Saturday, January 30, 2010

Terrific Wolski Story on CBC's Hockey Day in Canada

A piece just aired on NHL Network (via CBC) featuring Wojtek Wolski. It delved into his family's journey to Canada, Wolski's early playing days, and his career thus far with the Avalanche. The story focuses on Wolski's work in the community and really adds a new level to Wolski's character.

A really nice story. Hopefully someone can get a copy of it up on YouTube soon.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kovalchuk to Avs? Absurd.

I really enjoy watching Ilya Kovalchuk play. I'd absolutely LOVE to see him in an Avalanche uniform, but I'm aware that it would be extremely surprising if it were to happen.

Rory Boylen of The Hockey News recently posted a blog speculating about Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk being moved to Colorado this season. Boylen's column is filled with ideas that the Avs would be silly to consider. Lets pick it apart:

I never like coming up with trade possibilities because the attempts are futile and the unexpected always happens, but I can’t get this thought out of my head.
There's nothing like starting off an article with a disclaimer that while normally you wouldn't write an article with insane speculation, this is not a normal time.

It doesn’t appear to be an option and I’m not convinced they’d be prepared to make this type of move yet, but what are the chances the Colorado Avalanche get Ilya Kovalchuk at the deadline?
As he shrewdly stated, it's not an option.

Let’s start with the disclaimer that Don Waddell has to let Sherman talk with Kovalchuk about the likelihood of an extension. If there’s no indication he’d back off from his current demands, I don’t think anyone should go after him, but it’s certainly possible the superstar would sacrifice green from his wallet for green in his pastures. Great players have played in, thrived and loved Denver before him and it’s proven to be a hockey town – at least when times are good – and one to raise your young family in, like Kovalchuk’s. Would it really be out of the realm of possibility for Kovalchuk to sign there, especially given how they’re on an upswing?
In case you've been living under a rock the past few weeks, it has been reported that Kovalchuk is asking for over 10 million dollars with a contract extension. So lets assume he comes down from that number, say, to 8.5 million. And lets say he's willing to sign in Denver for, I don't know, 6 years. Kovy is 29, which means he'd be playing out his prime in Colorado. Sounds decent. Boylen mentions earlier in his article that guys like Darcy Tucker and Ruslan Salei will leave the Avs with significant slary cap space at season's end. Alright, it's doable so far.

Here's where it gets sticky:

My proposal is this: RFA-to-be Wojtek Wolski, Ryan O’Reilly, Ryan Stoa and a first round pick for Kovalchuk and 37-year-old pending UFA Slava Kozlov. Considering the return Waddell got for Marian Hossa and Pascal Dupuis two years ago it’s a similar type of trade with better talent.
Let me first eliminate Slava Kozlov from the rest of this post. If the Avs were to acquire him, it would only be for this season. The Avs have surprised us, but they're not at the point of needing rental players, especially when David Jones could be back for the postseason.

As for Wolski, O'Reilly, Stoa, and the first round pick, Greg Sherman would be insane to make this deal.

Start with Wolski: At just 23-years-old, Wolski has stepped up in a big way this year. With 45 points in 51 games, Wolski is just five away from his career high. He already has two more goals than last season, and his +/- has gone from a minus 13 to a plus 14. Though Avalanche fans consistently get on him for what appears to be a "lack of effort," Wolski has responded well to a couple benchings this year and even had his first fight a few games ago. In six years, it's unlikely he'll be an Ilya Kovalchuk, but he has all the tools to dominate as an NHL left winger.

Next comes O'Reilly. On October 1st, most fans were suprised this guy was in the lineup. Ten games later, those same fans were stoked he was still on the roster. O'Reilly appears to be that 3rd line center the Avs have been missing since Stephane Yelle left. "Radar" (what the cool kids call him) kills penalties, takes key faceoffs, and is one of the best defensive forwards on the team. Did I mention he's only 18? Though his play has slipped a little bit from his fast start, he continues to play over 17 minutes every night. Paired with Galiardi on the penalty kill, O'Reilly takes the pressure off Stastny when the Avs need a key defensive play from one of its centers.

As for Stoa, it was certainly a disappointment when he didn't make the team out of camp. Still, he went back down to Lake Erie, played well, and now finds himself in the lineup due to the Matt Hendricks, Milan Hejduk, and Marek Svatos injuries. Hockey's Future says this:
At 6'3 and a bit over 200 pounds, Stoa has the potential to develop into an effective power forward in the future.
Imagine a line of Stoa-Stastny-Stewart in five years, with Wolski-Duchene-Jones backing them up. It could be scary.

The Avs have done the whole "trading for star players" thing. Boylen mentions the trades made to get Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, and Patrick Roy. It was fun, but we've seen what happens after the fun ends. The mission going into this year was to build a team that would last for at least a decade. It appears thus far that Colorado is well on its way to doing that.

Boylen has the counterargument to my reasoning:

Colorado would pick up a franchise player in his prime and an experienced Cup-winning veteran for one playoff push. They’d be up near the cap for this season, but would drop a few overpriced UFA veterans in the off-season and have Brett Clark as their biggest UFA to re-sign. Paul Stastny and Matt Duchene are signed for a couple more years and the youth still coming through includes Kevin Shattenkirk and T.J. Hensick among others, not to mention the plethora of 25-and-under talent currently on the roster (Brandon Yip, Stewart, T.J. Galiardi, Kyle Quincey, Kyle Cumiskey, etc.).
Not sure what Shattenkirk, Quincey, or Cumiskey have to do with anything, but T.J. Hensick? He should not be relied on at this point to be an NHL player. This excerpt also mentions the playoff push thing.

The NHL playoffs are a funny animal. Superstars who dominate the regular season sometimes fall on their butts when it comes time for the postseason:
Kovalchuk has only appeared in four postseason games. He had one goal and one assist with 19 penalty minutes. Not too much evidence to say whether or not Kovalchuk is a Joe Thornton or a Claude Lemieux.

Boylen makes a good point here:

Kovy and Kozlov would both be upgrades for Colorado as the chases tighten and the playoff season rings in, not to mention how keeping Kovalchuk for the long-term would really be a nice add for a once-great franchise emerging, but lacking in ticket sales.
Solid point.

But he throws me through a loop here:

I’m not suggesting it’s being discussed, nor am I saying it’s a deal the Avs have to make. Colorado has been in a cost-cutting mode this year, though a home-ice seed in the West could inspire a new horizon; we’ve seen that mentality before. If another contender bids over the top and changes the marketplace all bets are off. I certainly don’t think any players going to Atlanta are deal-breakers and I don’t agree the Avs are sacrificing depth now or later in this move.
You know what inspires a new horizon? The youngest team in the league making the playoffs without sacrificing its future. He may not agree the Avs are sacrificing depth now or later if this deal were to happen, but the net of this trade in three years would look like:

To Atl: Wojtek Wolski (Top 6 forward), Ryan Stoa (Top 9 forward), Ryan O'Reilly (Top 9 Forward), First Round Pick (?)

To Col: Ilya Kovalchuk (Top 3 Forward)

That's the definition of sacrificing depth.

Kovalchuk is a great player, but he isn't a champion. He's not Wayne Gretzky. He isn't worth risking the future core of the Avalanche.

Absurd.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hejduk Injured, Out 2-4 Weeks

According to Dater, Hejduk will be out of the Avalanche lineup until early to mid-February.

By my math, that means he could miss anywhere from 7-13 games, a stretch that happens to be key in the Avalanche season, as 10 of the 13 will be played in Colorado.

Hejduk, who is tied with Chris Stewart and Wojtek Wolski for the team lead in goals, will be missed (especially by Matt Duchene) but the Avs do have the depth to make up for the loss.

Players like Brandon Yip and TJ Galiardi will have to keep producing and playing well. Assuming that is the case, the Avs will be just fine.

Here's to a speedy recovery.
Go Avs.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don Cherry Praises Stewart and Sacco [Coach's Corner - HNIC]

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Calgary Loss Gives Avs Golden Opportunity

Thus far, the phrase has been:

"The Avs kept the top spot in the Northwest Division, but the *insert team here* has *insert number here* games in hand."

Now, at the 47-game mark, the other teams have caught up, and all is equal in the games played column.

Wait, what's that?

After a Calgary loss tonight (their second in a row), the Avs kept the top spot in the Northwest Division, and now the Avalanche have one game in hand.

The Avs and Flames both have 58 points, two ahead of Vancouver in the Division. Ninth place Detroit sits at 54 points, so it is obviously important that the Avs keep winning.

Colorado will play its 48th game tomorrow afternoon against the top team in the Eastern Conference, the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey's road record is outrageous, currently sitting at 16-5-1. They are tied with Pittsburgh for the most road victories in the NHL. New Jersey will also be the last team in the league to give up 100 goals this season. Thus far, they've given up 98, and it's no sure thing that the Avs will take them to the century mark.

Don't kid yourself. These games all matter. There's a tendency to get lost in the middle of the season. The games in October and November are important as a team tries to find its identity. In March and April, the playoff race is intense. But the middle of the season is crucial. The Avs NEED to take sole ownership of first place in the NW whenever presented with the opportunity to do so. This is their chance to be the 7th team in the league to hit the 60-point mark, and the third in the rest.

Get it done.
Go Avs.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Brandon Yip


According to Hockey's Future, Brandon Yip is a 6.0 (D) prospect. According to their ranking system, this translates to:

6 - Third line forward / No. 5-6 defenseman / Backup Goaltender -- generally speaking, players whose game is defensively-oriented, or whose abilities aren't quite good enough to land full-time duty on the 2nd line, top two defensive pairings, or the No. 1 goaltending position. Think Kris Draper, Stephanne Yelle, Igor Ulanov, Brad Lukowich, Jussi Markkanen, Manny Legace.

D - Unlikely to reach potential, could drop 3 ratings - a player who has a chance to reach his potential but is unlikely to do so. The potential rating is multiplied by 70 percent for depth chart purposes, indicating that the player's potential is extremely fluid.
Yip has taken Avalanche fans by surprise this season. In ten games, he has 5 goals and 3 points. The 2004 8th round pick took the long road to professional hockey. He played for four years at Boston University, the last in which he set career highs with 20 goals, 23 assists, and 118 penalty minutes. If his "fan page" is any indication, not much was expected of this guy.

Yet the Avs, plagued by injuries, called Yip on December 16th. A few games later, he had his first career NHL goal:

The video is actually a nice compilation of what Yip gives to the Avs. The goals are a nice bonus, but Yip has thus far played every shift with some edge to his game. He makes clean, hard checks on most of his shifts and provides the Avs with a lot of energy down low.

As for what he needs to improve, Hockey's Future has this:

It is absolutely essential that Yip gains strength if he wishes to play professional hockey. Also, some improvement could be made in his play away from the puck.
Players like Yip make it much tougher for a Svatos or a Tucker to keep his spot in the lineup. Avalanche fans love guys who play with energy. Ian Laperriere, Cody McLeod, and now Matt Hendricks, and yes, Brandon Yip, are starting to earn their places in the hearts of Colorado fanatics.

I have no idea if Yip can keep up his current level of play. Either way, no one thought he was going to make it this far. He has nothing to lose.

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Friday, January 8, 2010

PATHETIC

2-0 loss to the freaking Carolina Hurricanes.

*2-1 loss to the freaking Carolina Hurricanes.

Wrote this with 15.5 seconds to go in the third. Brandon Yip goal. I like this kid, but I'm not pleased that the Avs were celebrating...even in the smallest of ways. They don't deserve to celebrate tonight.

1.8 seconds to go with an offensive zone faceoff. If they pull this one out, I'll post twice a day for a week.

Anyway, the Hurricanes are the worst team in the league by a long shot. They entered tonight 8 points behind the 29th team. They're missing their franchise player, Eric Staal, and a key offensive performer in Erik Cole. They have a terrible power play and take a boatload of penalties. They have a losing record at home and have scored the fewest goals in the entire National Hockey League.

So what happens?

Avs have five first period powerplays. Zilch. They went 0/6 on the night. Whatever. As long as Carolina doesn't score right? Wrong. Ray Whitney potted a power play goal less than 6 minutes into the game.

Note: Darcy Tucker got his revenge on Tuomo Ruutu with a fight...while the Avs were on the power play.

After a Ryan Wilson scrap to end the first, Whitney scored again less than a minute into the second. This was followed immediately by a Chris Stewart fight.

Down 2-0, Stewart sat in the penalty box, which is better than where Adam Foote was sitting - the locker room. Ankle injury for the Captain. Did not return.

Foote's injury lead to Kyle Quincey's playing 29 minutes and Scott Hannan over 26. The Avs play tomorrow night in Buffalo.

2-0 lead for the Canes and then nothing happened for awhile. Colorado outshot Carolina in the third and as I said, got a garbage goal at the end to pad the stats.


Crappy game. Avalanche fans need to root for a Calgary loss (currently tied with Columbus after 1) and a New York Islanders win over the Dallas Stars.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Stastny Named to Team USA

Check out the full team.

At 24, this should be the first of several Olympics Paul Stastny will have the chance to participate in. A quick glance at the forwards indicates that Stastny may be the #1 center on a very young United States squad.

Craig Anderson was not rewarded for his terrific half-season, as Jonathan Quick was picked to back up Tim Thomas and Ryan Miller. It's a shame for Andy, but the two-week break will give him a well-deserved (and much needed) rest.

Terrific Winter Classic today. The Flyers controlled most of the game and had several golden opportunities to extend a 1-0 lead, but the Bruins capitalized on a late power play to send the Classic to OT. After a 4-on-3 power play for the Bruins, the Flyers had a few unbelievable chances but Tim Thomas stood on his head and gave the Bruins new life. Boston took this new life and turned it into a Marco Sturm goal. In what is becoming the norm in the NHL, there is some speculation that the Bruins had too many men on the ice at the end of the game. Conspiracy theories commence.



A nice start to 2010. Avs are back at it tomorrow against Columbus.
Go Avs.

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