Season in Review: Great Whites

There was much promise and potential surrounding the Great Whites at the start of this past season but it never quite crystalized into a serious push to the top. Still, the team finished a very respectable 3rd overall with just shy of a 1000 points on the season and, as a result of further efforts to retool for the future, the Great Whites remain one of the serious contenders for the Predator Cup going into next season and there is reason to believe that this time the promise will be fulfilled.

FPs: The Great Whites boast the greatest FP to ever play in the FunHL - Martin Brodeur (142.13pts). The man is simply a points factory. This year he was not only the best goaltender in the FunHL but was also the top pointing player in the league by over 20pts! If your FP is supposed to provide elite performances for your team then this is the player you should compare your FP to - don't be alarmed if your FP comes up wanting by the comparison, he's supposed to. Brodeur just broke Bernie Parent's record for wins in a season so there is no reason to expect that he won't continue to be minding the nets for the Great Whites for the next half-dozen years. The sad day is coming where GM Ross will need to ponder replacing Brodeur but that day is still a long ways off. The other FP that the Great Whites started the season with was defenseman C.Pronger (59pts). For reasons best understood by the Great Whites, Pronger was traded during the course of the season for, among others, FP center P.Marleau (78pts) but injuries aside, Pronger had done nothing to suggest he was not providing the elite level defensive presence demanded of him.

Draft: The Great Whites had two solid FPs and a bevy of prospects, promoted prospects and talented rfas entering the 2006 Entry Draft. The challenge, when everything looks promising, is fulfilling that promise and the Great Whites, at least as far as draft day goes, did just that. The would end up with the third-highest Omnivore baseline of any team in the league at 1051.63pts but that may under-state how good their drafting was. In some respects, the top end of their draft was disappointing in that M.Gaborik (57pts) and J.Cheechoo (69pts), matched with Great White's first two selections, both underpointed, the result of injury in the case of Gaborik, or simply got off to a very slow start, in the case of Cheechoo. The disappointment continued when the Fish took M.Zidlicky (30pts) with their third pick, it wasn't a horrible selection but the defender was far less productive than was hoped for given the high pick. There could be no disappointment with their fourth selection, M.Savard (96pts), who flirted with the scoring lead for a while this season. What is so impressive about the Great Whites' draft was how they finished the draft getting almost as many points with their final 4 selections (240pts) as the got with their first 4 (252pts). Then again, when you are able to promote and then select Ales Hemsky (53pts), Rick Nash (57pts), Alexander Frolov (71pts) and Ryan Whitney (59pts) with your last four picks, your drafting skills are bound to look formidable.

Moving forward: Given all the strength of this team coming out of the draft a fair question to ask was how was it that the Great Whites didn't win? Unfortunately some of the strength of the team never got going all at the same time. Gaborik was injured almost immediately and Cheechoo's performance was very disappointing to start. While both finished strong, by then it was too late for the Great Whites who had either dealt their top assets or were in the process of doing so. Their Omnivore rating
(-56.25pts) is not a true reflection of the Great Whites' success on the trade front, as most of those negative points were collected in the final weeks of the year following their big sell-off, the fact remains that the aggressive trades even good teams need to pull off to win never materialized for GM Ross. Still, this is a good team with a lot of returning assets. If they can draft as well next September, they could again be in the hunt for some hardware.

FPs: The Great Whites belong to M.Brodeur (142.13pts). As noted above, he is the greatest FP in FunHL history and shows no signs of slowing down. Expect Brodeur to retire as a Great White, he isn't going anywhere. The same can not be said of recently acquired FP c Patrick Marleau (78pts). When acquired for C.Pronger barely a month into the new season a lot of eyebrows were raised. Pronger's production from the back-end was seen as part of the Great Whites' long-term plan and while the trade for the talented pivot may have addressed an immediate need for better production down the middle, it was still surprising for a team that always seemed concerned with the long-term.

Marleau is no slouch by any means. At 28 he is entering his prime years and his point total this year was his second highest ever and still over a point per game. Yet he does not seem poised to become an elite center in the same way that Pronger was an elite defenseman. Pronger, even with his injuries, was a top 6 defenseman while Marleau finished 15th among centers. If the opportunity presents itself, expect the Great Whites to try and make a trade to deal Marleau and fill that FP slot with either a high selection in the Entry Draft or, potentially, from one of the high end rfas currently under contract such as Ryan Whitney (59pts), Joni Pitkanen (43pts), Alexander Semin (73pts), Alexander Frolov (71pts) or even Rick Nash (57pts). Given the potential the Great Whites have to win it all this year may give Marleau some breathing room this season. Even with all the talent assembled by the GM Ross, replacing an FP is always a real hit to a team and the decision may be made to simply hold on to Marleau for this run and try and deal him during the course of the season or wait until next year to replace him.

Prospects: What a collection of assets. The "graduating" class of p4s likely to be selected as rfas this year may not equal last season's quartet but they are still impressive in their own right. Alexander Semin (73pts) and Nathan Horton (62pts) should both be selected by the Fish and make contributions next year. If both continue to progress, then their contribution may be more integral to a potential cup run than they were this season - though both were the highest pointers on their respective wings for the Great Whites this past year.

Among p3s, the big prize is likely J.Carter (37pts-prorated to 49pts without injury) who will be relied upon far more next season in Philadelphia. If he hits his potential, he could be amazing. J.Jokinen (48pts) is solid, talented and may also show that he has another level, beyond the shootout, but being in Dallas tempers my enthusiasm for him somewhat. Speaking of tempered enthusiasm, p3 M.Svatos (30pts) had a very disappointing season with the Avs but can hopefully bounce back. Colorado has a slew of young talent gelling into an impressive core, Svatos had a 50pts in his rookie season so the skill is there but he needs to show that he belongs in their top six or his production will continue to suffer. Expect the Great Whites to give him another opportunity. Other p3s such as A.Ladd (21pts) and A.Miettien (25pts) have yet to reach their potential but will probably get one more shot with the Great Whites.

That leaves two players who may have fallen a bit in some estimations. First there is p2 c P.Kessel (29pts) whose numbers are not impressive but given that he had to fight cancer as well as NHL checking assignments put those numbers in a whole new light. Kessel finished the year looking much more like the player scouts once spoke of in the same breath as Sidney Crosby. The Great Whites are not banking on him being that good but believe that had he played the whole year the way he did the last two months then there would be some Calder buzz around him - they may be right. The other remaining p2 is A.Esposito who will be drafted in this NHL Entry Draft. His stock has fallen since last season but that may be the case of overexposure and unrealistic comparisons, again, to Crosby. Don't be fooled, he will be a fine NHLer before his prospect status expires though don't expect much impact from him this season. If he does surprise, this is one prospect who might be dealt in order to fuel a cup run.

Prospect picks: The Great Whites, barring trades, have one pick. The Lost Boys' first round selection, number 3 overall. With seven returning prospects, that should work out just fine. The expectation is that the Severed Heads will select J.Tavaras and the Scourge will take the presumptive 1st overall NHL selection in P.Kane before the spotlight falls to the Great Whites. The temptation will be to select a player who can step in right away but that may not be possible. The top available forwards A.Cherpanov, J.Voracek and J.Vanriemsdyk are all posibilities but I would expect that the Great Whites may surprise by either dealing the pick for help this season or by going more long term such as selecting a potential replacement for M.Brodeur in C.Price.

RFAs: RFAs can provide depth or they can provide strength and the Great Whites have both holding the right to match on eight players. On defense and left-wing the potential contribution of top-end rfas will be very noticable, particularly as there is little chaff mixed in with the wheat. The defense list is led at the top end by Ryan Whitney (59pts), J.Pitkanen (43pts) and P.Boucher (51pts + 26tg pts). In addition, N.Boynton (11pts + 34.5tg pts) can provide sufficient toughness from the backend to compensate for his suspect offensive production. Toughness is an issue because the one sour note in the Great White rfa collection is right-winger M.Barnaby (7pts + 31.75tg pts). Barnaby suffered a concussion in January and did not return to play after. Some reports have speculated that he may, at 33 years of age, have played his last NHL game.

Forwards who can still make a contribution to the Great Whites next season include left-wingers A.Frolov (71pts) and R.Nash (57pts). Both will likely be matched when bid upon as both are expected to perform even better next season. Frolov is already threatening to be a number one left-winger, ranking 13th this season, while Nash is only two seasons removed from his Rocket Richard trophy win. What is interesting is that this season, seen by some as a bit of a disappointment, garnered him as many points as he got when he won the goal-scoring award - 57. The final piece of the puzzle may be the hardest call for the Great Whites - M.Fisher (48pts). Fisher's point totals were the best of his 6 year career but are really not high enough to warrant matching for anything more than a late round injury replacement.

Overall: The Great Whites are one of the Predator Cup contenders headed in to the Entry Draft, just as they were last season. It would not take too much to fall their way to convert contender to favorite. Given their long history of success and the desire to restore their unique status as winningest franchise ever, I wouldn't bet against them.


So Now What?

The Flames' Stanley Cup parade will have to be rescheduled, again, but up the highway we are wishing our team been able to play two playoff games too. Still, the Oiler's demise was clear for a while but the Flames (following a very solid road-trip near the end of the season) looked like they had slayed their road demons only to discover that, like a bad horror flick, that they weren't quite dead afterall.
Bob, to anyone that will listen, is calling for Playfair's head but I predict (and have a coke-bet with Bob on this point) that Playfair will be back on the Flames' bench calling the shots come October. Playfair only did what Suter himself did last season - lose in the first round - so you can hardly fire him for that. Still, the Iginla/Kipprusoff window may be closing quickly and they need to get it done soon.
Chris Drury may be the best option for the Flames if they can pry him free from the dozen or so teams (including the Sabers) who feel he is the answer to all of their problems. Iginla needs a real center and Conroy never was the guy. They also need to re-sandpaper up. McLennon can only be counted on for 18 seconds every few games and they need more than that come crunch time. I know that Edmonton is targeting S.Hartnel but he would be a good fit in Calgary as well.


Season in Review: The Lost Boys

The Lost Boys made their FunHL debut in 2006-07 and the reviews were mostly positive, still this is a team with the potential to do great things down the road and that process is already underway. The Jolly Roger hasn't be raised to the top of the Predator Cup standings just yet but that is the goal and if the team's first season is any indication it is a goal that may be realized sooner than anyone might expect.

FPs: The Lost Boys joined the league by taking over one of the most cursed franchises in FunHL history. The season before the Barbarians was the name the team went by and they had managed one of their better historical showings by finishing in 9th position but only 10pts out of last. They inherited two FPs who both had surprising seasons: c Joe Sakic (100pts) had a season to remember posting his best season in 6 years at the age of 37 and lw I.Kovalchuk (76pts) who took a serious step backwards in what was expected to be a season where he would dominate. Going in, the expectation was that Sakic would need to find a new home, and soon, while Kovalchuk would be the cornerstone around which the Lost Boys would be built. Sakic was dealt and Kovalchuk, rightly, remains a key component of the Lost Boys' future but had their point totals been reversed at the end of the season it would have been much closer to everyone's expectations going in.

Draft: The Lost Boys had, with an Omnivore baseline of over 953pts, the 6th best team leaving the draft. A very respectable showing for a first effort. Their first four picks clearly demonstrate the Lost Boy's emphasis on building from the back-end out: S.Gonchar (67pts), M.Schneider (52pts), a match on L.Visnovsky (58pts) and a reasonable gamble on D.Hasek (108.73 pts). Gonchar was the highest pointing offensive defensman in the league while all three would end up in the top 15. Hasek, taken in the fourth round, was a top 6 goaltender and the best available by the time the Lost Boys made their selection.

The emphasis on defense and goaltending did leave them a little thin up front. Other than their two FPs, the Lost Boys only selected two forwards who scored more than 60pts: lw R.Smyth (68pts but on pace for 79!) and rfa c S.Koivu (75pts) one of the better selections in the draft going in the 11th round. C.Conroy (37pts) was a big disappointment and M.Knuble (54pts) was beset by injury troubles. While the big three on defense excelled for the Lost Boys, the bottom 5 were merely adequate with no rfa defenders exceeding 30pts. The Lost Boys would end up matching on six rfas over the course of the draft, they may break that total with this upcoming draft but as both Conroy and Knuble were rfa matches last season, it will be important to make sure that those rfas are matched judiciously.

Moving Forward: The Lost Boys set themselves a goal of being in the top half of the pool and of finishing ahead of the Severed Heads. Unfortunately they fell short of both but they did lay the foundation for a much better outing next season. Their real test will be in converting their potential into production - sometimes easier said than done.

FPs: The key super-star for the Lost Boys is I.Kovalchuk (76pts). In many respects his season, he was ranked 11th among all left wingers, was a disappointment but the fact remains that he is a phenomenal talent who should rebound with a great offensive outburst next season and for years to come. He is a keeper. The other Lost Boy FP by the end of the season was center Brad Richards (70pts), 20th best among centers. Like Kovalchuk, Richards' year was a disappointment but as some GMs remain skeptical about whether Richards should be an FP in any event the issue of what to do with him becomes more difficult. At best, the Lost Boys have gone from Joe Sakic (100pts) to a younger version of Burnaby Joe who should rebound from a poor season. At worst, they have a solid but unspectacular #2 or #3 pivot and need to upgrade. Either way, there seems to be no immediate need to decide his fate at this entry draft and Richards looks to be a Lost Boy for a while yet.

Prospects: When it became clear that the Lost Boys were not going to win it all, the rebuilding began in earnest. Every trade would need to include rfas and/or prospects. In the end, the team had amassed a good crop of both. Returning p4 goaltender M.Gerber (32.51pts), p3 center C.Bourque (0pts) and p2 left winger A.Mikhnov (0pts) probably won't be back next season. Mikhnov couldn't crack a very weak Oiler line-up and returned to Russia and while Bourque might have some upside at some point, other prospects are just, well, better prospects so he falls victem to the numbers game.

The more established prospects on the Lost Boys' list: p3 center M.Koivu (54pts) and p2 center A.Vermette (39pts) might just be able to contribute next season. P3 right winger E.Fehr (3pts) looks like he could reach his potential any day now, but his time is quickly running out. Which leaves the three p2s with the most potential to impact the Lost Boys' fortunes, if only down the line, in defensemen T.Wishart (0pts) in San Jose and I.Vishnevskiy (0pts) in Dallas. The gem of the collection is Bruins p2 goalie T.Rask (0pts) who is ranked #14 in the Hockey News' future watch.

Prospect Draft: One area where the Lost Boys did not accumulated futures was the 2007 Prospect Draft. The Lost Boys are down their own first and fourth picks and have no picks from anyone else. The only reason some of the potential dropped prospcts may get another shot with the team is the concern that they may be the best players available given their poor draft picks.

RFAs: With no less than 16 rfas, by far the most of any team in the FunHL, the Lost Boys are gearing up for a lot of tough decisions on draft day and, they hope, a lot of steals. The list is lead by two ageless wonders in lw A.Brunette (83pts) and c R.Brindamour (82pts). Both will likely see their production drop next year but should be matched unless the bids are too high. Similarly, c S.Koivu (75pts) and rw J.Langenbrunner (60pts) can be servicable additions if they are not overbid on by other GMs. Neither will likely go on a tear but, barring injury, should be able to repeat their production. In goal the Lost Boys have snapped up a pair of Sharks in E.Nabokov (79.17pts) and V.Toskala (58.91pts), though it is possible only one remains with San Jose next season he will be a great number one pick and should be matched regardless of when he's bid upon.

Amongst the remaining forwards there will be some tough calls. There is rw S.Walker (51pts) who will be hard pressed to increase his production, lw M.Rucinsky (33pts) who prorates out to 52pts but may not have another big year in him while rw Jason Williams (32pts) had a very disappointing season in Detroit. Williams may be worth matching with a late pick in the hopes that he could surprise but only as a fourth-liner. Another disappointing rw rfa is A.Carter (28pts) who, with the right line-mates, has shown he is capable of putting up decent numbers but who may have worn out his welcome with the Lost Boys. The sleeper forward for the Lost Boys may be lw A.Kotalik (38pts). His numbers prorate out to 47pts which would still be a notable drop from his 62pt season last year but the young winger is big, strong and has a nose for the net. Any reasonable bid ought to be matched as he has the potential to have a real breakout season.

On defense, the Lost Boys could field a solid corps with only a few additions to this group. M.Rozsival (40pts) and R.Hamrlik (38pts) are very dressable and D.Morris (25pts +28.75 tg pts) has number 6 offensive numbers with top end toughness. P.Nummelin (20pts) is a 35-year old rookie and while he prorates out to 32pts, there are probably better options available. One of those options might be M.Michalek (28pts) who just completed his 2nd full season, he's young and talented and should eclipse his totals next year with a presumably improved Coyotes squad.

Overall: The Lost Boys are looking to improve in their second season and seem well positioned to do so. They had a solid draft their first time out and, so long as they are judicious in matching their large collection of rfas, seem likely to draft an even stronger team their next time out. The pieces are in place for a very solid performance next year so the key will be living up to the heightened expectations. They will - and then some.


Season in Review: The Bladerunners

The Bladerunners finished the season in second place, a great season but one that leaves a bad taste in the mouth for the defending Predator Cup and Challenge Cup champions. The final week of the season was a +/- disaster and cost them almost over 25pts, not enough to change the final rankings but the difference between being an 1100pt team or not. The good news is that a chance for redemption begins in October.

FPs: The season began with the Bladerunners sporting two high-end FPs in right winger M.Hossa (100pts) and goaltender R.Luongo (128.33pts). Hossa had a great season in Atlanta and was the number two ranked right winger in the league, only 2pts back of M.St.Louis. Luongo was even better, with a performance that made him not only the number two ranked goaltender in the league but the number two ranked player, regardless of position, behind M.Brodeur (142.13pt) . With FPs like this, its little wonder the Bladerunners were able to lead the league for a combined 9 weeks, a third of the season.

Draft: The Bladerunners had an excellent team coming out of the draft. Their Omnivore baseline of 1050.83pts was fourth best in the pool and only 16pts behind the Highlanders. With two solid FPs and three prospects who would end up making the Omnivore baseline, the team's strength could be anticipated but what was really surprising was how strong the team was in light of some let down in the entry draft itself. The Bladerunners' first four selections: S.Gagne (68pts), S.Zubov (54pts), S.Sullivan (60pts) and Justin Williams (67pts) all ended up with fewer points in 2006/07 than in the season before and yet overall, the team had remarkable success.

K.Jonsson (22pts) was the only defenseman in the top six to record less than 25pts. B.Campbell (48pts) improved on his career season the year before. Up front, the strength of the Bladerunner prospects meant that even though the first two centers drafted by the team, S.Rucchin (21pts) and M.Handzus (8pts), were horrible flops they never missed a beat. The best pick-up was probably S.Avery matched in the 5th round. Avery had 48pts on offense and another 43.5pts for being offensive.

Moving forward: The Bladerunners need to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go make another run. The core of the team is still surprisingly strong given the assets traded off to make their run and good drafting could, again, make the Bladerunners one of the top teams next season.

FPs: The Bladerunners enter the off season with one returning FP, Hossa, and one newcomer in J.Iginla (94pts). Hossa and Iginla provide a potent combination on right wing with Hossa the #2 ranked right winger last season and Iginla the #4. Had Iginla not lost any time to injury, his pace would have had him getting 110 pts! Both of these players are young, at the top of their game and among the best in the league regardless of position, there is no need to trade either of them unless management has any concerns about overweighting one position - and they shouldn't. I would say that the Bladerunner FPs are set for years to come except that they believe they have a prospect that they may want to promote soon, E.Staal (70pts), which may necessitate a trade to create an opening.

Prospects: As mentioned, the Bladerunners have p4 c E.Staal (70pts) as part of the picture not only for next season, where he should be drafted onto the squad as an RFA, but also, potentially, as a new Bladerunner FP next season. Eric is only one season removed from his 100pt breakout year and should be capable of returning to similar heights down the road. If so, an eventual FP promotion is not unreasonable for the team to consider but regardless, no decision on that point has to be made now. Eric's "little" brother, Jordan Staal (42pts), is a p2 c and was an absolute revelation for everyone. There was no doubt that he had the talent (and the genes) but that he would be able to put them on display so quickly given his age and the number of young Penguins already in the system speaks to his potential. This season only scratched the surface and the Bladerunners are eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

Last season's prospect draft also produced a trio of other players who, though not all originally Bladerunner property, form the basis of the Bladerunner's future. On left there is p2 J.Skille in Chicago who will be with the Blackhawks next year. The Islanders can't wait for right winger p2 K.Okposo's power game, and neither can the Bladerunners while between the pipes p2 goalie J.Howard should also soon get a chance to show his wares at the NHL level. All three will be held on to by the Bladerunners and will likely figure in their plans either to fill slots on the roster or as the key futures in trades to get back on top.

Two p2s who probably will not figure in the Bladerunner plans are A.Kaigorodov (1pt) and I.Griegorenko (0pts). Perhaps Kaigorodov will get a shot in Phoenix but he may have soured on the whole North American experiment just as NHL GMs are beginning to sour on his attitude. A different problem awaits Griegorenko and that is the issue of whether his horrific car crash has broken his relentless drives for the net in the same way it broke his legs. I don't think that the Bladerunners will keep both and may make their decision based on how they are performing in September - and whether they are performing in Russia or here. The other question marks on the prospect front is what to do with L.Krajicek (16pts) p4 defensman in Vancouver. Unfortunately his offensive production has really underwhelmed but defenseman take more time to develop and you would hate to drop a promising prospect just on the cusp of his breakout year. It's a tough call but I expect the Bladerunners to take a gamble on him as a final round rfa promotion and see if he can impress as a number 8 defenseman.

Prospect Draft: The Bladerunners do not have a first round selection in the prospect draft, a casualty of their run for the cup, but they do have the Personal Vendetta and Wolves' 2nd round picks (17th and 18th overall) as well as the Vendetta, Great White and their own 3rd round picks. Not a top-end selection but a solid draft. Depending on which prospects they chose to keep they may feel the need to use most of these picks though preferabley, if they feel like keeping all of their returning p2s (6 of them) then they may package the picks together in the hopes of moving up for the selections that they do want to make.

RFAs: The Bladerunners enter the off-season with three rfas. The two defensemen, A.Zhitnik (38pts + 23 tg pts) and S.Salo (37pts) are both solid, if low-end, offensive contributers. Zhitnik's production really took off in Atlanta and he may be undervalued by some GMs should he remain with the Thrashers and while his toughness is not the best available, its a nice bonuns to add to the package if the price is right. Salo is also a little undervalued having lost some time to injury and projects out to being a 45pt defenseman. Neither is going to win you the pool but both could make significant contributions if you can get them for the right price.

The real rfa "prize" on the Bladerunners is Calgary port-sider, K.Huselius (77pts). In his fifth season, Huselius simply exploded. His previous career best was the 47pts he had the previous season - a 30pt increase. At 29 he is still in his prime but this late bloomer may even have more to offer as he had an awful October (as everyone in Calgary did) and was pacing over a ppg until he tapperd off a bit in the last few weeks. The real question is how early will he have to match another GMs' bid for his services - given that with over half the pool still centered in Flames Country its unlikely the Swede went unnoticed.

Overall: The Bladerunners are a fantastic team that made a valiant attempt to win it all this season and make history by winning back-to-back championships. The run for the hardware exacted a high price, p3 E.Malkin (85pts), and the aftershocks of trading the big Russian will be felt for years to come but ultimately the Bladerunners felt they had no choice but to go for it when the prize was so close - a situation 10 other GMs would have loved to have been in. They made their call and right or wrong, its done. The good news is that with Hossa, Iginla and the Staal brothers, the future still looks pretty good for the team. Do not be surprised to see them in the thick of things in the final weeks next season.


Hockey Thoughts

The Rangers have eliminated the Thrashers, with Jagr gettting the empty netter to seal the game four victory. Not only that, the team is clearly 'feeling it'. They have a hot goalie and, grit and lots of skill. And now, they think they can win it all. Meanwhile, Kovalchuk has one of the ugliest highlights ever, as a mere 32secs into game four he's caught on camera heading to the bench as Jagr goes by him to create an odd-man rush that ends in a back-door feed by Jagr to a streaking Nylander. Game and series, thanks for coming out Ilya.

Speaking of 'feeling it', how about Sean Avery and New York City? Avery went from being Mathew Barnaby with a hotter/more famous girlfriend, into grittier/lighter scoring Ron Duguay. If the transformation hadn't happened in front of my eyes I would never have believed it.

Alexei Yashin...where are you?

My advice to the Maple Leafs? Fire the Gm. Keep the coach. Blow it up. Keep Mats Sundin. But only on one year $1m deals. More than anything, they need a plan. I'm available. Call me.

Here's the thing, the head says 'Jason Spezza is a playmaker, and playmakers collect more points than goalscorers'. And then I see another Lecavalier highlight reel goal, and my heart says 'He's next years first FP pick for sure'. For sure. Playmakers may win the scoring titles, but goalscorers are dead sexy.

Ollie Jokinen is the next Mats Sundin. A brawny power pivot from Scandinavia whose stats don't reflect how good he really is - and his stats are very, very good. Jokinen is ripe to be moved in a foolish Florida house-cleaning should mgt. get itchy trigger fingers, or should Jacques Martins completely lose his mind. If so, some lucky team will get the franchise cornerstone they need. Until then, he will rot in Florida.

Bertuzzi looks slow and out of sorts. Until that one shift where he looks like a runaway bulldozer. I hope Calgary recovers its composure as a team before Toddzilla get's his game all the way back. He's also one of the more fascinating sub-plots for next season. Is he a first rounder? Where will he sign? Is he an explosion waiting to take out your season?

In my last interview with the GM of the Shadowmen he declared that he thought the Knights Templar can replace both FP's with current roster talent. That means that Vanek has to maintain the level he's reached (40+goals over a ppg) while Radulov still has to climb there. From what I've seen of both, this is not so far fetched. At least, its no more far fetched than building around the Sedin's and Naslund.

Doug Maclean has been relieved of his duties. Finally. The Foote signing was a cap disaster. The Fedorov deal (sending Beuchemin to Anaheim!) was even worse, and he should have been let go for either of them. He should also have killed the scout who told him Pascal Leclaire would be a franchise goaltender. Other than Rick Nash, and once a month from Nik 'full moon' Zherdev, there is no all-star calibre talent on the team.

If the Flames pull it out over Detroit, look to Iginla's picking-the-far-side goal on Hasek in game three as the real turning point.

Malkin is a bust in the playoffs? Really? He's over a ppg! (ok, ok, so he hasn't scored a goal).

Mike Modano, now THAT Is what a bust in the playoffs looks like.

The reason the Canucks will advance is because Luongo is a better goaltender than Turco. Period. Turco is playing awesome, but Luongo is in a completely different zone.

The stats for the last couple of years say so, but it wasn't until I saw him rifle a wrist-shot to the shelf on Kiprusoff that I believed it could it could actually be true. Pavel Datsyuk could be an FP. If he signs elsewhere than Detroit though, all bets are off.

Ottawa v Pittsburgh is a case where I wish both teams could win. Anaheim v Minnesota is a case where I wish both teams could lose.

Whither Daniel Briere? He's due a massive raise and Buffalo might not be able to afford him. So where does he go? More to the point, who can afford to spend big $ on an undersized #1 pivot with limited defensive abilities? Even more to the point, is he a Franchise player? Would ditching a Jovanovski., Elias, or Sundin to take Briere make sense?

Another thing the Shadowmen GM and I agree on is that Scott Gomez would look good in Columbus (Nash!), but could be fantastic in Atlanta (Hossa! Kovalchuk!).

Oh yeah, the GM of the Highlanders and I had it out over goaltending stats. The upshot of which is my bias against Dwayne Roloson has got the better of me. The stats for goaltenders are exaggerated slightly, but not enough to warrant rolling them back. At least, not yet.

Is their a franchise more pathetic than Phoenix? The latest from the ex-Jets is that Wayne has fired the teams mgt, and is looking for someone 'he doesn't know' to come in and turn things around. Lets hope for his sanity's sake this happens.

Gabriel Morency (Hardcore Sports Radio) had a rant about Wayne that was worth commenting on. "Is it possible that Rick Tocchet was running his gambling operation without the knowledge of Wayne?" With Janet involved in Superbowl bets, I'd say that is impossible to believe. So there you go.

He also made another point, journalists, especially sports journalists have all sorts of inside information on players, injuries, etc. Yet, nobody is concerned that these information experts are unfettered from placing wagers at any time. Indeed, can you imagine a sports journalist who didn't place the odd March Madness, boxing, or playoff pool wager?

Alexander Semin was just kicked off the Russian world squad. Does anyone know why?

My prediction of the NHL awards:

Norris: Lidstrom. Again.

Selke: Mike Fisher: he takes key face-offs and shadows the elite offensive forwards of the other team. Stephane Yelle deserves consideration, but goes way under the radar in Calgary.

Hart: 'It depends on what you mean by....' blah blah blah. It's Crosby. We should probably get used to it.

Jack Adams: Lindy Ruff.

Calder: Malkin. Stastny (too my surprise) will be a deserved second, but I sort of think Anze Kopitar is getting jobbed. He was clearly one of the most dangerous players on the Kings and carrying a heavy offensive load as a rookie, and for three quarters of the year, held the space right behind Malkin. It was around the 45-50 game mark that Kopitar started to burn out, and coincidentally, it was at the point where Stastny's offense freaked out, but for the rest of the year, I would have had Kopitar as number two.

My awards:

Top FUNHL defenseman: Sheldon Souray - by a country mile. His combo of career high in points AND PIM make him the leagues runaway best defenseman. Not bad for a 12th rnd RFA match.

FUNHL Rookie of the year (Best P1): Paul Stastny-C Col. Worth noting, he was a 2nd rnd prd pick, and my third of that draft (Backman and Frolik went ahead of him), and that I very nearly selected Edmonton's Alexei Mikhnov-L instead.

FUNHL MVP: Given his late season heroics to get the Highlanders back to the promised land, Joe Thornton-C SJ. When points were needed most, Jumbo Joe put up ridiculous stats on the order of 2ppg+ to launch the Highlanders permanently into orbit.

Top FUNHL Goaltender: Roberto Luongo. For most of the year the Bladerunners were in 2nd place (or first!) thanks to Bobby Lu. Brodeur may have had slightly better stats, but Luongo's were key in having the Bladerunners contend for a 2nd straight cup.

Unexpectedly good player who came out of nowhere award (or as I like to call it the 'UGPWCOONA'): Kevin Bieksa-D Vcr. I live here and still didn't see this guy coming.

Worst performance by a 1st rnd pick: Henrik Zetterberg. You can trace the problems the Scourge had to Zetterberg's horrific first quarter. He made up for it over the rest of the season, but that slow start was crippling.

Season in Review: The Scourge

The Scourge entered the FunHL at almost the last moment but turned in a very respectable rookie season. They avoided the dreaded Herbivore Trophy and were in the hunt for the Omnivore Award, for most improved team, right up until the final week. Having gotten a taste of FunHL action however, do not expect the Scourge to be satisfied with being an also ran. From very early on the team's management identified the need to build the franchise up and that process will continue this season. Do not expect the Scourge to compete for the Predator Cup this season, there is still a lot of work to be done, but do expect the foundation for a future championship run to be laid with th3 2007 draft.

FPs: The Scourge inherited c M.Sundin (76pts) and lw A.Tanguay (81pts) from the Dogs and chose not to make any quick decisions on replacing either on draft day, probably a prudent decision. Sundin finished the season as the 18th best center and Tanguay as the 7th best left winger. Neither was horrible but neither set the world on fire. Of the two, the most urgent to replace is Sundin. Tanguay is younger, at 28, and after a slow start actually set a career high for pts. While unlikely to become truly an elite player, being a left winger helps and given the challenges of replacing two FPs at the same time probably makes it a no-brainer to keep Tanguay, if only for the moment. By contrast, Sundin is 36 years old and hasn't had more than 80pts in 8 years. There is not an obvious replacement in the system so the best plan would be to aim for as high an entry draft pick as possible and replace Sundin on draft day. If Sundin could be dealt for another FP, it would certainly be worth looking at but it would be hard to conjure up the scenario that would make such a trade work.

Draft: Well, the Scourge were awful at the draft table. Their Omnivore baseline of under 830pts was over 40pts back of the second worst team coming out of the draft and over 100pts back of the third worst team - this is a huge hole to have to dig oneself up from. The top four picks for the Scourge: P.Datsyuk (87pts), T.Selanne (94pts), S.Samsonov (26pts) and T.Vokoun (69.40pts) involved only one truly suspect selection - Samsonov - but Datsyuk's slow start and Vokoun's injury troubles sapped the strength from the Scourge draft right at the start. Other than Tanguay, the Scourge didn't draft a left winger who scored over 30pts and the second highest scoring right winger, other than Selanne, was E.Cole (61pts - though it would have prorated out to 70pts had he been uninjured). Defense was the source of most disappointment with only one player getting more than 40 points for his offense, T.Poti (44pts), but was also the source of one of the Scourge's best selections, T.Preissing who went +40 for 80pts as a plus-minus defenseman.

Moving forward: The Scourge need to keep it up. The interest and knowledge is clearly there and, as evidenced by the flury of trades near the deadline to help escape last place, the ability to improve the team on the trade front is an achievable goal. The challenge is to move from afterthought to contender and that will take a concerted effort over a couple of more drafts so far as upgrading FPs and top-ranked prospects.

FPs: There isn't much more to say about the Scourge's FPs other than to restate that they need to improve - especially Sundin. There do not appear to be any obvious FP-candidates among the Scourge's prospect collection so this will be the case where they need some luck in the draft lottery to get a high ED slot and a shot at one of the top potential FPs (preferably Lecavalier or Spezza) though given the trajectory of Sundin's production, even a later round pick would probably still make a replacement the right call.

Prospects: The Scourge end the season with four p3s and two p2s. The most potentially impactful next season may well be p3 g M.Biron (32.37pts), now a Flyer. Philly was awful last season and needed a goaltender badly, they now have one and will probably play him a lot. As a p3, the Scourge can see where this goes but they may have a diamond in the rough with this guy. Right winger J.Stumpel (57pts) is another p3 who may be able to pay immediate dividends for the Scourge next season but don't expect him to set the world on fire. At 35 years of age, the only reason to hold on to him is that he does provide some security in the event of injury. That said, we have seen his best and he is a decade removed from his 79pt career high. The two p3 defensemen however, Chicago's C.Barker (8pts) and the Ranger's F.Tyutin (14pts) are potentially capable of surprising and, since you can never have too much defense, I would expect the Scourge to ride these two prospects for one more season.

The two returning p2s are both potentially high-impact players but are, in their own way, potential non-factors because of where they are. The veteran, A.Morozov (0pts) is the property of the Penguins but is plying his trade in Russia - and is setting the league on fire - unfortunately for the Scourge he may simply continue to play there as he is allowed to be the big fish in the small pond that he seems to relish and, besides, they are paying him like a king. B.Pouliot (0pts) is in Minnesota and while Gaborik and company are getting more and more opportunity to open up their play, they are still focused on defense first which may prevent Pouliot from hitting the statistical highs he might somewhere else.

Prospect picks: The Scourge have all of their picks (2nd highest in every round) and an extra pick, from the Wolves, in the 3rd round. With the Severed Heads' planning on taking Tavares, the Scourge will have their pick of the 2007 litter. Expect them to take P.Kane, presumptively with Chicago, in the hopes that he may make the squad right out of training camp - which, at almost 19 years old, is a real possibility.

RFAs: Left winger J.Blake (69pts) had a breakout year but may not be able to repeat at 34 years of age. If anyone bids on him to do better than this season's totals, the Scourge should let him go. Center M.Sillinger (59pts) is another player that really is pointing about as well as can be expected and really isn't going to get any better at 36 years of age. Right winger M.Erat (57pts) is a different proposition. He's 26 years old, had a career breakout season - which would have prorated out to 69pts had he not been injured - and is loved by Nashville coach B.Trotz. The question is whether or not he can continue to be a top 6 forward on a Nashville team bristling with talented players all wanting ice-time but if he can be matched for the right price, there may be more to be had from this well.

The Scourge also have a trio of rfa defensemen, most interestingly Islander T.Poti (44pts). Poti had his second highest point total ever and began to score at an increasing rate as the season wore on - over the last 7 weeks he was pointing at a 70+pt clip! He's not that good but with Bergeron taking some of the pressure off him, he's able to be a solid producer and would be a steal if he were matched in the 6th or later rounds. K.Foster (23pts) and R.Regher (21pts) are both servicable d-men but if either are needed to be relied upon in your top six, your team may not be that good. Foster is only 25 years old and may have some upside and Regher, perhaps the best NHLer ever to hail from Brazil, at 27 years old may also have some potential to improve but the Scourge should only look at these two as a 7th and 8th defenseman, and then only if better options have disappeared.

Overall: An excellent first effort for the Scourge but the team needs to strive to improve in all aspects of the pool: upgrading assets, more judicious drafting and more proactive trading. Fighting to avoid last place made it easy for the Scourge to trade near the deadline as GMs were calling them with offers - the Scourge hope not to be at the bottom next season and that will require more efforts to improve via trades before the deadline and, hopefully, without the need to part with so many futures.

Season in Review: The Severed Heads

The Severed Heads had, in the end, a disappointing season finishing 9th overall (though the official stats, when they come out may move them ahead of the Ramapithicines into 8th). Things looked very promising on draft day with the first overall pick, an elite rfa and two solid FPs but the team was never able to pull it all together and was never higher than 5th in the overall standings. The team was beset by injuries and that hampered the effort but ultimately the mid-round drafting, particularly on defense, proved too much to overcome. The good news for the Severed Heads and their fans was the the future looks very promising indeed as a result of a flury of trades involving futures (both prospects and picks).

FPs: The Severed Heads started and finished the season with the same two FPs, Jaromir Jagr (96pts) and Danny Heatley (105pts). Both players were elite performers with Jagr finishing 2nd among right wingers and Heatley finishing 1st among left wingers. The only potential concern has to do with Jagr's age, not that he is showing any signs of slowing down, and that concern has now been addressed with the acquisition of prospect E.Malkin (85pts) who is anticipated to become Jagr's replacement when Malkin's short-term contract expires.

Draft: The Severed Heads were in the cat-bird's seat on draft day with the first overall selection in M.Kiprusoff (113.42pts) and, consequently, the last pick in the 2nd round with which to match rfa J.Spezza (87pts - on pace for an uninjured 106pts). They had, according to the Omnivore baseline, the fifth best team coming out of the ED with 994.85pts. The final two selections among the Severed Head's first four were P.Bergeron (70pts) and K.Tkachuk (58pts +31.5 tg pts), solid but there were arguably better selections available - most notably fellow Bruin c M.Savard (96pts) selected over a round after Bergeron. The most devestating part of the draft for the Severed Heads was on defence. Only one defenseman, R.Blake (34pts) selected in the 5th round, ended up with more than 30pts. There were certainly some bright spots in the draft for the Severed Heads, most notably the selection of K.Huselius (77pts) matched in the 12th round. There was also the selection of an instant-impact prospect in the PrD, P.Stastny (78pts).

Moving forward: The Severed Heads, like all FunHL teams, have the goal of winning the Predator Cup but experience has taught the Heads that you need to get yourself into a position to win. They felt that they were in that position last season but injuries and a weak draft hurt them. Entering this season, the Severed Heads have retooled once again and may be in their best position to make a run in years, certainly they hope so.

FPs: In Heatley and Jagr the Severed Heads have two of the top players at their respective positions in the league. There really isn't much room to improve. With Malkin in the wings, Jagr's replacement is set and the issue becomes how best to maximize Jagr's value when that replacement is set to occur (in Malkin's rfa year, 2009). Jagr will be 37 at that point but if the current obstruction standard continues to that point, there is no reason to expect that he will not still have considerable value. The Severed Heads look to be well positioned as far as FPs are concerned for the forseeable future.

Prospects: E.Malkin (85pts), p3 c, is the only obvious candidate to make the Severed Head roster next season but there are a bevy of other high-end prospects that potentially could power a Cup run next year. No less than three of the Severed Head p2s are on the Hockey News's list of top prospects in their Future Watch. Leading the list is Washington p2 c, N.Backstrom at #3. The dream scenario has him as A.Ovechkin's pivot but centering A.Semin against the second-tiered checking assignments isn't to shabby either for the Swedish star. At #11 on the Hockey News' list is Anaheim's budding power forward p2 rw B.Ryan. There is simply nothing left for this kid to do but hit the NHL and everyone in it, power forwards take more time to develop but he should be worth the wait. At #19 on the list is Florida's M.Frolik. Again, he has the potential to be a great winger for the Severed Heads and may even be able to make an impact this season though playing for J.Martin's Panthers, he may not develop as quickly as the Heads might like.

The next trio are more likely to pay dividends down the road or as trade fodder for a run this year, though the tallent involved is all top end. The only defensive prospect in the mix is Ottawa's p2 d B.Lee, #52 on the Hockey News' list. He will be a good one but time is the issue as it always is with defensemen. Expected to be a top 10 pick in this year's NHL entry draft is p2 c L.Couture. His stock has fallen a bit since last year when he was seen as a potential number one selection. By the Severed Heads' own FP-potential draft standards (the top two forwards taken in the NHL entry draft where a defenseman doesn't go first) he will probably not be the elite level player that was hoped for when he was selected but he certainly has the ability to contribute in a year or two. The enigma of the mix is Edmonton c p3 R.Schremp. He has fallen off the map as far as the Hockey News is concerned and continues to fall on the Oiler's depth chart. The talent is there but the commitment to excellence may not be. He would be worth sitting on, given his considerable natural skill, but as he is a center on a Severed Heads team that has several - do not be surprised to see him moved.

Prospect picks: One of the key acquisitions as the Heads sold off their present for futures near the trade deadline was the Edge's 1st round prospect pick, 1st overall. Its the only pick they have in the first two rounds but the expectation is that they will invest in a long-term proposition and select Oshawa teenage sensation J.Tavaras. Not eligible until the 2009 NHL entry draft, he would already be a p3 as he entered his rookie season. It is a strategy that has worked in the past for the Highlanders who selected S.Crosby as a 16-year old and, given that Tavaras just broke Gretzky's OHL record for goals by a 16-year old, its not a bad pick for someone widely expected to become a future FunHL FP.

RFAs: None of the Severed Head rfas tallied 40 or more points, rw T.Ruutu (38pts) was tops, and that probably gives GM Hilton the opportunity to hold on to a couple of his players at a reasonable, and potentially highly discounted, cost. Ruutu, if he can ever remain healthy, is a top-end talent. d J.Corvo (37pts) is getting increasing offensive opportunities in Ottawa. After such great expectations before the season, rw N.Zherdev (32pts) was an utter disappointment. He could get 90pts or remain in Hitchcock's doghouse for another season, expect the Heads to match any reasonable bid for Zherdev's services and hope he can put it all together.

In d-men P.Ranger (28pts), B.Pothier (28pts) and D.Hamhuis (20pts) the Severed Heads have some insurance value for a team that always seems to need help on defense. All three would have made the team's Omnivore baseline coming out of last season's ED, indeed only R.Blake (34pts) would have outscored Ranger and Pothier. That said, with the possible departure of K.Timmonen from Nashville expect Hamhuis to make the biggest jump in points. Some guides had him tabbed as a 40pt player going into last season, he may hit that mark this season. The final two rfas, g M.Denis (31.77pts) and c E.Lindros (26pts) will not be matched if bid upon though GM Hilton has a soft spot for Lindros and may well draft him in the last round only to waive him when promoting Malkin.

Overall: Expect an even stronger draft from the Severed Heads next season as they attempt to avoid a repeat of the defensive misfires they had this season. With Jagr, Heatley and Malkin as a base, the Severed Heads look poised to make a concerted run at the Cup in 07-08.


Season in Review: The Highlanders

Winning usually answers all questions but when the question is "can they do it again?", a little more effort is required. The Highlanders have every reason to be pleased with their success this year in winning the Predator Cup, Challenge Cup and the Omnivore. The bigger challenge, as evidenced by the past 14 years of futility, is how to repeat the performance.

FPs: The Highlanders entered into the season with Joe Thornton (114pts) and Ed Jovanovski (29pts). Thornton was the defending Art Ross Trophy winner and he followed that up with a season where he finished second in total points to fellow Highlander Sidney Crosby. Barring a trade, Thornton will be a Highlander for years to come. Jovanovski was beset by injury for much of the season (again) and did not finish the season in Highlander colours. The plan was, and is, to replace whoever is in this FP slot with Crosby in 2008 and that plan continues but the new "filler" FP, Chris Pronger (59pts), had a great season (if uninjured he projects out to 73pts) and will probably be traded before the 2008 ED lest he be lost completely to the Highlanders.

Draft: Well the Omnivore baseline suggested that the Highlanders' strength was clear coming out of the draft, with the highest baseline in the league at 1066.80pts. A closer examination suggests that the baseline was not simply the result of strong enduring assets (FPs and prospects), though clearly Crosby, Thornton and promoted prospect Pitkanen all helped, but was rather the product of solid drafting throughout. The Highlanders' first four selections were D.Alfredsson (87pts), L.Nagy (55pts), J.Bouwmeester (42pts) and T.Kaberle (58pts) were not spectacular but some of the later selections - S.Souray (64pts + 33.75 tg pts) matched in the 12th round, M.Erat (57pts - prorated to 69pts if uninjured) in the 14th round and J.Blake (69pts) matched in the 16th round - were solid contributors or became the keys to important trades. A good draft if often as much a product of good fortune (injuries, breakout years) as it is good preparation, if so then the Highlanders had best hope for more good luck if they want a similar result next season.

Moving forward the Highlanders are attempting to do something only done twice before - repeat as Predator Cup champions. A lot of factors suggest that it may be even more difficult than normal to accomplish the feat.

FPs: Steady as she goes. The Highlanders boast the second highest scoring centre in J.Thornton (114pts) and the 6th highest scoring defenseman in C.Pronger (59pts). Had Pronger been uninjured, he would have been the highest pointing defenseman with 73pts. There really isn't too much more that needs to be said other than the plan, clear to everyone, is that the Highlanders will be replacing one of their FPs (presumably Pronger) with S.Crosby in 2008. The most reasonable plan would be to trade Pronger (or Thornton) as part of another Cup run next season or else to create the opening next off-season. In any event, the Highlanders look set as far as FPs are concerned for the forseeable future.

Prospects: The Highlanders needed to deal their top two picks from last season's PrD, P.Kessel and M.Staal, in the course of making their run this year so the cupboard is more bare than usual entering the off season. Still, the Highlanders certainly have some support coming from the prospect ranks next season. Obviously p4 c S.Crosby (120pts) will be selected as an rfa and be a key part of the Highlanders squad next year. In net, the surprise performance was from p4 g R.Dipietro (85.80pts) who will either be drafted as an rfa or, given the lack of returning prospects or quality prospect picks, may stay on as a p4 for the season providing a third goaltender for the Highlanders to work with. However p4 c J.Hudler (25pts) has simply run out of time. The Highlanders may still give p3 lw R.Olesz (30pts) a further opportunity to reach his potential but the time is running out. The one true prospect still in the system is p2 c P.Mueller who is the Hockey News' 7th ranked prospect in their Future Watch. The hope is that, unlike so many other Phoenix prospects, he will be able to fulfill the promise he has shown in the WHL and in international competitions - if so, the Highlanders will have a real gem.

Prospect picks: Another casualty of the Highlander's Cup run was their 1st round pick in the 2007 PrD. The Highlanders have two picks in the 2nd and a high pick in the 3rd but will need some strong scouting to fill out their prospect list with 5 or 6 impact players.

Rfas: S.Souray (64pts + 33.75 tg pts) is the only rfa the Highlanders have. His toughness makes him one of the most valuable players out there and it is likely that he will be drafted fairly early by someone even if the consensus is that he will not hit these totals again next season. The Highlanders certainly can match and hope that he comes close to repeating his carear year or they can try and trade him prior to the ED to a team with more rfas to act as "cover". On the Highlanders roster, a player of Souray's calibre will simply not go unnoticed and is unlikely to be matched for anything less than his full value.

Overall: The Highlanders are in a position that 11 other franchises would like to be, having a chance to repeat. They will need to make few mistakes on draft day to have a realistic shot at doing so. While they will start the season with two elite FPs and S.Crosby, there is very little in addition that they will be working with. Back-to-back championships are hard to come by in the FunHL and the Highlanders will not enter the season as favorites to make history.

Season In Review: The Edge

The Edge finished 12th this past season and will have to endure another year as the "defending" Herbivore Trophy recipients. The season began well, indeed for the first week the Edge led the league. Unfortunately it did not hold up and once again the offseason will be spent trying to figure out what went wrong and rebuilding for next year.

FPs: The Edge began and finished the season with two left wingers as the face of the franchise. Washington's Alexander Ovechkin (92pts) and New Jersey's Patrik Elias (69pts). Ovechkin's production was a bit of a disappointment (given his tremendous rookie year) but it was still the second best of any left winger in the league. Elias' production was a little more problematic, he was only the 15th best left winger out there and while he was injured for a few games, even pro-rated Elias' numbers make him less than a point-a-game player. Solid, but not the elite level one would hope for from an FP.

Draft: On paper the names selected (the Edge's first four picks O.Jokinen (91pts), P.Kariya (76pts), B.Gionta (45pts), M.Modano (43pts)) seem solid but the results speak for themsleves. The Edge had an Omnivore baseline of 873.52pts, second worst in the league and one of only two teams with under 900pts. When you start that far behind, it is very hard to catch up. In particular, the Edge did not select a right winger who hit 50pts or a non +/- defenseman who tallied more than 40pts. On the plus side, Jokinen's 91pts met expectations (though Lecavalier, Savard and Briere were selected after Jokinen went 8th overall) and prospect K.Lehtonen and rfa E.Nabokov were both top 12 goaltenders for the Edge at just under 80pts.

Moving forward the Edge need to move from fighting to avoid the cellar to fighting for the Predator Cup. That will take a concerted effort and may not be something that can be accomplished in one season.

FPs: DO NOT TRADE OVECHKIN! Ovechkin had a poor year but still was the second best player at his position, that is an elite performance and with Washington set to add even more firepower this upcoming season his performance can only improve. Ovechkin is the cornerstone of the franchise and the Edge need to build around the feisty Russian. On the flip side, it is time to move on from Elias. If there is any realistic chance to replace Elias with an elite FP at the next entry draft - the Edge would be well advised to do so. Lecavalier, Kiprusoff, Spezza and others are all elite at their position and elite is what you want from your FPs. Elias is a solid performer when healthy so a replacement is not essential this entry draft if an obvious choice is not there or if the Edge are contemplating promoting a prospect - presumably Lehtonen - into the FP slot. That is an option that can wait one more year and may be worth exploring if an obvious FP replacement is not going to be available when the Edge select.

Prospects: While p4 g K.Lehtonen (likely to be selected as an rfa) has shown that he can contribute now and may even be worthy of FP promotion in 2008, the same can not be said of some of all the Edge's other prospects. Philadelphia p3 g A.Niittymakki may yet prove to be a valuable back-up to M.Biron but he should not figure in the Edge's plans. In Florida, p3 c S.Weiss (48pts) has not demonstrated that he has the ability to be another J.Spezza while p3 rw A.Stewart (1pt) may eventually become the player he was drafted to be but not likely before his time as a FunHL prospect has run out. Serious consideration should be given to dropping both players.

Another p3 rw, Anaheim's C.Perry (44pts) is worth holding on to in part because of his position, his solid improvement from his rookie season and the old saying that it takes big men (he's 6'3") longer to develop. Perry's a keeper and if his March is any indication (11pts in 15gp) then he is poised to explode next season. The pleasant surprise of the prospect draft had to be Ottawa p2 d A.Volchenkov, selected by the Shadowmen and quickly flipped to the Edge on draft day. While a 19pt performance is not noteworthy, a +37 most certainly is - its a risky proposition to bank on a repeat performance but the indications are very positive given that he already has 3 years under his belt and Ottawa are playing him 21minutes a night. Less flashy, as far as stats are concerned, is Washington p2 d M.Green. He has now finished his first full season and has a way to go before taking on the responsibilities envisioned for him full-time but the promise is certainly there. The Edge should hold on to him as well. Finally, the Edge should hold on to Toronto p2 g J.Pogge. The Hockey News' 28th ranked prospect in the Future Watch is already tending net for the AHL Marlies. Given Toronto's goaltending woes, he may end up with the Leafs (and hence producing for the Edge) as early as next season. In any event, an elite prospect who should be held on to.

Prospect Picks: While the Edge flipped their first rounder with the Severed Heads, they will still have a high prospect pick and should obviously look at getting the best offensive prospect available. Given the lack of consensus out there on this year's NHL Entry Draft (though P.Kane is looking to be the presumptive number one) the Edge may be able to walk away with the player they want.

RFAs: I won't go through all the Edge rfas because I'm not convinced that their value is as great as some suggest but the Edge are advantaged by the fact that in some respects, their rfas had sub-par years. Had they exceeded expectations, the chance that they could be matched "late" and hence be a real steal for the Edge next Entry Draft would diminish. C.Higgins (38pts), is one possible bargain as is underrated C.Ehrhoff who has increased his point totals by 10 each of his three seasons. A player that may not be able to be matched cheap is M.Malik (19pts) because he was a 64pt player when played +/-.

Overall: The Edge have a solid foundation in Ovechkin and Lehtonen but need to add more to the mix in terms of returning assets and simply must improve at the draft table if they are to begin to contend for the Predator Cup.

May he rest in peace - Gaetan Duchense



2007/08 Season now open

Well Brian's 2007/08 assets spreadsheet is now in use. All those free agents are gone from your team and all the prospects have aged. You can now also trade your 2008/09 PD picks.

For once I do not see any major issues that need to be discussed on the rules of the FUNHL either. Although there may be some minor discussion on the GAA rate for Goaltenders that Cam brought up previously.

Who also would now like to be on the Disputes commitee needs to be decided.

Playoff Hockey Draft on MSN

So far we have 5 for a playoff draft on MSN at 5-530pm MDT. Drafting max of 20 player or about 120 players in total. Look forward to seeing more of you then. Entry $10.

Also link to CBCs playoff pool


Fast Eddie in Florida

Another bar, another bar fight, another arrest, another Billion dollar bribe.

Oh Eddie.

Highlanders End 14 Year Drought, Vanquish Curse of the Ring

Season Ends, Final Standings

The Highlanders add two more pts to their total on Sunday and finish the season with a league-best 53pt week, a FunHL triple crown and their third Predator Cup - some 14 years after winning thier last. The triple crown had only been done once before, when the Severed Heads did it in 2001 on route to winning their back-to-back Predator Cups. The Highlanders also join the 1996 Great Whites who over a decade ago won the Fish their third Predator Cup, until now the only FunHL team to accomplish the feat. The Bladerunners were worthy champions and only a couple of weeks ago looked like they could go back-to-back themselves. Only two teams had ever before repeated as champions, the Bladerunners may have fallen short of their goal but they certainly had a season to be proud of.

The Great Whites and Wolves both had great drafts of +1000pt teams. The Great Whites finished third while the Wolves are passed on the last day by both the Shadowmen (4th) and the Knights Templar (5th), who had the week's second highest total, as the Wolves slip to 6th place. The Personal Vendetta finish an injury plagued season in 7th place. The Ramapithicines get two points from Turco which is enough to lift them over the Severed Heads into 8th, the Heads will have to settle for 9th. The rookie GMs at the helm of the Lost Boys and Scourge both finish, appropriately, next to each other in the standings at 10th and 11th, respectively, while the Edge are forced to settle into 12th place and a second Herbivore Trophy after being unable to overcome the second-worst draft in the pool.

It was a very hard-fought season with 11 teams finishing over 900pts. Thanks for putting up with my self-congratulatory tone these last few weeks and my frequent mistakes with the unofficial stats. Darrell, you do an awsome job with the official stats - thanks from everyone for those. Some of these final positions are only a few points clear of the next team so they may be adjusted when Darrell posts the official stats later this week but until then, here are the unofficial final stats for all races:


The Curse Is Broken

Congrats to Doug on the Triple Crown and newest member of the Three Cup Champions Club! The Curse of the Ring is over, and we shall forever more refer to GM McLachlan as Frodo ;-)

Penultimate Day

The Flames are in, the Leafs and Habs are out and the FunHL season is all but over. The Highlanders are capping off their season with a 50+pt week while the Bladerunners +/- gamble has not paid off at all. Even had they decided against the ploy it may not have mattered other than the size of the eventual and now inevitable Highlander victory. The hope now rests on a historic blowout of the Avalance but, well, it isn't going to happen.

The Omnivore would also appear to be settled but there is still a couple of positioning questions left to be resolved. The Severed Heads and Wolves are only a fraction of a point up on the Ramapithicines and Shadowmen for 4th and 8th place, respectively. That will be decided following Sunday's games. Given the closeness of those races, we will probably want to wait for Darrell's official stats. Until then however, here are the unofficial stats going into the final day of the season:


Going Backwards

If the Bladerunners are to make a push for the Predator Cup worthy of the Dogs' legedary final week run, then they need to turn things around - and fast. Last night saw the collective point totals of the Bladerunners move into negative territory while the Highlanders continued to post gains. The gap is approaching 70pts with the Highlanders posting the league's best week, by contrast the Bladerunners are right back to where we started the week.

Congratulations to the Ramapithicines and Lost Boys who join the 900pt club following last night's action. Darrell's official stats for week 26 have been incorporated into this post. As I mentioned, you will need to get by without your stats fix until I get back from B.C. on Sunday - I know it will be tough but I believe in you :-)

Until then, here are your unofficial stats as of Thursday night's games:

Free Online Hockey pools

Here are a few pools I have found.

TSN - http://www.fantasysportsnetwork.com/hockey/Games/GameDetails.aspx?dContestID=5

Globe and Mail - http://www.theglobeandmail.com/partners/free/fantasyhockey/07/

thescore.ca - http://thescore.ca/fantasy/shootoutplayoffs/go_index.asp


Quiet Night

Kozlov would have gotten the Bladerunners a point, Hossa lost them two and the Highlanders got another pair from Pronger. That was the story on a quiet Wednesday evening. The Edge saw a good performance by Ovechkin negated somewhat by having him score against his own goaltender but through it all the Scourge continue to solidify thier lead. No changes in the standings but tonight might see some movement given how close teams are right now.

The unofficial stats as of Wednesday night are as follows:


Personal Vendetta, Severed Heads Cross 900pt Mark

The Highlanders extended their leads in both the Predator Cup and Omnivore races last night as the Bladerunners' +/- gamble sputtered a bit in the first big test. Truthfully things looked very good for them earlier in the evening before Colorado came back against the Flames but even had the early Calgary lead held, the Bladerunners would have still lost ground to a strong Highlander performance on Tuesday. I've included a comparison of the pts the Bladerunners would get this week had they dressed the same line-up for points instead of +/- as I think it's worth asking the what if.

The Highlanders' gained on the Scourge in the Omnivore as well with all but 3 of their 16pt night coming by way of trades. By contrast, only one of the Scourge's points, Rafalski's, came from players not already on the Scourge baseline. Dan commented a couple of days ago that the current Omnivore calculations seem to have done a good job of reflecting what we were attempting to do with the Award and the Highlander's +90pt standings may be a good example. This will likely be one of the lowest ever Omnivore totals ever (with only the 2002 Wolves' sub +70pt win being lower) but that was to be expected following this summer's changes to include prospects onto the baseline. For a comparison, had we not made the changes this season, the Highlanders (with Crosby and Dipietro no longer on the baseline) would have an Omnivore total of +172.8pts, challenging last year's total for the Dogs (+178) as the third highest in Omnivore history and the highest since the elimination of ED pick trading.

There were no position changes since Monday's stats even with the large number of games played last night but both the Personal Vendetta and Severed Heads should be congratulated for crossing the 900pt mark. The unofficial stats as of Tuesday night's games are as follows:


Final Week Begins, Bladerunners going to the Dogs

The Highlanders have their sights set on a FunHL Triple Crown as we enter the final week but the Bladerunners have other plans and have gone back to the 2002-2003 season for inspiration. Here is my excerpt from the FunHL History (a revised version is in the works, with pictures, and should be ready by draft day) to refresh your memories.

Typically, GMs would play one or two of their defenseman plus-minus if they were short of purely offensive contributors on defense but GM Donaldson had begun to push the envelope playing players regardless of their position or perceived defensive shortcomings. It was the only way to cut into the Ramapithicines' lead, and it was beginning to work. The strategy was fraught with risk, but it was a risk the Dogs were prepared to take.

The Dogs had been a consistently strong team, as demonstrated by their first-place standing in the Challenge Cup regular season. So when the Dogs dispatched the Ramapithicines two games straight in the Challenge Cup semi-final, the win was made all the sweeter as the Predator Cup race was also tightening. The Dogs would win the Challenge Cup finals with a two game sweep of the Severed Heads, the first FunHL Award ever won by the Dogs. Could they close the gap enough to win the Predator Cup too? Entering the final week the decision was made to throw caution to the wind. GM Donaldson would play all his players plus-minus.

Truthfully there was nothing to lose by making the gamble. The Challenge Cup was secured and the only way the gap between them could realistically be made up would be to have the sort of monster week only a plus-minus gamble could produce, and maybe he could goad the Ramapithicines to gamble too and play many of his players plus-minus as well. What followed would become legend. As each day passed during the final week the Dogs continued to close the distance on the frontrunner. The insurmountable lead that the Ramapithicines had built up of 50 pts over the course of a season was at risk of being overcome in the final days of the season. In the end the gamble fell a mere 5 points short and the Ramapithicines celebrated their second Predator Cup. It was an unbelievable effort by the Dogs that would become legend.

Final Predator Cup Standings (2002-03):
1 - Ramapithicines 1021.46
2 - Dogs 1016.44.

It was a lot of fun to watch the Dogs eat up the distance back then, not sure I would enjoy a similar surge by the Bladerunners this season. In the only game last night the Bladerunners did make it a little harder on themselves with Sergei Zubov going -2 on the evening but I still think the gamble to be well worth it. As Rob has pointed out, they Bladerunners will need his players to all average almost 3 more points than the Highlanders over the week to make up the gap - a daunting task but one with little risk (for them to fall into Herbivore contention - no need for me to be the only one sweating through these last few days :-) - the Bladerunners would need to post, depending on the Edge's week, close to a staggering -200pts or an average of -15pts per player). That isn't going to happen, in spite of Zubov's play last night. But it should make for a very interesting week. Here are the unofficial stats as of Monday's action:


Shadowmen managment style adopted by NHL's Devils


Highlanders Win Challenge Cup

The Highlanders captured the first jewel in their bid for the FunHL Triple Crown yesterday, sweeping the Bladerunners in two straight games to win the Challenge Cup. In the end the depth of the Highlanders line-up proved too much for the defending champions with 10 players garnering 3 or more points on the week. Led by D.Hasek's 8.33pts in net, the Highlanders were able to outscore the Bladerunners at every position, save right wing. In the end the much criticized decision of the Bladerunners to bench M.Kipprusoff and J.Iginla didn't matter, their contribution would have helped but would not have been enough. The final score in game two was 55 to 41, a 14 point win. The Highlanders celebrate their first major FunHL award since they last hoisted the Predator Cup in 1993. They will be able to quench that 14 year drought in one week's time if they can maintain thier now 38pt lead atop the Predator Cup standings.

The final award storyline that remains is the race for the Omnivore. The Scourge and Highlanders have been trading places for the last few weeks but Hasek's performance this past week was part of the reason that the Highlanders have been able to pull 9 points ahead. Still a 9 point lead can disappear in a flash. The Scourge have been relying in the timly scoring of Tkachuk and Blake on lw, Satan on rw and Poti, Markov, Redden and Rafalski on d to power their run. Ironically Blake and Selanne have a double impact on the race. Blake is on the Highlander baseline and has been a big part of the Scourge's quest while Selanne has been a huge part of the Highlander's run this year but every point he gets is part of the Scourge baseline. 7 days to go, expect the Omnivore to go down to the final day.

The Knights Templar become the latest team to cross the 900pt mark and could be joined by as many as 4 more teams before the season is out. Only the Scoure and Edge seem unlikely to reach the mark though the Scourge could make it with another 40pt week. If they do it would put 11 teams over 900pts making this one of the highest scoring seasons across the board in recent memory.

The race for draft positioning is also close for a lot of teams. The Wolves are in 4th and probably can not catch the 3rd place Great Whites but they are only 9pts ahead of the Shadowmen. The Shadowmen are themselves less than 7pts up on the Knights Templar. The Knights are similarly only a dozen points ahead of a trio of teams: the Personal Vendetta, Severed Heads and Ramapithicines who all enter the final week separated by little more than 3pts. Add to this mix the 10th placed Lost Boys who are only a dozen points out of 7th and you have the makings for a lot of shuffling over the course of the next seven days.

The battle for the Herbivore should be over by now but the Edge refuse to go away. Last week the Edge closed the gap by some 8pts however with a 20pt difference still to be made up the Edge are running out of time. The difference between last place and more last place is not that much so expect the Edge to pull out a Dog-like +/- effort to lunge up the standings - it was Volchenkov's +6 week that helped to close the distance last week so with a huge helping of luck it can be done.

Here are the unofficial stats as of Week 26:


For Richard

Bladerunners can't make up ground in spite of strong night

The Bladerunners can't catch a break. They pull of an impressive 15pt night on Saturday and barely make up on point on their rivals, the Highlanders. It may simply be too steep a hill to climb at this point but the Bladerunners don't have any quit in them, they have 5 players dressed for Sunday's games to try and make up the 9pt deficit in the Challenge Cup final and one more week to try and make up the 33pt lead that the Highlanders hold in the Predator Cup. It won't be easy but nothing worth doing ever is.

In the Omnivore, the Highlanders continue to cling to a 5pt lead but notice that 4 teams have now crossed the 1000pt baseline. The Severed Heads are the only other team that has a shot of hitting that target but will need a very strong final 8 days to do it. The Scourge, still threatening to win the Omnivore, look likely to pass 800pts on the baseline but that's about it.

Here are the unofficial stats as of Saturday's action: