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FHL Gazette: Team Profiles: Bulldogs & Chiefs

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-13 10:44:51 (updated by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-13 11:00:00)

Team Profile: Bulldogs

After a brief dispute over the rights to the name "Bulldogs", gr8one prevailed over current Mustangs owner dawgtoy, and entered the FHL prior to its inaugural season. The team's core consists of players like Ryan Getzlaf, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Jason Spezza, Kris Letang, Mike Green, and Jaroslav Halak. Though their first season began and ended poorly due to underperformance, injury, and lack of secondary scoring, the Bulldogs have leapt into the very elite of the FHL in a remarkable fashion.

Gr8one shows care for the long term considerations of team building. He has identified a core with which he believes he can win, but while he often makes changes to the supplementary players, he is highly reluctant to move key pieces. A number of fringe and secondary players have been added and subsequently traded away if found not to fit with the organisation - examples include Gonchar, Jokinen, Prospal, Stastny, Adam, and Briere. All are solid players, but were eventually rejected by the core pack of alpha Bulldogs. It may be viewed as impatience, but gr8one has not lost highly valuable players in these processes. If you are in, you are in. Nazem Kadri is arguably the only core player from the inaugural draft to leave the Bulldogs. During a frenzy of action in February, the Gladiators and Bulldogs formed a strong bond through a duet of massive trades. While white hot Kadri was lost, the kennel was boosted with the likes of Simmonds, Voracek, and Green. Overall, the Bulldogs must consider this a victory as it has given the beast more teeth with which to bite.

Jason Spezza's early success was followed by a season ending injury that might have been the deciding factor in the Bulldogs' fate, but regardless of the loss, gr8one's team has taken a serious step toward the goal of a Norack Cup. The roster is blessed with a plethora of offensive players that contribute top tier levels of goals and assists. The Bulldogs also possess a defensively sound lineup, where a top three blueline corps protect a solid goaltending tandem in Bryzgalov and Halak. Young NHLers Couturier, B. Schenn, Conacher, and Bickell already produce valuable points for the team. The franchise must still be considered heavy in current players and somewhat lacking in future talent. Gr8one's ability to spot prospects could remedy that, much like he did when adding Calder candidate Cory Conacher before his breakout season.

The Bulldogs are a supremely balanced team that feeds off a strong all-round roster of skilled players. Their success this season came largely on the strength of their Flyers, all of whom contributed significantly to the Bulldogs rise to the top of the standings during some very productive weeks in February and March. Things have cooled off after the Bulldogs held the FHL lead by 23 points to the Vikings on March 6th. This day marks a full month of being fourth overall in the league. It appears that the title hopes are lost, but the Bulldogs have firmly marked their new territory this season. The reek clearly states that the Bulldogs must be considered title challengers next season.

 

Team Profile: Chiefs

After some initial reservation (pun chiefly - alert: second level pun -  for the American audience, though another is kept in reserve for the Canadians. Zing. Straight out of the genes of Mr. Principun) and tentativeness of the complexity of the FHL, Zack finally entered the league as the second to last confirmed GM of the league's original 23 teams. His dedication and resolve has since been unquestionable. The franchise began by selecting Flyer star Claude Giroux with their first ever draft pick. Zack spent the inaugural draft securing size, grit and spiced his roster with some top end talent such as Patrick Marleau, Dustin Brown, Dan Girardi and unsong hero Marty Reasoner. Not all survived the purges that followed a poor first FHL year, though.

The Chiefs started their first ever FHL campaign in style and commanded a fourth overall place after the first month of action. It is the highest recorded position the team has held, however, and they woke up in a lacklustre 18th overall at season's end. Unrelenting GM Zack has made a number of moves to improve on this and is currently 12th in the FHL. That improvement is nonetheless a meagre diet for a hungry franchise.

Zack is a dynamic GM with a remorseless hockey mind and a rapid trigger finger. During season one, top selections Marleau, Brown saddled up and was led to the edge of the reserve, whilst players like Magnus Pääjärvi and Dougie Hamilton were accepted into the tribe. Though those trades were arguably a step down in immediate quality, it is Zack's later ability to procure elite talent that has defined his tenure as head of the Chiefs. In a span of four February days, his persuasive negotiation methods saw him add James Neal and David Backes without sacrificing significant roster talent. Moreover, the Chiefs' scouting department has shown quality, demonstrated by the early inclusion of then non-NHL'ers like Taylor Beck, Justin Schultz, Dougie Hamilton, Gabriel Landeskog, and Viktor Fasth. The Chiefs bolstered the roster with free agents like Kevin Bieksa and Alexander Radulov, and though he could not drum up enough offense to make a difference in year one, waiver claim Alexander "Bongo" Semin was another successful addition without losing assets. Still, the obvious discrepancy between the quality of the roster and the team's results in the leauge inevitably means the label 'underachiever' fits the Chiefs.

Prior to the arrival of Backes and Neal, the Chiefs forwards let an otherwise quality team down, partly through injury, but mainly from a distinct lack of first line talent. The Chiefs were second to last in forward points, but have begun a slow climb in that category. The lingering effects of the poor start means this season is buried. The roster now includes talented skaters like Backes, Neal, Giroux, Semin, Landeskog and a decently skilled supporting cast, but is yet unable to produce anything better than average offense. The Chiefs already have a top tier defense in place, led by Girardi and Carlsson. If Zack can enlist a replacement for aging netminder Martin Brodeur to play alongside Viktor Fasth, and shed some salary to get under the reduced cap roof, the rest of the FHL should take note and send out their advanced scouts. An ambush wouldn't be surprising.

 

 



FHL Gazette: Ktown's Corner

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-12 10:34:22

Bad Voodoo could be Good Motivation

Oggi Pogopoulous, Ktown Sports Beat

Thursday, April 11, 2013

 

Kelowna, BC – There’s new artwork hanging on a wall in the Heatwave dressing room this week.

It’s easy to miss if you’re just another beat reporter trying to get a decent sound bite from one of the players - but the fact that there is something new hanging in the locker room is something that can’t be overlooked.

The art is a picture - a grainy, black and white photo that’s been pulled from a newspaper clipping or printed off of some blog in the hockeyverse.

On its own, it’s fairly innocuous. Hardly something one would give attention. But here, in the home of the FHL leading Heatwave, it may be a bit more meaningful. And in one of the league’s most bitter rivalries, it may represent yet another chapter in a very long book.

Whether done in jest, or one of those things that was never meant to see the light of day, the picture shows players from the arch-rival Rhinos congregating in their team locker room, poking pins into a little stuffed figure – a makeshift voodoo doll.

The victim in this toybox horror is not anonymous. It just happens to be covered in Heatwave logos and colors. And that’s where the bad voodoo begins.

Now, to be perfectly clear, it’s likely that both of the above are true. This little scene was probably some playful gamesmanship from the Rhinos, and it’s impossible to think that they would have ever wanted these pictures to show up in the media.

Unfortunately, none of that matters now, as the damage is done, and the Heatwave have a new piece of bulletin board material to motivate them as they hit the stretch drive of this 2nd FHL season, once again in possession of the league lead.

Or do they?

“As a group, I don’t think anybody in here really cares that much,” stated leading scorer, Steven Stamkos. “We’ve got a lot of hockey left to play, and we’re just trying to close the season out strong.”

So how does Stamkos explain the photo – posted in a very conspicuous spot in the dressing room? In a spot where each player has a clear line of sight?

“What picture?” laughed Stamkos as he ended our interview and walked away.

Team Captain, Jarome Iginla had similar remarks, never quite acknowledging the existence of the image. “What goes on in another team’s dressing room is none of our business. We need to concentrate on what’s happening in here, and right now, we have 23 guys all working on playing good hockey. We don’t have time to comment on what another team did or didn’t do.”

In fact, when questioned, none of the Heatwave players seemed to recall having seen the clipping. It was as if the voodoo image had taken on some black magic of its own; like it had vanished from reality, simply disappeared from perception.

But make no mistake, the picture is here. It’s visible. And each and every one of these players can see it every day as they work to close out a second consecutive championship season. And while their lead over the second place Rhinos is not as great as it had been a season ago, it would seem the motivation to maintain that lead has been posted on a wall for all to see.

A little black magic, a smidge of bad mojo, and a lot of good motivation…



FHL Gazette: Team Profiles: Serpents, Militia & Ice Dogs

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-07 04:55:05 (updated by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-10 02:14:16)

Team Profile: Serpents

The Serpents organisation is part of the Foil Hockey League's original 23, and has unorthodox hockey mind MG10 at the helm. Under his management, the Serpents picked Swedish center Nicklas Bäckström with their first ever selection, 12th overall. He continued to assemble a young, skillful roster, but has yet to produce significant results in the FHL. The Serpents finished 17th in the league's inaugural year and currently hold the same position some three weeks before the second season concludes. The Serpents maintain a close rivalry with the Milita and Ice Dogs, through MG10's close relationship with native Edmontonians Jfrizzio and rhbdken. Though Jfrizzio77's Milita finished 11th last year and put up a very strong start this season, it is presently the Serpents that hold, however underwhelmingly, the best position of the three.  

MG10 specializes in, and often favours, Scandinavian born skaters. The assembly of prospects, including Mikkel Boedker, Sebastian Collberg, Carl Klingberg, Jakob Silfverberg, and Mattias Tedenby, testaments to a keen interest in Nordic players. The Serpents are led by another pair of skillful Europeans, Marian Gaborik (from whence the name "MG10" originates) and Nicklas Bäckström. MG10's calculated and patient leadership has produced a mere three trades in almost two seasons. He brought in veteran leader Shane Doan, Rich Peverley and offensive defenseman Kris Russell from the Vikings in exchange for scoring winger Patric Hörnqvist, Brandon Sutter and gritty blueliner Carl Gunnarsson. In addition, he brought in a first rounder, David Legwand and Roman Hamrlik in a trade that saw his personal favourite Saku Koivu leave to the Bombers. If the Serpents can keep bringing in useful multi-tool players to supplement their emerging prospects, their fans may stop rattling in discontent.

Though the team has been partially let down by the lack of NHL ready players, their relatively strong showing in the assist and plus/minus columns (#12 and #5, respectively) proves that there is also current talent on the roster. Whether or not the European heritage of many of the players play any part, the Serpents are physically unimpressive. They rank bottom five in both blocks and hits, though its defense consists of several quality young players. The core of Erik Johnson, Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy, and Ryan McDonagh patrol the blueline, whilst prospects like Morgan Reilly and Michael Stone fill out an overall solid group of defensemen. Nevertheless, the lack of physicality has let the Serpents down, and the defense must take its share of the blame. MG10's forwards are slightly better at 16th overall, but there is need to add both edge and depth to truly compete for a top position in the FHL. In net, the Serpents are led by quality netminder Carey Price, whose backups Gustavsson and Peters, however, leave something to be desired.

Tout ensemble, the Serpents are a young, skillful side that lacks a strong backbone of competitiveness. Once their young players grow into full-time NHLers, the Serpents should be able to slither up the standings, but that also requires a proper amount of offensive venom that might not be currently present in the roster.

 

 

 

 

Team Profile: Militia

The Sasquatch Milita was established as part of the FHL's original 23 by Jfrizzio77. Through the inaugural draft, he compiled a roster of considerable top tier talent, boasting some absolute superstars like Rick Nash, Jonathan Toews and Erik Karlsson. The Milita since also secured the services of Evgeni Malkin through trade from rival Ice Dogs. Jfrizzio77's roster was arguably built with three main purposes, adding top talent, securing the future through youth, and snatching some Blue Jacket players. All three objectives have been met relatively successfully. Still, the team has not performed entirely as its leader had hoped.

The Militia's first FHL campaign began poorly, and as late as February 1st 2012 the team was 17th in the standings. A solid stretch run, however, saw the franchise finish a respectable 11th. The current season has taken the opposite trajectory. Inspired by fine performances by veteran Teemu Selänne and rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, the Milita enjoyed a top five position during the first weeks of the season. Recession began once the fierce hot streaks cooled off, and Jfrizzio77's adaptability shone through as he took to reshaping the roster for the coming seasons. Departing from a win-now focus, he offloaded iconic Teemu Selänne for Marcus Johansson and salary dump Adrian Aucoin. With the team currently sitting in a disheartening 18th place, some fans have questioned Jfrizzio's lack of clear direction for the team. Several Militia trades have been lateral moves, fetching a combination of youth and veterans for a similar return. The divided strategy might be the reason why the team has failed to bring in sufficient depth players.

Despite the flaws, there are features on the Milita roster that suggests a bright future. The elite talent has, at least to some degree, performed. The team sits 7th in goals scored, 13th in assists, and 10th in plus/minus. Last season, it was said that the Milita were equipped like marines but fought like boy scouts. This is still the case. Jfrizzio has been betrayed by a clear lack of physicality, as the Militia are bottom five in both hits and blocks. Though offensively skilled players like Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson and Teemu Selänne have been moved, the Militia remain a top heavy organisation that lacks defensive depth and goaltending. Jfrizzio keenly await the NHL breakthrough of skaters like Baertschi, Schroeder, Niederreiter, Tatar, Tinordi, Siemens, Murphy, and not least the return of injured star Erik Karlsson. If these players can develop into NHL quality to be coupled with a few more dilligent moves like the pickup of Patrick Wiercioch, the Militia should grow into a more potent challenger for the title.

 

 

 

Team Profile: Ice Dogs

The Skipton Ice Dogs entered the Foil Hockey League prior to the inaugural season, as part of the aforementioned triad of rivals. The reign of GM rhbdken began by the recruitment of superstar Evgeni Malkin and emerging scoring winger Jordan Eberle, as well as the Nordic troika of Eriksson, Enström, and Bäckström. Yet rhbdken proved to be a capricious and merciless regent, and of the top five inaugural draft picks, only defenseman Tobias Enström remains. It takes a strong leader to change direction, but a stronger one to stay the course.The Ice Dogs' management is purely dynamic.

During its first campaign, the Ice Dogs temporarily added Alexander Ovechkin at the expense of the 2012 first overall pick, but later opted to move him in favour of Canuck duo Kesler and Schneider. The Scottish heritage of the "Red Haired Bulldog" that is rhbdken has manifested with increasing clarity throughout the near two seasons of Foil Hockey. The latest exclamation point to his managerial fearlessness was the deadline deals that brought sweeping changes to the Ice Dogs' roster. In a series of moves that will surely be monumental to the franchise's future, rhbdken gave up on a number of young talents such as Jordan Eberle, Cam Fowler and Cody Hodgson. Moreover, he sent out starting netminder Cory Schneider to the Vikings. In return, the Ice Dogs stacked up on top tier NHL players, inter alia Phil Kessel, Cory Perry, Alexandre Burrows, and Roberto Luongo.

Rhbdken's Ice Dogs finished season one in 12th place, but currently lay decimated and second to last in the FHL. The change in direction at the deadline suggests that monarch Ken does not tolerate failure, and the franchise may come back stronger next season. Injuries have beyond question also been a significant reason why the Ice Dogs have plummeted. Nonetheless, in addition to having captured some present core talent, the Ice Dogs have a parallel rebuild ongoing on the strength of nine (!) selections in the upcoming entry draft - all of which are in the top 46 range!  

The present Skipton Ice Dogs is an overall poorly equipped organisation. It lacks all-round quality in all positions, but if the Ice Dogs spend their draft picks well in 2013, the team may well become a true contender in the coming seasons. Should they fail to meet expectations, rhbdken's severe management will likely see to further changes.

 



FHL Gazette: Trade deadline!

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-03 10:10:59 (updated by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-03 13:09:11)

FHL Gazette Trade Deadline "Show".

* Update: FHL trade window closed *

 

 

Trade deadline:It is rumoured that hockey insider guru Bob MacKenzie has nothing to say about the FHL deadline, but there are signs that there will be some activity before the deadline in just a few hours. Throughout the one and a half seasons that has passed in the Foil Hockey League, most GMs have shown tremendous willingness to move players and picks.

 

While a gap has opened between the leading Heatwave and the chasing pack at number two and three, there is still some time to mount a challenge for the title. Might one of the top teams swing a deal to secure some help down the short stretch run? Are the bottom dwellers thinking about the draft already? The Ice Dogs and others have openly stated that their players are available for the right price. As teams scramble to improve their present, and future, the millions of fans following the FHL crack open a Rickard's or an Alexander Keith's as they anticipate their favourite team's next move.

 

Breaking trade news:

* Ice Dogs and Lakers trade Eberle, Hodgson, Fowler for Perry, Kessel, R. Murray, 1st, 2nd, and 2nd round picks!

* Vikings and Ice Dogs swap Burrows, Luongo, 1st for Schneider, Bennett.

* Gladiators and Rhinos swap D. Ellis for Redmond, 2nd

* Rumours that Cam Fowler (Ice Dogs) is in play, part of a big package.

 

The last few days, the Vikings and Rebels swapped Hossa, Shattenkirk, Zubrus, Rozsival for Hedman, Moulson, 2nd. The Spartans moved Jagr, Jeff Schultz to the Rhinos for Redden, Tangradi and a 1st. Before that, Vikings had traded Seabrook to the Lakers for Duchene. 

 



FHL Gazette: Team Profiles: Raiders & Rebels

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-01 09:43:10 (updated by NorwegianOiler on 2013-04-01 10:00:00)

Team profile: Raiders

The Raiders were among the founding teams of the Foil Hockey League. The team's founder and captain is league administrator Steve-o, whose brash but deliberate style has navigated the Raiders into rich waters. The inaugural season saw the Raiders finish sixth and their fine form has continued into the second year as they currently hold a top five position by a four point margin. Though he is not a particularly talkative general manager, Steve-o adheres to a school of decisive leadership. He holds claim to a promising playing career, which since derailed, but keeps a steady hand at the wheel of a talented franchise.

Steve-o began his managerial journey by selecting scoring winger Bobby Ryan with the Raiders' first ever draft pick. He aptly continued to add significant talent with particular attention to netminding. Established starter Ryan Miller was picked and soon accompanied by emerging goalie star Tuukka Rask (whose surname is of Swedish heritage and means "quick" or "fast"). Miller and Rask has provided Steve-o with a tandem in net that rivals the very best of the FHL. With the 24th round pick, the Raiders even added another considerable talent to his goalie hoard through Jake Allen, which should shore up their assets nicely in the future too. The Raiders sport a roster of reasonably physical two-way forwards, proven by the fact that they score well in plus/minus, hits and points. Still, the team lacks defensive depth to compete with the very elite of the league. What was a top six defense last season has plummeted to a dismal nineneeth so far this year and clearly anochor the team in a negative way. Young prospect Ryan Ellis might eventually be able to help, but the Raiders will likely have to look outside their roster as well in order to bulk up the defensive crew.

Among the premier players still skating for the Raiders are Jeff Skinner, Jason Pominville, Marc Staal, Antoine Vermette and Justin Williams. Steve-o's assertive, and perhaps unmerciful, leadership is best exemplified in his handling of forward Brad Boyes. Originally selected 309th overall in the inaugural draft, Boyes' underwhelming performances married with his steep salary got him waived mid-way through the first FHL season. Nevertheless, Steve-o recognised Boyes' potential turnaround as a low-paid Islander, and picked him up again prior to the second season. A wise move, it has turned out, as Boyes has revived some of his scoring touch at a much lower cost. The additions of players like Niklas Bergfors and Andreas Nodl have not paid off, however, and the Raiders continue to search for the right mix of stars and support to make a serious run for the Norack Cup.

The Raiders maintain a strong working relationship with the Bombers, evidenced in several trades between the two teams, chief among which was the Ales Hemsky deal in late December 2011. Steve-o cleared the house of 2012 draft picks for his favored winger, prying him from the grasp of the Bombers, which keeps alternating between the role of ally and rival.

 

 

Team Profile: The Rebels

The Rebels entered the fray late, as one of the last teams to be included in the inaugural lineup of the Foil Hockey League. The franchise is governed by opportunistic and clever hockey mind Mlab90, who led the team to a top ten finish in the team's first ever season, despite severe injury problems throughout the year. The Rebels are still a mid-table team, and while stability is a framework for progress, Mlab90's must continue to puzzle together a plan to improve.

Mlab90's Rebels are natural rivals to their maritime counterpart, the Raiders. Though it is not presently a very pronounced rivalry, it has potential to develop into outright civil war if Mlab90 can find a way to send his Rebels deeper into the top ten and challenge the Raiders.

The Rebels were consciously assembled through the inaugural draft to address both present and future needs, and Mlab90 has clearly achieved some success in this venture. All-star talent like Weber, Thomas and Sharp was combined with future pieces like Strome and Schwarz. Nonetheless, the Rebels continue well into the second year to be let down by a considerable weakness at forward. Though partly explained by injury, and Ryan O'Reilly's stalling negotiation tactics, the lack of offensive production must also be attributed to the absence of goalscorers and two-way talent. While the Rebels offense puts up reasonable assist numbers (#14), they lack goalscorers to infiltrate the top ranks of the league (#18 in goals). In addition, the team's forwards are not particularly good two-way players, though they are averagely physical. 

The Rebels are nevertheless, contrary to what the name implies, a well organised defensive outfit. Its top tier netminding tandem, Sergei Bobrovsky and recently acquired Braden Holtby, is protected by a superior defensive corps. Top blueliners like Shea Weber, Victor Hedman, Jack Johnson, and Alex Goligoski police the back end, supplemented by emerging talent like Jonathon Blum and Jake Gardiner. The organisation has attempted to round out the roster to provide more offense. Mlab90's skillful and opportunistic trade manoeuvres led him to veritably steal Simon Gagne and Alex Goligoski from the cap relief motivated Rhinos during the first FHL campaign. Moreover, he acquired superstar Eric Staal (as well as netminder talent Holtby and parts) for forwards David Kreijci and Patrick Sharp. Whether or not this proves a long term success for the Rebellion is yet undecided, but Staal's current production level is top ten in the FHL. The deal also allowed the Rebels' goaltending superiority to continue as it countervailed the loss of league leader Tim Thomas to a pro-hockey hiatus.

Mlab90 has allowed himself room to orchestrate some moves by keeping well below the roster limit numbers, and his track record suggests there will be more to come from the unlawful Rebel franchise. There will also be several key decisions to be made on pending free agents like injury-riddled Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Manny Malhotra and Simon Gagne - as well as contract extensions for goalies Bobrovsky and Holtby. The Rebels' core skaters, on the other hand, are typically locked up for years to come, giving them a base from which to operate and expand.

 



FHL Gazette: Team profiles: Gladiators & Stingers

Created by NorwegianOiler on 2013-03-23 04:49:13 (updated by NorwegianOiler on 2013-03-24 09:23:50)

Team profile: The Gladiators

The Gladiators, formerly known as the Flares, were originally founded by iCanada. The franchise holds a historic position as it made the first ever selection in the inaugural FHL draft. With that pick the team secured the services of then injury plagued superstar Sidney Crosby, who has since been moved to the Mustangs.

Injuries to key players like Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger reduced the team's capacity to climb the standings in the league's opening season and the (then) Flares finished in thirteenth place. Upon taking control of the team in 2013, new general manager Quinstone wasted no time and wielded his gladius with the effect of cutting vast parts of the roster. Players like Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brad Marchand, Paul Stastny, Mike Green, Kimmo Timmonen, Andrei Markov and Nazem Kadri have all been given the historically diffuse verso pollice from Imperator Quinstone. His complete disregard for his players' need for stability has given him a reputation as a willing, if not insisting, trade partner. During a two week period in February, the Gladiators and Bulldogs swapped no less than twenty-three players between them, establishing a firm connection between the two franchises.

Quinstone was brought into the FHL by Stingers general manager and league talisman Chucker. The Gladiators and Stingers soon formed a distinct rivalry, which materialized in a dubiously produced animation video depicting the two managers in heated trade discussions. Though the teams since completed a trade, it is rumoured that the Stingers grew tired of the Gladiators' poorly veiled attempts to rape the Stingers in a trade, using Roman "goalscoring machine" Horak as his preferred sex toy. The Bombers' manager Racki admitted to being subject to Quinstone's "jedi mind tricks" when giving up young scorer Adam Henrique in a recent trade, which speaks well to the Gladiators' ability to make moves. Then again, the amount of moves made by the organisation requires a skilled mathematician to decide whether or not the law of large numbers must be used to explain the ratio of success to failure.

The Gladiators currently hold a top ten position, courtesy of a balanced assembly of scorers - among whom are the Sedin twins, scoring forward Henrique, and underrated winger Radim Vrbata - but the team is let down by its lack of defensive prowess. The top heavy lineup was until recently inadequately complemented by its defense, but the solid acquisition of premier blueliner Alex Pietrangelo should improve that part of the roster considerably. Moreover, players like Joe Morrow, Ryan Sproul and Brenden Dillon will likely continue to develop into solid Gladiators. Quinstone also addressed the need to improve in net by swapping emerging netminder talent Jacob Markström for established talent Semyon Varlamov. There is still work to be done if the Gladiators are to be more than an entertaining offense first team, but there are signs that Quinstone takes long term factors into the equation when he builds his roster.

 

 

Team profile: The Stingers

 

Led by the outspoken and eccentric general manager Chucker, the Stingers were for unknown reasons originally founded as the "Elbows High". The franchise was for public relations purposes  re-branded Stingers during the inaugural season. After a failed first season in which the team finished second to last, the Stingers currently hold a strong seventh place and appear to have emerged as a more coherent unit of Vespidae. Stingers fans reportedly invested heavily in brown paper bag companies after the franchise moved their first round pick for netminder Niklas Bäckström and proceeded to plummet to the bottom of the standings. Once it was established that the team won the draft lottery and their traded pick would be first overall in the 2012 draft, Chucker made amends by moving expensive forward, and first ever Stingers draft pick, Alexander Ovechkin for the very same pick he had previously given up. Poetically, the pick was used to select another Russian phenom, tatar Nail Yakupov. Thus, through some clever manouvering, the Stingers had shored up their netminding, shed salary and become younger in the process.

All is not sunshine and nectar in the Stingers' nest, however, as the long term cost of the roster repairs may be steeper than Chucker would like. The team presently have only their first rounders in 2014, 2015 and a third round pick in 2015 from which to build their future. Has the wasp colony  merely spent their fortunes on an ephemeral nest that will not last through the winter? The team is led by some solid young talent, inter alia Evander Kane, Loui Eriksson, Damien Brunner, Nail Yakupov, Jonathan Ericsson and Justin Faulk. There is some evidence that Chucker's roster will stand up to scrutiny also in the future. It is necessary for the team to stay venomous in order to continue to ward off their rivals the Gladiators.

The Stingers possess a strong two-way team, witnessed by their top four plus/minus numbers. Though their forwards are able to play a physical style of hockey, the team arguably lacks the bravery and skill to consistently block shots. Chucker enjoys the services of an average corps of forwards and an above average selection of blueliners, but the team's true strength is in net. Young netminder Cory Crawford and savvy veteran Niklas Bäckström continue to put up solid numbers which has kept the Stingers in contention for a very strong finish in the shortened second FHL season.