Some people become depressed when they see the sticky-hot summer come to an end. In hockey circles, we refer to them as Â“idiots.Â”
Honestly, what’s not to love about the joys only Labor Day can bring? Cool breezes in the evening, children safely locked away in classrooms in the day, and best of all, the unmitigated optimism found in fans of every NHL team.
Though it usually is obliterated by the 50-game mark of the season, that hopefulness Â– seen again in 16 fortunate NHL markets come springtime Â– is why the fall is the best season going.
To honor that outlook, we’re going to try and find the good in each team’s summer moves (Five teams per day, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week and next).
However, if you expect we’ll ignore the potentially bad and ugly consequences of their new directions, welcome to your first Screen Shots column Â– come for the comments, stay for the snark.
The Optimist Says: If you need us to explain why Chris Pronger’s name is in this category, you’ve skipped a few vital chapters in your copy of Â“Hockey For DummiesÂ”. Anyhow, zippy winger Stanislav Chistov is back with the Ducks after a year in Russia, and though he’s small at 5-foot-9, he remains a potential threat on offense. Well-traveled veterans Ian Moran and Travis Green also should help this balanced Cup contender, which has its share of youngsters (Dustin Penner, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan), too.
The Pessimist Says: Safe to say Vitaly Vishnevski and Ruslan Salei never will be confused with Norris Trophy candidates, but both are now elsewhere, and could be missed dearly on a supremely talented-but-thin defense corps. Also, GM Brian Burke has yet to deal away either J-S Giguere and Ilya Bryzgalov, which could lead to one of the two goalies contracting disgruntle-itis of the dÂ…er, manhood.
The Apocalyptist Says: Pronger’s body has broken down before, and though he’s not yet 32, playing 28 minutes a game doesn’t tend to extend careers. A recurrence of the wrist injury that almost forced Pronger to retire, and the trade that sent third-leading scorer Joffrey Lupul and top defense prospect Ladislav Smid to the Oilers suddenly looks a whole heap worse.
The Optimist Says: Winger Alex Tanguay got out of Colorado just in time, and joins a team that needs his scoring skills in the worst way. New coach Jim Playfair brings a fresh vision to a team that might have otherwise stalled under another year of GM Darryl Sutter’s demanding direction.
The Pessimist Says: Daymond Langkow is still Calgary’s No. 1 center. Jamie Lundmark is still their No. 2 center. That is still not ideal.
The Apocalyptist Says: A combined $3 million for Jeff Friesen and Andrei Zyuzin? Everybody knows they combined for 29 points last year, right?
The Optimist Says: Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus and Bryan Smolinski should add scoring, grit and veteran savvy to the Blackhawks, who require liberal amounts of all three (and a lot more than that).
The Pessimist Says: Patrick Lalime split last season between the St. Louis Blues (where he went 4-18-0 with an ugly .881 save percentage) and their American League affiliate. Which totally justifies GM Dale Tallon rushing out on the second day of unrestricted free agency and making the 32-year-old the team’s first new addition. Did we mention we mixed our medication with a glass of white wine an hour before writing the previous two sentences?
The Apocalyptist Says: Put it this way – even Bob Goodenow thought a three-year, $18-million contract was excessive for Havlat, who hasn’t played more than 73 games or amassed 70 points in a single NHL season.
The Optimist Says: Acquired in the deal that sent Tanguay to Calgary, blueliner Jordan Leopold still has time to realize the tremendous upside predicted for the former Hobey Baker Award winner. Rookie sniper Wojtek Wolski could challenge for the Calder Trophy.
The Pessimist Says: Replacing Tanguay and top blueliner Rob Blake with Tyler Arnason and Ken Klee is like the Dave Chappelle-less Season Three of Chappelle’s Show: you might be able to sucker some pining-for-the-glory-days-people into buying it, but those in the know see through such subterfuge.
The Apocalyptist Says: The only way out of two more years of Jose Theodore at $5 million per is if Isiah Thomas is permitted to make trades with GMs from other leagues.
The Optimist Says: Former Bolts winger Fredrik Modin and crafty rookie Gilbert Brule will bring more goals to the league’s fourth-worst offense last season.
The Pessimist Says: Dealing former starting goalie Marc Denis to acquire Modin means GM Doug MacLean and coach Gerard Gallant will depend on Pascal Leclaire between the pipes. If he doesn’t work out, their next option is either 31-year-old NHL rookie Fredrik Norrena or ex-Oiler Ty Conklin. Can anybody say, Â“Call Darcy Regier/Doug Wilson/Brian Burke and get me Martin Biron/Vesa Toskala/Ilya Bryzgalov right awayÂ”?
The Apocalyptist Says: Conklin, blueliner Anders Eriksson and winger Eric Boguniecki didn’t represent the cream of this summer’s unrestricted free agent crop, and the need for their presence illustrates the Jackets’ depth issues. Should Nikolai Zherdev vacate the premises for a more lucrative payday in Mother Russia, all post-season pretensions are off.
Check back Wednesday for Dallas, Detroit, Edmonton, L.A. and Minnesota.
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