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Chat: Timo Seppa (Hockey)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday January 15, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Timo Seppa (Hockey).

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There's ice indoors as well as out this time of year, so drop by for some puck chatter with PuckProspectus.com's Timo Seppa.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hello, folks! Time to get started on chatting about all things hockey: NHL playoff races, Olympic teams, fantasy hockey, potential trades. I'm more than a bit worried about Team Finland's chances now, depending on how Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu bounce back from injury.

Rob (Houston, baby!): So what's *your* explanation for the Penguins' craptastic power play? What can they do about it?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): In a Prospectus Roundtable last month, I named St. Dan as the worst coach in the NHL. The Penguins PP has dropped off in his time with the Pens; they used to be great. In general, I hate Bylsma’s usage of his forwards. I think you can guess what I think step one is – but it’ll never happen.

Yngvai (Da Bronx): Vinny Prospal's back with the Rangers.... and they seem to have taken a step backwards in offensive production. Two shutouts in a row! Unless you want to say that their problem is simply goaltenders named Brodeur, in your opinion what is wrong with the Rangers offense?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Gaborik’s MVP is slipping away isn’t it? He’s really missed Prospal, so I expect the Rangers to benefit not only from the return of one of their few legit top six forwards, but from the boost he should give to Gaborik’s production. And if this really is Yngwie Malmsteen (check your spelling, chatter), I ran into you in the lobby of a hotel in Birmingham, England in 1990.

mattymatty2000 (Philly): Is there a version of Pythagorean record for hockey teams? If so, what does it say about the Eastern Conference? Thanks for the chat.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): This will vary for different leagues with different scoring levels, but the common thought is that using the same formula as baseball—a power of two—should give you good results for hockey as well. Without running the numbers, you can eyeball the teams – you’d expect teams with high/positive Goal Difference to improve and teams with low/negative GD to fall off – though teams that are good in the shootout will exceed points expectations. In the East, you’d look for Ottawa to fall out of the playoff race, with the Flyers solidly in; Vancouver should improve to be one of the top seeds in the West if the marathon road trip doesn't kill them.

Russell (Haddam, CT): Red Wings fan here: Jimmy Howard cannot possibly be this good, or anywhere near this good, can he? Whenever I see a Red Wings game/highlights (admittedly not as often as I'd like) I get the feeling he's getting lucky, but maybe the last few years of Osgood have left me with no goalie trust.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Hello, Connecticut! Hockey’s Future considered Howard’s upside to be that of a mid-level number one goaltender, so it’s certainly possible that he becomes a credible starter. Whether he can keep it up or not in the long term, the best thing that can happen to the Red Wings is for Howard to play well enough for them to finally cut ties with Osgood.

paulbellows (Calgary): Will Garon steal the job in Columbus? Any good darkhorse goalkeepers for the 2nd half?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): As in “stealing candy from a baby”? If it weren’t for Toronto's Vesa Toskala, last year’s ROY Steve Mason (-12.2 GVT) would be the worst player in the NHL. I’ve seen us write that the Columbus defense made Mason look good last season, but I don't buy that. Here's what I think happened: a 20 year old faced nearly 1700 shots in a rookie year, and he missed time with mono as well. Mason had a league-leading 10 shutouts – those weren’t by accident. Mason was severely overused last season and the Blue Jackets are paying for it now.

Boston’s Tuukka Rask and Chicago’s Antti Niemi are arguably playing better than starters Tim Thomas and Cristobal Huet. If either of them wins the lion’s share of starts, they’ll be among the most valuable netminders in the stretch run.

Frustrated (Dallas): Is it possible for Dallas goaltending to get any worse? Am I just frustrated or is Turco really as bad as I think? What teams do you think would take a chance on him if he was on the trade market?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Dallas should have traded Marty off before he completely collapsed last season - but you knew that was never going to happen. Anyway, it’s a clean slate after this season with both Turco and Auld on their way out, if sanity reigns. Without any premium goaltending prospects in their system, the Stars will hopefully a) lock up Jonas Hiller or Pekka Rinne long term or b) sign a quality stopgap like Dan Ellis for a short term deal.

Tähdet Hallitsevat (Finland): Does Finland have a chance this year?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): It pains me how close Suomi got last time around, losing to archrival Sweden in the finals…on a third period mistake after a great run through the tourney. This was with me wearing my Selanne-Team Finland jersey around the house for every game (Explain that to your 2 year old). Team Sweden is the other top team in Group C, so their Feb. 21 preliminary round matchup should decide which team gets a bye into the quarterfinals.

I have a hard time believing that Suomi can make it back to the finals again, but the Finns often play as greater than the sum of their parts. They’ve certainly got to play shut down defense, as most of their offensive star power is long-in-the-tooth, injured, and on the Ducks’ roster. Mikko Koivu is Finland’s best player in his prime, so he’s got to beat the opposition’s first lines at even strength to give Suomi a shot.

Tähdet Hallitsevat (Finland): Is Jere hall of fame worthy? And, who do you see being the next great Finnish forward?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Jere Lehtinen was a prime mover on the great Stars’ teams of the late 90’s and early 00’s, the quintessential defensive forward. And sure enough, he won the Selke three times – only Bob Gainey won more times (4). At last season’s end, Lehtinen was fifth amongst Finnish players with 114.7 career GVT, behind Selanne, Kurri, Numminen and Lumme – and you certainly don’t consider the latter two as Hall of Famers. Saku Koivu should pass Lehtinen in career GVT this season and Kimmo Timonen and Miikka Kiprusoff have a chance to do so before all is said and done. Lehtinen falls a bit short of HOF credentials, although he’ll be able to celebrate the certain induction of linemate Mike Modano (286.8 GVT) in the near future. Linemate Brett Hull is already in the Hall.

18 year old Toni Rajala was selected by Edmonton in the 4th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. His diminutive size (5’9”, 165 pounds soaking wet) may have been a major reason for his late selection, but he’s a player who has dominated on the junior level with dynamic offensive skills and a great mind for the game. No one expects him to be the next Teemu Selanne, but he could be the next Saku Koivu.

Phil (Arlington, VA): Caps fan here. What do you think will be the outcome of Semin's contract status next year? I don't forsee any way we keep him. Either he plays super well (and stays healthy...hurt again today missed practice) and helps us deep into playoffs this year - in which case he'll want the moon after next year (8 mill at least, probably more, and a 10 year deal), or he stinks, is hurt, and then McPhee will never give him what he will want as the Caps won't have faith in him. So...either way he is not a Cap.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Washington signed Semin to a $6 million extension for 2010-11. As good as he's been as a points per game man, he's been injury-prone. The Capitals made the correct choice to lock up 22 year old Nicklas Backstrom (11.7 GVT) instead of 25 year old Alexander Semin (9.1 GVT), if that was an either-or proposition; Backstrom should be just hitting his prime. If they can keep going year-to-year with Semin, great, otherwise I agree with the approach.

paulbellows (Calgary): Will the Flames be trading Phaneuf? People here are getting a little tired of his performance and wondering what you think would be a good return.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I can join Flames’ management in the head scratching, as I picked up Big Dion in the early rounds of the SportsJudge league, expecting a rebound after a bad last year. That was buying low. But two bad years in a row now–-in real and fantasy hockey––makes a player that’s not as good as we thought. The problem with trading him is that his value is bound to be down. Sell high, not low, right? Maybe there are some GM’s out there who dream of Phaneuf still being the next Chris Pronger. So yeah, if you can get good, star level players or high picks in return, you pull the trigger.

Skates (OnEdge): Who will be the next young player to join hockey's inner circle of young megastars (along with Crosby and Ovechkin)?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): You're probably thinking forwards, but the top rated rookie by GVT is 19 year old, 6'8" defenseman Tyler Mylers of the Sabres. Just watch the kid play and marvel at the skating skills and hockey instincts of this giant - it just doesn't seem right! I really believe that Myers is the Calder winner, future Sabres' captain and future Norris winner.

Incidentally, I'm not that impressed with Tavares. I'm not surprised he's gone cold since it doesn't seem like he can score anything other than garbage goals within 5 feet of the crease.

R.A.Wagman (Toronto): Timo - great to get some icy attention. Leaf GM has stated (correctly in my honest opinion) that what's done is done, and his decisions going forward this year will not be predicated on preventing the Bruins from getting a lottery pick, but rather, to do what's best for the Leafs in the big picture. So - at what point (you being in his shoes) would you decide this season is shot and try to trade assets for picks/kids? Thanks

Timo Seppa (Hockey): If you’re not the Blackhawks, Capitals, Devils, Sharks or Penguins, playing .700 hockey is unreasonable to expect for half a season. Therefore, if .600 hockey is not going to get you to the 91-95 points required to make the playoffs, it’s time to throw the towel in. Since playing .600 hockey over the final 34 games would get the Maple Leafs to only 82 points, it’s well past the time to throw said towel in. You want to be at about 49 points (.510) in the East or about 53 points (.550) in the West after 48 games to have a decent shot. That essentially eliminates Tampa Bay, Florida, Toronto and Carolina in the East, with the Islanders and Thrashers hanging on the precipice. That eliminates Minnesota, St. Louis, Dallas, Anaheim, Columbus and Edmonton in the West. Those teams should already be sellers; with no realistic chance of making the playoffs, it’s time to improve for the future.

Tim O'Seppa (Rarotonga): The Caps are clearly making room for a trade, who do you think they should acquire to take this team to the finals?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): There was a rumor 2-3 weeks ago that the Capitals and Oilers might swap players, with Theodore and Souray being two of the components. Since Washington is the league’s highest scoring team, something along those lines makes sense: any upgrades need to be on defense and in goal. Yeah, in goal. Varmalov was the Golden Boy for a short while, but do you want to risk the Cup on him? Remember how he melted down in Game 7 versus the Pens last postseason? Get a better insurance policy than Theodore or Neuwirth.

Hmm, familiar sounding name...

Bill N (Buffalo): Is there a reason teams don't pull their goalies more frequently? Perhaps in the last ten seconds of a period when you're on a rush, or when you're down multiple goals in the third period and have a faceoff in the offensive end. Would it possibly similar to fourth down conversion in football, where coaches are concerned about looking foolish if the gamble blows up in their face?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Intriguing thought. The biggest problem is that things happen so quickly in hockey. Offense can turn to defense on a dime and that shot can be going down the ice at your empty net within seconds. It would take an opposing zone draw with less than 2 seconds remaining in a period to make sense.

S. Robi (Dallas): I am 9th in points and ties for first in goals for a defenseman and have a decent plus minus on a team that does not even approach decent. Add to that the fact that I lead, play tons of minutes and play through every injury, and I do not get invited to play for Canada while other "bigger" names get the invite. Who and I and why did I get shafted?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Robidas is a nice player and was rewarded maybe too much by Dallas, being re-upped all the way through 2013-14. He’s 32, right? But Team Canada’s biggest omission by far was leaving off top defenseman Mike Green, and I don’t give a darn that he’s not tough. It must make all the other teams very pleased at the unnecessarily narrowing talent gap.

JWR (USA): Other than Hockey Prospectus, what are the key websites that puck fans should be checking out?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Check out Behind the Net, run by PP contributor Gabriel Desjardins for some advanced stats, nhlnumbers.com for contract info, and Hockey's Future regarding prospects.

Ron (Vancouver): True of false, when it's all said and done Joe Thornton will be in the Hall Of Fame even if he doesn't win a Stanley Cup.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Thornton had 191 GVT through his age 29 season of 2008-9, which is fantastic. I'm not sure if he gets dinged in the perception of some for having a lot more assists than goals, but if he puts up another 5 representative seasons, he should be a HOF lock in any case. When I think of recent pass-first forwards, Adam Oates comes to mind, and his career was worth "only" 238 GVT over 19 seasons.

Canu "CK" Smith (Moosehead): Is Roberto Luongo really as good as everyone says? What has the guy ever won? For goodness sakes, he got outplayed by Turco once or twice. Can you use the magic of mathmatics to prove me right?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Roberto Luongo was my preseason choice for the Vezina. Bobby Lou should have been a slam dunk winner of both the Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy in 2003-4 when he put up a ridiculous 47.1 GVT and .931 save percentage (The awards were won by Martin St. Louis and no surprise, Martin Brodeur). Luongo’s been good for 20+ GVT each season since 2002-3 and has never been under 15 GVT as a starter. Frankly, my saber-magic says he’s underrated, not overrated.

JWR (USA): The Blackhawks will win __ Stanley Cups with their current core group of players (Toews, Kane, Hossa, Keith, Seabrook) (fill in the blank).

Timo Seppa (Hockey): They may very well win the 2009-10 Stanley Cup for starters, although I'm a sucker for picking the Pens. Two?

Rob (Alaska): Which of the fantasy "slow starters" do you think might be cooked? I can't believe Marc Savard is this bad.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Spezza's career may be cooked. Amazing, given the start to his career. Steve Mason. Havlat - Martin "Halflat", as Rob Vollman says. Ryder and Wideman, if you're talking non-injured Bruins.

Conan O'Brien (Hollywood): What would the Bruins have to give up to get Ilya Kovalchuk?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): First of all, Boston is in real danger of missing the playoffs if they don't play respectably well over the stretch run, so some kind of reinforcements might be called for. Being pretty much capped out though, I don't see how they could add Kovalchuk without giving up significant young talent - you'd have to give up Krejci and Wideman, for instance to get this year's salaries to match. As far as teams looking to sign the offensively prolific Kovalchuk after this season, he's just not worth $10+ million annually over the course of a long term deal.

Bill N (Buffalo): In Fantasy, I should pick up Johan Franzen by _____ to ensure I can get him while minimizing the period where he's dead weight. My roster has four bench slots.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Franzen has been a monster in the last two playoffs, but you need to remember that you’re not talking Sidney Crosby here over the long haul of the season. VUKOTA projected him at 59 regular season points––the Red Wings aren’t dominating plus-minus anymore––Franzen’s not going to be a huge difference maker fantasy-wise.

Rat (Rink): What expected playoff team is heading for the fall in the next few years? What non-playoff team is primed to step into major contention in the next few years?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): It's too late to pick the Hurricanes, isn't it? - as their league oldest age heading into the season (30.2 years old) presaged this season's downfall to those of us that were paying attention. Likewise, Detroit was second, at 29.7 years old on average. It's hard to say which GM will be retaining an aging lineup, but that's what you should look for next offseason. On the other hand, the Blackhawks, Blue Jackets and Kings were right at 26 years old heading into the season, so you'd expect those teams to keep improving. Which is pretty scary, when you think about Chicago being the best and youngest team in the NHL.

Ethan Stanislawski (New York, NY): What's in store for Slovakia this Olympics? Gaborik and Chara seems like a pretty lethal couple of players.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): First of all, Puck Prospectus will have a full breakdown of the Olympic favorites in February - so you'll want to get your full Team Slovakia breakdown there. Jaroslav Halak (10.7 GVT in 19.1 GP), Lubomir Visnovsky (7.7 GVT) and Marian Hossa (6.2 GVT in 23 GP) are other major contributors in addition to Marian Gaborik (13.9 GVT) and Zdeno Chara (7.4 GVT). Yeah, I give them a puncher's chance to win a couple of knockout games.

Susan (New York): Who would you rather build your franchise around, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The easy answer is that you can't go wrong with either. Ovechkin's probably been marginally more successful individually, but then again, Crosby's two years younger-24 to 22. I really like Crosby's drive to improve: Sid turned himself into an elite faceoff man and an elite shootout performer with an offseason of hard work.

Scrapper (Midwest): What percentage of hockey is goaltending?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): A lot? See Tom Awad's three part series on "Understanding GVT" in the archives. Individually, the best goaltenders are almost always the top players by Goals Versus Threshold. Currently, Ryan Miller is tops among all players by a mile at 24.5 GVT, while Vesa Toskala is again the worst (sound familiar?) at -14.3 GVT.

Pavel Bure (Russia): Do I belong in the Hall Of Fame? If no, why did Cam Neely get in and I don't?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): You have a dicey 180 career GVT, but you do blow away Neely's 141 career GVT. Only 12 seasons hurt over your overall numbers - a fine 437 goals, but only 779 points. A Calder Trophy and two Maurice Richards, but no Harts and no Stanley Cups. If you get in, it will be on your effect as one of the first Russian impact players in the NHL.

Skates (OnEdge): How has hockey changed in the last 20 years? Is it a better game than ever? What rule changes, if any, would you push for?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Heck yeah, the game's improved. In a twisted way, the Lockout helped. The game had a crying need for the offense- and fan-friendly rules that came thereafter. The biggest rule change needed--as discussed in a recent Prospectus Roundtable--would be to reward 3 points for a regulation win and only 2 points for an overtime/shootout win (along with 1 point for an OT/shootout loss). The incentives are completely backwards now. All games should be worth 3 points.

Scrapper (Midwest): Where do you see hockey statistics heading in the next 10 years. In the future will we see stats like "time of possession" and completed pass percentages?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Those two make sense. I'd like to see a common stat that quantifies players' abilities on the power play, at even strength and short-handed. An overall stat on the difficulty of shots a goaltender faced. I'd like to see hits, giveaways and takeaways get less subjective.

Paul ((CT)): How consistent is goaltender performance year to year? It seems like while goaltending is the most important aspect it's hard to find someone who can consistently play at a high level.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): You're right on with this; goaltending performance can vary widely, even if the team context stays consistent. Heck, even changing coaches has seemed to make a difference in Minnesota.

Art Vandelay (NY): Are the Sedins the best brother tandem in NHL history? If not, where do they rate?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): They've got a long way to go until they're Phil Esposito (357 career GVT) and Tony Esposito (355 career GVT). If they keep going like this, they'll certainly be on the short list. Henrik's having an amazing, unexpected season. Good resigning, huh?

Jose (Cuervo): When will GVT stats for all players and teams be on Hockey Prospectus?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): That's a question for upper management, but I'd hope that would be the case by this time next year. I'm hopeful that we'll produce the first Puck Prospectus annual in the offseason; in that case, you'd have all the VUKOTA info all in one place.

Brod Martin (Vanuatu): Who is the best goalie in the league right now? Who is the best backup? Are there any big names going into free agency next year that if you were a GM you would target?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): All right, let me hit these one at a time. By Goals Versus Threshold (GVT), the top four netminders for the season have been Ryan Miller (24.5), Miikka Kiprusoff (16.4), Evgeni Nabokov (15.8) and Martin Brodeur (15.3), which bodes well for USA, Finland, Russia and Canada in the upcoming Olympics. The best backup is 22 year old Tuukka Rask, Boston’s goalie of the future. Niemi, Ellis, Conklin and Niittymaki are honorable mentions.

Unrestricted Free Agents include the aforementioned Nabokov, VUKOTA darling Jonas Hiller, as well as Rinne, Ellis, Biron, Turco, Emery, C. Mason, Niittymaki, Theodore, Auld, Leighton and Toskala. Montreal’s Price and Halak are notable Restricted Free Agents, as is Jonas “the Whale” Gustavsson. Of those choices, you’re better off investing a couple million annually on the nice upside of Hiller or Pekka Rinne rather than five million-plus on the inconsistent Nabokov. Ellis, Biron, C. Mason, Niittymaki ideally slot in as top backups. I'd avoid Turco and Theodore like the plague.

Zooey (LA): The Tooth Fairy featuring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, worst hockey themed movie in the history of cinema?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Well, I like hockey, and my three girls (ages 6, 4 and 2) are very into fairies. But yeah, probably not such a good idea.

Jose (Cuervo): Baseball Prospectus talks about a "secret sauce," specifically the characteristics of winning teams in the playoffs. What is the "secret sauce" for success in the NHL playoffs?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): ESPN Insider asked me to look into secret sauce for playoff goaltenders before last postseason. The biggest factors I found--in order of significance--were career playoff save percentage, current season's save percentage, fewer SOGA. For young goaltenders--under 24 years old--fewer SOGA was a huge factor (see: Mason, Steve). Not sure what the team answer is, but picking the hot goaltender is a good start to figuring it out.

Yngvai (Da Bronx): Oh, the name is correct. Full name is Yngvai Malmsteve! \m/ \m/ What's your take on the league supporting failing teams? Specifically, the whole Phoenix situation. If a market won't support a team by buying tickets, shouldn't they fold without being artificially propped up with collected funds from other teams?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Okay, chatter. The NHL's had a long-standing strategy of expanding to the western and southern US, so you'd be foolish to figure they'd go down without a fight. That said, I'm personally all for additional Canadian teams, because you know their fanbase will be super-loyal. Incidentally, in one of America's worst pro-sports towns--Atlanta--the visiting Sabres' fans were more vocal than the few Thrashers' fans on Thursday night at Philips Arena.

Mr. Freeze (Gotham): What are your thoughts on the winter classic? Should the NHL go to two (2) games per season, with one being played in Canada and one in the U.S.?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Seemed kind of hokey and desperate-for-attention when they started it, but it's a nice looking event on what's now a slow sports day. The Canada idea sounds good in theory, but do you have any idea what the temps can be like on January 1st north of the border?

Bobby (Ireland): If you could give a letter grade for Gary Bettman's performance as commissioner what would you give him?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I'm sure the owners would give him an A.

Vandelay (NY): Can hockey ever get back to the point where it is up there with basketball as a major sport in the U.S.? Seems like the gap between the two sports is narrowing (from a standpoint of national attention).

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Pro basketball is a major sport? Sorry, the refereeing in that sport turned me off to it a long time ago (I used to be a big Knicks' fan). The superstars in the NBA don't need any extra help. I doubt that the gap between hockey and basketball is narrowing, but I think that football and baseball--now revitalized--are putting distance between them and the other two. You wouldn't have thought that back in the day of Bird, Magic and Jordan, when basketball was catching up.

Zooey (LA): True or false, Marty Brodeur is the best goalie of all-time?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): False, but he's in the top 5. We had an article on this about half a year ago that you can find in the Archives. Patrick Roy has 434 career GVT and Dominik Hasek has 426 GVT compared to Brodeur's 290 GVT (through 2008-9), for instance. Miles ahead.

Paul (CT): You mention the NHL's strategy of expanding into the western and southern US, as a relatively new hockey fan can you explain to me what the heck they are thinking? Didn't they already try a team in Atlanta that ended up moving to Canada?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Funny, how that was, moving from the US to Canada. Now what were they thinking? Expanding markets. I mean, how much more can Canadians love hockey than they already do?

Lightning round.

Rat (Rink): How much better is the Western Conference than the Eastern Conference? Is this likely to be an ongoing trend for the next few years or is this just a temporary blip?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The Blackhawks are here to stay for sure and the Sharks'll be near the top for at least next season as well. The West's probably top to bottom better, but New Jersey, Washington and Pittsburgh are just as good as the top teams in the West. Pittsburgh and Washington's star players are just hitting their peak, but Lamoriello will have to work his magic to keep retooling the Devils.

Matt (Whippleville, NY): Who do you trade - Halak or Price?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Price has always been overrated. Halak's got more GVT in less games this season.

Eric (New York): I saw a rumor that the Islanders were interested in Kovalchuk. Would this be a good move or bad one for such a young team on the fringe of the race?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): The Kansas City Islanders? Certainly not long term (see Yashin, Alexei). I guess it could be a legitimate play for the remainder of the season, with the Islanders needing a push to climb into one of the last playoffs spots. You can't give up any part of the future for that kind of short-term gratification ploy, though.

JWR (Chicago): Blackhawks will have to get rid of 2-3 players in the offseason to stay under the cap. Who can they give up in the offseason without losing too much depth?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Management's done their job, keeping the core of Kane, Toews and this season's Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith (good pick, Andrew). Find some sucker to take Huet and you're golden.

Paul (CT): Maybe Canadians can't love hockey any more than they already do, but surely Canada can support more than 6 teams.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Yes, Hamilton and Winnipeg are at least marginal choices.

I Got Crazy Ripped in 4 Weeks (Hulk Hands): True or false: The Devils make past the conference semis this year.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Meaning, you beat maybe the Penguins or Flyers in the second round? Sure, if the Pens are still playing this way.

Have a Muffin (With Nails): What are the odds John Tortorella gets fired at the end of the season? Who would be a suitable replacement for the underachieving Rangers?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I like Torts, except his insane usage of Marian Gaborik in the shootout, who happens to be the worst shootout performer in history. I think the Rangers will squeak into the playoffs and that he will survive.

Hulk Hands (I Got Ripped): Outside of the obvious ones (Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Gaborik, etc), who are some players that can carry their team on their back through a round or two of the playoffs?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): There's a bunch of goaltenders, but the Sedin brothers and Zach Parise are up there amongst skaters.

The Diceman (OHHH!): In 20 words or less, explain to me how Glen Sather has a job in professional hockey. GO

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Easy: Jim Dolan.

Snoopy ((Doghouse)): Winner of the Ilya Kovalchuk derby will be _____? What kind of contract (years/dollars) is reasonable for a player of his caliber?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): For this season only, he might help the Red Wings make the playoffs as a rent-a-player, if they can figure out reasonable salary to send back to Atlanta. Going forward? A large market with cash and willingness to make a long term deal. Not Atlanta.

Snoopy (Doghouse): Which young Blackhawk will have the better career: Kane or Toews?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Most people missed the fact that Kane was hideous defensively in the playoffs. He brings more offense while Toews brings a more balanced game. I'd expect that most GMs would rather have Kane. Btw, Team USA has some great firepower at forward, so if Ryan Miller can buoy a suspect defense, USA can make some noise in the tournament.

Ice (< 32 degrees): Best player in NHL history after Gretzky is _______.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Per season, you've got a good race between Bobby Orr, Mario Lemieux and Dominik Hasek. By great longevity, Gordie Howe and Ray Bourque are actually within shouting distance of Gretzky in GVT.

Rat (Rink): Are the Red Wings about to hit the skids or do they just reload after this season?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Detroit's done a good job of skillful reloading with an older lineup, like New Jersey's done. They've had some bad luck due to injury, and some promising players like Ville Leino have just stunk. They can reload instead of rebuilding, that's fore sure.

Jenna (Seattle): Team Leno or Team Conan?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I couldn't stand Conan in the past, but I've learned to live with him. Not a huge Leno fan either, although my wife and I must be among the minority that prefer him at 10 pm over the crime dramas. Craig Ferguson is underrated.

Zooey (LA): Teemu Selanne in the Hall Of Fame, Yes or No?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Slam dunk.

Tim (Tampa): Do the Sharks need to make a move before the trading deadline or should they stand pat?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I would've looked for a better goaltender in the offseason; Nabokov seems to melt under the bright lights of the postseason. Boy, they're stacked, though. Not sure where you're going to improve much.

Math (Gatineau): How does Price's GVT compare to past goaltenders of the same age?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Not sure, but he's never been close to the 17.4 GVT and .920 save percentage in 40 games that he was in his rookie year.

Wendy (Chicago): People are saying that because of their salary cap problems, this year is the Blackhawks only/best shot at the Cup. But they're also the deepest team in the league and one of the youngest. They also have their best players tied up. Unless Toews and Kane have already hit their ceiling, shouldn't the Blackhawks be able to lose a couple of players and still be one of the best? Yes the'll lose somebody, but they're so deep.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): As I said before, the Blackhawks have a great young core for years to come.

I Got Ripped in 4 Weeks (I'm Crazy Ripped): Who's the best goaltender you've ever seen play? Roy and Brodeur seem like easy choices, but I've found Hasek, Irbe, Khabibulin, and Richter more impressive (and entertaining to watch) during their career peaks.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): As a kid, I was impressed by Ken Dryden--whose The Game is still a classic read--but yes, I liked Hasek and on a less god-like level, Richter.

Justin (Normal, IL): Follow up to trading Huet- is Niemi a starting goal tender?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): He certainly deserves a chance. And if he's not good enough, there are tons of better goaltenders than Huet at a lower price tage.

MJ (edmonton): The oilers are a mess right now. How would you try to improve the team? They have to dump whatever salaries they can (Visnovski, Souray, Horcoff, etc) right? Also shouldn't they be shopping Penner now that his value is up?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Blow them up! Horcoff is untradeable. Souray has value. Penner actually should have made Team Canada over the likes of Eric Staal and Patrice Bergeron. He's a good player that I wouldn't be too quick to unload without a big return.

The Diceman (Appearing live at the Olive Garden): Yes/no on HHOF: Doug Gilmour, Brendan Shanahan, Rod Brind'Amour, Adam Oates, Pierre Turgeon.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): I have to say that I was never blown away by any of those guys. GVT's: Gilmour 239, Shanahan 285, Brind'Amour (who should retire immediately) 225, Oates 238, Turgeon 261. I think Gilmour and Shanahan may get the votes, while Turgeon's going to have a hard time as he was perceived such a soft player.

Zooey (LA): Hall Of Famers or not: Curtis Joseph, Chris Pronger, Mark Recchi, Marty Turco, and Daniel Alfredson

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Joseph will probably make it, although I don't agree. Pronger's a lock. Alfredsson could make a borderline case if he sticks around and continues to produce.

Justin (Normal, IL): Who is the most underrated or under apperciated player currently in the NHL?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): If Duncan Keith doesn't win the Norris, you'll have your answer.

Hockey (Simo Teppa): How long til my Leafs are good again? I'm so over seeing my team at the bottom of the standings every damn year.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): How long is Brian Burke going to be GM?

Scrapper (Chicago): What is your early prediction right now for the Stanley Cup?

Timo Seppa (Hockey): Penguins in 7 over the Blackhawks.

Timo Seppa (Hockey): That was a marathon! But great to have all of those excellent questions. Hope we can do it again soon. Go Finland!


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