Hockey season's getting under way, and to mark opening day, you'll want to talk with Puck Prospectus' Tom Awad about the ice action in the offing.
Tom Awad: Hi everybody,
Let's get going!
Gelinut (Quebec.): Nobody probably noticed, but sadly, Marty Gelinas hung 'em up this offseason.
What sort of career did he have overall with your fancy stats-measuring devices? I'll always remember him fondly.
Tom Awad: Hi Gelinut,
I think Gelinas had a very good but not "great" career. He's ranked between #200 and #300 in both regular-season and career, GVT, which makes him a very good but not elite player. He'll probably be remembered as clutch since he got to the Stanley Cup Finals with 4 different teams, though I'm not sure how much of that was him and how much was luck.
For reference, career GVT of 134, career playoff GVT of 13.
SYzerman98 (Atlanta): Can we get a VUKOTA projection for Afinogenov? Will individual player cards be available as on the baseball side?
Tom Awad: Hi Matt,
Sure, but you won't like it. 50 GP, 8 G, 15 A, 23 Pts. It's sad, really, two years ago Afinogenov
looked like he was ready to dominate the league. It all fell apart so fast. Maybe he can put it back together, but VUKOTA doesn't think so. As for the player cards, talk to the admin guys, we're still working on the stats database.
paulbellows (Calgary): Did you think there was any chance the Flames would keep Theo Fleury?
Tom Awad: Hi Paul,
Not likely. The number of successful 41-year-olds in the NHL is low as it is, and none of them left the game and attempted to return a few years later (see Claude Lemieux as the best example of what a Fleury return could have looked like). The best part of this is that it'll make all those of us who liked Theo remember him as a guy who tried to the very end.
mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): Hi Tom, Big Caps fan here. I'm wondering about Mike Green, or more specifically, worrying about him. He was terrific in the regular season (obviously), but horrific in the post season. It got to the point where I was wishing the Caps wouldn't dress him because he was so bad. Is there reason for optimism coming into this year? If the Caps are going to go deep into the playoffs, they're going to need him at his best. Thanks for your time!
Tom Awad: Mike Green has monster talent. Historically, players are playoff goats until they aren't, so Green will be labeled as soft until he helps the Capitals get to at least the conference finals, which should happen sometime in the next 2 years. I'm not worried about him, and you shouldn't be either.
twinkies25 (MN): Did you like the Wild's aquisitions of Petr Sykora, and Martin Havlet, and will they help the Wild cope with the loss of Marion Gaborik, and get further in the playoffs than the first round?
Tom Awad: Hi Twinkies,
I like Sykora more than most NHL teams do, apparently. This is a guy who scored 63 points exactly ONE year ago, and it's not like he was a flash in the pan. That being said, with 5 strong teams in the west the Wild are a bubble team at best. A first-round upset is never impossible, but I wouldn't bet my paycheck on it.
Mountainhawk (Salem, MA): So, exactly when are the Flyers going to let us all in on the joke that is their goaltending this season? As a fan, it sure is frustrating to be heading into the season with a very strong forward and defensive core, but with AHL or worse quality in the net.
Tom Awad: I feel your pain, especially since I have to keep justifying why VUKOTA didn't pick the Flyers higher and I have to explain: "Well, Biron + Niittymaki >> Emery + Boucher". Maybe they know something we don't? I guess they figured they needed to go cheap in nets after signing Pronger. It's not like Emery has no successful history; he was very good for Ottawa until he became an uppity child in 2008.
David (Winston Salem): So, what do you think about that Ward extension? Will Cam be worth the money for Carolina?
Tom Awad: I don't like it. There are two many teams out there with mediocre goaltenders who were signed to long-term contracts and are now paying for it (Turco, Kipprusoff). Ward is better and younger, but it's not like he's Henrik Lundqvist or anything. He was a mediocre regular-season goaltender for 3 of the last 4 years (and awesome last year), and he was excellent in the 2006 playoffs. Ask again in 3-4 years and they may be regretting it.
tbrown05 (vermont): Hi Tom, can you offer any encouragement for a NY Rangers fan this year? Do they have any hope? Thanks.
Tom Awad: Hope, yes. If Gaborik plays 70 games, this is a playoff team. They have one of the best stoppers in the game, and a solid blue line with players like Marc Staal who is really underappreciated. Let's just say I didn't expect them in the playoffs last year and they surprised me, so who knows?
strupp (Madison): I'm right to be worried about the Hawks netminders this year, right? That being said, is Huet a guy who can take them all the way, or, better yet, is/will there be a guy available via trade later this year who will push this team over the edge? It's been a long time since the Cup was in Chicago for keeps.
Tom Awad: Huet has been a very good goaltender in the NHL the last 4 seasons, and he's played an average of over 40 games per year. It's not like he's been a playoff choker either: he's lost one playoff series on a mediocre Canadiens team, and lost one playing decently for Washington. I don't think there'll be any goaltenders available at the trade deadline better than Huet.
Rob (Alaska): Hey, Tom. Love the team by team previews, and the VUKOTA projections. I have to ask: how do you feel about the system picking the Blackhawks?
Tom Awad: Pretty good. The Blackhawks were very good last year, they have insane depth, and a healthy Hossa probably edges a healthy Havlat. That being said, what VUKOTA really taught me is that picking this is a fool's errand: the Blakchawks' Cup chance is 12.5%, which sounds about right.
Rob (Alaska): A thanks to Timo for the fantasy piece. Do you have any thoughts for those of us pool players dealing with traditional scoring categories? Do you play?
Tom Awad: I do, and I was picked first in my office pool and picked Ovechkin, so that's my advice: get the first choice, and pick Ovechkin :)
Shant3 (NYC): Tom, I know it's premature, but what should the Bruins be targeting at the trade deadline in order to make a run at the Cup. I think the pieces are just about there, but it certainly wouldn't hurt to add a dynamic scorer.
Tom Awad: I'd have to think about whose contract is up (and which teams will be on the outside looking in). I definitely think they could be one dynamic scorer from being a true contender, much as they were last year and got unlucky against Carolina.
mattymatty2000 (Phillly, PA): I noticed the top two ranked teams in your VUKOTA rankings, the Blackhawks and Caps, both have unsettled goalie situations. Doesn't that complicate things a bit as goalie is the single most important position on the ice?
Tom Awad: Yes, but as we also know supposedly stable goaltender situations get unsettled easily. The Devils lost Brodeur for 4 months and got lucky that Clemmensen stood on his head. The Ducks didin't have a settled situation, but it sure didn't hurt them! The Blue Jackets had a clear #1 at the beginning of the season and another one at the end. And so on. Other than Brodeur, Luongo, Lundqvist, and to a lesser degree Vokoun and Thomas, I don't think any goaltender in the NHL is 100% safe, even barring injury.
Ron (Vancouver): So who's the first coach to get the axe this season?
Tom Awad: No idea. All the obvious candidates either changed their coach recently or have no real expectations for their team, so it'll be whatever elite team stumbles out of the gate. Todd McLellan, if the Sharks defy expectation and reason by starting 6-14-1?
Matt (Whippleville, NY): Where do you see the Habs finishing in the Eastern Conference?
Tom Awad: VUKTOA said 5th, but I'll admit I have trouble believing it. I'd like to say 7th, but the truth is Montreal is more of a crapshoot than any other team because they've got so much new personnel. On paper they're 7th, but it'll depend on chemisty (usually overblown, but not when the team is so new) and goaltending.
mattymatty2000 (Phillly, PA): What do you think the ultimate resolution of the Coyotes will be? Will they be allowed to return to Canada?
Tom Awad: No, I don't think they will. The NHL seems dead-set on keeping them in Phoenix, and if they move anywhere it won't be Hamilton because of territorial issues. So the obvious targets are Winnipeg and Quebec, and I don't see a team moving there in the next 2 years.
Ken (Washington, D.C.): Tom, let me tell you, nobody here in D.C. cares at all about Alex Ovechkin. All anybody in this town thinks about are the stupid Redskins!
Do you think if the Caps were to win the Cup this year, fans would start caring and recognizing Ovechkin for his awesomeness?
Tom Awad: Sad, sad. I do think so: other cities, like Los Angeles, Colorado or Dallas, did embrace their NHL teams after they started showing success. I do think that having the Capitals in the White House to celebrate the Cup would enhance their prestige immensely. It would be nice: Washington is a good East Coast market that would be good for the league.
Alex Ovechkin (Boston): I'm going to score 65+ goals this season, true or false?
Tom Awad: Probably not, but I certainly woulnd't put it past you. I will tell you this: you are likely to score 5 more goals than the next leading guy. You may also win this goal-scoring crown another 5 times in your career, which would probably put you on top of the league for that category all-time.
Tom Awad: Well that looks like all the questions we had. Thanks everybody, and we'll do this again soon!