Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who Improved?

Every July, the Free Agent Frenzy creates a circus-like environment with TSN providing the best coverage on Day One. After that, it's fend for yourself especially in The States. I've always been jealous of Canada due to their love and devotion of everything puck. They benefit greatly from CBC, TSN and Sportsnet. I've probably left one out. Hockey is their sport even if our country still comprises a vast majority (23/30) of the league. Winnipeg coming back is positive. There will be a lot of attention for the right reasons.

While hockey is front and center up North, here it's still covered like tennis, which at least has ESPN providing a solid outlet. One of my gripes with Versus is they can't cover the offseason due to other commitments such as the Tour de France. Even NHL Network is reduced to 2011 Playoff Repeats and other stuff we've seen 100 times. If you want your hockey fix locally, there's occasionally the odd Devil game on MSG-Plus which aired New Jersey and Edmonton three times over 24 hours as @voicilizz noted on Twitter. MSG also does a solid job with their Vault, digging out old footage that even dates back to the 50's with Al Rotwig and Stan Fischler providing nostalgia, along with Dave Maloney giving his input. If you love hockey, it's a fun watch.

While it's nice to at least look back and see how different our sport once was with the equipment and size of players most noticeable, there's hardly much to go around on who improved and who hurt themselves. Say what you will. But Larry Brooks is the best reporter in town with his weekly Slap Shots a must for any pucker. You can also find decent coverage in The Boston Globe. The Daily News' Jesse Spector is a solid read and is always on Twitter answering stuff. There are a lot of blogs but most are Ranger themed and don't really examine the league as a whole.

Over the course of the summer, I'll do my best to look at each team's moves and assess how they did. If you noticed over at the top right sidebar, there's a new poll which asks Who Improved The Most? There are a few obvious candidates, including half of BONY represented courtesy of the Sabres and Rangers. I tried to be objective, nominating six other teams along with the always fun Other if you disagree. Whenever we get together for these bar debates, there's bound to be objection. Who knows? Maybe we'll even try a Round Table with our esteemed colleagues Brian and Hasan on who's won and who's lost. ;) We'll give it our best to keep you entertained.

Saw the other day, Tomas Kaberle moved to Raleigh where his brother Frantisek once played. With the Candy Canes moving Joe Corvo to Beantown for a fourth round pick, it's basically a swap. Even though I'm not the biggest Kaberle guy, I'll give Carolina the edge due to Kaberle still being a sound power play option, who should take pressure off Joni Pitkanen and provide more offense from the back end. I also agree with @KevinWeekes that the Canes have a system that works. Even if it doesn't produce playoffs every year, they remain competitive and health withstanding, should be in the mix. Corvo has a cannon and that's never bad for the defending champs, who rely heavily on Zdeno Chara. But his level dropped considerably. Maybe a scenery change will spark the much traveled vet.

I still am a bit perplexed why the Sharks made two trades. Is Martin Havlat really that much better than Dany Heatley for their system? They subtracted Devin Setoguchi, who was a good piece on back-to-back rosters that lost in the Conference Finals. Getting Brent Burns from Minnesota was a wise move but why not have just used Heatley instead of dealing away Setoguchi, Patrick Coyle and a #1 that allowed the Wild to select Zack Phillips. It seems like Doug Wilson parted with more than he had to due to the separate deals. While it still will be odd seeing Heatley in a Wild jersey, he's still a better player than Havlat who can boost hockey in St. Paul.

And finally, if the rumors are true about Michel Therrien to the Devils, I don't get why. Recycling another coach who often has worn thin, just doesn't make a lot of sense. He is a defensive coach who likes to sit back, which fits their system. But shouldn't the playoffs demonstrate that you need to play up-tempo to be successful? Even Claude Julien's Bruins made the necessary adjustment, battering the Canucks which explains why we still haven't found either Sedin. Having a strong D works to a point when you're headlined by a dominant big man like Chara. The Devs boast no such player with Adam Larsson still needing time. The fourth overall gem should make the roster but how well he performs is still a giant question. They must be careful not to expect too much. Is Therrien really the best fit for Zach Parise? TBD.

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