Welcome back to 4 on 4! Here is week 11 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
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Give your own answers and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. Does Luongo dress as a Canuck opening night? Where does he finish the season?
John Hoven @mayorNHL - Although it once looked like a sure thing that Luongo had played his last game in Vancouver and the Canucks were ready to turn the page, a mix of their trade demands and his albatross of a contract are making a deal look less likely every day. If the rumors are true - that GM Mike Gillis is looking for a Rick Nash like package in return - it's not happening. You're already asking a lot when you suggest another GM take on Luongo's money and years remaining. AND you want a bucket of players/prospects/picks in return. No thank you, next call. However, there is one thing working in their favor, the value of goaltending has gone back up. It was perhaps at an all-time low only a few years ago when teams were starting to find success with just average netminders (see: Flyers, Blackhawks, etc.). As usually happens, the pendulum has now swung back the other way. So, if a team like Edmonton, or even Washington, feel some stability in net is what's needed to put them over the top, maybe he moves. But, it's less than 50% he moves before the summer.
Bryan Reynolds @hockeywildernes - I can only imagine that Luongo always dresses as a Canuck. One of those Dudley Do Right hats, a mounty uniform, slather up in some maple syrup and grab a Molson. That's probably not what the question was asking, though.
The fact that the Canucks are entertaining the idea of trading Roberto Luongo is asinine. I mean, sure, the guy can't play in St. Paul, but he seems to be pretty good everywhere else, and the Canucks only play in Minnesota a few times a year. Seems like a terrible reason to trade someone with the talent he has. They have to be asking a mint for him, and no one seems to be biting yet, so yes, Luongo will not only dress as a Canuck, but will certainly be the starter opening night. By the end of the year, Gillis will get what he wants, and Luongo will be in Florida or Toronto. Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Gillis. You just might get it.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - At this point, it seems like a virtual certainty that he will. With the Leafs shedding depth forwards by the day, it seems unlikely they'll swing a deal to land the star goaltender if it means giving up Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak. Other suitors like Chicago and Florida remain possibilities but those teams were longshots from the start. Mike Gillis will likely wait as long as possible to trade Luongo and, really, why shouldn't he? As much as the media tries to paint this as a dire situation for Vancouver, the worst-case scenario for them here is that they're forced to keep the best goaltender of the past decade on their roster for a few months longer than they intended. Since I doubt a Luongo deal gets worked out at the trade deadline of a shortened season, I'll predict he finishes the season where he'll start it: Vancouver.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - It's sure looking like it. If you'd told me at anytime over the past seven months that Roberto Luongo would return to the Canucks this season after the circus this past summer, I wouldn't have believe you. I still don't quite believe it.
Looking at it structurally it appears to be a supreme risk for Luongo to actually get into a game with the Canucks again. Obviously the club has been unable to attract an offer they consider "fair" as it stands, so what happens if Luongo plays poorly in limited appearances as the team's 1b option in net? What happens if he gets hurt?
With a falling salary cap next season, it's pretty clear that the Canucks will need to move Luongo's contract at some point. Frankly think there's still a possibility that Luongo will be moved last minute, either on Friday or early Saturday, in advance of the team's opening night contest against the Ducks.
I've been staring at these particular tea leaves obsessively for months, and all I've really learned is that I have no firm handle on how this will all play out. The only thing I know is that it sure would be fun to watch Luongo play for the Canucks again.
2. In the ever tight Pacific Division, who makes the playoffs? Who doesn’t?
John Hoven - Perhaps it's easier to start with who's out. Anaheim Ducks? Not going to happen. Dallas Stars? The roster shake-up didn't work, no playoffs for you. Los Angeles? Barring a major meltdown, they'll fight for the top spot in the Western Conference. Which leaves two teams with major question marks - San Jose and Phoenix. The Sharks still have talent, but lack overall depth. There also seems to be something missing from that team, the glue that pulls it all together. Maybe having Larry Robinson behind the bench will be just enough change around there to get them back to the post-season one more time. It's doubtful. They lost a step last year and too many other teams in the West will be looking to push them out. Finally, the most interesting story in the Pacific Division will be the Phoenix Coyotes. Barry Trotz gets all the attention in Nashville for doing the most with the least, but come on, Dave Tippett is a coaching wizard. He'll take Shane Doan, Mike Smith, a pack of chewing gum and some tape and somehow find a way to keep his team in the hunt right up until the final few games of the season. Unless they make another deal along the way - Matthew Lombardi wasn't enough - they'll likely fall just short.
Bryan Reynolds - The Kings clearly don't stand a chance against the Coyotes, what with Shane Doan re-signed and all. Great contract for him, by the way.
With the shortened season, the Pacific is going to be fun to watch. These teams all hate each other, and every point is going to be precious. I just can't see the Kings or the Sharks missing the playoffs, though. Both teams are stacked, and if healthy are flat out too good to be taken down. The only dark horse would be the Ducks. With a full season of The Bruce behind the bench, this will be a different team than last year. The Stars and Coyotes? Nah.
Derek Tanabe - I'm actually pretty bullish on the Pacific as a whole this season. There's no question Los Angeles is the class of the division even with Anze Kopitar unlikely to join the team until a few weeks in. San Jose probably finishes second, likely battling it out with Chicago for either the fourth or fifth seed in the Western conference. After those two, the waters get a bit muddier but I like to think last year's division winner Phoenix makes the cut even if they should dip a little in the standings this year. Mike Smith is unlikely to repeat his numbers from a season ago, Ray Whitney is gone and the Coyotes haven't done much to fix their woeful special teams but there are still three solid lines of forward depth there, a terrific top pairing in Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Zbynek Michalek and we know Dave Tippett's system will keep them competitive with any other team in the West at even-strength. I'm less confident in this pick but I also think Dallas sneaks in, likely as the eighth seed. Their defense is largely a mess but as long as Jamie Benn is re-signed, their new-look offense could be formidable and Kari Lehtonen is one of the most talented goalies in the conference. Anaheim still has question marks and a paucity of depth at every position; I think they miss the dance for the second straight year.
Thomas Drance - Man, I think the Pacific Division could be a serious meat-grinder this season. I've got San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix making the postseason in a lockout shortened 2013 campaign, and I see the Ducks and the Stars as possible bubble teams. While I wouldn't bet on it, I also wouldn't be all that surprised if either the Ducks or the Stars put it together and snuck into the dance.
Which is tough luck for those two clubs, they'd have a way easier road if they played in either of the other two Western Conference divisions. Outside of Chicago, the Central is going to be sneaky bad this season (St. Louis is due for some regression, the Predators will struggle to replace Suter, Detroit will fail spectacularly to replace Lidstrom and Columbus is Columbus). Meanwhile the Northwest features at best the Canucks and maybe 2 bubble teams.
So yeah, I'll pick three Pacific Division teams to make the postseason and the other two to miss out narrowly. Should be fun to watch.
3.Where does PK Subban play the 2013 season?
John Hoven - Where? Canada, of course. Oh, you want more specifics? Well, that gets a little tricky. RFAs don't move very often, so odds are the young defenseman will be right back where he started, with the Montreal Canadiens. However, with the season about to start and the two sides said to be miles apart on a new contract, there could become a breaking point where the Habs decide to cut bait. There seems to be a breath of fresh air circling the team at the moment and upper management may not want a prolonged contract battle to distract from the new era they're trying to usher in. If things become unbearable, the Edmonton Oilers look like a good landing spot and a deal could be mutually beneficial to both sides. Yet, at the moment, the biggest concern for Montreal should be Subban's development. He's talented, no doubt, but he's still raw and needs to be on the ice playing, practicing and learning.
Nathan Eide - I'd be shocked if he is anywhere other than Montreal, but let's have fun for a minute and speculate. Is it too much to ask that he suit up in St. Paul along side Ryan Suter? Yeah, ok. It probably is. Honestly, the kid has some ego and some serious swagger (I hate that word) with the talent and results to back it up. If I were him, I'd do absolutely anything I can to head to Los Angeles and suit up for the Kings or Madison Square Garden and be a Ranger.
Derek Tanabe - I think Carey Price is a great goalie but it makes no sense to me that Marc Bergevin opted to back a dump truck full of money into his driveway early last offseason yet continues to haggle with P.K. Subban. Top-pairing defensemen who can dominate in tough minutes and run your power play like Subban are incredibly rare talents. This deal should have been a priority for the Canadiens from the minute P.K. was eligible to be extended and it looks like they've largely dropped the ball. On the other hand, although anything can happen in a 48-game season, I'd be surprised if the Habs contend for a playoff spot. If Subban does hold out for the entirety of the 2013 campaign, they could easily be the favorites for the first overall pick so maybe Bergevin is just playing the long game. In all seriousness, I have to assume a deal gets done with Montreal in the coming week although this process once again highlights how ridiculous general managers are for deciding en masses not to offer sheet players.
Thomas Drance - Let's think about this one shall we Kings fans? When you have a dynamite, young, right-side defenseman, who controls games effortlessly because of his elite skill level, physical play, and the fact that he has more athletic ability than 99% of other NHLers; and that player is headed into his second contract, and your club is struggling to sign him so he holds out during training camp, do you think about trading that young player?
Dean Lombardi didn't 16 months ago. Marc Bergevin won't this season either.
4. Who is your #1 fantasy draft pick this year?
John Hoven - Let's begin with a word of caution, I'm not a big fantasy hockey guy. However, I've lost out in plenty of leagues in the past due to poor goaltending - even in years when I had big snipers up front. So, for that reason alone, I'd take a new approach and aim for Henrik Lundqvist first. If somebody else had already snatched him up, maybe Pekka Rinne would be the guy. Jonathan Quick is probably the best goaltender in the West, if not the league, but coming off back surgery, you don't want to risk you're number one pick. Now, if by chance he was still sitting there in the second round, take him as quickly as you can (no pun intended). If goalies aren't your thing though, the top pick has to be Claude Giroux of Philadelphia. Some will say Stamkos, but I don't like the supporting cast in Tampa Bay as much as what the Flyers can provide. Both players will get their points, but Stamkos probably comes with a little more risk.
Nathan Eide- Defense wins championships. In many leagues, points from the blue line carry more weight than those scores by forwards. As a result, if I was in one of those leagues, I'd do anything in my power to pick Erik Karlsson with the top pick. Say what you want about his defensive liabilities but he is showing no signs of slowing his offensive production. I predict another almost 1 ppg output, which racks up the points in a big way.
Now if there's no special weight given to points from defensemen, I'm al over Steven Stamkos. Dude is a scoring machine. He's an incredible talent and is a safe bet. He's Tom Brady.
Derek Tanabe - This is awfully boring and unoriginal but I guess it has to be Sidney Crosby. He's finally entering a season healthy for once, defenses will be keying in on Evgeni Malkin after his big 2011-12 and Crosby is just flat-out awesome at the things fantasy hockey recognizes awesomeness in. Although I'd usually never advise someone to pick a goalie early, Henrik Lundqvist is probably worth a good luck in the No. 1 overall slot as well. He's as reliable as it gets between the pipes and his Rangers should be good for a ton of wins this season. Since I'm done drafting for the year, here's my fantasy pro-tip for anyone reading this: Damien Brunner is ranked 810th by Yahoo! but will most likely start the season on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. You're welcome.
Thomas Drance - I don't play fantasy hockey because it ruins the experience of watching the game for me. It's a weird tick, but I like to enjoy hockey games as a "purer" experience. I want to root for whatever team strikes my fancy in any particular game (that the Canucks aren't involved in), and I find rooting for individual players just because they're on my fantasy team corrupts that for me.
That said, I'd take Evgeni Malkin first.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - selected as 2012's Best Hockey Blog by Yahoo Sports. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). Works for Engagementlabs. He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.