Sunday, December 19, 2010

QMJHL Trade Period Musings

The floodgates are about to open on the QMJHL trading period, and an interesting one it will be. This is where the contenders will be definitively separated from the pretenders, but with the Q hosting the Memorial Cup next year, teams will be hesitant to hamstring themselves for the future, because a finals appearance in 2012 may be all that’s needed for a berth in the Mem Cup. So, some random thoughts as things start to ramp up:

Montreal could be the team to watch over the next couple of weeks. Louis Leblanc is their star attraction and they know he’s gone after this season. They won’t have a better chance to gun for it than right now, so they could be very active. Here’s some food for thought: Leblanc and Sean Couturier of Drummondville were linemates at Canada’s World Junior summer camp. If they end up back together for the tournament and strike up some chemistry, you have to think Pascal Vincent will be kicking the tires on that option.

Speaking of Drummondville, they’re in an interesting position themselves. They have the best all-around player in the league in Couturier, and need to decide what to do with him. With the very real possibility that he sticks in the NHL next year, do they sell him off, content with their 2009 title, and build for a run in a year or two? Or do they decide that going for it with Couturier on their side is too good to pass up? They’re having a great season, but that move (or non-move) will make or break it.

Another rumoured destination for Couturier has been Bathurst, mainly based on the fact that A) his father is the general manager and B) they’re in go-for-it mode. You have to think the elder Couturier is going to make a splash, if not by landing his son, then some other way. Olivier Roy is unlikely to be back for his over-age season, and Bathurst didn’t go nuts with trades in the summer just to win a round or two. They need something (or two) to push them over the top.

The Brandon Gormley question is one that needs to be addressed in Moncton in short order. Though injured now, he’s arguably the best defenseman the QMJHL has to offer. This is only his age-18 season, but it’s a possibility that he lands a job in Phoenix full time come October. A quick look at the Coyotes shows Morris, Aucoin, Sauer, Ekman-Larsson and Schlemko under contract for next season, with Yandle and Lepisto scheduled to be RFAs and sure to be back. Does that only leave Gormley as a third pairing guy, or do they make a move to accommodate him if he really impresses? No doubt Danny Flynn will be having some good chats with Don Maloney in the coming days. Neil Hodge has a better breakdown on the Wildcats’ options if you’re interested.

Appropriate to wrap up with the Saint John Sea Dogs, as there are a ton of possibilities there. Like most teams sitting first overall at the break, they’re weighing their options for a run in the spring. But more than any other team, they’re looking to 2012 and their Memorial Cup aspirations, be they hosts or league champs. They already have an impressive group of youngsters that will be the core going forward, but the goaltending situation is one that may need to be dealt with. Do they take a crack at Gusse or Gibson in Chicoutimi to be their go-to guy, thus not using an over-age spot in goal next season? They could also use some grit on the lower lines. A guy like Philippe Paradis could be the answer, but he’s unlikely to be back next year and would be pricey. A poor-man’s option might be Pier-Antoine Dion in Cape Breton, who can chip in some offense while playing an in-your-face physical style, would be affordable, and would be back as an over-ager next season.

These are just a few of the many storylines that expect to unfold over the next two-and-a-half weeks. The landscape of the QMJHL will certainly be shifted once we all come down off our World Junior high, and it will make for an exciting finish to this year and a great precursor to the arrival of the Memorial Cup in 2012.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Prediction: Canada's WJC Team

Photo by Richard Wolowicz, Getty Images

The Team Canada World Junior Selection Camp is a few days along now, with cuts expected Tuesday. I figured I’d take a crack at predicting the lineup before the cuts begin, so here’s one man’s opinion based on the things floating around in my brain. Expect it to be completely correct.

J. Schwartz – B. Schenn – B. Connolly
B. Pirri – S. Couturier – L. Leblanc
C. Eakin – R. Johansen – Z. Kassian
Q. Howden – C. Cizikas – C. Ashton
B. Ross

J. Cowen – R. Ellis
C. de Haan – E. Gudbranson
S. Despres – D. Olsen
R. Murphy

O. Roy
C. Pickard

Basically with this lineup you’ve got a good forward mix of guys with size and skill. The top two lines would be leaned on to score, with the third line made up of big boys who can shake things up physically and chip in offensively. The fourth line would be an energy group, and Ross as the 13th forward can provide a spark in an agitator role. Also, he’s a Leaf which fills the bias quota in the lineup.

Selection camp is heavy with puck movers and offensive-minded guys on the blueline. Despite possessing the skating ability of a dumptruck, Jared Cowen seems to be a lock for a spot, so he gets slotted with Ellis who can bail him out when he forgets that legs are allowed to move. Cowen, Gudbranson and Olsen are all considered of the shutdown-type, so I paired each off with a more offensive-minded partner for my purposes. I originally had Tyson Barrie penciled in as the seventh defenseman, but I think it’s better to get Murphy that experience since Barrie is hardly a big step ahead, if he is at all.

In goal it’s my man-crush Olivier Roy with the starting job, backed up by a guy in Pickard who is used to seeing more rubber than Sasha Grey doing her thing in a tire factory.

All in all, as has been preached for weeks now, this team is not going to come by anything easily. They aren’t stacked with talent like they’ve been used to in some of the previous years and will rely on a balanced attack, strong defensive play, and probably some big performances from their goaltending. However, this team is not completely devoid of scoring ability. Brayden Schenn is the centerpiece, but this could really be a coming out party for Louis Leblanc. Jaden Schwartz and Brett Connolly will also be instrumental in creating offense. This team might compare best to the 2006 squad that won gold in Vancouver with a hard-hitting and hard-working attitude. Ultimately, the biggest factor could be the system that Dave Cameron employs. There’s enough talent here to win gold, but they’ll need to buy in to get past the American juggernaut.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Roy Returns, Represents

It has been, and will be, a couple of eventful days for Olivier Roy. He made his return to Cape Breton Sunday afternoon, for the first time as a member of the visiting team, and backstopped his Acadie-Bathurst Titan to a win over the Screaming Eagles. Roy played (spectacularly) in Sydney for the last three seasons before being dealt in the off-season. The Eagles visited Bathurst earlier this season, only to be shut down as Roy earned his 100th career win, and it seemed that another deflating result was on the way in Roy’s Cape Breton homecoming, with him sitting on a goose egg until about 9 minutes left in the game. He stopped 23 of 25 shots in the 4-2 victory.

On top of coming away with the win, he also got a warm reception from the crowd of 3,363 at Centre 200. I missed the pre-game, but as I understand it, he got an ovation when he was announced as the starting goaltender. Deservedly so, as the audience recognized the outstanding work of a goalie that stood on his head to deliver wins that the Eagles had no business collecting over the course of his time there. He got another (relatively) loud ovation when he was named 2nd star, though the crowd had thinned out considerably as the game was delayed for penalties to be sorted out with three minutes to go and the home team down 4-1.

Next up for Olivier Roy: Buffalo, New York. Hockey Canada will name the selection camp roster for the World Juniors Monday and Roy will be at camp, he’ll make the cut, and he’ll be the starter as Canada seeks to reclaim its spot at the top of the podium. For Eagles fans, it’ll be great to watch him dazzle on the international stage as he did in the black and gold for three seasons. Canada will get to discover the secret that we’ve known for three years; the goalie factory in Cape Breton has produced another beauty. The sting will come when Roy shuts down the Russians or kicks out four scoring chances on an American powerplay, and Gord Miller utters the phrase, “Olivier Roy of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.” Watching Roy reach the peak of his junior career representing the colours of another club will be bittersweet, but that’s no reason to not be damned proud of him. And a gold medal sure wouldn’t hurt.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Garrett Clarke's Series of Unfortunate Events

With the Halifax Mooseheads officially washing their hands of Garrett Clarke today, I figure it’s about time I weigh in. The troubled defenseman was dealt to Shawinigan today for a 4th round pick after being removed from the roster (read: kicked off the team) at the start of the month. The trade period doesn’t open until December 19th, of course, but that’s A-OK apparently; more on that later. Matthew Wuest of Metro Halifax has a good take on what Clarke is all about, if you’re not up to speed.

In short, Clarke has a penchant for taking selfish, poorly-timed penalties. A quick glance through the scoresheets from earlier this season reveals this, in the form of putting his team down a man when a scrum would have otherwise led to coincidental minors, or nuking a Mooseheads powerplay by taking a penalty early in the man advantage. I saw him once this year, in Sydney during pre-season, and the Mooseheads were set to go to the powerplay after someone took a run at Clarke… until Clarke chased that player wielding his stick like a baseball bat. There was no follow-through, but it was enough for an unsportsmanlike call. It seems like this is the kind of thing that happened all too often over the last season-and-a-bit, ultimately leading to his departure. Oh, and this may be a good time to mention that many observers deemed him to be much more disciplined coming into camp this year compared to last year.

The part that puzzles me is the absolute outrage from many Mooseheads fans about what went down. Obviously Clarke is a very talented player, there’s no denying that, and the few occasions that I did see him play, he stood out in that regard. So yeah, if your best defenseman is sent home, then traded for below value, you’re probably going to be pissed, and that’s fine. But many seem to think that Clarke didn’t deserve this fate, despite being a headache, albeit a skilled one, since arriving in Halifax. How many second chances do you want to hand this guy? He left Lewiston under similar circumstances, complete with less-than-market-value trade, which is why I also don’t buy the criticism of Bobby Smith/Cam Russell, and believe me, I’m no supporter of Russell.

The Mooseheads made a low-risk, high-reward deal to land Clarke in the first place, and now they ship him out in the same fashion. I don’t see why it’s a disaster for the Mooseheads like some seem to think. No doubt those cries will grow louder if Clarke thrives in Shawinigan, but it doesn’t change the fact that things weren’t going to work in Halifax. And if nothing changes with the Cataractes and Clarke’s lack of discipline/possible off-ice issues puts him in the doghouse with a third team in as many years, possibly leading to the blueliner with mid-round draft potential going unpicked in June… can we really say that Bobby Smith and Cam Russell made the wrong move on this one?


Some additional Clarke thoughts…

The whole Clarke situation has been a mess, including the transaction side of things; as Buzzing the Net’s Nathan White noted earlier, Clarke could play up to ten games as an affiliated player with Shawinigan before being traded. He’s now been traded, before the trade period actually opens, but will still be treated as an AP until the trade period. Of course (Wuest chatted with Cataractes GM Martin Mondou today to further clarify things, post-trade). My question is this: why would Halifax rush to complete the transaction before the trade period? That 4th round pick isn’t going to win them any games between now and then, and the two teams play on December 1st. My assumption (and I could be totally wrong on this) is that since Clarke was still Halifax’s property and only on loan to Shawinigan, the Mooseheads could have denied Shawinigan from dressing Clarke against them. Now that the deal is done, Shawinigan can make that call. If that was an option that Halifax had (and again, I don’t know that it was), could you imagine the fallout if Clarke knocks Marty Frk out cold with an open ice hit, or breaks Luca Ciampini’s ankle with a slash? THAT would be a mess.


Finally; if Clarke gets his act together, and Shawinigan manages to somehow sway Michael Matheson from the NCAA route… what a blueline that would make for their Memorial Cup pitch. Matheson’s decision probably wouldn’t come until after the host was named, which Shawinigan is bidding for, and recruiting Matheson seems to be a one-in-a-million chance to begin with, but the top prospect from the past draft would be a huge boost to their chances to represent the Q next season.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

An Ode to Olivier

You know when you have that one favourite player, the one that would make you sick to your stomach to see in another team’s colours? I remember when Alex Steen was traded to St. Louis – I loved the guy, hated to see him go. I feel like it’ll be a looooong season for many Cape Breton Screaming Eagles fans in that regard.

One of the things that always screws me up about the QMJHL is some of the trades. You have to pay attention to every single deal or you can get lost. Olivier Roy, probably the best goalie in the league, was essentially traded by Cape Breton to Lewiston for a pair of 2nd round picks, which makes zero sense on its own, especially when he was flipped to Bathurst the next day for a huge package including the 1st overall pick in the June draft. Given the nature of junior hockey, these things happen – Roy was essentially future considerations, so the Eagles could take a run with him and Jacob Lagace, who came over mid-season, and then unload Roy after that run (which scored them one post-season win against the eventual champs) back to Lewiston.

Olivier Roy was, to put it lightly, a sick monster for the Eagles for three seasons. He came in as a 16-year old, ran the train on the league and won rookie of the year, and was named to the CHL’s all-rookie team. He was an instant fan favourite, something that is easy to see now that he’s gone. He put together some incredible performances. His numbers may not support the beastly status I’m giving him, but he had the ability to take over a game and steal it. He had to on many occasions – the Eagles weren’t exactly a stacked team in his time there. Good players, yes, but they won games with a hard-nosed, hard-working mindset rather than one of finesse. They’ve always been the type of team that you cheer for, because they have heart and play a complete game, and their goaltender was the root of that.

Roy put another notch in his belt, another in his list of accomplishments in this league, on Sunday. After earning 94 wins in his three seasons with the Eagles, he recorded win number one hundred at “home”… against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. He’s only the sixth goalie in league history to do so. By the end of the season, he’ll have the all-time shutout record, and 2nd place on the wins list, both accomplished, as win 100 was, wearing Titan colours. But in the eyes of Eagles fans, Roy’s junior home will always be Cape Breton, where he’ll soon become another name rattled off when talking about Cape Breton as a goalie factory, along with Marc-Andre Fleury and Ondrej Pavelec. Why he slipped to the Oilers in round five of the draft, I don’t know. I’m no talent scout, and certainly not for goalies, but this kid has something special, and it won’t be long before that becomes widely apparent.

He’s going to start for Canada at the World Juniors in Buffalo this year; a year too late, in my opinion, and in hindsight I’m sure many will agree. And even after that remarkable achievement against their own boys, and even after his return home on November 28th with his new teammates, the most heart wrenching time for Eagles fans may just begin on Boxing Day. It’s reminiscent of the story of another Roy; Halladay. When Olivier Roy pulls off an incredible post-to-post display of acrobatics, the announcers will remind us that he’s representing the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. If the team is good enough (because we sure as hell know he is) to return Canada to its golden glory in Buffalo, he won’t be accepting his medal as a member of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. And you’d best believe that’s going to sting.

I’m guilty of not seeing enough of Olivier Roy in the flesh during his time with the Eagles. I got to a few games, sure, and I certainly admired his work from a distance, but when he and the Titan roll into the Centre 200 on November 28th, I’ll be there, showing my appreciation for a lifetime Eagle, regardless of whatever achievements lay on the horizon with other teams.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Super Series Roster Announced

The QMJHL announced the roster for this year’s installment of the Subway Super Series on Monday, to take place in Saint John (Nov. 8) and Drummondville (Nov. 10). Basically a travelling band of junior-aged Russian players make their way across Canada, playing two games against an all-star team of each league under the CHL umbrella. The Q’s roster for this year is as follows, along with their draft status:


Olivier Roy, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (EDM 5th rd, 2009)
Jean-Francois Bérubé, Montreal Juniors* (LA 4th rd, 2009)
Maxime Clermont, Gatineau Olympiques** (NJ 6th rd, 2010)


Nathan Beaulieu, Saint John Sea Dogs (2011 eligible)
Nicolas Deslauriers, Gatineau Olympiques (LA 3rd rd, 2010)
Simon Després, Saint John Sea Dogs (PIT 1st rd, 2009)
Jérome Gauthier-Leduc, Rimouski Océanic (BUF 3rd rd, 2010)
Brandon Gormley, Moncton Wildcats (PHX 1st rd, 2010)
Xavier Ouellet, Montreal Juniors (2011 eligible)
Charles-Olivier Roussel, Montreal Juniors (NSH 2nd rd, 2009)
Ryan Kavanagh, Rimouski Océanic* (Undrafted, 19 yrs)
Jean-Philippe Mathieu, Drummondville Voltigeurs** (Undrafted, 19 yrs)


Guillaume Asselin, Chicoutimi Saguenéens (Undrafted, 18 yrs)
Louis-Marc Aubry, Montreal Juniors (DET 3rd, 2010)
Michael Bournival, Shawinigan Cataractes (COL 3rd, 2010)
Sean Couturier, Drummondville Voltigeurs (2011 eligible)
Jonathan Huberdeau, Saint John Sea Dogs (2011 eligible)
Brandon Hynes, Victoriaville Tigres (Undrafted, 18 yrs)
Louis Leblanc, Montreal Juniors (MTL 1st, 2009)
Jonathan Lessard, Acadie-Bathurst Titan (Undrafted, 19 yrs)
Philippe Paradis, PEI Rocket (CAR 1st, 2009)
Trevor Parkes, Montreal Juniors (Undrafted, 19 yrs)
Zack Phillips, Saint John Sea Dogs (2011 eligible)
Philippe Lefebvre, Montreal Juniors* (Undrafted, 19 yrs)
Jonathan Brunelle, Drummondville Voltigeurs** (Undrafted, 19 yrs)

*Will only compete in Saint John
**Will only compete in Drummondville

As you can see, the draft eligible talent in the Q is well represented, headlined of course by Sean Couturier who remains atop the ISS Top 30. There are also 8 undrafted players on the roster, including a couple who just miss the cut for being 2011 eligible (Asselin by 6 days, Hynes by 1). Here’s a breakdown of the all-stars by team:

Montreal (7)
Saint John (4)
Drummondville (3)
Acadie-Bathurst (2)
Gatineau (2)
Rimouski (2)
Moncton (1)
Chicoutimi (1)
Shawinigan (1)
Victoriaville (1)
PEI (1)

With seven teams unrepresented, it would be wonderful for the NHL to learn something from this series. If you haven’t played like an all-star, you shouldn’t be an all-star, even if you’re the best player on your team. Why should the bottom feeders be represented on the big stage if they’re undeserving? I digress. Interestingly, the league-leading and, at this time, top ranked team in the CHL is not represented; the Quebec Remparts. This would be due to their top four scorers being three over-agers and a European; only players eligible for Team Canada’s World Junior team make the Super Series cut.

All in all it’s a pretty fair roster, by my estimation. It’s heavy on Montreal players, though two of those will only play one game. A couple substitutions I may have made would be to get Olivier Archambault (Val-d’Or) and/or Yannick Veilleux (Shawinigan), a couple of 2011 eligibles, onto the roster in place of perhaps a guy like Trevor Parkes. So, minor stuff essentially. I’m sure others could point out more glaring errors than that. Another note: Los Angeles is the only NHL team represented by two players.

I was hoping to be able to check out the game in Saint John, and just as the roster announcement gets me excited for the game, I get the word that I’ll be able to get the days off necessary to make the trip. So needless to say I’m looking forward to seeing the best and brightest of the Q; I’ll post some thoughts after the game, most likely.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Handicapping the 2012 Memorial Cup Host

Earlier today, the QMJHL surprised no one by announcing the teams that have put themselves up for consideration to host the 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup. Cape Breton, Halifax, Saint John and Shawinigan had all been expected to bid for the tournament, and there was no last-minute dark horse to throw everyone off. So as it stands, there’s a three-out-of-four chance that the Memorial Cup will return to the Maritimes. Looking at the Q’s hosting history since 2000, that makes sense; it’s been hosted by Halifax (2000), Quebec (2003), Moncton (2006) and Rimouski (2009), alternating between the Maritimes and Quebec each year. But a three-out-of-four chance is basic stuff; what are the real odds?

There are a number of factors that go into a successful Memorial Cup bid, including things that I can’t rightly determine like marketing and financial plans. Among the things I can look at are the quality of the team, arena, and experience hosting previous events; that adds up to 50% of the criteria and can make or break a team’s bid.

One of the easiest things to determine is the quality of the team, and an easy measuring stick is the NHL Entry Draft. Let’s look at the most recent hosts, the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Wheaties obviously boasted two top picks from the previous draft, as Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie were chosen 5th and 8th, respectively, in the 2009 draft. They formed a top line along with Matt Calvert, a 5th round pick in 2008. Toni Rajala, a 2009 4th rounder, also added some scoring. The blueline had a pair of 2008 2nd rounders in Colby Robak and Travis Hamonic. In goal was Jake De Serres, a 3rd rounder in ’08. Keep in mind, Hamonic and De Serres were acquired mid-season, after Brandon was already awarded the tournament. So the main core group of the host team was made up of a pair of top-10 picks, two 2nd rounders, a 3rd, a 4th, and a 5th. They also had draft-eligible players in Michael Ferland and Mark Stone, who went in the 5th and 6th rounds, respectively, in June.

With the 2011 Draft still months away, and scouting information tough to find, along with the QMJHL website being in complete shambles, it’s tough to determine exactly what the composition of any one team will be, come the spring of 2012, but let’s have a go at it. And hell, let’s throw some betting odds down while we’re at it.

Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – Odds: 25-1

The Screaming Eagles have been a model of consistency in the league for a while now. The team has won 40 games in 6 of its last 7 seasons, including the last 5 straight. That streak will surely fall this year as they’re poised for a tough season. Captain Morgan Ellis was the only Eagles product drafted in June, in the 4th round by the Habs. The team will rely largely on over-agers Taylor MacDougall and Stephen Horyl this season, so needless to say they’ll be long gone come 2012. They have a few draft eligible players for 2011 but nothing overly notable. Logan Shaw was a high pick in the 2008 Q draft, but, unless he breaks out in a big way, doesn’t figure to be a game-changer going forward. Unless they pick up some beauties in the Q draft in June that can make a big impact right away, their hopes of contending for the title next year, and thus hosting the Memorial Cup, are faint. Their arena seats 4,600, and even after renovations that bring that total to 5,000, it’s still the smallest among the bidders. The long-awaited addition of a video scoreboard is a plus, but it’s not enough, as much as I’d love to see the tournament on the Island.

Shawinigan Cataractes – Odds: 10-1

The Cataractes had six players drafted into the NHL in 2009, including two in the first 2 rounds, and could have been set up beautifully for a bid if the Q were hosting this year rather than next… that is, if they kept those players. Dave Labrecque is the only player from that draft that remains on Shawinigan’s roster. Their only 2010 draftee was Michael Bournival, a 3rd round selection. There hasn’t been much hype about Shawinigan players for the upcoming draft; at a glance, the only ones that stand out are three players chosen in the 1st round of the 2009 Q draft: Yannick Veilleux, Jonathan Racine and Dillon Donnelly. One can assume they’ll be primed for a run in 2012, but they’re yet to break out. Shawinigan’s new arena is one thing it has going for it, with seating for about 5,200. By comparison, Brandon’s arena had capacity for just over 6,000. As for past events, they hosted the Memorial Cup back in 1985, as well as one of last year’s Subway Super Series games between the QMJHL All-Stars and a Russian squad. They’ve also retired Patrick Lalime’s number, which has to be a bad sign when trying to host a playoff tournament.

Halifax Mooseheads – Odds: 4-1

The Mooseheads should have a solid enough team by the time the tournament rolls around. Elite? Maybe not, but definitely very strong. The back end figures to be held down by Mathieu Corbeil in net, a 4th rounder this past June, along with fellow 2010 draftees Konrad Abeltshauser (6th rd) and Sawyer Hannay (7th rd) on the blueline. Add in Garrett Clarke, a talented-if-undisciplined defenseman, and forward Gabriel Desjardins, and you have a couple of players that could be drafted in the 3rd/4th round range come June. Darcy Ashley and Brent Andrews are also talented forwards that should be selected this year. But the real focal point once the 2012 Memorial Cup rolls around, if Halifax is there, would be Czech phenom Martin Frk, an early contender to go first overall in 2012. Luca Ciampini wouldn’t be far behind, either. The Mooseheads could be set up well as a host; obviously their arena is the best of the bunch with a capacity for over 10,000 spectators. The hosting history segment could possibly work against them, though. Obviously they have a good track record with events such as the World Juniors and World Championships, but they also hosted the Memorial Cup only back in 2000. It’s only been to three other Q markets since then, and I can only imagine the backlash if it went back so soon. It wouldn’t be an entirely shocking development, and if Halifax were poised to have the best team on paper in the spring of 2012, I think they’d get it. But they won’t be the best.

Saint John Sea Dogs – Odds: 2-1

Saint John easily has to be head and shoulders above the other three bidders in, at least, team quality. A pair of Sea Dogs were chosen in June: Stanislav Galiev (3rd rd) and Stephen MacAulay (6th rd), along with Steven Anthony, a 7th rounder in 2009, who could return as an over-ager next season. Then you throw three more potential stars into the forward mix, with Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Jurco likely being selected in the 1st or 2nd rounds in 2011, and Zach Phillips probably in the 2nd or 3rd round, and you have a mighty potent offense set up. Then there’s Nathan Beaulieu, who drew rave reviews from the research and development camp a few weeks back, to man the point. It’s expected that his name will be called out in the first round as well. Their 6,200 seat arena added a video scoreboard over the summer, and will host the Subway Super Series in November, after hosting it two years ago as well. It seems like everything is coming up Sea Dogs, and it appears that it will continue on that path right up until they’re announced as 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup hosts in April. That’s what I’d bet on, at least.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Return

Well hello there. I’ve dusted off the ol’ blog for the first post in a long, long time. I’m hoping that this marks the end of my inactive (lazy) streak.

So first, I’ll tell you a bit about myself. I’m a 20-year old from Cape Breton, recently graduated from college and working full-time at a radio station in my hometown. The end goal here is to incorporate my two passions: broadcasting and hockey. How, and when, remains to be seen. I’ve donned the alias of everyone’s favourite Czech defenseman with a heart condition who put the Leafs in position to tie the last playoff game they played. Which was 6 years ago. Meaning I went through all of high school and college with no Leafs playoff games. Hold me.

Anyway, with the information I’ve given here and the things I’ve tweeted, it would take about 5 minutes to figure out who I am, not like I wouldn’t tell anyone who asked. The nickname is just to separate my (lacking to this point) blog-type things from my real work.

My hope is to post here regularly from now on, about anything hockey… my views on anything happening in the NHL to things that are going on in the QMJHL, which I plan to cover a lot this season. And to ensure that, I spent two hundy on an online package that gives me access to every Q game this season, plus playoffs and archives. There’s no motivator quite like spending a boatload of money on something.
So on the topic of the Q, I’ll throw out some predictions based on my limited knowledge. See, despite being tabbed by PPP to write a weekly CHL update because of my Q-League Leafs prospect tweets, I don’t really know the Q that well. I know the better players and teams, but not very in-depth. That will change this year. (PS: I likely won’t be contributing those CHL updates this season, unless the Leafs increase their number of Q prospects to one, as I know little about the OHL/WHL and certainly less than a number of other PPP contributors.)

These predictions are based on some knowledge of a few teams and then guesses, some educated and some not, on the rest. Enjoy.


1. Saint John
2. Acadie-Bathurst
3. PEI
4. Moncton
5. Halifax
6. Cape Breton

Telus East:

1. Rimouski
2. Quebec
3. Lewiston
4. Chicoutimi
5. Vicoriaville
6. Baie-Comeau

Telus West:

1. Montreal
2. Drummondville
3. Gatineau
4. Shawinigan
5. Val-d’Or
6. Rouyn-Noranda

Anyone who knows the Q will probably look at these and think I’m on the crack. I’ve spent the last few weeks reading all I can about the league and my knowledge is still minimal, especially outside the Maritimes division. I wasn’t going to do predictions to save embarrassment, but I figured, what the hell. Sometimes with predictions, the less you know, the better. And hopefully this time next year I can make much more educated picks.

I’m inclined to think it will be Rouyn-Noranda and Cape Breton out of the playoffs this year. As for the champ? It’s a tough call between Saint John and Montreal. The Juniors have the best player in the league. Saint John has a great crop of talented kids but lost some firepower from last year. My gut is that the Sea Dogs rep the Q at the Memorial Cup. Even if they don’t, they ought to next year. If there’s any justice in this world, the 2012 Memorial Cup unfolds at Harbour Station. And if by chance they don’t get hosting duties, their team is positioned better than any other in the Q to win the championship next season.

From what I can tell, this is as good a year as any to get interested in the Q. One of the players projected as a potential first overall pick in June, Sean Couturier, plays for Drummondville. Montreal scored themselves the player who has to be the odds-on favourite for the league scoring title when they snagged Louis Leblanc from Harvard. The Saint John Sea Dogs boast four guys who will all be picked in the first two rounds of the draft, probably 2 or 3 in the first round, in Jonathan Huberdeau, Nathan Beaulieu, Tomas Jurco and Zack Phillips. And looking ahead to 2012, Halifax has a couple of potential high picks in Marty Frk and Luca Ciampini, both of whom scored their first Q-League goals tonight, about 30 seconds apart.

There are more great storylines this year than I can remember there ever being in the past. Maybe that’s because I didn’t pay enough attention to the Q before this year. That will change from now on.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Case for Keeping Kaberle

Trade speculation around Tomas Kaberle has been running rampant for the past few seasons, never amounting to anything more than a believed-to-be-done deal at the draft last season for Phil Kessel. That, and the infamous Philadelphia deal that would have seen Jeff Carter and a first round pick come to the Leafs in return, but Kaberle refused to waive his no-trade clause. It`s hard to type with forks in my eyes but I believe that if Kaberle is going to move at all, it has to be for a similar package to the one that Philly offered.

That`s not to say that they need what Jeff Carter is right now. When that deal would have gone down two years ago, Carter was not the player that flirted with 50 goals last season. He finished with 53 points in the 07-08 season, a career high at the time. He was a high pick with big potential, but that was the cost of acquiring a big-time offensive blueliner. So if we`re to consider what the asking price for Kaberle might be, the place to start would be the 2005 draft, for a player at the same stage in his development now as Carter was two years ago.

The one that jumps out right away, and ironically enough belonging to a team that has been mentioned in Kaberle rumors, is Devin Setoguchi. He was picked 8th overall by the Sharks, and his numbers actually line up remarkably well with Carter`s. Their junior careers, especially, are eerily similar. Both played four seasons in the CHL, Carter scoring 246 points and Setoguchi only three fewer. Here are their NHL numbers through their first two seasons:

Setoguchi: 125 GP, 42 G, 40 A, 82 P
Carter: 143 GP, 37 G, 42 A, 79 P

Obviously Setoguchi had a spike in production playing with Thornton last season where he topped 30 goals, and his numbers are now back down without Jumbo Joe feeding him like a baby. That raises some concerns about whether he can really take it to the next level, and he`s certainly not a Carter-like prospect, but there are some comparisons that can be made. That`s why I believe a deal for Kaberle would have to be something along the lines of Setoguchi and a first round pick, at the very least. If no one bites? Burke shouldn`t sweat it.

As it stands now, it`s not looking like Kaberle will move by the deadline. Darren Dreger at TSN has this to say:

Toronto's Tomas Kaberle remains firm on his desire to stay with the Maple Leafs, so failing a sudden change of heart, he will not be submitting a list of teams he would consider waiving his no-trade clause to join.

That always leaves the door open for a summer trade, but I don`t think Burke`s hand is forced to deal Kaberle at all. If he can get a package of a very good young forward with potential, plus a first round pick and possibly more, then great. If not, he has one of the best offensive defensemen in the league who wants to play for this team right now. One has to assume that if he wants to be part of a team having a rotten season this year, he`ll want to stick around when his contract is up and the youth starts to develop.

Kaberle is young enough that he can still contribute when the Leafs are ready to make a run at the playoffs, in the same sense that Gonchar has been key for the Penguins the past few seasons. That`s enough of a reason to keep Kaberle unless someone will offer up two or more core building blocks and extend his run as the longest-serving Leaf.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Sports Weekend to End All Sports Weekends

First off, deepest condolences to the Burke family on the passing of Brendan. Just a real tragedy when anyone is taken from us that young, and especially when it's someone with the outstanding moral fibre that he has shown. Though he was only 21 years old, he was a true inspiration and a kid that any parent would be proud to have. I can't imagine the pain that Brian and his family are dealing with right now. Thoughts are with them.

Moving on, this weekend marks my first ever trip to Toronto and the ultimate sports experience. Flying out in less than 7 hours (yes I need to sleep... and pack), and here's how it's lining up:

Saturday - HHOF, OUA Men's Basketball
Sunday - Raptors vs Sacramento, Super Bowl
Monday - Leafs vs Sharks

All signs point to sports overload. Big questions: Where to watch the Super Bowl? What are the top sports bars? Preferably ones that we won't have to get to 4 hours before the game starts in order to be seated.

The other big question that's been on my mind for months: What Leafs jersey do I get? This will be my first real Leafs jersey if you don't count the crappy practice one. I had it down to Kessel, Schenn, White. Now you can sub White for Phaneuf. I kind of feel like it's too soon for a Phaneuf jersey, despite having a huge mancrush right now. A har-Dion, if you will. I'm kind of leaning towards Schenn. Thoughts?

I'll be tweeting. @CarlPeelash

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Lengthy Review of Today's Leaf Deals

Talk about a bomb being dropped on the Leafs dressing room. After last night's ugly loss, 5-3 to the Canucks after blowing a 3-0 first period lead, many Leafs fans were feeling like this team had reached rock bottom. Brian Burke responded today by pulling off a pair of major trades.

Great work by Darren Dreger on Twitter to be the first on these trades. He said big changes were coming and within hours, the first trade was made with the Calgary Flames.

To Toronto:
D Dion Phaneuf
D Keith Aulie
F Fredrik Sjostrom

To Calgary:
D Ian White
F Matt Stajan
F Niklas Hagman
F Jamal Mayers

This was the bigger of the two deals. Obviously the big piece here is Phaneuf. I've been critical of Phaneuf in the past; he's had some very bad moments the past few years and his defensive lapses are far too common for him to be considered a top defenseman in the league. However, that huge potential remains, and one has to think that the price of acquiring said potential was worth it.

Keith Aulie could be the wildcard in this one. If he rounds into a legitimate top-4 defenseman, as Hockey's Future believes is fully possible, that could be enough to solidify this one as a win for the Leafs, even if Phaneuf doesn't live up to the hype of his rookie year.

I don't confess to know much about Freddy Sjostrom but my understanding is that he's a speedy bottom-6 forward who can bring something to the penalty kill. That alone makes him more valuable than Mayers.

I'm still uneasy about the idea of giving up White. He's been the Leafs' most consistent defender the last two seasons, and is more reliable than Phaneuf. You know what you're getting out of him night in, night out. However, he's really the only loss here. Stajan and Hagman, while solid offensive players, were not likely part of the plan and would have been trading chips at the deadline. I'd rather them go in this deal than for a mid-round pick in return.

This deal works for the Leafs in the sense that they get another solid building block for, mostly, scraps in return. On the Flames side, while no doubt the fans will not be pleased with the return, it's not as bad as it looks. Sure, they could have held out for a first line forward in exchange for Phaneuf, and they may have gotten him. But, they may not have. Phaneuf's value isn't exactly sky-high right now. Instead, they flipped him for a couple of solid top-6 guys who can chip in offensively, making for a more balanced attack, along with a defenseman who is more suited to being a #3 or #4 guy than Phaneuf, and a mucker for the fourth line. They opted to fill a number of smaller gaps in the roster, rather than go for the home run, and it may end up working out better in the end.

Burke wasn't done there, wheeling a deal with his old club, the Anaheim Ducks.

To Toronto:
G Jean-Sebastien Giguere

To Anaheim:
F Jason Blake
G Vesa Toskala

This is nothing short of a fantastic deal for the Leafs. Burke unloads two of the biggest scapegoats, worst performers, and biggest contracts on this edition of the Leafs in one fell swoop. Blake was not getting the job done here after signing a big UFA deal, and Vesa Toskala has been Vesa Toskala. Giguere was clearly the odd-man out after Jonas Hiller signed a four-year extension yesterday.

This trade raises some questions for me. Obviously the Ducks needed to shed themselves of Giguere's cap hit, as he's down for $6mil this season and next. They get Toskala to do his job for $2mil less this season, and he's off the books come summer. That makes sense. What doesn't is taking Blake's salary back. His cap hit is $2mil less than Giguere's and he's under contract for an additional year. I suppose he's not as much dead weight as Giguere as he will be playing while the puckstopper wouldn't be, but it seems strange. There's also the fact that despite Blake being signed an extra year, he'll earn $1mil less than Giguere by the time both contracts are up.

My guess? Burke said "Give me a pick with Giguere, or take Blake's salary." They opted for the salary rather than the pick, and I can't say I'd fault Bob Murray for that. Even without the pick, Burke managed to wash his hands of two rotten contracts, and he may have partially fixed his goaltending situation in the process. Giguere may not bounce back to Stanley Cup-form, but the chance that he could be decent is worth acquiring him because he simply cannot be worse than Toskala was.

With a couple of bang-bang moves, Brian Burke has improved the Leafs' fortunes. Maybe not right now, but that makes no difference. The 09-10 regular season will not end with the Leafs in playoff position. These moves will provide a quick fix for the present, designed to prevent the Bruins from drafting a superstar, and the hope is that they'll pay off down the road if Phaneuf fulfills potential and Aulie develops well. Either way, good to see Brian Burke finally doing something about this dreadful club. It's about time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Danton Does Hali

So I guess I finally started a hockey blog. Neat-o.

Mike Danton skated for the Saint Mary's Huskies tonight for the first time, scoring the only goal in a 4-1 loss to Acadia. There's been much debate about the move to SMU, fresh off a 5 1/2 year prison sentence. As far as I'm concerned, the guy deserves a second chance, as mostly everyone does. He had a rough upbringing, made some bad mistakes, admitted to it, served his time, and now he's showing that he's ready to move on with his life. Good for him.

The issues surrounding his arrival in Halifax have been debated to death so I won't get too far into it; I'll stick with the game notes. I arrived at the Halifax Forum about 10 minutes past the start time, to find the lineup stretching all the way from the door, around the corner, and down the length of the arena. Pretty clear that Danton was a big draw, for tonight at least. It took about 15-20 minutes to even get into the building, and by that time the first period was drawing to a close. Danton was the best player on the ice all night. His speed, for a guy who was off the ice for nearly 6 years, was surprising. You'd think there would be a bit of rust, and maybe in an NHL environment it would be more evident, but he was in a league of his own in the speed department.

His hands were a different story. He finished off a cross-crease pass midway through the third to bring the Huskies within two, but there were a lot of chances that he couldn't capitalize on. One thing that was evident, though, was that he hasn't lost his hustle. He outworked the opposition all night and competed hard, making his own luck since there certainly wasn't much support from his teammates on this night. Check out the audio from the post-game scrum.

It'll be interesting to see what the turnouts are like for SMU's two remaining home games. It should tell the tale of whether Halifax was starved for a look at a talented hockey player, or if people just came out to see the criminal kill someone on the ice. I hope it's the former, because this guy is entertaining to watch.