks, and looking at the Canadiens roster, Chris Higgins might be the most tradeable. But it just doesn't make sense! Marleau would be 3rd line material on our team, Koivu and Plekanec are our top 2 centers, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alex Tanguay are our top 2 LW!

I hope this will only stay a rumor, Marleau is not essential to our club. Other teams need it, he can still show some good offensive things, but the Montreal Canadiens don't need Patrick Marleau.

NHL and Russia Reach A Deal

A temporary stalemate between the new Russian Hockey League (KHL) and the NHL was resolved in Switzerland today with league executives there with the IIHF there to make it offical. This deal as of now prevents any players from being tempted by big money offers from the new league, who has already grabbed away Jaromir Jagr and Ray Emery.

Clemmensen back in Jersey

After 1 year with the Leafs' AHL affililiate.
Goalie Scott Clemmensen is back with the Devils.
The 30 year-old goalie signed a one-year with
the team. He will likely play in Albany next year.

Demitra deal official, 'Nucks add Davison too

The Demitra deal is $8M over 2 years as we had reported earlier this week. As for Davison, the terms have yet to be announced as per the team policy. Davison suited up for San Jose and NYI last season. The 28 year-old defenseman played 34 games in 2007-08, recording a mere 2 points.

Kids Shine at Kings Prospects Camp

This week the LA Kings started their annual summer prospects camp at their training facility in El Sugundo. The Kings are loaded with good young talent that are hoping to turn this team into a playoff contender. Most of these kids are just that, kids learning to play at a professional level. But there are a few that are going to make a serious run to make the Kings roster. Lets take a look at a few of them.....

First, there is defenceman Drew Doughty. The Kings 2nd overall pick in this last years draft. He is known for having great intelligence and maturity on the ice. This week he has showcased how he is physically ready for NHL duty. His quickness, passing and shooting was by far better than his fellow prospects. His skating is so natural and smooth. In 3 season with the Guelph Storm he played in 190 games tallying 39 goals, 118 assists. Add to that 18 playoff games with 2 goals and 16 assists. Physically and mentally he is ready to guard the Kings blueline as he is expected to this next season.

Colten Tuebert was also a 1st round selection, 13th overall in this years draft. A big punishing defenceman thats being compared to Chris Pronger. he does have potential to be a 2 way player but rumors are the Kings are going to groom him into a shutdown defenceman. Someone to play against other teams top lines. At prospects camp he has shown some good skill. Breakout passing was above average and his checking was above all other prospects. He is listed at 6'4 180lbs but looks to be around 200lbs and its all muscle. Look for him to be called up later in the season after some time in Manchester.

Goaltending has been a issue for the Kings for several seasons but things are looking up. They have a huge surplus of young goaltenders they have stocked up on since Dean Lombardi has taken over as GM. Jonathan Bernier Started the first 2 games of the Kings season last year before being sent down to his junior team. He now wants to show he can stay between the pipes all season as a King. In prospects camp he has showed off his talents. Quicker and more seasoned than his fellow prospect teammates, he looks ready to make a serious attempt at the #1 spot.

Overall, the kids are giving hope to the Kings loyals. Stay tuned, should be a young and exciting team to watch.

Jason Strudwick lands in Edmonton

The veteran defenseman just signed with the Oilers. The terms of the deal are still unknown, but we believe it is a one-year deal. The Edmonton native played for the Rangers last year recording 2 points in 52 games. He can also play as a winger.

Straka to Czech Republic is official

Straka will suit up for the HC Pilzen next season, the
team for which he played during the NHL lock-out.
He officially confirmed the June rumor that was posted
on the HC Pilzen's Website. Straka recored 41 points
last season with the NYR.

Columbus signs Filatov

The Blue Jackets have announced today that they signed their first pick in 2008 Nikita Filatov to an entry-level contract. The deal will lock the 18 year-old for 3 years. Filatov will try to make his mark during the next training camp in order to stay with the Jackets.

What a strange name!

After the Dallas Stars' AHL affiliate, the Iowa Stars relocated to Austin, TX, the Anaheim Ducks decided to move their AHL affiliate to DesMoines. They will be named the Iowa Chops. You can see their logo right here. The name frankly stinks!

Tough Times In the ATL

Greetings hockey bums.

I'm here to offer a little bit of Southern hockey perspective. You probably don't get much of that since the game does struggle to survive in most markets in the SouthEast. However I will tell you that the passionate fans of the Atlanta Thrashers live and die by the team, just like every fan of the Canadian and big market teams in the north.

It's hard work being a fan of the Atlanta Thrashers. We are the red-headed stepchild of the NHL, confirmed recently by the likes of Dan Boyle and the lack of free agents willing to sign on the dotted line. Poor ownership, questionable GM moves, and an obvious lack of direction for the team are just a basic overview of all that fans in Atlanta ponder.

Concerning the recent Free Agent blitz and offseason changes, here's a little positive, and a little negative perspective.

  • No impact FAs are willing to come to Atlanta. I like Ron Hainsey, but he was clearly plan B to Brian Campbell. Who else have we lured to North Georgia...NADA.
  • With no big name upgrades, how are we going to secure the services of one disgruntled hockey star Ilya Kovalchuk? My opinion is that he is already looking to his next stop...GMs around the league are too.
  • Casual fans? Forget it. We lose Kovy, like Hossa, like Heatley, it spells the beginning of the end for the franchise.

Positives: OK folks, I'm a homer, but let me give you a real (positive) assessment of the team we are going to ice this Fall.

  • Alexei Zhitnik is gone. Zhit was an absolute cancer on this team last year. He came to camp out of shape and played like it all year. When you count on a guy to be in your top pair and he ends up being benched late in the season, it puts a lot of pressure on guys that are not top 4 defenseman to achieve. They did not, and the team was one of the worst in the league in GA.
  • Bobby Holik is gone. I have loved the type of game Holik plays for as long as I have watched him, but his time has passed. He was highly overpaid, and did nothing but set this team back leadership-wise with the captaincy. Nobody expected the guy to come in and score 20, but we did need consistent veteran leadership that he did not offer.
  • Goaltending. Kari Lehtonen backed up by Moose Hedberg with Ondrej Pavelec waiting in the wings. Talented youth that will only get better, with a clubhouse leader in Moose.
  • John Anderson. The guy is a winner. Recent success of guys like Bruce Beaudreau and John Stevens proves AHL coaches can win at the next level. I love this hire.
  • Colby Armstrong and Eric Christensen. Crusher will get his chance to show his talent now, having spent his career 4th on the depth chart in Pittsburgh. Army is a young guy who will announce his presence with authority every night on the ice and in the lockerroom.
  • An improved defense. Sophomore season for Toby Enstrom, solid veteran work from Nic Havelid, and another young puck mover in Ron Hainsey. Add in a the physical specimen Zach Bogosian (who apparently has a real chance to make the team), and we are going to be improved in our own end. Put Exelby back where he belongs, playing about 10 minutes a night crackin' skulls!
  • Youth. Jordan LaVallee, Bryan Little, Colin Stuart, Boris Valabik, and maybe even Arturs Kulda all have a chance to make huge impacts for this team. This may be a tough year still, but I would rather see these guys toughin' it out every night than a bunch of overpaid vets mailing it in.

It's bad, but it's not THAT bad. Addition by subtraction, a new solid coaching philosophy, and infuse the youth. Waddell will make a trade or two in the next couple of weeks (Havlat?) to shore up the top 2 lines and we will be a mediocre team in '08-'09. We won't win the SE, but we won't be the worst team in the league either.

Keep it right here for the REAL DEAL goings on in the Southeast Division...don't settle for the ramblings of the national media types who like to spell DOOM for the South!







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