It's been a while since I've dipped into the old mailbag, which you've graciously filled to the brim...
To be honest, my opinion of Niemi hasn't changed as much as my expectations of what it takes for a goaltender to get the job done at playoff time. What I saw was a goalie who was good enough on most nights and pretty special on a couple others, especially in the San Jose series. Still, Niemi looked a bit intimidated by the pressures of the Cup final and even over the course of Game 6. I was floored by the way the puck was trampolining off his pillows on almost every shot from distance. There had to be a half-dozen instances where, from my perspective at least, his angle to the shooter was off. That's not all that different from what I saw at various points during the season.
Niemi is capable, but hardly game-changing (though I have to admit, his diving mask stop on
You know, even if he'd won the Cup, I'm not convinced that Leighton would have been viewed as a lock to enter next season as the go-to guy in Philadelphia. There are plenty of good reasons why he has never grabbed a No. 1 job and made it his own -- inconsistency being his main bugaboo -- and I don't think he allayed any of those concerns after being pulled twice in the final. Truth is, he was a backup thrust into the starter's role at the most crucial time of the season and, even aided by a pretty salty defense corps led by
Next season, I'd look for the Flyers to do what they do seemingly every year: scour all corners for their next savior in net. Could be
A week ago, I would have suspected that type of scenario was possible, and that a team with two picks in the first round, like Phoenix, Boston or Atlanta, might be willing to overlook Kabanov's troubled season and swing for the fences after making an earlier, safer choice. Now I can see the talented but troublesome left winger sliding into the third round, or maybe later, before someone is willing to take a chance.
Kabanov is one of those kids who burst onto the scene at an early age, with a strong tournament performance at 15. His play earned comparisons to
Leaving the Moncton Wildcats. Being tossed from the Russian Under-18 squad. And, most recently, being "fired" by his agent,
"No draft" is probably a minority opinion, but Kabanov's character and maintenance issues are a legitimate consideration for every franchise. Add the built-in flight risk that comes with drafting a Russian these days -- even one who threatened to abdicate his citizenship -- and it could be well into Day 2 of the draft before someone calls his name.
As much as anything, I think a prettier girl asked him to dance. That's not a knock on Columbus GM
"The opportunity to work with somebody who has the track record and the integrity of Mr. Steve Yzerman, it's something I and the whole organization can benefit from," Boucher said in a teleconference announcing his hiring.
Plus, it only made sense to hold out for a position where he had a better chance of success. I think the talent that Tampa already has in-house seems better suited for the 1-3-1 system that Boucher has used so effectively in both the QMJHL and AHL. The Blue Jackets may have some speed (we caught flashes of it after
As a rookie last season, Hedman showed a lot of puck savvy early in the season. It waned as the year went on (hard to tell if that was a confidence or coaching issue), but there's no denying he has it in him. With the sixth overall pick at the draft, the Lightning are expected to grab another suitable piece of the puzzle (maybe
Whatever the case, it was a bold hire by Yzerman and a smart choice by Boucher. Should make for an interesting 2010-11 season in Tampa.