Yup, so I know I'm late and all, but I figured I would go ahead and do this anyway. I haven't read AJ's yet, nor any of the other posters. I don't even know what happened in the Burgundy and White game last night, or if anyone was cut today. So, this is about as free from outside pressure as I can be, and lets see how my thoughts stack up against some of the other dudes/ladies.
As always, more after the jump!
Edit: Mein Gott, this has turned into another novel. Sorry. If you ask questions, comment, and I'll answer and stuff.
Well, I spent most of Monday morning sitting around and trying to get a hold of some Opening Night tix thru Avs Guild; The end result was I got to camp late. Not wanting to try and see if AJ and Dario were holding a place for me in the first scrimmage of the day, fighting my way down the crowds standing on the stairs and whatnot, I finally checked out what was happening in the east rink.
Drills, baby, drills! Sacco was out there with Deader (who's lost a lot of weight; still not a nimble wood nymph or anything, but thinner!), and they were doing some pretty standard 5-man passing plays. There were no defenders out there (read: standard five guys on one team against only a goaltender), and they were doing some transition passing, blueline rushes, cycling, etc. I thought it was kind of worthless without someone out there to block up passing lanes, but I guess just making smart, sharp passes is sorta important too. Speaking of defenders -
Well, well, defensive drills! Black team was out there working on neutral zone transitions and 2-on-1s. They even did some 1-on-1s for a minute, but I didn't get a chance to really watch those. I did, however, bust out my trusty Droid phone to take some high-res video of the action:
The above video shows whats going on, and I'll go ahead and break down each cycle, I think: 0:00-0:07, Paul Stastny and Daniel Winnik against Stephen Silas. 0:07-0:15 is Evan Brophey and Brad Malone against Stefan Elliott. 0:15-0:27 is Justin Mercier and Daniel Winnik against Erik Johnson. 0:27-0:35 is Joakim Lindstrom and Stastny against Jan Hejda. 0:35-0:40 is Cody McLeod and Zach Cohen against Matt Hunwick. 0:40-0:48 is Brophey and David Jones against... someone. 0:48-0:58 is Malone and Stastny against Elliott. 0:58-end is Lindstrom and Mercier against Johnson. Oh, and the goalies are Trevor Cann on the right and J.S. Giguere on the left.
Here is another one; this one is a slightly different setup, but the same basic drill. There are some fun things to watch for, like Winnik's pass to McLeod between Johnson's legs at 0:12. Nice little play. I also noticed Zach Cohen at 0:21 staring at the puck; Hejda noticed too, and abandoned guarding the passing lane because the guy seemed to have no desire to even consider it. That's probably not the best way to impress the coaches. Theres a great Dr. Jones wrister at 0:44, top shelf with the cookies. Not sure if J.S. was surprised by it, or barely trying. Also, Lindstrom has a great shot at 1:04. He can do that in scrimmages, too.
Here is another, short video that doesn't add much besides watching McLeod. He really did have a very impressive camp for a guy in his position: only a passing thought on the team, lost role, contract year. Its not that he does anything super-impressive here, its just... he looks set, ready, mean, dedicated. I love watching him skate towards Cann in this clip, its like he flips a switch and becomes a good hockey player:
Sacco seemed to like what he saw, if that glass-tapping was any indication. Some of the things that I didn't get on tape were Sacco actually coaching; talking to some of the players about how he wants them to attack, position themselves, or whatever else. He did take time with most of them, at least a few words here or there. I didn't feel like this was just evaluation, like I felt a lot in rookie camp.
And that was about it for the drills. No one really struck me as standing out and being impressive besides that moment of McLeod that I got on film. I tried to gauge the D, but I feel like everyone was just going through the motions, and I couldn't glean anything worthwhile from watching.
I wandered over to the scrimmage side and found that the boys had very kindly saved me a spot in the front row. Thanks dudes. It wasn't really as busy as the last couple days, but it was certainly standing-room only, and the people along the glass were 2-3 deep. The second scrimmage was Black vs Grey. I sort of had some notes, but they started intertwining with what I plan on writing in summary. So, I'll just keep it brief. ish.
Jones and Lindstrom combined for a very pretty goal; I think that Dario recorded it... hang on... yup, HERE it is. Its at the very end of the video. Moments later, Hunwick ripped a wrister past Semyon Varlomov on a delayed penalty call. Moments after that, Brandon Yip scored a snap shot on Giguere. It was pretty darn soft, I'll tell you what. Whatever tho, as long as he doesn't do that during a game. Oh hey, theres a Hejda goal! He does have a hard, accurate wrister, and good judgement on that pinch.
Winnik and McLeod had a good shift that resulted in a goal against Varly. It was actually really, really similar to that video that I posted above with a nice pass through traffic to a wide-open McLeod who just tapped it in. Same sort of movements. Grey answered with another goal, but I had a hard time seeing who exactly scored that one; It was either a slapshot from Troy Rutkowski (!) or it was tipped in by Patrick Bordeleau. There was a ton of traffic in front of Giggy, tho, and it would have been very hard for him to see anything. And there's Cody McLeod being really physical... careful, dude, this is training camp!
And that's about all of the notes that I have from the second scrimmage. I don't think I even took any notes during the third, the Blue / Black scrimmage. I started adding up some final thoughts and notes that I wanted to share with you guys. My notes are pretty scattered, but I'll try to get them all down in some sort of a final format.
- Matt Duchene and friends: Honestly, I wasn't as impressed with Mattie Ice during this camp as I expected to be. He's still awesome and all, but his play during the scrimmages bothered me. He looked really... selfish? That's not right... working too hard, trying to do it all by himself? The entire line of Duke, Mules, and Dutchie worked hard every shift, controlled the play, made me smile... but barely scored. I'm not sure why this is. Part of it may have been that they were facing down the Black defenders EJ and Hejda a lot, or that that line always started against the defensive specialist forwards on Blue. Part of it could be that Mueller is definitely still recovering, and altho he shows these great, brilliant flashes, he hasn't played much hockey in 18 months and feels like he's slowing everyone down. Duke is Duke, and I can't really say anything bad about him, except that maybe he wasn't running at 100%.
I'm really not sure what was up with that line, but I will tell you this: It was not uberimpressive like the Stastny line was.
- Paul Stastny and friends: This was the top line of Training Camp. Shocking, I know. Paul looked bigger, but somehow more graceful and dangerous. His skating is superb, his shot still wicked... Dude looked good. Out to prove that last year was a terrible aberration. Likewise, David Jones looked fantastic. I still love seeing him suddenly become the most dynamic guy on the ice, controlling the play with his speed. He looked really comfortable with himself, and I loved it. Of course, I have called him out on looking amazing in camp for three years, but it's still true. Furious woodknocking has ensued. And Lindstrom. If they put the guy on the top line to see how he would do, he passed that test. While not the fastest skater, he plays the game smart, makes clean passes and has an accurate shot. I wouldn't name him a beast by any means, but he's another guy in a long line that is pretty good at hockey, and playing with Stastny makes him borderline-great. Certainly under the border, for a while at least.
- Duchene and Jones: I was going to wait on this, and put it further down, but I'll go ahead and put it here since I talked about both of those guys recently. Watching Jones and Duchene, both healthy and surrounded by talent, struck me as looking very similar. You guys remember that feeling when Duchene would get the puck, and you would find yourself straightening your back and holding your breath, watching to see what he would do? I get that same feeling from Jonsey sometimes. Often enough for me to mention it like this. They control the ice with their bodies and the way they carry the puck, darting in and out of defenders, and driving down-ice. The main difference is that Duchene is likely to buy time to pass, but Jones is gonna go right after that net and hit it if he can. I always wondered why Jones and Duchene never seemed to work out well together; maybe its because, if they both play the game the way they want to, they are too similar to each other, and throw the balanced line out of whack.
- Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda: Oh man, I am so ridiculously excited to see this pairing. I fawned over EJ in ... yesterday's?... post, talking about how much he has manned up. It was all true. If that guy can play the regular season like he treated Training Camp, he is going to be something serious out there. And backing him up will be Jan Hejda. On the first day of my recap, I mentioned that he looked a little disgruntled at having to take part in the offensive warmups, throwing a lack-luster shot around and generally not bothering to deign to playing with others. I didn't really mean for it to be a knock on him, rather that I was pleased that he saw his role as primarily defensive, and didn't have to bother with offense. I was wrong. I really like what I see out of Hejda; smart, if occasionally sparse, offense, good positioning and use of his size, quick reflexes... I think they are going to work great together.
- Ryan O'Reilly: Not that much to say, here, besides the fact that he's still super-smart with the puck, still good at takeaways, still... Well, he's still O'Reilly. I think he's going to have a good year, too.
- Landeskog: My hopes have been greatly tempered. I think, when that roundtable questions came up, that I answered that he would score 40-50 points this year. I really don't think he's going to do that with the way things are shaping up. Altho he has a great attitude, does have skill, is fast and all... he just hasn't shown me anything that would make me want him in the top 6 over anyone else who's already there. Lindstrom is just so much more polished that I would definitely want him on Stat's wing over Landy. That's not to say that the Kog won't be good, but right now, I think he'll spend time on the third line with Radar and Galiardicus; he just won't rack up points down there. Unless we suddenly have three strong scoring lines and crush all comers. Can you imagine if the third line was averaging 40 points each?
Anyway, the kid is definitely good, and he's going to be a part of this team, but be aware that he's way less talented than Duchene, and doesn't do any one thing as well as O'Reilly does defense. Despite the fact that he's physically ready for today's NHL, he needs polishing before he'll be any good.
- McLeod and Galiardi: The Highlander came to camp to PLAY this year. He really does feel some of the kids breathing down his neck, and we all knew that he 'lost his way' a bit last season. I will say that he was being awful rough on his own team, and I know he wants to remind the coaches what he's good at, he's gotta be careful out there. The other name that popped up during camp was Galiardi; both guys played similar styles of aggressive, pestering, in-your-face hockey. I like that, but Gally's was more 'in fun' than McLeod's was. its like the slightly sullen troublemaker in class versus the cheeky, grinning troublemaker. They both get into shenannegins equally well, but they approach it differently. That's how I felt about these two. After this camp, they'll both have a place on the team unless they managed to alienate everyone.
- Third and Fourth liners?: Man, this reminds me of the 'log jam' with last year's D; a few frontrunners all but guaranteed, and only a couple spots open for a ton of guys. As I said above, I think that, of the 6 spots available on the lower lines, McLeod and Galiardi will take two. Add in the lock of Radar, and thats a whole line. I haven't really mentioned some of the 'less important' guys in my reviews, but that's not to say they didn't do well. For instance, I think that McClement had a really good camp. he didn't blow the socks off of anyone, but then again, he's not supposed to. He's supposed to be our PK wizard; and there wasn't much to showcase his talent during camp. He won a ton of faceoffs, had great chemistry with both Winnik and McLeod, and all-in-all showed himself to be a valuable lower-tier guy.
Winnik was the same way; good old reliable Winnik. Unspectacular, but solid; smart play, solid skating, crisp passes, take-aways and D. Has he earned a spot on the team? On the 4th line? I dunno. Oh, and Chuck Kobasew was out there. I didn't want to make any judgments until I saw him in camp, but watching him... I think Dario said it best, and now I can't help but think of it: Chuck Kobasew may very well be our new Darcy Tucker. He's just not good, and makes 1.5mil$. Thanks for that, cap floor. As of right now, I don't think he's vying for a spot on the ice at all. Not when someone like Winnik, McC, or McL are your compeition.
Of the guys I just mentioned, we can safely fill the bottom 6: Radar, Landy, Gali, Winnik, McC, McL. What about guys like Bordeleau, Malone, Mauldin? Well, the short answer is that Lake Erie is going to be stocked this year with really decent players. I wasn't going to go thru everyone, but I will put down a blurb about each, I guess. Lets see... Bordy. Bordeleau is definitely a big boy who likes to get dirty, both with hits and with fights, but he can play, too. I don't think he's good enough to replace anyone of the lines I listed above, but he may sit on the bench. Brad Malone is good, but not great; like a lot of people, I tend to think of him as a younger Cody McL. He won't be in the running for a call-up unless he gets really good really fast. Interesting prospect for down the line, tho. Mauldin is Mauldin, and plays the same way that he always has. Its just that, tenacious as he is, he doesn't have enough skill to be a full time player.
Justin Mercier isn't that good either, and I can almost feel the tension in his game. At 24, he sees his dreams of playing in the big leagues slipping away, and he came out hitting to try to stem the tide. I dunno, tho, he didn't really convince me of much. Especially not when compared to someone like Garrett Meurs, who came out looking fantastic for a baby rookie. I am curious to see where that kid goes, but he may go high once he gets trained up a bit. Olver is still smart with the puck and quick, but he isn't going to be able to learn his way out of his size; I doubt we will see him in an Avs regular season uni unless we are desperate. Kevin Porter, knowing that he's under pressure too, didn't really seem to do much to wow me. He played like he did last year, which is good, but not good enough to knock someone off of the bottom two lines.
Ryan Stoa was trying to use his size; I saw him trying. But he didn't do it well, and if felt really forced and unnatural. Maybe that's because it was. I just don't know about that kid, and I don't even really care to give him a 'third' chance. David Van Der Gulik is still speedy, but really, he won't touch the big leagues. Neither will Rissmissler or Brophey. Now, I watched Yip a good bit during scrimmage, and he actually looked like he cared. Like he finally realized that this may be his last chance, and was trying! He kinda floated along a good bit before that. He's still not good, but if he can start in LE and keep up the intensity, he might be near the top of the list of call-ups. But so might be a guy like Luke Walker. I haven't talked about him much, but he has speed and good hands, and love dynamic, big-picture plays. He's also going to the knocked the fiznuck out if he doesn't keep his eyes up speeding into the opponents' zone; its only going to take once to level him.
- Bottom 4 Defense: Once again, another quandary. The top pairing is set. I haven't really mentioned Quincey, but I feel pretty good about his performance, and I think he's on the right track for a very solid 3/4. O'Byrne has looked ok, nothing really special. I noticed him actively trying to put the puck on net more; he wants to up that part of his game too. Pretty standard 3/4 guy too, maybe even dropping to 5/6 if someone really steps up. O'Brien looks good too, but I would say less-good than O'Byrne. He's fine; knows how to use his size to take the man, sticks to his positioning ok, all of that. I see him as a 5/6 personally, maybe even a bench if we have to. Wilson looks more mature than I have ever seen him. He didn't really lay anyone out besides his collision with Mercier on day 1, but he just looks like he's quietly taking care of business out there.
Then there are the 'offensive' guys like Cumiskey and Hunwick. I said last year that I figured they were going to re-sign Hunwick as a replacement for the JML niche; well, I guess that sorta happened. Hunners was on-and-off. Mostly off. But you could see that sweet potential in some of the things that he did. He looked better than Cumiskey did, in this humble dudes opinion. Speaking of Cumiskey, he still looks like he's re-learning to play hockey. He's not bad, altho I didn't see that blazing speed that made me love him, but he's not good either. I think he needs more time to re-adjust and figure himself out. Say Cummers in Cleveland and Hunners as a 6/7 guy.
Which brings me around to the youngsters. I think I can safely dismiss Beaupre, Donnelly, Silas, Liffiton, and Rutkowski to the AHL or minors; some showed some flashes, but none were really worth considering as a potential call-up. For info on Siemens, see some of my other published works. Then we get into it with guys like Holos and Guance; I know that AJ is high on Guance, but... his positioning is good, and he plays smart hockey, but I think he's not going to be making this team for a while. Not with Holos vying with him for a call-up, and the juicy potential of the rookies breathing down their necks. He's good, but I don't think that Guance is going to be much more than that: good. Holos was nearly invisible out there. I always thought that that was a good thing for a Dman, meaning that he's not doing something stupid that makes me throw things at the TV. But in training camp, he needs to be able to do some things really well or he;s going to be pigeon-holed into obscurity.
And on to the rookies, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott. They are both going to be good. Shattenkirk good. But they are pretty raw on the D end of things right now. I suspect they will both have time in LE, and will be called up at some point midseason, if not later. As to who is better... I really don't know. Elliott struggles on some D maneuvers, but he skates really well and has good hockey sense. Barrie is a little more solid in his own end, and almost as good a skater, but he loves the Cumiskey-style speed rolling into the opponent's zone like he's a forward, and I'm afraid with his size that he'll be blown up the same way that Luke Walker will be someday. They are both good, don't get me wrong, but they'll be good for us in, at minimum, a few months.
Goaltending: Yeah, I said I was going to leave this up to the experts at the Guild, but I'll throw in some opinions real quick. Varly looks good, as long as he's able to play. Giguere looks good, as long as he's able to play. Its the kids that I liked watching; Pickard and Aittokallio especially. Desjardins wasn't there, I don't think. Cann is all right, I guess, but I haven't really seen him progress in years. He reminds me of Boods, and I'm not sure how his future looks. Especially with those kids. Pickard looked good; better than Cann already. Aittokallio is going to be a beast. I saw a couple games with him that were just nuts, he stopped everything. With Cedric healing up soon, this could be a very good set of goaltenders coming up over the next few years.
Final Thoughts: This is going to be a really good team. I am glad some of the experts are waking up to the fact that we are really different in all the right ways from the team that took the ice last year. Altho I like playing the underdog, I would rather be the ones that everyone acknowledges as a good team, a strong opponent, a dangerous threat. We might not get there right away, but I feel more confident about the fact that we WILL get there than I have in years. It feels awesome.