Thursday, January 1, 2009

Weekly Top Five: January 1st

Hello all- first off, Happy New Year to everyone. 2008 was a great season in hockey, but as things are shaping up so far, 2009 looks even better.

Anyway, one of the things I want to do here at The War Room is start a weekly top five list. What I discuss will change from week to week. A top five list is not too big, nor is it too small, for me to discuss what I'm thinking, as well as for readers to discuss it. Debate my choices with me, or create your own list.

So, without further adieu, lets start our first Weekly Top Five with teams/individuals looking for a turnaround in 2009.

5.) Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche

Joe Sakic is one of my favorite players in the NHL. He's played with Colorado his entire career, is their captain and is a model player both on and off the ice. So, when he missed nearly half of last season due to injury, I really wanted Sakic to get back out on the ice for one last season to show the rest of the league that he's still got it in him.

Turns out I was right- through 15 games, Sakic had a pair of goals and 12 points until he suffered a back injury. A few weeks later, he suffered injury to three fingers while operating a snow blower, putting him on the shelf even longer, making 2008 a year of bad luck with injuries. Here's hoping to a speedy recovery and a great finish to the season.

4.) Ottawa Senators

Who predicted this sort of slide for the Senators? Ottawa is usually close to the playoffs, but are currently 12th in the Eastern Conference with 31 points. They have a great trio at the top with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley with other talent in between. Except for a recent struggle, Alex Auld has been very good in goal this season after supplanting Martin Gerber.

However, that other talent isn't doing anything on the offensive side of things. The Senators only have 82 goals on the season, putting them at the bottom of the barrel. Combined, Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson have half of the team's offense, and for a winning team, all of their lines need to contribute for a successful offense. Hopefully, someone can pick up the slack from here on out to put the Senators back in the playoff hunt.

3.) Ilya Kovalchuk

The star of the Atlanta Thrashers deserves better. He's a consistent goal scorer, and is entering the prime years of his career stuck on an Atlanta Thrashers team that has only made the playoffs once in his career there. He saw his running mate, Marian Hossa, traded last year with a poor return, and GM Don Waddell has yet to find a top line center to run with Kovalchuk.

He's a free agent after next season, and will be one of the prime free-agents on the market. Kovalchuk also has a high possibility of being traded at any moment by the Thrashers, to try and maximize his return. Either way this happens, Kovalchuk needs better- either a better team or a playmaking center to give him more pucks to shoot.

2.) Sean Avery

Avery is one of those players that people either love unconditionally, or hate him. Love him, and you enjoy Avery being the best agitator, and his ability to chip in with around 15 goals a season. Hate him, and you dislike his personality and that he rarely fights who he doesn't have a good chance at beating. The Dallas Stars took a chance on Avery this off-season, signing him to a four year deal, making them his fourth team in seven years.

The Stars really struggled out the gate, and many blamed the acquisition of Avery for it. He only lasted 23 games before he talked to the media about his former girlfriends, and ended up suspended indefinitely be the NHL. Soon after, the Stars announced he would not be returning to the team. Avery will soon be looking for a fifth team, if he can even get on the ice now.

1.) Tampa Bay Lightning

Where to start on this nightmare? New owners have not been kind to Tampa Bay, who jettisoned key veterans over the past year in Brad Richards, Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich, as well as their GM and head coach. This past off-season was a busy one, which saw them bring in about half the roster in new players, Barry Melrose as the new head coach and drafting the "next big thing" in Steve Stamkos.

Things did not go as planned for the Lightning. Melrose was canned 16 games into the season. The front office has made moves as the season goes on, trying to place band-aids on their holes. The worst part is their defense and their inexperience- they are really missing Boyle and Lukowich. Oh, and there's also the reports of meddling owners, with the biggest story being near the end of Melrose's leadership, one of them went to the locker room during intermission and drew up plays. However, the new owners want to win- even with questionable methods, they want to compete. If any a team or player needs a better 2009, it's got to be Tampa Bay.

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