Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Less than 3 weeks to camp

At this point, if you haven't read the transcript of the Heatley call last week and the subsequent tongue-lashing he's taken in the press, then you are too classy for the Ottawa Sun. But seriously here, folks, I'm not going to take much time re-hashing what has already been said about Heatley. We know he wants options, even though Edmonton and Ottawa don't appear to count as options. I think we'd all have been better served if he'd just said, "I'd like to be traded to one of the following six teams, otherwise, I'll play my ass off in Ottawa this Fall until Murray gets a better offer and grants my wish." That's essentially what it is, right? I still have mixed feelings on whether or not these shenanigans have any effect on his standing on Team Canada. Some people think that Yzerman is into character players and Heatley isn't one of them. But at the end of the day, on a roster stacked with centres, he's still one of the best wingers out there and barring injury, he's a starter.

On to other important news, we're within three weeks of the opening training camp on September 12th (first game on the 15th). Outside of the Heatley trade saga, and I can honestly say that I think his return is still 50/50, we have a few other topics to discuss. We've already touched on Pascal and made the statement that playoffs depends entirely on his health and performance. At some point, we can start discussing linemates. Suffice it to say that the big three will start split up and we'll have two lines with two stars each. Where the role guys fit in after that is up for grabs. From Murray's last interview on Leafs Lunch last week, he said that Peter Regin and Zach Smith both have a legitimate shot at cracking the roster. And what about Cody Bass? We always forget about Bass because he hurts himself and misses seasons at a time. When you think about it, there are legitimate battles for those role positions at forward. In addition to the big four, Fisher will be there by default and I think Foligno is ready for a 45 point season in the top six. That leaves: Shannon, Winchester, Neil, Ruutu, Donovan, Kelly, Bass, Regin, Smith, and if you're being generous, Schubert and Zubov. Should I abandon my dream of re-signing Comrie at this point? Seriously, it isn't like contracts are moveable (I'm talking to you, Chris Kelly) and guys like Shannon and Winchester are on one-way deals. Maybe none of the young guys make it. Curious to see how this shakes out.

On defence, all eyes will be on Erik Karlsson and if he lives up to the billing. Obviously, there is no way he can match the hype that has preceded him, but the organization will work hard to protect him from big hits (see: Brian Rafalski's entire career). Murray has set the table for this kid to make the team and all Karlsson has to do is sit down and eat. But what does that mean for Brian Lee? I'm on Lee's side and think he's going to take some great strides. This is the first time that there's been other young defencemen breathing down his neck for roster spots and he'll rise to the occasion. When he first joined the team at the end of the 2007-08 season and our brief playoff run, he looked great. There was pressure on him to step in as a top ten pick and perform. Last year, nobody really improved. Foligno did a bit, Shannon was alright, and the rest took a step back. This year, with Karlsson coming in and Cowen and Wiercioch not far behind, Lee knows that this season will truly determine if he is signing an extension or if he becomes trade bait. My money is on Lee stepping up.

And like we said earlier, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on Cory Clouston. Even though we know the Heatley trade request isn't his fault, it still hangs on his shoulders to an extent. Sure, the burden will be shared across the organization, but if the team falters out of the gate, then everyone will be watching to see how Clouston responds with adapting the game plan and with his star scorer's role. Clouston and Murray have the year to make the playoffs, in my opinion, and we're going to really start noticing the coach's every move starting three weeks from now. We've focused on Heatley all summer, but some the 12th, this becomes a team game again.

Is anyone else going a bit crazy waiting for this to start? Damn these long off-seasons.

7 comments:

canucnik said...

Erik Karlsson!

It's back to the '56 Dressing room of the Boston Bruins, as you recall Sawchuk and I are talking goal tending equipment and eating half oranges. An ice cube flies by distracting us, I turn to watch Fern Flaman, he's absolutely huge, 31 years old looks 50, return one at Leo Lebine, who is 27 years old and looks a hundred.

In the middle of them sits Réal Chevrefils, 20 years old, looks bloated and disinterested. He scores 30+ that year which today would be like 50. In order to keep his weight up the trainers have him drinking three (3) beers with lunch and supper...don't laugh in this era the Canadiens had three beers in the dressing room for each guy after every game. A year ago, they were trying to keep his weight at 175 lbs but they have surpassed themselves, Chevrefils is pushing 200. Réal, of course , is the first player to enter AA, sanctioned by the league as by this point he had been to Detroit and back. His career cut short!

The moral of this story is we don't want any young D-men feeling they have to "bulk up"!! Remember Chevrefils was 155...going for his playing weight of 175...who never stopped until he was 200...this story is 50 years old but this was the same 20 year old "Super" kid...DONE!

Trell said...

what ever happened to Matthis Karlsson. What is going on with him?

canucnik said...

Mattias Karlsson...RFA...signed in Sweden...the wife took him home as she is with Child!

Oman said...

Assuming Heater's still in Ottawa, Clouston will have fun setting up the top two lines. The hard parts will be figuring out the best spot for Fish (second or third line center, or wing), and sorting out the bottom 6 forwards. The bottom 6 will be critical in the future development of this team's offence methinks. If Heatley IS back, then watch BM dump some contracts via trades and buyouts (as much as I like most of these guys, some combination of Donovan, Shubert and even Kelly and Ruutu could be dropped to clear cap and give some room for youngsters to come up and develop.

As far as defense, some juggling of these pairings:


Philips/Lee
Kuba/Picard
Volchie/Campolie

I'm a fan of pairing defensive defenseman with offensive puck movers 5 on 5. Obviously this changes on PP and PK, and in some shut down situations against the Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin types...

Burn Smith, and let Karlsson, Cowen and Wiercioch develop at least another year each, with some short call-ups for Karlsson.

canucnik said...

OMAN:

Like your style...like your plan for the kids...like your defence pairings, if they play at all the forward combos will all play well no matter who they play with.

PS: Watch Alf teach Foligno how and when to poach...and how and when to take it all the way back to your own net to break up a play!

Oman said...

Yes, It will be interesting how Foligno develops this year, and what better mentor could you ask for than Alfie. I also hope Shannon gets a look or two on the second line... Maybe even a shot for Zubov on the second line with Kovy... Lots of options. Biggest question mark for the top lines, in my opinion is second line center. Spez is a lock on line one, and three big wingers should do well with anyone.

How bout something like this?

Heater/Spez/Alf
Foligno/Zubov/Kovy
Ruutu/Fish/Neil
Shubes/Winnie,Bass,Smith,O'Brien,Regin/Shannon

I love the clobbering 3rd line and the kid fourth, with jump-ups to second line on injury etc.

However, it will likely look more like:

Heater/Spez/Kovy
Foligno/Fish/Alf
Ruutu/Kelly/Shannon
Shubes/Winnie,Bass,Smith,etc/Neil,Donovan

We still need a second line center and another bottom six left winger IMO. Note: we also have a crazy log jam at bottom six center.

canucnik said...

OMAN:

Me thinks it's too early for this.

Heater gets Kovy...peace offering.

You are very close with the however group!

I hope Zub even shows.

If we play a little "D" these guys will look like "World beaters!"