Monday, September 19, 2011

Driving Play Season Preview - Teams 26-23 - The Not-Quite-So-Bad-As-The-Oilers

The Driving Play Season Preview continues.

#26 Minnesota Wild

Overall Game Plan: I have absolutely no idea. I think GM Chuck Fletcher is trying to put together a winning team, but I'm not sure how he plans to do that.

Why They Stink: 43.7% Fenwick with the score tied. How they were ever in the playoff race at all last season, I don't know. Great goaltending and riding the luck train, I suppose.

Good Idea(s): Trading Brent Burns, an expiring contract, for an NHL player, a legitimate prospect, and picks.

Bad Idea(s): Continuing to trade with San Jose, who fleeced them in the Heatley for Havlat trade.

Closing Remarks: The Minnesota Wild are easily the most boring team in the league. They have some solid tough minute players, but they are deficient in skill players all over the roster. One has to think that Fletcher's deal of Brent Burns signals that he'll be around for longer, because it's doubtful that a GM on the hot seat would trade his best player for mostly future considerations.

#25: Ottawa Senators

Overall Game Plan: A rebuild. Somehow GM Bryan Murray, who oversaw his team falling apart due to free agent defections, poor drafting, and poor trading, is still around to try to pick up the pieces. There are some excellent pieces here, but there are also giant holes which Murray did not even try to fill.

Why They Stink: Most of the reason last season was goaltending, but with G Craig Anderson, they should be better in that department. The problem is they sloughed off much of their talent at last year's trade deadline. Depth is Ottawa's main issue - they could be okay if they stay largely healthy, but there's a thin line between Ottawa contending for a playoff spot and Ottawa being down here with the Andy Dufresne crowd.

Good Idea(s): Signing Zenon Konopka to be a 4th line center, I guess? Acquiring Nikita Filatov for a 3rd round pick is a no risk move.

Bad Idea(s): That GM Bryan Murray has not resigned his post in shame.

Closing Remarks: The Senators have some pieces in place for a good team in the next 5 years. Erik Karlsson is a legitimate offensive star. Still, it could very well get worse before it gets better.

#24: Toronto Maple Leafs

Overall Game Plan: I think GM Brian Burke wants to make the playoffs this year. There's certainly the makings of a good team here, but the organizational depth is still woeful. If the club stays healthy, it could exceed this projection by a lot, but if a few injuries hit at the same time, the team will be down to the dregs quickly.

Why They Stink: 44.4% Fenwick with the score tied isn't going to cut it. There's some young players that should hopefully improve that number, but I don't see it cracking 50% this year.

Good Idea(s): Signing Tim Connolly to be the 2nd line center - even if he plays 60 games, he will likely be worth it. Dealing for Franson and Lombardi was also a shrewd, big-market GM move.

Bad Idea(s): Striking out on all the major free agents. Toronto desperately needed an upgrade that did not come.

Closing Remarks: The Leafs are slowly getting better. Next year, they might even have most of their own draft picks! Burke has been able to make some solid smaller moves, but that Kessel deal has gone about as wrong as it could go. I'm not sure how much longer the powers that be are going to let Burke flop around in this quarter of the standings, especially while he advertises that he is putting his team at a competitive disadvantage with his feelings on front-loaded contracts.

#23: Florida Panthers

Overall Game Plan: GM Dale Tallon had as much cap space as anyone's ever had in this league. He basically had a clean slate. He did about as poor a job as possible filling that space, largely signing average players to bloated contracts. I don't have a clue what this team's game plan is.

Why They Stink: I'm not sure, because honestly, nothing that happened last year matters at all with this team. There's 10 new players in their starting lineup.

Good Idea(s): Using Rosti Olesz to get Brian Campbell, who has a big-time contract that they probably wouldn't've been able to sign on their own.

Bad Idea(s): Not getting anything more out of Chicago than the Campbell contract in that deal. Oh, and signing 8 UFAs.

Closing Remarks: If Florida had signed some of these players for less money and backloaded their deals, they might've been able to deal some of these UFAs away. As it stands now, they're going to have to be unloading them if and when some of these prospects ever make their way to the NHL. Tallon should have used his cap space to acquire undesirable contracts while picking up picks and prospects for that service. Instead, it appears he will have blown his shot to build a real winner in Florida.

Rankings to date:

30. Edmonton
29. Colorado
28. Dallas
27. New York Islanders
26. Minnesota
25. Ottawa
24. Toronto
23. Florida
22-1. TO BE CONTINUED, by Jared

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