And thus the speculation leading into another uneventful draft is over.
I was talking with a friend today about the NHL play-offs while we were watching today’s New York Rangers / New Jersey Devils match-up (the Rangers won 3-0). An interesting point came up in our conversation: of the four teams remaining, who would be the Conn Smythe winner if any of them won the cup? It’s a deceptively easy question to answer, since in most situations it ends up being the goaltenders. But is that the case for these teams?
For the New York Rangers, a team getting by on an everyone buys in defensive mentality, every player has contributed. Both defensively and offensively it seems that the goal or big play they need comes regardless of who is on the ice. In a situation like this, defensive and contributions spread throughout the team, it’s hard to bet against a goaltender. Especially when that goaltender has a .942 save percentage, a 1.57 GAA, and leads the post-season in shut-outs with three.
New York Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist (G)
How about the rival New Jersey Devils? The Devils have long been the gold standard to which the rest of the league compared their defense. While those days are gone, the Devils are still an adept defensive club with a platoon of defensemen that don’t steal the limelight. With that said, the Devils do have two of the games bigger stars up front in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise. Ilya Kovalchuk currently has cracked the top five in post-season goals, but teammate Parise is strangely absent. Goaltender Martin Brodeur sits eighth in the post-season in save percentage, and doesn’t crack the top five in any category besides shut-outs (he has one). A dark horse could take it here, watch for under appreciated guys like Bryce Salvador to sneak in with +/- of +8, which ranks him fourth in the post-season.
New Jersey Devils: Bryce Salvador (D)
How about the Western Conference? The Phoenix Coyotes have gotten this far on the back of their goaltender. There are no questions on that one. A save percentage of .942 has him tied for second with Henrik Lundqvist, and a GAA of 2.02 puts him fifth in the league. While things don’t look good for the Coyotes right now, if they come back and make it to the finals it will be on the back of Mike Smith.
Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Smith (G)
We haven’t talked yet about the red hot Los Angeles Kings, and that’s because this is an interesting battle. Two players have stood out for the Kings in their streak through the play-offs: goaltender Jonathan Quick, and forward Dustin Brown.Quick has a GAA of 1.41, and a save percentage of .951; both good enough to lead the league. He also leads the league in wins right now with 11. Dustin Brown is the heart and soul of the squad, and leads the league with a +/- of +12. He also sits second in scoring with fifteen points, third in goals with seven, and third in assists with eight (one behind teammate Anzi Kopitar). It’s a tight race, but I think the edge has to go to the captain, who has lead with guts and timely goals.
Los Angeles Kings: Dustin Brown (RW)
So it’s an interesting split. Two for the goalies, one for the defensemen, and one for the forwards. Who will take it all is anyone’s guess still. For any of these four remaining teams, what position do you think will win the Conn Smythe? Vote below!
The Edmonton Oilers announced today via Twitter (because who needs to deal directly with the press?) that head coach Tom Renney’s contract would not be renewed. This comes after back to back losing seasons, though the 2011-2012 season did show a twelve point improvement.
Renney joined the team with Pat Quinn as head coach for the 2009-2010 season. Quinn was relieved of his coaching duties after one season. No candidates have been named for the new head coach.
Who do you think should be the next Oilers head coach? Vote below!
A month into a ten year deal and people are already calling Albert Pujols a bust in Anaheim. We’ve quickly forgotten his slow start last year (albeit not this slow) and have decreed it was all smoke and mirrors. The Pujols we thought we knew no longer exists, and the Angels are on the hook for nine more years after this. This should come as no surprise, since the Angels have a history of locking up players to bad deals. Vernon Wells, anyone?
But bad deals are not new territory, so here are a few of my favorites from around the world of sports.
Barry Zito – San Francisco Giants
While recent performances have at least shown Zito to once again be a competent pitcher, let’s not forget what he was supposed to be when San Francisco signed him: an ace. A major free agent signing, Zito was stolen away from Oakland at the promise of giant sums of money. Particularly, $126 million over the course of a six year deal.
Now everybody thought the curveballer would easily translate his over .600 winning percentage in Oakland into a World Series title. Instead, he flat out bombed to the point where the Giants were hesitant to even start him. His tenure in San Francisco has been marred by movements from the rotation to the bullpen and back again. He hasn’t had an ERA under 4.00, and his win-loss percentage sits at a miserable .415. Ironically, he was a member of the team that finally brought a World Series title to San Francisco. But, by that point, he was an after note to stars Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson.
Rick DiPietro – New York Islanders
Not one to be outdone by anybody, New York Islanders goaltender Rick DiPietro out-ridiculous’d even the ridiculousness of Islander’s forward Alexei Yashin’s 10-year contract. In 2006, with one full NHL season under his belt, the budding star signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract. When I say budding star, I mean a highly touted prospect that had shown he was at least qualified to back-up in the NHL with a 3.02 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
Since the signing, DiPietro has gone on to start 168 games over the course of six seasons. Ignoring even the middling numbers (his save percentage hovers around .900 for the most part), the biggest issue is he can’t stay healthy. In the last five seasons his highest game total is 26. Every other season in those five he hasn’t cracked the ten game mark. Because of that albatross, the Islanders haven’t been able to commit to a strong, young goaltender in their system. Instead they’ve been relying on other teams cast-offs, like Al Montoya, and stealing away returning KHL netminders, like Evgeni Nabokov.
JaMarcus Russell – Oakland Raiders
It’s tough to be a proud franchise in one of the longest droughts of mediocrity on record. Being in that position can force your hand and lead to some poor decision making. That’s what can be said for the Oakland Raiders in 2006 when they made quarterback JaMarcus Russell the number one overall pick in the entry draft.
Let’s be clear: the pick isn’t the issue. While JaMarcus wouldn’t have been my number one pick, Brady Quinn hasn’t exactly turned into an NFL superstar either. The Raiders, who had been languishing since the career ending neck injury of QB Rich Gannon in 2004, needed the strong armed quarterback to lead the team. So, bottom line: the Raiders thought Russell was their man and we can’t fault them for that. What we can fault them for is the massive contract they have to an unproven player.
Russell was in the middle of a crybaby holdout when the Raiders caved and signed him to a six year deal worth $61 million, $32 million of which was guaranteed. Russell proceeded to show up out of shape and flame out in the NFL until his release from the Raiders in 2010. The contract hangs around the organizations neck until next season, even though Russell is technically off the books.
Three proud franchises, three terrible contracts. Personally I don’t think anyone should ever get a deal over five years, and most players should never get a deal over three. But that’s just my opinion, what are your thoughts? What are the terrible deals that are hampering your club right now? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
All images used in this are the property of their original owners. No infringement is intended.
While it’s open to obvious speculation and debate, I for one want to congratulate the Nashville Predators for doing right by their team. Nashville announced on Tuesday that Alexandre Radulov and Andrei Kostitsyn, the teams top two scorers, would be suspended for Game 3 of their play-off series against the Phoenix Coyotes.
It’s easy to look at this as a punishment to the fans, removing the team’s best scoring threats for breaking team rules, but fans should be applauding the Predators. A team that has always thrived on system play has just sent a statement saying the system and the city of Nashville are more important than any individual players.
Now Nashville needs to go out and trump the Coyotes to really drive their point home.