The volume of your inquiries is starting to pick up again, so in order to get to as many as possible, the column is going to have a bit more length in it today.
If Tomas Vokoun stays healthy and the trio of Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Jay Bouwmeester all continue to grow at the same rate they have been growing, what is your prediction for the Florida Panthers’ post-season and post-seasons to come?
Philip A. Bottfeld
My Southeast divisional preview won’t hit the Internet until the end of this month, but I think the Panthers have as good a chance as any team in that division to make the playoffs.
Conversely, I also think Florida could run into the same problems that have plagued them in the past and miss the playoffs altogether. Their defense corps doesn’t blow me away by any stretch of the imagination and they don’t have the deepest group of forwards in the league.
As for the future, when Horton, Weiss and Bouwmeester really come into their primes, the sky could be the limit for the Panthers. But for that to happen, Vokoun needs to avoid the injury bug that’s bit him more than once in recent years and coach Jacques Martin needs to show a lot more creativity on offense than he did when he helmed the Ottawa Senators.
First, as an avid Sabres fan, it’s obvious you hate the Sabres. JUST KIDDING!!! I have been reading all your columns for almost two years and have never seen you “hate” a team. Sure, you have your opinion, but that doesn’t mean you hate a teamÂ…
Anyway, I was wondering why the Sabres did not try to re-sign either Drury or Briere. (yes, I know that sounds like a typical Sabres fan.) Right now the Sabres have $4.2 million of cap space left. That’s not enough to sign either of them, obviously. But say they traded Jaroslav Spacek Â– that would’ve given them enough cap space to go after one of the two.
Personally, I would’ve rather seen Drury back then Briere, or at least Dainius Zubrus (even though his post-season play was criticized, I thought he played solid – especially defensively).
Thanks for your good humor. As far as I’m aware, Darcy Regier and the Sabres did make honest attempts to sign their top two position players last season. However, they were unable to match or top the front-loaded contract the Flyers snagged Briere with; and Regier could’ve had Drury signed early last season, but, much like Kevin Lowe did with Ryan Smyth in the summer of 2006, Regier decided to take his chances and wound up getting burned.
That’s the bad news. The good news is the Sabres have one of the deepest wellsprings of young talent in the league with which to replace the two. And though I agree with you that Zubrus could’ve helped this year, at the money he’s making, Buffalo is better off to develop their younger, more salary cap-friendly prospects.
The Flyers are my team and I’m pretty excited about the forward progress they have made this summer. I was very impressed with the season Simon Gagne had last year. He produced 41 goals, 27 assists Â– and most impressive, given the quality of Philadelphia’s defense, a plus-2. After his Â‘05-06 season, I had him pegged as a Forsberg-dependent scorer, but that has since changed.
Given the recent acquisitions of Daniel Briere and Kimmo Timonen, do you project Gagne’s points and plus-minus totals to get a significant boost this season? Also, will Mike Knuble remain on the first line with Briere and Gags?
Paul T. Stewart
On a team with a lot more offensive firepower, I don’t know that Gagne’s goal totals will be worlds better than last season’s. But I would expect his assists to be at least in the 40-50 range, and his plus-minus to improve greatly.
And I’ve never been a big believer in set lines. If Knuble starts out the season with Briere and Gagne and they produce as the team hopes, he’ll stay there. But if Scottie Upshall runs roughshod over the league on Philly’s second line, it’s only natural to think he’ll get a shot at a promotion.
Brian Burke said he would try to trade Ilya Bryzgalov to a team where he would be the starter. If this happens do you expect Burke to try and get another goalie or use newly-acquired Jonas Hiller.
Hiller seems like the logical choice, but he has a monster rookie bonus. What are your thoughts?
Parker A., Laguna Hills, Calif.
As I like to say about most young players, it’s always a risk bringing them into pressure-packed situations such as the one certain to face the defending-champion Ducks this year.
Though he does have professional experience in the Swiss league, Hiller would still benefit from a year of adjustment to the North American game.
If Bryzgalov goes, a better bet for the Ducks is either former Lightning prospect Gerald Coleman in the short term, a dip into the free agent market for a veteran who hasn’t yet found work, or a trade for an Andrew Raycroft-type who’s worn out his welcome with his current team.
I’m a hockey fan in France. I’m here for approximately two years and seriously, I’m missing The Hockey News. It’s THE best source of information for a hockey maniac like me.
I want to know if you have some new information about Jason Allison and Bryan Berard. Both of them are in my hockey pool and I’m not sure about their future…
Thanks a lot and continue your good work!
I’m sure it’s tough being an NHL fan in France and even tougher getting a copy of THN on the newsstands. Luckily, you can subscribe to our digital service HERE and get the magazine faster than many who subscribe by mail.
Berard is enjoying a homecoming of sorts this fall, as he’s in the New York Islanders’ training camp on a tryout contract. Someone I spoke with in the area thinks he’s got a 50/50 shot at sticking with them.
As for Allison, he’s been looking for a team to take a chance on him for the better part of the past two years and hasn’t had any success on that front. Like a number of aging veterans, he may have to wait until much later in the regular season before he gets his name on an NHL contract again.
My son and I enjoy your column, keep up the good work.
As ardent Senators fans here in Peterborough, we have two questions about our Â“grittyÂ” Sens:
1) In looking at the team’s depth we are once again troubled by the lack of secondary scoring. This as you recall was the same problem last year and we know how well the Sens did. Even though we truly love Mike Fisher, a Peterborough native, we just don’t see him as a No. 2 center. What is your take on the depth down the middle for the Sens?
2) Could you, once and for all, tell us why Peterborough gets shafted when Rogers Cable carries a Leaf telecast on the same night they carry a Sens broadcast? Is it perhaps the same reason Hamilton will never get a NHL franchise?
Jim Boothby, Peterborough, Ont.
First of all, Peterborough is one of my favorite places. My good friend Andrew Verner played goal for the OHL’s Petes in the early 90s and still lives there in the summers, so I visit the city quite often and am always amazed what a magnet it is for active and retired pro players.
I’m not crazy about the Senators’ depth at center. Like you, I don’t think Fisher is a bona fide No. 2 pivot and the guys underneath him (Chris Kelly, Dean McAmmond) don’t cut it in that regard, either.
Prospect Nick Foligno will get a shot to make the team this fall, but it’s unlikely he’ll rocket up the organizational depth chart and supplant Fisher. Therefore, GM Bryan Murray may need to address the problem with a mid-season deal.
As for your TV question, there’s no doubt the Maple Leafs are behind many of the hockey-related broadcasting decisions that are made in Ontario. Their devoted fan base has given them that right, which often comes at the expenses of other fan bases.
But I’m not so sure Hamilton won’t ever get a franchise. Jim Balsillie may be in stealth mode right now, but rumors abound that he’ll be resurfacing with another attempt to purchase a team and relocate it to Southern Ontario in the not-too distant future.
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