Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Week 8 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good week 7? Now that bye weeks are nearly done, your fantasy lineups won't be in a constant state of flux much anymore. But, that doesn't mean that sleepers and waiver wire pickups are going to be needed, because they will be, and that's why you look at this list, right?


Who to Start:

QB Eli Manning (NYG) vs. MIA: The Dolphins are a pathetic team, and they really have trouble stopping the pass. Manning is having a very good season, and he is using all of his receivers. His hot streak should continue against a putrid Miami pass defense.

RB Darren Sproles (NO) vs. STL: The Rams gave up over 250 rushing yards to rookie DeMarco Murray last Sunday, and with Darren Sproles being such a big fantasy surprise, he should get big numbers on Sunday, especially if Mark Ingram is out due to injury.

WR Nate Washington (TEN) vs. IND: I know most of you weren't watching the SNF game last Sunday, but 62-7 tells you all you need to know. The Colts right now are putting up little resistance on defense, and even though the Titans passing offense has struggled, they won't this week.

WR Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. NE: He had a 100+ yard catching day against Arizona last week, and going up against the porous New England secondary, he should have another big day. Because of the injury to Hines Ward, he should see even more playing time to increase those numbers.

TE Owen Daniels (HOU) vs. JAX: This has become a theme, hasn't it? Start the TE of the team playing the Jaguars. It shouldn't change this week, as Owen Daniels is a big fantasy bargain this week. He'll be an even bigger bargain if Andre Johnson doesn't play this week.

DEF New Orleans vs. STL: The Rams have scored the fewest points of any team this season, and if A.J Feeley is playing, it may be an even worse day for the Saints offense. This has a big blowout written all over it.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Cassel (KC) vs. SD MON: Cassel has been rejuvenated so far in the Chiefs 3 game winning streak, but a game against San Diego is troubling. The Chargers have been very good this year against the pass, and with the streaky nature of the KC passing offense, he is a risky start.

RB Knowshon Moreno (DEN) vs. DET: He will be getting more playing time due to the injury to Willis McGahee, so things are looking up. However, Detroit's run defense has been very good this season, so watch out for Moreno this Sunday.

WR Michael Crabtree (SF) vs. CLE: This game has the makings of a defensive showdown, and with Crabtree going up against one of the best cover corners in the league in Joe Haden, he does not figure to have a good game on Sunday.

WR Sidney Rice (SEA) vs. CIN: The Bengals right now have the second ranked defense in the NFL. Yes, you read that right. And if you were unfortunate enough to watch the SEA/CLE game last Sunday, you saw how bad the Seahawks offense was with Charlie Whitehurst. That's all you need to know.

TE Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. MIN: He has been dealing with a turf-toe injury, which may be why he was invisible last Sunday against the Redskins. He likely won't do very well this weekend against Minnesota either, due to this.

DEF Pittsburgh vs. NE: I know it's hard to bench the Steelers defense ever, but Tom Brady has owned the Steelers in the past, just see last season's game as an example. If you have a better option at defense, start them over Pittsburgh.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB John Beck (WSH) vs. BUF Toronto: I know, it sounds really funky. However, the Bills secondary has been very bad this season, and Beck hasn't looked that bad in his 1+ games as a starter. If you need a QB, he may not be a bad option.

RB Bernard Scott (CIN) vs. SEA: Due to the suspension of Cedric Benson, Scott will be the featured back on Sunday in Seattle. Therefore, he will see feature back type touches, so he should have a big game on Sunday.

TE Jake Ballard (NYG) vs. MIA: Need a TE on Sunday? With Miami giving up tons of fantasy points to Tight Ends, it may be worth the gamble. Heck, he's been doing better fantasy-wise this season than Vernon Davis, so why not?

Buyer Beware:

QB Tim Tebow (DEN) vs. DET: He may put up big numbers fantasy-wise, but it was a misnomer again against a horrible Miami defense. He is facing a real NFL defense on Sunday, so it will be seen as to whether Tebow can put up similar numbers against a very good Lions defense.

Good Luck in Week 8!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

2011 Week 7 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 6? With big QB's on byes this week, flex options may be necessary at the QB position for you, and before we get to the actual column, I'll make sure to go over the brand new options at QB to start off the column this week:


The New Guys:

QB John Beck (WSH): Despite the fact that he has very good matchups against Carolina and Buffalo in the next 2 weeks, he probably isn't the best choice if you are desperate. He could play decently, or terribly, and it may be too much of a risk considering that he could get the hook just as quickly as he became the starter.

QB Christian Ponder (MIN): He is not a viable fantasy option right now. He has potential as a good value QB later, but with Adrian Peterson behind him, expect the Vikings to run the ball plenty, and the good Green Bay Packer D to eat him up.

QB Tim Tebow (DEN): He is an interesting choice. Due to his running ability, he may get more fantasy points than any of the other 3 options, and with a good matchup, it may help his stock as well. However, like Beck, he is very risky, considering how the Broncos may use him. He's not a big value this week, but if he proves himself, he may be later.

QB Carson Palmer (OAK- I know, right?): He will be starting this week for Oakland, and despite the fact that he could have good numbers pretty quickly, I'd wait to see if he really will become a viable #2 fantasy QB. He has good weapons around him to use, and familiarity with the coaching staff, but I'd wait until after the bye week next week to start him.

Now, onto the regular column:

Who to Start:

QB Tony Romo (DAL) vs. STL: The Rams defense has been very bad this year due to injuries and other causes, and Tony Romo should eat that up. He should be able to have a big stat line for the Cowboys, who didn't have quite the week that many expected against New England last Sunday.

RB Ryan Mathews (SD) vs. NYJ: Ground and pound has lost the pound of late for the Jets, and their rush D has not been very good at all this season. This bodes well for Mathews and the Chargers, who should run the ball plenty due to the problems the Chargers may have throwing the football.

WR Marques Colston (NO) vs. IND: He finally had a big game a week ago in Tampa, and he should have another one this week against a Colts defense that has been very injured and bad at the same time. The Saints should really light up the bad Indy secondary.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (OAK) vs. KC: The Chiefs have been very bad against the pass, and corner Brandon Flowers has been abused in coverage often this season. Even with Carson Palmer having some rust, Heyward-Bey should still have a nice stat line.

TE Ed Dickson (BAL) vs. JAX MON: With many big name Tight Ends on byes this week, Dickson is a good option for those people. The Jaguars have been downright awful in defending Tight End's this season, so Joe Flacco may look his way often on Monday Night.

DEF Pittsburgh vs. ARZ: The Cardinals have been a good opponent fantasy wise for defenses, and they give good points even to units that have struggled this season, see Pittsburgh as an example.

Who to Sit:

QB Matt Schaub (HOU) vs. TEN: Even though he's very tough to bench right now, he may be one to avoid this Sunday. Without Andre Johnson, he's been pretty pedestrian, and he is still dealing with a chest injury. Combine that with a bad matchup, and it's not a recipe for success.

RB Peyton Hillis (CLE) vs. SEA: Whether it's his lame hammy, or just a lack of faith in him from the coaching staff, Montario Hardesty is getting more and more carries for Cleveland. Because of that, Hillis is now a risky fantasy start.

WR Vincent Jackson (SD) vs. NYJ: It's tough to bench him with bye weeks taking their toll, but going up against Revis Island is surely a tough task. He was shut down by Champ Bailey 2 weeks ago, so he may have even fewer chances on Revis Island.

WR Percy Harvin (MIN) vs. GB: With Christian Ponder under center, his stock took a major hit. He will see fewer targets as the Vikings turn more to the running game this week against Green Bay,

TE Kellen Winslow (TB) vs. CHI in London: He's becoming very difficult to trust week in and week out right now with his lack of production, even going against a favorable matchup in the Bears this Sunday on the pitch at Wembley.

DEF Atlanta vs. DET: The Lions are no pushover matchup anymore, and the Falcons defense has been less than stellar all season. It's going to be very tough for the Falcons to gain a defensive foothold this week at Ford Field.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Colt McCoy (CLE) vs. SEA: The Seahawks lost Marcus Trufant for the season recently, so this will hurt an already struggling pass defense. Cleveland isn't a passing juggernaut, but he could have a surprising game this Sunday.

RB DeMarco Murray (DAL) vs. STL: With the injury to Felix Jones, Murray may see more carries right now against the Rams, who also have a very bad rush defense. Murray may be a very good bye week option if you need one.

TE Fred Davis (WSH) vs. CAR: John Beck may need a safety blanket option this Sunday, and Fred Davis has replaced Chris Cooley who is on the shelf due to an injury. He could have a pretty decent game against Carolina.

Buyer Beware:

QB Philip Rivers (SD) vs. NYJ: I wouldn't bench him if I had him as a starter unless I had a much better option, but he may have some struggles against the Jets pass D on Sunday. He himself has struggled too, so watch out here.

Good Luck in Week 7!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

2011 World Series Preview

If you're laughing at me while you're reading this preview, you have the right to. It seems that I know as much about who will win in the playoffs as I know about the politics of Nepal. Anyway, the Texas Rangers are in the World Series for the second straight year, and the Cardinals are in for the first time since 2006. One team is much better than the other, but the team that is worse has a ton of momentum going for it. What will hold up in this series?

Pitching: It would seem that the Rangers have a clear advantage pitching wise on paper, and they do. The starting rotation is better than the rotation of the Cardinals sans Chris Carpenter, and it also stems from their overall horrible performance in the NLCS against Milwaukee. But, the staff was very good in the NLDS against Philly, so it seems like a wash right now. The Cardinals bullpen had been much maligned, but stepped up big time against the Brewers, but has the possibility of flaming out. I don't think that is happening so fast. The Rangers bullpen has been very good this postseason, with guys like Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Neftali Feliz shutting the door at the closer spot. Even though the Cardinals have been pitching pretty well this postseason, it just feels that the Rangers are a better bet pitching wise.

Advantage: Texas

Hitting: The Rangers had some hitting troubles in the ALDS, but those were quickly erased in the ALCS when the bats exploded, especially that of Nelson Cruz. They are a consistent hitting team and have many weapons with which to use, which is similar to that of St. Louis. Their offense was on fire in the NLCS after having some issues in the NLDS. The Cardinals are getting more production from unsung guys like John Jay and David Freese, and even though the Rangers have possibly a better offense on paper, the Cardinals right now are a more potent and cohesive unit.

Advantage: St. Louis

X-Factor: Home field advantage has some value in the World Series, and the Cardinals have it, so it could play a role down the stretch, even though there hasn't been a Game 7 in the World Series since 2002, but when there is, the home team is in a great position. The Rangers are 4-1 at home this postseason, compared to 3-2 on the road, and St. Louis is 4-2 on the road, compared to 3-2 at home. Since both managers have been in the World Series before and well know what's going on, this is a wash.

Pick: I think the Cardinals magical ride ends at the hands of a better team in Texas. They deserve it.

Rangers in 5 (Sorry Rangers Fans)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

2011 Week 6 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 5? This may be the easiest week with byes in terms of fantasy, because most of your big players will not be on byes. But still, the waiver wire is key, and looking here is also key, because there are bound to be tough decisions for everyone's lineup.


Who to Start:

QB Eli Manning (NYG) vs. BUF: Peyton's brother has tried to live up to his own words that he's an elite QB, and he's done so far pretty well. Buffalo's defense has been a sieve despite the team being 4-1, especially through the air, so look for Eli to possibly put up big numbers this Sunday.

RB James Starks (GB) vs. STL: With Ryan Grant still nursing an injury, Starks should see more touches, and going up against the NFL's worst run defense surely helps his cause out. And, garbage time running could come very quickly for him too against a bad team.

WR Steve Smith (CAR) vs. ATL: At the onset of the season, no one thought he'd be nearly as successful as he is right now. Cam Newton's presence has revived his fantasy stock, and going up against a bad Atlanta pass D, he should have a big game on Sunday.

WR Dez Bryant (DAL) vs. NE: Surprisingly, the team with one of the league's worst pass defenses is not Dallas, but New England. Bryant should have a huge game against a very poor secondary, and could put up major numbers in what figures to be a shootout.

TE Heath Miller (PIT) vs. JAX: The Jaguars have troubles defending the Tight End, and if you are desperate for a player, Miller may one to consider. He finally had a good game a week ago, and this week's matchup is a pretty tasty one.

DEF Cincinnati vs. IND: Curtis Painter has been playing better of late, but not against great competition. So this week, against a very underrated Bengals defense, he may struggle. Due to that, the Bengals defense may be a good start this Sunday.

Who to Start:

QB Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. MIN: His offensive line is a train wreck, and until that is fixed, he may not have a decent fantasy game. With these troubles up front, and Minnesota's defense playing better of late, watch out if you have Cutler in your starting lineup.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE) vs. DAL: The "law firm" as he's known had a big week last week against the Jets, but it may be a lot harder for him to have a good game against Dallas. They have a good rush D, and who knows who will make big plays on the New England offense week in and week out?

WR Brandon Marshall (MIA) vs. NYJ MON: Chad Henne is out for the season, and that leaves Matt Moore to start for Miami. He will have trouble getting the ball down the field to Marshall, who is likely to be on Revis Island, so that doesn't help either.

WR Santana Moss (WSH) vs. PHI: This is more about Nnamdi Asomugha than it is about Moss. Nnamdi has shut down the opposing team's number 1 target almost completely in the last 4 games for Philly, so Moss may not see many targets at all on Sunday.

TE Dallas Clark (IND) vs. CIN: Without Peyton Manning to throw him the ball, he's basically been invisible on the field. He gets very few targets and even fewer catches, so there is no reason to be starting him in any league right now.

DEF Houston vs. BAL: The loss of Mario Williams is a big one for Houston, and it will affect them in many more ways than just fantasy value. With a tough matchup against Baltimore ahead, the Texans D is one you may want to avoid.

3 Super Sleepers:

TE Dustin Keller (NYJ) vs. MIA MON: He had a big start, but has cooled off rapidly as of late. He will be playing the Dolphins though, who do not defend the Tight End very well. This may be just what Keller needs to get back on track.

WR Victor Cruz (NYG) vs. BUF: When you make big plays 3 weeks in a row, you're bound to become fantasy material. He made some amazing plays last week, both positively and negatively, but against a porous Bills pass defense, he may be one to ride for awhile.

WR Pierre Garcon (IND) vs. CIN: I know I said Colts offensive players are bad starts, but he may not be. Garcon has 4 TD's in the past 2 weeks, and he has a rhythm going with Curtis Painter. This may be a bit of a reach, but if there is any Colt to start, it may be him.

Buyer Beware:

QB Matt Schaub (HOU) vs. BAL: Combine the Ravens defense, and not having your number 1 wideout, and you get a horrible fantasy matchup for Matt Schaub. If you have a better option, play him.

Good Luck in Week 6!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: 2011-2012 Season Predictions

After one month of complete team-by-team previews, it's now time to pick the award winners and see who will finish where, according to me.

Northeast: 1) BOS 105 pts. 2) BUF 96 pts. 3) MTL 88 pts. 4) TOR 84 pts. 5) OTT 66 pts.
Atlantic: 1) PIT 107 pts. 2) PHI 94 pts. 3) NYR 89 pts. 4) NJ 76 pts. 5) NYI 70 pts.
Southeast: 1) WSH 114 pts. 2) TB 99 pts. 3) CAR 90 pts. 4) FLA 83 pts. 5) WPG 77 pts.
Central: 1) CHI 103 pts. 2) DET 98 pts. 3) NSH 90 pts. 4) STL 88 pts. 5) CBJ 81 pts.
Northwest: 1) VAN 110 pts. 2) MIN 85 pts. 3) CGY 81 pts. 4) COL 74 pts. 5) EDM 68 pts.
Pacific: 1) LA 106 pts. 2) SJ 100 pts. 3) ANA 92 pts. 4) DAL 84 pts. 5) PHX 80 pts.


East: 1) WSH 2) PIT 3) BOS 4) TB 5) BUF 6) PHI 7) CAR 8) NYR 9) MTL 10) TOR 11) FLA 12) WPG 13) NJ 14) NYI 15) OTT

West: 1) VAN 2) LA 3) CHI 4) SJ 5) DET 6) ANA 7) NSH 8) STL 9) MIN 10) DAL 11) CBJ 12) CGY 13) PHX 14) COL 15) EDM

Playoff Predictions:

East: 1) WSH over 8) NYR in 5
        2) PIT over 7) CAR in 5
        3) BOS over 6) PHI in 6
        5) BUF over 4) TB in 7

       1) WSH over 5) BUF in 6
       3) BOS over 2) PIT in 7

       1) WSH over 3) BOS in 6

West: 1) VAN over 8) STL in 4
          2) LA over 7) NSH in 5
          3) CHI over 6) ANA in 6
          5) DET over 4) SJ in 7

          1) VAN over 5) DET in 7
          3) CHI over 2) LA in 6
          3) CHI over 1) VAN in 6

2012 Stanley Cup Finals: 3) CHI over 1) WSH in 6

Award Winners:

Art Ross: Alexander Ovechkin
Rocket Richard: Steven Stamkos
Hart: Jonathan Toews
Norris: Keith Yandle
Selke: Pavel Datsyuk
Vezina: Tomas Vokoun
Calder: Erik Gudbranson
Jack Adams: Terry Murray

2011 Week 5 Fantasy Advice

Did you have a good Week 4? When bye weeks roll around, fantasy lineups become a lot harder to set, and you'll be looking to many players you never thought you would look to before. Those players are hard to find, so looking here may not be such a bad idea.


Who to Start:

QB Cam Newton (CAR) vs. NO: In 3 out of their first 4 games this season, Newton has not thrown for less than 374 yards in a game. Pretty impressive for a rookie. He'll be going up against a porous Saints pass defense on Sunday, so he should be a nice bye week option if you need one.

RB Fred Jackson (BUF) vs. PHI: Right now, the Eagles can't stop the run. The Bills love to run the football right through the teeth of defenses. Jackson has had an amazing season so far, and with this matchup, looking very favorable for him, expect a big day from Fred Jackson.

WR Julio Jones (ATL) vs. GB: Despite the fact that the Pack are 4-0, their pass defense hasn't been too great. With the Falcons loving to toss the ball around the field, especially in the Georgia Dome, Jones should have a pretty decent day overall.

WR Jordy Nelson (GB) vs. ATL: He's the third wideout in the Packers rotation, yet he's on pace for 1100 yards this season. That's impressive. He's going up against a suspect Atlanta secondary Sunday Night, so he should once again figure to have a big day.

TE Jermaine Gresham (CIN) vs. JAX: He has been a reliable target for rookie Andy Dalton in the first 4 games, and he should figure to continue in that role against the Jags. Jacksonville has struggled trying to stop tight ends this season, surrendering big yards to them, so Gresham should have a big game on Sunday.

DEF New York Giants vs. SEA: The Giants defense had been considered a suspect fantasy unit at the beginning of the season, but now they look like a must start, especially going against Seattle, who has QB troubles and has to travel cross country for a 1 PM kick.

Who to Sit:

QB Jay Cutler (CHI) vs. DET MON: Ford Field will be a madhouse on Monday night, and knowing the Bears problems with protecting the QB and the Lions penchant for sacks, don't expect Cutler to have a good game on Monday night.

RB Frank Gore (SF) vs. TB: Even though he had a big week last time out against Philly, don't expect similar results on Sunday. He's still being nagged by an injury, and the Bucs rush D has been overall very solid this season.

WR Brandon Lloyd (DEN) vs. SD: Even though he still is the big play target for Denver down the field, the Chargers pass D is better than the pass D of any of the rest of the teams they've played so far this season, so start with caution.

WR Mike Thomas (JAX) vs. CIN: The Bengals surprisingly have the #1 overall defense right now in the NFL, and it's helped that they have Nate Clements and Leon Hall locking down the outside. With the Jags pass O struggling, and that defensive combo, Mike Thomas is a guy to avoid.

TE Kevin Boss (OAK) vs. HOU: It doesn't look like the Raiders like to use their tight ends very often, even though they have had good quality at the position. The Texans have defended the tight end very well so far this season, so this may be a matchup to avoid.

DEF New York Jets vs. NE: The Pats can light up the sky with big offensive numbers as we well know by now, and the Jets D hasn't played up to their own standards in the past couple of weeks. Start with caution.

3 Super Sleepers:

QB Kevin Kolb (ARZ) vs. MIN: The Vikes pass D has been slightly porous this season, and Kevin Kolb has the arm and the weapons to put up big numbers, so he could be a guy to look for if your's is on the shelf for a bye or injury.

RB Isaac Redman (PIT) vs. TEN: He has had big numbers when he's carried the load, and he's actually has 4.9 yards per carry this season. With Rashard Mendenhall possibly out with an injury, he may be a big flex option.

WR Jacoby Jones (HOU) vs. OAK: With Andre Johnson out, Matt Schaub will have to look for someone else to get big plays down the field. Jones has gamebreaking speed, so he may be the right choice if you need a flex option.

Buyer Beware:

DEF Green Bay vs. ATL: Does anyone else think that this GB/ATL game on SNF will be a huge shootout? I do. The Green Bay defense is still good, but it's not the same dominant unit that we may have become accustomed to. Watch out for this unit if you have to start them.

Good luck in Week 5!

NHL 30 in 30: Boston Bruins

Stanley Cup champions and boy it feels good in Boston (after the Red Sox and Pats struggles, Boston fans have to have hope for some team). They retain many of the pieces that got them the Cup a season ago, and a few supplemental pieces have been added. The question is, as is always the case with a defending champ, can they repeat?

Strengths: They have depth at every position, especially up front. Nathan Horton was a key acquisition and he has become one of the key scorers, as well as David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Brad Marchand. They have grinders on the 3rd and 4th lines, and they perfectly complement the scoring prowess up front. They may be even good secondary scoring options as well. On defense, they still have the impending force that is Zdeno Chara, and others like Dennis Seidenberg, newly acquired Joe Corvo, and Andrew Ference. This group is still extremely solid despite losing Tomas Kaberle to Carolina this offseason. And in net, Tim Thomas is still one of the league's best at what he does, and he is going to be tough to beat this season, as he has been in the past. And if things go wrong, Tuukka Rask can come in and he may be the best 2nd goaltender in the NHL right now.

Weaknesses: With a defending cup champ, you have to stretch to find weaknesses, and here it is no different. They may have lost a little more in defense than they would have liked with Kaberle gone, but there is little doubt that many of the guys there now especially Joe Corvo can replace him. They did lose Mark Recchi and Mike Ryder, but those guys are replaceable, especially within the scope of the Top 6 right now.

Any Help Coming? D Doug Hamilton has immense size, and is very mobile along the blue line. He is a big man, at 6'6" he may even come close to Zdeno Chara's size, and is a physical threat that can move, and that is just what other teams want to face, in 2 big D-Men. RW Jordan Caron is a powerful forward and has a ton of grit and hockey IQ and may perfectly complement pure scoring forwards. RW Jared Knight attacks the goal and is fearless and he works hard to boot.

Outlook: They can easily repeat as champs, and be the first team to do that since the Red Wings did that in 1997 and 1998. They have depth, scoring prowess, great goaltending and solid defense. It will be tough in the East, which has gotten much better over the offseason, but that shouldn't matter for this team. They will be a great team, and they'll be right there in May.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: New York Islanders

When you have spent as much time in the basement as the Islanders have, fans are bound to get a bit restless. It doesn't help that there stadium referendum was vetoed this summer as well. As for the on-ice product, they are young and on the way up, but how far up can they go above 13 this season in the East?

Strengths: The youth on the team is innumerable, and impressive. They are led by John Tavares, the young centermen who has tons of scoring ability and distributes the puck well. Around him, the Isles have Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Nino Niederrieter, and the near Calder winner from a year ago in Michael Grabner, who burst onto the scene. Even behind those top 6, there is considerable depth and good potential around the line up, and they are good secondary scoring options for this team. They have impressive depth at the forward position after having scoring troubles in the past few seasons.

Weaknesses: Defense and goaltending are still issues for this hockey team. Mark Streit is the best defensive player for the Islanders, but there is very little around him and behind him in the defense corps to captain the power play, or guys to be big hitters on the forecheck. They will need someone in that group to emerge alongside Streit in order for this team to be impressive. In net, there is a true logjam. Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, and Al Montoya are all in this goaltending triangle, and no one has done anything to completely standout. It doesn't look like anyone will stand out at this point.

Any Help Coming? C Ryan Strome has plenty of point scoring  potential, and should be a solid top 2 centermen at some point in the future. He may still have to build on some muscle on to his frame though. D Calvin de Haan is very solid overall, and can skate very well, but has a small frame and still needs to build some muscle. C Brock Nelson is a big center who has good potential all around.

Outlook: They will be in plenty of high scoring games, but their defense and goaltending issues may outweigh their offensive strong suits. In the East, it looks like the Islanders may have another long season due to their competition and overall lack of soundness behind a very solid group of forwards. They are on the right track, but defense and goaltending need to be more sound before they take the next step.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Toronto Maple Leafs

Along with Florida, they are the only team that has not made the postseason since the lockout, and the patience of many in Leafs nation is shrinking. Brian Burke and Ron Wilson have tried to build this team well, with a combo of homegrown talent and free agents, but time is not a friend to them. The Leafs ended last season on a roll, but does that mean that they have a chance to sniff deep April hockey this season?

Strengths: They didn't score too often last season, as they were only 23rd in the league in that department. But, they have great talent with guys like Phil Kessel (yeah, I had to say it), Nikolai Kulemin, new addition Tim Connolly, and Mikhail Grabovski, however he sustained a nasty looking injury in their final preseason game. These guys, along with others like Tyler Bozak, Clarke MacArthur and possibly Matthew Lombardi based on his health, will have to score more in order for the Leafs to be a better team and stay in games when young standout goalie James Reimer can't keep them in it. He burst onto the scene last season, and has immense promise for a franchise that hasn't had stable goaltending for quite some time, and he looks like he's the one. He's young though, so there is still some time to grow. On defense, they traded for J-M Liles from Colorado this season to pair up with Dion Phaneuf, and they are a very decent top pairing. They also have some young potential behind them, but they haven't quite lived up to the billing just yet.

Weaknesses: Behind Liles and Phaneuf, there is some young talent and good veteran quality, but they have not lived up to their potential, and it remains to be seen whether they can or not. Keith Aulie, Luke Schenn, and especially Mike Komisarek have to play better than they did a season ago, and bring stability back to that group, despite the fact that as an overall group it is pretty solid. They also have got to be consistent this season, as another slow start may dig them too deep a hole in the suddenly crowded Eastern Conference.

Any Help Coming? Leafs fans are waiting for the breakout from C Nazem Kadri, who has tons of potential and promise and skills, but his decision making sometimes brings up questions. C Joe Colborne has plenty of potential and talent, but his impact on games with the Marlies of the AHL can swing dramatically from plentiful, to nothing. D Jake Gardiner is a versatile offensive defenseman who is smart and knows how to play an offensive role due to the fact he was converted from a forward, however he still needs some fine tuning with his defensive skill.

Outlook: If the Leafs can stay consistent this season, then they have a decent chance at finally making the postseason for the first time since 2003-04. They have enough talent everywhere and enough potential to possibly break out, but they may be held back by a James Reimer regression and some issues with the defense corps. But, the amount of promise the Leafs have is improving, and there sure is a feeling that finally, the Leafs postseason duck may be broken.

Monday, October 3, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Colorado Avalanche

It was only the 2009-2010 season when the Avs surprised everyone and snuck into the postseason, only to fall to the top seeded Sharks. Last year was a combination of a bad defense, young team, and suspect goaltending. Greg Sherman made some drastic changes to the Avs roster this offseason, but will that propel Colorado to the postseason dance?

Strengths: If there is one thing they have in spades, it's young forwards. They are lead by Matt Duchene, who lead the team in scoring last season and should anchor the top line along with Milan Hejduk and David Jones. Behind them, Paul Stastny will need to rebound from a tough season last year and become one of the primary scorers on this team again. He'll be joined by two more young players, like T.J Galiardi and Peter Mueller, who will be returning from post-concussion syndrome. There are other good young forwards on this team, including Brandon Yip, Daniel Winnik and Ryan O'Reily. There may also be a spot on the team for the second overall pick in the 2011 entry draft, Gabriel Landeskog. The young group of forwards as a whole has plenty of talent and potential, but is still raw. Also, there were problems in net last season, but those were addressed by bringing in Semyon Varlamov from Washington and former Conn Smythe winner J-S Giguere from Toronto. They should stabilize what was a rotating door in net when Craig Anderson struggled, and then after he got traded to Ottawa.

Weaknesses: The defense corp overall is still a weak point, despite some changes in the unit. Jan Hejda and Erik Johnson will anchor the blue line group, and they are good, but behind them there is not much. It is a young group, and there is some promise, but there isn't enough great NHL talent ready just yet. Duncan Siemens, the second Avs first round pick has a chance to make the squad, but he will likely return to juniors. Overall, the team is very young and has good potential for coach Joe Sacco, but it is still raw overall, and needs seasoning.

Any Help Coming? Besides Landeskog and Siemens, there are some other prospects in the system that have some promise. D Stefan Elliott is a great offensive defenseman with a great shot and eye for the net, but he isn't that physical. C Joey Hishon is a tough, offensive center with good ability and balance, however he gets hurt often. G Calvin Pickard may be the second best goaltending prospect right now, and can take a heavy workload.

Outlook: This team has too many holes defensively, and is just too raw at this point to make the postseason, even though they may challenge for a spot in a Northwest division that doesn't have a clearly defined second team behind Vancouver. They have loads of potential because of the mass of youth and promise, but this team is still on its way up, and needs some more time before they challenge for a postseason spot every season.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Winnipeg Jets

How can anyone not be excited for what will go on this season in Winnipeg? It is so great to see that city back in the NHL, and the team may be pretty good to show for it. Kevin Cheveldayoff didn't do much to change the Thrashers roster from a season ago, and that one was pretty good for half a season. Can the Jets make the postseason in their first year "back" in Winnipeg?

Strengths: There is a ton of great youth on this team, and it is mixed with a good amount of veteran leadership. Zach Bogosian, Alexander Burmistrov, Bryan Little, and some of the young veterans, including Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, and others are the centerpieces of a young, but talented roster. They can score and dazzle with their skill and talent. They have that in many places on this roster, and that is a good thing considering what happened to this team a year ago, when they were close to something but lost their legs towards the end of the season. It seems like this could be the perfect group for a new team in a new city. In net, Ondrej Pavelec had a big season last year, and if he can continue that torrid pace he may be able to become one of the better goaltenders in this league. He too is young; he's only 24 years old. They may be a very young team, but they don't play like one.

Weaknesses: Even though the youth is very promising, there is still unrealized potential in many of them, especially Zach Bogosian. He needs to realize his potential at some point, which is nearly boundless. Bryan Little had a big season in 2008-09, but can he have a big season this year? What about Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien? Don't forget Pavelec, who could be due for a letdown, even though he still is very, very good. Combine that with the new system of Claude Noel, and there is a possibility that this team could fall short again.

Any Help Coming? C Mark Scheifele was drafted this season, and he has very good potential to become a well rounded centermen for this Jets squad. He logs big minutes, and big points too. LW Carl Klingberg has great work ethic and great skills as well, but he needs to develop patience and consistency if he wants to totally realize his potential. C Patrice Cormier is very well rounded, even though he may not be the most gifted prospect in the world.

Outlook: It may still feel like the Jets won the Stanley Cup, simply because they are back in Winnipeg. However the on-ice product could be a bit of a boom or bust thing. They have great potential to become a playoff team, but they could also be the team that finishes 12th or 13th in the East. There are plenty of questions as to how this will come together, but it still may be a successful season in Winnipeg regardless of what happens on the ice.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Minnesota Wild

When you haven't made it to the postseason since 2008, and out of the first round since 2003, sometimes sweeping changes are needed. This is exactly what happened in St. Paul this offseason. There is a new head coach in Mike Yeo, and a bunch of new faces on the roster. Will all of this change add up to a much needed postseason birth in the Hockey Capital of the U.S?

Strengths: The offensive got a huge makeover this offseason, and now becomes a strength instead of a weakness. Gone are 3 of their Top 4 scorers from a season ago (Andrew Brunette, Marty Havlat, and Brent Burns), but in are Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. They will form a top line with Wild mainstay Mikko Koivu  to form a very good top line. Behind that, there are some good scoring possibilities in Guillaume Latendresse and P-M Bouchard, who will need to have immediate impacts in order to help a team that had a major lack of scoring a season ago. In net, Niklas Backstrom is an under-the-radar goaltender because he plays in Minnesota, but he is very solid and very reliable in net for a team that needs stability at that position due to their offensive and defensive holes.

Weaknesses: The loss of Brent Burns to San Jose will be very tough to overcome, and no single player can replace his offensive and defensive output. Marek Zidlicky may be the best option, along with newcomer Mike Lundin, but behind them there isn't much. This could end up posing a huge task for Mike Yeo with the lack of playmaking talent on the blue line. Behind the potent top line, there aren't many big scoring threats for the Wild, and once again this combination will force the Wild to be very reliant on Nik Backstrom once again to keep the team afloat.

Any Help Coming? C Mikael Granlund is the Wild's best prospect, and has very good offensive talent all around, and he could be coming to the Wild line-up pretty soon. RW Charlie Coyle came over in one of the trades with San Jose this offseason, and he can become a legit power forward for this team soon, with his big frame and big strength. D Jonas Brodin is another good prospect, and he can possibly help the ailing Wild blue line sooner rather than later.

Outlook: Even though the team underwent significant change, there still isn't enough on this roster to contend for the postseason in a very crowded West. There is little offensive depth behind the top line, and the defense corps has a troubling lack of depth and talent with some of the offseason losses. It may be a struggle for Mike Yeo in his first season in the NHL.