The Severed Heads
The Severed Heads
L: Kariya, LeClair, Kozlov, Huselius, Bourque-P1, Ladd-P1
Kariya gives the Heads a genuine 1st liner, but his injury history makes him a risky bet for more than a ppg. LeClair took a pay cut to play with Mario, and he is clearly on the downside of a solid career, but still capable of 60 points given his powerplay role and linemates. Slava Kozlov is now a stealth winger who needs to get his game back on track with new linemates. Huselius has already replaced Kozlov on the active roster, and his high skill level may be muzzled in Florida, but his talent is so huge he could break out anyway. Bourque is a thickly built but undersized winger with a terrific skill set, but is recovering from off-season knee surgery and is at least a year away. Ladd will spend another year in the minors working on his offense. The lanky winger has an NHL frame that he needs to fill out before he’ll take-off.
C: Spezza-P4, Lindros, Yashin, Kozlov, Parise-P2, Schremp-P1
Spezza may well be the leagues best playmaker not named Forsberg. His telepathic link to winger Heatley completes the offensive package and his points so far prove his value as a top centre. Lindros looks much more comfortable in TO than elsewhere and his game shows it. He’s back to a ppg+ and racking up enough PIM to continue in the TG role. Injuries will always be a concern for him. Yashin has taken charge of the Isles and so far appears to be relishing the role. A return to ppg status for him is not out of the question now that he is the undisputed leader of the team. Kozlov never lived up to his hype, but can still produce a solid 60+ season and warrant spot duty in the event anyone goes down. Parise has electrifying skills but the smallish frame is a concern. He could charge for the ROY but realistically is still a year away from regular duty. Schremp was returned to the minors where he continues to rip it up. A permanent promotion may not be forthcoming this season, but by next he should be a long term Oiler. Has ‘Jimmy Carson’ stamped on his game.
R: Jagr, Heatley, Recchi, McCarty, Carter-P1, Grigorenko-P2, Horton-P2
Jagr looks happy with the new look NHL – so much so he may well add a 6th scoring title, and his first Richard trophy to the already impressive collection of hardware he owns. Heatley has recovered fully from the horrors of the last two years, and his instinctive bond with Spezza is a delight to watch. The one-touch rockets he launches make the Sittler comparison apt. Recchi would be the #1 winger for half the league, and playing on the Heads third line means he gives them unrivalled scoring depth at that position. McCarty is the ultimate grinder and would only earn a role in the event of injury – and even then a trade would be more likely. Grigorenko is a long term project as he the once highly touted scoring winger has been slow to recover fully from a hideous car accident. He’s got the wheels and guns to play, so it is probably just a matter of time for him. Jeff Carter has the size speed and hands to be a regular, but as a rookie looks lost on the NHL ice. He may well require a year or two of seasoning against men to be fully ready to assume a scoring role. Horton appears to be solidly on the Neely/Tocchet path. Horton has already seized the lead in goalscoring for the Panthers, and is establishing himself on the top line. It will take a monster showing to displace Recchi, so the Heads can be patient.
D: Hamrlik, Briseboise, Souray, Sydor, Backman, Slegr, Kasparaitis, Johnson, Eminger-P1
A solid top four on the Heads defense, but not exactly world beating. Hamrlik is a weak #1, but still competent enough to warrant being a top 2 defender. ‘Breeze-by’ can still work the powerplay only now he can do so with some awesome talent around him. I expect career highs. Souray may not have the kind of year he did last time he played, but he has matured into a steady rearguard in the 40 point mold. Sydor is still a good pp point-man, but he no longer scares people with his speed. Backman is blossoming into all-round force ala Van Ryn in Florida, and could move up the depth chart accordingly. Slegr is still a decent mercenary for the powerplay, but injuries seem to catch up to him with regularity now. Kasparaitis is a goon pick worthy of most teams bottom 4. Johnson was selected only to prevent him from becoming a prospect and will be gone at the first WD. Eminger is already showing dressable numbers and if he keeps it up may earn a permanent promotion.
G: Hasek, Raycroft
If Hasek is even a fraction of his old self, the Heads could have the leagues best goaltender. With the defense in front of him that Ottawa can field, his numbers could well be award worthy – if he stays healthy. He’s still a ‘win-the-game-card’, albeit a wildcard, until he retires. Raycroft has a sound defense corps in front of him and a responsible group of forwards who aren’t afraid to back-check. He’s still on the unproven side, but was capable of #1 numbers as a rookie, so the ceiling may well have yet to be reached.