A Little August Hockey Talk
It’s been very quiet on the hockey front recently with training camps set to begin the second week of September. The Washington Capitals will open up their camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex down in Arlington, Virginia on September 13th. If you get the chance I highly recommend you go down there for at least one day to see the team. Caps owner Ted Leonsis and his staff spared no expense on a building that is great for the team, the players, and the fans.
As for what we can expect this season with the Caps and around the hockey world, I had a chance to talk with an NHL scout this past weekend to get his thoughts on what he sees happening this year. Here is some of his input:
On the Caps: They should win the Southeast Division for the next 5 years with the talent they have combined with some of the poorly managed teams in their division.
On Karl Alzner (2007 Caps first round pick, 5th overall) playing in DC to start the year: If I were Washington I would want him playing in Hershey this year, it is better that way for Karl and the team long term.
Worst team in the league this year?: He said, that is an easy one, the Atlanta Thrashers
On the trend of many people, especially in the media, to jump on the Edmonton Oilers bandwagon: Sure Edmonton made some good moves this summer but they are still a very inexperienced team and when your goalies are Mathieu Garon and an aging Dwayne Roloson you have to be concerned. Also, who is to say guys like Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano are going to be able to carry them offensively? Their defense is really suspect as well.
Teams in the Western Conference that he sees on the decline: Nashville and Colorado.
The Detroit Red Wings are clearly the Stanley Cup favorites but they aren’t such overwhelming ones given their aging defense. He says that Dallas, Anaheim, and San Jose are overrated teams.
When I mentioned that I thought there was a slim chance of the Vancouver Canucks making the playoffs he said you can never count out a team with Roberto Luongo in net.
The scout mentioned that if the Calgary Flames could ever get their team chemistry correct then the Flames would be a dangerous team.
As for Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin the scout said he had no inside information on this but his hunch is that both will stay retired, especially Sakic, who he says just has to take one look at that team and realize they have no chance of going anywhere this year.
On the Toronto Maple Leafs and the reported deal that will send Bryan McCabe to the Florida Panthers to save Toronto salary cap room: Bad move by the Leafs if they do that because Ron Wilson is a very good defensive coach and the Leafs should keep that crew intact because Wilson can win with good defensemen in the regular season.
The Memorial Cup in 2009 will be held in Rimouski, Quebec so clearly the Oceanic, where Sydney Crosby played his junior hockey, are the favorites to win the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this upcoming season. I asked the NHL scout, who keeps very close tabs on amateur hockey, who he thought would be the best three teams in the other two leagues, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the Western Hockey League (WHL). In the OHL he picked London, Windsor, and Brampton and in the WHL it was Spokane (defending Memorial Cup Champions), Vancouver, and Lethbridge. By the way, the Caps have two players on the London Knights (run by Mark and Dale Hunter) this season, defensemen and first round pick John Carlson and forward Justin Taylor. The player to watch draft wise in London, however, will be forward Nazrim Kadri, who played in Kitchener last season. Kadri has great offensive skills but his size and toughness are question marks.
That is it for now, hopefully you enjoyed the insight from someone with 20 years of NHL hockey department experience and feel free to comment on it. Where do you think Alzner should play this season? In a couple of weeks I’ll bring you some updates from Arlington on the Caps and look for my extensive NHL team by team previews in late September.