It's time to stop cursing the shoot-out loss to the Isles. What a brutal 3rd period. Ugh. Anyway, take your mind off of it and think about something different!
I questioned whether both Manitoba and the Maritime provinces would have the necessary depth to ice legitimate teams. I've got to admit though, these teams both have some great grinders. All heart and soul - make no mistake, both would be huge underdogs to make any noise at a provincial tournament, but miracles do happen. Just ask the Finnish junior team.
Both teams here would be leaning pretty heavily on top players and would likely struggle against the powerhouses. However those top players they would be leaning on are some of the best in the world.
Seems to be the trend with the Western provinces to have 1 solid starter and then riff-raff. Scrivens for AB, Price for BC, and now Reimer for MB. No question that Reimer has proven himself a starting calibre NHL goalie, but if he struggled this team as a whole would as well. Calvin Pickard of the AHL's Lake Erie Lock Monsters might be serviceable, but go any deeper on the chart and you're in trouble because you get to Cal's older brother Chet who's playing for Bakersfield in the E. He's a former 1st Rounder (NSH) who (surprisingly considering the Pred's track record with goalies) never turned out.
Keith has to be #2 on the entire Canadian depth chart behind BC's Shea Weber. Keith is more mobile and better with the puck, but not nearly as physically imposing as Shea. Still, he's elite. Problem for Manitoba is, Duncan doesn't have a lot to work with here. I've teamed him with Stone because Mike is the only guy in the bunch to show any offensive flair. Veteran Ian White who's playing in the Swiss league might actually be a better option as he's a good puck-mover. Some solid shut-down guys here though, so a defense first mentality could let this team squeak out some games.
Sharp and Toews are in a league of their own (well a league that includes fellow Hawk Keith, but that's it.. what's with the Chicago guys that are from the 'Peg?). I've popped Calvert on this line for his great speed on the international ice, but he could be replaced by another winger. While we're on the brother-picks; Kelly and Darcy Zajac didn't make it, BUT 1 Zajac (Travis) is probably enough. Especially considering I'm taking Mark Stone (Michael's brother). Mark is stuck in Ottawa's farm system right now, but he could surpass Penner or Fehr in the near future (or now). Helm, White and Eakin definitely provide great checking ability from a depth role and all 3 can play center. Rounding out the team would be some rough-and-tumble types like McLeod, Tootoo and Garbutt.. whether they're in ahead of Ashton (who probably has SLIGHTLY more skill) is kind of up in the air. Toots has international experience at least! Hah! Remember that World Jrs!? He was a wrecking ball! It was great!
Joey Mac has bounced around in the NHL as a back-up, and he sure stepped into a really tough situation in Calgary this year, but he's a 'battler'. Meaning he'll give you everything he's got.. but it's not elite. It's very possible Allen (currently stagnating behind Halak and Elliott in STL) could be better than Joey right now. He's 16-9-2 this year in the AHL with great stats so it is possible. MacIntyre, of Prince Edward Island, rounds out the East Coast goaltenders; he's played with 7 different AHL teams and he's never been really bad.. except when called to the NHL.. then he is bad.
Another MacDonald, Andrew, takes on WAY too many minutes for the Islanders day-in-day-out, and with 23pts in 51gp this season (FA year) he's finally going to get paid ($575k right now). Combined with tower-of-power Adam McQuaid (Bruins) and you have the makings of a pretty good shut-down tandem. Pardy is a decent defenseman on a Winnipeg team that is pretty bad defensively as a whole. Johnson (291 NHL games) is proving skilled for the AHL this year (40+ point pace), but can't seem to stick at the NHL level. Gormley might be close to surpassing most of the guys on this back-end, but Phoenix has a back-log at D. Flood and Jones (29 and 32 years old) provide a veteran presence, but not much else. Alex Grant could be a surprise; 2 goals in 2 NHL games with the Ducks, but hasn't had his legitimate shot at the big time yet (piling up good AHL stats).
Crosby. Uhh Yup. If Kunitz can finish with Crosby I'm sure Brad Marchand can. With Stamkos-set-up-man Purcell on the right side it's a pretty effective first line. Rookie MacKinnon has all kinds of speed and it's a good thing because he'll need to get on pucks to distribute to vets Ryder and Richards. Killorn has been great with Tampa this year, Ott is the epitome of a checking line center (never loses a draw), and Cleary is just a great pro who fits nicely into a third line role here. The bangers on the 4th unit are a physical group (Clowe-225, Cormier-215, Greening-211) and they're here to punish. Clowe could actually move up this depth-chart (106 NHL goals), but he's had injury issues recently. Adam is a skilled player, but is notoriously bad defensively so he's fringe. Pelletier (30 years old) is a bit off the board. The only member of the team from Labrador (part of Newfoundland also known as the middle of nowhere) Pascal left the North American game to play in Langnau, Switzerland for 3 seasons before coming back this year. He's proceeded to pile up 34pts in 33gp for Utica showing he hasn't lost a step.
Next time: Team Ontario vs Team Ontario.. yup. One will be JUST the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)