Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Puck Stops Here: In the Air Tonight


Welcome back to another edition of The Puck Stops Here. It has been a very exciting week in the world of sports and the future looks bright as well. I want to quickly mention how elated I was to see the Giants upset the Patriots in a great Super Bowl, congratulations to the G-men and their fans. The NBA just saw two major deals involving prolific big men, Shaq joining the Suns and Gasol joining Kobe and the Lakers, this should make the West very interesting. Catchers and pitchers will be reporting shortly and I can’t shake the spring is in the air feeling, which can only mean the start of baseball and the NHL play offs. Lastly, college basketball is heating up and this March certainly looks to be madness, I have Memphis going all the way even though they lose to Tennessee in a couple weeks. This is a very exciting time to be sports fan, but let’s get back to the ice.

That injury bug is still biting, more injuries have occurred opening up opportunities and closing doors on others. I want to explore a couple injury situations to help answer some questions concerning returns.

Dany Heatley, W, Ottawa: Heatley injured his shoulder in a collision on January 12th in a win over the Red Wings. At the time they expected him to miss 4-6 weeks, but Heatley has been practicing and says that everything feels good so far. It is looking like my initial prediction was right and he will return in the 4-week timetable rather than the 6. Look for him to hit the ice on the 12th against Buffalo, if he does not return, then he probably won’t play until the 16th against New Jersey. Be ready for his return and get him into the lineup ASAP. Scale back expectations on Vermette who assumed Heatley’s role on the top unit after the injury.

Paul Stastny, C, Colorado: Stastny was placed on the IR on January 17th after undergoing an appendectomy. He has missed 9 games since the surgery, but he looks ready to return this Saturday in Vancouver. Stastny may take a few games to get clicking again, but he should be returned to your starting lineup. I see this as a good thing for all Colorado players. Stastny is a young stud and will help everyone around him. Look for Svatos to score even more if he is paired with Stastny.

Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago: Toews was having a very good season until a knee injury sidelined him in early January. Toews is practicing again and looks like he will return some time next week. His presence should help everyone around him as his can both score and distribute the puck very well. Like all rookies, he will be inconsistent, but he should still be in your line up when he returns. If he struggles out of the gate, keep an eye on him to determine if it is a lingering knee injury or just some inconsistency.

Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh: This will be brief because Sid is still a few weeks away, but the phenom has returned to skating this week while the team is on the road. Sid seems very determined to keep his stint on the IR as brief as possible. As a Pens fan I want to see him wait it out so that he is healthy when he returns, but I am predicting a March 1st return against the Ottawa Senators. Until then, look for Malone and Sykora to keep churning out the offensive production.

Robe Blake, D, Los Angeles: Blake fractured his ankle on January 15th blocking a shot against Edmonton, he continued to play, but has recently shut it down to let the injury heal. He is expected to miss about 2 more weeks while the non-displaced fracture continues to heal. Jack Johnson seems to be the big winner from this injury as his ice time jumped to 25 minutes in the Kings recent victory against the Rangers. Until Blake returns, look for Johnson to continue logging solid minutes.

Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pitsburgh: Fleury has missed about two months with the dreaded high ankle sprain. However, Fleury has been practicing with the team and is quickly approaching a return. This is a very important situation because Conklin, Fleury’s replacement, seems to have solidified his role as the number one goalie in Pittsburgh. It will be very interesting to see how Michel Therrien handles the goalie situation in Pittsburgh. For the time being, Fleury and Conklin should both be owned and the best scenario would be handcuffed together.

Thanks for reading, have a great week.




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4 comments:

Mcpuck22 said...

Interesting updates. What do you think about Fleury's new white pads? I know that all goalies are goofy but Fleury seems to have a few more screws loose than others. What do you think his mental state will be like coming off an injury like this that could act up anytime? For as active as he is in net, I just wonder if he'll be able to come back as effectively with the ankle problem in the back of his mind, especially if he struggles early. What are your thoughts? If you could only afford to own one penguin goalie the rest of the way, who would it be?

Anonymous said...

Joe,
I have an issue that I need some advice on. Through my own prudent analysis and your input in the blog I've managed to get my team solidly into first place. Out of a 10-team league, 6 make the playoffs and 2 get a bye. With that in mind I need some long term roster advice.

I currently have zero defensemen (thanks to your idea which has actually paid off, great call!) but I've managed to accumulate 7 of my 13 players at the center position. Thinking about the long term and making a playoff run, who would you suggest I get rid of to balance my team a bit?
Daymond Langkow, Olli Jokinen, Anze Kopitar, Derek Roy, Nicklas Backstrom, Andy McDonald and Peter Forsberg

Joe said...

McPuck,

You raise some really good questions. First, it will sadden me greatly to see the gold pads go. It is what all us Penguin fans grew to love Fleury for, even when he was just a struggling rookie. However, it seems there have been many goalies who have switched to white pads in the past. Barrasso, DiPietro and even Fleury's teammate Conklin did it (I am sure there are many others). Some reasoning behind it is that it makes it harder to differentiate between the open net and pads, thus attracting more pucks to the pads rather than the openings. If this helps Fleury, then I am all for it, even if it only adds some kind of mental edge, it is a good thing.

You are right that Fleury is a little quirky, but that used to be the norm amongst goalies. It was once common place for goalies to talk to the goal posts, and most "pet" the post after a puck ricochets off of it. Patrick Roy used to avoid skating over the blue lines in the pre-game and stepped over them instead. While it is not as rampant as it once was, if being quirky worked for Roy, maybe its worth a try.

On to your second question, I don't think the injury will be affecting Fleury too much. He has sat out for a while and says the ankle isn't bothering him any more. However, like we agree on, he is quirky and I could see him focusing on this. If it negatively affects him, you gotta sit him down. A goalie who isn't "feeling it" will hurt you more than help. However, I don't foresee the injury mentally hampering him, my biggest concern is a lingering physical effect.

Now time for the hardest question. I would choose Fleury. Conklin has been beatable lately and I believe his hot streak has run out. In his last 6 games he has given up 18 goals, in his previous 12 before that he only gave up 17 goals. Clearly, Conklin is running out of steam. The Penguins made Fleury a first overall pick for a reason (he is also only the third goalie ever drafted first). He is one hell of a goaltender and is the future for the Penguins in net. He has shown last year he has amazing talent and can carry a team. I am not giving up on Fleury because a career minor leaguer had a hot streak. Fleury is my guy.

Joe said...

Anon,

You have a tough position, each one of those centers are very solid players who should be picked up immediately if let go. Your only option is to trade. I would try to move Forsberg, I know how much upside there is, but he is currently getting you nothing and could continue to get you nothing. He also didn't do that much for Nashville last season. However, someone will bite on his upside and I would let them take the risk. Forsberg hasn't contributed to your team, so you won't miss him. I also don't think he will be that valuable when he returns.