I was reading your glowing review of the Red Wings, and I was wondering if you're so sure they've got things right in the goaltending department. I know Chris Osgood had good numbers last year, but he's got to be getting a little old to start as many games as someone like Evgeni Nabokov or Martin Brodeur. Do you think they might face some problems due to their lack of depth there? --Matt, Hamilton, Ont.
Seems like everyone who hopes to find a chink in Detroit's armor is focusing on goaltending as the weakest link. Makes sense, to some degree. As the stopper for a Cup contender, Chris Osgood is about as sexy as Paul Giamatti or Philip Seymour Hoffman. He wasn't even the starter heading into last season's playoffs, and only got the call after Dominik Hasek wet the bed in Games 3 and 4 against Nashville in the first round.
But like those late-blooming film stars, Osgood makes up for his obvious lack of glamour with a sturdy yet subtle reliability that makes him the ideal backbone for a well-rounded team like the Wings. Remember, his 2.09 GAA led the league last season, and he was the starter in the All-Star Game. He also posed a legitimate challenge to Henrik Zetterberg in the Conn Smythe balloting after posting a 1.55 GAA and .930 save percentage in the playoffs.
No argument here that he benefited from playing behind the best team in the world, but guess what? He'll be playing behind a team that might be even better this time around. And while he's likely to take on a heavier workload than in the past few years, the Wings don't need to overburden him. In backup Ty Conklin, they acquired the player who might have been Pittsburgh's MVP last season. Conklin can handle a 25-game workload easily, meaning Osgood likely will be limited to fewer than 60 starts.
Oh, and the age thing? Osgood is a year younger than Brodeur and just two years older than Nabokov. At 35, he's not quite ready for a comfy bed in the Old Goalies Home. This season may yet reveal these Wings to have a weakness, but netminding won't be it.
I've got the first overall pick in my fantasy draft this weekend and I can't afford to screw it up. It's a snake draft, and with 15 teams, I won't pick again until 30th. It's a make or break choice: Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. What do you think?-- Brian Fowler, BGSU
You're not being asked to pick between the lady and the tiger there, Brian. Assuming good health -- the one factor that impacts your chances at fantasy success above all else -- either player is an excellent choice. Both should compete for the scoring title, with Crosby racking up the assists and Ovechkin likely to lead the league in goals.
But if it was my pick to make, I'd call Ovechkin based on his position. There are far fewer high-end left wingers than there are centers. In fact, by the time your turn comes around again, you could choose from a couple of center options with a solid upside like Paul Stastny (he's expected to be healthy for the start of the season after injuring his shoulder in camp), Niklas Backstrom or Mike Richards. It's all about finding the best value at the time of selection though, so don't nab a center just because you passed on Sid. Depending on how your draft plays out, you might be better served by taking a goalie or defenseman and waiting until the next go-round to grab a pivot.
I heard on the radio today that the Ducks might consider trading Bobby Ryan along with Mathieu Schneider because they're so frustrated with how long it's taking to move him. Is there anything to this? It makes absolutely no sense to me. The Ducks have been so patient with Ryan to this point. Why panic now, especially when Schneider should become easier to move as the season draws closer? -- Sean Fitzgerald, The O.C.
I hadn't heard this floated anywhere until Bob McKenzie mentioned it in a column this week. Bob's the most connected guy in the business, so when he talks, his voice carries. But I read it not as a source-based rumor, but a case of him spitballing, simply considering the possibilities. I wouldn't read any more into this concept than that.
Of course Ryan could be dealt, but packaging him to expedite a Schneider deal just doesn't pass the smell test. Ryan's $1.92 million cap hit is thought to be an issue, but if he earns a spot in Anaheim's top six, that's good value for the dollar. And then there's that patience factor you mentioned. Since drafting him second overall in 2005, the Ducks haven't exactly filled the talent cupboards with high-end forwards. And considering that eight of their 13 forwards signed for 2008-09 stand to become unrestricted free agents after this season, it doesn't make sense to move a player who is NHL-ready (or close to it).
So if Brian Burke is forced to sweeten the deal in order to move Schnieder, look for him to add a draft pick to the pot rather than Ryan.
I'm the world's biggest Logan Couture fan, and have followed him since he first played for the Ottawa 67s in 2005. I've been reading great reports out of San Jose that suggest he could stick with the Sharks this season. Although we'd miss him in Ottawa, it would be thrilling to see him in the NHL. What's your take?-- Karen L, Ottawa, Ont.
It's a little early to say since the Sharks hadn't played their first preseason game as of this writing, but Couture appears to be in the mix. The 2007 first-rounder's (ninth overall) chances certainly improved when Torrey Mitchell broke his leg in camp, sidelining the sophomore center for something like eight weeks. Couture has spent time skating in Mitchell's spot, lining up between Mike Grier and Marcel Goc, and word out of San Jose is that he's looked comfortable, if not impressive, in the early going.
The thing is, Couture will have to be eye-poppingly impressive to make the jump. The Sharks are about a quarter of a million dollars over the cap, so adding his $1.27 million hit would be impossible without a significant salary being swept off the books. Kyle McLaren's been rumoured to be on the trade block since last season, and with just one year left at $2.5 million, he could be the odd man out. If he's dealt, that would open up enough cap space, but Couture still has to prove he belongs. It's up to him to force GM Doug Wilson into making a tough choice.