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Morning Skate: More Help on the Way

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.


From: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Monday, April 15
Subject: Jackets-Isles Cup Final

God knows we've talked about the Devils and the Leafs here, but they're playing one another tonight, so we might talk a bit more about it. Figured you'd like to know that the Devils' broadcast has, in the game's first four minutes, called Nazem Kadri a wunderkid and Devils' color analyst Glenn "Chico" Resch said that Kadri "has the hands of Patrik Elias and the grit of David Clakrson..." (Ed. Note: Leafs won 2-0, Leafs were outshot 32-12 and committed 22 turnovers).

So, jokingly on Sunday I mentioned to you the fact that the Islanders are in the playoffs and the Jackets are in the hunt for a spot out west (can't believe I'm saying this...but I'm looking forward to watching the Jackets-Avs game tonight). This team from Columbus with the awesome third sweaters has been captivating, if for no other reason, than they were in last during February and were discounted entirely at the season's start.

Basically, I want to see a Jackets-Islanders Stanley Cup Final. 

Could you imagine the outraged calls from advertisers to CBC and NBC? We had Canes-Oilers after the lockout before the most recent lockout, why not another crazy matchup this year? Sergei Bobrovsky, Philadelphia castoff, against journeyman Evgeni "Wait, I'm not going to Detroit!?" Nabokov? Frans Nielsen lining up against Artem Anisimov? Matt Moulson v. Cam Atkinson? John Tavares battling Jack Johnson...I like it. (only a hint of sarcasm there, not the usual dose...)

(I'm well aware it might not happen, but, come on...the Islanders, Leafs, Wild, Jets, Stars, and Jackets could be in the postseason with the Red Wings, Rangers, Devils and Flyers out....bring it).

So, Steve Tambellini becomes the fall guy in Edmonton and Craig MacTavish inherits one of the most stocked forward cabinets in the NHL....Four years to the day after Tambellini fired MacTavish as the team's coach. Oil still need defensemen and a netminder, but it's not a bad gig he has there with that top 6.

-What can fantasy owners expect from these recent call-ups in the season's final week-plus...Alex Chiasson is thriving in Dallas. Who are some other players that should be jumping onto owner's radars, either for this season or next fall.

Ciao,
-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Monday, April 15
Subject: Kevin Lowe: Public Relations Master

A Jackets-Isles Stanley Cup would be misery for both the U.S. and Canadian TV markets ... and viewers, too. It cannot happen. Pray with me, brother -- PRAY!

Kevin Lowe blew the Oilers' media conference in a way that only an arrogant and pompous windbag can screw things up. For some reason, he believes the entire league wants his roster. Yes, the roster that's mired at the bottom of the heap. The core of five, maybe, but not the whole bloody roster. And then he got more than a little agitated with the questioning from journalists and laid out this gem: "We're finishing year three of that plan. Are you saying to me you're getting impatient after three years? And lastly I'll say, there's one other guy I believe in hockey today, that is still working in the game, that has won more Stanley Cups than me, so I think I know a little bit about winning if that's ever a concern."
 
Reminds me of another self-righteous fellow we both know and maybe once respected. I wonder if Lowe has Ludacris' "Blow it Out" as his ring tone. The Oil are in a heap of dung and Kevin Lowe has it between his toes. (including apologizing to Oilers' fans) And there are a lot of premium prospects he could have interviewed for GM, but instead, he went back to the trough for yet another former Oiler. The Old Boys Club is alive and well. It's sad -- that team isn't going to be able to deliver on the promise of all that youth.

Gustav Nyqvist of the Wings impresses me, although that team always eases its "young" slowly. Alex Chiasson is a nice story, but he's not the guy he's been so far. He has the potential to be a power type and maybe even the type of guy Nathan Horton might have been had he not gotten those brain bumps. Mikael Granlund will finally adjust to the NHL next year and emerge as the young star he is. Mikhail Grigorenko will come back with a vengeance (get on board now) and Nick Bjugstad in Florida is a must have. Matt Hackett will be the Sabres' starter in a few years. And I think Sven Bartschi and Max Reinhart will be an outstanding duo in Cowtown.

And back to the Oil -- which of the dynamic five get moved this off-season? Taylor Hall is keeper and so is Justin Schultz. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins might be safe, but I think one of Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov are gonzo. You?

Eagle out.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Tuesday, April 16
Subject: Goalie Bob For Hart

Jackets pulled out a late victory last night over Colorado...clutch goal from R.J. Umberger to knot up the game, Vezina/Hart trophy moment from Sergei Bobrovsky with a shorthanded breakaway save on Gabriel Landeskog with the winning goal moments later from Nick Foligno. Yes, they should have beaten Colorado, but they did where a few years ago they might not have. This Jackets' team is locked in a dead heat with Detroit for the eight spot...get excited Janet.

Embrace the idea of the Isles and Jackets competing for Lord Stanley.

I went back and watched the Lowe press conference and he does seem to have a high opinion of himself, because winning Cups as a player means you'll be a good GM. That's why Wayne Gretzky succeeded so much with the Coyotes as their coach. I think a lot of teams would like to have Edmonton's collection of young talent, but some of their personnel are a bit redundant. Maybe get another shut down defenseman or two. Are they going to take Seth Jones with their pick or add another immensely skilled forward in MacKinnon or Drouin? As for who leaves northern Alberta, I'm thinking Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner are gone. I did enjoy the effrontery put forward by Lowe in the press conference.

However, out of those five youngsters, I can see Nail Yakupov getting moved before Jordan Eberle...not basing that on anything entirely factual, just a hunch that they'd rather have Eberle there.

Liking your calling Calgary "Cowtown" and I have liked Baertschi when I saw him play last season. Guy's got a great name, how can you not cheer for someone named Sven. I didn't see Nick Bjugstad play much this season, but I did see the Gophers get knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the first round by Yale and new Flame Kenneth Agostino (sent to Calgary in the Iginla trade). I'm imagining that Mikhail Grigorenko will be able to be had a lower price this fall after he didn't mesh well this season with former coach Lindy Ruff.

What can we make of Hobey Baker award winner, Drew LeBlanc, former St. Cloud State star now with the Blackhawks? Not that Chicago needs much help with its roster, but it's great news for the rest of the Western Conference that they're reloading.

Fantasy wise, who have some of your bigger disappointments been. Guys that we thought would turn it around, but never did?

What about overall teams?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, April 16
Subject: Capital Achievements

Mikhail Grabovski immediately came to mind as a disappointment. The guy has 60-point talent and he's an absolute rink rat -- the kind of player (usually) loved by teams. I think he rebounds once he's free from Toronto and there will be a market for him, contract be damned. He'll get the attention of those teams who don't land a center in free agency. And there will be many in that camp.

Drew Doughty has also disappointed, at least offensively. But you called that when I drafted him in our THL head-to-head league. Guess you had your Ouija board out that night. Kevin Shattenkirk has disappointed me, too. And no, I don't have any bitterness that I traded you Max Pacioretty for him, only to have him deliver me three points since then LOL. Michael Del Zotto should be doing a bit more; so should Mark Giordano, Matt Carle and Victor Hedman. Joe Pavelski should have more points than the does. Ditto Tyler Ennis, Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic and Adam Henrique. Miikka Kiprusoff springs to mind as an abysmal twine-tending option. And teams? The Flyers, Preds and Rangers, for sure. And the Oil.

Drew LeBlanc -- like the Hawks need another smart, doggedly-determined leader-type who makes those around him better. He's a good skater with soft hands who has the ability to slow the game down and control it with his play. As a Hawks fan, I'm thrilled.

Your comment about Seth Jones made me pause for a second. Not because of the Oil, but because high-rated defenders of recent drafts haven't been the guys we thought they'd be. I continuously hear murmurs that Victor Hedman just doesn't think the game well (yikes) and I thought Adam Larsson would be more than he has been. Jonas Brodin wasn't as highly drafted as either of those boys, but his game is already more than those two. And I think Oscar Klefbom will impress more than Hedman or Larsson, too. Now there's a guy the Oil can build on.

I've been watching the Caps shred the Leafs tonight. I'm really impressed with Alexander Ovechkin, but even more so with Mike Green. I think he's the straw that stirs the drink in the U.S. Capital. You? It's nice to have him back healthy.

Eagle out.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, April 17
Subject: Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads

I honestly would like to see the time machine Adam Oates has used to transport this Washington team back to 2009 and 2010. Either there's a Delorian parked somewhere on F Street in DC or he's changed the dates on all team documents to 2010. This is the Mike Green that was a late first-round pick in some leagues, the Mike Green that produced consecutive point-per-game or better seasons from 2008-2010.

I lived in northern Maryland at that time and watched quite a few Caps games. When Green was on, he was lugging the mail out of the zone, springing players on outlet passes and entering the zone quite often. Sometimes he was even the first guy in the zone chasing the puck. Despite Washington almost blowing a 5-1 lead against Tampa Bay last Saturday, Green's winning goal in overtime shows what he can do when he, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are clicking.

It was a 4-on-3 power play marker to seal the win, but it was a howitzer of a shot that saw him direct traffic from the point as the Caps slowly pushed the Tampa triangle back toward the goal. A few instances of playing catch with Backstrom and Ovechkin and the puck was in the goal. (Also in that game you saw what his shot can do when it shattered Nate Thompson's visor, spewing blood over the ice. If the Marc Staal eye injury is the scariest of the season, Nate Thompson's is undoubtedly second).

Watching Green the last two seasons was amazing from the perspective of how little of that 2008-2010 player he showed. He dealt with a series of bizarre leg/groin injuries last season that saw him play a scattered 32 games and have seven total points. This season started poorly as well as the word buyouts started buzzing around DC more than fiscal cliff or sequester. Green looked again to be that bust, along with Ovechkin and Backstrom. All three are back. I do see Green as one of the most integral pieces to that team, but I'd still put Backstrom first, leaving the Average 8 at No. 3. Let's not forget that much of this winning streak has coincided with the return of Brooks Laich; a classic grinder, sandpaper type of leader that does a bit of everything on the ice.

Your talk about defensemen being taken early is telling. Hedman seems to be getting better but might not reach that elite, next-level. As for Adam Larsson, I was thrilled when he fell to No. 4 in the draft and the Devils snagged him, but I still would have rather had Gabriel Landeskog if he were there. Larsson's struggles are two-fold. He hasn't been given too long of a leash in Peter DeBoer's system and played just six playoff games last Spring, seeing his spot in the lineup taken by Peter Harrold. Larsson, when given the chance, and also playing with the experienced Andy Greene, has shown himself to be good if he doesn't overextend himself. I'm getting a bit worried as his spot in the lineup is tenuous and he almost has to play perfect when he's out there. He's been too inconsistent. Conversely, you mentioned Jonas Brodin, who was drafted later, as being someone who's surpassing expectations.

I'm wondering if it's more of a crapshoot with defensemen since the talent most of these kids are being evaluated against is hardly NHL level, but you can say the same for scorers and goalies. There's such a steep learning curve with defenders and when they come into the league, it's rare to see one adapt so quickly, save for your stay-at-home plodders Chris Phillips or Barrett Jackmans (Calder Trophy winner). Neither is going to win the Norris, but they've carved out good careers with the clubs that drafted them. I'm wondering if it's the defensive blue liners who have it easier than the players that are expected to carry the offensive load and defend as well. Look at how Cam Fowler and Tyler Myers have fallen off; Justin Schultz this season too.

Getting to awards time and we talked about the Hart a few weeks back, here's my list for Vezina (in no particular order): Goalie Bob in Columbus, Tuukka Rask,. Carey Price. Does James Reimer belong in this talk? Surprisingly not on the list: Anders Lindback, Mike Smith, Miikka Kipursoff.

Ciao...

-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Wednesday, April 17
Subject: Plodding Around

Chris Phillips and Barrett Jackman, maybe. But what about Luke Schenn? The NHL has changed and gone are the days of 100+ point performances from blueliners. What we have left is a point-per-game (if we're lucky) plus a glut of guys who deliver in the 40-50 point range. The common denominator? Fast skating, great agility and crisp outlet passing ... not the sluggish, hard-hitting ways of Phillips, Jackman or Schenn. Today's defenders must be reformed, third-line forwards who can skate as well backwards as they do forwards. An oversimplification, I know, but it's not that far off.

Next week? The playoffs are looming large and you'll need to play a little name game. Be prepared.

Eagle out.

Check out Janet Eagleson's Frozen Fantasy on Rotowire.

Check out Dan Pennucci's Blue Line Buzz on Rotowire.