Welcome to Week 7 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com, 4 on 4. 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. Who are the first 3 you’d pick in an EA NHL ‘13 Fantasy Draft? One Forward, Defenseman, and a Goalie.
John Hoven @mayorNHL - I'm still trying to make Gretzky bleed in Sega '94, so logic says I probably should've consulted with former Kings prospect Ray Kaunisto on this one. According to his twitter account, nobody played NHL '12 more (or won more games) than him. However, absent his advice, I'll approach this like a regular fantasy draft. Up front, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux has to be the first pick. He was labeled the best player in the world during the playoffs, where he thrived in the spotlight. It's no surprise he was put on the cover of NHL '13, the Flyers #1 center is primed for a huge coming out party this season. He's a player people will be talking about for the next decade. On the blueline, there probably isn't a better pick than Boston's Zdeno Chara. The Bruins' big man will give you everything you're looking for in a defenseman - last year he posted 52 points, including 12 goals (eight of them on the power play), 86 penalty minutes, 224 shots on goal and led the NHL with a plus-33 rating. In goal, who else but Jonathan Quick? For the last three years I've written at length and blabbed on radio stations from coast-to-coast, claiming Quick was one of the three best goalies in the league. After his playoff performance, he's rightfully claimed the crown as the NHL's top netminder.
Nathan Eide @hockeywildernes - Forward: Steven Stamkos. 60 goals. Can create his own shot or finish off as a sniper. He's a video game hockey machine.
Defenseman: Mike Green. Video game hockey is all about offense. Who cares about defense?
Goaltender: Rick DiPietro. What can I say, I don't really dig on realism in video games.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - Up front, it's as obvious and uninventive an answer as it gets: Sidney Crosby. When he's in the lineup, there's no question in my mind he's the best forward in the game. He can wow you with his vision, has unmatched creativity in the offensive zone and dominates possession. And he's consistently accomplished all that with relatively mediocre linemates compared to some of the league's other superstars. The concussion concerns will be there for the rest of his career but I'd roll the dice on that. Even sixty games per season of the league's premier talent would be worth quite a bit in the wins column.
Zdeno Chara is easily the best defenseman on the planet right now but if I'm trying to build a franchise, I probably want someone younger than 35 as the centerpiece of my blueline. It's largely a toss-up between Shea Weber and Drew Doughty in my mind, and I'll go with the younger all-world defenseman who has proven he can be a dominant two-way force without the benefit of an elite defense partner. Don't get me wrong, Rob Scuderi's a terrific asset to have in your own end but he's no Ryan Suter. Doughty's offensive production may have been stunted each of the past two seasons but that was almost entirely the result of the Kings' power play taking a huge step backward after a terrific 2009-10 campaign. At even-strength, Doughty is already a top-three blueliner in the NHL and, at just 22 years of age, chances are he's only going to get better.
In goal, Pekka Rinne may have the advantage when it comes to raw skill and certainly has the advantage when it comes to size but when you're evaluating a goaltender it's all about track record. The elite goalies are the ones who are able to enjoy sustained success on a yearly basis and no one has been more consistently elite than Henrik Lundqvist. Tim Thomas may have had the best individual season, but I'd be hard-pressed to name any goalie in the league as having been more valuable to his team between the 2005 and 2012 lockouts (let's face reality already) than Lundqvist.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - My first pick, no question about it, is Zdeno Chara. He's simply one of the most dominant video game players of the past couple of seasons. And I don't just mean in the EA NHL series, but in any sports video game. He's nearly as unstoppable as video game Peja Stojakovic was back in the day!
For forwards, I'd have to take Datsyuk. He's fast, he's got some of the best handles in the game, he can hit and he's dominant in the face-off circle. As long time fans of the series will tell you: faceoffs are essential in EA's NHL games, and there's no one better than Datsyuk.
For goalies I'd take Roberto Luongo. Goaltender identity doesn't make much of a difference in EA's NHL series: once you've learned how to regularly score on one goalie, you can regularly score on them all. But I'd take Luongo because I'm a stickler for realism in NHL video games. I get upset when my opponents score soft glitchy goals on me in the NHL video games, but if I have Roberto Luongo in net, then at least those goals aren't quite so unrealistic.
2. A trade that needs to happen this season.
John Hoven - If goaltending is the toughest position to fill and cap space is nearly as valuable as a top player these days, what exactly is the hold up in the long-rumored deal sending Roberto Luongo to Florida? Vancouver is looking to resign a pair of guys named Alex (Burrows and Edler), so they should be more than happy to unload his bloated contract. Plus, they have Cory Schneider just sitting there waiting. Down on South Beach, the Panthers crave a true number-one goalie and seem ready to bring Lou home. So, the deal makes too much sense, especially if Florida GM Dale Tallon has his eyes set on repeating as Southeast Division champs and possibly a deeper playoff run in 2013. Let's just get it done and move on. Even LeBron thinks this decision is taking too long.
Nathan Eide - Absolutely, without a doubt, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan from the New York Rangers to the Minnesota Wild in return for Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. What? Don't all Wild fans want a team comprised entirely of Minnesota boys?
Derek Tanabe -If the Oilers are serious about advancing to a stage of their neverending rebuild that doesn't involve drafting first overall, they need to significantly upgrade their defense. And, let's be honest, that defense corps is not one that can be solved by adding a veteran free agent or acquiring a stop-gap #4. They need an all-situations #1 guy who can slot everyone else on their blueline into more appropriate roles. That guy is P.K. Subban, who Montreal has yet to sign to a contract as a restricted free agent. If Habs GM Marc Bergevin and the Subban camp are unable to come to an agreement as this interminable offseason drags on, the Oilers would be wise to offer up one of their Big Four (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov) for the smooth-skating two-way dynamo. I'd personally offer Eberle as the contract extension Edmonton recently signed him to will likely represent an overpay for a player who had absolutely everything go right for him a season ago. Montreal's only real motivation to do that deal would be if talks with Subban are going nowhere, although a future first line of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk and Eberle would be tough to pass up.
Thomas Drance - The Roberto Luongo trade. Seriously this needs to happen already: while I'd miss Luongo in Vancouver, the transaction will drive Canucks Army traffic for a month!
3. A trade that happened last season, but shouldn’t have.
John Hoven - Well, it depends on how you define 'last season' exactly, but the move heading into 2011-12 that didn't work out as expected was Ilya Bryzgalov to Philadelphia. Technically, this was a trade where the Coyotes sent his rights to the Flyers prior to the start of free agency on July 1. But, really, it was just semantics, as the end game always involved locking him up long term. And that's really the issue. After Philly gave him the keys to the vault, Bryz didn't do much to help his cause with erratic play and behavior. With a $51-million contract already locked up, the Russian-born goalie was horrific in the first round vs. the Penguins. And overall, in 11 games, he posted a 3.46 goals-against average and .877 save percentage - both numbers ranked last among goalies who started more than six games in the playoffs. While some may try to argue that he was an all-world netminder playing in the media friendly surroundings of the desert, unfortunately for him, the City of Brotherly Love is a totally different animal and the pressure will only get worse. Early signs say the eccentric goalie and a hockey crazed Philly culture may not be the best of fit for either side long-term.
Bryan Reynolds - Can I go with the Cam Barker trade Chuck Fletcher made in 2010? Or the Chris Simon trade in 2008? No? OK, fine.
I'm going with two trades here, both from the same team, neither of which should have happened. When the Flyers traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, no one in the hockey world understood why. The Flyers got nowhere near their proper value, traded away 132 combined points from the previous campaign, and couldn't give a decent answer as to why they did so to save their lives. Granted, it only cost them three points in the standings, but the whole thing seemed like a disaster from the very beginning.
The fact the Flyers had just locked them both up long term will have anyone signing there in the future asking for rigid no trade clauses.
Derek Tanabe -Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson. From Columbus' perspective, that was one of the worst deals to go down in recent league history and is a great example of the dangers inherent in evaluating players based on perceived reputation rather than skill level. Johnson is awful. He was consistently among the d-men on the ice for the most even-strength shots and goals against per minute during his tenure in L.A. and that was while usually facing second-tier opposition. Dean Lombardi would likely have been glad to get rid of him and his odorous contract for very little in return, but somehow landing an elite two-way forward and former 40-goal scorer signed forever at a bargain cap hit was highway robbery. I understand Carter didn't want to play for Columbus but there are presumably many other trade offers Scott Howson could have chosen instead that didn't involve taking on Johnson's terrible contract and worse defensive ability while simultaneously handing the Kings a Stanley Cup.
Thomas Drance -Jack Johnson for Jeff Carter! Are you kidding me? Jack Johnson is a skilled offensive defenseman, but he's also a magnet attracting pucks into his own team's zone, and often his own team's net. Jeff Carter on the other hand is a legitimate top-line forward.
If I offered you thirty cents for a dollar, you'd call me an idiot. If I offered Scott Howson thirty cents for a dollar, however, I might be in business.
4. Give us your 2013 Conference Final matchups.
John Hoven - Eastern Conference - New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. While, the playoff bracketing doesn't always make it easy for teams in the same division to meet up in the Conference Finals - and if they finish first and fourth in the standings, it will be even more challenging - somehow, this needs to happen. They're the top two teams in the East at the moment, with all apologies to Bruins Nation. So, if you want the best, let Crosby & Crew take on King Hank and Broadway's Blueshirts.
Western Conference - Unlike the other Conference, you could reasonably make an argument for at least six teams. Vancouver will rack up plenty of points playing in a weak division. Los Angeles and San Jose will clobber each other for the Pacific crown. St. Louis will probably win the Central. However, come playoff time, I'll take the Predators. Their defense-first style plays better in the post-season than it does for them over the first 82 games. If the bracket lines up properly, LA and Nashville will meet for the right to play for the Stanley Cup next June.
Bryan Reynolds - East - Tampa Bay Lightning vs Boston Bruins
West - Minnesota Wild vs Minnesota Wild. ZACH PARISE!!!11 Yeah. Or not. How about the LA Kings vs Anaheim Ducks
Derek Tanabe - Hopefully we'll have 2013 Conference Final matchups. Out East, I'll pick two teams who were upset in the first round last year: Pittsburgh and Boston. The Penguins' most glaring weakness, both over the past few seasons and particularly in their series against Philadelphia, has been goaltending. Marc-Andre Fleury is a below-average NHL starter, which is why adding Tomas Vokoun to the mix was a terrific move by Ray Shero. As long as Dan Bylsma allows Vokoun to ascend to the role of starter when he inevitably outplays Fleury, the Pens should be as good as ever despite the subtractions of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek. I have questions about the quality of Boston's defense outside of Chara but they still have one of the deepest offenses in the league and as long as Tuukka Rask doesn't get injured or inexplicably crater in his first season as undisputed number one, the B's should return to the final four. In the West, call me a homer but I think the Sharks make it back after a one-year leave of absence. I think their sub-par bottom six as currently constructed makes the team inferior to Vancouver and St. Louis, but I have faith that Doug Wilson will find a way to address that before the trade deadline. L.A. is probably the best team in the league and an easy pick to match up against them.
Thomas Drance -I'm going with a 2011 rematch in the East: Boston versus Tampa. In the West, I'm picking an all California Western Conference Final: Los Angeles versus San Jose. Goodness I miss hockey...
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - a full multimedia site, including exclusive on-ice video interviews from the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. 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). 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.