Saturday, July 4, 2009

NHL Free Agency... West Edition Pt. 2

Back at it. Let's finish up the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings have added two big pieces with acquiring Ryan Smyth from the Avalanche and "The Piece" Rob Scuderi from the Stanley Cup Penguins. They probably paid too much for both players, but they needed them.

Ryan Smythe is one of the NHL players I love. Not that tall, not that strong, not that skilled, but he works his ass off and will pay the price to score goals. Just looking at his face you can see the miles hes put in. His front 6 teeth are all fake. But with all that, he really isnt a #1 center. He's usually good for 30 goals but no more. Every team that wins a cup has a Ryan Smyth.

Scuderi is just a rock. His price rose tremendously with his Stanley Cup win. He scored one goal all season last year, but his job is to stop pucks from going in, not scoring them himself. He's one of those guys that when you see their number flash by the screen, you know this shift will be safe.

Question mark for the Kings is definitely the goaltending. But this year they should see the playoffs.

Why you should care:

Last week I met former Kings prospect Yutaka Fukufuji at the ice rink here in my town in Japan. I asked him, "How was the NHL?" He looked at me, smiled, and said "Fast." He played just one season for the Kings and is now playing in Japan.

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is one of those teams always fighting with Devils for the title of the most boring style of play in hockey. And they sell out EVERY game. I mean EVERY game in their history. Minnesota people love thier hockey. But new coach this year is promising a more up-tempo game.

Well, they lost the oft-injured but highly skilled Gaborik and gained the slightly less skilled Havlat. Minnesota is always right at the edge of being good. This year I don't think they did enough to change that. They will probably fight for that 6,7,8 seed spot again this year.

Why you should care:

Their logo is kind of weird.

Nashville Predators

The Preds did nothing in free agency besides sign a few of their own guys to new contracts. I don't expect much from them this year, but I've always liked their captain Jason Arnott. Last year he put up the highest goal total (33) of his career at 34 years old. But I get the feeling he wouldn't mind a trade deadline deal to a cup contender before his career is over.

Nashville is one of those teams in a non traditional market that have to OVERPAY for free agents. I mean, would a Canadian player rather play in Montreal or Nashville? Other teams like this are Columbus, Florida, and Phoenix.

Why you should care:

They love knocking each other out after goals.

Phoenix Coyotes

You know you're not good when your coach is the only person people can name from your team. This team is now bankrupt and looking for buyers. Possibly will move out of Phoenix. Yeah, like any free agent was going to sign here.

Coyotes are a mess. No way they make the playoffs.

Why you should care:

You shouldn't but I like watching Gretzky yell.

San Jose Sharks

Sharks have been pissing their fans off for years now. Awesome regular season, lose quickly in the playoffs. They promised their fans some changes after their current playoff exit, but didn't really do much. They are still good and will likely again be in the top three seeds. But can they get over that hump they've been stuck in for the last 3 years? I wouldn't be surprised if they pull a trade before the season to chance something up. They need a little more grit to touch the silver.

Why you should care:

Joe Thornton. Second best passer in the game. Also listen to this big-time play by play guy. This is how its done. You can tell he's genuinely pumped as hell.

St. Louis Blues

Last year the Blues surprised everyone and made the playoffs, only to be bounced in 4 games. But it was still a year of much improvement. With young defensemen Johnson and the scorer Kariya coming back from injury this year, the Blues should only get better. Last year, TJ Oshie came out of nowhere and became a star. He should only improve. I think the Blues are not elite, but a solid playoff caliber team. Their shaved head goalie Mason really carries them.

Why you should care:

Paul Kariya will always be a bad ass in my mind because of this game while he was a Duck. Watch for the puff of air on his visor as the life comes back into him. Serious concussion, comes back and scores. In what other sports do athletes give more to win? Kariya's face after his goal still gives me goosebumps. What a human.

Vancouver Canucks

Vancouver will always be an alright team as long as they keep their insane goalie Roberto Luongo. They just signed their most important forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin (they're twins) to long term deals, and also got the winger Samuelson from the Wings. Sundin is still undecided about playing next year or not. But the Canucks are for real. They still need one solid defender to be elite, but they will definitely be there in the running for the Cup.

Why you should care:

It's a real hockey town. When I was in Vancouver for a week a few years ago me and my friends were walking down the street. We walk past a restaurant and everyone inside is standing looking at the TV. I mean EVERYONE had stopped. Waiters, Bartenders, everyone. I ask whats happening, and someone tells me, "Its a shootout, the restaurants stops until the shoot out is over." A REAL hockey town.

15 down 15 to go! The East is NEXT.

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