BLITZ 07 TEAM REVIEW - HARTFORD - B LEAGUE


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HARTFORD WHALERS - BLITZ 07 B LEAGUE

COACH: MAV

TEAM LINK: http://www.blitz94.com/draftab/rosterinfo.asp?team=HFD

TEAM OVERVIEW

OK, this is may be the review I was most looking forward to doing. This looks like the team that's going to be the most fun to use in the whole league. Every game could be a total train wreck, but in a good way. Looking down this roster all I can see is total carnage as Mav appears to have gone down the route of overloading on total bruisers who are going to be a nightmare to play against for any team.

Much is going to depend on how productive Luc Robitaille can be, because besides him there doesn't seem to be a reliable point scorer, but with an elite goaltender & huge checking ability all over the ice they'll surely be tough to score on and can grind out results. Mav seems back to his best after reaching the 2012 league B finals, and he'll be hoping to improve on Blitz 06 by getting into the playoffs this season.

TEAM MAKE-UP

After trading Mark Recchi to the Flyers in return for Robitaille the Whalers have only 3 players remaining from the Blitz 06 roster: Joe Juneau, Jeff Norton & Paul Cavallini, so this is pretty much a brand new team. Juneau's 4 speed, 4 shot power & 4 passing contributed 62 points last season and Mav will be targeting a similar performance again this season. Cavallini provides big hitting with his 10 weight and is a solid Dman to have. Jeff Norton isn't a great hitter on the other hand but maybe his 3 speed and 3 passing can add something to the team in the event of an injury?

Lets get the big new signings out of the way then. First of all that Robitaille deal. In terms of the points it provides it looks like Phily got the slightly better end of the deal that sees them take Mark Recchi. He's a regular 100 point a season scorer. Robitaille is not quite as consistent, but not far off. In 6 Blitz seasons he's only hit the 100 point mark once in Blitz 04, but he did get 92 in 03 and 97 in 05. With great offensive awareness, passing ability and that 6 shot accuracy he has superstar ratings, even if he is a touch short of superstar career statistics. If Mav can get him firing he has the guy that can lead this team to a great season.

The other big additions are defensively. Patrick Roy joins to keep goal which is an obvious upgrade on the strong goal tending of Tim Cheveldae He'll make important saves on a regular basis in auto and has to be worth a stack of points to the team this season. If that's not solid enough for you Steve Smith will be standing in front of him marshalling the defence. 11 weight, hard hitting, 4 speed, 4 passing and 4 shot power will see him dominate on D but also play his part in Hartford's offensive play, which is going to be important. If Smith can contribute the points that the team is lacking elsewhere further forward it could make all the difference in terms of Hartford's success or failure this season.

This is probably the only team you can say this about, but the star names are probably not the things that excite me the most about this team, it's the tactics Mav appears to have used to put this group together. Also added are enforcers Joel Otto, Bob Sweeney & Brent Ashton, and Geoff Sanderson was moved on to Dallas in return for big hitting Dman Doug Lidster who will partner Smith, making a defensive partnership that should scare the life out of most forward lines! Seriously, how many bruisers do you need?!!!! Brent Ashton has solid skills, but surely he's there to make hits rather than contribute to the offence? Bob Sweeney has a good 3/4 shot and solid 3 passing, but he's damned by his 2 speed and his career stats suggest he can't be relied on for regular points. With his 5 def awareness and huge checking he's essentially another bruiser to add to the pack. Joel Otto on the other hand actually has a little more history of positive contribution, averaging around 50 points a season when he plays regularly. With his 4 shot accuracy he can finish chances, but with only 2 shot power he'll not be booming in too many slappers. It's his 11 weight and 5 checking that set the tone though. Another huge hitter. If these 3 all play together it could be total carnage and it could be that this team describes perfectly the old saying of "I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out!".

Andrew Cassells completes the forward line. An average at best lightweight with little Blitz experience. Hard to see him figuring too much this season unless the Whalers are maybe a goal down in the 3rd and in need of more creativity than the team of psychos can provide. The question here is how is Mav going to play it? The obvious choice seems to be a Lidster, Smith, Juneau, Otto, Robitaille line in terms of putting the most potential points on the ice, but just imagine a Lidster, Smith, Sweeney, Otto, Ashton line. How much fun would that be?!! Like hockey's version of a demolition derby! One things for certain, if Hartford are a goal up with a couple of minutes left I wouldn't bet on anyone being able to break down that big hitting line if Mav wants a team that can see the result out.

STARS

It's pretty obvious that an incredible amount is expected of Robitaille in this team if they are to have a successful season. He's the one true bit of offensive class they have, with very little to back him up in truth. At the back the Whalers look superb. Roy & Smith are elite without question and supported by Lidster Hartford will not be expecting to concede many goals.

WEAKNESSES

It seems pretty clear. Where do the points come from? This a defensive team first and foremost. Robitaille aside they have little in terms of regular goals or assists. Robitaille can break the 100 point mark for sure, but Juneau & Otto will probably need to have career best seasons to carry some of the weight and Sweeney & Cassells will also be required to make a contribution. Keep Robitaille quiet & they could be struggling to find a match winner elsewhere.

For such a defensive side there's also a lack of a speedster to play on the counter-attack, which suggests the Whalers will need to press the opposition high up the ice. Will this in turn leave them open to the counter themselves?

PRE-SEASON PREDICTION - PLAYOFF CONTENTION

This is a team with 3 genuine stars in Roy, Smith & Robitaille, so they must have a chance against anyone, and with all that muscle and brute force no one is going to over-run them. They're going to be in with a chance every game. For the sheer lack of regular point scorers on offence though I think it will need a great season for them to challenge at the top of the B league. If Mav can play to his full potential in addition to getting the most out of his support players there's no reason the Whalers can't surprise a lot of people this season.

It seems that whereas other teams' seasons are going to depend on their stars, Hartfords may depend on the performances of the supporting cast.

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