NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 12/22/2008
The painfully drawn out Mats Sundin free agency has finally come to an end. It seemed like he was destined to become a Ranger, but he signed with Vancouver in the end. The reason was simple - cash. Vancouver had lots of room under the salary cap, so they could pay him handsomely and still have money left over. The Rangers are right up against the cap, so they probably couldn't have paid as much, and the changes to the roster that his arrival would have forced could have been disruptive. Sundin will join his new team early in the new year. Between now and then, bettors have to determine just what impact the move will have. In thinking about that, here are five issues to consider:
Swedish connection - The Canucks already have four Swedish players on their roster. Sundin has played with three of them - Mattias Ohlund and the Sedin bothers - internationally. Sundin will quickly become comfortable with his new team.
Offensive need - Daniel and Henrik Sedin are both solid offensive forces. That's about where it ends for Vancouver. The Sedins won't be broken up, but there is a perfect spot for Sundin to land beside Pavol Demitra. If Sundin can find his legs quickly, and develop chemistry with the talented Czech, then the team could get a significant offensive boost. The team is only 10th in league scoring, so they could use it.
Ability to win? - This is a big one. Sundin apparently wanted to join a team that could help him win his elusive Stanley Cup. The Vancouver media seems convinced that the team can do it with him, but I'm not. Vancouver is sitting in fifth in the West, though they are in a fight with Calgary for the division lead. Sundin makes them better, but I'm not at all convinced that he makes them anywhere close to elite. I'm also not sure how he and the team will respond when they realize that.
Roberto Luongo - Vancouver's star goalie, probably the best in the league right now, has been out with a groin injury. This move seems to indicate that Luongo is reasonably close to a return - Sundin signing up with a Luongo-led team makes sense, but not a Curtis Sanford-helmed one.
What was he waiting for? - This is the biggest question to me. Before the season, Sundin ignored a two-year, $20 million contract offer from the Canucks. Now he accepted a one-year offer for the prorated portion of $10 million. Did Vancouver get more attractive, or did Sundin get more desperate? The answer to that question could have a big impact on his mindset and ultimate effectiveness.
Show of Strength
There was a battle for western superiority on Thursday, and the outcome was very decisive. San Jose traveled to Detroit, and left with their fins between their legs. The score was 6-0, and the game wasn't even that close. Ty Conklin only needed 24 saves to earn the shutout, and Evgeni Nabokov was terrible - six goals in 28 shots. The outcome made it clear who the current class of the conference is, even if San Jose has more points. It was the second straight loss by the Sharks, but they bounced back in their next game with a win over the Rangers. Detroit had lost two of their previous three before rising to the occasion here.
An Unfortunate Boost?
J.S. Giguere left the Ducks last week because of the death of his family. It's a morbid consideration in the circumstances, but you have to wonder if he'll get the same kind of boost in performance in his pre-Christmas return that Matt Cassel did in the same circumstance last week.
Boston Bruin star Patrice Bergeron was carted off the ice on Sunday with a concussion. He was hospitalized but has been released. The injury lands him on the IR, but the potential consequences are bigger than that. Bergeron missed most of last season with a concussion, so this could potentially be the end of his career. This is reminiscent of Brett Lindros - another talented youngster who was forced out of the league way before his time after multiple concussions. The impact on the Bruins shouldn't be nearly as severe - Bergeron is an important player, but he's just ninth in team scoring with 19 points.
So Long, Selanne
Anaheim's leading goal scorer is out for 4-6 weeks, but he got lucky that it's only that long. Selanne cut his left thigh with his own skate when he collided with an Edmonton defenseman. An MRI revealed that there was no cuts to tendons or other connective tissue. Anaheim is sitting just 16th in team scoring, and Selanne was third in points on the team, as well as being the offensive leader of the team, so this could be a big blow to the playoff hopes of the squad.