Tuesday, October 4, 2011

GTOG NHL Season Preview Part I: Over/Under

By GTOG Staff

This is the time. The time when you start to hear the leaves crunch underfoot. The time when the air feels crisp and fresh. And the time right before the time when we embark on a 10-month journey replete with strained metaphors for Evgeni Malkin's dominance, lamentations over Pascal Dupuis' hands, and nicknames for Chris Kunitz's hands. His soft, feathery, smooth, smooth hands. We're back for year 2 of NHL Over/Under. [Here's year 1.] Here's how it works. We provide a number for some statistic during the season - one for every team - and then we go on record as to whether the actual number will be either higher or lower than the predicted number. We'll follow that with a quick note on the outlook for each squad heading into the regular season. As always, these are actual Vegas odds. Let's get to it, right after the jump.

Giddy with Anticipation
Eastern Conference

New Jersey Devils

Prop Bet: Lou Lamoriello fires Coach Pete DeBoer, re-hires him, then fires him again (O/U: 1 time)

Artistry: If the Devils bomb again this season, it's time for Lou to own up: he's responsible. Under.

Finesse: Lou Lamorielleo's constant buying, selling, inserting himself, selling, buying, and selling caused the market to crash. Over.

Outlook: New Jersey has high end talent up front in Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, but no centers. Travis Zajac is out for the year. The only pivot we can think of is David Steckel, and there is some evidence he's uncoordinated. That weakness down the middle is so glaring, we don't see how they overcome it. But Martin Brodeur will probably still shut out the Penguins 3 times.

New York Islanders

Prop Bet: In lieu of a demotion to the AHL, Trevor Gillies is loaned to a shadowy, quasi-government agency for additional mutant experiments (O/U: 3 times)

"Look away. I'm hideous!"
Artistry: At this point, I think the mutant scientists have done as much as they can with Trevor Gillies. Under.

Finesse: Over. I like to think the best about humanity, so I think the Islanders will do the right thing and try to rein Gilles in this year. But I've been disappointed by humanity before, so my walls are up.

Outlook: It's a shame in a way that this is such a Mickey Mouse organization, because the Isles have some real good pieces up front. Michael Grabner is a breathtaking skater who could be turning into a Petr Bondra-level sniper and Penguin killer. You've also got your Tavareses, your Moulsons, and your P.A. Parenteau's. Your Kyle Okposos. But on defense, it's pretty thin behind Mark Streit, and they're counting on Evgeni Nabakov to reemerge in net after years of deemerging. That can't be good.

New York Rangers 

Prop Bet: Brad Richards points + Marian Gaborik games played (O/U: 150)

Artistry: Don't make the mistake of thinking we're talking about Gretzky and Kurri here. Richards is a fine player, but he's always been a point-per-game guy. Even when he was playing with St. Louis and Lecavalier in Tampa. Gaborik has played more than 70 games twice in the last 8 years. Close one, but I'll take the Under.

Finesse: Under. Pencil Richards in for 75 points and Gaborik for 60 games. And pencil Ryan Callahan in to replace Mike Richards and assume Pierre McGuire's coveted "Doc! Edzo! Callahan just went over to Lundqvuist and tapped him on the pads! Oh my god, Doc, Edzo, what leadership! I don't think I can stand up for a couple minutes" status.

Outlook: They're starting to put it together a little bit. Once you get guys like Richards and Gaborik in the lineup, you're finally free to shift Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan into the appropriate roles [classic complisult]. The Rangers are deep. We don't want to see Artem Anisimov out there against the Pens' third D pairing.  We also assume that the Rangers don't want to see Sid or Geno against any of their D-pairings, but whatever. A lot rides on the health of Marc Staal. With Staal on the blueline and Henrik Lundqvist in peak form, this is not a team to take at all lightly.  

Philadelphia Flyers

Prop Bet: Max Talbot turtles + Jaromir Jagr goals (O/U: 30)

Artistry: Jagr is tremendous. We can't pretend otherwise, and we can't deny that we were so excited at the possibility he'd rejoin the Penguins that we wrote a song about it. Huge hit, by the way. But what a mistake he made. At 39-years-old, you can't get hung up on being the best player on your team. You go where you can save your legs and play with centers who will make you look good. Jagr may get 30 goals, but he'll be sorry by April. There's no telling how many times Talbot will turtle. Over.

Finesse: Under. I don't see Jagr getting 30 goals, no matter how many right handed centers he surrounds himself with but probably refuses to make eye contact with in the locker room.  Someone should throw a turtle on the ice every time Talbot gets a breakaway, so maybe like once this year.

Outlook: We've been telling you about Claude Giroux for a long time now, and James van Riemsdyk looked like a force in the playoffs last spring. It's hard to say the Flyers made themselves better when the jettisoned Dry Island troublemakers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, but we no longer need google to tell us who they're starting in net, and they're easily the biggest threat to the Penguins in the Atlantic. But the Flyers are like a snake. You don't want to run into one and you really want to avoid skin to skin contact, but they're way more afraid of us than we are of them.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Prop Bet: Retweets of Evgeni Malkin tweets wherein the retweeters make comments including but not limited to "Geno!" "Oh man, Geno," and "Geno is the best thing that ever happened to the Internet" (O/U: 1,000,000)

Artistry: I think we're already there.

Finesse: ))))))))))

Outlook: Check back Wednesday for GTOG's Penguins preview.

Winnipeg Jets 

Prop Bet: Nickelback song plays during stoppage in game (O/U: 41)

Artistry: Over. There are forces in Winnipeg that oppose Nickelback. Sadly, they can't win.

Finesse: In Atlantic City a few years back, I took a limo from the Tropicana to the Borgata, not because I'm fancy but because limos in Atlantic City aren't fancy.  On the way, the driver offered me and my friends a 19-year old stripper who he said would do something to us "until our chests caved in."  As intriguing a possibility as that might have been for my pulmonologist, I passed.  Then, after a few moments of silence, the driver asked, "Do you guys like Nickleback?" It's Over.

Outlook: We have no idea. We're too caught up in nostalgia, thinking about Laurie Boschman, Jim Kyte, and late night games on KBL. We just hope their old marketing team is still in place.

Carolina Hurricanes

Prop Bet: We remind you that Jeff Skinner is adorable and talented (O/U: 4)

Artistry: Push.

Finesse: No clue what this is even asking.  They'll be battling for the 8th seed in perpetuity.

Goochie goochie goo.
Outlook: This team was approaching So Serviceable status, but then they went out and got Alexei Ponikarovsky, rendering themselves just Serviceable.  They still don't have enough to do much more than squeeze into the playoffs, whereupon they may well be trampled by a stallion they remember all too well.

Florida Panthers

Prop Bet: We remind you that Tomas Fleischmann is overpaid (O/U: 4)

Artistry: Where did the oddsmakers come up with this line? Dale Tallon should consider himself lucky we don't devote multiple podcasts to his profligate ways.

Finesse: Dave Tallon just signed GTOG to a 6 year, $30 million contract.

Outlook: In Panther Salary Cap Land, Fleischmann + 35-year-old Ed Jovanovski = Sidney Crosby. In other words, it's not good.

Tampa Bay Lightning 

Prop Bet: Hockey media moans in ecstasy over Steve Yzerman managerial skills multiplied by Steven Stamkos relishes going into the corner against Brooks Orpik (O/U: 30)

Artistry: Under. One billion times zero is still zero.

Finesse:  Someone should look up the moves that Yzerman actually made versus what he inherited when he started with Tampa to make the point that he's probably overrated. Over.

Outlook: If there is one thing we know about the Lightning, it's that they're good, but not as good as the Penguins with Evgeni Malkin. We hope to see them again in the playoffs and this time, we'll actually look forward to watching Ryan Malone take unlimited minor penalties.

Washington Capitals 

Prop Bet: Alex Ovechkin goals minus Ted Leonsis blog posts wherein he congratulates himself and then says "Thank you." (O/U: Zero)

Artistry: I think Ovechkin bounces back to some degree, but he won't reach the level he hit between 2007 and 2009. Let's say he get's 45. I think I have to take the Under. Thank you.

Finesse: Alex Ovechkin will score 41 goals this year, and celebrate all of them like they are Stanley Cup winners. Pixels. Thank you.

Outlook: This should easily be the best Capitals team ever. George McPhee added Tomas Vokoun and an ample dose of size and grit to balance out the lineup. If Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, and Green play even close to their capabilities, if young Marcus Johansson is half as good as he looks, and if Bruce Boudreau can stick to rolling his lines and not saying anything, the Caps really should finish first in the conference, barring some sort of psychological implosion. But there's no precedent for that in D.C., so we wouldn't worry Caps fans! Thank you.

"Let me be brief. Thank you."
Boston Bruins

Prop Bet: A pest lines up for a faceoff opposite Milan Lucic and says, "Do you know who I am?" (O/U: 10)

Artistry: Over. I say this happens every game.

Finesse: Under. And while we're here, congratulations to the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins.* The Stanley Cup Champion Bruins* had a brutal playoff schedule and they won the Stanley Cup* on merit, not because of key injuries to other players in the conference.  The 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins* are a worthy Champion* and no one should discredit their 2011 Stanley Cup Championship.*

Outlook: See Lightning, Tampa Bay.

Buffalo Sabres

Prop Bet: Christian Erhoff dollars earned per point scored (O/U: $200,000)

Artistry: Under. He's only hit 50 points once, and Tyler Myers will see the most ice. Yes, Christian Erhoff is making $10 million this year.

Finesse: Way under. Also, why does Lindy Ruff get a free pass from criticism every year, when every year the same thing happens. We're not talking about the playoffs. We're talking about being named Lindy.

Outlook: We don't like their salary structure, but we do like the Sabres. They have little, talented dudes like Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe to complement mid-size, talented dudes like Derek Roy and Drew Stafford, and the under-appreciated Tomas Vanek. Throw in the hugely overcompensated Erhoff and Ville Leino and this is a team that could make a decent playoff run. Erhoff, Myers, Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold in front of Ryan Miller is legit.

Montreal Canadiens

Prop Bet: Someone outside of Montreal sees P.K Subban and Carey Price and says, you know, I'd really like to be friends with those guys. (O/U: 1)

Artistry: Push. It strikes me that Alex Ovechkin might find them appealing.

Finesse: Did you know that if you put Mike Cammalleri on a line with Mathieu Schneider and Jeff Halpern, you're only seven guys short of being able to sit shiva for Sean Avery's career?

Outlook: The Habs are something of a paradox, aren't they? Montreal's $7 million center scored 7 goals in 80 games last season, but yet we really don't want to see them in the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators

Prop Bet: We think about the fact that Sergei Gonchar has two years and $11 million remaining on his contract, shake our heads, and softly chuckle. (O/U: 4)

Artistry: Under. I haven't even thought about this in a year. Uh oh. Now I can't seem to stop shaking my head and chuckling. Over.

Finesse: Over, and such a shame.  The Senators tumbled into irrelevancy in near record time.

Outlook: They suck. Sadly, it's been all downhill for the Senators since this happened...

Toronto Maple Leafs

Prop Bet: Flattering photographic images of Phil Kessel (O/U: 2)

Artistry: Some people just aren't photogenic. We don't need to belabor this. Under.

Finesse: If you don't have anything nice to say....

Face of the Franchise
Outlook: We love Tim Connolly's hands (we mean, LOVE them), but he has the body of a basement blogger. From Connolly to Matt Lombardi to James Reimer, there are way too many question marks for this team. In all likelihood, they, too, will suck, but there's an outside chance of feistiness.

Western Conference

Chicago Blackhawks

Prop Bet: Artistry talks about how much he loves watching the Blackhawks (O/U: 37)

Artistry: Listen, they have talented forwards. I don't need to justify saying they play an entertaining brand of hockey. You know what? Screw you, Over/Under oddsmaker.

Finesse: Over.

Outlook: A new year, and we feel the same way about the Hawks. If you had to trade the Penguins core for some other team's core, wouldn't it have to be Chicago? If Corey Crawford is a real goalie - and we don't have any idea if he is or not - they could certainly come out of the West.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Prop Bet: Jordan Staal's agent calls R.J. Umberger's agent to thank him for his service. (O/U: 6)

Artistry: You would think this would happen quite a few times. Unless they have the same agent. Then he could thank himself in person.

Finesse: Umberger has a $4.6 million cap hit for the next 5 seasons. Jordan Staal's is $4 million for the next two seasons. If Florida has the cap space when Staal is up in 2013, we could be looking at the first $1 billion signing in NHL history.

Outlook: Signing Jeff Carter to be the playmaking center Rick Nash never had would have been great if Jeff Carter were a playmaking center.  They also signed James Wisniewski to a $33 million contract and we got an exclusive copy of the transcript of the negotiations.
Blue Jackets: We'll give you $20 million.
Wisniewski: Wow, that's a really gener....
Blue Jackets: Fine! $25 million.
Wisniewski: Jeez, I mean, I don't even kn...
Blue Jackets: OK! OK! $30 million.
Wisniewski: Guys, seriously, I would have acc...
Blue Jackets: $33!!! We'll make it $33 million!!!!
Detroit Red Wings

Prop Bet: Playoff rounds before Niklas Lidstrom finds himself left hanging in the handshake line (O/U: 2 rounds)

Artistry: A hungry underdog is going to beat these guys in the first round. Under.

Finesse: Push.

Outlook: It's always the same, except the usual suspects are a year older and we like them even less. Someone could make a Steelers joke here.

Nashville Predators

Prop Bet: Views of the area where Barry Trotz's neck should be (O/U: 2)

Artistry: There have been some sighting of Trotz's neck over the years, or so I'm told. Still, until I see evidence firsthand, I'm taking the under.

Finesse: Is that Ames in the background?

Outlook: The Preds have Pekka Rinne in net, a great defense, and a group of forwards that begs the question, "Really, those are your forwards?" It's a problem. We're pulling for you, Patric Hornqvist!

St. Louis Blues

Prop Bet: Fans stop believing (O/U: 41)

Artistry: Hasn't anyone in the Blues marketing department seen a Detroit Red Wings game? Aren't they in the same division? I'm telling you, your fans already can't believe this ad campaign. Over.

Finesse: You could combine the Blues, Avalanche, and Oilers into one super team called the Blavalers and Versus would still rightfully refuse to ever put them on TV.

Outlook: Last year, we thought they had a bright future. Now? Who knows. The last time we watched a Blues game was probably that time Lemieux scored 5 goals to celebrate Austin's birth.

Calgary Flames

Prop Bet: Jarome Iginla goals minus references to Jarome Iginla as an "aging warrior" (O/U: -10)

Artistry: It is absolutely incredible that a 34-year-old winger who relies heavily on Alex Tanguay scored 43 goals last year. What a player. Can he approach that number again? Doubtful. Under.

Finesse: Iginla is an aging warrior. Over.

Outlook: Hard as this may be to believe, we do not see Lee Stempniak leading this team to glory.

Colorado Avalanche

The following is a verbatim chat transcript:
Artistry: Coming up with an over-under for the Colorado Avalanche reminds me just how deep our devotion to GTOG runs. Pretty deep.
Finesse: That's a tough one. Over/under players we can name on Colorado. Ready....Go...Steve Duschene...Varlamov. Done. Set the over/under at 2.5.
Artistry: It's Matt Duchene.
Finesse: Take the under.
Outlook: We feel better now that we remember Erik Johnson and Milan Hedjuk. Ooh. Paul Stastny. Paul Stastny.

Paul Stastny
Edmonton Oilers

Prop Bet: Opposition goals deflected in off Ryan Whitney's skate (O/U: 7)

Artistry: Come on. Over.

Finesse: Ryan Whitney's ultimate destiny is to take over Tom Poti's locker for the Caps and score the Stanley Cup winning goal against himself, carrying on Poti's legacy of being wildly overpaid and constantly scoring on his own team.

Outlook: It won't be this year, but someday soon the kids (Hall, Eberle, Paajarvi, Omark, Nugent-Hopkins) will be grown and it's going to be terrifying to play in Edmonton.  Plus they have the ice guy.

Minnesota Wild

Prop Bet: Nick Johnson goals (O/U: 8)

Artistry: Nick Johnson is on Minnesota? Wait until Mike Yeo gets a hold of that guy. Over!

Finesse: Under. There was a lot of consternation in Pens Nation when Johnson was claimed off waivers.  It reminded me of the Caps' fans reaction after Chris Bourque was waived and claimed by the Pens. (No, I don't mean the time Bourque was waived this year, or by the Pens last year. I mean the time he was waived by the Caps before that. It's ok, we know he gets waived a lot). One fan-base gets to like a player and that liking blinds the fan-base to the fact that the player is your 14th best forward and has a career total of 5 points while approaching age 26. Don't sweat it. He might be back in Wilkes-Barre sooner than you think.

Outlook: Let's be clear. We've long since entered the "We have no idea" segment of this NHL preview. But how about that Mikko Koivu. What a contract. Here are three names for you: Cal Clutterbuck, Clayton Stoner, and Jared Spurgeon. That threesome sounds dangerously close to the panelists at the Gay Porn Convention.

Vancouver Canucks

Prop Bet: Riots (O/U: 1)

Artistry: It was stunning to see the Sedin twins fold against the physical Bruins in the Cup Finals. I expected them to dominate. It may take a year just to get over the embarrassment. Under.

Finesse: Under. Though it was surprising to see them struggle against the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins,* it's understandable because the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins* were definitely the best team in the league and deserved to be Champions*.

Outlook: The twins failed to step up in the crucible of the Finals. Ryan Kesler is apparently spending his offseason pursuing a modeling career. Tim Thomas took Roberto Luongo's heart. We question the fortitude of this group. They may dominate the regular season again, but somebody is going to beat them when it counts.

Anaheim Ducks

Prop Bet: Teemu Selanne's final position (he's currently 27th) on list of all-time leading scorers (O/U: 19th)

Artistry: This assumes Selanne retires after the season, but this is the Finnish Brett Favre. Over.

Finesse: Over. He has 1340; Jari Kurri, at number 19, has 1398.  Selanne might get 58 points in half a season.

Outlook:  Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Bobby Ryan may be the best line in the league when Sid and Geno aren't skating together.  No excuse if they don't make the playoffs, and win a round.

Dallas Stars

Prop Bet: Alex Goligoski points (O/U: 50)

Artistry: Over. James Neal better have a hot start to the season, or I'm going to be laying awake at night, shaking my fists at the ceiling, and shouting, "It should have been you, Nathan Horton! It should have been you!" I'm sure my wife will enjoy that.

Finesse: Over. A little known fact outside of GTOG is that Gogo was a better powerplay performer than Kris Letang.  How do we know this?  Because there are some numbers out there somewhere, and the Pens powerplay went 1-712 against the Lightning in the playoffs. Meanwhile, Brendan Morrow is talking about how Goligoski is blowing everyone away.

Outlook: Goligoski will get his 50 points in large part because Dallas can't afford to have him play fewer than 22 minutes a night. These Stars are very, very thin beyond the top trio of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, and Brendan Morrow.

Los Angeles Kings

Prop Bet: Rob Scuderi hits Mike Richards harder than necessary during practice (O/U: 82)

Artistry: Keep your head up, Leadership. You're not on Dry Island anymore. Over.

Finesse: Under. They're a trendy pick to win the Cup, and trendy picks never win the Cup. Hence, they won't win the Cup. But Scuderi will do what is necessary. Over.

Outlook: It would be cool for a team from L.A. to take the next step, especially if the NBA locks out and the Lakers aren't playing every other night.  But out of habit Kobe would still come to Staples Center to give dirty looks to the the home team players and we're not sure Anze Kopitar is ready for Black Mamba.

Phoenix Coyotes

Prop Bet: Shane Doan wishes he could move his face to another franchise (O/U: every day)

Artistry: It's a thankless job, being the face of a franchise that's stuck in the desert with only Hamilton, Ontario a viable possibility as the promised land. Push.

Finesse: Being captain of the Coyotes is like being CEO of MySpace. You know. We know. They know.

Outlook: We never root for teams to relocate, so hopefully things work out in Phoenix.  But in the meantime, let's dust off an old favorite and apply it to the Coyotes: Guess the Real Pittsburgh Pirate. One of these is an actual player on the Coyotes, one is a fake person. Nathan Oystrick or Roman Nichol.

San Jose Sharks

Prop Bet: Trades with Minnesota (O/U: 1)

Artistry: Doug Wilson isn't close to done raiding the reservoir of talent that is the Wild roster. I understand he is now targeting Nick Johnson. Over.

Finesse: Dear God there are a lot of teams in the NHL. Under.

Outlook: Sunny. We're thrilled that we completed this preview without losing our real jobs.

See you back here Wednesday for our Penguins preview and accompanying podcast. In the meantime, follow GTOG on Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. I'm naming my third born (or my next dog) Ames.