Thursday, September 16, 2010

2010-2011 Los Angeles Kings Preview

The Los Angeles Kings
I assure you the dark circles under my eyes are genetic...

Previous Year's Team Stats

46 wins, 27 losses, 9 OTL, 101 points, 9th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Kings returned to prominence after several years of playoff-less mediocrity. The team is on the verge of being elite boasting a handful of young superstars, a talented cast of regulars and solid depth at every position. The question for LA isn't about whether or not they'll make the playoffs this season. The question is just how deep will they be able to make it in the post-season?

The Kings are led up front by 23-year old Slovenian center Anze Kopitar who had a career year last season with 81 points. The uber talented pivot has struggled with consistency in his young career and has heavily relied on the talent of his linemates. However Kopitar remains one of the brightest young stars in the league and should continue to improve on his numbers this season. One of the key reasons for Kopitar's monster season was the arrival of gritty goalie pest Ryan Smyth who's game compliments Kopitar perfectly. Smyth is beginning to get long in the tooth and has always been suffered through durability issues. However Smyth once again will be an integral part of the Kings' first line with Kopitar. Likely playing on the opposite wing will be Justin Williams who also had an injury shortened campaign last year. Williams has been a source of skepticism from Kings' fans about whether or not he's a first line talent. However Williams will likely get the ice time as he's shown the ability to click with Kopitar in the past.

The Kings' signed UFA winger Alexei Ponikarovsky who is a talented two-way complimentary player that will likely be playing second line minutes. Centering the second line will be Jarret Stoll who's made a name for himself as one of the better two-way centers in the game. Stoll will never be confused with an offensive dynamo but he'll fill his role adequately in LA while playing on both special teams. Likely playing on the opposite wing will be Kings' captain Dustin Brown who's developed into one of the gritty player and one of the best hitters in the league. Brown has struggled with scoring inconsistency in his NHL career but will crack the 50 point barrier in any healthy campaign.

LA's third line this season will likely be led by 22-year old winger Wayne Simmonds who had a coming out party in his sophomore season and was extremely impressive in the Kings' six player off games. Simmonds lacks the hockey sense to be a first line talent in this league but makes up for this with an elite work ethic and strong two-way game. Michal Handzus is one of the best third line centers in the game and will once be relied upon to carry the first penalty kill unit. Occupying the opposite wing will likely be toolbox player Brad Richardson who can do a little bit of everything in the bottom six.

Filling out the Kings' forward core will likely be an assortment of young players. 26-year old playing making winger Scott Parse played 59 games last season and will bounce around the Kings' depth chart this year. Likely centering the fourth line will be 23-year old former 17th overall pick Trevor Lewis who's struggled to find himself in professional hockey and faces what may well be his last opportunity to make the Kings. 23-year old defensive forward Richard Clune will make the team this season and likely make himself a fixture on the Kings' fourth line. Utility player Peter Harrold will fill in on defense or in the bottom six when needed.

Heavyweight enforcer Kevin Westgarth, 21-year old scorer Oscar Moller, 20-year old Russian center Andrei Loktionov, and former 5th overall pick Brayden Schenn all stand a good chance of seeing games in LA this season.

The Kings' boast perhaps the finest defense in the league with several blue-chip prospects pushing to make the team. LA's blueline is led by 20-year old Norris Trophy nominee Drew Doughty who absolutely exploded last year with 59 points. Doughty has shown himself to be one of the most elite defensemen in the world before being able to legally drink. Even though it's still very early in Doughty's career he's projecting to be a generational defenseman. Likely playing with Doughty will be Willie Mitchell who was signed by LA this off-season. Mitchell is one of the finest defensive defensemen and penalty killers in the league and will give LA's penalty kill (which was one of their weaknesses last season) a huge boost.

The second pairing will likely be led by former third overall pick Jack Johnson who's been something of a controversial figure for the Kings. Johnson has one of the best physical skill sets in the league but has some serious holes in his defensive game. Johnson took some big strides in improving his overall game last season and played out of his mind in the Olympics. Playing with Johnson will likely be veteran defensive defenseman Rob Scuderi who was LA's defacto shutdown defenseman last season.

The bottom pairing this season will see gritty defensive defenseman Matt Greene stabilizing this pairing. Greene unfortunately will miss training camp and the opening of the season with a shoulder injury but is expected back in early October. After Greene the depth chart in LA gets crazy with potential defensive prospects the Kings could give a NHL job to. My personal pick to be the sixth defenseman in LA this season is former fourth overall pick Thomas Hickey who's been sidelined by injuries the last two years. Hickey was an absolute hockey prodigy in his time in Seattle and offers one of the best talent packages of any defensive prospect in the league if he could just get his health in order. Likely filling in as the seventh defenseman will be defensive defenseman Davis Drewiske.

20-year old offensive defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov, Swedish import Johan Fransson, and 23-year three zone defenseman old Alec Martinez all stand a good chance of seeing games in LA this season.

The Kings face an interesting log jam in net. 24-year old Jonathan Quick had an exceptional season seemingly out of nowhere last year playing 72 games before imploding in the playoffs. Quick is being pushed by blue chip prospect 22-year old Jonathan Bernier who destroyed the AHL last season being named the league's best goalie with the Baz Bastien Trophy. Bernier is projecting to be the next great goalie in the NHL but will have to unseat Quick as the Kings' number one before he can reach his ceiling. To further complicate matters Quick signed a three year contract extension last year. Look for Quick to start the season as the Kings' number one but for Bernier to overtake him somewhere around the 41 game mark. Also in the mix is Swedish import Erik Ersberg who's done a very respectable job as LA's backup for the last three years but who's future is in doubt with Quick and Bernier on the depth chart.

Team Trending

The Kings' right now are beginning to look like the Blackhawks of two years ago with the accumulation of young superstars and the first dividends being shown of a successful rebuild. The Kings' forward core lacks elite talent beyond Kopitar and probably doesn't have the top end talent for this team to be considered a top team. However the Kings have arguably the best defense in the league and perhaps the best depth in goal. Look for the Kings to come in somewhere between 6th-10th in the league.

BVB Opening Night Projected Line-Up




Player Projections


Ryan Smyth - 24 G/32 A 56 P
Anze Kopitar - 38 G/50 A 88 P
Justin Williams - 18 G/30 A 48 P

Alexei Ponikarovsky - 21 G/30 A 51 P
Jarret Stoll - 16 G/35 A 51 P
Dustin Brown - 27 G/30 A 57 P

Brad Richardson - 13 G/18 A 31 P
Michal Handzus - 18 G/20 A 38 P
Wayne Simmonds - 20 G/28 A 48 P

Scott Parse - 10 G/19 A 29 P
Trevor Lewis - 6 G/10 A 16 P
Richard Clune - 2 G/5 A 7 P


Drew Doughty - 19 G/48 A 67 P
Willie Mitchell - 2 G/18 A 20 P
Jack Johnson - 7 G/30 A 37 P
Rob Scuderi - 1 G/13 A 14 P
Matt Greene - 3 G/9 A 12 P
Thomas Hickey - 5 G/17 A 22 P


Jonathan Quick - 23-17-5 | 2.68 GAA | .909 Sv%
Erik Ersberg - 1-1-0 | 2.70 GAA | .904 Sv%
Jonathan Bernier - 20-13-2 | 2.43 GAA | .919 Sv%

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

2010-2011 Florida Panthers Preview

The Florida Panthers
Making the case for contraction in the NHL for over a decade
The future is Red comrade.

Previous Year's Team Stats

32 wins, 37 losses, 13 OTL, 77 points, 27th overall in the league

Team Analysis

The Florida Panthers have been in a decade long rebuild since their last playoff appearance going through seven head coaches and five general managers in that time. It's been a rough ride for Panthers fans in that time suffering through several regimes of mismanagement and a lot of questionable hockey decisions. However this organization made a step in the right direction hiring former Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon to finally bring order to the organization. Tallon has taken the Panthers into full blown rebuild mode trading established Panthers players for picks and young players at the draft. The Panthers do have a surprisingly talented core of players and could be a team that surprises this season. However this team could just as easily be in fire sale mode by game 41. The question for the Panthers this season is will their core be able to play well enough to prevent Tallon from making further changes to key personnel?

The Panthers offense will largely be by committee this season. Leading the forward core is 25-year old David Booth who only managed to play 28 games last season before suffering a season ending concussion. Booth has been deemed completely healthy and will look to have a bounce back season as the Panthers potential goal scoring leader. Centering the top line will be Stephen Weiss who's been Florida's top center since Olli Jokinen was traded two seasons ago. Weiss is a solid two-way player but lacks elite NHL scoring skill. Complimenting the first line will be 22-year old Michael Frolik who's had two consecutive seasons scoring 21 goals. Look for Frolik to crack the 60 point barrier this season.

One of the Panthers big trades at the draft saw two former Canucks come to the Panthers. The most exciting of these is 22-year old Michael Grabner who couldn't crack the Canucks top six but will likely excel with ample opportunity in Florida. Grabner is a streaky sniper who boasts speed and a heavy wrist shot. Look for him to score 20 plus goals this season. Enigmatic power forward 25-year old Steve Bernier also arrived in Florida in the Canucks trade. Bernier has never been able to find the scoring touch that made him a 16th overall pick in 2003 but he has developed into an effective bottom six player. Look for Bernier to bounce between the second and third line in Florida this season. 

Filling out the offensive forwards for Florida is recent unrestricted free agent signing Chris Higgins who's a multiple 20 goal scorer. Higgins has had a rough career the past few years bouncing between teams since his three straight 20 goal seasons. However Higgins will look to fill out the second line and is considered to be a "Tallon Player" among the Panthers' faithful. Competing with Higgins for offensive minutes in the top six will be 36-year old accomplished vet Cory Stillman who's tuning up for his swan song in Florida this season. Down the middle will be 36-year old center Steven Reinprecht who had a respectable 38 point campaign last season. Competing with him for top six minutes will be 22-year old Shawn Matthias who's boasted offensive acumen but has had difficulties adjusting to professional hockey. 

Occupying bottom six roles this season will be scoring winger Rostislav Olesz who's been a disappointing former first round draft pick for the Panthers. Veteran two-way winger Radek Dvorak will likely be a fixture on the Panthers' bottom six this season. Depth center Marty Reasoner who was traded from the Thrashers to the Blackhawks to the Panthers this off-season will play a significant defensive role. Veteran heavyweight enforcer Andrew Peters will look to weigh in on games where his physical presence is needed. And big 6-5 grinder Byron Bitz could also see a few games this season. 

The Panthers' defense is led by one of the most underrated players in the NHL Bryan McCabe who had a huge 43 point campaign on the Panthers' blueline last year. McCabe is one of the stronger all category defensemen in the game and will again carry the bulk of minutes on the Panthers back-end. The next most intriguing defenseman is 19-year old Dmitry Kulikov who made the big club as an 18-year old straight out of Juniors playing 68 games for the Panthers' last season. Kulikov is quietly one of the best offensive defensemen prospects in the game. Look for Kulikov's role to expand in Florida this season as the Panthers' give him more ice time and responsibility this season.

The Panthers' added talented offensive defenseman Dennis Wideman in the other big trade of the off-season with the Boston Bruins. Wideman is an excellent puck-moving defenseman who's managed three straight 30 points seasons. Wideman will likely team with McCabe on the powerplay in a pairing reminiscent of the uber-successful Kaberle-McCabe pairing of years past. Wideman will be a player to watch this season as he's in an optimal point production environment for his game. Bryan Allen will be the de facto defensive defenseman in Florida this season. Allen boasts a gritty safe stay-at-home game but will likely take the bulk of key defensive minutes for the Panthers.

Rounding out the defensive core is recent UFA signee Mike Weaver who's made a nice career for himself as a depth defender. 25-year old Lukas Krajieck clone Jason Garrison will also get significant time on the bottom pairing this season. Versatile role player Nathan Paetsch will look to fill in as the club's seventh defenseman. 

Current third overall pick Erik Gudbranson stands an outside chance of making the big club this season. Gudbranson plays a gritty defensive oriented game while showing flashes of offensive competence. Gudbranson and Kulikov are clearly the future of the Panthers' blueline and at the time of this writing Peter DeBoer has already expressed how impressed with Gudbranson he is in rookie camp. Keep an eye on what this kid does in the coming weeks in Florida.

The Panthers are both blessed and cursed to have 34-year old goaltender Tomas Vokoun as their starting goaltender. Vokoun is a top five goalie in the league and has played out of his mind in Florida. However Vokoun has been the subject of significant trade rumors in months past and seems somewhat out of place on this Panthers team with one of the finest goalie prospects in the world finally coming to North America. That prospect is 20-year old Jacob Markstrom who absolutely decimated the SEL last season with his stellar play. Markstrom is clearly the goalie of the future for the Panthers but will likely see significant time in the AHL this season as the Panthers' organization doesn't want to rush him. However there is a possibility that Markstrom's talent could force him to be on the big club in some capacity this season. Keep an eye on this kid because he's going to be the next great goalie in this league. Scott Clemmensen won a contract with the Florida Panthers after an excellent campaign with the Devils playing 40 games in place of the injured Martin Brodeur. Clemmensen did a very respectable job with the Panthers' last season and will play 20-25 games again this season.

Team Trending

The Panthers lack elite offensive talent up front and will depend on a core of streaky and injury plagued players to carry their offense. This team has a very underrated back-end and is one of the deepest in net in the league. This team is obviously beginning to go in the right direction with the changes in team culture and emphasis on youth instituted by general manager Dale Tallon. However this team probably won't make the playoffs this year. Look for the Florida Panthers to come in somewhere between 21st-25th in the league. 

BVB Projected Opening Night Line-Up




Player Projections


David Booth - 29 G/30 A 59 P
Stephen Weiss - 31 G/36 A 67 P
Michael Frolik - 26 G/28 A 54 P 

Chris Higgins - 15 G/17 A 32 P 
Shawn Matthias -  13 G/18 A 31 P 
Michael Grabner - 22 G/20 A 42 P

Cory Stillman - 12 G/16 A 28 P 
Steven Reinprecht - 14 G/23 A 37 P
Steve Bernier - 18 G/20 A 38 P 

Rostislav Olesz - 10 G/12 A 22 P 
Marty Reasoner - 3 G/10 A 13 P
Byron Bitz - 7 G/10 A 17 P


Bryan McCabe - 7 G/32 A 39 P
Dennis Wideman - 5 G/22 A 27 P
Dmitry Kulikov - 5 G/20 A 25 P
Bryan Allen - 3 G/10 A 13 P
Mike Weaver - 0 G/7 A 7 P
Jason Garrison - 3 G/11 A 14 P


Tomas Vokoun - 27-26-9 | 2.67 GAA | .921 Sv%
Scott Clemmensen - 8-10-2 | 2.80 GAA | .907 Sv%
Jacob Markstrom - 1-0-1 | 2.40 GAA | .916 Sv%

Monday, September 13, 2010

Daily Notes (Canucks Vs. Sharks prospect game)

Remember my name Bitches!
Today was Day Two of the Penticion Prospect Tournament featuring the Canucks Vs. the Sharks.

Canucks defenseman prospect Chris Tanev stood out head and shoulders as the best player this evening notching two goals, an absolutely ridiculous assist on a rush through three Sharks defenders, and a number of specutacular defensive plays. Tanev has always been considered an extremely talented player but has had to contend with size issues. However Tanev hit a growth spurt last year and is a very respectable 6-2. Remember this kid's name because he absolutely dazzled tonight at both ends.

Canucks prospect Aaron Volpatti also had a remarkable game scoring two goals, throwing a number of huge hits, and getting into a fight. Volpatti was signed as a UFA out of Brown University last season and brought an impressive physical game in his 13 games with the Moose last season. Volpatti is significantly older than his competition in this tournament at 25-years old, however Volpatti's second goal displayed remarkable hand-eye coordination as he batted a flipping puck in mid-air into the net on a beautiful feed from Tanev.

Also notable is former T-Birds (Wooooo Go Thunderbirds!) star Prab Rai who's made many Canucks fans take note of his excellent play after some mediocre training camps in the past. Rai has noticeably gained muscle and become a much better skater in his showing this year in Canucks rookie camp. Also Rai is showing some of the offensive flair that made him such a success in the WHL with several nifty passes. Rai also got good reviews for his work on the penalty kill today.

Finally for the Canucks, Swedish goalie import Eddie Lack impressed again with several spectacular saves and kept the game well in hand for the Baby 'Nucks through the contest. Lack had one or two bad goals against today but that should be expected playing his second game in two days and lasze'fair approach to defense the Baby 'Nucks took when having a commanding lead.

While I was chiefly watching the Canucks tonight, Sharks defenseman Nick Shaus has been a standout in this tournament. The recent NCAA signee scored two goals today and played spectacular defense on a largely rag-tag defensive group the Sharks iced this evening. Shaus looked competent in all three zones and has an absolutely explosive shot. Keep this kid's name in mind.

I admit I slept through the Flames Vs. Ducks game which ended 8-4 in the Flames favor.

Daily Notes and Trade Prediction (Dustin Penner)

Criminally Underrated Dustin Penner leaving Edmonton soon?
Hockey is finally back my friends! Today two prospects games went down between the Edmonton Oilers/Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Ducks/San Jose Sharks

Anyone who got to watch the Canucks/Oilers prospect game today, that was a real treat. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson looks like he's going to explode into this league and his play easily eclipsed every other player including Hall on the ice. Kevin Connauton scored a goal and was the Canucks best player today. Also it was announced today that Canucks prospect Cody Hodgson will not be attending training camp due to injury concerns, thus given credence to the strange things we here at BVB have been noticing.

In the Sharks/Ducks prospect game, Brandon Mashinter absolutely tore it up with two goals and a couple of bone rattling hits. Mashinter is a big f'n kid out of the OHL and was a free agent signing with the Sharks. Real impressive debut for the kid considering I've never heard of him. Nick Petrecki was also a man amongst kids tonight on the Sharks Blueline. Cam Fowler stood out for the Ducks and I think has a good shot right now at making the Ducks line-up. The real test will be when Fowler plays against men in two weeks.

Okay this is a straight up prediction based on absolutely no evidence or buzz. However I will kick myself later if I don't record this since my logic is twitching right now. With Hall and MPS debuting for the Oilers this season and both likely to pass Dustin Penner on the depth chart by 41 games in, I really think it's a strong possibility that Penner will be traded. It also makes sense since Penner is at the height of his value right now being the most underrated player in the NHL that the Oilers would want to move him sooner rather than later. So I'm predicting Dustin Penner will be traded before 41 games in and there's a strong chance he'll be traded before the regular season opens. I think he might go to the Rangers for still unsigned RFA Marc Staal, but this is all just speculation.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There's something strange between the Canucks and Hodgson


What is going on with this team and top prospect Cody Hodgson? In a near repeat of training camp's past Canucks Head Coach Alain Vigneault addressed the media about Cody Hodgson recently saying that Hodgson would not be attending rookies camp and then gruffly avoiding any other questions about Hodgson except to infer there may still be medical problems with Hodgson. This is almost a direct repeat of last year's training camp where Hodgson alleged that he was pushed by team officials to play through injury only to sustain a near season ending injury and the latest in a strange icy relationship between Hodgson and the Canucks. We have absolutely no idea what this apparent tension between AV and Hodgson is about but we'll keep paying attention and see if anything comes of it.