Actually, “The Groundhog day” term applies to the whole offseason so far. From watching the best players leave, waiting until one that should’ve been kicked out of the Den long ago is finally gone, reading some odd names in bombastic headlines to calculating how much shorter (compared to the other KHL teams) the training camp is… well, by know you already know the drill.
And what’s better to break up the routine than good old „predictions&wishes“ game. Now, I won’t pretend that like 70% of the roster isn’t on my never-heard-of list, but I am pretty sure that untill recently the new coach had one with equally respectable size. So, just like him, I won’t let such minor incovenience stop me on my way!
Even without looking deeply into available players, we can agree on one – it is basically as cheap as you can go without violating the salary floor. With that in mind, this GM here can go only one way – try to compensate my handicapped top lines by making them less obvious. In other words: let the bottom lines take bigger share of the ice time. I mean, one could go the Doug Shedden way, and enjoy watching „the top line“ pinned in their own end late in the third game after game after game … Wait, don’t smart people learn from their mistakes? Yup, thought so.
Talking about top line, my money is on Czech-mates. All the way.
Guess I need to elaborate myself a bit here, since everyone has Brule–Genoway–Giliati cemented on the first line. I find it completely funny, to be honest, unless we’re talking about salaries. I’m sure they are leading the way in that department. But other than that, even just a brief excursion to the statistic columns will show you why I am hesitant to any of them above 2nd line – Genoway had difficulties even stepping up from NLB to NLA; Giliati simply screams „poor-mans-Pelletier“; and where do I start with Gilbert Brule … The so-called „biggest offseason acquisition in the Den“. Look, I have no intention to disrespect his NHL career, but last THREE seasons are far from impressive. Most discouraging thing for me is that he has played in KHL last season, was most probably handed some premium minutes and was basically outscored by our own Edwin Hedberg. Maybe you have forgotten how hard Hedberg had to fight for every minute that he squeezed from Shedden, untill team was several forwards down, so he had to use him more. So yeah, since I am not on the MDV payroll, I don’t need to hand out top spot to Brule. Unless he actually earns it in the Den.
Back to Czech-mates, can we? Marek Kvapil. As far as KHL performance is concerned, this is the „biggest offseason acquisition in the Den“ in my book. Proven playoff performer on a championship winning Dynamo Moscow team. Two times. Even his last season was not too shabby. Radek Smolanek. Classic power forward, it seems. One short stint in KHL, also not too shabby. Tomas Mertl, small, fast centerman, top scorer from Czech league. We’ll see how he does in KHL, but all in all, that’s my first line.
Second line would be some combo of : Brule, Genoway and Hedberg/Giliati/Saarinen. Depending on performance, stamina, health, whatever … Also, that’s the line player should get in, if he’s moved up, since that’s the line that shouldn’t be playing against top opponents. At least I think so. My bet is that Hedberg could really have a breakout season. Talent is there, he has already 35+ KHL games under his belt, so this should be his chance.
The bottom boys
Third and fourth line – warning : those are my favourites on any given day. That do the heavy lifting and dirty work. And don’t take shifts off, let alone games off. And those are the lines I’d give much, much more than 10-12 minutes per. And why not? Bjorki has over 100 KHL games under his belt. Glumac too. Perks had found his role last season. I fully trust David Brine to make the team. That guy has worked his way into the NHL as an undrafted player and he will outwork pretty much anyone on this team. Oh, let’s not forget that he is the only pure defensive center on the roster. I would NEVER ice a team without one. Mix in two that are out of top 6 above, and few more from rest of tryouts (like Vas or some young Russians). To me, there are two lines there that I would trust to do the job. Nothing fancy, just keep pressuring and grinding the other team as much as possible. Try to shut down incoming top attack. All in hope that this will give our „top“ lines a chance to luck out with some lesser opposition or some tired one. Now, I’m not saying this will get us into playoffs. All I’m saying is that relying on our top six definitely won’t.
Best of the rest : IDK, if there’s money, I’d keep as much U22 players as possible. Longer bench is welcomed in any game, especially on road trips. Ah, yes – Tom Zanoški. Well, who are we kidding? When PR decides it would rather remove „tryout“ mark from complete roster then add one next to Zanoški, I really have nothing to say. At least nothing decent. But I am in minority, as it will be proven in the Den, come the opening night.
The rock solid defense
Let’s not kidd ourselves – there is no top-pairing D on this roster. Also, I’d stay away from smallish, offensive minded D. It’s the KHL, people. Who cares if they can play on PP, when Russians will run them over or be doing circles around them in our end. I’d go as big as possible – Morrison, Mantyla, Parlett, Kinrade, Katić, add Kovacevic and Valach. Actually, I hope Juraj Valach makes a big impact during camp. Krossing fingers we have another Švarny here. That would really be something, all things considered. Of course, add few more as we need 8 or even better 9 bodies. They will all find their way into the lineup, for one reason or another.
The goaltending duo?
Nothing much to ponder about – keep all three, and expect Danny Taylor on the opening night. Not a real No.1 in the KHL, but he has a potential.
And now, the conclusion:
That’s pretty much it. Few more hints for you all, when putting up your own combo together : main roster is 25, you can add 10 more for callups. You must have 7 NT (or NT+Russians) on your 25 at any time. That’s all. Have fun.
Written by @medvescakFan