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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Scott Cullen,
9/30/2006 10:51:12 PM

After a mostly relaxing off-season, we're back with the first Mailbag of the NHL season. Lots of top prospects, free agent values and fantasy takes get things started in this edition of's NHL Mail.

On to the mail...

Scott, I read in one of the Boston papers that the Bruins lost a grand total of 403 man-games to injury last season. What is that record? - Eric Hudson, Rotterdam, NY

Eric, while the man-games lost to injury record is an unoffical one, the 1999-2000 Montreal Canadiens missed 563 games, closely followed by the 2002-2003 Los Angeles Kings that missed 536, but then the Kings pushed the envelope and set a new standard for time in the infirmary during the 2003-2004 season with 629 man-games lost. - SC

Hey Scott, What has happened to Felix Potvin? Do you know if the Devils have signed Stephen Gionta because I know they offered him an amateur tryout with the River Rats? What type of player do you think Travis Zajac will turn into? From Benny, NJ

Beeny, Felix Potvin hasn't played since 2003-2004. With no shortage of quality goalies in the league right now, I'm pretty sure that means he's not playing anymore. The younger Gionta was invited to camp this year by the Devils, but hasn't signed any contracts with the big club. If he starts well with Lowell, then New Jersey might ink him to an NHL deal. Zajac is a nice prospect for the Devils, but he's probably best served by a year in the AHL. He was productive in college, but not dominant, so a year of quality playing time in the AHL, getting used to the pro schedule, would ease his transition next season. In the long run, the Devils hope that Zajac can be a power forward type that is a top-six forward. - SC

Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin topped 100 points and TSN reported on the other players to do it as rookies: Selanne, Lemieux, Statsny, Hawerchuk, all gifted players. However, the seventh player leaves me confused...Joe Juneau. I checked his stats, not only did he never break 100 points again, he dropped into a steady decline after his break out year. I was born in 1986, so I was too young in the 1992-93 season to follow such a story. Did something happen to Juneau? An injury? Was just wondering what would cause such a sudden and unexpected drop in production, and if you think any of the present class might experience that. Thanks for your time, Matthew Scott

Matthew, Juneau was still going pretty strong in his second full season when he got traded to Washington for Al Iafrate. The Bruins' top offensive defencemen were Glen Wesley and Don Sweeney, so Iafrate definitely filled a need for their power play. Juneau, though, left a line with Adam Oates and Cam Neely to join a less talented Capitals team. Anyway, the next year was a lockout season and Juneau finished second on the Caps with 43 points in 44 games, but he had a miserable total of five goals, dovetailing with leading scorer Peter Bondra's 34 goals and nine assists. Juneau, an aeronautical engineer who played a cerebral game, was never a physical specimen and played a pretty soft style. He started to decline as the NHL game got more mauling. The way the NHL has turned, gearing towards skill players -- and not allowing them to get mauled -- probably precludes anyone from last year's rookie class from having the kind of drop-off in production that marked Juneau's career. - SC

Hi Scott, Am I mistaken, but no one has ever tallied for 100+ Pts and 100+ PIM in his NHL rookie season, except Sidney Crosby? Of the previous rookies that reached 100+ Pts (Selanne, Lemieux, Juneau, Hawerchuk, Ovechkin and Stastny) no one came even close to 100 PIM. Is that right? Thanks, Hugues

Hugues, you are correct. None of the other 100-point rookies even came close to 100 PIM. So, not only is Crosby a great player in his own right, those penalty minutes make him just as valuable in fantasy. - SC

How is it that Alexander Ovechkin came to the NHL last year, and scored MORE than he did in Russia last year? He only scored 26 points in 37 games in Russia last year; yet he has come to a better league, and increased his production considerably. Is it just lower scoring hockey there, or has he really improved that much as a player? - Jordan

Jordan, There's no doubt Ovechkin is getting better. After all, he was only 20 years old last season. However, he also would not have been receiving prime ice time with Moscow Dynamo as a 19 year-old, particularly during an NHL lockout season when his team also had Maxim Afinogenov (who had 25 points, by the way), Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Frolov, not to mention leading scorer Pavel Rosa, a former Kings prospect. There's also no doubt that the Russian game is different than the NHL game. The Russian Super League awards just one assist per goal and last year's league leader in the Russian Super League was Alexei Morozov, the former Penguin, with 49 points in 51 games, so Ovechkin's numbers as an 18 year-old (23 points in 53 games) and 19 year-old (27 points in 37 games) don't necessarily tranlsate to his phenomenal NHL rookie season. - SC

Hey Scott, Did the Canucks get anything for R.J. Umberger? I vaguely remmeber him asking for more money than the Canucks were willing to pay. How did he end up leaving the organization? Thanks, Dave in Vancouver

Dave, the Canucks got Martin Rucinsky from the Rangers at the trade deadline in 2004 in a deal for Martin Grenier and Umberger. Umberger left Ohio St. following his junior season to get the clock started on when the Canucks would have to sign him, so Vancouver was in a bit of a bind. so at least the Canucks got 13 regular season games and one 7-game playoff series out of Martin Rucinsky in exchange. It's more tangible than the second-round pick the Rangers got as compensation (and used on banging winger Dane Byers) when Umberger couldn't reach a contract agreement with the Blueshirts and signed with the Flyers in June of 2004. - SC

Scott, For the Red Wings, how close are Filppula, Grigorenko, Kindl, Quincey and McGrath to making a cameo or two, if not landing a permanent roster spot? - Philip

Philip, Igor Grigorenko has decided to remain in Russia for another season, but I would think he's certainly ready to take his shot at the NHL next year. Valtteri Filppula has to be close. I'm not sure whether or not he'll crack the opening night line-up, but he has to be the first call-up if he doesn't. Quincey certainly had a good first season in the AHL last year (33 points, plus-15, 107 PIM), but I don't know if he can find playing time on the Wings' veteran defence corps. Maybe next year. Kindl might be able to compete for a spot next year, but it's a good bet that he'll play this year in junior then head to the AHL next season. Evan McGrath, Kindl's teammate with the Kitchener Rangers, had a solid junior career and will get his feet wet with Grand Rapids this year. It depends on how quickly he adjusts to the pro grame, and what kind of openings are available on the Red Wings roster. I'd think he might be a couple of seasons away from legitimately competing for a spot with the Wings. - SC

Hi, I saw that you answered a question regarding former Erie Otter Cory Pecker afew months ago. I also know him from the Montreal area. I was wondering whether you think he has a chance to stick with Ottawa as a 3rd or 4th line player? Thanks, Jeff Segal

Jeff, Pecker isn't ready for primetime. However, he was somewhat of a hockey vagabond, playing for six pro teams before landing in Binghamton last season. After putting up 23 points in 24 games with Bingo last year, Pecker earned another contract from the Sens organization, but it's also not like he's part of their long-term plans just yet either. - SC

Hey Scott, I was wondering if you knew anything about Alexei Yemelin. I've heard rumours that he's prospected to be the Canadiens' next top D. I know he's in Europe right now, but do you know if he's going to be making it to the NHL anytime soon? Thanks! Kevin Wilson

Kevin, Yemelin is a hard-hitting and aggressive defenceman who would certainly add a needed physical element to the Canadiens, but I don't know how gifted he is offensively and that might determine just how high he eventually rates on the Habs depth chart. The Canadiens seemed somewhat surprised that Yemelin is still under contract for two more years with Lada Togliatti in the Russian Super League, but Montreal may try and lure him across the pond next summer. - SC

Hey Scott, I was curious what you thought about these up and comers, as to when you feel they will make it to the NHL, and when they can be expected to make an impact, or at least start contributing.
Benoit Pouliot
Robbie Schremp
Guillaume Latendresse
A.J. Thelen
Jiri Tlusty
Ondrej Pavelec
Thanks, Rob
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