The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Hockey fans rejoice, Kunal has your predictions

I take it that you all have seen the recent ABC interview with Charlie Sheen. I laughed my ass off when I first saw it, but after a couple more viewings, I felt sad. I actually like Charlie Sheen. I don’t like the crappy actor that plays one of the worst characters on television, or the delusional drug-addict that brags about banging seven-gram crack rocks, but I do like the old Charlie Sheen. Who was “Wild Thing” in Major League? Charlie Sheen. Who was Private Chris Taylor in Platoon? Charlie Sheen. Who was Bud Fox in Wall Street? Charlie mother-effing Sheen. It is a shame to think that such acting prowess might be forever overshadowed by Sheen’s recent string of erratic behavior. One can only wonder how Charlie Sheen’s father, Martin Sheen, would handle this situation…as President Jed Bartlett of The West Wing. C.J., Toby, and Josh would probably come up with a PR campaign emphasizing his past triumphs and downplaying his recent missteps. Man, that show was awesome, why hasn’t there been a remake? Anyways, I stand in solidarity with Charlie Sheen, and 99.9 percent of the characters he plays, by not caring what anybody else thinks and writing a column about hockey.

The reason I choose to write about hockey now, a month before the end of the regular season, is that the trade deadline just passed on Monday. Since no trades will be allowed for the remainder of the season, hockey fans have a pretty clear idea of what each team’s roster is going to look like heading into the postseason—barring injuries. Stanley Cup predictions given before the trade deadline are bologna, because most playoff-hopeful teams will make a move at the deadline to address an area of weakness. For example, the Washington Capitals had been trying to improve their depth, size, and experience at the center position. On the day of the deadline, the Caps traded for Jason Arnott, a 6’5” center known for his responsible play and Stanley Cup-winning goal in 2000. These trades often change the whole complexion of the league, as teams that seemed to be just plodding along suddenly morph into Cup contenders. So now that the deadline has passed, and we know what assets each team will have at its disposal, let’s take a look at the conferences and make a few predictions. We’ll just do the Eastern Conference, today, and then break down the West in a couple of weeks.

Eastern Conference

The Philadelphia Flyers have been the most impressive team in the Eastern Conference this year. That is not an opinion, but a fact. This team throws competent forward after competent forward at the opposition, and just wears down the defense and the goalie over the course of the game. Itis not just about offense, though—the Flyers are, to a man, responsible in their own zone, and they do not turn the puck over very often. Whereas teams like Pittsburgh and Washington put a group of players on the ice when they really want to score, and another group of players on the ice when they really want to shut down the other team’s scoring line, Philadelphia has just built a team of responsible, two-way players that do a little of everything. Not to say that the Flyers have no stars, because Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Danny Briere are all big names. However, not having a name of the magnitude of Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby on the roster may actually work to the Flyers’ advantage. Hockey is like any other sport; it’s easier to play defense when you know where the ball, or puck, in this case, is going. When the Flyers send out a line, it is impossible to key on one forward, because every forward on the top three lines has a double-digits goal total this season, and the scoring is spread out brilliantly. The Flyers could legitimately end the season with six or seven 20-plus goal scorers and six or seven players with 50-plus points.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Flyers got a lot of love from their Eastern Conference counterparts at the trade deadline. General Managers George McPhee (Washington Capitals) Ray Shero (Pittsburgh Penguins), and Peter Chiarelli (Boston Bruins) all compared their respective teams to Philadelphia at the trade deadline, and came to the same conclusion: Damn, we need to score more goals. Each of these three teams added a couple of forwards and a defenseman at the deadline. The Caps added elder statesmen Arnott and Marco Sturm to their corps of forwards, and picked up a nifty, offensive-minded defenseman in Dennis Wideman. The Pens dealt from a position of strength, young defensemen, to acquire stud winger James Neal (former Iowa Star) and minutes-eating defenseman Matt Niskanen. Pittsburgh also added aging star Alexei Kovalev to bolster their depth at forward. Once the Pens get healthy again, and Cindy Crosby returns to the ice, I would look out for this team to start rolling again. Boston is perhaps the biggest deadline winner in the East, as they acquired the top power-play quarterback available in defenseman Tomas Kaberle, and two skilled forwards in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. Boston already possessed the best goal differential in the East, and had given up the fewest goals in the entire NHL, before these moves. It is no secret that the Bruins wanted to infuse additional scoring punch to go with their staunch defense and wall-like goaltending (Tim Thomas for the Hart!).

Suddenly, the Flyers aren’t the only team in the East with six or seven competent forwards, any one of whom could go off on any given night. What moves did the Flyers make at the deadline to stay ahead of the curve? They gave up a first- and a third-round draft pick to acquire Kris Versteeg from the Maple Leafs, adding yet another solid winger to the mix. Other than that, though, the Flyers stood pat; if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? I think Flyers’ GM Paul Holmgren is right on the money, because of a few reasons. First, the Flyers have basically no cap space to play with. Second, the team has already exhibited great chemistry, and it would be counter-productive to mess with it. Finally, even with the arms race going on around them, the Flyers still have the best group of forwards, and one of the best groups of defensemen, in the NHL. The only weakness I can really see on this Philadelphia team is special teams, as they are ranked 23rd in the league on the power play, and 10th in penalty killing. A guy like Tomas Kaberle could probably help the struggling power play, or even Dennis Wideman, but neither are not the most apt D-men in their own zone. Plus, the Flyers already have a legendary puck-moving defenseman in Chris Pronger; one that’s pretty darn good in his own end, I might add. The power-play struggles are concerning, but not incurable, and this team’s ability to win in tough situations—such as on the road, or when being outshot—is hard to overlook. That is why I think the Philadelphia Flyers will win the Eastern Conference in 2011.

-Kunal Bansal ’12

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *