Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011 NHL All-Star Mock Draft: Rangers Tribune vs Bleeding All Blue.

Tomorrow will be the actual draft for the 2011 NHL All-Star Game with Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom serving as the captains.  To prepare for the actual draft, Nicholas Montemagno from Rangers Tribune and I conducted a mock All-Star Draft.  He had Team Staal and the first pick, while I had Team Lidstrom and the last pick. Below are the results of my picks and the rationale behind them. 

To see which players Nick chose and why he took them when he check out his write-up.

The actual draft will take place Friday at 8 pm on Versus.


Captain: Nicklas Lidstrom
Alternate: Martin St. Louis
Alternate: Patrick Kane.

Round 1 -- Henrik Sedin (C)
With Stamkos off the board, Martin St. Louis is crushed, but we must move on and I will take the reigning MVP Henrik Sedin.  Picking an MVP is never a bad choice, and he’s Swedish so that’s a win-win. Henrik is having another outstanding season leading the league in assists (50).

Round 2 – Henrik Lundqvist (G)
Tim Thomas might have the best numbers of any goalie in the game right now, but mine won a gold medal, and is as hot as any netminder going right now.  Goaltenders do not normally steal the show at in these games, but this one can.  Welcome aboard Henrik Lundqvist.

Round 3 – Daniel Sedin (LW)
No-brainer as Daniel and Henrik Sedin combine to form the best duo in the NHL.  Daniel is currently third in the league in goals (27), assists (37) and points (64).  At some point I might have to take a guy who is not Swedish though. 

Round 4 – Jonathan Toews (C)
Patrick Kane wanted his running mate in Chicago and I could not argue against one of the best young leaders in the game, and a terrific two-way hockey player that should lead a tremendous second line.

Round 5 – Rick Nash (LW)
Nash is a player who seems to shine on the big stage whether it be the All-Star game (5G, 4A) or the Olympics.  While he does not get enough national attention for the work he does in Columbus those in the league know how good he is. To go with his huge frame he has speed, power and finishing touch.

Round 6 – Zdeno Chara (D)
Zdeno is quite possibly the most imposing force in the game.  While there will not be a lot of hitting in the game, when it comes down to a late game situation the competitive nature will take over and who better to stop the likes of Stamkos than Chara.  Also doesn’t hurt that he is going to get me a point in the hardest shot competition either and scares defensive with his bombs from the point during the game.

 Round 7 – Jonas Hiller (G)
Hiller is one of the most underappreciated goalies in the NHL around the country.  What he is doing this season for the Ducks is nothing short of remarkable and he should be in the Vezina trophy race along with Henrik Lundqvist and Tim Thomas.  Jonas is currently leading the league in wins (25) and is fifth in the league in save percentage (.925).

Round 8 – Brad Richards (C)
I could not get Martin St. Louis his current running-mate with Stamkos going first overall, but here I can get him an old one in Brad Richards.  That a player of Brad’s caliber is only in his first All-Star game should make him even hungrier to show why he got that Conn-Smythe trophy.  His combination of vision, passing and scoring touch has propelled the Stars to a surprising season and gives my team versatility on power play as well.  Let us not forget is 57 points in 50 games this season either.

Round 9 – Shea Weber (D)
Another defender with a booming shot who is underappreciated around the country.  This 25-year-old defender has been among the league’s best for a number of years now and has shown he can perform on big stages and I like that in my guys.

Round 10 – Carey Price (G)
While the rules forced Carey with this pick, there is no denying the season that he is having between the pipes and he is a tremendous finish to my goalie lineup.  Price has shown this season that he is back in form and ready to carry the Canadiens to the playoffs.  Now I need him to carry my team for one period, and he is always good for striking a pose after the victory.

Round 11 – Dustin Byfuglien (D)
A virtual firing squad from the point has led Dustin to a career season and the league lead in goals by a defender (16).  With his combination of size and strength he is a terror to deal with for opposing defenses and that is exactly what I expect him to be for Team Lidstrom. 

Round 12 – Marc Staal (D)
Marc Staal has been known around the league as one of the top shutdown defenders for a few seasons now, but he has taken it to another level this year.  Adding offense to his game and playing a staggering 25:33 a night has helped the New York Rangers to their surprising position despite being plagued by injury.  Besides, who knows better how to defend Eric Staal than his own brother Marc.  Cannot wait to see how the Staal family reacts to Eric passing on Marc 12 times and allowing me to take the best shutdown defender in the game to stop Eric in the All-Star game.  Dinner at the Staal house should be fun tonight.

Round 13 – Matt Duchene (C)
Matt Duchene has quickly become one of the game’s top players both on and off the ice.  This youngster just became the youngest Colorado Avalanche player ever to record their 100th career point. Think about the names that have played for that franchise and understand how special this young player is.  His combination of speed, quickness and a wicked wrist shot will give Team Staal fits.

Round 14 – Brent Burns (D)
I have broken with expectations and chosen Burns over young countryman Erik Karlsson.  Erik is currently and will be a tremendous player in this league for a long time, but the opportunity to grab Burns was something I could not pass up.  Burns is yet another player on my team that is not as well known nationally as their talent should have them.  His 14 goals this season only trail his new teammate Dustin Byflugien among defenders.  Also, I can now have Erik spy for me in all team meetings and he will clearly throw his performance to help my team.

Round 15 – Loui Eriksson (LW)
Having passed on a Swede in the last round, I needed to ensure I grabbed the last Swedish player on the board with this pick.  Loui is a tremendous player who is only getting better and now will get to play with his normal center, Brad Richards, here on team Lidstrom.  Eriksson is having another tremendous year ranking eleventh in the league in scoring with his 47 points.

Round 16 – Paul Stasny (C)
Paul Stasny might have been the last player added to the All-Star game rosters, but it was not because he did not deserve to be here to begin with.  This young center has tremendous vision and passing ability that has made him a mainstay for the Colorado Avalanche since the beginning of his career.  Picking him made Duchene really happy too, so there is always that.

Round 17 – Patrik Elias (C/W)
Things have been awful in New Jersey this year, so that will only give Elias more incentive to make this team a winner.  Combine that motivation with the fact that Patrik is red-hot right now and Team Lidstrom has a very dangerous player on the team.

Round 18 – Martin Havlat (LW)
Marty Havlat might be Mr. Irrelevant in terms of this lineup selection, but I expect him to use that as fuel to prove myself and Eric Staal wrong for waiting so long to select such a talented winger.  Havlat has been doing just that all season and I expect him to do it one more time in the ASG.

My initial line combinations and defensive pairings:
Daniel Sedin- Henrik Sedin – Matt Duchene
With the amount of attention the Sedin twins will draw in this game, look for Duchene to use his speed and quickness to exploit the open ice and have a huge performance.

Rick Nash – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Kane
Keeping Toews and Kane together was an obvious move, but the way that Nash and Toews played together at the Olympics made the trio an easy choice as well.  The ability of all three to be strong on the puck, finish and passing ability could make this a lethal line.

Loui Eriksson – Brad Richards – Martin St. Louis
The thinking on this combination is similar to that with the Toews line.  You have the current combination of Richards and Loui Eriksson with the past chemistry of St. Louis and Brad Richards. Loui Eriksson might be the happiest man in Carolina to play with two playmakers of this caliber.

Martin Havlat – Paul Stastny – Patrik Elias
All three of these guys are excellent players, but reality is they were the three left over after the other nine were grouped.  Each one of these three could move up and change roles on other lines, or they could stay together and use their incredible combined passing and vision to pot a few themselves.

Nicklas Lidstrom – Dustin Byfuglien
The combination of the experience, defensive awareness and passing with Byfuglien’s shot is an intriguing one.  This also has a somewhat natural feel due to the similarities between Nick and Tobias Enstrom with more defensive skill at this stage on Lidstrom’s side.

Marc Staal– Shea Weber
Marc Staal plays a very similar game to Weber’s natural defense partner Ryan Suter, so this pairing is a natural fit and one I am sure every Rangers fan wishes could happen on Broadway.

Zdeno Chara – Brent Burns
In terms of placing Zdeno, the pairing with Burns is the most similar to that of Seidenberg whom he plays with in Boston.  Only concern with this pair is the susceptibility to speed, so the combinations might change between now and the drop of the puck.
In net I will go with Hiller in the first, Price in the second and Lundqvist to close out team Staal in the third.

Could Brian Boyle's Breakout Season Cause Rangers Problems This Summer?

Nick Laham/Getty Images

When training camp started many, including coach Tortorella, wrote off Brian Boyle as a member of the New York Rangers.  What has happened instead is Brian Boyle has turned into arguably the most important player to where the team is right now. Boyle is now the team leader in goals scored with eighteen in 52 games played this season.  His eighteen tallies rank him 25th in the league in goals.  Those eighteen goals for Boyle are not only a career high for a season, but they are six more than his career total coming into this year (107 games).  

Boyle has transformed to the point where the last three games, at different points, he has been put with Marian Gaborik to spark the offense.  If anyone tells you they had imagined that before the season began, they are absolute liars. Beyond the goal scoring alone, so many of the things that Boyle does for this team are why, at the All-Star break, the team would not be in sixth place in the Eastern Conference without him.  The question now is has Boyle’s emergence as a legitimate two-way threat and all the great things it has meant for the Rangers this season made him someone that will cause a problem for the team this summer.

Here you have a 26-year-old center who has finally learned how to use his size and strength to his advantage, can play in all situations and is showing goal scoring touch that is up for a new contract.  On the unrestricted market he easily tops 3 million per season, but what will he get as a restricted free agent this summer?  Can the Rangers afford to keep him?  Can the Rangers afford to let him walk away?

The team will have five get restricted free agents this summer including Boyle.  Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan are due for raises and musts in terms of the foundation of this team.  Artem Anisimov is also due for a raise but given his lack of arbitration rights and his up and down season it will not be for as much as it appeared he was heading for when the year started.  Finally, there is Michael Sauer who is another player that has turned himself from on the outside looking in into a key cog in the Rangers team.  All of these moves have to be considered in the context of whether or not the Rangers will sign Brad Richards and/or buyout Chris Drury.

It is rare that you get a center the size of Boyle who can score 25-30 goals in a season, kill penalties and be a tremendous influence in your locker room.  The question is what price-tag does the combination of things Brian Boyle brings the Rangers merit and where does he rank in terms of priorities this offseason?  He has to be a priority and the Rangers would certainly bring him back if the number can stay at or near what Matt Moulson got after a similar breakout year as a 26-year-old (2.45 million).  Certainly a good problem to have right now, and will once again make the Rangers offseason one to watch.

Daily Recap: Roster Moves; Zuccarello Staying; Avery Strips; NYR Guardian Revealed; Dancing MZA

There was a look at the roster moves the New York Rangers announced after last night’s game done this morning.  The big news was the activation of Ryan Callahan and Vinny Prospal from IR along with which five players were sent back to the Connecticut Whale.  Inside I looked at why one should not read too much into the Prospal activation and which of the Whale players who just went back might be back before the Rangers play another game.

One name that was not in among those down to the AHL was Mats Zuccarello-Aasen.  It was not a surprise to see him kept up with the NHL club, but I believe that while unofficial it represents an announcement that Zuccarello is here to stay.  Inside I look at how and why Zuccarello has earned that to be the case along with how the question has changed from will he stay to whom will he be staying to play with.  Finally I took a look at once the Rangers forwards finally get back to full strength what those line combinations could look like and how to best distribute the minutes.

Speaking of Zuccarello there was a post that contains a link to a webpage where you can control the way an animated Zuke dances by controlling both his arms and legs.  If you run the program long enough more versions of him will appears as background dancers as well.  Absolutely hilarious.

Sean Avery put his naked body on t-shirts to help raise awareness and funding for Cancer research.  The story has a photo of the shirts, what the cause is for and who is behind it.  I am sure there will be criticism of Avery for doing it and the questioning of his motives, but no matter why he did it, I hope it helps because it is a good cause to promote.

The only other thing today was the Rangers Guardian was finally revealed.  Check it out for yourself and be disappointed as has seemingly every fan base during this catastrophe.