What promises to be one of the busiest and most interesting off-seasons ever has gotten started early here in Toronto. The Maple Leafs have already completed a trade that was disallowed by the NHL (but may yet happen), signed a coveted junior free agent (more on this tomorrow) and have now completed a second very significant transaction with the Coyotes. Coming to Toronto are centermen Robert Reichel and Travis Green along with minor league right winger Craig Mills. Both Reichel and Green were immediately signed to new multi-year deals by the Maple Leafs.
Robert Reichel, who had been a restricted free agent, has been playing in the Czech Extra League for the past 2 seasons after failing to come to terms with the Coyotes in 1999. This hiatus, by the way, marked the second time that Reichel had been motivated by a contract impasse with his NHL team to play in Europe. Jan Buben, HF’s European Correspondent, calls Reichel an “electrifying offensive talent with superlative playmaking skills” and further states that his stature in the Czech Republic rivals that of anyone ever produced by that hockey mad nation – including Pittsburgh’s Jaromir Jagr. Reichel has recently served as the captain of both his club team in Litvinov and also of the Czech National Team. His presence in the Toronto line-up next season greatly improves the team’s chances of opening up a consistent second offensive front behind the Mats Sundin troika.
Travis Green brings a very different set of skills to the Maple Leafs. Although he has scored 20 or more goals in 3 different NHL seaso Read more»
Part 1: The background.
Flash back to the 1997 Frozen Four championship game. A sophomore at North Dakota, named Adam Calder was given the assignment of Hobey Baker Runner-Up and Boston University junior Chris Drury. Alongside Jeff Ulmer and Matt Henderson, Drury was taken from Hobey Baker runner-up to virtual anonymity on the score sheet. After that game, and through the next two years, Calder helped North Dakota become poised for another title, which they won in 2000. Every year Calder played, the Fighting Sioux made it to the Frozen Four, benefited by his strong two-way play. In 2000, Calder had moved on to help rebuild a team for a Championship.
In 1997, eight weeks after the Fighting Sioux won their NCAA Championship, the South Carolina Stingrays won the ECHL’s Kelly Cup, becoming the first team in the league to win both the regular season and playoff crowns. Four years later, Calder and Drury both played for championships in their respective leagues, and both were successful in their endeavors, but the question that still remains is why a very talented two-way forward with an excellent hockey IQ remains in the lower echelons, while other players with less talent and lighter work ethics have made the jump to the AHL and NHL.
Calder, a 5’11 185lb. forward, went undrafted and was found by South Carolina Stingrays head coach Rick Adduono three weeks before the ECHL began training camp. Calder had an immediate impact on the Stingrays, despite missing almost two months of the season with a knee injury and Call-up to Rochester. On the first road trip of Read more»
The Canucks have been a very poor drafting team in their history, but they are very much a team on the rise. Since Brian Burke took over, he has been able to instill in level of confidence in the Canucks system, and despite making a few questionable trades in the past, he has a good record as the Canucks’ General Manager.
Burke’s drafting record has been very solid in his three seasons in running the Canucks. He has drafted some very good players in the first round, such as Bryan Allen, and the Sedins, and some solid hopes for the future in the later rounds, such as Rene Vydareny, Brandon Reid, and Artem Chubarov.
The Canucks, despite being the team who has the most going for them, going into this draft, are still very much a work in progress. There are still some very pressing needs which need to be addressed through immediate action (Free-Agency) or through the future. (Draft)
One position which the Canucks need some immediate help in is in net. They continue to have break hearts with poor goaltending. The Canucks haven’t drafted a goaltender since Kevin Swanson in 1999, and he has panned out just fine, but more is needed.
The Canucks are pretty deep on the wings, and rather solid on D, with prospects such as Zenith Komarniski and others down in Manitoba, who are NHL-ready. There is a lot of depth at centre in the minors, with guys like Chubarov and Holden, but this is an area of possible need.
Big Change in Utah
A week ago, the Stars completely vaporized the Grizzlies coaching staff. Head coach Bob Bourne and assistant coach Jason Taylor were both fired, while popular assistant coach Craig Ludwig was promoted to the Dallas Stars organization as an assitant. Now, ex-Calgary Flames coach Don Hay, who is a good friend of Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, is rumored to be one of
the leading candidates to take over the job. Ex-Islanders coach Butch Goring, another member of the Islanders dynasty team,
has also been mentioned as a possibility.
More shockingly, in the wake of these events inthecrease.com is reporting that the Stars are in the midst of dramtically scaling back
their minor league operations. The Stars are expected to share their affliate Utah Grizzlies, who have just moved from the disbanded IHL to the AHL, with the Florida Panthers.
Apparently, the Stars will join forces with Florida in running the team and stocking it with
talent next year, and Dallas is now expected to scale back the number of under-contract minor leaguers — keeping only a handful
signed for next year. The money they will save is reportedly going to be used to help Dallas sign free agents this summer
and increase the salaries of their NHL’ers. This combined with the expected 10% budget increase (around $5 million) and the money
saved on players like Hull (over $7 million), Donato, Maclean, and Ledyard should free up serious budgetary room for Gainey.