Tuesday, July 3, 2012

NBA, NHL and more

Touching 'em all on a Tuesday...

The Charlotte Bobcats did pretty well in the NBA draft.  I liked the pick of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and to me, Jeffrey Taylor was a nice get inn round 2.  The Bobcats have plenty of needs to address, and while this draft didn't hit all of them, it's a start.  Free agency is underway, and I would look at the Bobcats to be active, but not in play for marquee names.  They will find guys that will help them be better than last year.  Of course, that won't be tough to do, but there will be more for new Head Coach Mike Dunlap to work with.

As for the rest of the NBA, things are a little crazy,.  New Atlanta GM Danny Ferry, only on the job a week, has deals in place to move a pair of huge contracts off the Hawks books.  Joe Johnson to New Jersey for five players and a draft pick, and Marvin Williams to Utah for Devin Harris.  Will this make Atlanta better?  Who knows, but they will be different, guaranteed.

In the NHL, free agency is also underway.  Some could argue it is pointless with labor talks being the big issue for the league.  That isn't stopping the Carolina Hurricanes.  Carolina picked up Jordan Staal on draft night from Pittsburgh.  The price seemed a bit high to me, giving up the 8th overall pick, Brandon Sutter and Brian Dumoulin, but I learned a long time ago that Canes GM Jim Rutherford knows a thing or two about making deals.  I'll defer to his judgment on this one.  Staal comes in automatically as a top 6 forward, who can do great things in penalty killing situations.  He's versatile, and with a new 10-year, $60 million dollar deal in place, he will be a mainstay.

The Hurricanes aren't one, in my opinion.  Rick Nash is in play for them, although they may not be in play for him.  The Hurricanes could use a genuine scoring threat, and Nash is it.  Problem is, Nash would have to approve a trade to Carolina, and that does not seem likely, at least at this point.  Still, the addition of a Jordan Staal changes the Hurricanes dynamic, so maybe Nash would reconsider.  He has been buried in Columbus his entire career, and while Carolina is no Toronto (in hockey market speak), they have a Stanley Cup banner hanging from the rafters.  He could do much worse than Raleigh.

The linchpin in the Nash movement appears to be New Jersey captain Zach Parise.  Parise is mulling free agent offers from a number of teams, and many believe it is down to Chicago, Pittsburgh and New Jersey.  Parise would have been a monster fit in Carolina.  Once he makes his decision, the dominoes will tumble on Nash.  There is still no decision from Ryan Suter as well,  another player the Hurricanes took a shot at, but were rejected.

The rejections are puzzling to me.  I remember leaving the (then) Raleigh Entertainment and Sports Arena after a late season practice.  Was walking out to the car along with Canes captain Ron Francis.  On his way out, one of the Hurricanes equipment men, Bob Gorman, reminded Francis he had a conference call with the NHLPA that afternoon.  His job was to be the relay person for other players who were in line top become free agents, and talk to them about the pros and cons of his team, and market.  It's February at the time, and as we hit the door to go outside, the bright sun beams into our eyes, and the warmth of a 70 degree day wrapped around us.  He looked at me, knowing I had heard the instructions about the conference call, and said "why do I play here? THIS is why I play here," referring to the weather.  Mind you, Francis was only partially serious about his reasons to play for the Hurricanes.  The weather wasn't the only deciding factor.

The Hurricanes are a franchise that has proven itself a worthy competitor in the NHL.  I get they haven't been a consistent playoff threat, but in the NHL, that is not as easy as people think.   In the days of the 21 team NHL, 16 made the post-season.  You had to be DREADFUL to miss the playoffs.  In today's NHL, 14 teams miss the playoffs, and this year's Stanley Cup champion LA Kings were the 8th seed in the Western Conference.  It's not easy.

Free agents that pass on Carolina in this off-season may have some regrets come next spring.  Carolina is positioning itself quite nicely, and if they lean on some of their youth within the system (Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk, Riley Nash for example), Carolina could be a tough out in the Southeast division.

Hope the hockey talk helped cool you down a little during this current roasting spell we are going through!

Mike Solarte

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