NHL Northwest Division: Offseason Grades

Alan BassSenior Writer IJuly 27, 2009

Vancouver Canucks
Departures: Mattias Ohlund, D; Jason LaBarbera, G; Curtis Sanford, G;

Signings/Trades: Henrik Sedin, LW; Daniel Sedin, C; Nolan Baumgartner, D; Mikael Samuelsson, RW; Lawrence Nycholat, D; Matt Pope, RW; Shane O’Brien, D; Andrew Raycroft, G; Tanner Glass, LW; Guillame Desbiens, RW; Matt Funk, D; Aaron Rome,D

Upcoming draftees: Cody Hodgson, C; Cory Schneider, G;


The good, the bad and the ugly

Good: Finally signing the Sedin twins at the last second was a life-saver for Mike Gillis, whose job was said to be at stake. By keeping the Swedish twins (calling them that is very disturbing), he prevented the Canucks from losing 164 points of offense, which would not have been replaced by anyone on the roster.

Bad: Letting Mattias Ohlund go was not ideal, however it seemed he was ready to move on. The money being thrown at him by Tampa Bay, plus the opportunity to mentor Victor Hedman is one that few would pass up.

But without finding a replacement for their top D-man, Vancouver has all but assured that most of their games will end with at least ten goals scored. Against them.

Ugly: Other than signing the Sedins, Gillis did very little to improve the team. The Canucks didn’t make it past the second round for the eighth time in their last eight playoff appearances. With an All-Star goalie in net and two of the best players in the league on offense, that is inexcusable.

Normally, I would mention that the Canucks have to advance past the second round or they’re management is in trouble, but we all know that’s not going to happen. And for all you nay-sayers, I give you three pieces of evidence: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and Vancouver’s defense.

You’re way too young to be an NHLer: Cody Hodgson is ready to make the jump. Being assigned to the American League for the playoffs at the end of last season, the Canucks’ management liked what they saw and are ready to test him in big boy training camp. Expect him to challenge for the Calder Trophy this season.

He said what? “It was pretty tough, I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much in my life.” Evan Oberg on Canucks’ prospect camp.

Grade: B-

I would’ve given the Canucks a “C,” but they did bring in many young players that could take the reigns in a few years. Plus, keeping the Sedin twins is like signing two high-end free agents. Nonetheless, they are still horribly weak on defense.

Calgary Flames

Departures: Adrian Aucoin, D; Mike Cammalleri, LW; Jim Vandermeer, D;

Signings/Trades: Jay Bouwmeester, D; Brandon Prust, C; Garth Murray, C; Riley Armstrong, RW; Brian McGrattan, RW; Carsen Germyn, RW; Ryley Grantham, LW; Staffan Kronwall, D; Nigel Dawes, LW; Keith Seabrook, D; TJ Brodie, D; Adam Pardy, D; Fredrik Sjostrom, RW;

Upcoming draftees: Mikael Backlund, C; Greg Nemisz, RW;


The good, the bad and the ugly

Good: I’ll be one of the first to say (along with the THN guys) that Jay Bouwmeester is one of the most overrated players in the NHL. However, there is no doubting the fact that he has talent. I wouldn’t have rushed after him the way 90 percent of teams did, but I would be happy to have him on my roster.

What Bouwmeester brings is quiet leadership, much like Nicklas Lidstrom (I’m comparing their leadership, not their skill, critics), speed and the talent to make some great offensive plays. Picking up Nigel Dawes and Fredrik Sjostrom is a good move in an attempt to give two young players a second change to prove what they can do. 

Bad: Mike Cammalleri is such a classy guy and the Flames were foolish to let him get away without getting anything in return. Of course, I (nor anybody) knows what the Flames did to keep him or if Cammalleri had decided well before free agency that he was going to test the market.

But if the Flames knew that he was leaving, they could have gotten at least a mid-round draft pick or minor leaguer in return for his rights. But instead, the Canadiens got a free (sort of) pickup in the talented scorer.

Ugly: As much as we know that Kiprusoff can play 70 games in a season, he needs to be given a break. He has perpetually slow starts to the season, plus he is burned out by the playffs, as is evident by his play in them.

Flames fans claim that the organization has confidence in Curtis McElhinney, but I wouldn’t be comfortable putting my confidence in a man who had a 1-6 record along with an .889 save percentage in 2008-09.

You’re way too young to be an NHLer: Mikael Backlund, a first round pick in the 2007 draft and has shown flashes of brilliance, specifically with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. Averaging more than a point per game, Backlund has shown that he is NHL ready.

He said what? "I'm familiar with some of the players and believe we have a strong club that is poised to make the next step in becoming a championship club." Jay Bouwmeester.

Grade: B+

Although the Flames failed to acquire a forward to replace Cammalleri and a reliable backup goaltender, they still have many pieces in place to be successful. They have many teams to get past in the Western Conference and I, like many others, have my doubts about what they can do in the playoffs, they still will remain a contender for the Northwest Division crown.

Minnesota Wild

Departures: Krys Kolanos, C; Kurtis Foster, D; Stephane Veilleux, LW; Marian Gaborik, RW;

Signings/Trades: Kyle Brodziak, C; Greg Zanon, D; Martin Havlat, RW; Shane Hnidy, D; Jamie Fraser, D; Jaime Sifers, D; Tyler Cuma, D; Duncan Milroy, RW; Jon DiSalvatore, RW; Wade Dubeilewicz, G; Nathan Smith, C; Ryan Lannon, D;

Upcoming draftees: Benoit Pouliot, LW; Tyler Cuma, D;

The good, the bad and the ugly

Good: Contrary to others’ opinions, the Martin Havlat signing was a great one. Fans complain about Havlat’s proneness to injury, yet I seldom heard them complaining about Marian Gaborik, who was injured far more often. Havlat brings leadership, grit, talent and the will to win to the Wild. Plus, he’s just 28 years old.

Bad: The Wild’s inability to sign an impact defenseman when numerous were available in the free agent market is inexcusable. Drafting Nick Leddy was a start, but he won’t be in his prime for another six or seven years.

Brent Burns can handle the role of a top defenseman, but he plays more like a top-three D-man. If the Wild want success and a return to the playoffs, they need to be sure that they buff up on defense to help Niklas Backstrom out.

Ugly: There is a lack of prospect depth in the Minnesota farm system. Benoit Pouliot is looking more and more like a bust every year, while Tyler Cuma is still an unknown.

You’re way too young to be an NHLer: Tyler Cuma is the best prospect the Wild have, specifically on defense. Most likely a top-four D-man for his career, Cuma has much to improve on if he wants to become a full-time NHLer this season.

He said what? "Excited to be in Minny where I was welcomed and appreciated by management. The real story about what happened in Chicago to come out." Martin Havlat.

Grade: B-

Although Havlat boosts this grade a lot, the inability to pump up their defense lowers this a fair amount. Plus, many of their draft picks this year were questionable at best.

Edmonton Oilers

Departures: Ales Kotalik, LW; Dwayne Roloson, G; Tim Sestito, D;

Arrivals: Alex Plante, D; Johan Motin, D; Nikolai Khabibulin, G; Jason Strudwick, D; Chris Minard, C; Matt Nickerson, D; Devan Dubnyk, G; Dean Arsene, D; Toni Rajala, RW; Denis Grebeshkov, D;

Upcoming draftees: Toni Rajala, RW; Jordan Eberle, RW; Rob Schremp, LW; Riley Nash, C;


The good, the bad and the ugly

Good: Nikolai Khabibulin is a great goaltender and should be able to backstop Edmonton to one of the final playoff spots in a competitive Western Conference. Along with the young talent coming out, the Oilers are almost set for the next few years. Much more development is needed, though.

Bad: Losing Ales Kotalik is a fairly big hit on offense, but Jordan Eberle and Rob Schremp, two rookies coming up, should be able to take the role of talented wingers.

Ugly: Is Khabibulin over the hill (man, I hate that term)? Many say yes, others say no. He has a lot to prove as a 36-year-old goaltender who signed for tons of money. If he cannot play his best game in Edmonton, the Oilers’ season will go down the tube as if someone just flipped a switch.

You’re way too young to be an NHLer: Jordan Eberle is the best prospect the Oilers have and he could very well be a second line winger for his career. It may take him a bit to get used to the NHL game, but he has the talent to succeed in the big league.

He said what? "Sometimes you wonder if you have what it takes. I felt like that was a big confidence booster for me that I can play at that level and I can play with those guys and I can produce.” Rob Schremp on a brief hot streak he had last season.

Grade: B+

There isn’t much more the Oilers can do other than wait for their prospects to develop. It’s better to have a few bad years and have home-grown talent on the roster as opposed to signing big name free agents who wind up hurting the team. The Oil will be fine in another year or two.

Colorado Avalanche

Departures: Andrew Raycroft, G; Ian Laperriere, C; Joe Sakic, C; Nigel Williams, D; Ryan Smyth, RW;

Arrivals: Cameron Gaunce, D; Trevor Cann, G; Cody McLeod, F; Craig Anderson, G; David Koci, LW; David Jones, RW; Brian Willsie, RW; Darren Haydar, RW; Chris Durno, LW; Matt Hendricks, C; Tyler Weiman, G; Philippe Dupuis, F; Brett Skinner, D; Kyle Cumiskey, D; Matt Duchene, C; Brian Fahey, D; Kyle Quincey, D; Tom Preissing, D;

Upcoming draftees: Matt Duchene, C; Kevin Shattenkirk, D; Colby Cohen, D; Chris Stewart, RW;


The good, the bad and the ugly

Good: Trading away Ryan Smyth for Kyle Quincey and Tom Preissing (and a draft pick) was a great move by the Avs management. Two young, capable defenders to boost the team was a perfect step to take in rebuilding this horribly disheveled team.

Bad: Sakic’s retirement leaves a huge hole in the team, both talent-wise and leadership-wise. People point to Paul Stastny to replace Sakic, but Stastny will never be as good as Sakic was. Not to say he can’t produce, but Sakic is a one-of-a-kind player whose absence will leave a sour taste in the team’s collective mouth.

Ugly: The team is so screwed this season. Get your popcorn, kiddies.

You’re way too young to be an NHLer: Matt Duchene, the third overall pick in this year’s draft, is ready for the NHL. He has a free year to develop on a team that is poised to be in the running for the Taylor Hall sweepstakes, without fear of making a mistake that ruins the season.

It’s the best thing a young player can do. Have the confidence to develop his skills without fears of getting berated by the management.

He said what? “To be part of an NHL organization is something you always strive for as a kid.  This is the first step, but I know I have a lot of work to do to reach my goal of playing in the NHL.” Matt Duchene upon signing his entry-level deal.

Grade: A-

Shocking, I know. But like the Oilers, Colorado can do nothing but draft well and replenish their farm system, which they already have begun to do.

Alan Bass is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report, the Community Leader for the NHL and Philadelphia Flyers’ section, and a writer for Prohockeynews.com, Insidehockey.com and Hockey54.com.  You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.


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