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Interview with David Johnson of Puckosphere / Hockeyanalysis.com

Part Two

 read 'Part One'

  Find much more from David Johnson at http://puckosphere.com/ and http://hockeyanalysis.com/

 

Robin @ Chiller Instinct: David, the massive remodelling of the Philadelphia Flyers caught nearly everyone off-guard. The rightVoracek fending wing especially is an 'all-new' cast, including Jakub Voracek, Jaromir Jagr, Max Talbot, and one of my favourite players, Wayne Simmonds. What is your feel for the team as a whole and do you share in the opinion from most experts that they can overcome any rough patches during the season and finish with a relatively high seed in the conference?

David: The Flyers definitely lost on the offensive side of things, at least in the short term but their hope is that Ilya Bryzgalov more than makes up for that.  I like Voracek and he'll be given a chance to play with some pretty good players so I am really interested in seeing what he can do.  Simmonds is a nice 3rd line player type but I think Talbot is very over-rated and we have no clue what Jagr will bring.  I think the money they spent on those two could have been better spent elsewhere.  All that said, Bryzgalov gives them some stability in goal which should add some consistency to what has generally been a pretty streaky team the past couple seasons.  I expect the Flyers to fairly easily be a playoff team but I am not sure they will challenge for top spot in the conference but then I don't think that is their goal.  Their goal is for a playoff run and they hope Bryzgalov can give the team in front of him the confidence to make that run.

Robin @ CI: Travis Hamonic was incredibly strong in many facets for the New York Islanders last season. How would you classify his role specifically this season with Mark Streit coming in healthy? I see a similiar situation to Luke Schenn's in Toronto with the Leafs a couple seasons ago; his worth was deemed very high considering his age and percieved skill level on a bad to middling team.

You wrote a piece recently high-lighting the 'rose-coloured glasses' that Toronto fans see Schenn with on the defensive side of the puck. What have you seen from Hamonic and what sort of comparisions would you draw, if any?

David: In all honesty, I don't watch a lot of the Islanders (does anyone really?) so I didn't know much about Harmonic so I had ,to look up his stats.  He had a nice rookie season and showed he has some offensive upside to his game (probably more than Schenn) which is nice to as being a rookie defenseman on a bad team with weak goaltending is a real tough way to enter the league.  Despite what fan perception is, statistics indicate that Schenn has struggled defensively and Harmonic seemed to mirror that too.  That said, I do believe that it takes a few years for players to truly develop the defensive side of their game (offense usually comes more naturally) so we have to be patient with these guys.

Robin @ CI: The Minnesota Wild and San Jose Sharks have helped each other undergo significant transformations, ones that carry some real weight. These moves are highly publicized, natural I suppose, considering that some high profile players switched teams. I'd love to hear what conclusions you have drawn now that some time has windswept the trades.

David: Of all the players traded, Dany Heatley is probably the most talented and potentially valuable player of the group but he seems to have now worn out his welcome in 3 cities already (Atlanta, Ottawa and now San Jose) so you have to question his attitude and dedication.  Furthermore, his goal production has steadily dropped.  After back to back 50 goal seasons coming out of the lockout he has scored 41 goals, a pair of 39 goal seasons, and then dropping to just 26 goals last year.  Although he can contribute more than just scoring goals, if he isn't scoring he isn't living up to his contract so it is a risk for the Wild.

A lot of people like the Brent Burns acquisition by the Sharks but I am not convinced they are getting what they think they are getting.  Burns came into the league as a premiere prospect defenseman who can be a physical defensive stud of a defenseman but also contribute in a significant way at the offensive end too.  Between injuries and a stint or two at right wing he hasn't been able to establish himself as that stud defenseman like I am sure the Wild had hoped for.  The Sharks gave him a contract like he was that guy but I think that is far from certain.

So in the end, I think we will evaluate these trades on whether Heatley returns to being a reliable 40+ goal forward for the Wild and whether Burns becomes the stud defenseman the Sharks think they are getting.

Robin @ CI: This may be the most concrete Nashville Predators club we have ever seen to start a campaign. They have a new face in Niclas Bergfors and the possibility of Ryan Ellis competing on the blueline straight from junior. This is a team that relies heavily on its prospects providing support from the system, yet this team seems pencilled in from the onset. How do you read the Predators coming off their most successful season/post-season combination and do you see this as striking while the iron is hot, with Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter, and once again Shea Weber's contracts casting a shadow?

David: The Predators are what they are.  Since they can't spend to the salary cap they will always be  challenged to compete for the top seeds in the conference.  They can't make mistakes on player contracts and they have to take chances on infusing young talent into the lineup.  This led to the trade of Matt Lombardi and Cody Franson for pretty much nothing in return.  They needed to rid themselves of Lombardi's contract because they couldn't afford to be paying someone $3.5M over the next 2 seasons when they had serious questions about his health and how much he would be able to play.  The cost of ridding themselves of that contract was Franson.  They have some youth on defense in Ellis and Jon Blum so I suppose they saw Franson as expendable.  Losing Franson may haunt them down the road but in a small revenue market, that is what you have to do.

It will be interesting to see whether they can keep all three of Rinne, Suter and Weber.  In my opinion, keeping Rinne is a must and I'd probably try to keep Suter over Weber because statistics indicate he might be the better defenseman and he might come cheaper too.  With the retirement of Brian Rafalski and the impending retirement of Niklas Lidstrom in the next year or two I am sure the Detroit Red Wings are chomping at the bit to get their hands on one of Suter or Weber and there are probably a number of other teams as well.  The Predators need to play their cards smartly with those two guys so they don't end up seeing one or both of them leave and getting nothing in return.

Robin @ CI: Is Jonathan Quick better than Ilya Bryzgalov?

David: I'd say Jonathan Quick, yes. He seems to be a little more consistent year to year and I think Bryzgalov has benefited from playing on a team that plays a defense first game (at least since coach Dave Tippett arrived).  Quick is younger, cheaper, better, and still has room for improvement.

Robin @ CI: Corey Perry would naturally lead a public vote if asked right now, Bobby Ryan has continually developed his world-class skills, while Ryan Getzlaf shows utter dominance against anyone in the league when circumstances are right - David, who will lead the Anaheim Ducks in scoring? A case could be made that a couple of these guys have what it takes to lead the entire league. 

David: By scoring, if you mean points and not goals, I'd put my money on Getzlaf (pictured left).  Perry had a great individual offensive season last year but overall, he might be the third best forward on the team behind Getzlaf and Ryan.  Getzlaf certainly has a better all round game than Perry and I believe Ryan might too.  Even strength, Ryan scored 28 goals and 60 points  while Perry scored 32 goals and 62 points.  Perry's edge came almost exclusively on the power play and slightly more ice time, and he played with Getzlaf more than Ryan did.

Robin @ CI:  What do you make of the blueline corps for the Dallas Stars? Does Sheldon Souray make the team? His large contract is up after this season and he is payed as a top five guy on the team right now; can they get value from him?

David: Dallas has some decent defensemen, but no true #1 guys.  Alex Goligoski looked good for them after acquiring him from Pittsburgh.  He along with Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley give them some decent guys who can contribute at the offensive end of the rink but they don't have that defensive stud or two that they can depend on to shut down the oppositions top forwards. 

Souray will definitely make the team but he is more of an offensive guy like the three I just mentioned so it is a bit of a bizarre signing.  That said, Dallas needs to improve their offense in hopes of rejuvenating fan interest so maybe he helps there.  All in all, the Stars defense is probably no better than average and like many teams they lack a true #1 guy.

Robin @ CI: David Steckel and Manny Malhotra owned all comers in the faceoff dot last season. Superstars like Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, and Jonathan Toews more than hold their own while logging huge minutes. What can fans look forward to from some of the most influential centres around the league, both high-profile and to a lesser degree.

David: As I said in the part 1 of the interview, centers play an integral part of the game at both ends of the rink.  The best players usually end up at center.  The best offensive lines generally have a premiere offensive center such as Crosby or Thornton and the best defensive lines are usually anchored around a top defensive minded center such as Malhotra and Steckel. 

Teams that don't have talent down the middle are always desperately looking for it.  The Calgary Flames are a prime example.  They have been looking for a center for Jarome Ignila pretty much from the day they traded star center Joe Nieuwendyk for Iginla.  You can often win without premiere wingers (see Pittsburgh) but is it very difficult to win without being strong down the middle.

Robin @ Ci: Is there anything else that you would like to weigh in about from our grand game?

David: I think we are in for a very interesting season ahead of us and there will be a lot of story lines to follow.  In the east you have the revamped Flyers and a hopeful Capitals team that might both need to win or else more changes will occur (particularly with the Capitals).  The same may very well be said for the Sharks and Canucks in the West.  The time for these teams to win it all is now.  You also have several franchises that are desperate to get back to their winning ways in order to rejuvenate their fan base.  Most notable are the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets who spent big money trying to make a playoff run but the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars are in similar situations as well and we all know about the Coyotes.  There are a lot of quality pending 2012 unrestricted free agents that need to be signed but if they can't be signed we could see some significant players get traded approaching the trade deadline.  And as a back drop to all of that we can mix in some uncertainty resulting from the expiring CBA and there will be a lot for us hockey fans to watch over the next 12 months.

Robin @ CI: Thanks David and I know I speak for our readers when I say that we have enjoyed having your expertise at our disposal. I hope that we can get together around the start of the upcoming season to talk some more puck.

 

Sure, anytime.

 

 

26 August 2011 / Robin Keith Thompson

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