Wednesday, August 31, 2005

What we do for family and PK - The Gambler?


photo: me
CasonBlog Aside: What we do for family...
Just got back after the road trip from hell. I looked like it was going to be a simple enough three phase jaunt. Drive 6 1/2 easy hours Friday to Grandma's house, pack and move her out of her place, blast back home Tuesday in time for a volleyball game and a football practice. Ah, but it didn't quite go as planned. Our beloved Durango got totaled in a four car wreck on the interstate when a kid driving a party rental truck smashed into us while we were at a stop. He lifted and rammed us into the back of the pickup in front of us, and that truck rammed a Honda in front of him. I loved that Durango. The only thing wrong with that V-8 powered hunk of American steel was a pervasive smell of yak that hung around two weeks after my youngest son barfed up pizza and two big lemonades in the back seat. C'est La Vie...

Now Back to the Puck Blogging
Not a great sign when your penny-pinching owner is talking smack about other owners before a puck has even dropped. In Luke DeCock's Sunday News & Observer piece, PK is unabashed in his disdain for the fiscal irresponsibility and even lack intelligence he see being demonstrated by many fellow owners, including, of course, arch-nemesis Mike Ilitch. This from the guy that brought us the $38 mil. bid for Sergei Fedorov in '97 that accelerated a fiscal crisis in hockey that ultimately lead to the loss of the '04 - '05 season. I don't mind PK going frugal if he just levels with the fans. If his new business model calls for positioning his club in the lower third of the payroll rankings to reap the benefits of revenue sharing, he ought to just be up front about it. Claiming his recent signings of Corey Stillman, Oleg Tverdovsky and Ray Whitney as strokes of genius before they've played a game is taking bluff poker to an extreme. No, genius is Don Waddell bringing in Holik, Hossa and DeVries, at the cost of a few mil and a physically and psychologically damaged Danny Heatley.

I sense the real truth is that PK is desperately attempting to navigate the franchise through troubled waters. I think the signings of Stillman, Tverdovsky and Whitney were truly artful moves for a club with little spending room. Just don't tell us they were strokes of genius. Come on PK, If you need to "hold 'em" now in the hopes of not having to "fold 'em" real soon, level with us. I think the Hurricane "party base" will rally around a lunch pail group of guys. What's not to love about these mutts? Roddy's face looks like the front end of my revered and recently departed Dodge Durango. Glen Wesley brings seasoned grit and DMV worker-type charisma every night. Kevyn Adams is a tough and over-achieving journeyman (and a fellow Miami Redskin, eerrr Redhawk). Finally, Corey Stillman brings top-ten scoring, a brand new "A," a guaranteed contract, cute kids in good schools, and probably a nice gray house in Cary.

Hurricane fans (including even the Chapel Hill chardonnay and bree crowd) just need to see the boys bring swagger, hustle and a killer instinct to the ice every night. Nobody wants or needs those things right now from the Hurricanes front office. I'll have more faith in the "Here to stay," mantra when I've seen a little more "Here to play" out on the ice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

RFA Socialism

Don Waddell-Super Genius
Today's sign-and-trade deal involving Heatley to the Sens for Hossa and DeVries points to what will soon become the new RFA economic reality. Unlike the thrilling days of yester-year when Pete Karmanos could take a free shot at stealing Sergei Fedorov from the hated Wings for a cool $38 mil (around $6.3 mil per year), today's clubs take big gamble if they tray to poach an RFA from another club. Under the CBA of today, if you want to land a $3 mil per year RFA outright, it's going to cost you three first round choices. Each $1.7 mil increment above that $3 mil threshold will cost you and additional first rounder up to a max of five.

So it looks to me like the only way some of these dangling RFA's will move to other clubs will be through a more neo-socialistic process. "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." - this looks to be way RFA business will be done from here on out.

I think today's trade demonstrates that Atlanta management really understands the new world order. Hold enough cap space to walk in a steal top talent by offering a neo-socialist solution-namely an offer to share the economic burden. Waddell and crew correctly identified the Sens as a team over a barrel.

How could Muckler fill out and/or revamp an underachieving roster with seven Ottawa players under contract and sucking up over $24.5 mil? I could just hear the telephone conversation. "Hey y'all. We just wanna help. How about we all share the economic burden with y'all by taking over $4 mil in net salary? Yup, we get two established stars in this deal, but y'all get a physically and psychologically damaged kid with great potential upside in return."

Never mind the fact that Heater really wanted and needed to get out of the ATL anyway. I wish Danny the best. The kid deserves a fresh start after making a bad decision as a very young man. I'm really glad he didn't go to the Leafs. This kind of deal would have been enough to supercharge those zealots right into even more unbalanced delusions or granduer. Overall, this looks like a peach of a deal!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Decision Time for Some SE Clubs

photo tsn.com
Bondra's '04 Cup Playoffs "Deer in the Headlights" Impersonation
There is some buzz out there that the Panthers, Thrashers, and Caps have a few more deals to swing before the season gets going. Peter Bondra is being courted by the Thrashers and the Caps. Not too worried if he goes to the Caps, but he could be a difference-maker with the Thrash. Yeah, I remember, he was kind of the invisible man in the '04 playoffs, with his zero points and minus four, but he picked up eight of his 49 points in '03-'04 against the 'Canes. Put Bondra with Marc Savard and Scott Mellanby, and you've got a second line that generated 132 total points in '03-'04. Let's hope he goes to the Caps.

Unlike the Hurricanes who enter the week with a pretty set lineup, the Caps, Lightning, and Panthers all immersed in some rather serious personnel issues. Here's a basic rundown:

  • Caps: Sign or move an unhappy Brendan Witt and an aging Olaf Kolzig
  • Panthers: Sign or move hardball negotiators and possible holdouts Jay Bouwmeester and Olli Jokinen
  • Lightning: Scrape together enough pennies to re-sign Hart Trophy winner Marty St. Louis

Thursday, August 18, 2005

'Canes Roster Update and W*A*S* of the Week

Welcome Back Big Joe
Now Go Play Like the Power Forward You Were Meant to Be! photo: tsn.com
The Hurricanes today signed Big Joe Vasicek bringing to a close both the initial UFA rush that brought in Stillman, Whitney and seemingly enigmatic Tverdovsky, followed by the RFA blitz to re-sign our young guns, and much to the applause of CasonBlog, the better-late-than-never return of Glen Wesley. I thought the Vasicek signing would be tough, especially after reading Luke DeCock's "final offer" piece in this morning's N&O. But it looks like overall the lockout has played to that most central and admirable of hockey player values-a love for the game that can at times transcend even the invisible hand of the marketplace.

So now I get to my W*A*S*, or Wild Ass Speculation about what's to come on the personnel front between now and 10.05.

Question: Why in the world do we need so many either borderline or unproved blueliners?

W*A*S*: JR is hoping one or two of the young D'men shows a significant improvement in camp and pre-season that can make the more expensive Hedican or Ward expendable. I really don't think the 'Canes think either veteran is essential, so JR/PK are setting the table to take advantage of any opportunity to move one or both. Lot's of teams are openly shopping for a veteran blueliner, and Hedi or Ward might be a good fit for some clubs right around the start of the season. Pittsburgh is not talking to RFA Aleksey Morozov about a deal, and according to thefourthperiod.com, Toronto is rumored to be shopping for a blueliner and dangling physical centerman, Nik Antropov. The gem deal would include moving a package of our relatively inexpensive guys to Ottawa for stud Wade Redden. Dream on CasonBlog, but hey, that's why I call it W*A*S*.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Bring Back Wes!

The stats say it all
photo tsn.com
Glen was 15th among all NHL defensemen in +/- for the '03 - '04 season. His +18 placed him above big free agent $$$ winners Mark Rathje and Adam Foote. Fellow Hurricane blueliner Bret Hedican was a -10 for the season. The 'Canes were the lowest scoring team in the NHL, and that made every Glen Wesley stop that much more important.

Hey JR, give the Big Red Head from Red Deer the respect he's earned! Sign him early next week and make it a big deal!!!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Finishing off the Hurricanes Roster

Colesy with a manly playoff beard
Oh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm Ok...
photo tsn.com
They way I figure, and including the signings of Justin Williams and Radim Vrbata, the 'Canes have around $18 mil in salary committed as of today. Word is Pete Karmanos wants to stay under $29 mil for the year. This gives JR around $11 mil to play with to fill several key holes. The most essential and thus difficult signees remaining will likely be Cole and Vasicek. Cole, who has a $1.1 mil offer on the table from the 'Canes has told the News and Observer's Luke DeCock that he is concerned about his role on this squad. I listened yesterday to a Kevyn Adams interview on the 850 The Buzz MP3 stream. His description of Cole's role and impact on that Team USA squad at the World Championships gives me the sense that Erik is starting to realize his emerging market value.

I see the same dynamic awaiting the Vasicek negotiations. Big Joe turned down a two year deal before the lockout last year and changed agents. Let's just hope he doesn't go "TO" on us. If you figure that Cole and Vasicek can be signed at around $1.5 to $1.75 mil per year, that leaves JR with around $7.5 mil to work with to fill out the roster. He's looking at bringing in Glen Wesley next week for less than $1 mil. That would leave around $7 mil to work with some combination of Ladd, Johnson (doubtful since he's committed to the maize and blue), Zigomanis, Boulerice, and St. Jacques. At a minimum, JR probably needs to sign two forwards and one blueliner. I can't see any of these guys making more than $1 mil each, so that leaves around $4 mil in wiggle room. At blog-time, the '05-'06 Hurricanes roster shakes out roughly as follows (guys in red are unsigned):

Forwards:
Stillman-Staal-Williams
Whitney-Vasicek-Vrbata
Cole-Brind 'Amour-Cullen
Forward-Adams-Forward

Defensemen:
Hedican-Tverdovsky
Kaberle - D'Man (probably Wes)
Commodore - Ward
Hutchinson - D'Man

Goal:
Gerber
Ward

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Stillman Effect

photo: newsobserver.com c/o Getty Images, Brian Bahr Corey Stillman Enjoys a Typical "Night Off"
Sequestered deep in the recesses of of the recent media buzz, accessible only via a very short lived text link was the announcement that the Hurricanes had signed veteran forward Corey Stillman. The 'Ning let the top scoring forward (80 pts) on their top scoring line (216 points) go to division rival Carolina, and that wasn't news?

Contrary to what seems to be emerging legend, Stillman didn't just rack up garbage goals on the coat tails Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis. In fact, the top scoring line on that Cup champion Lightning team wasn't the St. Louis, LeCavalier, Stillman line, it was the Richards, Modin, Stillman line. This line also featured the most balanced scoring with only 1 point separating Stillman and Richards. I've also heard the story told that Stillman's numbers were padded with points on from the PP. Yes, he did garner 26 of his 80 points on the PP, but those 26 points were only good enough to rank him 29th in the league in this category, well behind NHL studs like Kimmo Timmonen and Marek Zidlicky.

So why did the 'Ning let Stillman go to a division rival? Was it because Stillman, as TSN says, "(Stillman) Has a tendency to take too many nights off?" More likely it was because the champs knew they were entering a difficult signing period with their three highest profile stars-St. Louis, LeCavalier, and Khabibulin. IN reality, it wasn't so much that they let him go as it is was the perseverence of Jim Rutherford who went after Corey and got there the "firstest with the mostest."

All the accolades went to Philly and Edmonton for their prowess engineering the instant revamp of their teams via post CBA free agency, but few will acknowledge the leap the Carolina Hurricanes may have just made in signing Stillman.

Time will tell whether the CasonBlog "Stillman Effect" prophecy will pan out. Time will tell if he shares the puck and racks up the numbers with new linemates Eric Staal and Justin Williams. Still, I think the MSSM (Mainstream Sports Media) headlines should have read, "League's 30th ranked scoring team sign league's most underrated superstar."

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Columbus Blueline Jackets

photo: Columbus Bluejackets
Fear the Bug!
Hockey's most unfortunate excuse for a mascot takes on Brutus Buckeye in a battle for the hearts and minds of Columbusites

CasonBlog's second "UFA Winner, winner, chicken dinner award" goes to Doug MacLean and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Much like counterpart Mike Keenan, Doug MacLean seized the opportunity offered via the new CBA to leverage a healthy salary cap margin and create a little GM magic. Unlike the Florida Panthers, the Blue Jackets enjoy some pretty strong fan support. Columbus is a city that embraced hockey long before the arrival of the NHL. When I lived in America's grayest city during the 1990's, a Friday night ECHL Columbus Chill game ticket was just about the hardest thing to get. By the time the NHL was ready to expand again in 2000, Columbus was a town ready to rise above being Buckeyeburg and ready to join the ranks of other big league cities. If Cleveland and Cincy already had the market cornered in three of the big four sports, by God, Columbus would own the fourth.
Now after four years in the league, Doug MacLean realizes that the Jackets are just about to wear out their warm welcome. Jackets fans are sophisticated and faithful-more willing than those in many other hockey nubile burgs (like South Florida) to await the emergence a competitive team. The Blue Jackets are solid in goal and young and talented up front with Nash, Zhverdev and Vyborny. God I love Rick Nash! I saw him during his rookie year in Raleigh, and he is the prototype power forward for the 21st Century. Huge, powerful, fast, and blessed with soft hands, he can either bowl you over or blow by you-which is his choice, not yours.
Last week, MacLean skillfully addressed his team's most glaring weaknesses. The Jackets ranked 24th in the league in '03-'04 on the power play and 29th in the +/- column. First, he brought in Adam Foote, one of hockey's most physical defensive-defensemen. With his name emblazoned twice on Lord Stanley's cup, Foote brings instant impact to the Columbus blueline, and instant leadership on the ice and in the clubhouse. Can you imagine the dasher collisions that await during this training camp between Nash and Foote? Next, MacLean beat out several other teams to land coveted free agent blueliner Bryan Berard. He now has the power play quarterback his team sorely lacked. In a matter of days, Doug MacLean has moved to keep the faith with the Nationwide Arena faithful. Rick Nash is now signed for five years, Foote for three and Berard for two. Unlike Mike Keenan, who needed to invest in the here and now by bringing in the AARP line of Roberts, Nieuwendyk, and Gelinas, MacLean knew he could still leverage the good faith of the Jacket faithful and invest in the future of the program. Solid in goal with Denis, and even more solid with the departure of the grumpy Arturs Irbe and arrival of rising star Martin Prusek, teams in the Western Conference will soon learn to Fear the Bug!
Note: CasonBlog received no financial compensation for this very over-the-top glow

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Hockey's New Zen Master?

Now a proud member of the Spector's Hockey Blogroll!

I read with interest Scott Burnside's recent espn.com article about the shifting power in the NHL. Basically he says the huge sucking sound you are hearing right about now is the sound of a new gold rush. Yes, BMW's and Escalades loaded with composite sticks are leaving places like Colorado, St. Louis and Toronto for some previously lesser-known destinations. Hockey's biggest stars have said, "CBA be damned! Show me the money!" And those clubs with cap room and a gambler's instinct have opened their checkbooks.

In the NHL, it's no longer survival of the richest. The CBA has created a truly unique opportunity for those clubs best prepared to exploit opportunity. In military terminology, it's called the "OODA Loop." The acronym stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. Adherents to the OODA Loop philosophy combine aggressiveness, flexibility and resourcefulness to meet constantly changing tactical environments. I think Florida and Columbus are the CasonBlog OODA Loop winners to date. Both clubs reacted quickly and the beat others to the punch. First, let's look at the Panthers.

Mike Keenan recognized that he had two issues to immediately address. One, a skeleton squad rich in young talent but void of mature leadership; and two, a potentially fatal economic down-turn if the Sunshine State Kitties aren't ready to put up "W's" right out of the gate. There's just way too many other things to do in South Florida. Miami is a front-running town where Shack, Pat Riley and the Dolphins rule. Hockey is not even on the radar on South Beach. Keenan's initial signings oriented the club to address both needs simultaneously. By going "grandpa" with Nieuwendyk, Roberts, and Marty Gelinas, Iron Mike secured the mature on ice leadership necessary to yield immediate success in a market where winning now is the imperative.

The secret to the success of the 1994 Rangers Stanley Cup championship was just this sort of mature on ice leadership. Every hockey fan remembers Mark Messier's guarantees, clutch goals, and pub-hopping with Lord Stanley's cup. Keenan is looking for a little of that 1994 magic again-this time with Joe, Gary, and Marty playing the roles of Messier, Leetch, and Graves. And this year, he's got goalie Roberto Luongo, a guy I'd take over Richter any day (even with cropped pads).

One can almost hear Keenan at the start of this year's training camp... " I love the smell of old hockey players in the morning. They smell like...like...victory."

Next time: the Columbus Blueline Jackets

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Is Big Joe the Larry Brown of Hockey?

Joe Just Wants to be "Da Man"
photo tsn.com
Bruins GM Mike O'Connell proclaimed to the hockey world that he would sign Big Joe either short or long. Ole Mike is definitely trying to call dibs on Thornton, but I really wonder if this is the best approach to take with the mercurial Joe. O'Connell says he'll sign him for a year if that's all he can get and let the chips fall where they may thereafter.

Bad move Mikey Boy. Like the NBA's Larry Brown, Joe needs to know he's the man. He needs to be paid like the man, and reminded constantly that he is the man. Joe just rejected the Bruins qualifying offer, and reports say he took it as an insult. He's sitting there watching guys like Forsberg and Pronger sign for big fun tickets with teams that will make them the center of the local DMA. Joe wants the same kind of love, and I don't think he's likely to get it from Boston. Mike O'Connell might have already burned that bridge.

So, which team has cap room, playoff potential, prima donna friendly management, a penchant for bold trades, expendable and inexpensive young talent, and an opening at center of the universe? How about Ottawa? The Sens basically sat on the sidelines the past two weeks, and have some fine young RFA talent including Jason Spezza and Marian Hossa. Landing Thornton would also give the Sens an opportunity to poke the Leafs in the eye by making the move they just couldn't. The Bruins, who already have four NHL caliber centers on the payroll, could invest in the next Thornton in Spezza; pick up a scoring machine in Hossa, or invest in the future with BC standout Patrick Eaves or a fine young forward prospect like Antoine Vermette. Imagine a Bruins team set at #1 and #2 center for years to come with Spezza and Patrice Bergeron?

Dream on Canic Boy...
Of course, I remain first and foremost a Caniac, so here's my crackpot dream trade to bring Big Joe to the hockey backwater of Raleigh. The Bruins need some help on the blueline and in goal. We trade steady defender Bret Hedican and future star goalie Cam Ward to the B's for the rights to Big Joe. We sign Joe, he's the man in Raleigh (remember Roddy was cool playing second fiddle to Ronnie Franchise), PK puts butts in the seats, Gerber is not the answer in goal but call up Nastiuk emerges as the second coming of Giguere (circa '02-'03), we win the Southeast, the Eastern Conference and, and...(BZZZZZZZZZZZZ) Time to wake up. Realty bites.

Friday, August 05, 2005

After the Frakus-CasonBlog Winners and Big Loser

ARRRRRRGHHHH! Hurricanes miss chance to re-acquire old school #1 blueliner
photo tsn.com
Winners
Chicago: Had Columbus #1 but just found out that the Hawks signed Khabibulin. Aucoin, Spacek and Cullimore on defense, and Martin LaPointe to grind on the front end.

Columbus: Instant impact. Signing Berard and Foote gives them a solid two-way blueline at full strength, the PK and PP.

Florida: Instant maturity and leadership via the Nieuwendyk, Gelinas, and Roberts signings. Role models for rising stars Bouwmeester, Horton, Huselius, and Weiss to emulate.

LA: Instant offense and box office. Adding Pavol Dimetra for a chunk of change and then JR for cash on delivery give the Kings a huge offensive boost. We'll see lots of pictures now of JR hanging out with all the beautiful people, at the movie premieres, and romantically linked to Jennifer Anniston or maybe Heidi Fleiss. Great unforeseen PR coup for the NHL too. Don't forget, they picked up Craig Conroy before this all went down as well. If they can re-sign Ziggy and a find a solution in nets, they'll be an instant force in the Pacific.

Nashville: Preds get CasonBlog Fav Danny Markov for virtually nothing and then add Paul Kariya today.

Jury is out on...
Philly: Forsberg is a huge pickup, but I think they've added more in the expectations department than in the overall talent department. They'll be young up front and Neanderthal on the blueline.

Atlanta: Is the hulking Czech Uni-Brow the answer to a great top line attack? He's already talking smack that Kozlov, Modry and Savard might not have the grit to back.

Big Looser
Colorado:
Lost Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg and then spent $2.5 mil on Turgeon? The Avs also have yet to address their deficiency in goal.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Age Before Beauty-Seismic Changes to the NHL Landscape

photo nhl.com

Not a lot of love in the room right about now, huh JR?

You've heard the phrase, "Going ugly early." We'll I think the theme of the last two days of free agency might rightly be, "Go old early."

All AARP Honors:
Flyers: Now featuring real-live cave trolls in Hatcher, Rathje, and Therien. Gave up an excellent two-way defenseman in Danny Markov (Couldn't the 'Canes have offered a 3rd round pick to get 'ole 55 back?). Just saw on Spector moments ago that they signed Forsberg. Does this mean we might see Primeau, Roenick, Handzus dangled?

Panthers: Roberts, Nieuwendyk, and Gelinas will save them money on the road this year, cause they'll be able to dine on a discount at any participating Denny's.

Edmonton: Traded away two players bright futures in Brewer and Wyowitka for instant gratification of a gifted and brittle Pronger.

Calgary: Amonte is soooo 1990's.

Most Improved Honors:
Bluejackets: I wish Jim Rutherford could grab some of that Doug MacLean mojo. Foote and Berard give these boys a great tandom on the blueline-the velvet and the hammer, so to speak. Now if they could land Thornton or Modano-look out for one of these two on a line with Nash and Zhverdev.

"Is that your final answer?" honors:
Atlanta: God I hope they don't get a shot at Modano. I'd hate to see the 'Canes have to face a Modano, Heatley, Kovalchuk line eight times this year. Might not have much salary room though with the addition of Bobby the Missing-Holik should add some grit. Not sure he'll provide much in the leadership category. He didn't bring that Rangers clubhouse together. On a brighter note for Thrash fans, he'll look cute in that powder blue third jersey, don'cha think?

Chicago: Love the Aucoin pick up. They net +53 on the blueline with the departure of Berard and nearly equal the point total. Rumors are out there that they still have a shot at Khabibulin. We'll see.

Carolina: Corey Stillman is a good add, but in retrospect he looks like he was low hanging fruit. Apparently the 'Canes have been wooing him with Carolina BBQ and affordable family housing for over a year. My boys still need impact on the blueline, and the diehard Canic's still want a see JR land a player who will bring back the crowds of 2002 to the RBC. Commodore might be entertaining, but Stillman is kind of a lunch pail guy. Roenick is now potentially available with Philly's signing of Forsberg. Hummmmmmm. I'd love to see the 'Canes get a shot at Pitkanen.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Before the UFA Storm-The NHL Southeast at a Glance

Photo AP/msn.com
This Kid Needs a Facewash!
Florida is first out of the gate signing Nieuwendyk and Roberts to $4.5 mil contracts. Hum, two character guys who lead by example. Potentially great moves by a club that has suffered from a severe leadership void. These two are tough and play hurt. Come to think of it, they have been hurt most of the time over the last few years. So the Panthers went for character, leadership, and brittle bones. For a team that needs to win now, potentially powerful moves. Rumors still abound that Keenan will also go hard-sell on Pronger. He wants to go to a team committed to winning, and might see these signings as evidence of Florida's commitment. But when will the players commitment to Keenan wear out?

Stand by for Atlanta to jump into the fray. They've got great young talent in Heatley, Kovalchuk, Lehtonen, and Exelby. With the exit of McEachern, they'll be looking for mature leadership at the forward position. They also have a leadership and skill void on defense. This might not be their year, but they've got Braydon Coburn in the wings on "D" and this Bourret kid looks like Tie Domi with soft hands (did you see the tree trunk legs on this guy?).

For the Hurricanes sake, let's hope the Caps continue to stink. For us American hockey fans, Ovechkin is the perfect new guy to player-hate, and on a team I've always detested. In my mind, they are basically the NY Rangers-South with Jason Doig and Brendan Witt playing the roles of Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparitis. Anybody remember the taunting job Ovechkin and Malkin did on our kids in the World Junior championships? The boys on TSN questioned their first pick Sasha Pokulok. This has to be the least interesting team to follow in hockey. Hopefully history will repeat itself and they will go out an spend big bucks on a lame guy with no character, and have to eat his salary next summer just to move him.

Oh yeah, I forgot that the Stanley Cup champs are in our divison. Let's just hope they have to make some costly decisions that result in the departure of some key players from the Cup team. If they can't keep Khabibulin in the fold, that would help. They just re-signed Fedotenko, so he'll eat up some cash and make Vinny and Marty more costly signees. As I previously blogged, I'd love to see the 'Canes steal Dan Boyle or Cory Stillman from the Bolts.