It turns out that there are a few things to talk about with respect to hockey – even without looking at Patrick Kane’s off-ice adventures (or worse, writing article #9954 about Sidney Crosby’s birthday party). The Leafs have made some moves, Nikolai Zherdev has bolted for Russia, Theo Fleury plans a comeback, and the Sabres have signed Mike Grier.
Ye Olde Switcheroo: Pogge and MacDonald
I have to hand it to Brian Burke: he’s got a pretty good idea of what he’s doing. Not only did he manage to land a decent return for a fringe prospect in Justin Pogge, but he upgraded his goaltending at the same time. I realize that I just said three things that might raise eyebrows, so let’s look at them one at a time:
1. Decent Return: According to the Orange County Register, the Leafs will receive at least a 6th round pick in 2011 – a pick that will be upgraded to a third-rounder if Pogge makes 30 starts over the next two seasons. When a far superior player like Alex Auld (with an established NHL track record and on a reasonable contract) only lands a 6th round pick, this trade looks like larceny.
2. Fringe Prospect: Let’s take a quick look at Pogge’s numbers.
- AHL: 71W-56L-11OTL, 2.71 GAA, .899 SV%
- NHL: 1W-4L-0OTL, 4.35 GAA, .841 SV%
In three AHL seasons, Pogge’s season high save percentage is .908; not only that, but in three seasons the only time he’s legitimately outplayed his backup was in 2006-07. That backup, Jean-Francois Racine, has since moved over to play in the LNAH. Last year, his numbers were far inferior to minor-league journeyman Adam Munro (.913 vs. 895) and at this point I’d put him well back of Jeff Deslauriers. Leafs blog Sports and the City summed it up nicely:
I can’t recall another young goaltender so big – six-foot-three, over 200 pounds – who couldn’t cover more of the net.
3. Goaltending Upgrade
Joey MacDonald isn’t exactly the first name that comes to mind when I think of exceptional goaltending, but last year he wasn’t bad (these things being relative, of course). A quick comparison between him and the incumbent starter:
- Vesa Toskala: 22-17-11, 3.26 GAA, .891 SV%
- Joey MacDonald: 14-26-6, 3.37 GAA, .901 SV%
MacDonald played for the Islanders, so you’ll have to excuse his win/loss totals. My money says that Jonas Gustavsson is Toronto’s starter next year, and MacDonald plays the role of #3, but even so he’s a nice insurance policy to have. Or, as Pension Plan Puppets put it:
To reiterate, MacDonald is probably a better goaltender than Vesa Toskala at this point in time. Assuming Toskala gets hurt or plays like he usually does, or if both Gustavsson and Toskala play well making Vesa expendable then MacDonald would be a more than capable backup.
Meanwhile, in the Motherland…
Nikolai Zherdev, spurned by the Rangers (and apparently every other NHL team) has reportedly decided to return to Russia, signing a contract with the KHL’s Salavatovo Yuleav Ufa. Ufa doesn’t normally grab UFA’s; they’re the same team that signed Alexander Radulov out of Nashville.
Zherdev isn’t a player I saw fitting in Edmonton, but he has scored 23+ goals and 54+ points three of the last four years, so it’s a little surprising not to see him get enough interest to stay in North America. Playoff meltdown or not, there’s more than one team that could have used his offense. I suspect we’ll see more of this as too many teams are bunched around the salary cap ceiling.
Which takes me to a (mostly) unrelated point. Given that it’s August, Theoren Fleury’s comeback bid has generated quite a bit of attention (Jean Lefebvre has been covering it admirably for FlamesNation) but it remains highly unlikely that he’ll set foot on NHL ice this fall. So why doesn’t he try the KHL? The money should be comparable, since Fleury isn’t going to get big money from anyone (and it seems he needs it), and the chance of success is much greater.
Mike Grier Goes Back to Buffalo
I’ve already said most of what I think about the signing, but it deserves a mention here to. I don’t know what Grier was like off the ice, but he never gave less than his best in Edmonton and along with players like Todd Marchant, Ryan Smyth, Rem Murray and Ethan Moreau made it easy to cheer for the Oilers – even though they weren’t overly successful.
It seems that Sabres’ fans have similar feelings for the forward; a poll at Die By The Blade was 74% in favour of the move and only 7% opposed.