Archive for Pittsburgh Penguins

Stanley Cup Playoffs – Round 1 (East) Predictions

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2009 by FEGNS

 

stanleycup2009-east (1st Round Predictions)

Every year as the NHL regular season wraps up, I find myself attempting to make predictions as to which teams will advance through the playoffs. 

This year is no different… so I’ve decided to break down my thoughts regarding the upcoming playoff series’ of the Eastern Conference.  The Western Conference predictions will be posted tomorrow.

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NHL Final Standings Predictions – EAST

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2009 by FEGNS

nhl east standings -(3.26.2009)

UPDATE: Check out my Western Conference Predictions Here.

With just under 10 games left (give or take a couple of games) for most teams in the NHL, I decided that I’d take a crack at figuring out what the final standings (and therefore the first round of the playoffs) will look like in a couple of weeks.

This is the first post (of two) on this topic… here we’ll discuss the Eastern Conference and what might end up happening in the closing weeks of the regular season.  The Western Conference analysis will be up in a day or two, so check back for it.

Pictured to the right is the current playoff picture in the eastern conference (as of the morning of 3.26.2009)…

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Should Pittsburgh Trade Crosby or Malkin?

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2009 by FEGNS

About a month ago, Adam Gretz of NHL.Fanhouse.com wrote a well thought out reaction to recent talk that the Pittsburgh Penguins should trade either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin to attain depth. 

Since his article was written on February 24th, Pittsburgh has made a head coaching change, traded Ryan Whitney to Anaheim for Chris Kunitz, and acquired Billy Guerin at the trade deadline from the NY Islanders.  These combined changes seem to have spurred a turn around in Pittsburgh, as the Penguins now sit comfortably in a playoff spot with many of the teams around them in the standings slumping and moving backwards.

This recent success, while wonderful for the Penguins and their current season hopes for a Stanley Cup, have not (at least in my opinion) changed anything in the grand scheme of things… and have certainly not rendered Mr. Gretz’s article moot.

It’s my opinion that the thought of trading one of Crosby or Malkin is not as outlandish and destructive of a thing as he makes it seem, so let’s look at things from a slightly different (but entirely appropriate) economic perspective.

In economic theory, when you determine the value of something… you must consider not only what it is currently worth, but what the assets committed to such a quantity could be worth if allocated elsewhere.  This theory is likely front and center in most NHL general manager’s heads as they assess the “value” of not only their players, but other players in the league, and other players not in the league (draftees, prospects, and European players).  Mr. Gretz did not consider this subject when writing his article, and consequently many of his examples of “failed trades” do not actually support his argument.

Let’s look at a few of these examples to see the basic theories of economics at work…

August 2, 2005 — Chris Pronger: The St. Louis Blues send Chris Pronger to the Edmonton Oilers for Eric Brewer, Doug Lynch, and Jeff Woywitka.

Chris Pronger was reportedly unhappy with a 7+ million dollar qualifying offer that the Blues gave him as an RFA the summer that they traded him.  This was the same summer that the salary cap andthe collective bargaining agreement went into effect.  St. Louis decided that with a salary cap maximum of just under $40 million, that their money could be spent better elsewhere.  Moving Pronger not only avoided a situation of an unhappy player becoming a cancer in the locker room, but also allowed the Blues more monetary flexibility.

July 11, 2001: Pittsburgh trades Jaromir Jagr and Frantisek Kucera to the Washington Capitals for Kris Beech, Michel Sivek, and Ross Lupaschuk.

Pittsburgh had not been to the Stanley Cup finals since the 1991-92 season.  Trading away Jaromir Jagr allowed the aging Penguins team (that consisted of not much more than Alexei Kovalev and Mario Lemieux at the time of the deal), to focus on rebuilding and becoming a contender again.  With the loss of Jagr, the team drafted in the top five years in a row… selecting Ryan Whitney, Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, and Jordan Staal with these respective top 5 overall draft picks.

By trading away Jagr, the Penguins have rebuilt their team into one of the most skilled young teams in the league.  Oh yeah… and all five of the above listed players were an integral part to getting the Penguins back to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the early 90s.  So was the Jagr deal really that bad?  When you think of everything that has directly come from it?  Jagr and Lemieux are long gone from the NHL, so if the Penguins had kept Jagr… where would they be now?

November 30, 2005: Boston Bruins trade Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm, and Wayne Primeau.

During the time that “Jumbo Joe” was in Boston, they never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs.  Since Thorton has been traded to San Jose, the Sharks have never made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs (despite making it to the western conference finals the season before acquiring Thornton).  Trading Thornton allowed Boston to sign Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard via free agency, and they have been a large part of Boston’s success in the eastern conference this season.  Boston also has a number of young players contributing to their very good 2008-09 season, that they likely would have never had the chance to draft had they not traded Thornton.

June 23, 2006: Florida Panthers trade Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek to Vancouver for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld.

Florida is on pace to finish the 2008-09 season with their highest point totals in the standings since before they acquired Luongo from NYI.  They acquired Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson via free agency to adequately address their needs in goal, and Bryan Allen has been very solid defensively since joining their team.  Florida traded Todd Bertuzzi to Detriot for blue chip prospect Shawn Matthias, and a conditional draft pick.  So had Florida not moved Luongo, they wouldn’t likely have the contributions of Vokoun, Anderson, Allen, or Matthias. 

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You can list nearly all the “bad” superstar trades in NHL history, and if you follow the cookie crumbs that are left in the wake of the actual deal itself, you can see that close to 100% of the time, things pan out the way they should.  While many trades seem like bad ideas at the time sometimes they are necessary to ultimately achieve success.

This happens, because the “value” of the player/superstar that you are trading can almost always be transferred into new or different players.  If Crosby or Malkin were dealt in a trade, there’s not a doubt in my mind, that the “value” of the returning package would at the end of the day make the deal worth while. 

The bottom line is that the Penguins have close to 22 million dollars committed to 3 natural centers.  You can not win a Stanley Cup without a supporting cast for these pivots.  With the contracting economy, the salary cap pinch will likely be felt in the next couple of seasons, and if I were a betting man… I’d suggest that one of two things happen in the coming years:

1) The Penguins continue from struggle from a lack of depth have trouble finding secondary scoring outside of Crosby and Malkin.  Their consistency suffers, and they fail to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup (without blowing their draft picks and prospects on a talented rental winger like they did last year with Marian Hossa).

2) They trade one of Crosby or Malkin and they receivenot only depth, but salary cap room to modify their team chemistry and create a balanced attack and a perennial contender. 

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Any betting man knows that you don’t help your chances of winning big if you put all your eggs in one basket.  The Penguins would do well to at least entertain offers for their franchise centermen… though I’d imagine that there wouldn’t be as many takers as some seem to suggest.  With teams dying to shed heavy salaries this past trade deadline, there will be more andmore teams that are stuck withlarge contracts… Pittsburgh being one of them.  Not only have they put themselves in a bad position withthe salary cap with their big contracts, but they’ve put themselves in a bad trading position as well. 

As Mr. Gretz mentions there are many teams with large amounts of money committed to players for next season… but how many teams can claim that they have approximately $21.4 million in cap space committed to three players that play the SAME POSITION

Say what you want about Detriot, Washington, NY Rangers, etc… and their cap positions… but at least they’ve diversified their cap allowance throughout their roster.

If you still don’t think the Penguins should move either Malkin or Crosby, take a moment and consider how many superstars that play the same position have remained on a team together for their entire careers… it doesn’t happen… it didn’t happen before the salary cap, and now that there is a salary cap, it CERTAINLY won’t happen.  The penguins would be wise to consider trading one of these players while they are young, marketable, and still have some years left on their contracts (this will guarantee the maximum immediate value in return)…

As final note: both players are unrestricted free agents at the termination of their current contracts… and BOTH have no-trade clauses in the final year of their current deals.  Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero should be at least considering trading one now… so that he doesn’t get caught with his pants down losing one for nothing a few years.

Capitals/Penguins Budding Rivalry

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2009 by FEGNS

This weekend, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins played each other for the fourth and final time this season.  These games carry with them the inherent sub-plot of Crosby & Malkin vs. Ovechkin & Semin, but it’s evolving into more than that lately… The fans are really getting into the mix.

As Puckdaddy posts in “Today in Sidney Crosby bashing: Caps fans offer crib notes,” Capitals fans are really developing a healthy hate for Crosby and the Penguins as a whole… and I’d be willing to bet that the same is happening in Pittsburgh in regards to Ovechkin and Semin.

Now, there are a lot of hockey fans the Baltimore area (which is roughly 20 miles from D.C. and about an hour from Philadelphia), so with a budding rivalry between the Capitals and the Penguins, and a continuing rivalry between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Penguins, it’s not reaching to say that Maryland hockey fans will be against central Pennsylvania hockey fans for years (or possibly generations) to come.

Rivalries are great for sports, and if these teams stay great, this one could evolve into something really special.

2009 NHL Trade Deadline – Conclusions

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2009 by FEGNS

With the 2009 NHL Trade Deadline still very close in the rear-view mirror… let’s take a second and make some closing thoughts regarding some of the significant trades that teams made leading up to the deadline.

I already discussed a couple of moves that had occurred early in the day March 4th, but with a flurry of deals made right before the deadline… we’ll revisit the issue a bit.

PHOENIX

Leaving: G Mikael Tellqvist (to Buffalo) – C Olli Jokinen, 2009 third-round pick (to Calgary) – LW Daniel Carcillo (to Philidelphia)D Derek Morris (to NY Rangers)

Incoming: 2010 fourth-round pick (from Buffalo) – C Matthew Lombardi (pictured right), RW Brandon Prust, 2009 or 2010 first-round pick (from Calgary)– LW Scottie Upshall, 2011 second-round pick (from Philadelphia) – D Dmitri Kalinin, LW Petr Prucha, LW Nigel Dawes (from NY Rangers)

Analysis: This is a great example of a team that is rebuilding and makes trades to develop their team for the future.  Phoenix did very well to get pretty good returns for veterans that they were running out of use for.  Jokinen is expendable because C Peter Mueller and C Kyle Turris are ready for more playing time.  Morris is an unrestricted free agent this summer and would likely be leaving Phoenix at that time anyways.  The acquisition of Prust from Calgary made Carcillo expendable.  Finally, G Josh Tordjman has been stellar in the AHL this year and is ready to become Ilya Bryzgalov’s full time backup next season… this made Mikael Tellqvist somewhat expendable (especially since he – like Morris – is an unrestricted free agent this summer).  So basically, Phoenix lost very few pieces of their ideal puzzle, but they gained a ton of really good picks and really fast forwards to make them one of the quicker, and potentially more dynamic teams in the league.

Rating:  A … The Coyotes did exactly what they needed/wanted to do in their position.

NY RANGERS

Leaving: D Dmitri Kalinin, LW Petr Prucha, LW Nigel Dawes (to Phoenix) – 2009 second-round pick, 2009 conditional draft pick (to Toronto)

Incoming: D Derek Morris (from Phoenix) – RW Nik Antropov (from Toronto).

Analysis: In addition to bringing back W Sean Avery via waivers, the Rangers have added two decent rental players (both Antropov and Morris are unrestricted free agents at the end of this season).  These moves will not put them over the top in my opinion though, as they didn’t get a physical defender or a crashing forward.  Antropov (pictured above) is a big guy, but he plays most effectively on the fringe by the boards.  The Rangers already have players who play by the boards.  They needed a net presence.  Morris is also a good defender, but he isn’t as physical as some of the other (probably cheaper) defensemen available, like Steve Montador for instance.  A physical presence on the back end is another thing the Rangers desperately needed.  Mark my words, it will quickly become very evident in the rough/physical Eastern Conference playoff race that the Rangers just aren’t physical enough. 

In the process, they’ve given up three decent prospects (Dawes will probably be missed the most because of his speed and work ethic) and two draft picks in this year’s draft.  The Rangers are somewhat moving backwards in my opinion.  It’s understandable that they felt they had to do something at the trade deadline (they are slipping in the standings as we speak), but sometimes making no moves is the best thing you can do for your team.

Rating:  C- … The Rangers didn’t really help themselves for this year’s playoffs, and they traded young depth, and draft picks that they’ll need to flesh out their team in the future (with all the massive contracts they have eating up cap space).

PITTSBURGH

Leaving: 2009 conditional fifth-round pick (to NY Islanders), W Miroslav Satan (to Waivers)

Incoming: RW Bill Guerin (from NY Islanders) (pictured right)

Analysis: A few days prior to the trade deadline, the Penguins brought in W Chris Kunitz and traded away D Ryan Whitney.  At the trade deadline, they pick up a gritty veteran forward in Guerin for fairly cheap.  Guerin is a UFA at the end of this season, so he is likely just a rental… but he’s a good acquisition to a forward core that heavily lacks a physical presence and veteran leadership.  Miroslav Satan made it through waivers and per NHL rules will not be able to participate in the NHL playoffs this year (players must be listed on the team’s roster as the trade deadline passes in order for them to participate in the playoffs).  Waiving Satan was a necessary move to free up cap space to bring in Billy Guerin.  Satan was an experiment that didn’t seem to work out as Pittsburgh would have hoped, and being an unrestricted free agent this summer.  Making it through waivers suggests that not many teams will be kicking down doors to acquire him this off-season, so Satan could very well head back to play in Europe.

Rating: B+ … Gaining grit and leadership up front is crucial to this still-young team’s chances of making it past the first round of the playoffs (or making it into the playoffs to start with).  I still don’t agree with trading away Ryan Whitney, but at least they didn’t repeat last year’s mistake of paying to much for a rental player.  A conditional fifth-round pick is a very reasonable price for a forward that still has enough skill to play in the top six of the majority of NHL teams.

EDMONTON/LOS ANGELES/CAROLINA

Three-Way Deal: Los Angeles trades W/C Patrick O’Sullivan, 2009 second-round pick to Carolina for W Justin Williams.  Carolina then trades W/C Patrick O’Sullivan, a different 2009 second-round pick, and a 2009 fifth-round pick to Edmonton for W Erik Cole (pictured left).

Analysis: In addition to acquiring Ales Kotalik from Buffalo in another trade, Edmonton did well to add young players oozing with potential, by only giving up a wing that didn’t work out like they thought he would (Cole).  Carolina gets their power forward back that they realize now (hindsight is 20-20) was an integral part of their past successes.  LA sheds some youth and adds a great (albeit injury prone) winger that’s pretty much done progressing and ready to help their team right away (when healthy). 

Rating(s): Edmonton… C+ … This team seems to be in a perpetual rebuild… the deal isn’t bad (especially considering that Cole was fairly expensive and didn’t ever really fit in with the Oil).  Edmonton’s forward core is possibly the youngest in the league.  Adding O’Sullivan is a good move for their future, but how much longer are they going to “develop players?”  At some point, the young players they continue to bring in (via trade and via draft) have to start winning games consistently.

Los Angeles… B+ … LA gets a really good player that fans and teammates will love.  They give up O’Sullivan who (while young and very good skill-wise) seemed to develop some attitude problems recently.  O’Sullivan was costing the Kings nearly as much as Williams will.  LA also has a great core of young players, but they needed to bring in an older forward to help guide the younger players.  Good move by the Kings.  Especially if Williams can stay healthy.

Carolina… B … They get their guy back.  They do in turn lose another forward that was integral to their Stanley Cup run.  It remains to be seen if Carolina is better with Cole and without Williams than they were with Williams and without Cole.  Cole nearly had a career ending neck/back injury a couple years back, so he is by no means a sure thing when it comes to injuries… but the fact remains that Williams hasn’t played much the past couple of seasons, so any player that’s on the ice is an upgrade from that situation I suppose.

Penguins Trade Whitney to Ducks for Kunitz

Posted in Hockey with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by FEGNS

Yesterday (Februaray 26th, 2009) the Pittsburgh Penguins traded 26 year old defender Ryan Whitney to the Anaheim Ducks for 29 year old wing Chris Kunitz and 20 year old forward prospect Eric Tangradi.

 The Penguins have been looking for a star wing to put on a line with Sidney Crosby for quite some time now, and now that they have Kunitz… they’ll find themselves still looking for a star wing to put on a line with Sidney Crosby.

The bottom line is that this trade makes little sense from the point of view of the Penguins.  They trade arguably one of the best young defenders in the game with a very reasonable cap hit of $4 million for 4 more years, for an overpriced, underachieving winger who makes approximately the same amount of money as Whitney over the course of the next 3 years.

Furthermore, consider that Penguins star defender, Sergei Gonchar only has one more year left on his current contract…  Which defenders will the Penguins lean on for offensive production if Gonchar decides to leave in a year now that they’ve traded Whitney?  Kristopher LetangAlex Goligoski?  While very promising, both are still young and cannot be relied upon consistantly without some veteran guidance. 

The penguins are on a slippery slope following this trade.  They are (for all intents and purposes) one defender away from becoming the same debacle that is the Ottawa Senators this season.  No team can be successful without quality puck moving defensemen on their team… regardless of how good their forwards may be.

The one bit of good news is that they managed to snag a pretty decent forward prospect from the Ducks in Tangradi.  Tangradi is currently second in OHL scoring and could be a very good winger in the NHL right about the time Kunitz’s current contract is expiring in 3 years.  The Pittsburgh farm system is pretty bare, so the addition of Tangradi definitely helps them in the longer term.  Tangradi is the “silver lining” of this trade for the Penguins.  Hopefully he progresses into the NHL as successfully as his talent and size suggest he will.

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As for Anaheim… What can I say?  This is just a brilliant move by new GM Bob Murray.  He really hit his this one out of the park…  Anaheim management knew better than anyone what Chris Kunitz is and what Chris Kunitz isn’t.  Kunitz isn’t a franchise piece or a “game breaker.”  He is a serviceable wing of the same mold as 50-100 other guys in the league.  Truth be told, the Ducks probably overpaid a little bit when they resigned him, but following this trade… that is a mistake they no longer have to live with.

Their defensive core is looking like it could be very depleted as soon as this summer, with Scott Niedermayer and Francois Beauchemin both slated to become unrestricted free agents.  Niedermayer may just retire, but should Anaheim lose one or both of these guys, the addition of Whitney grants them plenty of defensive depth for years to come.

In addition to proactively addressing a possible off-season dilemma on the back end, Anaheim has also opened up more room in the depth chart for breakout young star, Bobby Ryan to slip into.  Ryan will now see increased responsibilities and ice time that he has proven to be ready for.

All around great move by the Anaheim Ducks in my opinion.  The Pittsburgh Penguins on the other hand… probably should have been patient and fielded a few more offers.