So long, Ribs
We've witnessed yet another example of Gainey's Dallas connection. Off to cattle country is Mike Ribeiro and the Habs' 6th round pick in 2008 in exchange for Janne Niinimaa and the Stars' 5th rounder next year.Contractually, Niinimaa will be either the highest paid or 2nd highest paid defender on the team at around $2.5M. He will be a UFA at seasons' end. Ribeiro was signed for the year at $1.9. He may have one more year of RFA status - I'm not sure.Those are the facts. Now for the editorial.Dallas had an overabundance of defensemen (Mirtle called it). Perhaps Gainey took notice and recognized the opportunity to exchange one problematic player for another.The lack of blueline depth hurt Montreal last season, so from that perspective the move makes sense. On the other hand, Saku Koivu suffered a highly publicized injury and a little insurance at centre would be nice to have too. The centremen are shaping up to be Koivu, Plekanec, Bonk and Begin. Any contingency plan would likely involve Mike Johnson and/or Chris Higgins. Either Gainey knows Koivu is A-OK, or he's willing to roll the dice with this group of replacement pivots.I have not been a fan of Mike Ribeiro. He's a skill player whose production dropped substantially in the '05-06 New NHL, presumably because the guy just can't skate. He's small and easily knocked off the puck. Then there's the on- and off-ice drama, and the whole local French media thing. His ink has outweighed his performance throughout his career.
The Koivu situation makes me nervous. How would Montreal fans react to minimum-wage earner Tomas Plekanec centering the #1 line? Don't get me wrong - I like the idea of Plex moving up the depth chart. Something tells me the local paying customers might not be as forgiving.As for Niinimaa, how the holy hell do you rack up a -5 in 22 games with the Stars?? He was benched for some playoff games last season, too. I hope Gainey wasn't remembering the 1999 vintage of Niinimaa when he made the deal. $2.5M seems like an awful lot to pay for a #5-6 defenseman.Always the straight shooter, Gainey commented on the unique playing environment in Montreal and it's effect on francophone players. He also said that the team's younger forwards were stepping up in training camp, and that additional defensive depth was needed.Yes, the Habs have a lot of promising young wingers. Centres? Not so much. Is the "upgrade" from Komisarek to Niinimaa worth losing last season's #2 centre?
Sisu plays Swami
Welcome to my 2006-07 Predictions. I found this very difficult this fall. It seems like the bad teams got better while the good teams got worse, making for a big glut of parity.
Now for the explanations.
This prediction comes with a big fat asterisk on the person of Teemu Selanne. An injury to him and the offense comes tumbling down.
A slow decline has begun, due as much to the aging of key players as to the departure of Yzerman and Shanahan.
San Jose 110
A full season with Joe.
Tanguay should address the desperate need for offense. It's hard to fault their changes, sacrificing some defense for offense.
Looks like they lost some depth. How healthy is Vokoun?
A massive turnover on the blueline and in goal makes it hard to get a feel for how they'll do. Luongo >> Coutier/Auld
The Big E sideshow moves to Big D. Defense looks even stronger than last year.
Another club hard to peg, this time due to an apparent shift in philosophy. They have better players, now what will Lemaire do with them?
Their goaltending problems have been solved... by a 37 year-old with a wonky knee. Nice looking attack, though.
They've reached the point where enough puzzle pieces have been lost that they bear no resemblance to their championship days.
A full season of Rick Nash should do wonders. Pascal Leclaire is getting his chance.
Curious additions here. Laraque, Nolan, Roenick? This thinking is almost as unconventional as what's going on in Long Island.
Los Angeles 80
Just how does a mediocre team put up such phenomenally sucky special teams numbers? They're in tough against the strong looking Sharks and Ducks.
Havlat was brought in to kick-start the offense. Unfortunately, he promised to stop kicking after his last suspension. On the upside, the Hawks' current group of young defensemen will be strong presences on other more successful teams' bluelines seven years from now.
St. Louis 67
The salary floor compels Pleau to collect overpaid retreads. If they had any developing youngsters, they would find this very frustrating.
Lost some personnel, but maybe Spezza will have grown up a little.
Their struggles last year (if you can call a 100 point season 'struggles') had more to do with injuries than some stubborn adherance to an 'old NHL' style of play by Clarke. The retirement of Primeau and Desjardins alone should cut in half their man-games lost this season.
Pairing Kovalchuk and Hossa with old, broken down defensive centres like Holik and Rucchin is like Julia Roberts hooking up with Lyle Lovett. Nevertheless, the Thrashers finished last season strong. With reasonable goaltending they should be OK.
These guys won with special teams last year. They lost major special teams contributors in Connoly, Dumont, Grier and McKee. Therefore, they will be worse.
Hello, hangover. The injuries to Stillman and Kaberle tell of the grind that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Two scoring lines and two energy lines are a substantial drop from three scoring lines and one energy line.
I hesitate to place these guys in this neighbourhood. It doesn't seem right. However, they are pretty much the same team as last year plus Samsonov. Even if goaltending disappoints it can't be worse than the Theodore fiasco. With several competitors getting worse, I have no choice but to place them 6th.
NY Rangers 93
These guys look old. Not everyone, of course - just most of the expected major contributors on offense.
I like the look of their defense. This club has a lot of size.
Another big player shuffle, another hard one to place. I am not a believer in Marc Savard, but he will help the PP. They could be as bad as last year; they could contend for the division. I'll split the difference.
They scored a ridiculous number of 5-on-3 goals last season. 5-on-3s will be much more rare this season. I wonder how Raycroft will do...
New Jersey 88
This salary cap thing will catch up to them sooner or later.
Tampa Bay 86
Their defense, never a strong point, got even weaker in the offseason. This is a case study of the "handful of overpaid stars surrounded by filler" team building apporach.
NY Islanders 81
Remember how bad we all thought the Sillinger deal was? We had no idea...
No one expects anything from the Pens this year, other than to have Crosby & Malkin learn on the job. Should be a fun ride. Sid Crosby, meet Art Ross.
Last place in the East, not that it matters. No one expects anything from the Caps this blah blah blah, see above.