Happy real, official off-season, everybody. Let’s celebrate with a contractually obligated mailbag.
Adam, I’m gonna make this real simple: Who are your “winner” and “loser” teams after the first couple days of unrestricted free agency?
Jason M., Baltimore
Lightning: The Mattias Ohlund signing was a masterstroke; with him, Victor Hedman, former Blackhawk Matt Walker and newly re-signed restricted free agent Lukas Krajicek, the Bolts have received a serious upgrade on last season’s poor facsimile of a defense corps – and didn’t trade any of their deep cache of forwards to accomplish that feat.
Capitals: Already in a tight salary cap situation, Caps GM George McPhee replaced departing veterans Sergei Fedorov and Viktor Kozlov with a very cost-effective Mike Knuble. If he can figure out how to move Michael Nylander’s salary off the books and use that money on a rugged blueliner, Washington will give every other Eastern Conference powerhouse a run for their money.
Maple Leafs: Is Toronto a more skilled team than it was prior to Wednesday? Not by a long shot, but they are going to be far more difficult to play against than last year. On a team that knows it will be rebuilding slowly, small steps forward are what it’s all about – and the salary cap space GM Brian Burke still has is going to be mighty valuable come mid-season.
Canadiens: GM Bob Gainey believes his Canadiens are more skilled today than the team that imploded last year and that may be true. However, nobody I talk to thinks Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta and Jaroslav Spacek can turn the Habs’ defensive game into an on-ice version of Punisher: War Zone.
Earlier this year, I wrote the ‘08-09 Canadiens reminded me of the ‘07-08 Rangers, in that both teams had many unrestricted free agents; in that article, I warned Gainey could fall into the trap Glen Sather did last summer and overpay free agents to fill out his roster the way Sather did with the likes of Wade Redden. I’m not 100 percent correct as of now, but I easily could be proven prophetic by the end of next season.
Thrashers: Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina? Really, Don Waddell? I suspect Ilya Kovalchuk remains in no hurry to sign that contract extension.
Rangers: Few NHL GMs have the ability to continually turn over a roster with the same middling-to-maddening results the way Sather does. Next summer, look for him to trade Chris Drury and Michal Rozsival and sign Marc Savard and Joe Corvo to separate eight-year, $40-million deals that vary only in length of term.
Mr. Proteau, Now that the entry draft has ended, and John Tavares was drafted by the Islanders, do you think they will benefit next season from Tavares or would Victor Hedman have made a bigger impact?
Brandon Aspeck, Embrun, Ont.
I said this long before the draft and I still believe it today: I would’ve chosen Hedman with the No. 1 pick, because defensemen of his stock are more difficult to come by than a forward with exceptional vision and talent like Tavares.
That doesn’t mean I don’t believe Tavares will make Isles fans happy this coming season. But over the long term, the Isles will be seeking out a player such as Hedman far more than the Lightning will be looking for a Tavares type. I don’t know if that makes the defenseman more of an impact player, but it certainly makes him more valuable.
Adam, Why are the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference when Toronto is in the East?
Travis Girard, Calgary
Detroit is in the West because, unfortunately for them, they are the western-most franchise of the 16 Eastern-based teams and therefore have to suffer and overcome a horrendous travel schedule.
If you can’t see them in the West (and really, I’m not arguing), which team would you put in their place? Ottawa? The Islanders? Washington? I think/hope you see what my point is.
The only way Detroit gets to the Eastern Conference is through an expansion process or via an Eastern team that gets relocated to a western city.
Hi Adam, I have a question related to the signature of one of the questions you highlighted in your mailbag from a couple of weeks ago, from Larry Holfold of San Jose.
You may know that a French Canadian band called Les Cowboys Fringants wrote a song about/in praise of a former NHL referee and now radio show host Ron Fournier, called "Salut Mon Ron" praising him - and basically making fun of people asking him random questions.
I know some of your fans love to treat you like one of their most intimate friends, but would you ever expect to have a song written to praise your comments about the league? If not about yourself, who else in the hockey world would you expect such a song to be written for?
Clement Le Flem, Paris, France
Cool question. My friend Dave Flebotte already named a TV character in my honor (for the now-defunct Courtney Cox show Dirt) and I didn’t know how it could get any better than that. But a song would be right up there.
In terms of other hockey writer song subjects, I think the legendary Stan Fischler has been around long enough to warrant consideration; and any tribute or reference to Darren Pang would make a lot of Pang fans (myself included) very happy.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' question in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show every other Friday in the summer from 4-5 p.m. EST on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.
Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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