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 SEASON PREVIEW, 2015-16

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Morganwigge
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PostSubject: SEASON PREVIEW, 2015-16   Tue Oct 06, 2015 1:44 pm



With four new members and a league with twelve teams, there are a lot of unknowns heading into the 2015-16 FHL campaign. Since “unknowns” have never stopped the FHL editorial staff from spouting off in the past, following is a look at each of the contenders for the elusive FHL Cup.

BADGER BOB
With a team named in honor of the late Penguin coach, GM Chester has a soft spot for anything Pittsburgh. When Sidney Crosby was unexpectedly taken by the Ice Hogs with the third overall pick, the Bob’s had to settle for John Tavares, a tasty consolation prize. Tavares was later joined by Logan Couture and the Sedin’s, Henrik and Daniel; the first time an FHL team has housed both Sedin twins. Roman Josi, Mark Streit and Erik Johnson were inked to patrol the blueline while the Badger Bob net will be protected by Jonathan Quick and Jaroslav Halak.
BOTTOM LINE:
By drafting F-G-D-F-G-D with his first six picks, not surprisingly, Badger Bob’s squad is balanced. When the ice spray settles John Tavares could be the best player in the NHL while Couture is skating swiftly toward star status. Concerns include the age of the Sedins (35) and their possibly declining game. Other concerns include Roman Josi who despite being unexpectedly good last year, at age 25, the rearguard has no track record of success. Halak’s health could also cause GM Chester a few sleepless night as the Islander backstop spends a lot of time on the shelf.

BETWEEN THE PIPES
Never in the 23 year history of the league has a GM drafted defensemen with his first three picks. That all changed when GM Miller drafted Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo and Sami Vatanen with picks 1, 2 and 3. Nikita Kucherov would be the Pipes first forward; the breakout Lightning star later joined by baby-faced Johnny Gaudreau and three Colorado forwards, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. Between the pipes for Between the Pipes are Martin Jones and Craig Anderson.
BOTTOM LINE:
Although good, the Pipes defense isn't terrifying as only Shattenkirk’s name has been mentioned in preseason “Norris” conversations. The drafting of three Colorado forwards could prove troublesome as a Colorado Avalanche dry spell could push the Pipes deep into the standings. Conversely, if the Avalanche excel, the Pipes will flourish. The goalie situation is also a bit precarious. Never a full-time starter, youngster Martin Jones is wild card while the 34 year-old Anderson doesn’t have a lock on the starting job in Ottawa.

BLULINERS
The Bluliners have always placed a large emphasis on defense, and thus, after nabbing sniper Steven Stamkos with his first pick, GM Hamilton then selected rearguards P.K. Subban and Dustin Byfuglien. Nicklas Backstrom and Ryan Johansen would later take a seat next to Stamkos while Devan Dubnyk and Steve Mason were acquired to protect the Bluliner twine.
BOTTOM LINE:
The Bluliners will hit the ice with one of the more balanced teams in the league. The performance of Stamkos is a given while Nicklas Backstrom continues to be one of the more undervalued stars in the league. On defense, Subban is as close to a sure thing as they come while Byfuglien, despite his ups and downs, always ends the season with some head-scratching numbers. The only soft spot could be the Bluliner backstops as Devan Dubnyk might be a one hit wonder while the fragile Steve Mason, while good, is an accident waiting to happen.

BOULDER FLYERS
Each and every year the Flyers enter the draft thinking “defense first.” When Morgan-favorite Erik Karlsson was hijacked by the Polar Bears, the Flyers reluctantly took a forward, sniper Alexander Ovechkin with his first pick. GM Morgan would right the defensive ship by selecting a d-man with four of his next six picks. Forward Jakub Voracek would later take a seat next to Ovechkin, as would Mark Stone, Jordan Eberle and T.J Oshie. Goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Cam Talbot were each given a Boulder Flyers jersey.
BOTTOM LINE:
Despite not having the leagues’s best defender the Boulder Flyer defense should be solid with Victor Hedman, Keith Yandle and John Klinberg slinging pucks from the blueline. The "Ovie and Oshie Show" should keep the Flyer forwards head above water; a flotation device that might be needed as large holes could spring in goal. Tuukka Rask is good but he’s no longer backing a Stanley Cup contender while Cam Talbot - backstopping a suspect team - has yet to prove his worth as a designated starter.

ICE CATS
After drafting F-F-F-F last year - a strategy that resulted in the Ice Cats winning the Laughing Bag - GM Cutshall charted a different course, drafting G-G-D-F with his first four picks. Carey Price and Braden Holtby will stand between the Ice Cat pipes while Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Toews anchor the forward slot. The defense will be captained by Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
BOTTOM LINE:
Carey Price automatically places the Ice Cats in front of the goaltender line as the Montreal blockade netted 26.6 more points than the second best goaltender during the 2014-15 season. Last year Braden Holtby played more games (73) than any other goalie, winning a chunk of them. The pair could easily combine for 85 wins, a daunting number. The lack of depth however could be the Cats undoing as uncertains Matt Niskanen and James Wisniewski are patrolling the blueline with Ekman-Larsson, while the likes of Jiri Hudler and Blake Wheeler don’t strike fear in the hearts of many men.

ICE HOGS
As president of the "Sidney Crosby Hate Club," everyone was shocked when GM Henry took the oft-maligned Penguin phenom with the third overall pick. That was the first Hog surprise. The second surprise occurred when GM Henry threw caution to the wind, selecting rookie Connor McDavid with the 22nd pick in the first round. The pair would be joined by forwards Taylor Hall and rookie Jack Eichel. On defense, Dougie Hamilton and Nick Leddy were the first to don a Hog jersey while Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider would set up shop in goal.
BOTTOM LINE:
While most GM’s take their team to the bar after a game, GM Henry will be taking his team to Chuck E. Cheese's; the pimply-faced crew of McDavid, Hall and Eichel sporting an average age of 19.7. The youngsters however have one of the best mentors in Sidney Crosby, a combination that, despite the concerns, could prove lethal. The tandem of Luongo and Schneider, while not spectacular, should be good enough. The defense however could sink the Hog ship as Hamilton, Leddy and Anton Stralman, based on last year’s numbers, are nothing to write home about.

MISCONDUCTS
After selecting goalies with his first two picks last year - a formula that did not bear fruit - GM Smally loaded up on forwards, drafting Phil Kessel and Claude Giorux with his first two picks. Joe Pavelski would later join the forward crew, followed by Jaden Schwartz. Defenders Justin Faulk, Tory Krug and Aaron Ekblad were chosen to man the blueline while Marc-Andre Fleury and Ryan Miller will guard the Misconduct goal.  
BOTTOM LINE:
If Phil Kessel rediscovers his game in Pittsburgh - and he should - the Misconducts could wreck a whole lot of havoc from the forward slot. Marc-Andre Fleury is as solid as they come while Ryan Miller’s star - while fading - is still bright enough. If the Misconducts are to win their 3rd championship however they might need an upgrade on the backend. Faulk, Krug and Ekblad have the potential to be good, maybe even very good, but “potential’ has never won the FHL Cup.

POLAR BEARS
The Polar Bears have always brought a great defense to the FHL party. That won’t change in the new year as Erik Karlsson, Shea Weber and Tyson Barrie will stand tall on the blueline. The forward staff is anchored by Patrick Kane, Tyler Johnson and Patrick Sharp. Between the pipes, GM Elya will once again lean heavily on Ben Bishop - a Polar Bear favorite. Ondrej Pavelec will squat next to Bishop in goal.
BOTTOM LINE:
The Bears have the league’s best defense. Karlsson and Weber should combine for 40+ goals - and a zamboni-load of points. Barrie is still developing his game yet netted 53 points last year. Scray numbers indeed. Concerns are present however as Patrick Kane could start the season playing on a line with Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson. Tyler Johnson has some injury issues while Patrick Sharp - while on an offensively gifted squad - is no puppy. Pavelec is also a question mark, as a result, a goalie upgrade might be needed.

REDLINERS
A number of fantasy sites have listed Tyler Seguin as the league’s best forward. If that prediction holds true the Redliners got a bargain by selecting Seguin with the 5th pick in the draft. Seguin was later partnered with forwards Jeff Carter and Tomas Tatar. The blueline will be anchored by Mark Giordano and Niklas Kronwall while Pekka Rinne and Sergei Bobrovsky will protect the Redliners net.
BOTTOM LINE:
Despite having one of the most dangerous forwards in the league, the Redliners strength is likely in goal. Pekka Rinne should contend for the Vezina while Bobrovsky - a Vezina winner himself - should enjoy another productive campaign. For the Redliners to secure their first FHL Cup, they’ll need Mark Giordano to play a full season (and produce as he did in the early months of 2014-15) and youngsters Tomas Tatar and Nugent-Hopkins to take their game to the next level.

SC COBRAS
A virtual unknown last year, Vladimir Tarasenko was taken with the 8th overall pick; a worthy selection it appears as the shifty 23 year-old stands on the brink of superstardom. After Tarasenko slipped on a Cobra jersey, he was joined by Brent Burns, Corey Crawford and Semyon Varlamov. Forwards Anze Kopitar, Sean Monahan and Jason Spezza would later take the stage as would defenders Mike Green and Jake Muzzin.
BOTTOM LINE:
There are no glaring holes in the Cobra attack however they will be depending on Monahan’s game to continue to rise - and for Jason Spezza to halt the deterioration of his game. Brent Burns will contend for the title of “Leagues Best Defenseman” so the blueline appears sound, though an upgrade might be needed if Jake Muzzin doesn’t produce. The Cobra net should be well protected, especially if Varlamov can avoid the injury bug; a bug he couldn’t swat last year.

SILICON VALLEY SLASHERS
With the 12th pick the Slashers acquired the services of, points-wise, the leagues best forward. Jamie Benn was later joined by Rick Nash, David Backes and Alexander Steen. The Slashers blueline features the likes of Duncan Keith, John Carlson and Andrei Markov. The front of the Slashers net will be shielded by Henrik Lundqvist and Frederik Anderson.
BOTTOM LINE:
Keith, Carlson and Markov combine to form one of the league’s best trios on the blueline. With the departure of Mike Green and the ferocity of the Washington Capitals' attack, Carlson could prove to be the steal of the draft. Lundqvist and Anderson should provide a wealth of goaltending points. The same can’t be said for the Slasher forwards as, beyond Benn, a large number of players are on the wrong side of their careers; the average age of Nash, Backes, Steen, Patrick Marleau and Scott Hartnell being 32.4. Unfortunately for the Slashers FHL Cup-hopes, the league doesn’t offer senior discounts.

WILD DUCKS
The Wild Ducks first round was Penguin-heavy as GM Collard inked Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang with his first two picks. The next two players drafted were befittingly Ducks as forwards Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf would take a seat next to Malkin. Jimmy Howard and Mike Smith were acquired to protect the Wild Ducks net; Jack Johnson and Cody Franson later joining Letang on the blueline.
BOTTOM LINE:
Heading into the season no team has more concerns than the Wild Ducks. Malkin and Letang are superstars but their health is a huge concern. One errant elbow could shelf Letang for an extended period while Malkin has played 70+ games just once since the 2008-09 season. Beyond Malkin, Perry and Getzlf should do a lot of damage while Joe Thornton and Zach Paris are both durable and solid. In goal questions abound as Jimmy Howard has yet to named a starter while the 33 year-old Mike Smith is crouched behind a sub .500 squad. If healthy, the Ducks will contend; if not, the Ducks will pretend.


Last edited by Morganwigge on Wed Oct 07, 2015 9:51 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostSubject: Season Preview: It's AWESOME BAY-BEEE!!!   Tue Oct 06, 2015 9:58 pm

As Dick Vitale, who is involved in a sport that clearly is not as important as ice hockey to us, would say, the season preview is AWESOME BAY-BEEE!!! Keep in mind this is coming from someone in Badger Bob management who has been a professional writer/PR practitioner for nearly 40 years.

Paul, if you ever contemplate a career change...

For me, the line of the preview had to be Kane could be skating on a line with Charles Manson and O.J. Simpson. That's HUGE as in the big house.

And Paul, just one question. Should "not" be in the first sentence of the Badger Bob botton line? By drafting F-G-D, my team is or is not surprisingly balanced?

I was going to ask if this was the first time ever a GM had both Sedins. That question answered. This is the first.

I don't recall in the 20 years of the league of which I was commissioner of anyone having both Sedins.

And I think concerns re: Josi and Halak well-founded. Josi has to do it again. If he duplicates last season, a great pick. And Halak already dinged up as the season starts. But he did play 57 games last season. So keeping fingers crossed.

I like my pick of Forsberg. He in addition to Couture, I think, are players with an expanding upside.

I also like my pick of Erik Johnson. He had 12 goals in only 47 games last season, cut short by knee injury. If he stays healthy, and gets in 70+ games, thinking 15-20 goals.
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PostSubject: Re: SEASON PREVIEW, 2015-16   Tue Oct 06, 2015 11:20 pm

Glad you enjoyed the article, and yes that "not" sentence was awkward (it made sense when I typed it) Shocked Laughing

Regarding my draft, very happy to get Voracek in the 3rd round. Being a d-lover, also happy to have John Klingberg. A lot of fantasy sites are calling him Karlsson-lite. I'd rather have Karlsson but the dollar store version will have to do.

My goaltending is leaning toward "sucks" but that's one of the easiest positions to fix, well, it was when we had 10 teams in the league. Shocked Shocked
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PostSubject: Re: SEASON PREVIEW, 2015-16   Wed Oct 07, 2015 9:45 am

Goalies used to be worthless until I joined the league, and the following year, we tried starting 3 at a time(I did go F-G-G-G that year), the premium on a healthy goalie via trade was intense.. I remember Thornton was traded for one, when Joe was considered a first rounder..
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PostSubject: Re: SEASON PREVIEW, 2015-16   Wed Oct 07, 2015 10:00 am

Badger - just noticed you went F-G-D-F-G-D with your first six picks. Was that your strategy (i.e. balanced team) or did it just work out that way?
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