Archive for the ‘Ilya Kovlachuk’ Category

The Penguins get the OTHER other ridiculously talented Russian (pick 13)

July 25, 2009

13. Ilya Kovalchuk goes to Pensburgh/the Pittsburgh Penguins

Cap Hit: $6,389,300

Laura from Wazzupwitchu on the Atlanta Thrashers’ Draft

June 16, 2009

Laura’s one of the true friends of the blog (umm … although we haven’t met each other … *cough*). She helped out with a couple of the playoff mini-blogs and quite a few features, mostly from the St. Louis Blues perspective.

Laura might be back for the Blues as well, but in the mean time, we asked her to pinch hit for the Atlanta Thrashers (another team she covers on her blog). We’d say that she ended up hitting for the cycle, but we’re too sophisticated for such a lousy pun. Of course.

ANYWAY, Wazzupwitchu is a great source for Blues, Thrashers and NHL related material so make sure to bookmark it and check it every day. Thanks, Laura!

1. Who would you guess will end up being the No. 4 pick for the Thrashers? What are the chances that the Thrashers will keep the pick?

I’m going to be completely original and go with Evander Kane. Wait… what? Everyone has us picking him? Hm. Poo. Honestly, he’s the best choice at what will be that position. He’s either a center or a winger depending on the situation, and the Thrashers could benefit from either a center to go with Kovalchuk (sorry, The Todd) or some secondary scoring on the 2nd line. Kane could work either place.

Current estimates are putting him between one and 3 years off as far as being in the big leagues, which of course is seen by some as a big deal for the Thrash, but there is something called free-agency. And there is someone else called Angelo Esposito who will be trying to make the team *really* hard at prospect camp. He has a label to shed of being a bust.

The Thrashers are about 110% likely to keep that pick. I don’t know of anyone beneath him that we would go for who would be a quick fix for the team. We have depth. We need something a little sooner than 5 years down the line.

2. Is there a chance that Atlanta might try to draft an offensive talent to appease Ilya Kovalchuk enough to stay in Thrasher-land? Could their pick have any effect on Kovalchuk’s decision to stay in (or leave) Atlanta?

Oh, absolutely. Last season we REALLY needed defense, and we got that plus more in Zach Bogosian. Waddell knows what he needs to do. He’s not horribly challenged. He’s not Simple Jack. He’ll go for the strongest offensive power he can not only to help Kovy and make him want to re-sign more, but also for the team. A lot of Kovy’s decision has to do with the progress that the team makes during the season, and a good offensive talent to go along with him would help.

3. Describe some of your favorite Thrashers draft memories. Is there a pick that stands out as the best one they’ve made? What, if any, steals come to mind?

STEFAN. There.

No, wait… oh. Good picks, not picks out of necessity… right. Of course, you have to love the Red Wings like steal that DW made in Tobias Enstrom. 239th overall, and he’s our top-paring franchise defenseman. Fantastic puck handler, good passing sense, booming shot from the point… he’s been reserved playing with Nic Havelid, who he learned a lot of defensive responsibility from. Since the trade of Havelid to Jersey for Anssi Salmela, Enstrom has opened up tremendously. Part of this is being paired with fellow offensive threat Bogosian. The first game together they were unsure… and then never looked back. Our top defensive pairing of Bogisian-Enstrom is a one-two punch of, dare I say it, Don Waddell genius. I guess DW learned something from the Red Wings after all.

Oops … wrong Tobias.

Bryan Little as well was also a good snag. Yeah, he wasn’t buried down in the draft (we took him 12th), but did ANYONE expect him to have the season that he had last year? Absolutely unreal. Also a random pick because people give him grief about being a first rounder is Jim Slater. Atlanta’s Captain Planet emissary is a very solid 4th line center who is focused, gritty, thinks he can fight, and can occasionally chip in a nasty goal. Everyone sees the Crosby goal that he scored from his butt against us in Philips. Slater scored one the exact same way but more impressively later on that same game. YouTube search “Jimmy scores from his butt.” I dare you.

Spencer Machacek was also a good pick, and I’ll never complain about Kulda.

4. On the other end of the fence, describe some of the lowest moments for the Thrashers. Which decisions stick out as some of their worst in the draft? Are there any bad choices (and missed opportunities) that hurt especially bad?

I would consider selling the farm in draft picks to the Blues for Walt a bad move, but I’m a Blues fan and ergo I’m cool with it. Valabik was probably drafted too high, but he’s a project and he has a valid role on this team that he just needs to grow into. Bourret was waaaaay too high. Oshie would have been a better pick (but again, I’m cool with the Thrashers not picking him for an obvious reason), as would have been Tukka Rask but apparently The Don wanted Pavelec which is about 6 of one, half of another.

Honestly, and I’m going to get flamed by some, but I think that we picked our Fragile Finn Kari Lehtonen a little too high. I love him. I do. He’s a great goaltender, or he will be. But he is, in retrospect, too inconsistent and too unable to play a whole season. If you look at the 2002 draft, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet of talent. Bouwmeester. Semin. Yes, we needed a goalie. But look at who was drafted by Carolina? Mr. Conn Smythe himself, Cam Ward. CAM WARD.

I do thank God every day that DW didn’t draft Hannu “The Human Sieve!” Toivonnen, so yes, Kari’s a better choice. My opinion is totally based on hindsight, and that’s 20/20 (as opposed to my eyesight, which is so bad I can light things on fire with my glasses and the sun). Would I rather have Ward over Kari? Absolutely. Am I glad that we at least had a strong goalie prospect who turned into the occasionally brilliant goalie we have now? Yes.

Believe it or not, I don’t consider Stefan a bad pick. Yeah, he was a bust, but we were the expansion franchise, and we needed someone who could play NOW. He was about the only choice.

Soapbox Time Feel free to add whatever else you’d like about the Thrashers and the NHL draft. How do you feel about the future of the franchise?

The future of the franchise, basically based upon the turnaround at the end of last season, is bright. We’re one of the teams pushing an offensively minded youth movement. John Anderson is a proven winner, and so many of our young guys played for him on the Wolves and know the flow. The youth is working in places like Chicago and St. Louis, and is coming along pretty well with the Kings. I have no doubt in my mind, that with young guys like Bogosian, Little, Enstrom, Salmela, Armstrong, and the like, that we won’t be a contender here shortly. Maybe not next season, but there is no way that you can look at the team on paper and not be impressed. Let’s see what Free Agency (or as I call it Hockey Hanukkah to the trade deadline’s Christmas) has to bring.

Tavares watch: Islanders could rebuild in a hurry (1 of 2)

January 8, 2009
Not very long ago, I uttered something like this to a buddy of mine: “Man, I hope Tavares doesn’t end up in a hellhole like Long Island.”

However, while researching my Mike Milbury = Matt Millen post, it was hard to ignore Garth Snow’s NHL draft wizardy. Doing the math is a little tricky so here’s a visual aid from Isles info.com’s Islanders’ GM history:

06/20/08: NYI trade 2008 Entry Draft first round pick(fifth overall – D Luke Schenn) to TOR for first round pick in 2008 (seventh overall), TOR’s 3rd round pick in 2008 (68th overall) and TOR’s 2nd round pick in 2009.

06/20/08: NYI trade TOR’s 1st round pick in the 2008 Entry Draft (seventh overall – C Colin Wilson, previously acquired) to NSH for FLA’s 1st round pick in 2008 (ninth overall – C Josh Bailey, previously acquired) and FLA’s 2nd round pick in 2008 (40th overall – D Aaron Ness, previously acquired).

06/21/08: NYI acquire CHI’s third round pick (72nd overall – D Jyri Niemi)and fourth round pick (102nd overall – W David Ullstrom) in 2008 for TOR’s
third round pick in 2008 (68th overall – D Shawn Lalonde, previously acquired).

Impressive. Snow basically moved the Islanders first round pick for Florida’s first and second round picks, Chicago’s third and fourth round picks in 2008 plus Toronto’s 2009 2nd-rounder. As good as Luke Schenn and Colin Wilson could end up, that’s a hell of a leap in the rebuilding process.

Tavares + big name free agent could really accelerate the Islanders rebuilding process (and Tavares + huge cap space could help the Islanders land that big free agent).

So that alone gives the Islanders a light at the end of the tunnel, but now let’s get hypothetical:

Semi-plausible moves that could reignite the Islanders

Step 1: Winning the Tavares lottery

Obviously this is the portion that’s dedicated exclusively to random chance. The Isles are the worst team in the NHL right now and will likely finish with the most lottery balls at the end of the season, but that in no way guarantees that they’ll get the #1 pick.

Getting the second pick wouldn’t be horrible since the only spot locked up long term is #1 goalie thanks to Rick Dipietro‘s life sentence long-term deal. But as tall and talented as that Swede might be, the Islanders need a shot in the arm only Tavares can provide. Badly.

What better way to help the Islanders sell the idea of a new arena than to add the most hyped Canadian since Sidney Crosby?

(Quick aside for those hockey’s futures nuts out there: what is a reasonable estimate for a healthy first season for Tavares? Could his production be Crosby-like, Patrick Kane-like or more like Joe Thornton‘s rough rookie year?)

Step 2: Trade for Kovalchuk or throw the bank at Marian Hossa

Personally, I think Kovalchuk would be a better bet because his talents are “sexier.” Hossa’s a fantastic player, but you get the feeling that Kovalchuk would dazzle New Yorkers deeply. A rare victory for sizzle over steak.

If Atlanta decides to deal Kovalchuk, the Islanders have picks and prospects to spare

With Doug Weight ($4.5 mil), Bill Guerin ($4.3 mil), Mike Comrie ($4 mil) and Mike Sillinger ($2.2 mil) coming off the books this summer, the Islanders could transform their roster from washed-up, overpaid veterans to whatever image the “new” Islanders would seek.

($17 million from four players for non-math majors)

If NHLSCAP figures are correct, their overall cap would be right under $31 million with 8 forwards, 7 defensemen and 1 goaltender under contract (not counting minor leaguers … although you can argue many of their starters belong in the AHL).

In that dream scenario, Tavares would probably have a Stamkos-like cap hit. Let’s say $4 million to be safe. Let’s also assume that the cap goes down to , say, $55 million when factoring in the deadbeat economy.

The Islanders could throw a “horse head in the bed” offer at Marian Hossa or easily absorb the last year of Kovalchuk’s contract. Hell, if you really want to dream big imagine the Islanders somehow landing Kovalchuk – Hossa – Tavares or Kovalchuk – Gaborik – Tavares or something of that nature. Crazier things have happened.

[Note: decided to break this gigantic post up into two parts.]

Hypothetical hope for the Islanders part II

January 8, 2009
The Sedins bringing their cycling circus act to Coney Island? Could be worse …

Even if the Islanders lose the Tavares lottery, their $20 million-plus cap space and their rapidly improving stable of prospects puts them in a great position to rebuild. How about we rank some of the guys who would best fit the Islanders?

1. Kovalchuk – This is only based on heavy trade rumors. Honestly, the Thrashers shouldn’t trade him (the reason, beyond his bodacious skills, will be revealed sooen enough).

2. Hossa – The common thread of wisdom for Hossa is that he’s the hockey version of a smoking hot bridesmaid. Even if he’s not the type of player who can carry a team on his back, Hossa is the most talented free agent and may go into Show Me the Money mode after taking a one-year Cup run contract.

3/4. The Sedin twins – Why break up the Sedin twins when they are so effective together? The Islanders might be a really nice destination for the efficient dopplegangers. Even if they sign matching $6 million contracts the Islanders could still improve the team around them.

5. Jay Bouwmeester – He’s not flashy (except in video games) but he’s the kind of player who can be a cornerstone. With the big minutes he plays and well rounded game he brings the table, he could be a nice fit for the Islanders.

But they’d probably need to add an offensive stud because Bouwmeester isn’t really a ticket seller.

6. Johan Franzen – The Mule is here and Henrik Zetterberg is not for a simple reason. It’s almost unthinkable that Detroit would allow Zetterberg to walk. Not when they very well might lose Hossa. Not when Franzen, despite his undeniable goal scoring skills, cannot stay on the ice.

Franzen could be a good fit in Long Island if he could stay relatively healthy. Hell, a Franzen + Sedins line would be a hell of a consolation prize if bigger things fall through.

Keep dreaming.

7. Marian Gaborik – Honestly, it feels like the team who signs Gaborik is like a newlywed couple who unwittingly adopts that creepy little girl from “The Ring.” But let’s face it, the Islanders are one of those teams that might need to pay up big just for the PR boost.

Even though it’s a thrill to watch Gabby on a breakaway, his signing would be a Shakespearian tragedy for a team that’s had plenty of helpings of bad luck.

8. Alex Kovalev – There’s a buyer beware to Kovalev. Either his drive does not match his blinding talent or his talent is better suited for stunning Youtube videos. Whatever way you slice it, Kovalev’s not the guy you want with that Ayn Rand-ian weight of the world on his shoulders.

Still, if the Islanders try a quantity over quality approach Kovalev could be an asset.

9. Brian Gionta – It’s hard to say if a guy like Gionta would flounder outside of NJ or if he would flourish without the spoused shackles of the NJ system. Judging from the lackluster post-NJ careers of guys like Scott Gomez, expectations should be “less than or equal to.” Then again, adding Gionta certainly would add a little spice to the Devils – Islanders rivalry (whatever you may think of that rivalry).

10. Erik Cole – Call me an Erik Cole apologist, but I’ve been a fan since the Hurricanes Cup year. Then again, he’s clearly never been the same after that dirty Brooks Orpik hit that almost ended his career. Would he take a pay cut or just stay at $4 million? At a lower price Cole could be quite the pickup but at $4 million you better take him to a damn thorough doctor.

***

Tavares-less suggestion: Go hard for Hossa or Kovalchuk or even Zetterberg. If that doesn’t work, settle for the Sedins and a low risk, high reward guy like un-listed, under the radar Michael Cammalleri.

Hockey Orphan: Atlanta Thrashers

January 5, 2009
It’s been a couple months since Earl Sleek and I tackled the Anaheim Ducks in Hockey Orphan, but now that there’s more time to kick around it seems logical to get back in the saddle. For the many who are new to this concept, here’s the basic idea:

Imagine a day when all your hockey memories are zapped from your mind. Feel free to create the scenario: maybe Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith used a device to erase your thoughts. Perhaps you fell out of the top of a bunkbed and are suffering from amnesia (but you inherit sweet ass psychic powers).

Whatever the case, the conceit of hockey orphan is simple: using an equation that combines the objective with the wildly subjective, which teams would be the most and least appealing for a budding hockey fan? And so it begins (again).

———–

Not pictured: Kovie celebrating his Atlanta exodus

Atlanta Thrashers (take: James O’Brien)

During the first attempt at Hockey Orphan in my first attempt at a personal hockey blog, the Thrashers earned a “C” grade largely based on the merits of Ilya Kovalchuk. Of course, the team did have a little more reason for postivity coming off their first ever (and epically ill-fated) playoff berth.

Things have only gone downhill since then. Atlanta traded Marian Hossa for a 1st round pick turned project (Angelo Esposito) and two borderliners (most notably Colby “Beef” Armstrong). Sadly, they also traded promising young D-man Braydon Coburn to the evil Flyers for Alexei “Careers Gone to” Zhitnik.

Not surprisingly, the Thrashers devolved from playoff patsy to cellar dweller. Reviews of their third jersey range from “not terrible” to, well, terrible. Honestly, there’s not much to be positive about since the franchise will almost certainly lose it’s last superstar in Kovalchuk.

Just an awful, awful team. I’d be curious to see if a Thrashers blogger can bring some sunshine to the equation because it’s hard to find any.

Grade: D with Kovalchuk, F once he inevitably gets traded/leaves via free agency.

Ilya Kovalchuk would look great in a different uniform … the news cycle!

November 14, 2008
Barry Trotz graciously accepts his Goofiest Looking Coach Award
  • Puck Daddy spotlights yet another great Russian interview, this time with mercurial sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. When Alex Ovechkin burst onto the scene in his rookie year, he was first compared to Kovalchuk and then to Pavel Bure once it was obvious who was the bigger impact player.

While he burnt me the year he was my first round selection in fantasy hockey, he still grabs my attention like few others. Really, with Ovechkin’s bumper car checking mentality, Kovalchuk might be a better analog to Bure. He certainly relates to Bure by playing in a struggling Southern US market without much help from his mediocre teammates.

His response of choice to the Thrashers-related probes was to say “wait until 2010,” the year he will become an unrestricted free agent. It’s obvious why there are trade rumors but the Thrashers would be insane not to throw all their resources at Kovalchuk. Honestly, he’s the only reason the franchise deserves to exist.

If he was in a better market or on a decent team, he’d be just a rung or two lower than Crosby-Ovechkin. It’s a real sin that he’s never been on a hockey video game cover as he ranks as one of the most unstoppable digi forces the polygonal world’s ever seen.

He brings up the fact that Barry Trotz works miracles with a Nashville Predators club that always seems to persevere through any number of calamities. It’s obvious why people do not want to bring this up very often: Nashville is a place meant for country music and inbreeding in the eyes of many. But Trotz is much like the NFL’s longest reigning coach Jeff Fisher, and not just because they’re both coaching teams in Tennessee.

They both enjoy and earn startling longevity in a sports world where “What have you done for me lately?” is the ultimate management question. (Eddie Murphy must be rolling in his grave.*) Also, Trotz wins the Goofy Looking Coaches Cup in a heated 7-game series with Jacques Lemaire and his comb-over.

* He’s not dead you say? Well, I say he died after Beverly Hills Cop and was replaced by an unfunny money grubbing robot. We all miss money grubbing but genius Eddie Murphy with his politically incorrect stand up and his fashionably incorrect loud leather suits.

  • Fans wrote in a request for the Penguins to play WHAM! for Alex Goligoski goals (man, how did people not know that George Michael was gay???). While that song will probably gain more support, I’d like to recommend a dark horse candidate in The Go! Team:

Miami Five-O for the win.

  • Am I the only one who gets annoyed that NHL 09 allows people to interfere so much? Every time there’s a loose puck, some online douche hits me illegally while trying to retrieve it. And a little part of me dies.

Cleavage: nature’s billboard

  • A lot of people are annoyed that Habs fans keep stuffing the ballot box. My main reaction is a whole lotta “Meh.” Although I agree that Habs fans should focus their efforts on continued bra stuffing instead.

  • During the switch from Time Warner Satan Cable to Hopefully better Verizon FIOS, I’ve been without Center Ice for at least three weeks. Every steak tastes less juicy. Every morning less crisp. Every wound less gaping.

Life will go on but the question is: should it?