Brad Richards is a team worst minus-16 this season.
Let’s continue this week with the second half of our look at the delusions suffered in NHL circles, and the wakeup calls required for each pipe dream (Pt. 1 is here).
The Delusion: Michael Ryder’s scoring hands have asked for a divorce from the rest of his body, and the Canadiens are looking to unload him.
Reality Check: The 27-year-old Ryder has spent part of the season in coach Guy Carbonneau’s doghouse, and the other part scoring just three goals in 30 games. But there was a guy in Montreal last year by the name of Kovalev who was mired in a season-long slump, and now that same guy leads the team in scoring. Though they’ve made him the occasional healthy scratch, the Habs are betting Ryder undergoes the same reversal of fortune.
The Delusion: Steve Sullivan will be on the ice for the Predators this season.
Reality Check: In late February, it’ll be a year since Sullivan last played an NHL game; a pair of back surgeries later, he’s still got no firm date for a return. The 33-year-old still believes he can play in ’07-08, but with another year left on his contract, the Preds will be careful to a fault about bringing him back.
The Delusion: The Devils can continue to ride Martin Brodeur like a racehorse all the way through June.
Reality Check: Kevin Weekes was brought aboard this summer to lessen the load on Brodeur, but the backup has played just 260 minutes so far this year. Unless Brodeur is on the BALCO training regimen, it’s likely we’ll see a repeat of him running out of gas come the first round of the playoffs, if not sooner.
New York Islanders
The Delusion: The rejuvenated Mike Comrie would be a top-line player on any other team in the league.
Reality Check: Granted, Comrie is on pace for a career-best offensive season, but get a whiff of his team-worst minus-13 rating; there’s a reason why he’s playing for his fifth franchise in as many years.
New York Rangers
The Delusion: Next year’s Rangers team will feature many of the same faces from this year’s Rangers team.
Reality Check: With Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan, Marek Malik, Martin Straka, and Sean Avery all on course to be unrestricted free agents come summertime, Glen Sather simply won’t have the cap space to re-sign everybody. Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Henrik Lundqvist will be back, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess what the Blueshirts will look like.
The Delusion: The Sens still need the services of Gary Roberts to put them over the top in their chase for a championship.
Reality Check: Roberts will always be seen as one of the greatest dressing room leaders in recent years, but he’s got one goal so far in Pittsburgh. Words without follow-through will not win you a Stanley Cup.
The Delusion: Mike Richards’ 12-year contract extension will eventually be matched, or topped, by another NHL team.
Reality Check: Over Gary Bettman’s dead body. If the commissioner catches wind of another decade-plus deal, he may call for the collective bargaining agreement to be re-opened as soon as possible. Even if he doesn’t, you can bet contract limits will be imposed the next time the NHL gets the chance.
The Delusion: Ed Jovanovski will finish his current contract (which expires in the summer of 2011) with the Coyotes.
Reality Check: Jovanovski has a no-trade clause and already has been rumored to have shot down more than one potential trade out of Arizona. However, as the team’s highest-paid player by nearly $2 million, it won’t be the last time he’s asked to waive the clause and accept a one-way ticket to a contender. Sooner or later – perhaps even this year – he’ll relent and be gone.
The Delusion: Dany Sabourin and Ty Conklin can hold the fort until Marc-Andre Fleury returns from injury in February.
Reality Check: Even if the two journeymen goalies play well until Fleury comes back, does GM Ray Shero still want to entrust his post-season hopes in someone who flopped in the playoffs last spring? Highly unlikely.
The Delusion: The Blues can win in the playoffs with what is currently the Western Conference’s fourth-worst offensive attack.
Reality Check: With just 79 goals in their first 30 games, St. Louis was on course to finish the year with 222 goals. That’s the same total the Canucks had when they qualified for the post-season, and everyone knows how well they wound up doing. Andy “Golden Arch” McDonald is sure to help, though.
The Delusion: Ron Wilson will be fired soon.
Reality Check: Not with the league’s best road record (12-3-0-2), he’s not. Should the Sharks tank again in the playoffs, however, they’ll be fishing for a new skipper. And yes, I have officially made myself sick of aquatic-related terminology.
The Delusion: The Lightning’s “Big Three” of Brad Richards, Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier can’t be broken up, because two of them have no-trade contracts.
Reality Check: This is one of the biggest misconceptions going around. Players with no-trade clauses can veto any potential deal, but do you think any one of Tampa Bay’s three stars aches to play on a team without any goaltending? Richards is a minus-16 already this year; do you think if the Bolts don’t climb out of the Eastern Conference basement, he would turn down GM Jay Feaster if he asked him to allow the team to shop him around? Not a chance.
The Delusion: At a little more than $2 million a season, Hal Gill is overpaid.
Reality Check: Gill has the best plus/minus rating of any Maple Leafs blueliner who has played every game this season. That may be backhanded praise in the extreme, but he’s a solid penalty killer and a big body who’ll get at least as much money on the open market next summer.
The Delusion: The Canucks’ pop-gun offense can continue to be supported by their outstanding defense.
Reality Check: Didn’t we learn this lesson last year? Apparently not, because nobody in the league has put up fewer shots per game than Vancouver’s lousy average of 25 (a full 10 shots behind the No. 1 Red Wings) this season. Roberto Luongo may be God around those parts, but even God needed a rest every so often.
The Delusion: Alex Ovechkin will want to remain part of the organization if the on-ice product doesn’t improve in the very near future.
Reality Check: Languishing on a last-place team is tough enough, but when that team also has a distinct lack of fan support as the Caps do, why would the young Russian superstar not demand his maximum contract originate from a market where the locals show they care about the game?
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