Got some good feedback on this three-pronged style last week and one reader on Twitter (@Jetzky18) came up with the #ODG hash tag, so if you have anything you’d like to see appear in one of these spaces, drop it there.
This week we’ll take a look at unproven goalies, Mike Green’s contract and the Winnipeg Jets.
Whenever you’re high on a player before he hits the mainstream, it always feels good when you watch his breakout season. We all want to be ahead of the curve, but sometimes that eager anticipation hits a speed wobble.
This is most apparent at the goaltending position. It’s the hardest to predict and the one most affected by injuries. That’s why, if you have a legitimate No. 1 goalie who has been that way for a number of years, you’ve struck gold and should treat that asset as such.
Perhaps that’s why the Vancouver Canucks’ asking price for Roberto Luongo is supposedly so high. Whoever ends up with him knows exactly what they are getting and that bump would be enough to get most non-playoff teams into the top eight. And, while I don’t want to knock Cory Schneider, the Canucks shouldn’t be as easily favored with him as the undisputed No. 1.
This is not to say the Canucks will miss the playoffs or even finish worse than No. 1 in the Northwest, but if you’re banking on a goalie with a short track record to carry you, you’re playing a bit of a risk. No matter how high a goalie was picked in the draft, how well he played in a development league or how sturdy he was in a backup role or even in his first season (see Mason, Steve), until he is tagged with that No. 1 job and strings a few good years together, you just never know.
The Maple Leafs and their fans had high hopes James Reimer would lead them to the playoffs last season because of his strong performance in 37 games the year prior. Reimer finished with a 3.10 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. Corey Crawford became Chicago’s No. 1 in 2010-11 and had a stellar showing, but slipped in 2011-12. Would you feel 100 percent comfortable if Brian Elliott was your team’s clear-cut No. 1 heading into 2012-13? I sure wouldn’t.
Anders Lindback is intriguing, but he still has tons to prove. Sergei Bobrovsky is a scary attempt at a solution in Columbus. And with all the promise Jonathan Bernier has, if the Kings trade him, the acquiring team better have a backup plan in place.
You have to start from the bottom to get to the top and some of these guys will become a proven netminder someday. But for now, when making up your pre-season predictions, beware of assuming the best of the least proven netminders.
There are good gambles and there are bad gambles. A good gamble is if you have pocket kings and a third one comes up on the board. A bad one is if you’re holding a 10 and a 2 and put money down because you want to pull the Doyle Brunson (been there, lost that).
The way Mike Green has struggled with injuries and seen his points tail off the past two seasons, $6 million per seems a little high. However, his three-year extension with the Capitals is a good gamble for the team.
Green might get hurt again, but if you lose him for the year, you lose his cap hit, anyway. On the flip side, he’s only 26 and, if healthy, could post 70-plus points again. With Green and John Carlson on the roster, Washington’s dynamic defense becomes tremendously engaged on offense, assuming coach Adam Oates reverts to a Bruce Boudreau-like style. Say what you will about Green’s defense, but 70 points from the blueline is awfully hard to come by.
The Caps were going to sign him anyway and still have roughly $10 million in cap space, so they aren’t even up against it yet (they still have to sign Carlson). And, again, Green is 26, so a few years of unrestricted free agent eligibility (new collective bargaining proposal notwithstanding) are gobbled up in the contract as well.
The editorial department at THN gathered in a boardroom Tuesday to discuss our pre-season picks. As always, there were a ton of disagreements and even a few friendly bets made.
I ranked the Winnipeg Jets No. 9 thinking that was a fair, middle-of-the-road prediction. They aren’t great, but they surely aren’t at the bottom of the barrel. To my surprise, quite a few guys in the room put them in the dregs of the NHL.
OK, so they signed Olli Jokinen, the butt of many UFA jokes, to be a top center. He’s not the best player in the NHL, but definitely the best player available at a position they needed to upgrade. They have a few good wingers in Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd, youth that’s growing up and a goalie who seems capable of carrying a team for stretches (one more strong season and he’s proven).
And you can’t underrate their defense, which is the envy of most other NHL teams. So much success starts along the blueline and that is this team’s best attribute.
How good do you think the Jets will be next season? Where will they finish in the East?
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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