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Scott Cullen
1/2/2007 3:18:42 PM

The first mailbag of 2007 is open, with playoff droughts, top prospects and even a glance at the Spengler Cup in this week's edition of TSN.ca's NHL Mail.

On to the mail..

Scott, I was reading the feedback regarding the suspension of Colton Orr for his hit on Ovechkin. It seems most of the fans are really up in arms about the double standard "star" treatment he is receiving. I haven't seen the actual hit but from what I have read it was similar to the hit that Ovechkin put on Briere. The topic seems to have generated enough venom that it might deserve a column as apposed to being left to fan fodder. I am not sure how much of it is simply generated by the overzealous "Sabre Fan" and as one I can understand but it might be a good topic for discussion! Thanks Again, Mark J. Maines

Mark, It sounds to me like overzealous Sabres fans think Ovechkin deserves anything and everything that might come to him. Considering Ovechkin took an unprovoked crosscheck in the mouth from an enforcer like Orr, I don't think it is even close to the Ovechkin-Briere hit. Besides, Sabres fans should be able to bottle the acid -- Briere got his revenge spear in on Ovechkin and it went unpunished, so there's little need to keep painting Ovechkin as the eternal bad guy. - SC

Hello Scott, I just wanted to consult some expert advice on some fantasy trades. I'm in year one of a five year keeper league and have found myself close enough to the bottom this season to start putting myself into a rebuilding mode. Right now I'm being offered Andy McDonald, Thomas Vanek and a 'decent' draft pick next season in exchange for Simon Gagne and Mats Sundin. In your opinion, over the next five does this look like a good trade? Secondly, I have the opportunity to pull the trigger on another trade where I could get Giguere straight up for Marc-Andre Fleury. This sounds like a good deal right now but I'm a little hesitant to give up a former number one draft pick and the # 1 goalie of a team that looks like a dynasty in the making. Do you see MAF's numbers improving as the team develops? And is Giguere consistent enough to record impressive stats in a few years? Thank you Scott, and Happy New Year. J.M. Oakville, ON

J.M., On the first deal, I guess it depends on what kind of value you'll get out of the draft pick and whether it's important that Sundin contribute four or five years down the road. Right now, I'd prefer Gagne and Sundin, but there is obviously a longer period of value to be gained from Vanek and McDonald. One word of caution: don't get caught looking too far ahead in keeper leagues because you never know what may happen both in the NHL and in your league itself for events four and five years into the future. On the goaltender swap, Giguere should just be entering his prime and -- barring a trade -- will be playing behind Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer for the forseeable future, so I'd take Giguere. - SC

When going through your player rankings today I noticed that yet again Marc Savard has been left off the list. With 45 points in 34 games he has more points per game than St Louis, Lecavalier, Selanne, or Iginla just to name a few in the top 20. The only people who have more points per game are Hossa, Ovechkin, Crosby, and Jagr. Granted most of his points come from assists, but then again so did Joe Thornton's last season and he was named league MVP. Savard is an integral part of the new bruins and has an hand in shaping every single game that he plays. As a Bruins fan I find that the team is always being underestimated and looked over when they have some very high quality players on the team. Most press around the bruins focuses on Chara or Thomas, but what about Bergeron and Savard? Thanks, Curt, Kitchener, ON

Curt, My vote for MVP would have gone to Jaromir Jagr last year because I value goals more than assists. In Savard's case, there's no doubt that he's been a valuable addition to the Bruins. He was ranked 10th among centres in my last rankings -- between Mats Sundin and Olli Jokinen -- which is pretty quality company, in my opinion. - SC

Hi Scott, About the proposed divisional realignment, what's the purpose of having divisions anyway? Why not get rid of them, just have Western and Eastern conferences, and the top 8 teams in each conference make the playoffs? Do you think the NHL would consider this, and why/why not? Happy New Year, Richard, Vancouver

All the best in the New Year to you as well, Richard. While your proposal is fine in a theoretical world, the league is always going to have divisions of some sort in order to emphasize regional rivals. That serves two purposes. One, it's easier for teams to market games against divisional rivals when they are in close proximity and two, it saves on travel costs. As with many things in this world, it's about the money. - SC

Hi Scott, I think it's a little unfair to dock Anze Kopitar too much for having a minus-10. He is playing in front of the worst goaltender in the league, Dan Cloutier. That is not just an exaggeration but merely a statistical fact (he's something like 44th out of 44 in Save PCT among goalies with 13 starts). You really have to see it on a regular basis to really know how much Kopitar means to this team. Thanks, Carter

Carter, By no means am I trying to diminish the contributions of Kopitar. I was just noting that his minus-10 (now minus-12) rating is a rather glaring statistical deficiency, whether it's entirely his fault or not. That he's playing more than 20 minutes per game as a rookie centre should give more than enough indication of how important Kopitar has been to the Kings. - SC

Hi Scott, Will we see Tyler Wright in the NHL again? Being that he was always pretty fast he should fit in a bit better now even with his low offensive output. I have searched and don.t see him playing anywhere although I thought I found an article saying he took part in the Swiss Challenge in early November. Any updates you may have are greatly appreciated. Thank you. Bill S , Regina SK.

Bill, Wright parlayed his role in the Swiss Challenge into a contract with Basel in Switzerland as well as an opportunity to play for Canada at the Spengler Cup. At this point, I'd be surprised if the 33 year-old will get another chance in the NHL. - SC

Scott, What ever happened to Vaclav Varada? i think he started the season last year with the sens and then suffered a knee injury and i dont remember him ever coming off the IR? was it a career ending injury? did he go back to europe? Nick, Whitby, ON

Nick, Varada has joined Davos in Switzerland, and played for champion Davos in the just-completed Spengler Cup. - SC

Scott, I've never really understood the Spengler cup. How does this tournament work and how does Canada put together its team for this tournament? - Scott, New Brunswick

Scott, The Spengler Cup is a tournament hosted by Davos in Switzerland and it is held every year between Christmas and New Year's. It is an invitation tournament with a handful of club teams from Europe, as well as a Canadian national team. The team representing Canada typically is comprised of Canadian players that are already playing in Europe (mostly Switzerland), though this year's team was also supplemented with a handful of AHLers. - SC

Scott, What is going on with Shawn Horcoff and Shane Doan? Those two guys are giving me a lot of trouble in my pool. - Nicolas

Nicolas, Doan has been hindered by a back injury that has caused him to miss nine games this season, but he has recently started to play much better (including his five-point performance against San Jose last week). In Horcoff's case, there doesn't appear to be any obvious problem other than possibly just finding the right chemistry with linemates in Edmonton. Even on his recent surge, during which Horcoff has five points in five games, he's also minus-6, so it's going to take a dramatic and sudden turnaround for his season totals to be respectable this year. - SC

Scott, My friend and I were arguing about which team now had the longest playoff drought and the longest period since playoff success (we defined success as third round or better). Just wondering if you could end the fight for us. Thanks. Keith Harrison, Cranbrook BC

Keith, The longest playoff drought right now is held by the Atlanta Thrashers, who have yet to play in the postseason since beginning in 1999-2000. Next closest to the Thrashers are the Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets, who have not played in the NHL playoffs since 2001. In Columbus and Atlanta's defense, they were teams in 2000-2001 and 1999-2000, respectively, and have yet to reach the postseason, while Florida last reached the playoffs in 2000. For the longest drought of playoff success, using your third round criteria, the Phoenix Coyotes/Winnipeg Jets franchise has the longest-running drought, having never reached a Conference Final in 25 years of NHL existence. Recent expansion teams Atlanta, Columbus and Nashville also have yet to achieve that level of playoff success. Of teams that have reached that point in the past, the longest drought rests with the Boston Bruins, who last had a three-round run in 1992. - SC

Scott, Why is it that the defensive player that takes his free hand from the stick and puts it on the offensive player is called for a penalty when the player driving to the net is allowed to "HOLD" the defender back with his free hand? Thanks Andrew

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